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Our lives are shaped or altered by our decisions and choices. You decide or choose where you are going to go to school, your major, your city and your mate. Had you chosen not to attend your friend’s birthday party, you may not have met the person who would later introduce you to the person that is now your biggest source of joy or sorrow. As we mature, the decisions that we are forced to make become more difficult and the choices more complex. Sometimes we make good decisions based on the choices available to us, and other times we make bad decisions given the same choices, but each day we are faced with choices and decisions: what to eat, what to wear, what to say and what to do.

I just completed a four hour, online defensive driving class because I chose to drive a few miles over the speed limit, and I got caught. It was my first ever moving violation, and in my own defense, I “thought” that I was only driving four miles over the posted speed limit, a range that has kept me ticket free for over three decades of safe driving. Here’s what happened.

Like I normally do on interstate travel, I set my cruise control at what I decided long ago was a “safe” albeit law breaking interstate speed over the legal limit; however, the speed limit changed once I crossed the border, so I was now unknowingly driving nine miles over the legal limit. Not far from the border, I was immediately pulled over in a small county whose name was foreign to me, but I knew enough to know that this town relied on speeding tickets to generate resources for their county. In other words, the sheriff was not interested in my “I have never received a moving violation before...I didn’t realize the speed limit changed at the border...” saga. As I shared my tale of woe on the social media sites, my social networking friends consoled me and shared that I was pulled over in a notorious speed trap zone. That bit of knowledge somehow soothed me and made me feel like I was in good company. Scofflaws enjoy company. I had chosen to speed so I paid the penalty (as well as another fee in order to have the list of defensive driving course options sent to me and then another fee for the privilege of taking the class on line). I did all of this so that the infraction wouldn’t appear on my driving record and result in higher insurance premiums. Thank goodness my insurance agent doesn’t read my blogs.

I really am a good driver, I just like to live on the edge every now and then. I have double piercings in my ears, but no tattoos, so to me driving four miles over the legal limit on an Interstate is a double piercing, not a tattoo. It’s barely keeping up with traffic. Knowingly cruising 15 miles over the speed limit is a tramp stamp, and twenty miles over the legal limit is a tongue piercing. I have limits on my rule breaking behaviors and take pride in the fact that “most of the time” I try to drive in the good choices lane, but sometimes I veer into the bad choices lane concealed behind the security of my laptop and my fiction author title.

At my first book signing, a mother of a tween and a teen daughter approached me angry that I’d included a scene where one of the characters is dancing closely with a teenage boy at a party. In what I considered PG language, I described the sensations that the character feels long after the dance has ended. The mother was unhappy that I’d included such a “graphic description” in a young adult fiction novel targeted to girls ages eleven and up. I smiled and politely told the mother that she was kidding herself if she didn’t think that her pre-teen daughter hadn’t felt such sensations by her own exploration. I smiled and poured myself another mimosa, realizing that I was now on that mother’s banned book list.

Teenagers and pre-teens are usually consumed with the mystery of sex and sexuality. It’s the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. Their hormones are raging and they are trying to figure themselves out apart from who they are under their parents wings and rules. Sex and sexuality are top of mind for many teens but often the last thing that parents and school administrators want to fathom or address. Some schools (and parents) wrongly believe that by talking about sexual education and birth control, that they are somehow sanctioning sexual promiscuity. If parents were allowed to make the choice for their teen, most parents would definitely choose for their teen to abstain from sex and its complications until marriage. But the reality is that’s not usually the choice that most teens make which is why the teenage pregnancy rate is so high.

This week, a teenage girl, Cassidy Goodson found herself driving in the worst choice possible lane. At fourteen, she is charged with first degree murder for allegedly killing her 9.5 pound newborn son after somehow managing to conceal the pregnancy from her parents and delivering the baby in the bathroom. According to the police investigation, she used scissors to pull the baby out and then strangled the baby because she didn’t know what to do with it. Conflicting reports suggest that she knew about alternative options such as adoption, but she didn’t want her relationship with her parents to change, so she chose murder. Somehow on her fourteen year old moral compass, strangling her newborn infant was a better choice than telling her parents that she was in labor.

