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If you think this is about YOU, maybe you should go reconcile with your parent and work to get back your kids instead of continuing to be a jerk. If you think I am you, or similar to you, welcome! :-)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Star Trek, Drama, and a Couple of Easier Problems

You will recall many of my readership followers are grandparents who want to stay in the background. So, here, I let them do just that. They can email their questions, or post a comment and ask me to remove it as soon as I read it. And you know what? I'll do that. There are so many fears that come with retread parenting, that I honestly understand why grandparents, and also aunts, uncles and cousins, would want to just have a normal family life as possible, avoiding the Klingon Bird of Prey of the adult child or sibling who created the mess in the first place. It seems these adult children have cloaking devices. Now you see them, now you don't! The good starship family will be able to clean it up later, but it causes massive chaos in the interim.

I personally had an Internet run-in, in passing, with my very own Lulubelle Klingon last week, on the occasion of her brother's birthday. There was apparently high drama on a certain social network regarding the contents of his gifts, which he was silly enough to repeat to his sister. I can't exactly say what was said for sure, as I refuse to read the page of either. To do so, I would either have to unblock them, or in the alternative, create a false identity, which is against Terms of Service (My son encourages me to friend him, but I cannot, as I cannot risk having the children here paraded through the judgment of Ex, his wife, my Lulubelle, and an assortment of people I simply don't know). In any event, I refuse to participate to any great degree in her (and his, to be fair) created drama over nothing. I can't say it didn't hurt, especially hearing about it from other people. I guess things got quite vicious against me. But the protection of the grandchildren here is very much intact, and it gave me more evidence of mental illness against my Lulubelle should I ever need it, as a friend was kind enough to print it all out and store it for me.

So yes, I understand, more than a lot of people think I understand.

That leaves us with a couple of emailed problems. On the surface, these problems might appear weighty. But they are easy fixes.

Kathy's grandkids, ages 3 and 5, will not sleep without the other. She allows they sneak into the other's bed at night, and fall asleep holding hands. They have only been with Kathy a month. 

Kathy, after what your grandchildren have experienced, you certainly can understand that they are each other's constant, the main thing that hasn't changed for each other. I see no reason why, even if they are boy and girl, they can't continue to do this for quite awhile. Yes, they need counseling, but not because they are sleeping in the same bed at night, honey. They have taken out of the familiar, as bad as it was, and placed in a new existence. 

Two of my grandchildren did this for months. They slept in the double bed in our guest room until we got the time and money to buy them double beds. There were still times when they preferred to sleep with each other. We understood what they experienced: Their mother left them at night, or fell asleep at the keyboard after a big drink of "mouthwash" in the bottle next to her computer, leaving them to their own devices. Their living quarters would have made the list of Extreme Houses of Squalor. 

The two therapists who've worked with them on and off for years were not concerned by it. There was nothing sexual about it. It was as if they were each other's teddy bears. 
Erica has a different, larger problem. She has just gotten custody of her eleven year old grandson. He is a big boy to begin, having a big father who has a big father. But Erica's Lulubelle did not encourage the kid to get off his duff, or eat well. Dad's in Afghanistan with the military, Mom is in rehab for drugs and may come back/ may not, and Sonny Boy wants to eat, eat, eat, as well as sit on his duff in the living room and play Wii all day, and not the active games. So Sonny is not active, and is starting to look like Jabba the Hut, an unsightly look for any young middle school child. She says Sonny isn't destructive or obnoxious, but whiny and passive, a little manipulative. Grandpa doesn't want to do anything that might hurt Sonny's feelings, and there sits Sonny, day after day, scoring up points on Call of Duty, when he shouldn't even be playing Guitar Hero, munching on Doritos.

Erica, to paraphrase the Great Communicator, tear down that Wii! Stick it in the closet for a few months, at least the summer. You don't have to be mean about it, but you do have to put it away for now. I know Wii has all kinds of cool games such as tennis (my favorite) that encourage activity. Sonny needs to be outside, in the sun. Grandpa can make this little sacrifice for awhile.

If Sonny doesn't have a therapist at this point, get him one, at least a counselor.  The therapist or counselor can help you and your husband put together a working set of rules that aren't too strict but are by no means the lifestyle which Sonny has been accustomed to leading during his mother's watch. There should be reasonable consequences for breaking a few good rules. if you live close to a military base, by all means get a therapist there, one who is used to dealing with deployment anxiety. And yes, Grandpa has to quit feeling sorry for Sonny and start helping out with him.

