School Shootings: It’s Not the Schools, It’s The Guns

During my time supporting three Assistant Principals and an Associate Principal, I saw all the Discipline on a 5A, highly diverse High school campus. Most is petty and routine: dress code violations, excessive tardiness, insubordination; a subset of chronic cases who had more serious offenses on their records; and maybe a dozen of the truly troublesome.

I thought of the truly troublesome as the Disaffected Boys, sometimes, because they just seemed adrift. They had messy or tragic home lives, often. If they had been involved in athletics, by High school they were kicked off their teams because of their disciplinary offenses, grades, or absenteeism. They had few friends or fluid, ever-changing friendships among the other truly troublesome students. They weren’t involved in clubs or activities, or seemed to have any church or worship life. Drugs were a common theme, both prescribed (which they either didn’t take or did so abusively) or recreational. They were adrift and seemed angry most of the time. A couple of them scared me, and I don’t scare all that easily; these were the ones who’s own parents were afraid of them.

What they were was dangerous, and they existed on our campuses for the same reasons there are students with profound mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, on your student’s campus right now: every student is guaranteed an equal and adequate education, and most districts find it cheaper to place difficult students or profoundly special needs students on standard campuses with sparse Special Ed resources available to them, than place them on smaller, more expensive campuses where more intensive interventions can take place. Parents may also object to their student being placed on an alternative campus, and most districts have policies of returning even suspended and/or expelled students back to a regular campus as quickly as possible, in order to provide that equal and adequate education.

From my seat in the AP’s Office, I witnessed Teachers, Principals, Special Ed Aides, and yes, Secretaries, too, doing everything in their power to help every student who had need. And you know, we don’t always like every student. Some students can be real jerks by the time they are in High school, and some have parents who are real jerks, too. But schools are staffed with professional, highly educated, big-hearted people who put aside personal animosity and go by-the-book, as defined by their District. I have never seen any who particularly wanted to stick it to even the most obnoxious student. They approach their duty in fairness and compassion, because they know what is at stake: a human being, a life. So I really don’t want to hear anyone blaming the schools when something awful happens. It’s way, way bigger than that.

Let’s look at our society: we’re so busy making money we throw money at our kids instead of time. Many abdicate parenting entirely to the schools, only to rail at them when they try to impose discipline. More often, I saw parents doing their best while working multiple jobs to make ends meet, and/or parenting alone.

Parents and schools are also struggling against a society which hyper-sexualizes and matures the young far beyond their brain’s still-developing capacity to deal with the issues this presents. TV, video games, movies, music, and their friends are all far more influential with the young by the time they hit Middle school, than are their parents or school administrators.

Increasing technology facilitates isolating oneself in a self-selected echo-chamber of voices, many quite dangerous and with malign intent, and validating one’s darkest ideas. Bonus: every one of a teenager’s flaws or mistakes are instant gossip fodder for their friends and enemies alike, via social media.

And we have guns, guns everywhere, big guns, readily available. Guns designed for the military, guns with high-capacity magazines which together permit rapid firing and achieve high body count in the hands of one bent on destruction. We have all these guns because a terrorist organization, the NRA, spreads so much money around the state capitols and the Nation’s capitol that they’ve created an impenetrable wall of cash between our elected officials and anyone who dares suggest meaningful gun reform. You can see how much your elected officials have taken from the NRA here. Over the last 40 years, the NRA has grown from a responsible gun enthusiasts’ group to a dangerous, far-right political lobby.

It is impossibly complicated – so much more complicated than I can express here but, here is the deal, folks: It is ABOUT GUNS. While I believe it is profoundly complex, this problem we have of disaffected boys shooting up their schools, involving a mixture of mental health issues, having nothing larger than themselves to believe in, a cynical culture which values money, power, and guns more than them or our consistently underfunded educational system, Districts with “zero tolerance” policies which do not take into account the individual student, and much, much more. But ultimately, if Nikolas Cruz went to his old High school with a machete or even a hand gun instead of an AR-15, there would be many fewer dead, maybe none, today. Without that AR-15, someone might have had time to help Nikolas Cruz.

After Sandy Hook, after Mitch McConnell filibustered against meaningful gun reform, America should just admit that it values the right to possession of military-style armament more than it does it’s children.

But I guess a little child shall lead the way: the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are marching on their State Capitol even as I write this, and students from all over the country are going to be marching on Washington next month. They watched as their peers and teachers were gunned down and they have had enough.

They deserve better, and they will show us the way.

They’ve renewed my hope on this issue. Thanks, kids. I see you. I am with you.


