The Zen of Sanding Chairs

Summer has finally arrived in the Pacific Northwest, and summer for this teacher means time to tackle those nagging projects. Last week was a productive week, leaving my house in disarray. A not-so-simple picture rearrangement in the dining room became a much needed wall paint touch up. That led the way to finally painting naked, primed trim a rich melted vanilla ice cream shade of white. You can’t paint trim and leave the doors grimy and grungy, so off came the door handles and on went the paint. (Mouse and your cookie, you have nothing on me!)

I have a list, and things are getting checked off. When the heat wave drove me out of my non-air-conditioned house yesterday, I sat in the shade in my front yard and painstakingly sanded down a couple of chairs from a 1930s dining set that once belonged to my grandparents. The set was an antiqued-white addition to my mom’s red 70s kitchen when I was growing up. It then adorned our little 1940-era starter home when my own kids were young. It has mostly been stored for years now, with the exception of a single chair that moves from the computer desk to the piano and back again, over and over.

Being the oblivious person that I am, I have for years overlooked the yellowing polyurethane and the ripped tomato-soup colored vinyl seat. The chair is handy, lightweight, easy to move around in its ossified, porous, dry-wood way. It’s a ninja to the knights of my current cumbersome dining set, its portability helping me to reach those top shelves of my kitchen cabinets or to hang a curtain rod, which is what I was doing recently when my foot got caught in the rip and I went down on my rear end, jarring my neck and rattling some unused portion of my brain that tends to overlook things like ripped seats on vintage chairs.

I added it to my list.

The chairs and I were about to get on intimate terms. I had already painted the one that was in my house, trying a chalk paint formula from memory, circuits of which must have been jarred as well in the fall because the 1:1 ratio I thought I remembered was actually 2:1. So off came the thick, gloppy paint job. Then, so as not to leave its siblings out, because one must always be fair, even to chairs, I pulled the others out of storage and sanded them, too.

This is not a simple, straightforward set. It has a routed scroll pattern on the backs and turned legs with depressions that are either full of antiquing stain or nearly 50 years of the dirt and dust of life. As the sandpaper did its job on the polyurethane, the white my mother had painted over the wood became apparent. I remembered her dismay when she learned that because she had painted bare wood, the set could not be stripped back down to the mahogany. I sanded over the legs and noted the distressing that came from years of feet resting on the stabilizing bar at the bottom. Those feet were our feet as children, and later my own children’s feet. With a quiet meditation I sanded. The legs of the chairs were squeaky, begging for attention, and at the corners they had been mistreated and now had jagged edges. I started thinking how like life this whole process was.20170624_124105

This connecting disconnected things could be a result of the stage I’m in, a kind of grasping-at-straws reflective process. My kids are leaving home and are busy with their own lives. I’ve been thinking a lot about my own life (though my family might choose the phrase dwelling on). I was always happy with my choices, but now as I find myself alone more and more, I am not so sure I’d make the same ones if given another chance. Having my kids? Yes. But the choice to stay at home with them in their early years is exacting a heavy toll on me right now.

With each drag of the sandpaper I pondered this life that has been given to me, all of the small moments woven together to bring me to the shade of the front yard on this miserably hot day, and how my choices and the choices of the people I love that have truly impacted it. Like the chair that had sat, unnoticed in its decline, I thought how much tending my new life really needed, how much stripping away of the old might get to the somewhat ossified, but very useful core, how much sanding down the rough edges was needed to avoid breakage and the  possibility of hurting someone, and how much a new paint job in the form of a renewed focus might bring some life to an otherwise old and tired existence.

I will return to sanding down my old chairs today, and with it my old life, my old thought patterns and expectations. I will clothe my chairs in a beautiful French inspired fabric and paint them with a new and accurate formulation of chalk paint. I will revisit the points of wear that really matter and distress accordingly. Then, when I finally rub the wax into the finished product and buff it to a smooth shine, I hope to come away with an poignant reminder of all that has been and a beautiful testament to all that remains.

