Wednesday, November 11, 2009

TV exposure may make toddlers aggressive-study

Nov 2

The more television that a three-year-old watches, the more likely he or she is to behave aggressively, according to a U.S. study.
Just having the TV on in the background, even if the child wasn't watching it, was also linked to aggressive behavior although the relationship wasn't as strong, said the researchers.
"Parents should be smart about TV use," reseacher Jennifer Manganello from the University at Albany, State University of New York, told Reuters Health.
"They should limit the time that children use TV, pay attention to the content of TV programs, and consider how TV is used throughout the home."
The study looked at 3,128 women from 20 U.S. cities who had a child between 1998 and 2000. While there was some diversity of education among the study participants, one-third hadn't graduated from high school.
Two-thirds of the mothers said their three-year-old watched more than two hours of TV a day, and the average viewing time for children was around three hours.
On average, the TV was on for about five additional hours on a typical day.
After accounting for factors known to be associated with aggressive behavior, such as living in a violent neighborhood or having a mother who suffers from depression, TV watching and household TV time were both still significantly associated with aggressive behavior, such as hitting others, having angry moods, being disobedient, and screaming a lot.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no TV at all for children two and younger, and two hours a day or less for older kids, lead researcher Jennifer Manganello and her team from the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine noted in their report.
There are a number of ways that excessive TV viewing could contribute to a child's degree of aggressive behavior, the researchers add in their study published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.
Children may see violence on TV, and time spent watching TV may mean less time for behaviors that help kids develop positively, such as reading or playing. "We really don't know what's going on for certain," Manganello said, adding that future research was needed to look both at TV content and at what's going on in a child's home when the TV is on.
But Manganello said the findings show that parents have to consider the "overall TV environment" of the home, as well as how much TV their child is watching.

Former religion reporter now preaches from pulpit

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AP/FALL CREEK, Wisconsin

On the first Sunday morning of October, pastor Steve Scott looked far beyond the surroundings of his western Wisconsin congregation to find worthy subjects for their prayers: recent natural disaster victims in Indonesia and the Philippines.
There's nothing unusual about clergy taking inspiration from headlines, but for Scott it's instinctive. He spent 23 years as a journalist at the St. Paul Pioneer Press, most of the last five as religion reporter for Minnesota's second-biggest newspaper.
"What you get with Steve is someone who is able to take current events and use them as a launching pad for sermons and biblical study," said Glen Mabie, a parishioner and a former TV newsman in the nearby city of Eau Claire.
Scott's previous job seemed tailored to his lifelong interest in faith and spirituality and he figured it would be his for decades. But in 2005 his newspaper eliminated the beat, a step many other newspapers are making in lean times. At least seven other metro dailies also cut religion beats, and many others ended or trimmed weekly religion sections, according to the Religion Newswriters Association.
Scott, now 49, was reassigned to cover several St. Paul suburbs. He was "petulant ... pouting ... not very professional," he recalled. When the paper offered buyouts at the end of 2006, he took the opportunity without knowing what he wanted to do next.
He was interested in religion even before he covered it as a reporter. His father, who died when Scott was 6, was a Methodist pastor; after his death, Scott's mother for many years was organist at a Methodist church in Eau Claire, where Scott sang in the choir and was active in the teen youth group.
Once at college Scott stopped worshipping regularly, but he said he never stopped believing in God, and he minored in religious studies.
Even as a sports journalist, Scott kept that interest alive. In 1999, a year before he got the religion beat, he took a seminary class at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities. He did so because it "sounded fun."
Scott likes to talk about the notion of a calling. Though the term is most often applied to clergy, he believes it's pertinent to anyone trying to figure out how they can best use their abilities to make the world a better place.
"I absolutely believe, as corny as it might sound, that I was called to be a journalist when I was 14," he said.
But one's calling can change, he said.
The buyout money gave him a few months to think about what to do with his life, and soon he returned to the seminary. He planned to earn a master's degree and approach religion as an academic. He got work as a consultant for North Presbyterian Church in Eau Claire, but when the pastor there died unexpectedly, the congregation asked Scott to take over.
"We can see the signs when we look back that there was something more coming for him," said the Rev. Ann Scott, Scott's wife since 2007 and a Methodist pastor in nearby Chippewa Falls. "We weren't exactly sure what that was. But we believe now that God was at work."
Scott serves every Sunday at the churches in Fall Creek (9 a.m.) and Eau Claire (10:30 a.m.), tackling the challenges of two tiny, graying congregations. Next summer he'll become a full-fledged Methodist minister and get his own congregation somewhere in Wisconsin.
At the Oct. 3 service, he apologized to his parishioners for the chill in the sanctuary.
"You'll be happy to know if you weren't at the church council meeting - we discussed the furnace," Scott told the 15 people scattered through the pews. He vowed it would be fixed soon.
These days, Scott earns about a third of his Pioneer Press salary. It could approach half once he's a commissioned minister; he won't be ordained until the end of a three-year probationary period.
Would he still be at the newspaper if he'd never lost his religion beat? "That's a lot of ifs," he said.
Twice called to professions that are suffering declines, Scott ponders another "if" question about journalism and religion.
"Cynically, some of my friends have asked me: 'What are you thinking? You left the newspaper business, and you're going into the church business?' They sort of share a demographic of a certain age, and they're both wondering why young people don't seem that interested.
"Perhaps there's a point. But I believe in newspapers, and I believe in the church, and despite their flaws, if we didn't have either one ..."
Scott trailed off, not completing the thought.
OCT 18, 2009

