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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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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.

 

 

 

 

 

Mixed messages

10 Dec

There’s this phenomenon that happens when your child is being evaluated for any sort of difference.

You are inundated with mixed messages.

Pelted by. Poked with. Swimming in. Slapped repeated by.

Mixed messages.

On the one hand, you’re told “Accept your child for everything they are!”

On the other hand you’re told “What’s the cure for your child’s issue?”

On the one hand, “Relax! God doesn’t make mistakes?”

On the other hand, lists of questionnaires from doctors asking you how you might have caused this during pregnancy.

One hand, “Your child is perfect the way they are.”

Other hand, “I could never handle a child with issues.”

And so on, and so forth, world without end, amen.

This is what I got for…oh…probably three years of Maura’s life. I still get it at times, but for three straight years or so, it was constantly there.

I was told to accept my daughter but cure her, because I shouldn’t really accept her as disabled. I was told to calm down, but that I wasn’t taking this as seriously as I could be, as I should be. I was told it was great that I was laid back, but good moms are Warrior Moms. I was told not to be dramatic about things. I was told how having a child like mine was too hard. I was told having a child like mine was easy. I was told she would catch up. I watched her fall further behind. I was told that everything had to happen by age five or else she’d be behind forever. I was told how that wasn’t true, that development could happen well into her twenties. I was asked “Was there anything that happened during your pregnancy that could have caused this?” in a dozen different ways. I was told not to give up hope. Evaluations hade her sound more disabled than anyone gave her credit for. I was told that I was the expert on my child. I was told that they knew what was best for her. I was told to trust my instincts while everyone around me told me how those instincts were wrong. I was told I wasn’t doing enough. I was told I wasn’t investing enough time in my child. I was told to take time for me. I was told they couldn’t help us.

I was told a lot of things. 

So many things. 

It’s amazing, the moment you say “I think there’s something wrong with my child.” how everyone comes out of the woodwork with an opinion on what you should be doing. Most of those people aren’t their to actually help though. They’re just there to plant a seed of doubt in your brain, which is already an acre of doubt and doesn’t need more seeding.

I don’t know when it stopped with Maura. Maybe when she developed epilepsy? People take seizures pretty damn seriously, and it’s something they know, and is real to them.

Maybe it’s when I was able to stop taking all the “advice” thrown at me. Like when one preschool mom told me the key to potty training was consistency, and I just needed to be consistent with Maura. I told her she could come over to my house any time to help out.

She never did.

But I knew she wouldn’t show.

It was all around the time Maura was four. A year into therapy for myself, three years, multiple tests, and MRI and EEG for Maura.

Three years of mixed messages being thrown at me, I was finally able to send a message to the world.

“I got this. I’m the expert on her. I don’t care what your opinion is. No, I’m not going to rub her down in essential oils because that won’t fix her brain. What’s on paper doesn’t matter, and doesn’t tell the whole story. She is who she is, and if you don’t like that, there’s the door.”

So to you moms and dads who are starting a journey of your own, be warned – there are many many many opinions out there. People will tell you what to do, how to do it, and what to feel. They will be everywhere, and they love to give their opinions unsolicited.

Here’s the thing – 

You don’t have to listen to them.

Just nod, smile, say “That’s nice, but we’re going to keep doing our thing, thanks.”

You do you.

Your path is your own, and you can hike it however you want.

 

 

 

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[image description – My two daughters, both about the same height, walking through the woods, on a dirt path, the sun shining down on them]

 

 

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