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Bonnie Ramthun

Bonnie Ramthun lives in Colorado with her husband and children. She's the author of mysteries and thrillers for adults and children. Her middle grade mystery "The White Gates' was a Junior Library Guild premiere selection and was a finalist for the Missouri Truman award. All her novels are available on Amazon.
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The Top 10 Tips for Surviving Summer Airline Travel

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014 - by Bonnie Ramthun

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Vacations can be wonderful experiences, but all too often they start out at an airport, which can be one of the most frustrating, uncomfortable, and stressful places on earth.  Here’s the top ten ways to make your airline travel a good experience.  Or at least not a nightmare.

10. Pack a small refreshment bag for the end of the flight.

Purchase the wisp toothbrushes that come with toothpaste already installed. Buy a packet of facial wipes. Take a last visit to the bathroom before landing to wash up, brush your teeth, comb your hair and prepare for your day. No matter how tired you are or how long the flight, the refreshment of a small amount of grooming helps energize you and get you ready to face your journey’s destination. Just avoid changing clothes. It never turns out well unless you’re David Spade in Tommy Boy

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The Top 10 Movies Every Young Man Should Watch Before Dating

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014 - by Bonnie Ramthun

There’s a lot to learn before a young man enters the world of dating.  Here are the top 10 movies that have lessons that will educate him, help him, and get him ready to navigate the difficult world of dating.  Let’s start with number 10:

10. Starship Troopers

What? Did you expect The Notebook?  This movie about an alien invasion and battles between humans and bugs is nominally based on Robert A. Heinlein’s classic of the same name.

Why it’s important: The main character, Johnny Rico, is oblivious to Dizzy Flores, his fellow high school student.  She has a huge crush on him and eventually lands him by the oldest play in the book: proximity.  She sticks with him.  She’s at his side in the mud and blood of battle and when it comes time for him to decide between her and the gorgeous Carmen, his original love interest is far away and way out of the picture.  This is a movie with many flaws, but the singleminded pursuit of Rico by Dizzy Flores is worth examination.  Plus, of course, the battle scenes are epic.

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The 10 Most Dangerous National Parks

Saturday, June 7th, 2014 - by Bonnie Ramthun

Finding out the number of accidents and fatalities in our beautiful national parks isn’t easy. The National Park Service doesn’t want to scare away visitors so they don’t offer a handy guide to the number of tourists who fall, drown, are trampled, or are eaten while visiting our wild places. However there’s enough data in news reports and studies to come up with a top ten list of our most dangerous national parks. Which do you think tops the list? Yellowstone? Yosemite? Denali? Take a look and see if you’re as surprised as I was. Let’s start with number 10.

10.) The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, New Jersey and Pennsylvania

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This lovely river valley encompasses 67,000 acres of land on both sides of the Delaware River in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Varied species of birds, mammals and fish call this area home and nearly two million visitors a year come to the area to enjoy boating and water recreation sports.

That’s what’ll kill ya in the Delaware Water Gap, which begins our Top 10 Most Dangerous National Parks. Failing to wear a lifejacket while on the river is the number one cause of death. Adding alcohol consumption ups the risk. The Delaware River looks tranquil but can have unexpected currents which can overwhelm a swimmer. Keep the life jackets on and enjoy this beautiful (and only occasionally deadly) recreation area.

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The 10 Best Hot Sauces

Thursday, May 29th, 2014 - by Bonnie Ramthun

There are thousands of hot sauces to choose from today, and most of them are terrible. They’re novelty items designed with an amusing label and name. The sauce itself is inedible, with inferior ingredients and so much capsaicin from the peppers you’ll blister your tongue.  A good hot sauce is a combination of great ingredients and a balance of heat and flavor.

These ten hot sauces are filled with zest, spice and peppery heat. Dash enough on your eggs or tacos and you’ll find your eyelids sweating, but no matter how hot the temperature gets you’ll still get a mouthful of great flavor. Let’s start with a surprising number 10 on the list:

10.) Taco Bell Hot Sauce

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No need to squeeze the sauce from those tiny Taco Bell packets any more. The Taco Bell folks now provide bottles of their famous sauces, and the best is Taco Bell Hot Sauce. This is the Goldilocks of hot sauces, not as tomatoey as Mild Sauce but not as overwhemed by pepper as Fire Sauce. Don’t turn your nose up at Taco Bell just because Doritos Tacos are an orange abomination. Their Hot Sauce is delicious. Shake it on a homemade taco and enjoy.