20170625_093347

Advertisements

Small Things

Tonight wasn’t the night to be missing one ingredient for dinner. I was tired, and had changed out of my work clothes into my jeans and pro-science political T-shirt so I could pull weeds and wash some dishes. I tried to get Maverick to run my errand, but he was heading off with a friend. Everyone else was gone. It would have to be me.

Since the election, I exist on a reverberating wire of tension. There’s a charged electricity in the air of people just looking for an excuse to tell you what they really think. (Says the girl wearing the pro-science political T-shirt.) I decided to get gas first, and ended up behind a patriotic pick-up that was emblazoned with an American flag all across the tailgate and a Trump make America great again slogan slapped on top of it. I groaned and snapped a picture. I groan a lot anymore, like yesterday when I passed a pickup with two giant American flags fluttering behind it only to come across another one sporting a confederate flag. Just some good ol’ boys. People making statements. (Says the girl wearing the pro-science political T-shirt.) It’s a conservative town. I am the dissenting opinion. 20170602_222224

I decided on the humble bulk foods store over Safeway. I just needed some celery. And maybe an avocado… Oh, and milk! I made my way to the checkout line with the cold jug of milk in my hand. The man in front of me turned and said it was going to be a minute. The people a couple spots ahead of him were having trouble with their SNAP card. I assured him it was okay, that it’s always my line that has the problem. We chatted as we waited. The woman fiddled with the card reader while the checker exuded irritation. The man I was talking to called up ahead for the checker to just charge him for the item and give it to the people. She seemed not to hear. The couple thanked him and assured him it was alright. He paid for their item anyway and mentioned something about paying it forward.

When it was finally his turn, he bantered with the checker, spilling over with friendliness, making light of life and the high cost of groceries. She smiled. I smiled. I wanted to thank him for offering to pay for the groceries of the struggling couple. I wanted to thank him for being so kind, and so normal, and for talking to me as if I weren’t wearing a pro-science political T-shirt in a small conservative town. I was kind of glad I had to run out for one ingredient.

Some ingredients, it turns out, are indispensable.

Leave No Trace

Leave nothing but footprints.
Take nothing but pictures.
Kill nothing but time.

Love Locks in Bryce-300

As I crested the hill to Inspiration Point at Bryce Canyon NP, no small feat at 8,000 ft. elevation, a red trinket attached to the safety fence drew my attention away from the beauty below. It was a love lock, a small token of affection of a couple who came and left, but who were not content with the Instagram snapshot and the Facebook post. Instead, they wanted all those who came after to know they existed, that they mattered, that they found each other, and that they had made their way with a cheap, etched, made-in-China lock to this spot on earth that looks down on the million-years process of destruction, erosion, and weathering that is Bryce Canyon.

Another visitor watched me take this photo.

“They must think it’s Paris,” he said with the wry disdain of one who treasures our natural spaces. A kindred spirit. I nodded in agreement.

In the two days my husband and I spent exploring the park, we noted people climbing over barriers, sidling up to fragile canyon edges, and losing hats to the wind. (Thankfully retrieved, due to the ingenious use of two trekking poles.) We saw plastic water bottles down ravines, and even a disposable diaper that was wound tight and had somehow found its way over the edge and down a hill, yet not out of view of passing visitors. I was left to wonder how the park rangers deal with the detritus of a population who relishes the easy access to once remote places and who can’t seem to stay attached to their belongings. Keeping the place clean can’t be an easy job.

Visits to our national parks are up. It’s a great feeling to share in a common wonder and appreciation of earth’s processes or marvel at the way the sunlight glows between the spires and hoodoos of the canyon, yet it’s been said that our national parks are being loved to death. We can slow the impact of being one of thousands of visitors each year if we each start by having a little respect and by committing to leave no trace. Hold onto your hats, stash water bottles in a backpack or leave them in the car, and for goodness sake, save your love locks for Paris. Our children and grandchildren will thank you.

