Saturday, January 19, 2013

On (Gulp) Guns

I have played around with the idea of writing about guns on here since the Newtown shooting, but I was hesitant.  I mean, who wants to offend what is likely a fairly high percentage of people that read your blog?

But then I got thinking about the purpose of my blog, at least in my mind.  I WANT people to have conversations.  It is my deepest desire that people will engage in meaningful discourse, and that's not going to happen if I'm not willing to get into tough subjects.

So here goes ...

I hate guns.  In fact, I hate violence of any sort.  In my dream world, nobody would ever feel the need to resort to hurting other people physically.

That being said, I recognize the need for guns to exist.  Furthermore, I agree with the right of American citizens to bear arms.  If you feel the need to own a gun to make yourself feel safer, you should have that right.

The problem that I have with the status quo is twofold ...

1.  Based on the increasingly common instances of gun violence being perpetrated by mentally unstable individuals who should never have had access to firearms, guns are clearly waaaaaaaaaaay too easy to get your hands on.

I don't understand why people that want to own guns for legitimate purposes (hunting, home protection, target shooting, whatever) would have a problem with there being oversight in terms of gun ownership.  The second amendment gives you the right to bear arms, and it doesn't put a cap on how many arms you can choose to bear, but is there any sort of compelling reason that there shouldn't be a record of this?

I see it more as public safety ... as a parent, a teacher, and a human being grateful for every breath of air I take in, I see no feasible argument against keeping track of where guns are and who owns them.  You have the right to bear arms, I have the right to live in a world where a maniac isn't going to start shooting up a movie theater with guns he should never have had access to.

2.  At Sandy Hook Elementary School, 20 children were slaughtered in a matter of a couple of minutes.  In fact, that's more measurable in terms of seconds.  When we're talking about firearms that have the capacity to cause that degree of destruction in such a short period of time ...

Well, we shouldn't be talking about it.  I do not see any compelling reason for weapons capable of destroying large numbers in seconds to be available to the general public.  I have yet to hear anybody give a compelling reason for why these types of guns should be accessible to people without good cause.

And, I'm sorry, but "Because it's my right as an American citizen" is not, in my humble opinion, good cause.

Someone explained to me that the second amendment was originally meant as a checks and balances kind of thing against the government.  In other words, the American government could not go running completely amok because the American people had the right to be prepared to do the whole militia thing under the provisions of the second amendment, and the government was completely aware of this.

With all due respect to the U.S. Constitution, it was a document drafted in the 1780s.  Many parts of the original piece would be downright offensive now; amending the Constitution is neither new nor out of line, so why people froth at the mouth when it comes to the second amendment in particular is just beyond me.

I should mention that I've been avoiding news coverage on what's going on with Congress bickering over semantics and President Obama talking about executive orders and so on because it is such a hot button issue, and one I'm not sure that anyone is fully taking the time to think through, instead doing the whole "knee jerk" thing, which scares me perhaps even more.

What are your thoughts?  

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Kids and the News: Good Idea, In Moderation, or No Freaking Way?

My eight-year-old daughter might just have more of a grasp on what's going on in the world than many adults do.  Or, at least, she's exposed to what's going on more than most.

I am not a morning person.  My weekday morning routine consists of getting jumped on by a black lab and a golden retriever (in that order) at 5:30 or so, letting them out, staggering to the Keurig to turn it on, feeding said dogs, operating the Keurig (usually ... sometimes I forget to put the K-cup in), letting the dogs in, putting Splenda and skim milk into my coffee, letting the dogs out again, urinating, letting the dogs in once again, staggering into the living room and turning on the news, and calling Belle down at six.

She and I snuggle and watch the news for 15-20 minutes.  We're both in half-asleep world.  I never dreamed she actually paid attention.

Belle has been watching the evening news with us since about halfway through last year as well.  She likes to know what's going on.  I'm good with that.

Or I thought I was.

The disaster at Sandy Hook gave me my first pause.  Was this something she really needed to see?  (I should note that my doubts were assuaged when they interviewed a child development expert who broke down the ages of how much to tell kids about ... Belle fell in the "if the parents think they can handle it, let them watch the news", which she totally agreed with)

So the idea has been on my mind a lot lately.

Something odd happened the other night, though ...

Even though I have the news on in the morning and at night, I get the lion's share of my information from reading news sites.  My auditory processing makes "watching" the news a less-than-ideal medium for me, so much of my phone usage is dedicated to reading the news.

Belle's latest obsession is my iPhone, and she's gotten to be downright nosy.  I was reading about the preliminary trial of the Aurora movie theater killer, and all of a sudden, I heard Belle say over my shoulder, "What's a trial?"