POTUS & Archie Bunker’s Toilet

It was a more innocent time, my childhood, when Jane Russell could only display the Platex Cross Your Heart Bra on a mannequin; it was a big deal that we heard the flush of the Bunker’s toilet; when a married couple must be shown to each have one foot on the floor in the marital bedroom (which contained twin beds). Some things were and still are illegal and other things, like underarms and Archie Bunker’s toilet, were considered crude, and either not permitted out of good taste, or played for cheap laughs. Both the extreme opinions of the far-right, bigoted Archie and his equally extreme, but far-left-leaning son-in-law were skewered by brilliant writing week after week; Archie’s toilet was daring for being heard at all, an extended fart joke. A much more innocent time.

Some firsts aren’t groundbreaking, or desired. This morning, mothers watching the news are shielding their children from anchors throwing around the word “shithole” because they are quoting the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. Now, I am no prude and anyone who has talked to me for oh, maybe three seconds, knows I can turn the air blue. It’s not the language I object to; it’s who is saying it it, the context within which it was said, and his obvious, willful ignorance of History and breathtaking thoughtlessness of the world-wide implications of his every aside and tweet. How is it he doesn’t get that? Or, as I suspect and worse, he doesn’t care because this is him:  racist, misogynist, xenophobic in the extreme. Every day it is some new, crude, backwards-thinking embarrassment.

I am descended from people who came from places that, at the times they fled them, probably seemed like “shitholes”. But that did not mean my ancestors were ashamed of their origins – how could they be, when those places made them who they were? When those places gave them the very strength upon which America itself is built? People strong enough to leave a hopeless situation, strong enough to build entire new lives and a country, too, strong enough to send into the future tax-paying citizens like me.

I have had the privilege of working with immigrants from Africa, Mexico, South America, Pakistan, Lebanon, Singapore, Jordan, Kuwait, China, and Ireland. All were hard-working, and many were far better educated than I. To insult their homelands is to insult them.

When I look back at the TV of my youth, I am glad that the more ridiculous rules have fallen away; however, we currently have a Chief Executive with none of the governors over his behavior most sane people employ when in society, let alone anything like class or discretion. Every day his boorish, frat-boy behavior brings yet another new low, from bestowing ridiculous nicknames on world leaders, his insistence on propagating conspiracy theories despite empirical evidence disproving them, to the infantile Twitter battles with which he seems to start every day. He diminishes our good name with every waking hour, even as his robber barons strip healthcare  and food stamps from children and re-write tax code to increase their own wealth. Drain the swamp? Puhleeeze. He’s only added alligators.

Like getting spectacularly drunk at the office Christmas party, it is going to take us a long time to live down the embarrassment and regain our reputation. We will have to work twice as hard to be taken seriously after Trump (so for women and people of color, it will be business-as-usual on steroids).

The first place we can make a significant dent in that drunken reputation is this November. We have got to turn the GOP out, and I mean all of us, we can’t just let Black Women carry the weight. White Women: wake up. This POTUS is no good for us or our children. Vote in your best interests, which means can you get healthcare? Can you afford it? Can you afford your birth control?  Go away, Bernie. You’re not helping. Tell your voters to vote for a viable candidate instead of whining and staying home and then complaining when the Village Idiot is elected President.

Democrats need to clear out the Old Guard and yes, Nancy Pelosi, that means you. Let’s hear more from Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Julian Castro. Here in Texas, I am supporting Beto O’Rourke to unseat Ted Cruz.

The GOP owns this President and everything he is destroying in his path, but it is up to all of us, together, to rebuild our Country and our Ideals – this is no less than a battle for the American Soul, American Identity. We must tell our elected representatives this behavior will not stand. Call your representatives today: 202.224.3121, register to vote, and come November, VOTE. It has never been more important. Words matter.

When someone demeans your place of birth as a “shithole,” it is a fair bet he doesn’t think much of you, either. But he misjudges at his peril. Say it with me, like Ned Stark, “November is coming”.

Who Are You?

From my mother, I grew up with very specific ideas about who I am genetically. We were Irish, “Descended from Jonathan Kelly, who stowed away aboard the Mayflower to get here and practice his Catholic faith in freedom from the English swine who stole our language and religion.” My mother had opinions on the English.

The stowaway part was a bit o’blarney according to my mother, what my Grandma Helen referred to as a “whopper,” and an outrageous lie in truth. There was an actual Jonathan Kelly, Irish Catholic, who came to America in the early 1700’s through the Virginia Colony, and one can follow the bloodline down to my mother’s generation and now, mine. He was not indentured. Jonathan Kelly came of his own free will for a chance at a better life.

caroles dnaMy daughter took the Ancestry DNA test first, then Paul and I, all with a little surprise in the results.

Paul, my very tall, very fair, second-generation Irish American hubby was predictably Irish. Not a big surprise since his family came so recently. What was a surprise was the trace amount of Indian Subcontinent. How fascinating is that? How on earth did his poor, bog-Irish ancestors meet and mingle with someone from the Indian Subcontinent? We will probably never know but it sure makes for interesting conversation and speculation.

