It isn’t just our town.

It isn’t just our town.

Before I was born, Ted Bundy killed Deborah Kent. My dad knew her and her family. They always kept the porch light on for her. Years and years, they kept that light on for her waiting for her to come home. She never did. I know when I heard this as a little kid, I learned that bad things could happen. People were capable of bad things.

When we were little, a few blocks over from our house in Colorado, an entire family was murdered with a hammer. Not long after that happened a friend from school’s mom disappeared. Her picture was on a poster that hung near the door of our local supermarket for several months. Again I learned that the worst things you can imagine could happen and they could happen close to home.

In February of 1993, my family visited the East Coast. I was fifteen years old. My dad was there for work, and we made it a family trip. One of our stops was the World Trade Center. As we entered the building, something felt off. The bottom floor had glass walls and in the middle was a hallway with a line of elevators on each side.

I remember counting them at the time, but the exact number of elevators escapes me. We waited to enter one and then nearly forty people crammed into the elevator; I think we counted thirty-eight. Because yes, I counted them. That sinking feeling in my gut escalated as I counted each head, and it started to feel more like panic. I turned to my dad and said, “Someone is going to attack this building. You can’t get out. There is no way to get this many people out. Someone might blow it up.” Things like this sometimes escape from my mouth before being able to squelch them down.

He looked at me strange and tried to calm me down. I took that look as the cue to stop that kind of talk. But I didn’t feel any better. The feelings of uneasiness kept gnawing at me. We saw the view, came back down and continued our sightseeing journey. No more unsettling feelings visited me as we went to other attractions. So, I forgot about it.

Two days later we were in Maine, and the first attack on the World Trade Center was on the news. A bomb had exploded in one of the parking garages. My parents looked at me with disbelief. I was crushed. I didn’t understand that the feelings I had were real. That somehow, I knew. Again, I learned that bad things happen. The worst is possible. People can hurt one another.

I remember coming home from high school one day and the news was on. I watched as students were streaming out of a high school to safety. When the town name popped up on the screen, I was shocked. Littleton was home to one of my favorite theme parks as a kid. I had been to Littleton several times, and my friends lived a short distance away from there. I knew that town. I had passed that town on the freeway 100 times at least. I called friends to check-in. This time, I learned that even kids could do the bad things adults had been doing. And it can happen close to people you love.

I remember watching Scream 2 in my first year of college. I hated the first one and had to sleep with the lights on for a week, but my boyfriend and his friends wanted to go. So I went; I was mostly dragged, but I went. There is a scene in the movie where people in the theater are killed. I recall being so angry. I walked out of there telling my friends and boyfriend; they shouldn’t support a movie like that, something like that could happen in real life. They laughed off my concerns and said I was crazy. Movie theaters continued to not feel like a safe place for me. I lived in Aurora, where the Multiplex Theater shooting occurred. It was my home town for five years. It was where my best friend lived. It was a place that even far away from it at the time, I considered home. Again, I called friends and made sure they were safe. People still thought it was something that couldn’t happen to them. People thought this wasn’t something that would be typical. That it wouldn’t keep happening. That day I learned it not only could happen it would. Because bad things did happen. And they did happen again. In fact, they happened again and again and again.

I know I am not alone with stories like these.

And then this Sunday it was text messages and calls to my son’s phone that alerted me that this was happening again. Not far away, not in a place that used to be home, but 8 minutes from our house.

We were not at the Garlic Festival this Sunday; in fact, we only go sporadically. We have lived in Gilroy for nine years. I grew up in Morgan Hill and often attended the festival as a child. I have volunteered there. Last year, my oldest son helped set up and take down tents for the Chamber of Commerce. I don’t think you can live here and not have volunteered there at some point. It is the lifeblood of extra funding for schools, charities, scholarships, and foundations in our community. The festival weekend is always on my oldest son’s birthday and hence why we are sometimes there and sometimes not. Depending on what he wants to do to celebrate and how much we are preparing for those festivities often dictates our attendance. But, my history has made me feel edgy around large groups of people. That can sometimes dictate my participation at events like this as well.