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5 Essential Hacks for Camping with Children

Saturday, May 10th, 2014 - by Bonnie Ramthun

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Camping season approaches, and spending time in the wilderness with your children is a joy but it can be a challenge too. Here are my five essential hacks for making sure the camping experience is a happy one for your family.

1) Bring Lots of Baby Wipes

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If your kids are out of diapers and you don’t think you need baby wipes any more, think again. Baby wipes aren’t just for diaper changes. The cooling, cleansing feel of a baby wipe makes all parts of a camping trip better. We pack three or four containers for each trip. In the morning, use baby wipes to clean faces and hands before breakfast. After breakfast, the tough wipes can clean out pots and pans so the food ends up in your trash bag and not on the ground near your campsite. Swish water in the pans after you’re done and they’re ready for the next meal. During the hot hours of the day, a baby wipe cools and refreshes the skin. At night, baby wipes clean sticky marshmallows off delicate fingers and faces. Which brings me to…

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Mexico’s Best and Brightest Celebrate Cinco de Mayo in America

Monday, May 5th, 2014 - by Bonnie Ramthun

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Imagine a new country suddenly emerging somewhere in the world, a country based on America’s old Constitution and nothing more. This new country has no taxes, a strong military, a free and open press, and a limited government.

Would you pack your bags? Let’s head out for the Atlantis of Atlas Shrugged, or Sarah Hoyt’s Eden colony in Darkship Thieves, or Heinlein’s lunar base in The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. We’d miss our old home and feel sorrow over leaving our old country, but to be free of the increasing weight of totalitarian government? Color me gone, and my family too. We did it once, generations ago, when we got on a boat and headed to America. We could do it again.

This is why Mexico is a failed state. Rebels who object to a government unwilling to preserve individual liberty and protect private property have an Atlantis shimmering and beckoning on the horizon. They’ve packed their bags and moved here, some legally and some illegally. Some have died in the deserts of the American Southwest, murdered by coyotes or succumbing to thirst, willing to die to gain freedom.

Left behind are the people who either engage in corruption themselves or have no energy to fight it. Consider Michoacan, Mexico. Almost half the state’s population lives in the United States. Those left behind endure passively as corrupt government officials make deals with drug cartels and refuse to protect people’s safety or private property. Their rebel for liberty, their Patrick Henry or Thomas Jefferson or Ben Franklin, isn’t around. He’s moved to America.

Cinco de Mayo celebrates the victory in 1862 of a small, ill-equipped Mexican force over the powerful French army at the Battle of Puebla, southeast of Mexico City. It took another five years before Mexico gained independence, but the 5th of May is celebrated as the symbol of Mexican freedom. Today’s rebels should fight to free Mexico and turn her back into a vibrant and wonderful country, but I can understand how the lure of freedom in their neighbor to the North is too much.

Because if you had a free country to emigrate to, would you stick around here and fight it out, or would you pack your bags?

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Images courtesy of Shutterstock:  Bilha Golan, Iurii

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Let Them Eat Lead

Monday, April 28th, 2014 - by Bonnie Ramthun

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A new policy change in Denver requires 911 dispatchers to contact a supervisor for immediate service when “Federal, State or Local Dignitaries (such as the Mayor or Governor) or personnel within their office requests or requires a police response on the dignitary’s behalf.”

Elected officials will now get preferential treatment by police officers in emergency cases of life and death. This is corruption, openly practiced.

Our justice system isn’t perfect. Celebrities often receive special treatment in court. The rich and powerful can afford a robust legal defense and if they sometimes slither through cracks in the system, well, the system still endures.

What our country cannot long endure is open corruption where elected officials are above the law. When a dispatcher sends a police officer to the Mayor’s house ahead of an ordinary citizen they are acting as a palace guard, and when they do it openly the rule of law is nullified.

To see the result of this failure you need look no further than our neighbor, Mexico, where corruption has led to a profound breakdown in society. Mexico is blessed with a mild climate, abundant natural resources and a hard-working and intelligent people. None of these benefits can overcome a government so bad that millions of citizens have fled for the economic freedom offered by the rule of law in the United States. In Mexico drug cartels have created unending cycles of terror and violence including human trafficking, prostitution, money laundering, rape and murder. When government operates by graft and corruption, the only businesses that thrive are ones who are just as corrupt.

