I ate my feelings today

I AM FEELING RATHER RAW after yet another school shooting yesterday. Here we are again – AGAIN! – having the same debate. Nothing has changed. 

(Much) more on that in a sec. I wasn’t making any friends or changing any minds on social media as I got into it with strangers, and couldn’t think of what else to do, so I went to Five Guys, set on eating my feelings:


And yes, I am aware it isn’t healthy to use food in this way, and I also know I wrote here in January about how I was eating salads and stuff, but what can I say. I’m weak. And I just don’t like salad. Or bananas. Or lots of things that are good for me. So I got a burger and some fries, and it was really delicious, and I am unapologetic.

At least I walked there and back.

So there I sat, a lonely lady at a high-top table, scrolling through my phone, getting angrier and angrier at the fact that THIS HAPPENED AGAIN. A bunch of kids (and their parents, and their teachers, and their community, and their country) have been traumatized again by a guy intent on making some statement – we don’t know what, yet – which was pretty easy for him to do in such a dramatic way, because he had a gun. Which the adults in his home knew about. Oh, it was locked up, they said. That was our rule.

He used a gun.

Please, don’t start by telling me that guns are not, in and of themselves, bad. I understand that. It is condescending to suggest that I might actually think that an inanimate object is capable of killing without it being activated by a human. Plus, that argument breaks down when you realize that guns are designed for the sole purpose of killing other living beings. Or at least, wounding them.

Hey: If you are so fearful that MS-13 gang members or bad hombres are coming to do you harm, or your home is an ideal target for a middle-of-the-night break-in that you feel the need to keep a personal firearm, to be used in the unlikely event something like this actually happens to you, then I trust and expect you are doing so with great care and forethought, in compliance with applicable laws, despite the odds being that your gun won’t actually save you in such situations. But, we all have the right to protect our people and our stuff in the way that makes sense to us. So, you do you.

I don’t want to take *your* guns away. What I and many others want now is called gun “control.” Control means some sort of moderating effort, to ensure people who shouldn’t have guns, can’t get them. It does not mean a total ban on every single gun in the whole world. You can still keep your pistol, if it helps you sleep at night, and you can still hunt deer or whatever. So take a deep breath, Captain Hyperbole.

I do feel strongly that no civilian needs to have access to semi-automatic weapons. Ever. I cannot think of a situation where having one of these handy has made things better, but I can name a dozen off the top of my head where their availability made things unbearably, irreversibly awful.

Seriously: If you can point to a time when a civilian used semi-automatic weapons to make things great, I’d love to hear about it.

I don’t want to hear ever again about how if someone is intent on killing a bunch of people, they’ll use other means if they can’t get a gun. They’ll use fertilizer to build a bomb, maybe, or just drive a car into a crowd. The argument goes, therefore, it doesn’t make sense to regulate gun access because crazy people gonna kill. This argument is a gigantic, oozing, throbbing red herring. It attempts to divert attention away from the fact that a *gun* was used to kill.

To kill. Kids, at school, and people who devoted their lives to educating them.

He used a GUN.


The naysayers reply, well, he was mentally ill. THAT should be our focus! I agree. But I don’t believe any efforts towards improving availability and coverage for mental health conditions need preclude efforts to get semi-automatic weapons out of the hands of civilians. We should be talking about both, simultaneously, right now. And not just talking, but acting.

We are stuck in this insane, nightmarish loop where a mass shooting happens, elected officials offer thoughts and prayers, someone organizes a candlelight vigil, people propose gun control legislation, congress doesn’t act on it, until the next shooting, at which point we lament that nothing ever happens and “thoughts and prayers” again and the whole thing happens over and over. How have we not learned yet? How can we allow our lawmakers to be more beholden to the deep pockets and propaganda machine of the NRA than to the families they were elected to represent?