Bryce Canyon-300

Marching Forward

What a year! What an election! My recent posts make no secret of where I stand on Donald Trump’s presidency. If you voted for him, I hope you can reconcile the damage he is going to do to this country. If you voted for him and have buyer’s remorse, join us. It’s not too late. (Hey, it happens. My vote for GWB was followed by immediate regret.) If you didn’t vote for anyone, shame on you. If you voted for Hillary… or Gary…or even Jill, we have a lot of work ahead of us. Our marching orders have arrived, and they are pink.

I’m sad to say, I didn’t get a hat. I know I can still knit one. It may come in handy in the future. I’m relatively sure there wasn’t a run on pink yarn in my conservative town. Fortunately the color of my rain jacket happens to be the color of the resistance.

My original plan was to march in Portland with a friend, but her plans changed. Her husband would be joining her, and they were making a weekend of it. Figuring out the logistics of parking and meet-ups was too daunting. Then the Portland inauguration day protests took a violent turn (damn anarchists), which made me reluctant to head into the masses solo. I would go to Eugene instead.

After spending all of Friday cooped up and feeling powerless, binging on chocolate and watching news shows, I woke up Saturday refreshed and with a clear focus. I turned on a live stream of the DC march and was immediately infused with hope. I made one last plea for companions to join me and got no takers. My male support system doesn’t do pink. (I’m still working on that.) No biggie. I might go alone, but I sure wouldn’t be alone.

I was early and went directly to the parking garage suggested on the Facebook page. I found myself in a line of cars circling in vain up and around the structure. I finally found a parking spot blocks away from downtown, pitying the people who arrived later.

The meet-up area in front of the courthouse was packed. The crowd had overflowed into the still-active road by the time I got there. People of all ages, ethnicities, and genders were packed like sardines. I normally avoid crowds at all costs, but sometimes you have to make a sacrifice for the cause. I couldn’t hear any speakers, so at that point it was a matter of waiting, of lending my presence to a movement, of giving substance to my voice.

Marching orders were slow in coming. People around me were getting impatient. We didn’t know if it was a lack of organization/communication or if there were that many people who had filled in behind us. A drone hovered overhead and all eyes looked up and pointed signs. Finally a group to the side of me decided to peel away and walk down the next street, and slowly but surely, we began to move, a long, slow parade of people with hand-made signs touting different agendas who all came together as a statement that differing ideas were okay, but dividing us was not.

There were chants of not my president. I couldn’t lend my voice to that one. For better or worse, he is my president, but that doesn’t give him license to do whatever he wants. As America Fererra said, the president isn’t America; we are America. Lest anyone forget that, there were chants of this is what democracy looks like. That one I can get behind, and that one I will defend with everything at my disposal.

And so I marched. I marched with young and old. I marched with gay people and straight. I marched with mothers and children, fathers and sons. I marched for the future, for inclusion, for justice. I marched for the world I want my children to live in.

There is strength in numbers. We’ve shown we are strong. We must resist. Failure is not an option.

wp-1485281132532.jpg
Yes!
wp-1485281221100.jpg
Did I mention I don’t do crowds?

wp-1485281265303.jpg

National Stress Awareness Day

I woke up this morning and checked my Twitter feed. A trending hashtag was for National Stress Awareness Day. I laughed. Oh, to have just one day dedicated to stress awareness.

I know I’m not alone in being aware of the day after day pressures in my life.

On the top of my list is parenting stress. Will my kids learn the basic human skills of communication, compassion and resilience? Will they do their best in school? What will I do when they falter? I do my best, but truth be told, there are plenty of subversive influences out there, from dramatic reality TV that feeds on the worst of human interactions to easy access to who-knows-what on the internet. My kids are of the age where I don’t sit over their shoulder any more trying to make sure they are making good choices. I trust, but I worry.