For me it was, what I had been told about my genetic code, along with so much else of my childhood, was not necessarily true. All the Irish heritage I was fed as a child ignored the far larger percentage of my genetic markers from Great Britian and hey, how ’bout them Spaniards and Jews! Like Paul’s Indian Subcontinent, hours of contemplation can flow from those Spaniards and Jews.

In a time when DNA testing didn’t exist, her Irish heritage was what my mother believed in. My paternal genetic heritage she dismissed as, “Scottish I think. Maybe some Welsh.” Sometimes I wonder if when my mother, removed from Ireland by multiple generations, an ocean, and most of another continent, railed against the English, was she really railing at my biological father? Were “the English” code for “the guy who left me”?Her Irish genes and superstitions were what she had to give me, and as with many things, maybe felt like she had more to give than she did.
What’s really got me curious is: who were those Eastern European Jews, Spaniards, Basques, and/or Portuguese lurking in that gene pool? Sailors from Phillip’s ill-fated Armada, washed up on Ireland’s shore? Or do they go further back, were they Celts who went north? I might never know. But I think there are fascinating stories there, waiting to be told.

It solidifies a suspicion I have harbored for some time: Americans are all mutts, mongrels, and we are stronger for it. Instead of standing shouting at each other, looking at one another as “Other” we should be mixing up the gene pool and ferreting out heritable diseases. Consider, the person you’re shouting at could be your cousin. If you’re not a Native American, at some point your people left someplace else, or were brought here against their will from someplace else and here we are now, together.

We’re going to live or die, together.

Last week, a 3rd cousin  contacted me via; she’s a beautiful mixed-race woman in Michigan. We haven’t figured out the common ancestor yet but there it is, courtesy of Science: two women of the same generation, raised thousands of miles apart, one recognizably African-American and one recognizably Astoundingly White, are  genetically linked. We share blood family. We are blood family. How could I stand across a protest line and shout at my family? How could I wish less-than for my family? How can I not cry out for justice for my family?

I wasn’t who I thought I was genetically, but I am still me and as an American, I choose who that is. That is the grace of freedom, and freewill. I am a mutt and a mongrel, an American Girl.

It’s kind of liberating.

Who are you?

Radical Hospitality

I’ve been hearing the term Radical Hospitality in Christian circles for some years now. It seems to vaguely mean Inclusion, Tolerance, and Support for the individual on his or her faith journey, as well as a method of bringing newcomers to the faith. It has meant different things to the various different people and congregations I’ve known who espouse it, or at least espouse the concept of it. I’ve heard it used as a reason to host a local ecumenical event, include Gay people in all aspects of congregational life, and as something the Welcoming Committee needs to take Very Seriously. It’s meaning for me has changed many times, but as ever: recent experience + old memory = lesson learned. One of the rewards of living long enough is that even ancient artifacts of memory can have lessons, given the right ignition.

My ex-husband’s late father left my late mother-in-law for another woman. It was as cliche as could be: she was his secretary. All his adult children and we spouses disapproved, vocally so, and then sat back in our disapproval and waited for the affair to end.

But the affair didn’t end, and a couple years later it occurred to all of us that if his children and grandchildren wanted a relationship with him, we were gonna have to get over our disapproval and hurt and bring them both back into the fold. As the family Golden Child, it fell to my ex-husband, and by extension me, to make that happen.

We invited them to dinner and, because my father-in-law didn’t like me and I knew it, I went about my pre-party cleaning with a double dose of OCD; my neighbor, finding me sponge-mopping the ceiling, gently told me I might be taking things just a tad far. They were likely happy to be invited and wouldn’t be judging my housekeeping too harshly.

They arrived fifteen minutes early and found me, mop in hand, finishing the powder room. Wanting to kill them, I smiled through gritted teeth. We all ate. Both Agnes and I drank way too much. After they left, concluding that “the other woman” had neither horns nor claws and that my father-in-law was not being held against his will, we counted the evening a success.

My ex and I felt quite proud of ourselves. What grown-ups we’d been! We’d nobly cracked the door open a little bit, so they could get back in. Over time, I think all of the kids eventually found their way to forgiving him enough to include them in their lives somewhat, and maybe they’d have done that without my dinner party but, weren’t we Good? Weren’t we hospitable to the woman who had broken up their family? We congratulated ourselves that we’d given more than they deserved, and were the bigger people for it.

Never once did it occur to me how much courage it took for Agnes, whatever her sins, to walk through my front door.

Never once did I think how nervous she must have been.

Never once did I even try to imagine what she must be feeling.

Never once in all the years that followed did I open my heart to her, to who she was, what she felt or thought. I don’t recall ever asking her a question about herself, her life, her interests. But I was always polite.

They eventually married and remained so until her shocking, sudden death some years later. She lay down for a nap and never woke up. There were no second chances at offering Radical Hospitality to Agnes.