Denver’s elected officials just chose to follow Mexico’s example and create palace guards who answer to their needs first. Denver police officers who take their jobs seriously should be outraged. If they allow this rule to stand, Denver police should find new uniforms to wear that more closely represent their new status. I suggest this one.

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Images of Louix XIV and Vatican guard courtesy Shutterstock: Vladislav Gurfinkel, Catarina Belova

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The New Charlotte’s Web Medicine

Friday, April 18th, 2014 - by Bonnie Ramthun

My home state of Colorado is a guinea pig for the pros and cons of marijuana legalization. Other states are observing closely to see if they should move down the path towards legalization.

There’s plenty of bad news to go around. Police in other states are pulling over Colorado drivers with no justification other than the green license plate. (We’re all stoners now, I guess.) A college student named Levy Thamba fell to his death from a high balcony during spring break after eating a marijuana cookie. And last week a Denver man who ate pot-infused candy became incoherent and paranoid and shot his wife to death.

Is there good news? Turns out there is. Colorado Springs is the source of the Charlotte’s Web strain of medical marijuana that has sent parents with gravely ill children flocking to the city for treatment.

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The strain was developed by Joel Stanley and his brothers in their Colorado Springs medical marijuana facility. They’d read that marijuana strains that are high in a chemical called CBD can help to shrink tumors and prevent seizures. The chemical in marijuana that gets users high is called THC, and since it has an adverse affect on seizures the Stanley’s bred it out of the plant.

Their first patient, 5 year old Charlotte Figis, was so affected by a genetic seizure condition called Dravet’s Syndrome that she was not expected to live much longer. Today, she’s almost seizure free. The Stanley brothers named the strain after their first little patient, and it’s showing the world what medical uses marijuana can offer.

Today there are nearly a hundred families with gravely ill children who have relocated to Colorado Springs, purchasing a treatment for their children that would have landed them in prison just a few years ago. Medical marijuana is well known to help in the treatment of nausea in cancer and AIDs patients, but the strains now being investigated may uncover new lifesaving medicines such as Charlotte’s Web.

The recreational use of marijuana is proving to be the problem it was predicted to be, but while the stoners fill the headlines the researchers in medical marijuana are quietly making amazing advances in the treatment of illnesses. That’s some very good news indeed.

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Image via CNN Health.

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The Rise of the Robot Employee

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014 - by Bonnie Ramthun

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President Obama’s new initiative is a higher minimum wage, and if he is successful the result will not be higher-paid employees heading off to work every day. Instead their jobs will be filled by an entirely new sort of worker: Robots.

Robots, unlike humans, don’t require pay or sick time or vacations. If they break they’re thrown out and recycled. Robots are expensive, but the threat of a higher minimum wage is now making a robotic worker more cost-effective than hiring a real person.

Across Japan the noodle-making chefs are now made of metal, and when you order a Big Mac at a MacDonald’s in Europe you do it by touch screen. A company called Momentum Machines in southern California has developed a robot that cranks out 400 perfectly-prepared burgers every hour. (Note: Robots do not sneeze. Ever. Think about that for a bit.)

Where is this going? Are we heading for a future where slinky femme fatale robots plot the destruction of mankind while wearing the perfect red dress?

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Governments’ Desperate Efforts to Encourage Childbirth

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014 - by Bonnie Ramthun

Countries in a demographic crash are getting into the babymaking business, often with rather hilarious results. In Denmark, a racy new ad campaign offers an incentive for couples to get pregnant. The Danish birthrate is about 10 per 1,000 residents in 2013, which is not so much a lack of babies as a demographic plane crash. This mildly racy Danish ad offers an incentive of three years of free diapers to couples who get pregnant while on vacation.

In Russia where the birthrate is a terribly low 1.61, Valdimir Putin established cash payments for mothers who have three or more children, assuring them of daycare for their tots so they can “continue in their professional life.”

Japan’s abysmal birth rate has led to only 17 million children in a country of 126 million. The Japanese government is trying a rather pathetic campaign that insists that “It’s fun to have babies!” For Japan, it may be too late to come back from self-extinction.

Germany, Italy, Singapore, and over a hundred other countries all face a birth rate so low that they, too, will cease to exist if their populations don’t start reproducing. Twenty-two Muslim countries and territories have declines in fertility of 50% or more, so the declining birthrate is not entirely a Western problem. China famously instituted a one-child program in 1979 and their fertility rate is now 1.55, well below replacement rate.