The two youngest, lovingly referred to as Goose and Maverick, are both adults now. They are watching their first presidential election unfold. Firsts should be better than this. Back in 2008, I took them to a small, local Obama rally. I was inspired by the message of hope, and I wanted them to be a part of that. They were 10 and 11. In this election, my young millennial, Goose, dove into an eager support of Bernie Sanders, even attending one of his rallies. He was inspired by Bernie’s integrity and commitment to social justice. He is now one of the disillusioned millennials. He has filled out his mail-in ballot, but refuses to vote for president. Maverick refuses to vote altogether, and no amount of motherly coaxing him to perform his civic duty will change his cynical young mind.

I have to wonder how this election will impact the already-there economic stress. I worry. I question. How can I stretch my paycheck? How will our older kids ever pay back their college loans? (How I wish we could help with that.) What will happen to my meager investments if Trump is elected president? Why is everything so expensive? Apples have always been my indicator, maybe because they are a local item. They used to be 39 cents a pound. Now you’re lucky to get them for $1.99 a pound. They have risen 410% over the past 20 years, a time frame when minimum wage only went up by 77%. And on that note, why aren’t groceries figured into the price of inflation?

Most of us worry about the financial impacts of political decisions on our lives and our children’s lives. Goose and Maverick (both employed but still living at home) haven’t committed themselves to college yet, despite being out of high school. They feel the burden of college debt and don’t want to have to deal with it. I tell them it’s worth the investment, that they will see a good return in the way of increased earnings, but I feel less and less sure about that myself. My recently-graduated daughter is saddled with a huge debt burden and has spent months searching in a job market that expects years of experience that she doesn’t yet have. My own financial worries are nothing compared to those my children will face if something is not done to equalize the economic imbalance in this country.

Then there’s societal stress. How is my country changing around me? How is the influx of people from other parts of the world contributing to that? What should my reaction be? My own husband is an immigrant. I have known many immigrants, not just from Mexico, but from Nepal and Chile. I am drawn to the stories and experiences, to seeing my country through the lens of others. I wonder at the ugliness this election has stirred up, the intolerance and willingness to make someone out as the “other.” The family from Chile escaped the dictatorship of Pinochet. One time the father recounted a story of fearing for his life as he was heading home from college in the midst of the coup and encountering armed men in the streets. I wonder if he ever thought it couldn’t happen there. The immigrants I know are good people, but I see how their arrival causes an imbalance in our society, and every imbalance seeks equilibrium. Though I lean left, I think this is a flexible issue and a necessary one to address. Maybe we need to time let the most recent additions settle, and settle in with them ourselves. We all get burned when the melting pot overflows.

If those things weren’t enough to worry about, there’s health care. I don’t know about you, but we are always one medical emergency away from having the rug pulled out from under us. In what is supposedly the model of democracy in the world, I find that unacceptable. We’ve personally been through medical issues that set us back significantly, and that was before the ballooning of health care costs. It took years to recover. Many of our elected officials are working hard to rectify the situation, but it’s a slow, hard-fought battle. Our own deductible has risen to $12,000 for our employer provided health care option. You may blame the ACA. I think it’s corporate greed. Wherever the fault lies, it doesn’t change the current reality. My husband recently tried to make an appointment with a doctor for an issue that included chest pain and was sent directly to the ER, only to be told after a battery of tests that it was probably esophageal spasms. I’m glad the services are there and I’m thankful it was not heart related, but I’m sure this visit might exceed our deductible. You tell me how I’m not supposed to stress.

And nobody is even discussing climate change.

Every day I turn on the T.V. or radio only to be bludgeoned by political ads of people who claim to have the answers telling me how they are going to finally fix these things. I know there are people who are trying. There are also the few who throw money at changing the whole system to suit their needs. (Oligarchy, here we come!)

I just want a little stress relief.

I made a snarky post with the hashtag National Stress Awareness Day then got up to have my coffee and face another day. What I really wanted to do was throw my smartphone against the wall, pull the covers over my head, and wake up on November 9th, hoping all of this was just a very bad dream.