You might find that Sonny has no social skills, and does not know how to go outside and make friends. You might have to include him in your social circle for a bit, when it's appropriate. I've found that children don't learn much from their same-age peers as they do from having a variety of people in their lives. So, take him to the grocery store, insist upon it, and insist that he behave (explain the rules beforehand, and reward him when he does what it required). Take him on your volunteer work if possible. You and Grandpa take him for walks around the neighborhood or complex. Take him to the park and playground. He isn't going to go if you don't go along, so at least one of you, go along. If it's not too late in the season, a Little League team or some such activity or activities where Sonny has to move would be a really good idea. 

As for the junk food, you are going to have to get tough and not allow any in your pantry, period. It's summer, and summer means loads of fresh veg and fruit at really good prices all over the US. Yes, it is a little harder to cut up fruit for a snack than it is to open a bag of chips or peel down a Drumstick, but Sonny is eleven. He can be taught how to manage a paring knife and veg peeler.  

He could, in fact, learn how to make a meal or two, with your assistance. If his mother decides she likes being Mama after all, she might relapse if she regains custody. It wouldn't hurt Sonny to know how to make such simple dishes as whole grain pasta in sauce, grilled cheese on multigrain bread, a lean burger patty, stir fry veg, fruit salad, and maybe even how to pop popcorn in a pan (I was so surprised kids in my classes didn't know how to do this, that I started teaching them how as a reward for good behavior).

Lean meats, whole grains, veg and fruit, popcorn, exercise and activity: By the time school starts, if his mama doesn't claim him, Sonny should be ready for sixth grade and all that comes with it.  
Those solutions may not be as hard as the problem and persons who caused them in the first place, but when a person becomes a retread parent, it can overwhelm him or her. Hopefully, common sense will prevail in a lot of lives, and everyone will be happier for it.     

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Myths and the Well-Meaning

I came across what we used to call a web ring combined with fora about mothers. There was some space set aside for grandmothers who are raising grandchildren, particularly those grandmothers who have guardianship or adopted them. They weren't used much, and many of the categories hadn't been touched in 2 or 3 years.

I was flummoxed at the individuals who felt it was their duty to just hop in there and kibbitz! These folks had no grandchildren living with them, and in some cases were either older individuals with NO grandchildren or even adult children, or adult children who had lost custody of their children to grandparents.

Why didn't the administrators clean this up right away? Got me. Perhaps they felt they were affecting freedom of speech. Perhaps they wanted the bodies for web hits. I don't know. But there was a lot of bad advice out there, given to grandmas who had the best interest of their grandchildren at heart as well as the right instincts. Experience does that for people. 

