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19 Dec

Herding Cats – An idiom denoting a futile attempt to control or organize a class of entities which are uncontrollable or chaotic

…like my life.

Just scroll down to see the latest post ↓

Thoughts on yet another school shooting

15 Feb

Yesterday, yet another school shooting happened.

I sat in front of my computer, unable to turn away. I watched the death toll rise in numbers that also matched the ages of the students at the high school.

14 victims.

15 presumed dead.

16 dead.

17 fatalities reported.

My own 17 year old texted me that she was staying after school to work on a project. Part of me wanted to scream “NO! Schools aren’t safe places! Come home now!”

Instead, I sent her a thumb’s up. I held my fears to myself.

A couple of  years ago, my husband Josh and I went to Barcelona. My sister came to mind the teenager. I packed my bags, ready for a well-earned break from life. Josh and I wandered about the city, saw the cathedral, got lost in the Latin Quarter, sat on the beach – all those lovely things.

One evening, we found a spot, as one of the fountains did a water/light show every night. As we sat, our phones pinged.

It was an email from the school. There was a credible threat of violence. The high school, and therefore the elementary school across the street, were on lock down. Police were swarming campus to look for the threat.

“I’m sure everything’s okay.” my husband said as he texted our son who was sitting in a classroom in that school while I texted my sister. My younger sister, who was a high schooler when Columbine happened, asked if she should stay at home or go up to the school. “Wait there.” I said. We only lived a few blocks away.

She waited.

My husband got a hold of our son Sean, who said he was fine, they were locked in the classroom, it was all actually a bit boring. Sean is a bit unflappable. Knowing he was still calm helped me be calm as we got more updates from the principal and our son. Eventually, police got to his classroom, patted down each kid, and sent them on their way home. My sister texted when he got home.

Everyone got home safely that day.

Yesterday, people didn’t get home safely.

I looked at scenes yesterday through tears. As a parent, I’ve had to imagine how each of my kids might have reacted in a similar situation. As a parent, I’ve been  having “What if…” scenarios running through my  head for twelve hours.

What if a shooter entered my girls school?

Would the older one hide? Or would she run? Would she be the one pulling a friend along? Would she get to safety first, or would she think she had to go rescue her sister?

Because her sister Maura is in one of the special ed classrooms.

Her sister wouldn’t know what to do. Her sister wouldn’t know what “active shooter” meant. Her sister wouldn’t know to hide, or to be quiet. Her sister is one of the most vulnerable in the building. Defenseless.

Horrible realizations come over me. I need to tell my older daughter to save herself. To trust that Maura’s teachers and aides will protect her and keep her safe. “Don’t think of your sister, save yourself.”

I also realize that by depending on teachers and staff members to watch over Maura, I’ve asked them to put their lives on the line for my daughter. And that is a lot to ask of a person making $11 an hour. Maybe $13.

And I know, her group wouldn’t be easy to evacuate. Some kids in the program are in wheelchairs. Some balk at changes in routine. Doesn’t matter if that change is going for ice cream or running from a shooter – they will balk.

They are, honestly, sitting ducks. Easy targets.

And the staff would protect them. I know that.

And the idea that some other person would use themselves as a human shield to protect my daughter is a burden I have to carry. I shouldn’t have to ask this of any person. But that’s what we expect from teachers. That’s what we’ve seen from teachers and staff in every school shooting.

Somehow, even after a room full of first graders were massacred in a hail of bullets, we have gotten this idea that there is nothing we can do. Maybe arm and fortify the schools more, but that school shootings are now normal. We’ve accepted that as normal. This has become normal.

School shootings have become normal.

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[Image description – black and white photo of a derelict room with arched windows, shadow of a girl in the corner] Photo by Erik Müller on Unsplash

No.

I refuse to accept that.

This isn’t normal. 

“But Phoebe, what can we do?”

Well…

First, get angry. Angry that our society has come to this.

Now, channel that anger and call your representatives. Tell them that you want something done – better laws, better enforcement of those laws, gun bans, better mental health coverage, more accessible help for families in a mental health crisis – pick something and share that with your senator or congress person. It’s easy to Google them. All my representatives are on Twitter. The phone numbers to their offices are public, call them. Email them. Tweet them.

Then, maybe look up those who are taking money from the NRA or voting in a way that benefits the NRA. Decide if you still want them in office. Vote accordingly. It’s an election year – we can start making changes right now.

And maybe – maybe rethink your stance on guns. I’m not anti-gun. I know lots of responsible gun owners. But as a whole society, we’ve gotten unreasonable about gun ownership. Irresponsible. Something major has to happen.

