I Have No Words

Which is hard, for a writer. It would be presumptuous to say it’s like an artist going blind, but that’s how it feels. Less presumptuous (maybe) to qualify the feeling as “an artist blinded temporarily“, because I know (hope) the words will return.

Grief has made me mute. Not because a famous athlete is gone too soon. The world is grieving the loss of Kobe Bryant – I don’t need to be one of the many.

I grieve for the other eight victims of the crash, for their friends and family members. Too many lives lost, too many hearts breaking, too little attention paid to those who were not as famous but just as loved, just as important to their friends and family members.

My heart, my prayers, my thoughts are with those who have lost so much.

It’s not enough, but it’s all I have.

Well, that’s not exactly true. I also have some lessons that loss has taught me. They may help you as well.

 

 

 

Write Here, Write Now

th5HHDH7O9When I started blogging, I had aspirations delusions of becoming the next Erma Bombeck. My mom and I loved Erma Bombeck, and her posts frequently caused milk (mine) or pink chablis (mom’s) to snort from our nose(s). I find it highly suspicious that my mother died shortly after her favorite author left us.

I started blogging because, as a reluctant suburban soccer mom, I felt out of place and intimidated by the perfectly quaffed Stepford Wives PTA moms (in their slim skirts, clean blouses and 9″ heels) who chatted effortlessly with each other and the school staff at back to school nights and  “Coffee With the Principal” events.

Wait. That’s not right. I started blogging because, as a former DINK (Dual Income, No Kids), I felt out of place and intimidated by the perfectly quaffed new mothers (in their yoga pants and squeaky clean athletic shoes) at the “baby and me” and “toddler time” classes.

Nope. That’s not it either. I started blogging because, as a “late in life” accidental mother, I felt overwhelmed and out of place among the perfectly quaffed young women (in their designer maternity clothes) at the prenatal classes.

Huh. Evidently I was intimidated by women with perfect hair, flawless makeup and neatly pressed clothes. Who knew? (Who wouldn’t be? Have you SEEN The Stepford Wives?).

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Which is the long way of saying that I started blogging because I felt like I didn’t fit in, and I was hoping to connect with others like me – mothers who were more comfortable in jeans and beat up tennis shoes than nylons and 9″ heels. I wanted to let those mothers know that they’re not alone – that I was able to find women with wine in their Starbucks mugs and paint in their hair (or maybe that was just me – I’m not very good at painting).  I wanted to tell them that I’d found the square pegs – and that many of those who looked like round pegs didn’t always fit in either.

My blog has changed since I started. I’d like to think that I’ve changed too. I’m no longer a suburban soccer mom (although, for some weird reason, I’m still a referee – possibly because I can’t say the N-word). My “baby” is in college, and I’m trying to figure out who I’m supposed to be, now that I’m not “just” a mom.*

I’ve been an actress, a masseuse, a lighting designer, a comedian, a re-enactor, a cook/maid/chauffer/nurse/coach/teacher/referee (aka wife and mother). I’m not sure what I want to be when I grow up, but I’ve decided that writing will be part of it.

This year I decided to finish my 15-year WIP even if it kills me. I’ve created a list of baby steps to reach my destination, and the first one was to join a writer’s group. I went to my first meeting on Tuesday, and guess what? I didn’t fit in. Writers are weird (not that there’s anything with that).

I didn’t fit in, because I’m not weird, I’m crazy – I hope you are too. #changetheworld

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*FYI nobody is “just” anything

 

 

 

 

Picking up the Pieces

I have a friend whose life has fallen apart (no my friend is not me, although I am trying to be a better friend to myself).

Like many of those who have suffered a loss, she’s struggling to find a way to move forward, to find an answer to the Why/why me/why now question we throw to the universe when life doesn’t go smoothly the way we want it to.

Fran Simone wrote an article for Psychology Today on Coming to Terms with “Why Me?” and why it’s such a waste of time: “However it’s asked, the question is self-defeating. This way of thinking fuels resentment, envy, and self-pity. Toxic emotions demean and diminish us. How do we defeat them? When I find myself heading toward a pity-party, I recall the first line of the Serenity Prayer. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.”

I am not a therapist, nor do I play one on tv, but (thanks to my rollercoaster life) I have some suggestions that may (or may not) prove helpful.  As with everything else, take what works/resonates and ignore the rest.