In an effort to assist such grandmas in their quest for safety and stability of their grandchildren, I've decided to take on some of these myths:
  • You need to let your child raise his own children, no matter what is happening to them. That's the way God intended it, and you are interfering in a family. God did not intend anybody, especially babies and toddlers, let alone older children and teens, to be neglected or abused. If you do not intervene, who will? Do you want it to be your local police department after your adult child has permanently harmed or even killed your grandchildren?
  • You need to get your adult child the help he or she needs, and then give the grandchildren back to him or her. You can offer an adult help. You can't make that same adult take the help. Sometimes, the law will prohibit you from helping a teen, minor though her or she may be, if said teen doesn't want the help. Some people are just plain mean, even our own adult children. Some have mental illnesses, or are on drugs, or are alcoholics. They don't believe they have an illness, and won't consider treatment. What do you want grandparents to do, club them over the head and drag them to rehab?  Were it that easy! And what, pray tell, do you expect those children to do while they wait for Mom or Dad to get her or his act together? How long are they expected to wait? I've said it dozens of times, children don't wait. They can't be thrown in the closet or tossed in the toy box because Mom or Dad is too busy enjoying drugs or booze or sex to tend to them. Some parents never get it together! Their kids will be dead, or fifteen years old and on the same path.
  • Remember, it's your adult child's illness, not the adult child. Cut them a break. Yes, to a certain degree that's true. But we live in an age where mental illness is treatable, where drug abuse is treatable, where alcoholism is treatable. Yes, many adult children with these problems are in denial. Should their own children wait upon them to come to their senses and seek the help they need? The grandchildren in question might be dead of abuse or neglect by then! If you need more help with this statement, I urge you to run, not walk, to an Al-Anon meeting today.  
  • You need to do what I did in my state or province. You need to find out the law in your particular state or province. What works in Ontario doesn't work in Chicago. What works in Chicago may not work in Houston. What works in Houston will not work in Hoboken. The best person to tell you what will work in your state and area is an attorney. Interview at least three, preferably as many as you have time to interview, and retain the one who seems to have the experience matched to your needs and personality as well as bank account. Keep a list of the other prospects you felt qualified in case your first choice doesn't work out.
  •  You need to call child protective services. You must call protective services. Not necessarily. Some states mandate that protective services have a hand in the pie of every case of children abused or neglected. Some states allow grandparents to pursue private options in the courts. Many protective service agencies are at best overworked and understaffed. Some states use social workers trained specifically in child abuse and neglect. Other states hire any live body with a bachelor degree, give a 40 hour course, and send the new caseworker (not social worker) out to conduct interviews with a case load of over 500 files. Some states hire patronage workers who have done a political favor for the current majority party. Why take a chance? Call an attorney, first, and collect plenty of evidence. 
  • You shouldn't use government benefits for your grandchildren. Really? People who say this, you want to ask them how much they plan to give you every month to raise your grandchildren!  If you can afford to raise your grandchildren, that's jim-dandy. If you are on a fixed income, if your state mandates the grandchildren must receive benefits in order to collect child support from your adult child, at least go apply. As I've previously said, by law your income doesn't count on certain government benefits.
  • Adopting your grandchildren will deny you government benefits, as well as cause psychological damage to the children in question. Giving a child permanence and stability, which is what adoption does, hardly constitutes child abuse. Though each state is different, many states have special benefit packages for adopting related children, older children and children with special needs. You are saving the state money in foster care. Although the IRS is reviewing each case under the present administration, the law currently states that while stepparents may not claim the adoption credit, nothing in the law states grandparents who adopt can't claim the credit.  
  • What are you afraid of? You could use the break. Let your adult child see the kids! Let him or her take the kids places! We are afraid of what occurred at the hands of or neglect by the adult child in the first place, that caused the present situation, or worse. I would never recommend allowing the adult child to see the custodial grandchildren without a court-ordered visitation schedule, and then not in my home or the home of the adult child, but in a neutral place, preferably supervised by a professional (paid, by the court or by the adult child) visitation supervisor.  
  • People can change. You really need to give your adult child a break. It's been years since this happened. Without evidence to you that the adult child has indeed changed, not the mere say-so of said adult child or a well-meaning friend, you are opening your grandchildren and yourself to more of the same abuse and/ or neglect. Don't do it. If the adoption is final and a closed adoption, leave it that way. If you have guardianship, ditto, unless there is a court order (and that's doubtful). 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

"Your abuser’s reaction is not reality."

In most extended families, most certainly not all, when there is a breach in normal relationships, civility can be a key to contact. It would seem most divorced parents can find the strength within themselves to have a civil relationship with their ex-spouses, at least for the sake of the children. Siblings with feuds can often come to family gatherings and mutter a few words, for the sake of the extended family.

The relationship of a parent who is raising grandchildren of an adult child is not, more than likely, the type of relationship where that can happen. Most grandparents in this situation have a sacred and court-ordered trust to raise the children as best they are able, which often means protecting those grandchildren, even if the relationship with the adult child, or anybody else for that matter, is affected. These adult children are often mentally ill and refusing medication, alcoholics or drug addicts, in addition to having delusions of entitlement. Barnum and Bailey never counted on the actions of these adult children toward their own parents and the subsequent grandchildren, or they would have eschewed the Big Top and sold tickets to visitation drop-offs and pick-ups.

I am hearing once again in my email of abuse by adult children whose parents are raising their kids. Abuse is not always a physical beating, and though I've heard of those, too, in the past, they are less common. It can mean verbiage at the front door or the drop-off point for grandparents who have a custody agreement with the adult child. In the 21st century, however, a lot of abuse comes from the Internet, in the form of name-calling, disrespect and downright verbal psychosis. 