This year, though, it was my youngest son’s soccer team that had us in Santa Cruz, and not at the festival. My oldest still spent every day prior helping set up again this July. It has become one of the events he looks forward to every year. He was supposed to be there Sunday taking down the tents with his friends. Something told me to tell him no. Tell him he couldn’t go. So, I did. I told him we wouldn’t make the extra effort to get him there. No, he couldn’t hang back with friends and catch a ride. Just no. He didn’t understand my adamant no and neither did I really. But I honor my gut feelings without reason these days.

I have talked to others and heard stories over the last several days of similar gut feelings. Why aren’t we all built with those? Why didn’t we know what the gut feeling meant? Why did this happen? Why does it keep happening? Why is this our new normal? Why do our kids have to be heroes? Why do our teachers have to shield our babies from bullets? Why?

Those are rhetorical questions, of course. There is no right answer and maybe no answer to some of them.

I am scared. I am devastated. I am still reeling. But, I am not surprised.

No, I have seen, heard and watched the terror we can bring down on each other for my entire life. Senseless violent acts have littered my entire existence. What happened Sunday in Gilroy isn’t about this town or one individual; it is about us. It is about our country, us as a people. What happened here can happen to your town, too.

It is a complex problem these mass shootings, there is no one answer, but a multitude of things that we need to resolve, examine, fix. And I am not going to make this post about the solution, but about the reality that this is happening in small towns. And it isn’t about the solution because I am done debating. I want action. And what we need to face is that when people say things like, “I never thought this would happen here.” Or, “Stuff like this doesn’t happen in small towns.” those statements just are not true. We need to stop being delusional. We need to stop ignoring the obvious. It is happening. It will happen again. It isn’t stopping.

Gilroy, California

* Sebring, Florida

* Aurora, Illinois

Blacksburg, Virgina – Virginia Tech University

* Virginia Beach, Virgina

Newtown, Connecticut – Sandy Hook Elementary

Killeen, Texas – Luby’s Cafeteria

Parkland, Florida – Stoneman Douglass High School

Littleton, Colorado – Columbine High School

Aurora, Colorado – Century Aurora 16 Multiplex Theater

*Source – https://abcnews.go.com/US/deadly-mass-shootings-month-2019/story?id=63449799

These are just a few of the small towns where this has happened. I am not even counting the big cities in this, and they count. Las Vegas, Nevada and the shooting that occurred there, I had friends there. My aunt and uncle live there. Oh, it counts. But I have heard it can’t happen in a small town so many times in the last few days, that I am just addressing that at the moment.

Some of these incidents in these small towns occurred as long as 28 years ago and some as recently as less than a week ago. This is what we can come to expect if we don’t start examining and changing our behaviors, laws, and societal standards.

This is our new normal. We need to face the reality that this will happen in your home town. It is precisely why every school in America has code red drills. Every town is preparing for it. But not every town is preventing it.

This will be something our children face in their lifetime or that we might face in our lifetime. There can be no more “this will not happen here” statements.

It happens in tight knit communities, big towns, small towns, homes, apartment complexes, churches, movie theaters, malls, parks, schools, it will and can happen anywhere. It will because it has. Start thinking like that and maybe we can start changing that reality. Perhaps we can actually get lawmakers to take action.

I saw the fear on my son’s face as he received call after call and made call after call to check and make sure his friends, his girlfriend were okay. That they were unharmed. I watched the terror when one of his best friends didn’t answer and the thought of her death flickered across his eyes. We shouldn’t have to see that. Our children shouldn’t have to face that thought. The past few days on Facebook I am reading of friends’ children who ran for their lives. Who huddled in corners wondering if this was how they were going to die. This needs to change. We can do better.

I watched my own children huddle on our floor and wait for the sounds of sirens and helicopters to stop. I watched my children the next day hear a balloon pop and all look at me with fear. What do we do mom? Their faces said. Do we run? Do we drop to the ground? Is it time to worry?