In her Bustle article Carolyn Steber reminds us that “dealing with loss is painful, and that it takes forever to heal. But, with a little effort, it is possible to move forward with your life” and offers 7 Tips for Moving On. Her tips include my favorite:

Take Care of Yourself, No Matter What“Make sure you eat, get plenty of rest, and do things that are soothing and comforting.” Self care is vital, even when you’re not dealing with loss. I’m not sure that eating pints of Ben and Jerry’s and Sizzler’s cheese toast count as “food”, but they ARE soothing and comforting. For me, at least.

More importantly:

Don’t Let Anyone Tell You How to Feel“Everyone deals with loss differently, so there’s no “right” way to feel when faced with a heaping pile of grief.” Believe me when I saw that EVERYONE (including strangers in line at the grocery store) will have an opinion on how/how long you should grieve.

Full disclosure – I came home from school one day, to find my mother sitting in the living room, glass of Pink Chablis in one hand, cigarette in the other, Rod McKuen’s Listen to the Warm playing on the stereo. She was staring morosely out the window, crying and looking at…nothing.

Teen Me: “What are you looking at?”

Mom: “Nothing.”

Teen Me: “What’s wrong?”

Mom: (sighing heavily) “Nothing.”

Teen Me: “OMG are you crying about your father? He’s been dead for EIGHT YEARS – you should be done (grieving) by now.” (stomps out of room in disgust)

Teenagers are assholes. Also, Rod McKuen can make anyone cry, even if you have a heart of stone. Have you heard “A Cat Named Sloopy”?

It seems trite, but I’ve found that counting my blessings helps me when I can feel the pity party starting.Some days they are easy to find, some days they’re not, but I never stop looking. Forcing myself to look for the good in my life keeps me from obsessing about my problems.

Asking for help is hard, but help is not a four letter word. I mean, obviously it’s a four letter word (I can count), but it’s not a swear word. If you don’t ask, the answer will always be “No.” If you can’t/don’t want to ask a friend or family for member, reach out to a support group/church member/stranger in line at the grocery store. More importantly, if things are horribly bleak reach out to a professional.

Some days are harder than others, but I keep trying to move forward. TBH, I just keep trying to move (which is getting difficult, now that I’m not 18 any more). Some days it’s two steps forward and three steps back. That’s ok – it reminds me that life’s a dance.

But I think my most important lesson on how to move forward (or at least the most recent) came from Frozen 2. I just try to do the next right thing.

So what do I do when my life falls apart? I pick up the pieces and put them back together again. The pieces may not fit together the way they originally did – pieces tear, pieces disappear (into a ring around Saturn with all my missing socks), and sometimes I have pieces from a completely different puzzle. That doesn’t mean the new image is less beautiful, than the original – it’s just…different.

And for those of you who haven’t heard/read it, I’m posting A Cat Named Sloopy. Don’t forget the tissues.

A Cat Named Sloopy
Rod McKuen

For a while
the only earth that Sloopy knew
was in her sandbox.
Two rooms on Fifty-fifth Street
were her domain.
Every night she’d sit in the window
among the avocado plants
waiting for me to come home
(my arms full of canned liver and love).
We’d talk into the night then
contented
but missing something,
She the earth she never knew
me the hills I ran
while growing bent.
Sloopy should have been a cowboy’s cat
with prairies to run
not linoleum
and real-live catnip mice.
No one to depend on but herself.
I never told her
but in my mind
I was a midnight cowboy even then.
Riding my imaginary horse
down Forty-second Street,
going off with strangers
to live an hour-long cowboy’s life,
but always coming home to Sloopy,
who loved me best.
A dozen summers
we lived against the world.
An island on an island.
She’d comfort me with purring
I’d fatten her with smiles.
We grew rich on trust
needing not the beach or butterflies
I had a friend named Ben
Who painted buildings like Roualt men.
He went away.
My laughter tired Lillian
after a time
she found a man who only smiled.
Only Sloopy stay and stayed.
Winter.
Nineteen fifty-nine.
Old men walk their dogs.
Some are walked so often
that their feet leave
little pink tracks
in the soft gray snow.
Women fur on fur
elegant and easy
only slightly pure
hailing cabs to take them
round the block and back.
Who is not a love seeker
when December comes?
even children pray to Santa Claus.
I had my own love safe at home
and yet I stayed out all one night
the next day too.
They must have thought me crazy
screaming
Sloopy
Sloopy
as the snow came falling
down around me.
I was a madman
to have stayed away
one minute more
than the appointed hour.
I’d like to think a golden cowboy
snatched her from the window sill,
and safely saddlebagged
she rode to Arizona.
She’s stalking lizards
in the cactus now perhaps
bitter but free.
I’m bitter too
and not a free man any more.
Once was a time,
in New York’s jungle in a tree,
before I went into the world
in search of other kinds of love
nobody owned me but a cat named Sloopy.
Looking back
perhaps she’s been
the only human thing
that ever gave back love to me.