According to

Radical:  Adjective 1. of or going to the root or origin; fundamental: a radical difference; 2. thoroughgoing or extreme, especially as regards change from accepted or traditional forms: a radical change in the policy of a company. 3. favoring drastic political, economic, or social reforms: radical ideas; radical and anarchistic ideologues.

Hospitality:  noun  1. the friendly reception and treatment of guests or strangers. 2. the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way.

Just reading the definitions calls up Jesus for me, dining with tax collectors and prostitutes. It points out my giant failings were Agnes was concerned: I took the standard societal attitude about a woman who has an affair with a married man – that she was a heartless homewrecker and not worthy. If I’d been more radical, I might have accepted her as a fellow human being, full of errors and mistakes, just like me. And if I’d been truly hospitable and received her in a generous fashion, I might have saw in her whatever it was my father-in-law saw and loved. I might have offered radical hospitality as well as food and drink.

It is difficult to step away from our convenient labels for people, especially those we consider “other”, be they other woman/other man, or other color, other creed, other point-of-origin, but the loss is greatest to ourselves when we won’t. I say won’t, rather than don’t or can’t, because the latter two might denote a lack of choice, and our freedom to choose how we think is the best, and potentially perilous, gift of freewill.

In a dangerously angry world we need not walls but truly radical hospitality. From being radical enough to suppose the lady with 47 items in the express lane ahead of you at the grocery store didn’t do it to piss you off, to being generous and hospitable enough to listen to fact-based ideas and concerns from the opposing political party.

I think our lives depend upon it.

Feminists & Goats

Over dinner one evening, Paul wondered aloud about something he’d watched while eating lunch. Unless he tunes it to English Premier League Football, the TV in his office’s break room is generally showing HGTV or the like, so he’s come to know all about Tarek and Christina el Moussa, house flippers once married to one another, but alas, No Longer.

With the end of their marriage and show, Tarek and Christina are now busily working on independent ventures. A recent show featured Christina doing a photoshoot. In a bikini. And here is reason #852 why I love Paul: watching the attractive Christina promoting her new venture by showing as much of herself as is allowable on daytime TV, Paul wondered if he’d soon see an ad wherein Tarek was doing a photoshoot, clad only in swim trunks or, if we’re to have true parity, a speedo? Would he have Revenge Abs? Realizing that men don’t have to promote their work with revealing photoshoots, Paul wondered aloud that night at dinner, Why are women still putting up with this?

In the wake of a celebrity breakup there always follows an article on the woman showing the ex what he’s missing with her Revenge Body. As I was googling Tarek and Christina I found this article about her Revenge Body.

When we moved to South Carolina I faced the debacle of getting a new Driver’s License, for which I was required to produce: my birth certificate, my first marriage certificate and/or something proving I had a right to my first married name, then my divorce decree, followed by my new marriage license and subsequent government-issued ID in that name. Upon our return to Texas a year later, I dragged it all back to the Texas DPS to get my old, still-current Texas license reissued. All of which had Paul wondering aloud why women are still changing their names upon marriage? Given the giant pain in the a$$ it is to change one’s name in a day when we are no longer exchanged for a certain number of goats and thus, traded from father to husband as property, why do women still take their husband’s names?

The old argument was women retained their married names upon divorce because their children bore that name, and I would concede that point if we were still living in the 1950’s, but we aren’t. Having worked in Education and dismissed from campus literally hundreds if not thousands of students, I can assure you what their mother’s names are makes no difference to us whatsoever. It all comes down to a) who is listed by the enrolling parent/guardian as authorized to take a student from campus, and b) if they have ID to prove they are who they say they are. Period. That’s it. If you’ve listed Mr. Peanutbutterandjelly as an authorized contact and granted him permission to take your student off campus, and he has government-issued, picture-bearing identification proving he is, indeed, Mr. Peanutbutterandjelly, your student can leave campus with him.

Paul’s and my marriage is quite traditional, but our blessing is we choose that, rather than society imposing traditional roles upon us. I might do more cleaning and he may do more handyman things, but it’s based on inclination and skill, rather than traditional gender roles.

As we neared the end of binge-watching The White Queen and subsequently gobbling up the actual history of the time, Paul remarked of Margaret Beaufort and Queen Elizabeth Woodville that for all their lack of autonomy they, like so many intelligent, capable women before and after them throughout history, still found ways to exert influence and shift the course of events. How much might such women have accomplished if they had rights? Birth control? Equality?

Fast-forward to the 20th century and the epic battle between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, as deliciously told in Feud on cable channel FX.  Fueled largely by a male studio head who felt convincing performances could only be gleaned if they kept the two leads perpetually at each other’s throats.  What followed was the kind of emotional guerrilla warfare only old foes can make, strike-counter-strike, hitting with unerring accuracy the ancient, never-healed wounds in each other. What took my breath away was the lack of respect for them as Academy Award-winning, acting professionals. Would Jack Warner have suggested such a thing if the stars had been, oh, let’s say John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart? I sincerely think not.