Because I am sometimes inarticulate, I drew her a picture.
I explained the whole concept of a trial to her, and then I wondered why I did that.  I wondered if I should have done that.  I wondered if there was any reason for this child to be aware what terrible things transpire in the world.

And I wondered, most of all, if she understood what I was talking about ... and if it will transfer into her increasingly complex thought process.

Oh, and, of course, should children be watching the news?  Is it worth the cans of worms it opens up?  Where is the line between "protection" and "fantasy world"?

I am proud of the connections Belle makes and her really very impressive knowledge, but I am very aware that the news is never a 100% happy experience.

What are your thoughts on this?

Sunday Stealing: 40 of the Most Random Questions Meme (Part II)

Even if you're not a fan of memes, I've found that Sunday Stealing is a different kind of thing.  It's a community.  It's a world unto itself.  It's a ton of fun :-)

21) What’s something you’ve always wanted?
A son, just because I have the perfect name picked out.  Also, my daughters have given me unspeakable joy and happiness ... you always hear, however, about how "sons are easier".  That would be pretty sweet.  I'm too old, though, to start over again on the kid train.

22) Do you have hairy legs?
Not really.

When I had my foot surgery in November, though, I couldn't take a shower (or even a bath) for two weeks.  I was an obsessive sponge bather, of course, but since I could not stand on one foot without causing a fair amount of discomfort (hey, I'll just be honest and call it freaking agony), shaving my legs became a minimal priority.

And then I had an incident involving my foot and a dog long deprived of her usual game of fetch ...  I ended up at the doctor scared that the incision had opened or the bones were broken or whatever.  Everything was fine (minus a couple days of additional agony), but I was mortified to see that I looked like a male when my pants were rolled up to take the x-ray.

Now, I'm not sure why this bothered me so much (I'm not exactly appearance-obsessed on general principles), but it just really freaked me out.

So I've been better about shaving regularly and thoroughly since then.

23) What does “Semper Fidelis” stand for?
Always faithful.  It's good to know that studying Latin in high school instead of a more ... well, useful ... language wasn't a total waste of time.

24) Would you rather swim in the ocean or a lake?
Ocean.  There is no comparison.

Generally speaking, swimming in a lake is like being in a bathtub (I know there are some exceptions).  With the ocean, you never know what you're going to get.

When I'm in the ocean, I am reminded about the power of nature.  And of higher powers.  And of my small yet legitimate place in the world.

Lakes are just boring as heck after that.

25) Do you wear a lot of black?
Actually, I do.

One of my colleagues asked me recently if I was going to a funeral.  It was kind of awkward.

The truth is, I am the biggest klutz in North America.  I can't eat without spilling food on myself.  I almost always end up wearing splashes of morning coffee.  I slip and fall in mud puddles.  I wipe off dry erase marker smudges without thinking and smear my pants.  I play fetch with two insanely hyperactive dogs.  My eight-year-old daughter is the second-biggest klutz in North America and, whenever she has an incident, she wants to be held; transfer of stain potential is a daily issue.

So, yeah, I find that wearing black helps.

26) Describe your hair:
My hair sucks.

27) Do you have Entomophobia? 
Nah, bugs don't bother me.

I am, however, a card-carrying ophidiophobe.  **shudder**

28) Are you an adult?
Well, technically, I suppose.

29) Do you own or rent?
This is far too complex to explain on a meme.  "Living in the attic of your mother's barn" is not an option, nor do I feel it appropriate to get into the reasons for this situation.

Henry owns his own house, so I suppose I'll be moving in that status direction sooner or later.

My life is very hard to explain at times ;-p

30) Do you have a tan?
No.  No, I do not.

I don't tan.  I can't tan.  Even the fake stuff doesn't work well on me.

My skin is too damn Irish white to be anything more than ... well, Irish white.  I mean, I don't even burn ...

The irony is that both of my daughters are these tanning machines ... even wearing sunblock, they develop these perfect tans.

31) Are you addicted to TV? 

I go in phases with TV.  There are a few shows that I like a lot and will watch ("Elementary" is one that's standing out at the moment), but I'm not obsessive about it.

I should mention that, when I'm having a lot of trouble with insomnia, I watch a lot more TV.  I'm having a lot of trouble with insomnia these days, hence I've been watching a lot of TV.

32) Do you enjoy spending time with your In-laws? 
I don't have any in-laws.  I like Henry's parents, though, so hopefully that won't change once the big event transpires.

I have already endured the worst mother-in-law possible, a truly evil woman who was the root cause of terrible and unspeakable pain for my ex.  She was the only 100% bona fide human monster I have ever met in my life, and she committed crimes that were worthy of torture.  Extreme torture.