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3 Reasons Why Teens Today Can’t Find Jobs

Sunday, March 30th, 2014 - by Bonnie Ramthun

Editor’s Note: This article was first published in in July of 2013 as “3 Reasons Why Our Teenagers Can’t Find Jobs.” It is being reprinted as part of a new weekend series at PJ Lifestyle collecting and organizing the top 50 best lists. Where will this great piece end up on the list? Reader feedback will be factored in when the PJ Lifestyle Top 50 List Collection is completed in a few months… Click here to see the top 40 so far and to advocate for your favorites in the comments.

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The employment rate among teenagers is incredibly dismal. I know this firsthand, since I have teens at home and teenage nieces and nephews who cannot find work. There’s an irritating theme that runs through family conversations about our unemployed teens, and the words I hear most often are “lazy” and “entitled.”

“I had a paper route when I was their age,” one of the older members of the family will tell me every time we get together. “They need to get out and hustle. Walk the neighborhood, mow lawns, weed gardens. There’s lots of jobs out there for teens.”

“They should get roofing jobs,” another family member exclaimed. “When I was a teenager in high school, the dreamiest guys were the summertime roofers since they had the most gorgeous tans. And they had the best bodies, too!”

The attitude towards teens today is one of disdain for the luxuries they enjoy and their lack of a good work ethic. Teens are spoiled, lazy, and unwilling to work hard.  Do you believe this?

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Listen up, older people. The world isn’t the same now as it was then, and that’s not good. Not good for our teens and not good for our future. The days of the paper route are gone.  Here are the three reasons why teens can’t get jobs today, and why this is terrible for America.

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You Can’t Wish Away the Fertility Gap

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014 - by Bonnie Ramthun

Jill Knapp begs us to “Please Stop Asking Me When I’m Going to Have Children.”

Being that I am still a newly-wed and have just moved to a new city, I am in no rush to have a kid. This is an unacceptable answer to a lot of people. The constant reminders that your clock is ticking and that you don’t want to be confused for your child’s grandparents when they grow up are not making us move any faster. Having children is a big responsibility.

What Jill doesn’t understand is that her fertility is not subject to whim or wishful thinking. Her chances of getting pregnant decline rapidly after 30. By age 40, less than 5 out of every 100 women will be successful at conception. When the Jills of this world decide they want children at 36 or 38 or 42, they enter a long, often fruitless quest for safe pregnancy and childbirth.

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Men achieve fertility at 12 years old and can father children all the way to 96. Women have a narrow fertility window of around 16 to 40. That’s a fertility gap of up to fifty years!

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We’re No Better Than The Walking Dead In Dealing with the Mentally Ill

Thursday, March 20th, 2014 - by Bonnie Ramthun

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Love it or hate it, The AMC channel hit series The Walking Dead is a mirror of our culture. The show is nominally an apocalyptic zombie series but it is really about how people deal with a total societal collapse.

The answer is: Badly. Usually very badly.

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Episode #14 of season 4, “The Grove,” is a thoughtful and tragic examination of what a society should or can do with a psychopath. (Spoilers!) Set in the woodlands of the American south after a zombie apocalypse, in this episode a group of five refugees find a cabin to stop and rest for a few days. There, disturbed young Lizzie goes homicidal. She stabs another little girl to death. Her mother-figure, Carol, then asks her to “look at the flowers” while she prepares to execute her, the only solution possible in their terrible new world.

The clues were all there, laid out carefully in past episodes. The girl had an obsession with capturing and cutting up live rats. She had sudden outbreaks of violent rage and anger. She was fascinated with zombies and couldn’t distinguish between the living and the dead.

The clues are all here in the real world as well, and we are no better at preventing the slaughter when a mentally disturbed person decides to kill. The Sandy Hook killer, the Aurora theater killer, the murderer at Virginia Tech, the killers at Columbine High School, all exhibited distinct indicators of violence and psychosis. All of these killers were under psychiatric care and on medically prescribed drugs. Each of them showed signs like little Lizzie on The Walking Dead, and her path ended the same as theirs, in blood.

In “The Grove,” just as in America today, we wait until a disturbed person becomes a killer and only then do we do something about them. Only then do they receive the confines of a cell or a grave. We can do better than this. Unlike Carol on The Walking Dead, we have options.