I stayed calm for them, but I am telling you all it way past time to worry. It is way past time to be calm. It is way past time to say this isn’t going to happen. It is way past time to think it can’t be your town. It is way past time to think it can’t be your child. It is way past time to debate. It is way past time to make this about politics. This is about our safety. This is about the welfare of the people in our country and nothing changes if nothing changes. It is way past time.

When I think about Gilroy, it is the best community in the world, but I am not ready to go out and put on a brave face. My heart is still hurting. I am not prepared to pretend that we can just say we are strong. I am not ready to go back to life as usual because life as usual means there is a genuine possibility this will happen again. It could be here. It could be in your home town. Why? Because it happened in ours. This is not just our town where things like this happen. It is in every town.

I am shattered. I am scared. I am reeling and I wasn’t even there. But I am not shocked. I am not surprised. This is what has been happening for decades. 

It makes me cry and sick to my stomach to read and hear first hand about how this is affecting my friends, their children, our town. I can only begin to imagine the devastation this has done. I know there is Gilroy strong and people are trying to look forward and already trying to heal; I understand the need for that. But I also think we need to slow down and talk about Gilroy hurting. What are we rushing for? I am not in a hurry to get back to status quo that wasn’t working. That isn’t working. I want to take stock and figure out what to do next. We can move past it as a people, but we need to remember and use that memory to fuel action, fuel the changes that have to take place so this doesn’t happen again. We need to recognize this is now the reality. This is now what we should come to expect until we start doing something differently.

I am heart-broken. I am grief stricken. I am disconsolate.

But I will not rest until there is a different reality for my children. I will not rest until there is different reality for your children. I will not stop bringing up this topic or voting for people who are going to make real change, or donating money to causes that call for change, because if we are complacent if we think someone else will handle it, it won’t change.

We need to be a voice. We need to speak up. And in this I am hopeful. In this is where I find strength. If we can come together and write to our politicians and talk to our kids, and look for signs, and work to really see one another I think we can be better. I believe our future can be brighter. I believe there is light in this darkness and I think we can find our way out, but it can’t be done by sticking our heads in the sand and thinking it won’t happen again. It won’t be done by holding to party lines. It won’t be done by clinging to our rights or our fears, we have to put the welfare of all above our own when it comes to gun ownership. We have to be ready to be uncomfortable and have serious conversations. We have to be willing to hear it might be our kid that needs help. We might have to face hard truths, but it is worth it. It will make a difference. And together if we really want change it is possible.

I don’t have the answers, but we can start by some of the ideas below, and if you are doing something I haven’t listed tell me, I will add it to the list.

The bottom line is hurt people hurt people, this is just that on a massive scale. Let’s start with the easiest thing first. See one another. Be kind. Be helpful. Think about others and how your actions affect other people.

Write to an elected or to all your elected officials: https://www.sccaor.com/contact-your-elected-officials/

Donate. Educate yourself. Join groups that want to change the gun safety regulations. Here are a few:

https://everytown.org/

https://momsdemandaction.org/

https://www.sandyhookpromise.org/

Talk to your kids. This article on the Parents Magazine website seemed to have a comprehensive overview: https://www.parents.com/parenting/better-parenting/advice/how-to-talk-to-kids-about-gun-violence/

I also liked this article on USA Today: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/05/08/stem-school-highlands-ranch-how-to-talk-to-kids-about-guns-shootings/1138840001/

Educate yourself and your kids on the signs someone might be exhibiting before they act. This website has a downloadable guide: https://www.sandyhookpromise.org/prevention_programs

I know I didn’t touch on everything. I know we have a lot of ground to cover to make this better, but I want to start here. I want to start where I am and maybe after reading this today you will, too. And that gives me hope.

Working for a better tomorrow,

Michelle

I still suck at small talk and other things I probably shouldn’t write out loud!

I still suck at small talk and other things I probably shouldn’t write out loud!