If you made it through this whole thing, thanks so much for reading.

This was somehow, and I’ve forgotten how, inspired by The Daily Post’s prompt: Bludgeon

Relativity

Reminiscent of so many other times, we parked the car down the road and started walking toward my brother-in-law’s house at the end of a cul de sac in a quiet residential neighborhood. Only this time as we walked toward the crowded driveway we heard a loud oomph-a-oomph-a.

“Is that a tuba?” I asked my husband. “Did they get a band, or is somebody just practicing?”

He shrugged and seemed to indicate the latter was of greater possibility.

As we walked in the front door we realized it was a band, a family of four, with the father as lead singer, his daughter somberly plucking a bass, an older son holding rhythm on a sousaphone, and the youngest, a boy of around 12, stretching and compressing an accordion while wailing along with his dad. They were joyful and loud. We later found out that the police had already been called by a number of close-set neighbors, and my brother-in-law had been warned to wrap it up by ten.

We congratulated the pair on their anniversary and made our rounds shaking hands and saying hello before sitting down at one of the many tables set up under undulating blue plastic tarps. I looked around. The San Antonio riverwalk had nothing on this festive backyard arrangement. Fluttering under the tarps were paper picado banners, not the plastic kind, but actual tissue paper, cut and strung crisscross across the yard. They spoke of love and attention to detail. The tables were festooned with colorful plastic tablecloths, and each table held a Corona bottle vase graced with a single bright flower.

We weren’t allowed to sit long before being ushered to the lean-to shed, where a man was expertly assembling street tacos. The smells of carne asada and pork al pastor made me remember why I could never become a vegetarian. I demurely ordered one of each of these, and my husband eagerly grabbed a plateful of strange looking tripe tacos. We piled the tacos with fixings of fragrant cilantro, homemade salsa, onions, lime, and then topped the whole plate off with a pile of cactus salad and went back to our seats. I would later go back with gusto for more. I’m a sucker for street tacos.

I set about taking Snapchat pictures to send to my eldest two who now live far from home as if to say, remember this? Remember your heritage? I snapped a picture of my mother-in-law, now in her mid-eighties. We lost my father-in-law a couple of years ago; we try not to take this time for granted. There was a slew of back and forth salutations with lots of love and hugs and well-wishes, but all over the distance that technology provides, a sanitized version of connection, life through a lens. I sent snaps of food and videos of dancing, a framework that made up much of their extended family experiences.

A few people asked where our other kids were. They got our standard answer, “Oh, they don’t want to hang out with us anymore.” In reality, one was off at a wedding at his girlfriend’s house. He had promised her mom he would help set up. The other had run off with his friends for the day. My husband hadn’t given me much of a heads-up about this party, otherwise I would have made sure they were there. Still, our answer stands. The older teens don’t want to have much to do with us anymore. Maybe it’s normal. Maybe.

My husband went off to talk to someone. I watched him gesticulating animatedly from across the yard. I saw that the man he was talking to was leaning in, so it must not have been about work this time. I sat with my mother-in-law in the silence that loud music brings. Conversation in my native language would have been hard; lip-reading in Spanish was nearly impossible. So I observed.

My youngest brother-in-law was twirling his girlfriend around the patio. They would come back sweaty only to hop up again immediately as the band started up with another favorite dance tune. I had picked the only brother out of nine who didn’t like to dance.

An older brother-in-law was holding his grandchildren as his wife talked animatedly across the table with her son’s young girlfriend. The son was busy. His seven-year-old niece was looking up at him with starry-eyed devotion as he led her around the dance floor.

I sat and watched the new generation repeating what we once did, tios dancing with their nieces, people laughing and holding babies, the older generation dancing, dancing, dancing. I thought back to a Christmas party long ago, of my brother-in-law twirling my daughter, then five, around and around the small kitchen. I felt time telescoping in with a crushing sensation and all of a sudden I was squinting back tears as I felt the all-encompassing lonliness of endings, of time past, of the things I held so dear slipping through my fingers. I bit my cheek. Hard. And again. It wouldn’t do to cry right now.