Here we are in 2017 and in Texas we have SB 25 looking set to pass the legislature, a bill allowing doctors to lie to or withhold information from a woman they believe will abort if informed of birth defects/issues with the child she’s carrying. Think about that: a doctor can LIE to a woman by omission, and is immune from prosecution for doing so, thus removing her autonomy to make her own healthcare decisions, and possibly affecting her for her entire life. Doctors will be legally permitted to treat adult, rational female human beings as children, incapable of making sound choices over their own lives.  Left unanswered is who will pay the staggering costs of raising all those profoundly disabled children?

It seems we are not so far removed from trading our young women for goats after all.


Six Degrees of Immigration

The year I don’t know, but in the early days of the 20th Century a young man from a small village outside Kiev boarded a ship in Frankfort, Germany, crossed the Atlantic and, passing through Ellis Island, an anonymous agent recorded him under the Anglicized name, Bernard Gross. He married a fellow immigrant, a girl from the old country named Rachel. They became American citizens, owned and operated a laundry, and raised four children: Betty, Mildred, Harry, and finally, surprise! the baby upon whom everyone doted, Jack, “Jacky” to the family.

Jack played High school football and after WWII he followed his older brother west, tending bar and managing restaurants, eventually settling down with a pretty cocktail waitress, a single mother with a little girl. He didn’t live an extraordinary life, but worked hard for his living, bought houses, paid taxes, and raised another man’s child through fevers, stitches, accolades, accidents, and late-night ER visits, adopting her as his own and teaching her what is meant by unconditional love. His own father, Bernard, adopted her, too, with the less formal but equally binding ties of grandfatherly love.

That little girl was me. Only one degree of separation, a straight line linking a little girl growing up with a loving father and America opening it’s arms to a Russian Jew fleeing the pogroms of Eastern Europe.

There is no way to estimate what my closest associations with immigrants have meant to my life. Surely, I wouldn’t be me if I hadn’t sat in a doting Papa’s lap during holidays and family gatherings.

My country was built by immigrants, but as a country we have a habit of being pretty ugly to the most recent wave of them. Recent events conjure shameful memories from High School in Southern California, when Vietnamese refugees were settled in our area. Then, I witnessed a subtler, nonetheless savage, form of welcome by my fellow students in the form of whispers and snickers in the hallways and a pointed distancing. When the locker rooms became infested with scabies, the blame was laid firmly at the feet of the Vietnamese students, and the rampant but previously quiet racism of the school’s corridors turned vocally and disgustingly scurrilous towards them. It all sounds so petty and small, but it was relentless. I was never savage, oh no, I was worse:  I saw it all and remained silent. Which is why I can’t this time, I can’t be silent and honor those immigrants who, in six degrees of separation or less, have shaped, loved, guided, educated, delighted, and enriched my life beyond measure.

Children Waving to Statue of LibertyIt bears remembering that most people don’t want to leave their home countries, their relatives, their places of worship, their familiar foods and surroundings. When one’s choice is leave or die, it’s an easy choice to make, and there in New York harbor stands a statue inviting “the poor, the tired, the huddled masses” to our shores. America has long been the beacon of safety, of hope, the promise of God’s grace for whoever named God and even those who don’t.  How do I wrap my head around even the consideration of not living into that promise? If we aspire to being the “shining city upon a hill”, deserving that honorific demands no less than offering shelter and succor to all people seeking refuge, the least, the last, and the lost.

We cannot be both Christian and Isolationist. God’s grace flows first not to particular borders but rather, into the human heart open and ready to receive it. Then we hold it but a little while, passing it on to the next in need while being ourselves replenished in the giving. In this way we are constantly renewed while repaying the debt owed to our immigrant ancestors, who paved the way for us.

In this way we live into the promise of being the “shining city upon the hill”.

Weekend Coffee Share: Rolling up the Sleeves edition

I’ve been in a funk since the election.

It didn’t go my way.

The Wednesday after, I allowed myself to wallow, neither listening to nor watching any news. It would all still be there when I was ready to hear it. Instead, I Netflixed the day away on the couch in my sweats, with my critters. There may not have been a shower taken that day. Paul called from his job site in England and talked me off the ledge.

He talks me off the ledge

I texted with my daughter, who also was not doing well with the election result, and we commiserated. I gave thanks for the supportive work environment she’s now in, where apparently nothing got done that day, but they all took care of each other.