In the heartbreaking and frightening essay “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother,” the mother of a mentally disturbed boy explains how she cannot find care for him. “With state-run treatment centers and hospitals shuttered, prison is now the last resort for the mentally ill.” This mother doesn’t want to put her innocent (but violent and disturbed) twelve-year-old boy in prison. Would you like to live in a world where people are jailed for crimes they might commit? Instead, we need to re-build our mental health care system in this country and that includes treatment centers and hospitals. If we don’t, we will continue to endure the slaughter of innocents at the hands of the mentally ill.

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Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day the Irish Way: Get Drunk!

Monday, March 17th, 2014 - by Bonnie Ramthun

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Saint Patrick’s Day is an outrageous celebration of my Irish heritage. On that day adult Americans of all ethnic backgrounds feel free to wear green derby hats and shamrock necklaces, pack into bars and pubs to drink green beer and, if they’re really serious about celebrating the Irish way, end the day by vomiting and passing out in the gutter.

I’m offended by this, and it has to stop! Okay, just kidding. I don’t care a bit. The Irish are a fully integrated ethnic minority in America and St. Patrick’s Day is proof. You know your heritage is not an issue when you can poke fun at yourself.

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I don’t know how to make the Martin Luther King holiday as genuinely warm, funny, and celebratory as St. Patrick’s Day, but I’d like to try. Just last month a school system had to apologize for serving a lunch of fried chicken, cornbread and watermelon on Martin Luther King Day. How sad that the African-American holiday commemorating such a great man is about grievances and not praise. Why shouldn’t we all celebrate Martin Luther King day with soul food, vibrant African designs and colors in our decorations and celebrations, and a sense of fun and gratitude?

I fear that instead of moving towards celebrating Martin Luther King Day as a positive affirmation of African-American heritage, we’re moving in the other direction. Columbus Day has come under such attack that this brave Italian hero and explorer is accused of genocide and celebrations in his honor are protested. The very word “Christmas” has been banned in some schools. How long before someone wants to ban St. Patrick’s Day?

May this never happen. Long may the green beer flow in the pubs of America on St. Patrick’s Day. May the green derby hats continue to be perched on the heads of all, may the Leprechaun decorations continue to be ridiculous and offensive, and may you always feel free to be Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.

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images courtesy Shutterstock: Patryk Kosmider

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The Cadillac ELR Proclaims: ‘The Emperor has no Clothes!’

Monday, March 10th, 2014 - by Bonnie Ramthun

The new commercial for the Cadillac ELR, a fully electric vehicle, has riled some people with its unabashed American patriotism. They’re outraged that a commercial selling a car would dare to celebrate American exceptionalism.  Some are calling it xenophobic. Twitter feeds erupted with anger at the arrogance and self-confidence of the American businessman portrayed in the ad.  Others called it “hyper-patriotic.”  They did not mean this as a compliment.

The outrage against this commercial is quite peculiar. In the Ukraine right now people are fighting and dying in order to remain Ukrainian and not to become citizens of Russia. Why shouldn’t Americans be pleased to be American?

We have this situation because the idea of loving our country is seen as arrogant by our pundit class and our education system.  My children learned about the Civil War but the focus was on slavery, not the Abolitionists or the Union that fought to end it. They learned the Native American experience as one of oppression and slaughter and America was the villain of every lesson. When history turned to World War II the majority of the class time was spent on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, bashing America for using nuclear weapons, leaving Pearl Harbor as a footnote. The Bataan Death march wasn’t covered. Is there any wonder some students graduate from high school after reading A People’s History of the United States by the America-hating Howard Zinn and feel little sense of patriotism and pride in their own country? That is by design, not by accident.

Here’s the danger of this Cadillac ELR commercial that celebrates America: America is a great country, an exceptional one, the grand experiment in self-government that has unleashed unprecedented freedom and liberty to her citizens. This commercial is like the parable of the boy who cried out that the Emperor had no clothes on. Once the boy said this, the people no longer had to pretend any more, or try to fool themselves into seeing something where there wasn’t anything. There are those who wish to “fundamentally transform” America into something else, and a commercial like this one reveals the ridiculousness of that goal.  Well done, Cadillac. Well done.