All of a sudden I felt my husband at my side again. He was cracking a lame joke, looking into my face, drawing me out of the abyss. I smiled and went willingly.

We chatted with his mom and brothers and ate cake during the band’s break. My mother-in-law tried to separate her youngest from his beloved beer. My teetotaler husband once again proclaimed his status as the perfect child, while his brother looked at me and said, “He has his vices.”

I nodded.

“Work. Work is his vice.”

I know.

The band started up again. It was 9:45.

“Are you ready to go?” my husband asked. “I don’t want to be here if and when the police show up again.”

I laughed. “I’m ready,” I said.

We rode home in silence, my ears ringing with the residual oomph-a of sousaphone and my heart pinging with the loneliness of solitude.

Why Change A Good Thing?


Russ Allison Loar / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Today I was a substitute in a first grade class. The main question of the day was, “When is lunch?” You see, just last week their little bellies were getting satisfied at 11:00 am, but since we have this inane national clock change day, today their stomachs had to wait one whole hour longer. For a hungry first grader, that’s a long time.

But we got to sleep in an extra hour, you might say. Buzz! Wrong answer, unless you’re a teenager who can sleep until noon on the best of days. My body was ready to wake up at 6:00 old time – read 5:00 standard time. Thank you, circadian rhythm. Thank you, coffee addiction. I’ll probably still stay up until 11:00, then wake up at the crack of dawn yet again. It will take me a couple of cranky weeks to adjust, but at least it’s not as bad as the spring change. Then it’s time to pay the piper for that nice supposed extra hour of sleep with a jarring one hour deficit. (I’m not a morning person.)

Don’t get me wrong. I see the reasoning behind the change. I live in the Northern Hemisphere, and the extra hours of daylight in the summer evenings are wonderful. I love being outside at 10:00 pm watching the sun set over the mountains or having a late night barbecue on the back deck. I understand that more people are out participating in activities after school or work, spending money in their local economy. Daylight savings time gives me time to get in an afternoon run after work without going to the gym.

So why ruin a good thing? Winters are bleak at best, and seem endlessly gloomy with the drastic change in afternoon light. It’s much harder to get out and exercise when it gets dark early. Wouldn’t life be better if we just kept DST all year long? I know the first-graders would appreciate it.

A Nation Stymied

12079571_10208207514931300_2807447558671260670_nRecently my state was rocked by the news of another school shooting. Yes, another. The first that I can remember happened in 1998 when the town of Springfield, Oregon was ripped apart by the news of a young student who entered his high school cafeteria and gunned down his classmates, killing two, leaving 25 with bodily injuries and countless more with psychological trauma. He survived, though his parents didn’t. They were his first victims before he left for school that morning. He currently resides in the Oregon penal system. He had two legal guns and some that were acquired illegally. He appears to have had mental illness issues. He will remain nameless here.

The recent shooting took place at Umpqua Community College in the small town of Roseburg on the I-5 corridor in the southern Willamette Valley. It’s one of those close-knit communities that are sprinkled throughout Oregon, bound together by a common factor, in this case logging. I’ll spare you the details. I’m sure you’ve heard the news. Heavily armed man walks into a classroom, shoots teacher, begins mowing down innocent students of all ages, students with lives and families and dreams. Then the media arrives and further victimizes the victims with penetrating questions and invaded personal spaces because we, the people, need to know.

I am reminded of my middle school journalism class and the five questions we were taught to ask.

Who, what, where, when, and why?

The who is unimportant. The list of people looking to claim their place on the list of the infamous is ever increasing. The county sheriff refused to give the name of the shooter. I agree. Let’s just start calling them cowards and give them a number.