Thursday, I watched Samantha Bee’s post-election show and was comforted, first by her righteous anger, then the exhortation to roll up our sleeves and get to work. Work: this is something I understand, and we surely do have a lot of work to do in figuring out how the Democrats got it so very wrong. This election has resulted in an outcome requiring much soul-searching, most particularly in figuring out who we are as the American people, because that picture has clearly changed over the last several decades. Lots of work to do.


This fabulous woman makes me laugh, hard.

While the bewilderment remains, the malaise lifts. My daughter came for Thanksgiving week and we did not much of anything but commiserate, watch movies (definitely go see The Arrival, wait until Nocturnal Animals shows up on cable), and laugh. Few people make me laugh as hard as Charlotte. We cooked a very successful Thanksgiving dinner and followed that with a mini-Sloth Day on Friday. Perfect.


Now we hurtle through the Holiday season towards a new year and a new President. I am lucky to belong to the RevGalBlogPals, and in this time when my faith in my fellow man is shaken to the core, I am inspired by their writings reminding me there is a power bigger and stronger than I can imagine in control and that eventually, everything will be alright. All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well. They also remind me that this is not an excuse to stay mired in the funk, trusting others to do the work but rather, now is a time for prayerful consideration on my role in making the world a better place. Because we all have a role.

I believe the next four years will be a time when thoughtful people, whatever their political affiliation, must be vigilant in fact-checking and holding to account our public officials and the media. We will need to be sharp and attentive to preserve our democracy, this great experiment of American Freedom.

Ornery Cat
Notorious Sock Thief









Jeff and I used to talk about the condition of our homes as metaphors for our emotional states and I do believe it is time to fill my home with light, color, and the aroma of baking goodies. It is Advent, the time of preparation and expectation and a spray-tanned president with a bad comb-over is no excuse to forget the coming of the One. For this weekend I am going to nestle in with my sock-stealing dog, ornery cat, wisely wonderful husband, and listen to the rain while bringing out Christmas.


Come January, there is a lot of work to be done.



It was 4:45 a.m., and the door from my bedroom to the back yard was open just far enough to let Blanca and Ivan go in and out. As I lay in bed listening to crickets and the odd cicada humming, I was warm, comfortable, and safe, enjoying the peace of not-quite morning.

After these last few days of hearing the horror of Orlando, all the talking heads dissecting and analyzing and looking for reasons why, why? it happened, these days of not being able to form a truly coherent thought about it, a memory came unbidden from a long time ago. A very young, very pretty me piled into a car with my equally young, very handsome male Gay friends and headed up to LA to dance the night away in one of the Gay clubs. There I could dance all night without ever having to shake some weird guy who wouldn’t go away, or worry I’d hurt someone’s feelings if I turned down a drink or a dance, had no fear of being cornered or stalked. I was in a place and among people where I was 100% accepted just for being exactly who I was, nothing more, nothing less. And so I danced, laughed and partied free of all concern, because I was safe. Maybe all those in Pulse on Saturday night were feeling that way, too, the more so because unlike white, straight me, it might have been the only place they really were safe, until a bad man with a sick head and a semi-automatic weapon shot his way through the door.

While 49 innocents died from the bullets fired at Pulse, everyone who was there sustained a potentially mortal wound in their loss of feeling safe, of having one place they could go where it was 100% okay to be who they are. Here in our country where in 29 of these United States, it is still legal to fire someone for being Gay. Here, were it is still legal in 30 states to refuse to rent to someone because they are Gay. Where county clerks twist religious liberty to flout Constitutional law and refuse to issue marriage licenses to Gay couples. Here, where televangelists of every ilk use their freedom of speech to spread hate against fellow citizens. Here, where parents feel righteous about throwing their children away, determining the child’s inborn sexuality is either defective or sinful. So for me, this national tragedy is more than even the lives lost and the horrible, devastating ripple effects of their loss – it’s about millions of my fellow citizens, my brothers and sisters who don’t and can’t feel safe. Anywhere. This was stolen from them, from all of us, really. Because as well as killing 49 innocent human beings, Omar Mateen showed us how illusory is the safety any of us feel.

The furor will die down, here in our nation where such horrors have become commonplace. But I will not be silent about these things:

  • the need for universal background checks for anyone who wants to buy a gun, with no exceptions for gun shows, online purchases, inter-family sales;
  • the need for 30-day waiting periods for anyone who wants to buy a gun;
  • on the no-fly list? you’re also on the no-gun list;
  • ability (with proper documentation) for families/domestic partners to “red flag” an unstable person so they can’t get a gun;
  • outlawing the sale of high-capacity clips;
  • term limits for Congress and Senate, so they can’t stay long enough to get too cozy with the NRA and other lobbyists; and, importantly,
  • recognition/legislation rendering it unconstitutional to deny housing, employment, marriage or adoption rights, based upon gender identity/sexual preference, basically, recognition that a citizen is a citizen is a citizen, and it is not our business who said citizen loves provided everyone is of consenting age.