So I am back on the kinder party circuit. You know the parties where parents stay and mingle while the kids party. Yep; that kind of party. As I watched my kiddos bowl yesterday I struggled with small talk. I did better mind you; I actually sought a couple of people out and chatted, but each conversation lasted two minutes at most because after “Hi, how are you?” I have nothing left in the tank. Instead I have to hold my tongue. My mouth and heart want to discuss Aleppo, the epidemic of parents who have forgotten to teach their children respect for authority, and how do we find a way to quell a nation of entitled youth.

See, I suck at small talk.

So my kids had a blast at the party and that is why I was there anyway. Sometimes, I just feel bad that they are learning social skills from an awkward introvert.

We leave that party and head to a Christmas gathering with our friends. We have all been friends since college, husbands and wives, but the other three couples had children six years behind us; live in the same city; and their kids attend the same prestigious private school. I on the other hand, have a child taller than me with a deep, rich voice and my youngest kids are older than most of their oldest kids.

They can socialize about what is going on at the school and have common interests and I still don’t fit in among people I should. While they talk about picky eaters and where they buy their kids clothes – I can’t even relate. I hear myself say, “I buy clothes at Children’s Place and Target because the kids grow too fast and are too hard on their clothes for me to spend a lot of money on them.” And the looks on the faces when I say that are like I am some kind of whackadoodle and maybe I am, but it makes me feel old. I remember caring about that stuff when my oldest was four and my youngest was almost two. I remember buying GAP clothes and worrying about them not eating their dinner. Now with four kids aged six and over I know they have to eat some of their dinner or they don’t get anything else that night; that they will live and most of the time don’t even remember that the struggle over dinner ever happened. I have learned that we care way more about brand when that is of so little importance. What really matters are that our children are clothed, fed and loved.

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See I let my kids dress themselves. This is how we roll to school.
And now I can’t really complain about private education anymore either. I used to think when people paid for private school they were paying for status. On top of that, I truly believed public education was just as good as private. In some places I still believe that is true. But alas, after my daughter was choked by a boy at school to the point where she couldn’t breathe; enough was enough. What was so sad to me was the teacher was so desensitized to the actions of this young boy she just asked my daughter to document the incident and nothing else came of it. Her teacher was so used to that boy’s behavior she didn’t even think it worth mentioning to me. This was the last straw in a sting of incidents spanning a year and a half. We knew she needed a safer place to learn.

We toured a private school and decided to send her there. She starts after the break and I feel like a weight has been lifted. She is finally going to be in a classroom where the students respect the teacher and are excited to learn. That I have to pay an arm and a leg for that still makes my stomach churn, but she needs a safe place to thrive.

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This girl deserves her best chance. All kids do.
Hmmm…what else is running around in my head these days that you don’t want to hear about…well you may not get a Christmas card from us this year. Yep; I have been late in the past, but I am not even close to getting started this year and Christmas is Sunday. You might get a Happy New Year card instead. It isn’t that I am feeling Bah Humbug toward Christmas; even though this post probably sounds that way; it is more that I am feeling like I just wanted to slow things down this year and savor Christmas. To really hunker down and feel the Spirit of the Season and it got away from me again. I am not finished with the shopping or the wrapping and it is a week away. None of the Spirit of the Season stuff happened. And I guess I am struggling with traditions a bit and what I would like Christmas to look like and what actually happens.

Maybe it is just that my oldest son only has six more years in this house with us before he goes off to college and while that seems like a good while the first twelve of his life have happened in a blink and even though I have tried to savor it; it is flying by faster than I can catch it.

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This is as close as we get to a family picture these days

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Yep nose picking shenanigans
I know I am writing about first world problems here when much bigger world problems take precedent, but when these nonsense, first world problem words started to flow through my brain I just had to write them down. I just had to think about something else for a brief second. I think that is really why I feel like Oscar the Grouch. When innocent women, men, and children are being killed and no one is stopping it you just feel helpless and when you feel helpless and sad sometimes I think it manifests itself into anger and I am just angry that we live in a world where yet another holocaust can happen and the people with the ability to stop it can’t or won’t. So I thought maybe my first world, nonsense spewing would relieve some of that distress and Oscar-ness. Maybe that is the real reason I can’t whip up the Christmas card; I can’t send out a smiling happy picture of my children when in their faces I see the safety, love and security that all children should feel in the world and yet so many don’t have access to it. It breaks my heart into so many pieces I can’t complete the task.