The what is inconceivable. A heavily armed person dressed in body armor entered an area of peace, education and edification, an area where nobody expects violence. He gunned down innocent people – fact. We should be able to count on going to school and being safe. And let’s call it what it was, mass murder. School shooting sounds sanitized to me. We have shooting ranges and we shoot pictures. Murder can’t be confused with anything else. By definition it is the senseless, premeditated killing of another human being.

The where was Oregon, a peaceful place, a blue state. We are a tolerant state. We are clean and green. We have abundant wildlife and plenty of hunters, gun owners who are responsible, keep their guns put away, don’t sensationalize them, and use them as the tools they are. The where is Roseburg, a beautiful, scenic area of Oregon, according to KGW newscasters reporting on the story as they gazed at the scenic backdrop. As in how could this take place in such a scenic place? As if it would be more understandable, better somehow, for a mass murder such as this to take place in the city, amid the drab, gray concrete walls, or in a darkened theater in a suburb, or in a mall on the transit line. But in this beautiful area?

The when was during a time of learning. Unarmed people, because we shouldn’t have to walk around our daily lives ready to defend ourselves, sat in a classroom improving their writing. The pen is mightier than the sword…or gun. But in this case it wasn’t.

The why doesn’t really matter anymore.

I understand the perpetrator of this mass murder may have wanted a little attention. So what? He has ripped apart the lives of everyone in that school, and many in that community in his pursuit of whatever it was he needed to make his life matter, to make his name count. But his name doesn’t count. His name should be forgotten, and those of the victims remembered. I’m sure they didn’t have perfect lives, that there were times they felt hurt or victimized or made someone mad or became mad themselves. Such is the nature of life. We all go through things. Most of us at some point are the victims of unfairness, yet we don’t respond with violence toward innocents. We rant to our friends. We cry. We take up yoga or boxing or running. We turn to church or one another. We write.

As a country, this issue has us stymied, as the now infamous Onion article points out. This latest incident brings to the surface yet another debate between the unwavering sides of the gun issue, and nothing will be done. We don’t know what to do. Gun owners wave their guns in one hand and their flag in the other, claiming their second amendment rights. Gun opponents claim this tragedy for themselves as another reason for restrictions. I’ve been more on the side of restrictions before, but when I heard this news, something changed. I don’t know that it matters. These guys are coming to their mass murder events padded with bulletproof armor. Will you, gun owner, be able to take down a shooter who is wearing a bulletproof vest and helmet? Were you trained for this? Maybe we ourselves need to wear bulletproof vests around in our daily lives as protection. Is that the answer?

Concealed-carry proponents claim they are a line of defense between us and potential killers. There may be instances where that is true. I still think I would feel better if we as a society reduced the ability of these madmen to execute their twisted fantasies in the first place. And I don’t know about you, but I’m uncomfortable with the thought of the person sitting next to me in the theater or Starbucks or the library toting a weapon. How do I know that you, with your concealed-carry permit, are not the next school shooter? How do I know that you are balanced and nonviolent, that you only carry your gun for protection, and that you are willing and able to take another human life if need be? For all I know, you may be hot-headed, equally likely to brandish your weapon over texting in the theater or being cut off in traffic. So yes, I am uncomfortable with your right to carry a gun as it impinges on my right to be safe.

We live in a society where increasingly it seems that people claim their rights to independence and freedom without regard to their fellow citizens. Ranting radio hosts create hatred and bigotry, boxing people in with labels that don’t include human being. Isn’t this bullying on a large scale? Political groups hold in high regard a straight talker without recognizing him for the boor he is. We as a nation regularly consume a diet of reality TV that is nothing like the reality we live in – dining on high drama, fattening the bank accounts of media execs while leaving our own hearts and minds bereft of nourishment. Peace and tranquility don’t sell. Pursuit of happiness without turmoil doesn’t gain viewers.

I don’t know what the answer is. I do know that the conversation requires listening as well as talking, and if you are staunchly defending your position, this can’t happen. Maybe a start would be an attempt at civil discourse in this country.

About anything.

In the meantime, thoughts and prayers go out to all affected.

If you would like to help, click here.