I don’t want to take away guns but I think we must acknowledge that high-capacity clips (magazines) permit sick individuals like the Orlando shooter to create a lot of carnage quickly. Loopholes in background check laws for online and gun show sales allow no time to weed out the mentally unstable, or those who pose a terrorist threat. We must recognize the cause-and-effect of weapons in the wrong hands = dead people.

Citizens always wondering when and where the next atrocity will occur does not seem to me the thoughts of a free population. When a goodly number of our citizens must spend their lives looking over their shoulders for the next act of violence, have to lie in order to earn their daily bread, or refer to their life partner as “roommate” is simply caging them in invisible prisons. The idolatry of guns in our country is steadily and not so slowly putting bars around all of us, the bars of fear and hatred.

I am optimistic enough to believe we have the love and intelligence in this great country to grant all citizens’ equality, and also to make hard decisions about our collective safety. But I am also too old now to worry about being liked for my beliefs, so while I will of course offer my prayers for the victims of Orlando,  I will also be vocal about supporting my LGBTQ fellow citizens equality, and about our need for reasonable action with regard to guns in this country.

I do not wish to be in continual mourning; I wish us all safe.


Angry is the WordPress prompt of the day, and I started this by thinking of all the things I’m angry about, then deleted it all because it’s not really angry I feel, it’s more heartsick at the anger all around.

When did optimistic Americans become so angry we’re seriously considering electing a petulant 12-year old with a terrible comb-over and oompa-loompa colored spray tan to the presidency? Love or loathe President Obama, one must admit he’s never embarrassed us on the world stage, carrying himself with easy grace and intellectual curiosity, always the rational adult in the room. I cringe at the notion of Donald Trump representing my country.

When did we become so angry and apparently mistake-free-in-our-parenting that when a tragic accident occurs in a Cincinnati zoo, we instantly demonize the already traumatized parents? Are we so angry at ourselves that we hold a man’s past against him, rather than marveling  over and applauding the apparent turn-around he’s done with his life? Isn’t that one of the promises of America, that one who strives for it always gets a second chance? While I’m on the subject, all those with nothing in their past they’d be embarrassed to have revealed, please stand up now so I can count you. Full disclosure: I am not standing.

It’s like an infectious disease, anger, one sneeze and it’s everywhere and everyone has it. Paul and I were talking and indulging in a bit of the mom-bashing: wasn’t she watching her child? Then yesterday a friend posted something about toddlers and their propensity for vanishing and a little chill and a wave of shame swept through my body with the memory of my own, solitary child disappearing into the racks of clothes when we were shopping, discovered only when her giggling at me freaking the hell out gave her away. Doesn’t every parent have such a tale? But for the grace of God, there go I. Maybe that mother needs our compassion and a commiserating hug, parent to parent, much more than our disdain. Maybe rather than being angry at her, we could instead be grateful for the lucky escapes our own children have had, for all the bad things that didn’t happen.

Photo of Harambe: National Geographic

Many are angry about the death of Harambe, the gorilla. I am sad he had to die, but I think maybe we can all be glad the little boy is ok, right? A human child with his life ahead of him; maybe he’ll cure cancer, and I want him to have that chance. I’m not going to question the decision made by the zoo, because I am many years away from my zoology degree and thus, I don’t get a vote. They made a hard choice in a difficult situation and fortunately, a little boy is still alive because they did.

Anger is easy. It’s the go-to emotion when one feels wounded, because it requires no sense of responsibility, no self-awareness, no empathy. It’s cheap that way. It’s Donald Trump saying the press is unkind when they expect an answer to legitimate questions, it’s vilifying a mother we do not know personally when a horrible accident happens, it’s blaming others for our misfortunes instead of taking stock of ourselves and the role we played in our own heartbreak. It’s the knee-jerk reaction, rather than the well-reasoned plan.

When we were children, we might have been told to take a deep breath or count to ten before we reacted in anger; somehow we’ve forgotten the value of this. Social media allows us to let fly all the vile vitriol that flies into our heads immediately, rather than letting go of that head-full of steam on the car ride home, the walk to the mailbox, or the furious scrubbing of floors. I couldn’t even begin to count the number of fights that started on my last campus because of social media snark. When did we as a society forget that every thought that enters our heads doesn’t necessarily need to be expressed?

Ultimately, on the topic of Angry/Anger I am asking my fellow Americans: next time you have a snarky thought about the idiocy of another human being, count to ten first before tweeting, and think how you’d feel on the receiving end of it and, when you enter the voting booth come November take a deep breath, count to ten, and calmly consider how much you want an angry child negotiating with Vladimir Putin, dining with Queen Elizabeth, or clutching nuclear launch codes in his tiny hands.


My First Political Rally

It was a bit of an anti-climax, actually.

