School shootings

“There have been at least 288 school shootings in the US since 1/1/09, 57 times more than the other six G7 countries combined.”   –CNN

These numbers are, unfortunately, no surprise to me. Our culture has been steadily shifting to one of violence and our young people are caught in the crosshairs.  The rhetoric perpetuates, spinning round and round as the NRA spins the mental health issue and our politicians take their sides without paying much attention to what their constituents feel. And here I am, spinning my own rhetoric.

What I can’t wrap my head around is how this perpetuates in such a vacuum.  Parents don’t know what is going on in the minds of their children, don’t check their internet pages, don’t look at those others their sons hang out with, or whether they have friends at all, don’t know if they have guns and don’t secure guns in locked safes.

I don’t mean to be ragging on the parents.  Sometimes their sons externalize very differently than what they internalize, but certainly, parents can determine if their children are depressed or angry or manifesting signs of mental illness.  Perhaps one problem is they don’t know what to look for.  Mental illness isn’t covered in most parenting books, that is if they read those books.

Schools are also part of the problem as are the communities.  The “not in our town”, mentality is a pervasive glitch in our psyche.  There aren’t enough instructors to demonstrate what to look for and how to prepare for it.  Police departments are also not involved enough, although in many towns there just aren’t enough police officers and perhaps not enough budgeted funds to train them adequately, particularly in small towns.

But, I think the greatest problem is that there is a lack of Hope in these young people, and in those who perpetrate mass shootings at concerts and movie theaters, or wherever crowds merge. They lack the foresight to see there are better ways to handle their feelings, that going out in a blaze of rage is not the answer. They are, too often, left to their own devices.  Nobody is wondering why a person is acting strangely or if it’s their responsibility to do something about the warning signs they see.  And young people who see what is emerging in another classmate keep that tight-lipped stalemate of not acting in protection of one of their own, even one who no one wants to be near.

I had a dear friend who had an arsenal of over 200 weapons, including cannons he had built himself.  Everyone looked on it as a quirky obsession and hobby.  He grew depressed and was so hateful to his family that they avoided dealings with him – left him to his devices.  I can’t blame them, dealing with his rage and depression filled them with despair. I talked with his wife about the possibility of therapy but he wouldn’t hear of it.  In the end, he blew his brains out. In front of a son. The guns are his sons’ legacy.  It makes me crazy thinking about it.  They should be sold and the money’s used to start their adult lives with.  I mentioned it to my friend, but that is where my advice ended.  Guns are just part of her reality even though she doesn’t touch them.

Hope is strangely lacking in so many of our lives.  We huddle in masses of despair.  Those who have church may find comfort there; therapy is a God-send to many. But to those who have no real support in their lives, whose lifestyle and decisions seem to have no awareness in those around them hope is just 4 letters strung together.  And they are already strung too tight.  And we stand by, hands dangling at our sides, vacant expressions on our faces, saving “Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa.”

 

 

 

Sticks and Stones

A child lies screaming in an improvised tent in a refugee compound. Her arms and legs are sticks, the femur and tibia bones on display for any to see.  The skin on her head is etched to her skull, no cheeks or even flesh on the lips, dysentery, and measles having stolen away her health.  She cries for food, her mother attempts to feed her from shrunken breasts.  The child was healthy once, flesh full.  Her mother says she thinks the worst is over.  The girl has stopped loosing weight. Perhaps there is hope, but it seems unlikely.

In Gaza, Palestinians look like makeshift Davids, slingshotting stones at the Goliath Israeli troops with powerful weapons.  Hurling their bodies at the border wall, thinking themselves as heroes trying to take back land they haven’t owned since 1948.  Even in mass, they haven’t a chance to overwhelm such well armed and trained enemies. The Israelis’ tenaciously holding on to land bequeathed them after the Holocaust.

In Syria, the White Hats cast rubble aside looking for survivors and bodies in the remains of what was once homes and shops.  Their heroism speaks for itself.  They sacrifice for the sake of others, bright spots of hope in the ruins of war.