I think our students are worth it.

I hope you do too.

 

 

 

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Trying to have fun, but having to arm wrestle your anxiety first

18 Jan

My husband once did the Ultimate Husband Thing – he surprised me with a trip to Paris over Valentine’s Day.

Yeah. That’s pretty damn savvy of him, isn’t it?

And I really really couldn’t wait to go.

I also all but hoped I’d be struck with rotavirus and wouldn’t be able to go.

See, I have anxiety, and anxiety hates fun. So anxiety takes “Cool trip to Paris” and turns it into “You know, the plane could crash…fiery blaze…explosion…imagine being hurtled to the ground still strapped to your chair, that’ll hurt – not to mention the children you’ll orphan…poor kids, motherless…God, do you know how much that would screw them up for life?”

Seriously.

And then there’s the “My God, what if you get sick while in Paris? How sucky would that be? Totally could happen. Planes are notorious for spreading all sorts of wonderful plagues. You could be stuck in the hotel room with a fever or vomiting or both. What a waste of a trip. My God! What if you get sick while on the plane? How awful would that be?”

Anxiety is called a bitch for a reason.

The thing is, I got on the plane. It didn’t crash. I didn’t get ill. We climbed all the stairs, drank champagne in Paris on Valentine’s Day and saw the Eiffel Tower and I booped the nose of a cherubic statue in the Louvre (it was in the Sensory Gallery and touching was allowed). I saw Van Goghs and Monets and the windmill of the Moulin Rogue. I had a lovely time.

I just didn’t get to enjoy the build up to the trip.

 

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Boop.  [Image Description – Myself, arm extended out to touch the nose of a marble statue of a cherub, his finger in front of his lips, smile on his face]

Last night, I had concert tickets to one of my favorite singers ever. They were a birthday present from my husband (yeah, I know, he’s good with the gifts, isn’t he?). But as the concert loomed, so did that underlying dread. The anxiety started to ramp up. I got cold and clammy. I felt off. I couldn’t eat. I knew it was all anxiety. I knew I felt like I was coming down with an illness but I wasn’t. I knew once I got to the venue, I’d have a great time. But there was a part of me dreading it, wondering if I could just skip it, if maybe I should skip it.

Spoiler – I went to the concert and had a great time. A fan-fecking-tastic time. It was one of those crazy wonderful crowds that just made an already awesome event even more memorable. I left on a high feeling I could do anything and woke up still riding that high.

And a part of me tried to talk myself out of going.

 

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Reader, I went to the concert. And I got the pint of cider and a hat to prove it. [Image description – a pint of cider that looks purple-ish thanks to stage lights, and a black hat with a white embroidered Celtic knot]

But anxiety doesn’t just try to ruin the big things for me. No, the bitch also intercedes daily. Dining out with friends? Well, gee, look at your front tooth – looks a bit discolored, which totally means it’s going to break in half during dinner, so maybe you should play it safe and stay at home (true story – three years later, the tooth is still perfectly fine.) Get your hair colored? OMG, don’t you know everyone will judge you from the stylist at the salon to the cashier at the grocery store? (actual thoughts – reality was the opposite.) Chatting with other moms? Eek. They may discover you’re not actually a good mom. Have people over? Gads no. Your house isn’t nice enough/neat enough/clean enough. Buy myself new shoes? Geez woman, should you be spending such money frivolously?

I put off SO MUCH because my anxiety tells me all the ways I shouldn’t or couldn’t do things. And every day, I’m working to overcome it. Every day, I arm wrestle with negative thoughts and worries. Every damn day.

It’s exhausting.

No, really, it is exhausting. Tiring. Draining. And when you don’t win the wrestling contest, a bit depressing, because now you’re brain’s all “See? Told you. You can’t handle this.”

But I’m tired of living like this. I’m working towards getting back to enjoying life more. Enjoying the parts I like more. Doing more. And then making note of it so I can look back and go “Look! Look at what I did! I totally rocked those times!”

So I’m gonna need a lot of Starbuck’s gift cards, because I’ll also be dragging ass after every victory.

 

Dear Netflix, thank you for the character of David on “Travelers”

9 Jan

Josh and I have been watching “Travelers”, a Netflix Original Series. He started watching it during season one because he ran out of “Continuum”, so this was suggested (as Netflix does), and I happened to be in the room when he started watching it.

We both got sucked in.

Be warned, there may be spoilers.