And that my dear readers is a whole lot of junk I probably should not write out loud, but did any way because that is what I do. I do things any way.

Love your people tight and if you can love other people’s people tight, too. And teach your little people to love other people’s people. I know that is a whole lot of people, but that is what there is…a whole lot of people and all of them need love.

Until next time,

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The messenger

The messenger

Vague

Amazing

Insightful

Wise

Funny

Wordy

Transparent

Authentic

Relatable

Lunatic

Bully

Hate

Hypocrite

Liar

Monster

Sinner

Fraud

Stupid

Ignorant

Racist

Words are so powerful. Each of us has either been lifted or defeated by a few simple words.

Since an early age I have had a love of words. I love the shape and sounds of them. I have been in awe of their power both spoken and written. Words can stir people into action and bring people to their knees.

What I find amazing is the contrast of what we crave as human – positive affirmation and what we consume and download in mass quantity by choice – negativity.

Reality TV – Real Housewives, Real Crime Dramas, 24 hour Media Coverage of anything awful. These are highly watched, highly rated programs.

Ever read comments on social media posts? I know you do. One thing that always strikes me is those comments can get negative really quickly. People who are “friends” can exchange words through a screen that can alter their relationship. Words can create emotional wounds that are never forgotten.

It is interesting to me that while we want so much to be loved, accepted, and understood we purchase and buy into so much visual and auditory negativity. That we can quickly and angrily type messages to one another that are full of rage and hurt.

Many struggle with self-love. That has always been a struggle for me. Always. I need the Chip Gaines voice of self-confidence! Regardless of how we feel inside, it is how we treat others that matters when our time is up. I have that information on pretty good authority.

It is okay to disagree with one another, of course. We have to be open to critique. We can learn a great deal through the sharing of different opinions. It can change us for the better. Plus the world would be boring if we were all exactly the same. But it is paramount that we are respectful in our dissent. It isn’t open season for a personal attack because your opinion differs from another; especially in a world where tearing others down is becoming the norm; we must restrain from attacking one another and stick to thoughtfully and respectfully stating our difference of opinion.

Positivity starts and ends with us. If we focus together to be positive in our rhetoric and our actions that will change the world. Great leaders, local and worldly, are remembered by their actions, of course, but also by the words they chose to speak. And so are we. Maya Angelou was right when she said that people will be remembered by how they make others feel. Our words carry our emotions into the world. 

If we are going to change the tide of a nation it must begin by how we choose our words and actions. The frequency of the energy we radiate is the frequency of the energy that comes back to us. It is important to choose our words and tone carefully. There are people who I admire who have defined themselves as warriors and neighbors when it comes to their delivery of love and good news.

I think some of us are messengers. I am a messenger. Those of us that feel compelled to write and speak. Those of us that are filled with a knowing that we must share; we are the messengers. With the choice to share our words and have them read and then spread like fire we must remember that those words have power to build and to break. My choice is to deliver messages of hope, faith, peace, love and vulnerability. I choose to be a messenger that connects and builds. Some messengers are making the choice to breathe negativity and fuel a fire that continues to divide and separate. They think the power of potent and open hostility is what is going to spur change. It just breeds contempt and mistrust.

I know that when the warriors, neighbors, and messengers all move in a direction of positivity and love it will turn the tides of that flame. The good that flows through their actions will extinguish the pain and division. There is more good in this world than bad. I feel it in my bones; I know it in my heart, I see it in the quiet day to day actions of the people in my community. We have to stop paying attention to the negativity. Stop allowing its voice to roar.