 

 

 

 

 

How YOU Doing?

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It’s Day 3 of 2020 – how are those New Year’s Resolutions coming? I only set one…and I’ve already broken it. The fact that I broke my one resolution in the first week of the new year kept me up last night (or maybe it was all the coffee I drank, or my ever changing hormone levels). In any case, on this third day of the new year I am both sleep deprived and overly caffeinated – a combination which sends my ADHD into overdrive.

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Image courtesy of btechfilms.com

Then again, maybe it’s stress that’s keeping me awake. My husband is “in-between” jobs, and my brain keeps asking me “What if he never finds a job? Age discrimination may be illegal, but you have to be able to prove that’s why you didn’t get hired.”  I’ve tried taking a deep breath and responding with “We’ve been through this before, and things always work out” which is when my brain switches to “He’s lost a lot of weight – what if he has a tumor?”  My brain is an asshole.

And so I find myself wide awake at 3AM (almost) every night. My New Year’s resolution to be as kind to myself as I am to others should probably have included “get more rest” and “worry less” but, as I mentioned before, I have a hard enough time keeping ONE resolution, and I didn’t want to set myself up for failure by creating a never ending list of things I want to change about myself.

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With all the “New year, new me” posts out there (as well as the media push to brainwash us into believing that we’ll finally be happy if we are thinner/stronger/have a new car/different shoes/different clothes/remodel our houses/spendspendspend and BTW you don’t have enough in savings and will never be ever to retire) it’s no wonder that most of us have a list as long as the Jolly Green Giant’s arm.

 

Which is why I liked this 2018 “New year, same me” post by Kathleen of JustKISFI HATE the saying, “New Year, New You”. Really, I do. I despise it. And every year at this time, you see it EVERYWHERE! Why do you need a completely new you? Is EVERYTHING about the old you just wrong? Is there not ONE thing you like about yourself?? I doubt it. Sure, we aren’t perfect, and we have things we don’t particularly like about ourselves. Honestly, I’d be worried if there wasn’t something about yourself that you’d like to improve. But a whole new you? I don’t think so.

I’m going to make 2020 the year where I ignore what society/advertisers/the media tells me I should be, and just be my best self. I’d love it if you’d do the same. Let’s start a Be True To You revolution (meetings at 3AM nightly).

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Looks Like We Made It

th[10]If you’re reading this, congratulations! You’ve ridden the turtle around the sun again, and that’s something to celebrate. Hopefully you’ve managed to make it through the minefield of the holidays with body parts and relationships intact.  Most importantly (again, hopefully), you’ve made it to the end of 2019 with sanity mostly intact. If you haven’t, that’s okay too – sanity is highly overrated.

I don’t think I’m alone when I say that the past year has been…challenging. Hell, let’s call it like it was – a fucktastic nightmare of a year with far too many losses and way too much bad and sad for any human to manage on their own – which is why I’m incredibly grateful for my friends and family.

joy shared

The good news is that the year is over, and 2020 brings in one of 3 things:

  1.  The start of a new decade (if you count your decades 0-9)
  2.  The end of a decade (if you don’t)
  3.  The return of the roaring 20’s

Any way you look at it, it’s time for a fresh start – a time to look back on your year, see what worked, what didn’t, and make some changes if indicated. That’s right, it’s the scariest time of year – time for <shudder> New Year’s Resolutions.