I had the relative luxury last night to choose to not immerse myself in the news of the day’s mass shooting. I was able to make that choice. A whole bunch of people in Florida were not so fortunate. Reality hit them over the head, hard, and demanded, in the cruelest possible way, they immediately pay attention. Kids live-tweeted and texted their parents while hiding in closets, fearing for their young lives. What if it was your kid? Or your grandchild? Can you even imagine the anguish of receiving those texts? I can’t. And those were the ones who lived! Many died. Because a troubled guy had a gun and decided to use it to kill students at the high school he had attended, there are a bunch of parents who hurried their kids out the door yesterday, urging them on so they wouldn’t be late for school, not knowing that it would be the last time they’d see them alive.

He used a gun.

So, 2A zealots, spare me your fear-driven rhetoric and your false arguments. You have been missing the point this whole time. I want to live in a country that seeks to protect my kids and yours, and not just through a full-term pregnancy, but for the rest of their (hopefully long) lives. It’s time for all of us to do a root-cause analysis to figure out what’s really at the soul of this madness, so we can do something to minimize the risk of it happening again. We may never prevent all mass shootings for the rest of forever. But doing nothing isn’t working. So let’s try doing… something different. Anything. And let’s keep trying till one day, we will shake our heads as we think back to how terrible it was, back in those years when there were all those school shootings, during that dark time in America’s history.

One last thing: As you take measures to protect your property from bad guys, I will take measures to protect my own slice of cyber-real-estate (this blog) from those who would disrespectfully argue with me. I have had unproductive exchanges with too many individuals whose minds were obviously made up, and acknowledge that I’m not likely to change their views, any more than they are to change my mine. However, if you wish to put forth a discussion that suggests new ways we can work together to protect our children from being shot up in places where they should be able to feel safe and protected, that would be a worthwhile conversation to have.

Just as soon as we figure out this gun problem. Because to me, that seems like a logical place to start.


Natural consequences

AS I WAITED FOR MY GARAGE DOOR TO OPEN yesterday afternoon, I was met by Eli, who was fixing to leave on his bike with his basketball. He’s been enjoying that we live close to basketball courts, but it’s been too cold to play outside. He has discovered that sometimes, his school is open after hours and if one of the two gyms is not in use, he can shoot around inside.

The problem was, he was wearing crew socks and a pair of athletic slides. And a hoodie. And it was 20 degrees outside.

I tried to explain frostbite and hypothermia, but all he heard was BLAH BLAH COLD BLAH BLAH BLAH and off he went.

When he returned 15 minutes later, his feet were really cold. (No!) As he sat with them next to the fireplace, we had another discussion about how 20 degrees is a kind of cold one should not trifle with. This is the kind of cold that would freeze the canned sodas we used to leave on the shelf in our carport. It’s the kind of cold that helps you identify every broken seal on every window and door in your house. It’s the kind of cold that makes furnaces sputter and quit.

You would think the experience of self-inflicted cold feet would have left an impression. You would think he’d have been grateful that I dug out two winter coats so he could choose one to wear on his walk to school. You would think those things, but you are probably an adult with a fully-developed frontal lobe. The boy rolled his eyes and groaned when I insisted he wear a coat. Or, he groaned because it was the first day back after winter break. Probably some of both. Either way, he was running late this morning and asked me to drive him to school. (Only the second time this school year!)

He got into the car wearing just a hoodie. Coat’s in my backpack, he said in response to my side-eye. Do you have a hat? I asked. I have a hood. Gloves? One. But I have pockets.

At least he was wearing sneakers instead of slides.

WebMD illustrates natural consequences using the coat / cold example. They go on to say, “Learning through experiencing consequences is much more powerful than through a lecture or punishment. Using consequences for misbehavior is an effective teaching method for dealing with behavior problems in children and teens.”

Oh, WebMD! That’s precious! I thought it would be effective too, but I am a female adult. And I have learned from parenting two boys through their teen years that cause and effect is not the deterrent you’d expect it to be, at least when it comes to weather-appropriate dress. Eli’s brothers insisted upon leaving coats behind, lest they be forced to actually use their school lockers. And with Eli, I’ve had to establish a threshold of 32 degrees Fahrenheit, below which he will only reluctantly wear long pants to school, much to the chagrin of school administrators.