I've experienced it. I've hit the Infobahn and discovered that, according to my Lulubelle, I am the epitome of evil. I stole her children, yada, yada, yada, on and on, until I am Darth Vader and Jeffrey Dahmer combined, according to her. So I know it is some of the biggest hurt out there, the disrespect combined with lies and egregious complaints about me. 

The worst part of it is the public display of what should be private. Start a shouting match at a family reunion? It's kept in the family, and there are people to calm the combatants down. See yourself defamed on Facebook? The whole world sees what your adult child thinks of you, and you wonder if they wonder what kind of monster you possibly could be, from small fishing boats off Prince Edward Island to Tiananman Square. We of a certain generation- anybody over 50- know better than to parade faults and foibles across the world. Personal business is personal business.   

Rivaling the emotion of having your personal business blast for world consumption, is the sad fact that your child, the one you nurtured from the womb, is a stinking, abusive liar, who will stop at nothing to hurt you. This person was once your baby! You walked the floor nights with him or her, sat up nights with illnesses, went to who knows how many sports and school events no matter what the adult says now, saving for college, did your very best, in some cases didn't eat so they could, walked to work every morning to support them! This is what you receive in return. Slaps in the face, verbally. 

Friends and normal family members will remind you that the person has an illness, and they know none of this is true. They are correct, to an extent. It doesn't make it hurt any less. And these children of ours are alleged adults, who should know there are consequences to their actions, as well as need to fix themselves. No matter what Mama did when she raised the now-adult, doesn't mean that now-adult doesn't have a responsibility to correct the problem. If that means stopping drinking, taking prescribed medication or seeking the assistance of a psychiatrist (not a social worker, not just a counselor), it should be done. 

There will be those family members, few in number, who have their own ax to grind, so to speak, and will therefore egg on the abusive adult child. They are enabling the abuser. Most other family members will try to avoid the whole deal. It can get pretty lonely.

The Internet, for every piece of porn, phishing expedition and rant-a-thon by crazies of all persuasions, also holds a lot of good sites. Google "abuse mental verbal other coping techniques" and you will see you are not alone; far from it. 

Each situation with abuse is different. I don't know each and every personal situation out there. You may have to do something as drastic as move. You may be fortunate, and in due time, you might be able to have a relationship with the adult child in question. I have found avoidance extremely advantageous. Don't go looking for it unless you must, especially if it raises your blood pressure and gives you a panic attack. 

 If you have a visitation order, you really need to bring another unrelated adult with you, in case the abuse starts. Make sure the cell phone is ready to record the abuse. Your witness can hold the phone in your hand, press the sound record button, and even record a short video. 

I don't know your particular circumstances, on whether you have a mild personality, or your tongue is a registered weapon. I am just another grandparent who is trying to help you over the hurdles not an attorney, not a psychiatrist, not law enforcement. I have my own hurdles, as well. 

There are many good tips out there. The best one, in my opinion, came from the Pandora Project:
  • Remember, you survived.
  • It wasn’t your fault.
  • You don’t have to pretend.
  • Your abuser’s reaction is not reality.

The one on abuser's reaction is really, really important to me.  Pandora Project continues: "In short: Don’t believe your abuser’s reaction. Remind yourself their response serves to deflect the truth to protect only them." You know the verbiage isn't true. You most likely have evidence it isn't true (and you need to start collecting some if you don't). You have a much bigger job here than defending your actions and your grandkids. 

If the grandkids are in your custody, you have already won a major battle. If you have adopted them, you have won an even bigger victory, you have won the war! It might be at a very precious price, but you have won! You have protected those children from abuse and/ or neglect. You have every reason to be proud of yourself.  

I would only add that in certain circumstances, even though it's the Internet, if necessary you can consult your attorney about the verbal abuse. In some states, you might only be able to have your attorney send a cease-and-desist letter, but in other states, you may be able to get a restraining order or order of protection. Document, document, document every piece of abuse out there, if this is the case! If you don't know how to screenprint (hold down the CTRL key and the PRT SC or PRTSCN button at the same time, then PASTE that to MS Word or another word processing program), go ahead and print it out from your printer, and save it. If your present attorney doesn't know how to deal with the abuse, see if you can find one who does.