A quick Google search of  “New Year’s resolutions” comes back with 45 MILLION results, including resolutions for students, for financial success, for health/weight loss, for parents, for single people and for your dog. Good Housekeeping has a list of FORTY New Year’s resolutions. I have enough trouble trying to keep ONE.

I came across a couple of links with helpful advice on how to keep your new year’s resolution this time, but I really liked the post from Uncluttered Simplicity’s Cheryl Lemily:

Did you know that on average, only 8% of people actually keep their New Year’s resolutions? Each and every January we make pie-in-the-sky goals for the new year ahead. Only to give up come February. This is why the best month to join a gym is February… when it’s empty. Why then, do we continue to ride the crazy merry-go-round of pointless New Year’s resolutions? Is it possible to break free of this all-or-nothing mentality when it comes to our goals for the New Year? I think so. Here are some thoughtful New Year’s resolution ideas for 2020 that you can actually keep.

She had several great ideas, but the two that I found most helpful were

  1. Identify clear action steps. You can’t lose weight or get out of debt without action steps that will help you get there. Create a plan that includes objectives. Commit to taking action that will help you get closer to your goal (Note – don’t forget to set multiple small, easily obtainable goals as part of your plan. Take small bites of the elephant).
  2.  Start when you’re ready. There’s no need to launch your resolutions on January 1st…Whether that means you start on January 3rd or you wait until mid-Spring, don’t create a resolution just because you feel pressured to do so in January

I also enjoyed a 2018 post from Sara Saddington in which she courages us to “Ditch the negative Resolutions: You’re Already Great.”

When we say “I am going to be better” we are inherently telling ourselves, “I’m not good enough to begin with.” But if we flip the script to say, “I’m great, and I’m going to share that with others,” we might just have a happier, healthier, and more productive year ahead.

Most of the articles had reminders that we can “start fresh any day” (or any moment),  and that we shouldn’t let missteps or mistakes stop us from trying to be our best self.

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As for me? I’m taking a page from the people of New York by shredding the things I want to eliminate from my life #goodriddance2019.

I wasn’t going to make any new year’s resolutions this year – but I think I’ve finally found one that will stick. I resolve to be as kind to myself as I am to others. After all, as Christine Arylo reminded us several years ago, It’s hard to be happy when someone’s mean to you all the time.

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Giving Thanks

th[10]Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day – we (my family and I, not the “royal we”) will be heading down to my brother’s for a day filled with football, food, family and friends. We always take a moment before diving into dinner to toast the ones who aren’t at the table and share the thing(s) we’re grateful for. This year I’m thankful that my husband (who grew up in Rockford Illinois and knows how to drive in bad weather) will be driving, since we will be hitting the road during the very rarely seen Southern California rainstorm. As much as I hate to admit it, the stereotype of Californians driving in the rain is all too true.

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Reddit image of rainy day traffic

Listing our blessings is a wonderful tradition, but I wonder – why do we only give thanks one day/year?

A February 2003 UC Davis study on counting blessings indicates that “a conscious focus on blessings may have emotional and interpersonal benefits” and according to UCLA’s Mindfulness Awareness Research Center, “having an attitude of gratitude changes the molecular structure of the brain, keeps the gray matter functioning, and makes us healthier and happier.”

So why limit gratitude to one day/year?

Linda Roszak Burton (executive coach, author and “gratitude advocate) is just one of the  citizens featured in this morning’s Baltimore Sun article on five residents who make gratitude a year -round priority. Although she loves how Thanksgiving ‘elevates’ the healing power of gratitude, she doesn’t think the effort should be limited to a single Thursday in November. ‘Let’s find ways to keep it stoked.'”

Arianna Huffington, Tony Robbins and Oprah told CNBC that they use gratitude to succeed. “What we focus on, what we put our attention on, really determines how we feel about that particular day or our life in general,” said Huffington

I realize that it’s hard to maintain an attitude of gratitude when Life keeps throwing things at you (she’s kind of a bitch). I have to admit that I’ve let her distract me from the blessings in my life, but that stops today. I’ve found a few websites that I think will help me get back on track.