Sadly, like most people, I’ve grown a tad numb to the news. With violence at an all time high in my city, I just don’t react to the lead stories with the shock and disgust that they warrant, that is of course unless the news involves innocent children. A fourteen year old child accused of murdering her own infant is the type of story that stays with you. Fourteen is one year younger than my oldest child, it’s the age of the heroines in my first two novels: Boys, Beauty & Betrayal and Camp Colorblind, and it’s the average age of my target audience. At fourteen, my characters have entered a fictionally idealistic teen matrix filled with: fitting in, friendship tests, crushes, first kisses and heartbreak peppered with just enough family drama and texture to make the characters believable but not lead story newsworthy, and this was by design.

A few years ago, I served as a keynote speaker at a high school’s Black History Month Celebration, and as part of the event, the school purchased fifty copies of my first book and distributed them to the students to read in advance for a “Meet the Author” book discussion. The average age of the girls in attendance was fourteen. I was elated with the positive feedback from the book club participants who were eager to read the subsequent books in the series. After the event, a few of the aspiring young authors approached me and suggested that I give the characters what I dubbed “Jerry Springer” worthy dramas. I smiled but chose not to give the Black Diamond Series’ characters so much drama that my readers wouldn’t be able to discern a fictional tale from the headline news.

By books three, four and five in the series, Chemistry & Chaos, Dancing with God’s Grace, and Sunshine on Sunday, the girls have matured past the age of innocence and the decisions and choices that they are making become more complex. One of the characters becomes pregnant and another character decides to accept that she is gay. Both of these life changing events serve to alter the friendship dynamic, but they don’t come close to mirroring the real life stories swirling in the news.

I chose to share Cassidy Goodson’s tragic story with my high school student. And as I knew it would, it horrified her, and she was angry that I shared it with her. Since I had her attention, I chose to explain the safe harbor laws that exist in Illinois where a mother can hand her baby to an employee at a hospital, police station or fire department and walk away with no questions asked. The authorities will not require identification or ask any questions as long as the baby has not been harmed and is less than thirty days old. I further explained that you can’t leave the baby on the stoop or in an alley because that’s abandonment and is a crime, but if you hand the baby to a worker you can walk away with no questions asked. My teen thought I was making this up, so we googled it and pulled up the statute, which most states have, including Florida where fourteen year old Cassidy Goodson lives. I coached her that “God forbid” if she found herself or one of her friends in a bathroom birth situation that had somehow been hidden from the parents, this is a legal alternative to what Cassidy did.

If prosecutors are able to try the fourteen year old as an adult, she will most likely receive life in prison. Game over. Had she known about and followed the safe harbor laws of her state, perhaps Cassidy would have made a wiser choice. I don’t know what Cassidy’s home life was like, but I’m sure the media will be sharing that soon. I’m certain that they are trying to track down the baby’s father and will be profiling stories on how her parents could have ignored the obvious signs that their slim daughter was pregnant with a 9.5 pound baby. Additionally, I’m sure the authorities are trying to see if the parents can also be tried with a crime. Lawsuits enjoy company.

Again, it boils down to choices. Based on the facts that we have now, it appears that Cassidy’s parents chose to ignore the signs instead of choosing to take their daughter to be tested by medical professionals who could have established conclusively that Cassidy was pregnant. Perhaps the parents just couldn’t bare the thought that their fourteen (14) year old daughter could be having sex (gasp!) or perhaps the family lacked healthcare coverage and the resources necessary to visit a doctor. I don’t know. The only choice they will have now is a grim one, visiting their fourteen year old daughter in prison.

Life is about choices. After my little run in with the law, I’ve learned my lesson and will pay more attention to the speed limit signs on interstates. I would much rather choose to fork over resources and receive something tangible in return than send cashiers checks to some unknown county. As the parent of a tween and a teen, I also choose to believe that the PG dance scene depicted in my first novel pales in comparison to the actual experience of being a real life teen today.

Teens hide all kinds of things from their parents: facebook accounts, piercings, signs that they are having sex tattoos, traffic tickets and apparently teen pregnancies. It's a parents job to choose not to ignore the things that could prove harmful to the teen and to help the teen make wise choices. Because of one life altering bad choice, fourteen year old Cassidy Goodson may never have an opportunity to fill her life with better choices, and that’s the saddest choice of all.

Since you’re still reading, speaking of choices, we will all have an opportunity to make an important choice soon when we are faced with the decision to choose the person who will serve as the Head of State, Commander in Chief, Chief Political Leader and Director of the Executive Branch of our government otherwise known as the President of the United States. Whatever you do, make sure that everyone in your house over the age of eighteen (18) is properly registered to vote and heads to the polls on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November to make your/their choice known.