It’s not like I didn’t have time, transportation, and belief in the cause, so I couldn’t think of one good reason not to attend the Planned Parenthood rally on the steps of the capitol of South Carolina.

The purpose of the rally was in protest of House Bill 3114, which would make illegal all abortions after 20 weeks with no exception for cases of incest or rape. Thus, a twelve-year old raped by her father would be forced to carry the fruit of that unholy union to term. And I just can’t believe we are still talking about this stuff in 2016 America.

At first I was afraid I’d never make it there, as a horrendous car accident had the freeway shut down. I texted my daughter while parked in the jam. This is an abridged version of the conversation:

“So I’m on my way to my first political rally, joining Planned Parenthood protesting HB 3114, which would ban all abortions after 20 weeks, even in cases of rape or incest. Paul asked me to try to not get arrested.”

“OMG church lady in pink getting hauled away in handcuffs! That would be newsworthy!” I think she was a little too entertained by the idea of her mother’s mugshot.

It’s not like I’m “pro-abortion”. Is anyone? But given the Constitution, given my alleged status as an equal citizen of the United States, given that this is settled law, and especially given the sick way we think about and treat sex in our country, I am very pro-stay-out-of-my-uterus. From useless abstinence-only sex-education in schools, to TRAP laws eliminating access to affordable womens health services (so much more than abortion), to the abandonment of mother and child once the babies are born (you can’t buy diapers with SNAP), there exists a terribly noisy minority seeking to control women through their reproductive organs. And again, in the year 2016, I just can’t believe we’re talking about this.

There were around 100 of us; many had clearly done this before and had made posters and signs. It was heartening to see a few men there supporting the cause.

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SC Rep. Mia McLeod

There were an equal number of male and female legislators speaking out against the Bill, the men in particular calling on women to run for office and increase the number of women making law.

But my favorite was Representative Mia McLeod, who introduced HB 4544 requiring men seeking a prescription for Viagra to submit to a waiting period, provide a notarized affidavit from a recent sexual partner attesting to his inability to get and maintain an erection, and undergo counseling and stress tests “to ensure the health of the patient”.

“It was never about erectile dysfunction,” Ms. McLeod explained, in the same way that HB 3114 and TRAP laws have nothing to do with the health and safety of women.

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SC Senator Marlon Kimpson

It’s about power and control and a gross, willful misinterpretation of constitutional law, explained State Senator Brad Hutto.

Interestingly enough, on the way to the rally I was listening to NPR (of course) and Gloria Steinem was being interviewed, promoting her new eight-part documentary Woman on cable channel Viceland. She stated the most violent societies are those where a premium is placed on controlling women/women’s reproduction and a cursory glance around the globe makes me dead curious about exploring the data behind this statement, because along with the radical Mideast, the United States appears to be, for my money, a terribly violent place and particularly for women, three of whom die daily at the hands of a domestic partner. Ms. Steinem went on to state that the safest societies, both past and present, were those where parity exists between the sexes.

This is why I recoil from measures such as HB 3114, bills that implicity, if not explicitly state, Oh sure, we’re all equal except for 50 % of the population. So we’re going to “protect” you by imposing our religious values upon you, using discredited science and the First Amendment to do so. That is not religious liberty; that is religious tyranny, and if Sharia law repulses you, please understand that willfully using the freedom of religious liberty guaranteed you by the First Amendment to impose your religious values on your fellow citizens amounts to the exact same thing.

So off I went, and standing in the brilliant hot sun of a Southern spring afternoon I chanted along with the rest, having only one moment of terror when four buses emblazoned, “Christian Tours” rolled by, afraid they would disgorge hundreds of angry zealots who would then shout down common sense. But they were headed elsewhere and the only protesters were a lovely young woman who pointedly rolled adorable twins past us, asking, “Aren’t they beautiful!? Their momma chose LIFE!” to which our organizer, Alyssa Miller, sweetly responded, “At least she had a choice!”

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A small contingent of the Fourth Estate

The second naysayer was an old man carrying a life-sized cross over his shoulder and wheeling along a portable PA system. He mounted the steps and tried to erect his cross in front of the speaking legislators but was gently escorted back down the steps by one of the police officers on duty. Re-shouldering the cross, he wheeled about 30 yards away, took to his mic and tried to talk over the legislators, but again the police officer politely dissuaded him. Finally he rolled down to the curb, picked up his mic and exhorted us all to repent lest we burn in hell eternal.

And then it was done. The news crews snatched up their mics and packed away heavy cameras in lightening speed and were gone. I walked back to the parking garage a couple blocks away and went home. Did my presence make a difference? I don’t know. Probably not. But my voice and my vote are all I have, and I have no patience for those who bemoan the state of affairs yet do nothing to change it. So I raised my voice. It’s what I can do for my sisters who might not have the advantages I do, such as access to healthcare and the support of a loving spouse. For them, for my daughter, I raised my voice.