Despite it all, I do tend to agree that a “natural consequences” approach to parenting is probably the best way in most cases. Within reasonable limits, of course. But I’ll be counting the days until he demonstrates that he can decide on his own, based on weather reports and experience, whether or not it’s a good day to wear a coat.

I take comfort in knowing that my kids’ behavior places them in the fat part of the bell curve. A quick Google search of “shorts in snow” yields many images of bare legs on a white background, including in this feature story from the Coeur D’Alene (Idaho) Press that articulates adults’ perennial concern for children’s cold legs.

I have found my people.

Area Boy wears summer attire in winter. School administrators remain exasperated.


The Neighborhood 

It’s 5:30 Friday evening. I got home a little early, changed clothes, and poured myself a glass of wine. The temperature outside has been in the 60s the past couple of days, so I turned off the air-conditioner and opened some windows.

I live in the top two floors of a row of two-over-two townhomes. All the units have garages which back to central parking, around a treed, grassy island.

From my open dining room window, I hear little kids ramming around with what sound like plastic wheeled toys. (Parents, you know that sound!) I hear a mom. From this distance, she sounds like the muffled mumbles of any adult in the classic Charlie brown cartoons. The children are shrieking with glee, yelling rules at each other for whatever game they are making up in the moment. As all good suburban cul-de-sac kids do, they occasionally bellow the warning, CAAAAARRRRRR!

These sounds transport me back almost 20 years, when I had two small kids. When the boys were very little, we lived in a townhouse community, smaller, but not unlike the one I’m living in now. Instead of out back, the parking and island were in the center, viewable from the fronts of the houses. If enough adults stood guard, the kids could ride their large plastic wheeled vehicles around the island.

It was in this way that we met most of our neighbors in the community where we first lived, and again when we moved to a more expansive suburb. Now, some evenings when I drive my car into the parking area, I see orange cones set up, and those signs that say “children at play”, and adults standing around, sharing a beverage, while they keep one eye on the posse of children. I remember the drill: one parent would take a turn, giving the other one a spell, and promise to run the children, hard, until they were tired. This was in an effort to ensure an early (or at least timely), drama-free bedtime. Our measure of success was the low bar of “safe and happy” on those nights and anything beyond that, with regard to the kids, was gravy.

I mostly feel happy that the days of large plastic wheel toys and shrieking children are behind me, but I would be lying if I didn’t add that the sounds I’m hearing now make me the tiniest bit wistful. My little boys were just so cute. And fun! Exhausting too. But remarkable. They were (and are still) a source of pride and joy.

There is a sense of community that parents of similarly aged children develop. I don’t have that connection with any of my current neighbors. Now, I am (probably?) that scary old lady who smiles a little too broadly, and is a little too forthcoming with the unsolicited advice.

When we were in the thick of it, I could barely imagine a day when I wouldn’t find Hot Wheels cars and LEGO blocks and empty chip bags and Capri Sun pouches all over my house. But now here I am, with a 7th grader who needs no toys, rides a “big boy” bike to school, and even puts most of his trash into the garbage cans in the house. His older brothers spend more time now at their dad’s house than at mine, but I see them regularly, and we have completely adult conversations. And occasionally drink a beer together! (What?!)

I remember as my kids were growing up, thinking how each stage is the best, as you get to it. All the stages are special for unique reasons, but the one I was in at the moment always seemed the best to me. Little kids, like the ones I hear shrieking right now, can be exhausting, but their smiles and joy are completely genuine. My favorite age range is still from 7 to 11, but I’m still really enjoying Eli even as an adolescent in middle school. (But I will readily accept your prayers for us both.)

Yes, my life has changed significantly over the past two decades, and I’ve been through many stages. But in this moment, I can say with certainty, as I look ahead to all that awaits, that this is, without a doubt, the best stage yet.