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Gone to the dogs: Church starts pet service


When the Rev. Tom Eggebeen took over as interim pastor at Covenant Presbyterian Church three years ago, he looked around and knew it needed a jump start.

Most of his worshippers, though devoted, were in their 60s, attendance had bottomed out and the once-vibrant church was fading as a community touchstone in its bustling neighborhood.
Dog service: Bob Hedges, right, sits with his dog Chester, during Sunday services at at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles Nov. 1, 2009. The 30-minute worship, complete with individual doggie beds, canine prayers and a tray of dog treats for the offering, is intended to reinvigorate the church's community outreach while attracting new members who are as crazy about God as they are about their four-legged friends. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

So Eggebeen came up with a hair-raising idea: He would turn God's house into a doghouse by offering a 30-minute service complete with individual doggie beds, canine prayers and an offering of dog treats. He hopes it will reinvigorate the church's connection with the community, provide solace to elderly members and, possibly, attract new worshippers who are as crazy about God as they are about their four-legged friends.

Before the first Canines at Covenant service last Sunday, Eggebeen said many Christians love their pets as much as human family members and grieve just as deeply when they suffer - but churches have been slow to recognize that love as the work of God.

"The Bible says of God only two things in terms of an 'is': That God is light and God is love. And wherever there's love, there's God in some fashion," said Eggebeen, himself a dog lover. "And when we love a dog and a dog loves us, that's a part of God and God is a part of that. So we honor that."

The weekly dog service at Covenant Presbyterian is part of a growing trend among churches nationwide to address the spirituality of pets and the deeply felt bonds that owners form with their animals.

Traditionally, conventional Christians believe that only humans have redeemable souls, said Laura Hobgood-Oster, a religion professor at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas.
But a growing number of congregations from Massachusetts to Texas to California are challenging that assertion with regular pet blessings and, increasingly, pet-centric services, said Hobgood-Oster, who studies the role of animals in Christian tradition.

She recently did a survey that found more than 500 blessings for animals at churches nationwide and has heard of a half-dozen congregations holding worship services like Eggebeen's, including one in a Boston suburb called Woof 'n Worship.