Take precautions for your physical safety, but don't be afraid to battle this issue simply because it's verbal and not physical. Abuse is abuse!    

Sunday, June 17, 2012

He Didn't Have to Change

I was reading Facebook when a "like" pointed me to somebody's blog post. The post was about a woman who stood firm in the face of her husband's drinking and carousing with other women, standing by her man until he sobered up and came to his senses. She was getting ready to leave him, to be fair, just waiting on the kids to grow up, attending college to finish her degree. But on the oil rigs, the man discovered Christ and became changed. He realized what he had, and everything went back to normal; in fact, better than normal.

I do not discount miracles. If God granted this woman a miracle, who am I to question God? Yes, there are everyday miracles, but this one, to me, seems to be in the super-deluxe miracle category, and therefore few and far between in this world. It's what makes such miracles rare. Perhaps God decided it was better for this couple to be together. Other couples in similar situations? Well, there's that Romans 8:28 clause about all things working to good for those who love the Lord according to His purposes- that's HIS purposes, not ours.

I suppose I could have waited for Ex to get his act together, or at least until the two older kids were grown. My mother advised it, and at one point tried to get ex and I back together- after he was married to his third wife.

However, Ex left me, despite what he tells people. He tricked me into baby-sitting for his last extra-curricular girlfriend of our marriage, leaving her kids with me for the day, into the night, then coming home. I didn't get paid. I thought she was a work colleague of his at a big-box toy store. The girlfriend didn't speak much English, and Ex told her I was his sister. She called me later and apologized profusely, as best she could.

He then came home late one fine day, after I had performed all the "pleasing" I was told was required: Home very clean, meal ready, even a hot bath drawn. As he sat in the lovely hot bath, and as I started to scrub his back, he informed me he wanted a divorce. He claimed we had married too soon, that because of his circumstances growing up, he hadn't had a sufficient adolescence. At that point, I was too stunned to do anything. 

I don't what happened to that final ex-gifrlfriend, but I have kept up with several of Ex's lovers from the time of our now ecclesiastically null and legally ended marriage. We have a sort of club, Ex's Exes. Only one knew of my older kids and me prior to becoming involved with Ex. Ex told her I was not giving him his marriage rights, and that he was leaving me soon (It took him another 4 years and 3 moves to leave after that encounter). They've gotten on with their lives as best they can after Ex, shared similar breakup stories. Several weren't married, but it made them wary of married men for life, a good thing in my opinion.

Here's the thing: Ex hasn't gotten better over time. The second-to-last time I talked with him, and I admit this was over 20 years ago, he suggested things on the phone I refused to do. He likes to babble on the Internet and to people I know that he also knows that I am the one who left him for somebody else, that I was a poor mother who didn't care for the children and ruined them, that I bled him dry (at $300 a month for 7 years, and it took him 14 years to pay that), that I denied him visitation (that would be the court that granted my present husband adoption). 

Ex is essentially a teenager still, rides around on a Harley, blames other people for his actions, moves every few years to yet another state, lies to my older children (one sought him out, he sought out the other), lies to my parents. I don't know the state of his present marriage, but I don't imagine it's as fabulous as he lets on, unless it's an open marriage. He apparently still has blow-outs where he is gone for periods of time, and his present wife apparently allows these, no questions asked (or he has gotten very good at covering his trail). I know for a fact he used to go to gyms to peruse the gym bunnies. 

I don't know if God has jerked Ex up by his tailfeathers once or several times since our divorce, pointing out the harm he's done on his path of destruction. He has his excuses: His mother died when he was young. His grandmother and older sister raised him for several years. His father took off for Vietnam voluntarily rather than stay with his kids. He obtained a stepmother in late middle school, who was resented by the older sister. I know his father drank, about a big bottle of Wild Turkey a week, supplemented by beer throughout the day.

As time has passed, I've gotten on with my life as much as I'm allowed to do so. And I married a man who loved me for who I am. He is stable, consistent, kind, caring. Most of all, he is stable. He doesn't lie to me, not even a little. He cared enough about me to adopt not only my older kids, but some of his legal grandchildren. We do what we do together, including the budget and coordinating work stuff, not just fun things. We still have date night, almost 25 years later.