I am one of the most bleeding-heart people on the planet, but if she still lived and she was burning on the street, I wouldn't pee on her to put the fire out.

33) Are you a sugar freak?

When I get junk food cravings, it's more about carbs and salt.  Cheetos are my freak food.

If there are brownies or cookies or whatever sitting around, I'll eat them, but I don't seek them out in general.

Give me a cheeseburger any day ;-)

34) What happened to Larry King?
Honestly, I don't care.

35) What sign are you? 
Need you ask?  I'm a Scorpio!

36) What do you wish on your birthday?
I hate my birthday.  I wish it wouldn't happen.

37) Who did you copy this from? 
 Sunday Stealing :-)

38) Do you eat breakfast?
Nah.  I've never been a big breakfast person, but when I was pregnant with Addie, I got violently sick every single morning for nine months.  VIOLENTLY sick.  It's been eighteen years, and I still can't eat in the morning.  It's weird.

I do drink a veritable ton of coffee, though ;-)

39) What would you name the royal baby?
Baby.  I think that might be entertaining ...

40) Do you buy a newspaper?
Nah, I read the news online.

I do buy trash celeb magazines, though.  It's a guilty pleasure ...

Saturday, January 12, 2013

What You Leave Out is as Important as What You Put In

A number of people have asked me why I almost never blog about Henry.  People I know in real life, the blogosphere, and through Facebook and Twitter will say, "You never write about him."

So I guess I should ...

Or, at least, I should write about why I don't write about him.

Henry is my fiance.  He has fantastic taste in rings, right? (The question was asked and accepted back in September ... I'm pretty sure I didn't mention it on here and, if I did, it was peripheral)
And we've set a wedding date, have a location, are working on a guest list, arranged the JP, chosen the bridal party, and so on.  Really exciting stuff, but not anything I feel like I need to blog about.

Why?  Because ... well, it's just part of the happy, calm, non-drama that my life consists of now.

The most important thing, of course, is this ...

Okay, here's the thing ... I have absolutely no respect for people who change who they are based on the person they happen to be in a relationship with.  None.  I think it's sick and twisted and warped.

That being said, I have changed a lot outwardly since I started dating Henry ... but it's more that I have found the strength to believe in who I've always been, to face my fears, to stop taking myself too seriously.  The hidden pieces inside myself, the shards of my soul that had heard, "You're not worth anything, you're not good enough, you're not smart enough, I'll take care of it because you'd just screw it up if you tried" for so very long, have joined together and allowed me to become who I always was.

If that makes any sense at all ...

The most obvious example I can think of is that I've learned how to tackle fears I've faced for most of my life.  I got on an airplane in August (with a lot of Valium, yes, but I got on an airplane) and flew to Baltimore to visit my sister when she needed me.  As recently as a year before, I would have taken a train or driven.  If someone I love needs me, I have always been willing to be there, but it wouldn't have been on an airplane, a fear I've had forever.

And it's not like Henry went with me on the plane, which I mention because some people seem to be equate spending 24/7 with your partner as a positive and healthy thing, and the only way to give and receive "love" and "support"--a concept I disagree with as Henry's love and support is present even when he's not physically with me, which I suppose emphasizes its enormity and strength.  He did drop me off and pick me up at the airport (in fact, we had a fight when he picked me up because the flight was really turbulent and he was late and I just wanted to be home, so I was snappy with him), but that's it.

And I should mention that the very fact that we "fight" is kind of refreshing.

I can remember how proud I was, how sure that it was a sign of perfection, that my ex-husband and I never fought.  I didn't realize back then that two people will never agree on everything 100% of the time, that I was either being indulged like a child or pretty much brainwashed into having my mind changed so my opinions were no longer my own, that I trusted him to do everything because the impression was given over and over again that I was incompetent and incapable of doing anything on my own.  The irony, of course, is that the exact opposite was the real truth, that he was the one unable to stand up and get his hands dirty and do what needed to be done, instead choosing to crawl into a wine bottle.

I was the one with the strength.

It's funny, my ex continues to find women that pretty much want someone to "take care of them", to tell them what to do and how to live.  Stephen King wrote a short story called "I Know What You Need" available in the anthology Night Shift, and it gives me the shivers when I read it now.  I married a mask; that he seemed so interested in what I was, that he "took care of" things when I was afraid to, that he seemed to know exactly what my needs were ... my God, it's so pathological looking back now.

I mention that because what Henry and I have is pretty much the polar opposite.

