Are You Ready?

 

 

I sat around a living room discussing politics with a group of mostly democrats.  Each of us was asked about our position on guns and gun control.  Most of the discussion group participants said we should better regulate guns.  When they got to me I said that we should go the way of Australia and get rid of guns.  I was ready to say it out loud.  Not long before sitting around that living room a man had opened fire in our small towns community college and killed nine innocent people, several of of them were classmates of my two sons.  

 

Our town was not ready to say it even then, and they may never be.  We are a hunting town, a town steeped in the the culture of guns and there is no way WE would even consider limiting our access to our guns.  The idea that a good guy with a gun could have made a difference in that shooting, and in any shooting, is part of the argument for keeping our guns.

They said it was too soon after Sandyhook, too soon after UCC, too soon after San Bernadino, and too soon after Pulse… when will we be ready?

To even have that discussion evokes such anger and hatred on the part of those who defend their gun rights. It is a discussion about liberals taking away rights and the ability to defend their own.  Last nights events are on the two year anniversary of our towns shooting.  There are so many shootings in our country’s history that they will now have to share the same day.  We have explained away shooters and our ability to solve this problem because they were mentally disturbed or ideological terrorists, foreigners who came to do us harm… the mass shootings are horrid… in this, America is indeed number one.

 

You have to have registration to obtain the type of firearm this shooter used in his attack.  Super.  Registration.  We need to be willing to do whatever it takes to end this type of mass murder… and it is not ‘building a wall’ that will help…

 

What are you willing to do? It is time to take a stand and change how we think about the second amendment.  Are you ready to give up your guns? It is time.

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SEX is Not a Bad Word

“Sex is NOT a bad word”… I shouted this… in my classroom… to 6, 7 and 8 year old students…. everyone froze, but only for a flash.  So, I had to shout it again, with just a bit more volume and conviction.

Moments earlier a concerned child told me that a classmate found a bad word in one of our library corner books. ‘Oh, my!’, I said… and I went to take a look.  Being unable to find the word myself (or the book), I instead, found the finder.  They were not going to talk and would not utter the word found, but they did point to a book that was a class favorite.  It was one of our heaviest hardback books, about 12″ x 18” and over an inch thick… a child’s encyclopedia of animals.  It really is a beautiful book, full of colorful, realistic drawings and photographs of all animals from amoebas to humans… it has tons of interesting facts and quite a few scientific words. My students pour over its pages, showing interesting pictures to friends.  It would not be uncommon for three or four students to be gathered around this book oooooing and aaahing for a whole reading period.  I grabbed the offending book.

A buzz was in the classroom, because everyone knew that our class favorite had a bad word in it, most of them had been shown the word, and the book may be put away behind the teacher’s desk (a veritable black hole of confiscated crap and stacks of books and papers) never to be seen again.

Here is how this went:

“What was the bad word”

“I don’t remember”

“You do, what was it?”

“I am not going to say it.”

“You can tell me, what was it?”

“It is a bad word, I am not allowed to say it.”

“It is okay to tell the teacher, you can tell me the word. You are not in trouble.”

“My mom said I am not allowed.”

“Okay, let’s find it in the book and you can show me.”

At this point he turns to an easily found page towards the beginning of the book (he had obviously become an expert at finding it from showing the rest of Room One the offending word).  It was the page on protozoans, sponges, or maybe some other basic sea creature and had a beautiful diagram of one such animal, labeled with all of it’s parts… Right there at the bottom of the page was the word, with a line connecting it to a blob inside the organism… SEX cell… There it was.

Okay… here’s what happened next…

“Ah, I see. That is not a bad word. You CAN read me that word.”

“No, I can’t.  My mom said it is a bad word and I am never allowed to say it.”

“But you can show it to everyone in class? Hmmmmm. I think you can read that word to me, because this is a science book in our classroom and I am asking you to read it. You can do that.”

…. we sat in silence for a long time… My student was set on not reading the word, I read it, I explained what that word meant in the book, and finally, in frustration, I shouted out “Sex is not a bad word” – twice… And then “Everybody stop what you are doing and meet me on the rug! Now!”