So my friends, neighbors, warriors and messengers choose carefully and wisely and with a compassionate heart to listen as you work. To spread and share compassion and positivity so that we can build bridges to one another and continue to make this world a better place for each and every soul in it. It starts and ends with us.

With hope,


 

Scared

Scared

In a weeks time I have written about bravery and grace and just being okay with the falls we experience in life and yet no matter how much I try there is an undercurrent of fear in my heart.

It’s okay to be scared right? Lately I am scared of everything. Okay longer than lately; it started when I was born. I think I was born with extra sensitivity to the world and somehow that made me more afraid of the world; well maybe not the world, but the energy and emotions in it.

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I am scared of the little and the big things.

For starters, I am scared that no matter how much I empty my heart and pour it into my writing that this blog will continue to be nothing more than a diary that is more important to me than anyone else, which is okay, but I want to be a writer so much it hurts. So much that sometimes I run and hide from my own writing and I don’t write because no matter how hard I try or much I write it will never be good enough for anyone else to read.

I am scared that no matter how much I know that God loves me and believes that I am enough;  I will never feel like I am enough. That the weight I continue to feel will only continue to grow – this weight that I feel has already manifested itself into the weight that I carry and I can feel myself waving the white flag as I am crushed somewhere underneath it all. I am scared that no matter how much I want to be seen; that no one really sees me at all.

I stopped watching the news a decade ago because if it hurt my heart then it definitely could damage my tiny son’s ears and heart, too. So off went the news, because I was so scared and my heart was so hurt by the toxins that spewed from it. There had to be better things to report. But now when we are praising men for sitting during our national anthem, when our police officers are seen as the criminals and men are shot in the street for the color of their skin and whole groups of people are killed around the world for their ethnicity or beliefs and our leaders seem filled with more darkness than light maybe there isn’t better news to report. And that is scary. So scary that when I think about the world I am terrified that no matter how kind I am or how much good I try to put into the world that the darkness in it will swallow me up whole and not just me, everything that I hold sacred; everything and everyone that I love.

Scared doesn’t begin to describe how I feel about being a parent. Failing seems to be the name of the game. I know I have taught them manners and I know they are the kids that will help other kids and be kind; that part of life I think they understand. They are really great kids. But this year my kindergarteners have been kicked, choked, pushed, shoved, yanked and called names with words I don’t even allow out of my own mouth. My daughter continues to try to navigate a place where mean is the norm. That scares the crap out of me. I have had to teach them how to fend for themselves and that shouldn’t even exist at their age. What in the heck is happening in the world that our children are behaving this way? This scares me to death. Haven’t we come to be a civilized people where we don’t have to fear for our lives every time we walk out into the world?

The chaos is gobbling up the innocence of our world. The chaos and darkness are pushing out the light at a fierce pace and I can’t help but feel helpless. And that terrifies me. How can I help my own children understand a world that scares the shit out of me? Scares me to the point that I can’t read the news anymore either, because what I read leaves me shaky and nauseous.

Yesterday as we drove home from school the kids started to talk about how they feel things they can’t see. How the current of energy runs through them. Other people’s energy. This scares me to death. They are like me, extra feel-y. I still struggle with not letting other people’s energy invade my space, my emotions, my thoughts. How am I going to teach my littles not only how to fend off actual physical threats but also emotional, maybe even spiritual ones too? They feel this same unbalanced chaotic energy in the world that I do and can’t explain how or why it is hurting them.

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I know we have to go forward and love one another and do good and continue to live our lives to the fullest and that the darkness wins when we feel fear, but sometimes that isn’t enough to stop me from feeling it. Sometimes I am engulfed in fear and feel shaky all day.

I know people who the absolute worst has happened in their lives and they continue to take one step forward; sometimes because life forces them to, but they do it. I am inspired by that and I know that despite my fear that I will continue on as I have been and do my best to do good any way, but I feel better admitting the fear.

Maybe if we are afraid together something good can come of that. Maybe acknowledging the fear leads to a way to face those things we fear and conquer them. Maybe…

Scared but hopeful,

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