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Your Neighborhood Pool is More Dangerous Than a Loaded Gun

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014 - by Bonnie Ramthun

While researching information on accidental gun deaths for an upcoming article, I found something astonishing. A swimming pool is far more deadly than a loaded gun to a child. The latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control show that 114 kids died from an accidental gun discharge in the home in 2010, the latest year available, but in the same year 1025 children drowned. In 2009, 980 children died in swimming accidents. In 2008, the number was a staggering 1015. Almost ten times as many children die in drowning deaths each year than from an accidental gun discharge. This is unacceptable. The solution is clear.

We need swimming pool control.

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First: Children should not be taught how to swim. No child should be allowed near water deep enough for them to drown. Adults may swim in pools or in the ocean, but children must be strictly forbidden from participating in or learning about swimming. Backyard family pools should be banned. Beaches should be closed to children.

Second: Paintings, television shows, movies, and novels that show children enjoying pools or swimming in water must be censored and the offending images stripped out. Just as Steven Speilberg once edited guns out of his movie “ET,” swimming scenes involving children should be edited and censored. New books, movies and television shows should portray adults swimming, but never children.

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Third: We need to have background checks and a permit before an adult is allowed to enter a lesson program and achieve swim certification. Adults need to have their swim certificates with them if they intend to go swimming and they should go through re-certification every year. Eventually, adults might realize that swimming is dangerous and foolish and they’ll abandon it altogether.

Finally: Dare we hope the government will just ban swimming altogether? Let’s make our world a safer place for children. Join me in working for a total ban of this dangerous activity. Let’s ban swimming now.

After all, it’s for the children.

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Image courtesy of Shutterstock: schab

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3 Lost World Discoveries

Sunday, March 2nd, 2014 - by Bonnie Ramthun

I keep an eye out for new discoveries that I can share with my kids around the breakfast table. I’m sorry that the current public school curriculum focuses almost exclusively on the negative aspects of humanity. History and English classes are dominated by subjects like overpopulation, pollution, poverty, and victims of oppression and war. Each day my children get a full helping of depressing and pessimistic education from their teachers.

To fight back, I try to find interesting stories that show the amazing complexity and beauty of our world, and the scientists and adventurers who are still exploring it. Here are three news items that made my kid’s eyes light up. Mine, too!

1.) The Pallas Cat of Nepal.

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The pallas cat is a brand new species, unknown until a year ago. This beautiful feline is slightly bigger than a housecat and lives in the mountains of Nepal in Asia. The discovery was made by the Snow Leopard Conservancy researchers who had placed trail cameras to find leopards and instead found an entirely new species. The secretive little cat is known now, and will be protected. And no, you can’t have one as a pet. But aren’t they just gorgeous?

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Common Core Pornography

Friday, February 21st, 2014 - by Bonnie Ramthun

Common Core is a federal takeover of the public education system, where a single set of learning standards is intended to replace each state’s curriculum. The standards were designed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Forty-five states have adopted the standards.

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There are many problems with Common Core. Here’s one: Common Core reading materials are designed to “groom” young people and leave them vulnerable to molestation and sexual abuse.

“Grooming” is the process by which a predator desensitizes a young person to sexual contact. A predator who is in a position of authority, such as a coach, teacher or counselor, uses his position to befriend a child and eventually to abuse that child. One of the steps in grooming is to expose the young person to graphic sexual material such as pornographic photos, stories, and movies. When the child is used to the idea that “everyone does” these sexual acts, the predator has his victim prepared and ready for molestation.

The Common Core reading materials are filled with graphic pornography cloaked as literature. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison, is what your teen will be forced to read if your school accepts Common Core. The story includes descriptions of child rape, incest, and molestation. The pedophile in the novel is portrayed with sympathy and Morrison reportedly wrote the story so the reader becomes a “co-conspirator” with the predator.

The book Monster by Walter Dean Myers includes a description of a homosexual gang rape and the use of a butt plug. In New York, a Common Core education portal encourages teens to visit a pornographic sex survey site where they are asked if they want to participate in a threesome or a gang-bang, among other acts.

The novel Black Swan Green features a 13-year-old boy who graphically describes his father’s genitals and then a sex act. Dreaming in Cuban contains teen sadomasochism. In Kansas, a father discovered a Common Core poster in his daughter’s class titled “How Do People Express Their Sexual Feelings?” with items such as “anal sex,” “masturbation,” and “grinding” as examples. Our young people are being deliberately exposed to graphic sexual material in schools that accept Common Core.

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Who’s Afraid of the Denver Airport’s Fiery Blue ‘Devil Horse’?