Because we are both high school English teachers, many of our interests and experiences are a natural match.  We both love books, although our tastes dovetail at times; we have a longstanding debate, in fact, over Tolkien (I think Tolkien is completely overrated, while Henry thinks he set the stage for pretty much every fantasy writer ever ... I'm pretty sure that came long before J.R.R.).  Henry loves comic books and graphic novels, while I think they're pretty dumb; sometimes he'll reference an epic like Neil Gaiman's Sandman in terms of what I consider "real" literature, and I'll roll my eyes.  He does the same when I elevate Stephen King to golden statue status (although he enjoys King, too).  We disagree.  We talk.  We think.  We learn.  We grow.  It's freaking amazing.   

Henry knows pretty much everything in the world about the history of rock music.  His knowledge is fierce, and his collection of various shows, purchased music, and memorabilia is ridiculously extensive.  My eyes glaze over sometimes when he starts talking about this or that bootleg and how "Hallelujah" has been covered 239 times and how such-and-such a guitarist is so coked up in a YouTube video that his nose is bleeding, and so on, but that's okay.  I enjoy Henry's passion and little-boy excitement ("REM is releasing 25th anniversary CDs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"), and I love how it's okay that I don't know what he's talking about half the time.  That he is so willing to share of himself with absolutely no reservation is just ... well, refreshing.  And extremely endearing.

And there is no perfection ... which is, of course, perfect.  I can be a moody and difficult person.  Henry gets that ... he laughs at me and makes me laugh at myself.  Or he knows to give me ten minutes to get over myself.  Or he'll call me on it, which I need sometimes.  Or he'll give me a reason (not an excuse or a lie, but a reason).  We are doing Weight Watchers, and today is our weigh-in day.  He lost 4 pounds, I gained 2 ... as I was about to completely melt down, he pointed out that I'm taking prednisone and an antibiotic so am retaining water (which reminded me that it's that time of the month where fluid retention is at its peak as well), so instead of getting depressed and eating a couple of doughnuts and a bag of Cheetos since "it doesn't matter anyway", I'm good.

Probably my biggest pet peeve is when people say things wrong.  For example, I want to scream when someone says "supposably" instead of "supposedly" ... and I hear it all the time.  Not from Henry--that would probably have been a deal-breaker--but he does say "all of THE sudden" instead of "all of a sudden", which is also fairly high up on my irritation list.  He argues that either one is correct, but he's totally wrong on that even if he doesn't want to admit it (based on my research, "all of THE sudden" became acceptable because so many people said "all of A sudden" wrong ... so using that logic, maybe everyone should start saying "supposably" and it'll become acceptable under the either/or-due-to-ignorance clause).  So even though it drives me crazy that he says it wrong, I kind of like it at the same time because he has the balls to stand up for himself; he is not going to change who he is just because the way he says something irritates the hell out of me.

Perhaps the coolest thing about Henry, though, is his modesty.  He is freaking brilliant, but there is no in-your-face about it (he was a National Merit Scholar, an impressive achievement that he forgot all about until finding the 20+ year old newspaper clipping while cleaning his basement).  He does not pretend (nor feel the need) to be the best at anything, instead enjoying life as it comes.  You find out about his many and varied life accomplishments piecemeal, usually with a self-deprecating story (Henry did not pass the English Language Arts Praxis II the first time he took it because he had no idea what the source material for the essay was ... the second time he took it, the question was one of his areas of expertise, so he totally nailed it and got an award for achieving one of the top scores in the nation, which I just found out about a couple of weeks ago--and I should mention that my ex got the same award for the mathematics Praxis II, but he made sure it went on his resume and that everyone knew about it).

Anyway, the bottom line is that I don't write about Henry and our relationship very often is because I don't have to.  It just is.  The highs and lows (and there have been some pretty intense lows because sometimes life happens) just sort of fit into who I am and what I think ... I am exponentially enriched by having Henry in my life, but I am not fundamentally different.

Well, except for one thing ...

Public speaking is my greatest fear.  Presenting to parents at Open House nights used to be prefaced by copious vomiting because I was so nervous.  I almost chose not to get my Master's Degree after completing the coursework because of the presentation requirement (and I think I only received credit for that out of pity ... it was pretty bad).

The first day back to school after the holiday break, I gave a professional development presentation to the full faculty at my school on "Text-Based Discussions" in a student-centered classroom.  Even though it's an area of expertise for me, I was petrified ... didn't sleep the night before, spent some time with my head in a toilet shortly beforehand, the whole nine yards.  That being said, I did it.

And Henry?  He helped me organize my ideas, articulate my objectives in writing (written objectives are hard for me), and listened to me bitch and cry and totally freak out.

And then he helped me practice. 

Are Minorities Discouraged from Taking Upper-Level Classes?: The Elephant in the Room

As a public school teacher for sixteen years, I sometimes feel like I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen Standards come and go (and despite the brou...