The Middle East is by no means isolated in their violence.  It spreads throughout the World, sometimes insidiously, sometimes with brutal force. Our own country is filled with terrorist activities – our school children bearing the brunt of wounded souls’ rage.  I know God gave us free will but what type of World is this when the mightiest beings are intent on destroying both their own races and what others might call lesser beings.

The child’s screams echo in my ears, warning me that war and horror can be lurking close by.

Nadia Murad

In our Me2# time, it seems particularly important to examine the women who have gone before us or are with us now for the great achievements they have made and the cost it took to get there.  One woman who has made a quick leap from obscurity to fame is Nadia Murad.

A quiet, country girl in Iraq, she is of the Yazidi faith and lived in Kocho, a small village in the northwestern province.  The Yazidi are a people who have been practicing their religion since before Christianity or Islam.  They are not vocal about it; they tend to keep to themselves.  On May 4, 2016, ISIS attacked the Yazidi, forcing many to flee up their sacred mountain, Sinjar.  However, estimates of 10,000 were killed.  Being somewhat out of the way, Kocho’s attack didn’t start until the 16th.

The village’s residents watched as the town was blockaded and large trenches were dug on its outskirts.  They were scared, the men continually calling people of prominence elsewhere to try to get support.  The images on television made them panic.

At 19, Nadia was the youngest of nine children.  Her father also had a number of children through his second wife.  On the day ISIS made their move on the village, all residents were instructed to go to the high school. There the men were sorted out from the women and taken away.  They were lined up in the trenches and shot.  Two of her wounded brothers managed to escape.  A younger one was forced to become a soldier. Six died.

The women were then sorted out, older women separated from their daughters.  It was many months until they found out the women had also been shot to death, including Nadia’s beloved mother.  Younger women and girls, some even with young children, were herded upstairs at the school until they were corralled onto buses.  From there they were driven to Mosul where they were placed in a large room with many other Yazidi women.

They were to become sexual slaves, or “sabia”, to ranking ISIS officials and men who had proven their worth to the cause.  The women were traded like baseball cards, sometimes staying with a  man for a week, sometimes only a day or hour.   They were brutally treated by the men, but also by the wives if they saw them at all.

Nadia was held captive for two months until her “owner” forgot to lock the front door and Nadia made good her escape.  She found a family willing to help her, eventually getting her to the border at great risk to their own lives.  While Arab, they could not, in good conscience, reject Nadia.

She made her way to a refugee camp where she found some relatives still alive.  After a time, she was accepted into a program where 1,000 women and children migrated to Germany.  A group called Yazida encouraged her to speak to the UN Advisory Committee.   From there she has spoken in the Americas, Europe,  and other countries about the plight of the Yazidi. Amal Clooney has become her lawyer to support her and give more authority to the condition of her people.

Nadia is eloquent and doesn’t pull any punches.  Rarely does she smile but her words speak volumes.  She has a message to bring to the world and she is doing it one word at a time.  To date, she has spoken in America, the United Kingdom, Germany and Europe along with other countries. She speaks of her own people but also of Genocide in general.

There are many places in the world where genocide is taking place…South Sudan and Myanmar are just two more.  Even though it has been happening since time immemorial, it is a vital issue which must be halted if we are ever to become a civilized world.  And Nadia’s voice is bringing the world to greater attention to both her people and those who also need a voice crying out of the wilderness of violence.

#Me Too

Yesterday I was at work, watching a talk show with my boss.  The subject was the New York Attorney General of New York and his peccadilloes.   Later in the day, the new shift worker came and the topic was brought up.  My boss was of the persuasion that the women now declaring the brutality during sex with the Attorney General had to be willing participants to have 1) gone so long without reporting it, and 2) must have enjoyed it to have stayed in the relationship with this barbarous man.

The two of us, both women, tried to explain the concepts of fear and shame to him.  As it was not going to happen we diverged into talking about how passive and jaded our society has gotten to continue to hear one instance after another and numb our brains to them.  It is overwhelming and heinous, these acts perpetrated by men (or in some cases, women) again and again.  We can’t stand to hear about it so jokes are made to neutralize hearing about the cases and knowing it is not just the power brokers but the garbage man and the local pastor, the insurance man and that nice man who just fixed your plumbing, inside the sanctity of your home. Jokes raw and harmful in that they serve to anesthetize us to the horrors of what humans perpetrate on each other, and in so many cases, get away with.