Charles Burke recommends this Gratitude Exercise. For 10 days you write down 10 things that you are grateful and happy for in your life. “Success is a skill. Happiness is a skill. Gratitude is a skill. Like all skills, they must be practiced clumsily before they can be done naturally. So, if you’ll devote ten honest days to the practice of feeling true gratitude and happiness, I can promise you a dazzling new skill. A skill that just naturally attracts success like a magnet draws iron. Because nothing attracts good fortune and success like a joyous, grateful heart.”

Positivepyschology.com offers 13 Most Popular Gratitude Exercises and Activities: There are infinite ways to show our gratitude to others, to ourselves, and to a higher power or even “the universe” itself. However, it can be tough to get started without practical ideas. These gratitude exercises and activities are some of the most well-known and proven ways to practice and enhance your gratitude.

Or I might just pick up a gratitude journal. I have to admit that I’ve started several, but I think this might be the journal I’ve been waiting for (attitude? me? #Ipleadthefifth)

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And maybe, just maybe, I’ll try meditating again

Speaking from experience, I think we should all be grateful to USA Today for today’s list of foods which should never go into your garbage disposal, but tell me – what are you thankful for?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Swimming With Chuck*

open-water-swimmer[1]The past few weeks have been hard. TBH, the past few years have been “less than pleasant.” I’ve spoken before about grief, loss and all the other four letter words that have stopped me from writing. I’ve also spoken about the EIC. He thinks the four letters words are “another lame excuse for quitting.” Writing keeps him quiet. Evidently it’s been too long since I’ve written anything. His words are red, because he’s mad that I’ve kept him quiet for so long.

I’ve been meaning to write more often. I’ve been meaning to return to the things I enjoy. I planned on blogging twice a week, on a regular basis. I also planned on signing up for NanoWriMo. At the very least I was going to be a NaNoWriMo Rebel.

You know what Robert Burns said about “The best laid plans of mice and men…..”

I had every intention of returning to stand-up and acting.

You know where good intentions lead.

Oh please, be quiet. Unless you have something good or helpful to say, just SHUT UP.

… 

Huh. Evidently standing up to a bully makes them back down. Who knew?

The good news is that I didn’t make it all the way to Hell. I’ve been stuck in the pit of despair.

I don’t mind it here. It’s dark, but not lonely – I have all my other personalities to keep me company.

I’ve been trying to blog on a regular basis, but I couldn’t seem to finish. Couldn’t think of anything to say, couldn’t find the words to say what I couldn’t think of.

The worst part was that I couldn’t figure out WHY I couldn’t write.

It’s called writer’s block (DUH!)

Oh good. You’re back.

Miss me?

No.

Hurtful.

….

ANYWAY. I couldn’t figure out why I’ve been stuck. And then I got an email from the terrible mind of Chuck Wendig. I follow him, which means I get an email whenever he posts a new piece. I get a lot of emails. I don’t mind, because I love the way he writes. He’s funny, and smart and writes on a regular basis.

Unlike you.

Oh, for the love of all the gods, will you please GO AWAY!!

Fine. I’ll go for now, but (just like The Terminator) I’ll be back.

Can’t wait.

Where was I?

Today’s post Swimming Sideways: Navigating Grief As A Writer And An Artist resonated with me. Chuck shared an email he received from a fellow writer: “I know you lost your mom recently and I wanted to share my condolences. I, also, lost mine over a year ago and it has completely paralyzed me – stopped me in my creative tracks.

And there it was, in black and white. The reason for my unsurmountable block.

Grief. Grief is a four letter word (before you say anything, I’m aware that it’s five letters – but my grief has come from loss, and loss IS a four letter word).

There have been too many losses these past few years. Loss of health, loss of career, loss of friends and family by blood and heart.

It’s been said that grief is a wet wool blanket, but I think Chuck got it right when he described grief as water:

Grief is water. Grief is wave, river, and lake, it is the sea, it is a current.

You do not control it; rather, you can only respond to it. It wants what it wants, and it is always moving, ready to fill the low spaces. Sometimes you’re in its shallows, sometimes you step wrong and you’re in its tireless, unrelenting depths looking for light, trying to find which way is up. But it’s always there. Sometimes wet on your feet. Other times a fog, a mist, a light rain….Maybe grief is undertow. You don’t swim away from it. You damn sure don’t swim into it. You swim sideways. You find a way left or right and you swim out of its current. That’s the only response, I think. What that looks like, in form, is up to you. But I want to say it’s okay to write, it’s okay not to write, it’s okay to write badly, it’s okay to write beautifully in a way that isn’t practical or useable, it’s okay to write about it or write to avoid it. Whatever it is you create, it’s a response to the grief or looking away from it. Toward it to see it and understand it, or from it to escape it.