"It's the changing family structure, where pets are really central and religious communities are starting to recognize that people need various kinds of rituals that include their pets," she said. "More and more people in mainline Christianity are considering them to have some kind of soul."
The pooches who showed up at Covenant Presbyterian on Sunday didn't seem very interested in dogma.

Animals big and small, from pit bulls to miniature Dachshunds to bichon frises, piled into the church's chapel to worship in an area specially outfitted for canine comfort with doggie beds, water bowls and a pile of irresistible biscuits in an offering bowl. There were a lot of humans too - about 30 - and three-quarters of them were new faces.

The service started amid a riot of tail-sniffing, barking, whining and playful roughhousing.
But as Eggebeen stepped to the front and the piano struck up the hymn "GoD and DoG," one by one the pooches lay down, chins on paws, and listened. Eggebeen took prayer requests for Mr. Boobie (healing of the knees) and Hunter (had a stroke) and then called out the names of beloved pets past and present (Quiche, Tiger, Timmy, Baby Angel and Spunky) before launching into the Lord's Prayer.

At the offering, ushers stepped over tangled leashes and yawning canines to collect donations and hand out doggie treats shaped like miniature bones in a rainbow of colors.

Donna Lee Merz, a Presbyterian pastor at another Southern California church, stopped in with Gracie, her 14-month-old long-haired miniature Dachshund. The puppywith ears soft as silk was overcome by the other dogs and wriggled across the floor on her belly, quivering with excitement. She finally calmed down when Merz held her in her lap.

"She knew it was a safe place and a good place to be, a place to be loved," Merz said, gently petting Gracie after the service. "I'll be back."

Emma Sczesniak came to Covenant for the first time, lured by the promise that she could worship with her black Lab, Midnight, and her wire-haired Dachshund-terrier mix, Marley.
Marley sat on her lap during the service, while Midnight checked out the other big dogs and sat patiently waiting for his biscuit. Sczesniak said the dog-friendly service came at the perfect time for her: she's been thinking about getting back to church, but wasn't sure how or where to go.
"I don't have any kids, so my pets have always been my children, so it does mean a lot," she said of the dog-inclusive revise. "I haven't been to church in a long time and this may push me into it. I'm getting older and I've been thinking about those things again."

But Midnight, Marley, Gracie and the other pups probably had something more important on their minds as Eggebeen intoned his benediction and the service drew o a close: Just where could they find more of those delicious treats?

For Eggebeen, the night was a spiritual success - and the rest is out of his hands.
"It's important for a church like us just to do good things. The results, we'll just have to see," he said. "Ultimately, that belongs to God."
On the Net:
Covenant Presbyterian Church:

Dad to baby: Happy 1st birthday, world traveler

This photo taken Sept. 21, 2009 shows Alex Faerber eating a snack with the pyramid Chichen Itza in Mexico is in the background. (AP Photo/Fritz Faerber)
Fritz Faerber

Happy first birthday, world traveler.
Alexander's six teeth only number one more than the total of countries he's rolled, crawled or walked in (including the US).

He's logged nearly enough air miles to circle the globe. He's been to mountains and the beach and sailed in the Caribbean. The little guy's wanderlust kicked into high gear with a trip overseas last January. Friends, family and even my editor said we were insane to take the then 3-month-old to Ireland.

But my wife and I are pretty adventurous travelers. We've hiked through jungles in Mexico to scale ancient ruins, climbed glaciers to ski in British Columbia and rode the rails through Europe as vagabonds. We hoped Alex would follow in our footsteps, even before he really knew what his feet were for.

It didn't take long to discover traveling with a 3-month-old requires major adjustments. We were taxiing down the runway in Washington before takeoff to Ireland, when Alex forcefully ejected his pacifier, which sailed in an arc to the grubby floor of the plane. Then his little brow furrowed and his face started shifting to that curious burgundy color that signals a tempest.