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Our lives are shaped or altered by our decisions and choices. You decide or choose where you are going to go to school, your major, your city and your mate. Had you chosen not to attend your friend’s birthday party, you may not have met the person who would later introduce you to the person that is now your biggest source of joy or sorrow. As we mature, the decisions that we are forced to make become more difficult and the choices more complex. Sometimes we make good decisions based on the choices available to us, and other times we make bad decisions given the same choices, but each day we are faced with choices and decisions: what to eat, what to wear, what to say and what to do.

I just completed a four hour, online defensive driving class because I chose to drive a few miles over the speed limit, and I got caught. It was my first ever moving violation, and in my own defense, I “thought” that I was only driving four miles over the posted speed limit, a range that has kept me ticket free for over three decades of safe driving. Here’s what happened.

Like I normally do on interstate travel, I set my cruise control at what I decided long ago was a “safe” albeit law breaking interstate speed over the legal limit; however, the speed limit changed once I crossed the border, so I was now unknowingly driving nine miles over the legal limit. Not far from the border, I was immediately pulled over in a small county whose name was foreign to me, but I knew enough to know that this town relied on speeding tickets to generate resources for their county. In other words, the sheriff was not interested in my “I have never received a moving violation before...I didn’t realize the speed limit changed at the border...” saga. As I shared my tale of woe on the social media sites, my social networking friends consoled me and shared that I was pulled over in a notorious speed trap zone. That bit of knowledge somehow soothed me and made me feel like I was in good company. Scofflaws enjoy company. I had chosen to speed so I paid the penalty (as well as another fee in order to have the list of defensive driving course options sent to me and then another fee for the privilege of taking the class on line). I did all of this so that the infraction wouldn’t appear on my driving record and result in higher insurance premiums. Thank goodness my insurance agent doesn’t read my blogs.

I really am a good driver, I just like to live on the edge every now and then. I have double piercings in my ears, but no tattoos, so to me driving four miles over the legal limit on an Interstate is a double piercing, not a tattoo. It’s barely keeping up with traffic. Knowingly cruising 15 miles over the speed limit is a tramp stamp, and twenty miles over the legal limit is a tongue piercing. I have limits on my rule breaking behaviors and take pride in the fact that “most of the time” I try to drive in the good choices lane, but sometimes I veer into the bad choices lane concealed behind the security of my laptop and my fiction author title.

At my first book signing, a mother of a tween and a teen daughter approached me angry that I’d included a scene where one of the characters is dancing closely with a teenage boy at a party. In what I considered PG language, I described the sensations that the character feels long after the dance has ended. The mother was unhappy that I’d included such a “graphic description” in a young adult fiction novel targeted to girls ages eleven and up. I smiled and politely told the mother that she was kidding herself if she didn’t think that her pre-teen daughter hadn’t felt such sensations by her own exploration. I smiled and poured myself another mimosa, realizing that I was now on that mother’s banned book list.

Teenagers and pre-teens are usually consumed with the mystery of sex and sexuality. It’s the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. Their hormones are raging and they are trying to figure themselves out apart from who they are under their parents wings and rules. Sex and sexuality are top of mind for many teens but often the last thing that parents and school administrators want to fathom or address. Some schools (and parents) wrongly believe that by talking about sexual education and birth control, that they are somehow sanctioning sexual promiscuity. If parents were allowed to make the choice for their teen, most parents would definitely choose for their teen to abstain from sex and its complications until marriage. But the reality is that’s not usually the choice that most teens make which is why the teenage pregnancy rate is so high.

This week, a teenage girl, Cassidy Goodson found herself driving in the worst choice possible lane. At fourteen, she is charged with first degree murder for allegedly killing her 9.5 pound newborn son after somehow managing to conceal the pregnancy from her parents and delivering the baby in the bathroom. According to the police investigation, she used scissors to pull the baby out and then strangled the baby because she didn’t know what to do with it. Conflicting reports suggest that she knew about alternative options such as adoption, but she didn’t want her relationship with her parents to change, so she chose murder. Somehow on her fourteen year old moral compass, strangling her newborn infant was a better choice than telling her parents that she was in labor.