He never had to change. We all change in some ways, but not usually the way Ex still needs to change. The Mister never had to change that way. I think it's called Integrity.

His background was not always one of stability and calm growing up. His mother drank. His father left the family home when he was in middle school for another woman with children. His sister is still in the throes of drink and drugs. He spent a year or two living with relatives as a kid. He enlisted in the military in order to finish his undergraduate degree. He's been married before us, and it wasn't a happy life for him either (no children, which made it easier, but not happier). Neither parent really supported his choice of  attending college, but his mother, a European immigrant who spent her childhood under Hitler's occupation, saw no point in going to college. Her slogan for decades was, "Why don't you just become a roofer?"

(No offense to roofers. I have two cousins who do a good job at it. But if you knew the Mister, you would know he's not a roofer, or a plumber, or an auto tech. And the world's a better place for that. We who have suffered his large-scale repairs know this, and bless the community of the Trades, as they used to be called, each and every day. He can do electrical, thanks to his military time. But that's it.)

Yet, those prior situations made the Mister stronger, more determined to do what he needed to do to be the man he wanted to be. He doesn't whine about his past, he overcomes it. 

He is the rock in my life. I don't know what I ever did without him in my life. Should he pass first, I don't know what I'll do without him when he goes. And no, we will never divorce, knowing "never" is a loaded word.

Our Lulabelle paints the Mister as some sort of cartoon character when she describes him online. She alleges that he never "reins me in" as if I am a circus pony. He is represented as the nebbishy little man of Looney Tunes fame, with "Yes my love" always on his lips, hat in hand, never willing to think for himself. Ex has corroborated this in his postings.

The Mister doesn't need her, or anybody else's, approval. That's how strong he is, how comfortable in his own skin he is. Oh yes, he'd like to drop some weight, and he has his doubts as we all do. But trust me: If he thinks something is wrong, I know it. He will not budge on that which he considers wrong. Do not stir his wrath. He stands on his principles, and nothing can budge him. 

Life is short. I would not bother to keep up with Ex if my two older kids weren't involved, and therefore, the grandchildren who are now legal children. As many of you do, I also have fears of that adult child coming out from the shadows to snatch, to grab, to make trouble for the grandchildren who are now our children. We have a nice life now, and I want these children to grow up without fears of being snatched, legally or illegally. This is despite the adoption order, changed birth certificates and social security cards, new state, etc. The only comfort we have is that we obtained their adoption in a state that had a few past problems with adoptions and worked out the kinks on adoption law, to the point where all adoptions are closed, in the sense that the documents are locked up by court order, and not subject to be re-opened and heard again in court. We work through and around those fears every day, just as many of you also work through them. We will continue to work around them for years, until the kids are grown and can make their own choices.

But it is so nice to know that the Mister didn't have to change, didn't have to have that moment of choice.

There are a lot of men out there like him, who do the right thing, day and day out, without sneaking women and booze as if they are little kids stealing penny candy, who don't withhold their paychecks from the family, who don't depart for days on end, only to return as if nothing is wrong.

To all those men, especially to the Mister, thank you for your integrity, for your strength of character.  Thank you for sitting down to monthly budget meetings, dance recitals, basketball games, church on Sunday. Thank you for hand-holding, whether in joy or in sorrow. Thank you for replacing football and Internet time with family time. Thank you for going to work each day.

Thank all of you husbands who chose to raise your kids, whether you are the only father they've ever had or you are the father du jour, and all types in between, including stepfathers, grandfathers, uncles, older brothers, cousins. Thank you for being there for the women in your lives, and for the resulting children, so that they know you are there. Thank you for your patient sacrifice, getting up at the crack of dawn or the middle of the afternoon to work yet another early or late shift.

Happy Father's Day, real men!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Rated R? Use your best judgment and see it with the kids if possible, anyway.

Who would have believed that our neighbor to the South, Mexico, once had a dictator who tried to eliminate Religion; not just Catholic, although that took up the majority of Mexicans' beliefs, but ALL religions. It didn't succeed, but it was not for lack of trying on this particular president's part. The Mexican citizens first tried peaceful protests and nonviolent methods. This didn't make a dent in Plutarco Calles' plans. People decided that maybe it was time to go ahead with the violent methods.