I want to rise up and do something but lack the funds for donations to the cause and the wherewithal and physical ability to attend rallies.  My voice is drowned in a sea of angry people – those coming from one point of view or another. And, furthermore, I don’t have anything new to add to the subject.  Why even write?  I’ve wondered whether I should for weeks now because of the redundancy and that there are many far more eloquent than I.  Coupled with the fact that I offer no new solutions.

But, in the end, I choose to write because I am one more voice begging for solutions, for restitution and acknowledgment of terrible wrongs.  Of feeling betrayed by all those power figures who I looked up to and admired their integrity, and who committed acts of lewdness and violence against innocent women.  How can I forgive Bill Cosby for acting as a bastion of goodwill and integrity, knowing he probably won’t serve a day in jail.  Or Matt Lauer, a man who interviewed other men accused of sexual misconduct knowing he was still in the land of innocence and getting away with it.

If the government is really watching all of us.  And it is positive they are. Then perhaps my one little voice will be registered on some server somewhere, stored for posterity, but possibly amounting to nothing.  Still, I must write, #Me Too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nonny land

Yes, that is my new name. . . Nonny.  Doesn’t mean anything but I like how it sounds.  When I was going to make my name Nana, my sister said I couldn’t take my Grandmother’s name since no one could be her.  Turns out she wants to be Nana.  That’s OK because I really like Nonny better, it suits me, just a little, or a lot, off track.  However, all bets are off if Emmitt chooses a different name for me.

That’s my grandson’s name, Emmitt Samuel.  After 5 days of labor, 4 hours of heavy pushing, resulting in a c-section, Dani finally gave birth right on his due date.  It was a very hard delivery.  Pre-eclampsia developed the last two days. After the cesarean, she hemorrhaged a liter and a half of blood and had to be opened up again.

Emmit developed jaundice and lost 10% of his birth weight.  They were in the hospital for five days. But he looks like Dani, covered with a full head of almost black hair. There isn’t too much of Kendall in him as of yet.

I know I am giddy with delight.  Being a grandmother is beyond my expectations.  That little boy is a miracle.  The birth of a family where a couple was before.  Both Kendall and Dani are wonderful, exhausted parents.  It was a truly nurturing, loving experience where we all enjoyed being together and tending to the constant needs of this little man.  He should take comfort in it….he will have to share time with others as he grows.

But one thing is for sure – I will be visiting California much more often from now on.

Off I Go!

This is it!  Off to California tomorrow.  I’m going to be a Grandma.  I’m wiggling inside and out of expectation. The bags are packed, my cat is provided for, and the fridge is empty of perishables.

Here’s the thing . . . I’m all jazzed about seeing my daughter and getting to know my son-in-law, and of course, being there for the birth (even though I have to wait at home until the baby is born).  But Dani and Kendall are going to be non-pulsed about it all.  Yes, their excited but they are in their own place, they have seen her belly grow and heard the heartbeats and seen the sonograms.

I haven’t seen them in two years.  It is such a long time and a lot of longing in the in-between time.  All that time I think about them.  But I remember what it was like to be a new mother and what it was like to be living far from my parents.  There wasn’t the same emotional investment that my parents may have had.  I was a twenty-something with a good life and a lot of living to do.  Part of the reason I moved 3,000 miles was to get away from my parents. I need to contain some of this enthusiasm.

My son parented me about boundaries and appropriate behavior at Dani’s.  Yori said Dani was an independent, disciplined, intelligent woman who knew her own mind.  I needed to remember I was there on vacation and not try to do everything for them.  They wouldn’t appreciate it at all.  I have to remember to relax, take care of my healing foot, and just be present.  He is right, of course, not that I necessarily know how to relax and let the world revolve around me.

But until then, I’m jiggling.  Wish me luck and hope that I behave appropriately.  Be back in 2 1/2 weeks.

Expectations

The baby isn’t even born yet and I’m learning the disappointing truth that it isn’t about me and my expectations.  It’s all about the parents and baby.  Don’t get me wrong.  That’s the way it’s supposed to be . . . but still.