Sadly, like most people, I’ve grown a tad numb to the news. With violence at an all time high in my city, I just don’t react to the lead stories with the shock and disgust that they warrant, that is of course unless the news involves innocent children. A fourteen year old child accused of murdering her own infant is the type of story that stays with you. Fourteen is one year younger than my oldest child, it’s the age of the heroines in my first two novels: Boys, Beauty & Betrayal and Camp Colorblind, and it’s the average age of my target audience. At fourteen, my characters have entered a fictionally idealistic teen matrix filled with: fitting in, friendship tests, crushes, first kisses and heartbreak peppered with just enough family drama and texture to make the characters believable but not lead story newsworthy, and this was by design.

A few years ago, I served as a keynote speaker at a high school’s Black History Month Celebration, and as part of the event, the school purchased fifty copies of my first book and distributed them to the students to read in advance for a “Meet the Author” book discussion. The average age of the girls in attendance was fourteen. I was elated with the positive feedback from the book club participants who were eager to read the subsequent books in the series. After the event, a few of the aspiring young authors approached me and suggested that I give the characters what I dubbed “Jerry Springer” worthy dramas. I smiled but chose not to give the Black Diamond Series’ characters so much drama that my readers wouldn’t be able to discern a fictional tale from the headline news.

By books three, four and five in the series, Chemistry & Chaos, Dancing with God’s Grace, and Sunshine on Sunday, the girls have matured past the age of innocence and the decisions and choices that they are making become more complex. One of the characters becomes pregnant and another character decides to accept that she is gay. Both of these life changing events serve to alter the friendship dynamic, but they don’t come close to mirroring the real life stories swirling in the news.

I chose to share Cassidy Goodson’s tragic story with my high school student. And as I knew it would, it horrified her, and she was angry that I shared it with her. Since I had her attention, I chose to explain the safe harbor laws that exist in Illinois where a mother can hand her baby to an employee at a hospital, police station or fire department and walk away with no questions asked. The authorities will not require identification or ask any questions as long as the baby has not been harmed and is less than thirty days old. I further explained that you can’t leave the baby on the stoop or in an alley because that’s abandonment and is a crime, but if you hand the baby to a worker you can walk away with no questions asked. My teen thought I was making this up, so we googled it and pulled up the statute, which most states have, including Florida where fourteen year old Cassidy Goodson lives. I coached her that “God forbid” if she found herself or one of her friends in a bathroom birth situation that had somehow been hidden from the parents, this is a legal alternative to what Cassidy did.

If prosecutors are able to try the fourteen year old as an adult, she will most likely receive life in prison. Game over. Had she known about and followed the safe harbor laws of her state, perhaps Cassidy would have made a wiser choice. I don’t know what Cassidy’s home life was like, but I’m sure the media will be sharing that soon. I’m certain that they are trying to track down the baby’s father and will be profiling stories on how her parents could have ignored the obvious signs that their slim daughter was pregnant with a 9.5 pound baby. Additionally, I’m sure the authorities are trying to see if the parents can also be tried with a crime. Lawsuits enjoy company.

Again, it boils down to choices. Based on the facts that we have now, it appears that Cassidy’s parents chose to ignore the signs instead of choosing to take their daughter to be tested by medical professionals who could have established conclusively that Cassidy was pregnant. Perhaps the parents just couldn’t bare the thought that their fourteen (14) year old daughter could be having sex (gasp!) or perhaps the family lacked healthcare coverage and the resources necessary to visit a doctor. I don’t know. The only choice they will have now is a grim one, visiting their fourteen year old daughter in prison.

Life is about choices. After my little run in with the law, I’ve learned my lesson and will pay more attention to the speed limit signs on interstates. I would much rather choose to fork over resources and receive something tangible in return than send cashiers checks to some unknown county. As the parent of a tween and a teen, I also choose to believe that the PG dance scene depicted in my first novel pales in comparison to the actual experience of being a real life teen today.

Teens hide all kinds of things from their parents: facebook accounts, piercings, signs that they are having sex tattoos, traffic tickets and apparently teen pregnancies. It's a parents job to choose not to ignore the things that could prove harmful to the teen and to help the teen make wise choices. Because of one life altering bad choice, fourteen year old Cassidy Goodson may never have an opportunity to fill her life with better choices, and that’s the saddest choice of all.

Since you’re still reading, speaking of choices, we will all have an opportunity to make an important choice soon when we are faced with the decision to choose the person who will serve as the Head of State, Commander in Chief, Chief Political Leader and Director of the Executive Branch of our government otherwise known as the President of the United States. Whatever you do, make sure that everyone in your house over the age of eighteen (18) is properly registered to vote and heads to the polls on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November to make your/their choice known.