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014 - by Bonnie Ramthun

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Planning on traveling through my closest airport hub, Denver International Airport? Keep an eye out for the gigantic sculpture of a bright blue, anatomically correct, rearing stallion complete with glow-in-the-dark red eyes. Called “Mustang,” this 32-foot-tall fiberglass sculpture is notorious both for its demonic appearance and the fact that it killed its creator.

The sculptor, Luis Jimenez, died when a portion of the Mustang fell on his leg, severing his artery. The artwork was completed by Jimenez’s son and erected at the entrance to Denver International Airport in 2008. The stallion has gathered notorious nicknames such as “Blucifer” and “Devil Horse” and some say it is haunted. Whoever could think that?

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The 5 Worst Books for Your Children

Sunday, February 16th, 2014 - by Bonnie Ramthun

Editor’s Note: This article was first published in July of 2013. It is being republished as part of a new weekend series at PJ Lifestyle collecting and organizing the top 50 best lists. Where will this great piece end up on the list? Reader feedback will be factored in when the PJ Lifestyle Top 50 List Collection is completed in a few months. Click here to vote for your favorites in the comments.

As a reader, the mother of four children, and an author, I want my kids to love to read and to approach reading as joy and nourishment. The following five works of fiction do not encourage and inspire the love of reading in children. They’re terrible books for kids. If you make your children read these they will develop a loathing for reading that will last their whole lives and may possibly poison their very souls. Let’s see why.

Note: Minor spoilers.

5.) The Red Pony by John Steinbeck

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This is a set of four short stories set in the western United States and an excellent example of John Steinbeck’s famously spare, elegant prose. Beautifully written, with underlying themes of death and redemption, we can all agree that this is a classic. Did I mention the gruesome death of the title character, the beloved red pony? No? Want to watch your children sob in heartbreak and then continue on to read the next three stories with increasing puzzlement and despair as the complicated themes go over their heads and they must endure the agonizing death of another beloved horse? The Red Pony will not give your children a desire to read for pleasure. Just because a novel features a child doesn’t mean that the work is appropriate for them.

Yes, children should be exposed to stories of heartbreak, loss, and redemption, but there are much better novels than Steinbeck’s to share with your child. Hand over Old Yeller by Fred Gipson, Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, or Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. Each of these books will make your child cry, but in the end will fill them with joy.

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3 Great Male Role Models for Girls

Saturday, February 15th, 2014 - by Bonnie Ramthun

Last week I examined the fairy-tale world of the perfect young man, who is portrayed as suave, witty, and handsome (“3 Terrible Male Role Models for Girls”).

Now let’s look at the role models our girls should be looking at when they begin to date. What kind of young man will prepare them best to navigate the stormy waters of modern relationships? I have a few suggestions from popular culture for great male role models for young women.

1) Ron Weasley from Harry Potter. Let’s call him “Mr. Nice Guy.”

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Ron is a hot mess, both in the books and the movies. This teenage wizard is awkward, gaffe-tastic, and so bumbling that J.K. Rowling recently mentioned that she wondered if she should have put Ron and Hermione together. She shouldn’t wonder. Ron is tender and loving and he makes an excellent husband and father. He’s a nice guy.

But as a teenage boyfriend, he’s the best example of how mixed-up the dating life of a Mr. Nice can be. We grow up with Ron in the Harry Potter novels and movies and his generous and friendly personality becomes a disaster in his teen dating years.

Ron is pressured into a romance with fellow student Lavender Brown. She’s the worst nightmare of a girlfriend — possessive, overbearing, and infantile. She hangs on Ron in public, bestows sickly, sweet nicknames on him (Won-Won!), and has no time for conversation because she’s too busy trying to make out with him. Ron finds himself more and more trapped, unwilling to hurt her feelings but unable to bear her for another minute. He’s a classic Mr. Nice Guy.

This is a great male role model for girls. Lots of teenage boys don’t know how to navigate through relationships. They can find themselves trapped with a girl they’d rather not be with, and breaking up with someone like that is not easy. Hermione doesn’t reject Ron because he was with Lavender, even if her feelings were hurt while he was going out with her. A Mr. Nice Guy like Ron is worth the effort.

Finally, watching Lavender Brown act out her crazed romance is a healthy reminder to girls: Don’t be a Lavender Brown.

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Why Do Moms Hate Valentine’s Day?