I had fantasies of being in my daughter’s room until she went into delivery when I would leave to allow them their precious moment.  Hah!  Then I thought I would wait in the waiting area until after she gave birth. Another disappointment . . . I have to wait at their home.  Then the kicker, my ex-husband will pick me up and take me to the hospital.  I get to share the unveiling with him!  I get it.  It’s only right.  But I hadn’t given him a single thought.  He is the baby’s grandfather after all.  Grandmother – grandfather – equal in the eyes of the parents.  Grandpa even tried to name the baby.

So I’ll stay home and make gluten-free meals for those crazy nights when baby is making his presence known.  Clean the place. Show my worth somehow.  I sound terribly selfish and immature, I know.  These are just my petty ramblings.  It’s amazing how immature I can still be.  After all, I’m becoming a grandmother for the first time.  This is a life-changing event for my daughter and her husband (and the baby).  I’m thrilled for them.

Most of the pettiness comes from the fact that my time will necessarily be so short with them.  I only have two weeks and then I’m 3,000 miles away. I want to cram as many memories in as I can.  I can be content seeing the man I once loved dearly holding baby the way he once held our own. In fact, it will bring back surreal, precious memories transposed over the present moments.

Only a couple of weeks (we hope) to go.  I’m rationally excited.

Tech Blues

I hate technology . . . really, massively hate it.  A paper jam in my printer is costing me hours of work time when I need to get something done.  Now I’m down to fragments stuck in the roller that, for the life of me, I can’t remove.  I have to inconvenience a friend to have her drop by and help.  I hate feeling like an imbecile.  I look at these tech savvy young people and hang my head in shame.

Totally out of the loop, I have to ask the most inane questions about my phone, TV, a DVD player that I’ve never been able to work.  Even the old equipment I should know about because it’s from the generation right before mine, I am befuddled by.  I’m sure if I asked my cat, he could be more adept than me.

I know this is a trite issue to write about but right now it consumes me.  Forgive my rambling; just know I am an old crone who is in misstep with the world.

Awaiting the Spirit

Searching for my soul –
alone, bereft
long since in hiding
an aching deep within
is recovery possible?
how to miss so deeply
the body’s lightest weight

I yearn for my normalcy –
that cherished feeling of
blessed warmth and firm resolve,
in touch with my savior –
lost without it
teetering at the edge
of a yawning chasm
hoping for a sign
of abiding mercy

Come upon me –
Mystery of
wonderful nourishment
settling over me
when the Breath of the Spirit
touches inner knowledge
bringing draughts of wisdom,
answers, direction,
and a font of peace.

I await mysticism –
praying I let the door
open enough
for the Holy Spirit to enter.

Care Receiver

I have been a caregiver for many years now.  Taking care of the elderly has been a privilege and hard work.  So now it is a humbling experience to be the recipient of care.  I had surgery on my foot and have to keep it elevated for a couple of weeks.  The past several days I have had a caregiver coming to care for me.  I feel all my secrets have been exposed . . . that extra roll around my middle, my fastidiousness, etc.

As I gain a little more mobility, I feel I am regaining myself.  To turn over my care to another is disconcerting, to say the least.  Being helpless is not a comfortable feeling.  It is giving me a sense of how it feels when I am caring for someone else.  You need to make allowances for the caregiver’s way of doing things – your way is not the only way.  Still, it can drive you a little crazy to see someone else’s handiwork where things are not exactly the way you do them.

There are clients I’ve had that instructed me step-by-oh-so-minute-step how to do every task, telling myself this person thinks through these things day-in, day-out, with little else to think about as the days wear on.  I understand a little of that now.

I am more than grateful to have a wonderful aide who has stood by me this week as I transition back to a somewhat more active life. Knowing the recovery is going to be 6 – 8 weeks long, I better learn how to be fully independent again.  Home care is not cheap.  But I have to admit, I like my knee scooter.  It’s like having a skateboard and I can move much quicker than otherwise, especially as I’m supposed to be off my foot (do they really think that’s entirely possible?)

It’s good to be back.

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