Quick as a wink, there they all were, staring at me as I held up the offending book.  We had a big discussion about what that word meant in that context… That humans are born to be either the male sex or the female sex, we all have a sex, and also sex is the word we use for how animals reproduce… then we talked more broadly about words and how many words can be ‘good’ or ‘bad’ depending on how you use them and who you are speaking to. Words like stupid, hate, ugly, pig, rat and more can be used in a good way or a bad way… It was a deep lesson for young children, but our favorite book was back on the shelf and we have not had a ‘bad word’ incident in a while… No shit. 😉

What’s Wrong

Trump supporters are eating this up…. his behavior, tweets and bizarre ‘press conference’ will never sway the Americans who voted for Trump.  We live in a society with Kim Kardashian, the Big Brother House, and Duck Dynasty… We hang on whether or not Brad and Angelia are splitting up, and whose dimpled backside dons the cover of People Magazine.  This president is just the typification of our obsession with uncouth overexposure, saying whatever pops into your brain and an America where people can do whatever the f*** they want because ‘it’s a free country’.

I’ve seen great t-shirts these past few months… one of my favorites is ‘Make America Smart Again’… even better would be ‘Make America Polite Again’.  We have lost the core of American society and it has nothing to do with Christianity.  It has to do with the loss of decorum, the unwillingness to find common ground and the rallying cry of Trump supporters that people who are demonstrating against our current president and all that he stand for are crybabies and whiners.

I am not a whiner… as of November 9, 2016, I am an activist, a nasty woman, persistent, pussy-hat wearing, believer in science, immigrant loving, LGBTQ supporting, educator who will not be silenced.  Sorry if that interferes with what you want to see on Facebook or what you want to believe about me… my goal is to find the middle ground, to educate and have an open dialogue so that we can bridge the gap that has formed over the last 20 years and has been highlighted by this ugly moment in US history.  Time to put on your big girl panies and get to work… bridging the gap will be harder work than we have ever seen because the gap has become a casism.  Trump supporters seem to be giving him a free pass, believe his every word, and are cheering him on as he wreaks havoc on our civil liberties, our constitution and our American values.  I don’t get it, but I am willing to listen, to look at the other side and to try and bridge the gap…

My only question is, if you are all deleting me from your FB feed, how are we even going to begin?

Check Yourself

Check yourself… I say this in my classroom all the time… and we review what that means… It is my way of reminding certain people without ‘calling out’ any one child.  I teach the kids to ask themselves a list of questions when they hear me sing this out… 1. Am I in the right place? 2. Am I working quietly? 3. Am I bothering anyone? 4. Am I taking care of myself? and 5. Am I using kind words?

As adults, we too need to check ourselves.  Heading into the new year, having survived a tumultuous 2016, we need to remember that the world is changing and it is within our power to shape that change (or even counter it).  We can do that in the words we use, in the things we post and in the comments we leave.  Being part of a different generation is not an excuse for not being willing  to check yourself.   People who insist on holding onto outdated uses of ideas and language, who speak or post hate, who have decided that others’ freedoms take away from their way of life, need to check themselves. For us, for me, here are a few things it means: 1. Am I trying to help or hurt? 2. Am I doing enough? 3. Am I moving forward or looking back? 4. Am I being true to my beliefs? and 5. Am I  open to new opinions and ideas?

This last one is the hardest for many people because it can be threatening.   It requires that you consider the perspective of another,  that you question your own beliefs, and that you pause from defending your own stance to consider a different perspective. As this year unfolds I will challenge myself to do just that… to take a breath and consider… I challenge you to do the same… but even if you can’t get there, please remember to use kind words, that is really what will save us all…

Check yourself

Christmas Eve

This is my joy… tonight a few friends will stop by for a long hard hug… we will celebrate the season but also notice the changes that a year brings… Yes, most of us keep up on facebook but that does not replace that greeting you get from people who know and care about you… People come to our house because it is a tradition, but also people come because they are far away from their own families or because our house is on the way to somewhere else… It is a gift to us that people come, but it is also a gift to all of our friends… a gift of belonging, of laughter, of food and drink.