 

spoilers

[Image description – River Song from “Doctor Who”, smirking, and the word “Spoilers”]

“Travelers” is about people who come to the 21st century from a much more dire future time, trying to fix what went wrong. There’s protocols, and The Director, and other such things. Travelers arrive seconds before a human in the 21st century is about to die, and basically take over their body with their consciousness that’s been sent from the future (it’s a fine moral like, as they’re not taking a life, but they are assuming one, friends and relatives included.)

One traveler is sent into the body of Marcy, an intellectually disabled woman. Marcy has a case worker, David, who instantly notices Marcy goes from an almost illiterate woman who speaks slowly (can we say verbal apraxia?) to a well-spoken, literate, obviously above normal intelligence woman overnight.

Marcy – and therefore David – become a storyline in the show. David is the nicest of all the guys who, when everyone decides Marcy must have been defrauding people for those sweet sweet disability benefits, jumps to her defense. He doesn’t think she’s a cheat or was using the system. He just thinks that obviously some sort of miracle must have happened.

By the fourth episode, I worried more about David, a secondary character, more than most of the main characters. Because they wrote him to be exactly who I would want to be working with and caring for Maura someday. They showed how he paid for things for his clients out of pocket. How he knew what would help calm them, what their favorite foods were, where they were sleeping on the streets. During a pandemic during the second season, he went straight to the shelter to make sure his clients were okay, were cared for – because someone had to, and that someone was him. When he won the lottery, he gave it all to the people he worked for.

He is, for all intents and purposes, a perfect human being. He is who we all should try to be more like. He is the guy I’d want as Maura’s case worker. And that’s saying a lot.

But last night, as season two was winding up, there was a scene where the one character who’s been an asshole the whole first season, and is a recovering asshole in season two, reverts to his asshole ways when talking about Marcy to David.

He called Marcy “the retarded girl”.

I held my breath.

“That’s a hateful word.” David replied.

And I may have yelled “YES!”

David didn’t let me down.

Yes, they used the world I dislike. But then they addressed its ugliness. It was said to be ugly, by someone who’s behavior was ugly in the show.

And then, it’s ugliness was called out.

“That’s a hateful word.”

And the next time the recovering asshole mentions Marcy – two sentences later – he uses a more appropriate phrase – “mentally disabled”.

He was called out on his ugly behavior and it made a difference. David, once again, showed how to make a difference.

There was no big lecture, no big drama around the use of the word “retarded” – just a simple but pointed addressing of it – “That’s a hateful word.” – coming from a man who devoted his life to the people society overlooks or ignores.

For all I’ve seen people defend the use of the word “retarded” in shows and music and books because “that’s just how people speak”, I’ve never seen where then the use of the word is questioned by another character. It’s usually dropped by someone and then life carries on.

But not this time.

This time, some writer for Netflix deliberately chose it. And then deliberately chose to call it out for what it was – a hateful word. And then showed the one who use the word choose a different phrase.

Because while it is a word some people use still, there are those of us who are willing to call them out for that use.

And apparently, Netflix is now one of us.

So thank you Netflix. I know it was just two lines in one episode of a show, but dang if it didn’t mean the world to this mama.

Note – I was totally not paid in any way to endorse this show. No compensation was earned. I do totally recommend this show if you are sorta into sci-fi and like well-rounded characters. 

POST-FECKING-SCRIPT!

Okay, I am now writing from the Great Beyond.

Because when sharing this on Twitter, I did what good social media gurus are told to do – tag and hashtag.

And I got a response.

I got three responses.

First, from Eric McCormack, yeah, the lead actor in the show (and also producer for at least Season 1.) 

 

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[image description – tweet from Eric McCormack]  – “Great Letter, Phoebe, thank you. The writer was @ken_kabatoff, and @bradtravelers created David for @PatrickGilmore because there is no one better at being a great human being.”

 

And then Patrick Gilmore, the actor who plays David, chimed in –

 

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[image description – tweet from Patrick Gilmore] “Thank you for your letter, @herdingcatsblog. That scene was all @ken_kabatoff & @bradtravelers. I was blessed to have an Aunt with Down Syndrome. I got into fights in grade school with anyone who used the “R” word. I hugged Ken when I read that line 🙂 @TRVLRSseries @netflix”

And THEN, this appeared from the WRITER HIMSELF, Ken Kabatoff –

 

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[image description – tweet from Ken Kabatoff] “I’m not crying, YOU’RE crying.

 

So now I’m dead, but in a good way.

Now everyone, go watch this show. Because it obviously is made up of a bunch of really decent human beings – and because I already need Season 3.

 

 

 

 

 

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