Friday, February 14th, 2014 - by Bonnie Ramthun

Why do moms with kids in elementary school hate Valentine’s Day?  Let me count the ways.  Elementary schools have Valentine’s Day parties where cards are exchanged between all members of the class.  First, moms have to travel to the store and purchase boxes of cards.  If you’re not super organized and you don’t get to the store early enough, you end up with the dregs, the cards that no little kid wants to give or receive. One year all I could find was a super creepy Chinese knockoff of Ken and Barbie. Not my best year.

These days candy has somehow crept into the yearly Valentine’s Day card offering, so if you don’t have cards with candy attached your child may burst into hysterical tears. Nobody wants to be seen as the lame kid in class who doesn’t offer candy.  I have friends who spend the night before Valentine’s Day frantically attaching candy to cards with scotch tape.

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But wait, there’s more to do.  Moms have to fill out the cards for each child in the classroom, after they procure the list from the teacher, and heaven help you if you misspell or forget one. At one point I had three children in elementary school and that equaled around 78 cards filled out, by hand, for Valentine’s Day. If you’re an especially dedicated mom you make your child sign his or her name to the cards, which is difficult and stressful to the child. They can burst into tears when they have to sign their name to the classroom bully’s card, or to a secret crush. Their little hands get tired. Any moms want to admit they signed Valentine’s Day cards using a forgery of their child’s handwriting?  No?

Then there’s the Valentine’s Day school party, where the kids get over-sugared, over-excited, and over-stimulated with the excitement and come home in exhausted tears with bags of candy and cheap cards that mom now has to deal with.

This may be why some husbands arrive home on the Most Romantic Day of the Year with flowers and chocolates only to find out that mom is already in the middle of a date with a bottle of Chardonnay.  Yes, dear husbands, moms of elementary school kids love flowers and chocolates for Valentine’s Day.  We’ve earned them.  Just don’t give us a card.

Please, not a card.

*******

Image courtesy of Shutterstock: Brent Hofacker

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3 Terrible Male Role Models for Girls

Saturday, February 8th, 2014 - by Bonnie Ramthun

Last spring one of my friend’s teenage sons worked up his courage and asked a girl to the prom. He asked her very much like Harry Potter asking Cho Chang out in the Goblet of Fire, a scene that touches my heart every time I see it. Harry Potter stumbles, he stutters, he barely squeaks out the invitation. When this young man asked a girl to the prom in a similar clumsy way, her response was not the gentle letdown that Cho gives Harry.

This girl said: “Really? That’s how you’re asking me? Ask me again, but do it better next time.”

Of course girls have been swooning over romantic heroes since Heathcliff stalked the moors in Wuthering Heights, but at least these fictional characters were grown men. Our young women’s romantic expectations today are being poisoned by terrible male role models. No, not violent action stars. Not brutes or lawbreaking bad boys. These terrible role models are the impossibly perfect young men of romantic movies, who say the right thing at the right time, always look terrific and never stumble over words or have a single pimple. Today, young men in romantic movies are as suave, charming, and witty as a grown-up, because they are written by grown-ups. Here are three who are terrible role models. Young women who watch these improbably perfect young men and think that they exist are setting themselves up for disappointment.

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The Enemy in the Classroom

Friday, January 31st, 2014 - by Bonnie Ramthun

Our culture is so used to the adversarial conditions in education that most people don’t know that before the 1960s there was a deep and respectful relationship between parents and teachers.  Then a disturbing trend in education started. Educators started to blame parents for the problems in the classroom. The students aren’t responsible for poor test scores and dismal graduation rates. The teachers certainly aren’t. Of course not! Parents are to blame.

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Parents are the ones who refuse to vote for tax increases to fund schools and pay teachers the salaries they deserve. Parents often don’t check homework, don’t attend parent-teacher conferences, and don’t provide healthy food and a positive home study experience for their children. When their precious little Johnny or Sue gets bad grades, parents erupt in outrage and blame the teacher. Parents used to be co-educators with teachers, united in a common front to teach children, but now they are villians.

How did this happen? How did parents suddenly turn into the enemy in the classroom?

The answer is clearly the National Education Association. In 1959 Wisconsin passed a collective bargaining law for public employees. The National Education Association, with only 766,000 members in 1961, is now a labor union with more than 3.2 million members today. The NEA’s purpose is not to educate students. Their purpose, as in all labor unions, is to increase membership and to keep their members employed. In order to keep the money coming in, they need an enemy to keep their members frightened of what will happen to them without the protection of their union.

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