For my parents who live far away, it was one of the first ways they began to really know our lives… My mother helps me all day cut veggies, empty the bathroom garbage, and set up the food… my dad runs out for the ice and visits with the boys…. they look forward to seeing these people once every year, and for them and many who come, it is a completely different crowd than the one they see all year round… because it is our crowd… eclectic, funny, spread across generations, ideas, and gathered from the all around the world… Irish, English, Australian, New Zealand, Brazilian, Mexican, Canadian, and some from just around the corner… We even hope to have a few skype in from Italy and Japan just for fun!

I make traditional foods with a vegan twist… Paul says it is not quite the same, its not a complaint… is isn’t… but he is probably the only one who will really notice so that’s okay… It is never perfect and I almost always forget to put something out…The cast has changed over the years because of travels, obligations, moves and losses, but I have learned one thing after hosting many many parties, people don’t come because you cleaned the kitchen floor, they come because they are your friends…

I am sure the conversation will be lively and full of interesting opinions… our holiday drink is ready and waiting… to friends and family, I hope you stop by for that long hard hug… what a way to celebrate!

And, IF you want to talk politics, I am ready… 😉

If You Can’t Stand the Heat…

It was suggested to me recently that my blogs are dominated by divisive talk, hateful rhetoric and judgemental fingerpointing. That I am obsessed with the election results and with Trump becoming our president.   It was also suggested that I stop sharing my blogs on Facebook because I am opening myself up to people who disagree with my strong opinions and their reactions may upset me.  It was also suggested that I blog more about the happenings in my classroom because those stories, I presume, are more fun and entertaining to read.

Yes, I am far more engaged in what is happening in politics than I have ever been… I watch more news and read more about world issues… I also have more discussions.  After looking back at my blogs I can see that many of my posts during and after the election were challenging to people who hold a different opinion.  They were meant to be.  If you read them to the end, for the most part, they are a call to make the world a better place, become active and to pay attention to what is going on around you.  If you don’t agree with them, they were meant to make you uncomfortable.  Because, if you know and like me, you might wonder why I hold such strong opinions that are different from yours.  My hope is that my blog makes you think more deeply or just from a different perspective (not to suggest that you are not a deep thinker).  The title of my blog is ‘Look for the Joy’… and even when my blog is a frustrated rant, there is that spark in there of hope and joy… you can choose to see it… Yes, I was and still am, frustrated with the America who voted for Trump… did I write about that… of course, why would I not. Did you have to read it – no, you did not.

This is my platform, my blog and my thoughts.  You are free to read or not to read.  If you just want to be entertained by funny quips and silly stories then this is not where you will find them. If you choose to distance yourself from me, my ideas and my family then that, too, is your choice.  This is me speaking my heart… about life, politics, loss, love, hope and joy… I am willing to take the heat for my ideas… But if you know me,  just because I disagree with someone does not mean that every encounter or any encounter needs to be an argument… that is a choice as well

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of year.  I remember, as a girl, going over to my Nana and Uncle’s house for the holiday meal.  I would walk the streets of Santa Monica looking for leaves to decorate our table and go back to the delicious smelling house to help in the kitchen, set the table, and visit.  I was lucky then to sit around the table and participate in the liveliest of discussions/arguments… having to back up my opinions with facts, being constantly challenged to think quickly and speak to a point.  I was respected for my opinions at an early age and those family meals with heated discussion were a pleasure.

I love a good intelligent discussion with both people who agree and disagree.  My family was loud, we interrupted each other and sometimes people got mad.  They were and still are great!  It is why I can have discussions with people who disagree and still be friends with them… I cherish those people who trust me enough to have a respectful discussion.  It really is an art – not everyone can handle it without feeling attacked, or attacking others, without becoming defensive or getting their feelings hurt, keeping it about the ideas and not about personalities, staying respectful while still making a point, and being able to look at the argument from the other person’s perspective.  Being able to have those discussions was a gift, it made me think, and right now, that is what America needs… we all need to really become thinkers.  We need to think about politics, religions, racism, and all things that may seem off limits at a holiday dinner.  So, dread as you might, those difficult Thanksgiving conversations with someone who voted differently than you…. take this opportunity to hone your debate skills and have a dinner that makes you think.  If you can’t do it with people who love you, how will we ever do it with the rest of the country?  Just remember that you love them, too… so be kind, be respectful, and keep it friendly!  The worst thing that could happen is that you see the other side… That is what America needs now, maybe they will see the other side as well… I hope so!  Happy Thanksgiving!