That's when we decided the "five-second rule" doesn't just apply to pizza that hits the dorm-room floor, it also applies to the pacifier. After brushing off the business end of the baby tranquilizer as best I could, I popped it in his mouth and averted the storm. So began a two-week trip to Ireland, which brought more exploration of the nuclear family than of the emerald isle.

While he's unlikely to have absorbed much of his domestic and international travel so far, he's taught my wife, Myra, and me lifelong lessons and created wonderful memories. Traveling with an infant is a bit like a troop movement. Detailed strategy, support crew, heavy machinery and contingency planning is vital. But even more than that, we had to readjust goals. Rather than a mad dash to see and do it all, we have lived at a baby's pace. Taking time for a nap, or a bite to eat whenever it seemed right.

Now that doesn't mean we didn't have adventure. Alex rode through the streets of Belfast with a former IRA Volunteer, was ejected from a Victorian pub and went to jail in Dublin. (To be honest and wreck Alex's street cried, I must admit the IRA guy was just leading us on a tour; baby was barred from the pub because of an age limit, and the jail was the historic Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin.) But he did spend his last day in Ireland hanging with the Guinness Brewmaster as Dad reported a story.

Each adventure unfolds on its own schedule when you're traveling with a baby. It can't be rushed or forced. It took a few mistakes for the parents to learn that. Dad's zeal for rugby led to an especially disastrous outing in Belfast. The bleak, overcast weather and forecast for rain seemed manageable; after all, we had covered seats and load of Gore-Tex.

But by the time we reached the match, the rain was blowing sideways and the temperature was diving. Poor Alex was burrowed into the baby carrier on my chest under my ski jacket, but still howled every time a gust chilled him. The crowd cheered us when we left before halftime. Even the natives wouldn't expose such a wee thing to the elements.

The next day, the local papers quoted Ulster's coach describing the conditions as the "worst" he'd ever seen. In fact, the stands we'd been sitting in were shut down because the high winds threatened to knock the roof down.

The wintry trip to Ireland was definitely a challenge, but Alex certainly warmed the atmosphere at pubs and B&Bs, where his easy smile won instant friends. Two weeks driving around the country taught us not to drive too far or too fast. Savor the down time and focus on one day at a time.

His next big trip, Aruba, was certainly more baby-friendly. Warm water, a caressing sea breeze and attention from a large group of family and friends kept the smile vs. howl ratio far in the positive. We napped when he napped. Nibbled when he had a bottle. And, we came to appreciate the win-win nature of a big family vacation. Grandparents get q.t. wit the cutie and Mom and Dad get a bit of a break.

So, for summer vacation, we built on that success and rented a house in the Outer Banks. The week at the beach bonded three generations of Faerbers (my Dad, me and Alex) with a lateral expansion of the Lopez clan (my brother-in-law, his wife and their 6-yea-old). The dog and cat even joined us. The whole family got to see Alex move from crawling to walking behind his little walker toy in the sprawling rental house. It's been decades since I went crabbing, but sharing the thrill of hauling the angry critters out of the water with my nephew gave a little preview of our future with Alex.

Myra, Alex and I just returned from our latest trip, to Mexico. The newly walking 11-month-old wobbled amongst the columns of a millennium-old ruin at Chichen Itza. His sticky, juice-covered face led us to try some of the wonderful fruit available everywhere in Mexico. And, the brief crisis of an ear infection forced this Dad to shake some rust off the neurons to use Spanish I thought was forgotten sometime in the 1980s.

Everyone is always shocked that we've taken the little guy so many places. And many people ask if we're worried that the trips are wasted on him. We like to think that by exposing him early to travel, he'll be a stalwart companion on any trip throughout his life. And, if some day he gripes that he can't remember Ireland or Aruba, that'll be a great excuse to return.

So, looking forward to year two in Alex's itinerary, we're hoping to ski and see some of the Olympics in Canada, sail in Lake Michigan and visit other points unknown. But most of all, we want to explore the joy of growing as a family together, wherever we may be.