A general was hired and the Cristero War was launched. From 1926-1929, Mexican clergy were executed as criminals. Men, women and even children fought, were captured, tortured and executed. By 1929, with the help of the Knights of Columbus and the US ambassador to Mexico, a tentative truce was arranged.   However, this didn't stop Calles, who insisted not only on no more religion, but taking over ALL schools in Mexico. It wasn't until the 1930s that Calles and his cronies were finally completely knocked out of power. Mexico still has laws on the books that prohibit exercise of free speech when it comes to religion, including approval needed for any outdoor worship, and government prohibition against any denomination owning a media outlet, paper or otherwise.

So why should I direct you to go to the movie, For Greater Glory, and urge you to take any grandkids you feel can handle it to see it despite the R rating? After all, even if you have Mexican heritage in your family, the odds are good you are an American who knows that Freedom of Religion is one of the hallmarks of our great Constitution.

You might not have heard about it, because the network media hasn't been reporting on it much, and when they do, they tend not to deliver all the facts. The federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) ruled that all religions must provide contraception and abortion coverage to all their employees. A very narrow exemption was made for denominational facilities where everybody is a member of that denomination. However, most denominations hire people outside their own faith, as well as operating ministries to those who aren't actually members.

Not every denomination believes contraception is wrong, and not every denomination has a problem with varying degrees of abortion. But gosh darn it, Catholics and Evangelical Protestants have more in common than they ever thought when it comes to abortion and drugs that cause abortion! And to their minds, their First Amendment rights are being violated!

The Catholic Church has 43 of its entities suing the federal government, HHS and the present Administration on the subject. Catholic and Protestant entities alike have, in answer to this, removed any insurance from their employee benefits and college campuses. The Supreme Court is set to pronounce its verdict on the Patient Protection and Affordable Act (Obamacare), from whence all the trouble started, as a result of lawsuits from 26 states' attorneys general.

You can say what you want about the left or the right side of the arguments. I won't go into it. My mind is firmly made up, and I don't have the energy to argue with my fingers, typing away when I have other things to do.

I want you instead to consider that this movie, For Greater Glory, is rated R. The R rating is usually reserved for movies that have piles of nudity, sex scenes that leave little to the imagination, and big-time gore and violence. We older folks might think that the R rating is controlled by law, and is there for the betterment of our children.

If you think the R rating means you can't take your grandkids, think again.

The Motion Picture Association of America invented this voluntary rating system. To say the members of the MPAA are capricious in their application of ratings is an understatement.

The latest feature movie, the Avengers, is rated PG-13. Why? Because of the intense sci-fi action. Madagascar 3 is rated PG. Why? Mild "action" whatever that is, and potty humor. Yet, I can guarantee you that little children saw or will see both movies, and not in the least be effected by the woeful content per the MPAA.

The R rating means that there is harsh violence, explicit sex or drug use, including excessive alcohol and cigarettes. It means kids under 17 should be accompanied by an adult.  Cooperating theaters will require parents and guardians to attend with their children.

The reason the MPAA claims to have given the R rating to For Greater Glory was not  because of unbridled sexual escapades throughout the film, nor was it because there are scenes where the actors shoot up or run a crack house. It was given because For Greater Glory depicts the harsh violence the Calles government inflicted upon men, women and children, the torture that was allowed to flourish in Mexico in the 1920s. Far from being gratuitous violence, it is necessary to the movie to show just how cruel Calles allowed various arms of his government to be!

And yes, violence could happen anywhere, even in the United States, even with our Constitution.  Do you not remember the Riots of 1968 in Washington and Chicago? How about the Black Panthers intimidating voters in 2008? How about the young couple in Virginia who were beaten by a mob? It happens every day in the US. And yes, we need to be aware of it and prevent it.

Take your grandkids to see For Greater Glory! Go for the matinee showing and save some bucks. Insist that the teeny-bopper running the counter allow those kids access with you present.  Let the kids ask questions of you (but not during the show). Point out things that happen in our very own country that are violent, starting with the Revolutionary War of 1776. Remember that violence can happen, and does in the US, sometimes for awfully good reasons.And when it comes out, buy the DVD.

Besides, it's Andy Garcia! How can you ladies NOT want to go see Andy Garcia? How can you gentlemen not want to see Andy Garcia on horseback, cowboy-movie style, with guns a-blazin'?