It’s swimming sideways.

All I know is, keep on going. Keep swimming. Those we have lost would want us to, wouldn’t they? One suspects it might be their greatest wish, and so we honoring them by doing exactly that, in whatever way we can muster, in whatever direction we find best, with our strongest stroke.

Like I said. Chuck is smart. It’s just one of the many reasons I follow him. You should too.

If you or a friend or family have been swallowed by grief, you can find a local griefshare group here, or you can find online resources here or here.

And to borrow a phrase from my favorite fish – just keep swimming

 

*Swimming with Chuck is more fun than swimming with sharks.

 

 

 

 

Too Pooped to Pop

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image courtesy of http://www.lovethispic.com

Warning – Rant ahead.

I have a confession. Yes, another one. At this rate, I really should convert, but I’d be a bad Catholic. Which wouldn’t be much different than being a bad Jew, really. Same guilt, different food.

ANYWAY. I’ve used the phrase “Too pooped to pop” for years, but it wasn’t until recently (aka “today”) that I learned that the phrase comes from a song. Two songs, actually.  Cliffie Stone released one in 1955 – it’s a cute song about a tired popcorn kernel, roasting at the bottom of the pan. Chuck Berry’s song was released in 1960, and it resonates with me.

Casey is an old man who wants to be a teen
He goes to all the dances and they call him cha-cha King
He cha-cha’s when the band is playin’ rock and roll
He tries to keep in time but the beat leaves him cold
Because he’s too pooped to pop, too old a soul
Hips gettin’ weaker when he tries to do this stroll
And every time his feet get to go in one way
Here comes a new dance and it’s goin’ to stray

Not that I’m an old man, and I don’t really want to be a teen (SO MUCH DRAMA) – but I’m definitely too pooped to pop. I’m tired from the top of my head to the tops of my toenails.

It’s not just me. According to Prevention.com:

If you frequently wonder: “Why am I always tired?” you’re not alone. Two out of every five Americans report feeling wiped out most of the week, and research from the Centers for Disease Control shows that 1 in 3 adults fails to get enough sleep. Between work or school, family and friends, and all the other commitments you’re juggling, it’s easy to blame constant fatigue on a busy lifestyle.

Menopause can be the culprit. According to Consumer Health Digest:

Menopausal fatigue is caused by lower levels of estrogen in the body. These lower levels lead to problems like failing to fall asleep or stay asleep at night, higher stress levels and anxiety. These symptoms tend to aggravate fatigue, making it difficult for a woman to function normally.

But it’s more than just menopause. I’m tired of the headlines, I’m tired of all the hatred being spewed on social media and the “doom and gloom” headlines and stories. Mostly I’m tired of gun violence.

There was a shooting at Saugus high school in Santa Clarita this morning.

Last week was the one year anniversary of the shooting at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks (13 dead, including the gunman).

I have multiple friends who were in Las Vegas for the Route 91 festival in 2017 (58 dead).

June 12 of this year marked the 3rd anniversary of the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando (49 dead).

And December 14th will mark 7 years since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting (26 dead, including 20 between 6 and 7 years old).

So many dead, so many school children spending time practicing lockdown drills, and yet, somehow, our political leaders can’t seem to pass gun legislation, even something as simple as a universal background check

H.R. 8 was blocked by Republican Senator Cyndi Hyde-Smith of Mississippi this morning, even as teens were running for their lives.

She claimed that the bill would infringe on our second amendment rights, and that she worried about the impact on her “law-abiding constituents.” The bill didn’t aim to take guns away from “law-abiding citizens” it merely wanted to require background checks on all firearm sales in the country (currently, only licensed gun dealers must perform them). It even had exemptions like “gifts to family members and transfers for hunting, target shooting, and self-defense.”

I’m tired of politicians putting their lobbyists ahead of their constituents and then claiming that they’re “fighting for your freedoms.” I’m tired of people who seem to think that waiting 10 days for a gun is too long – that their right to own a gun is more important than our childrens’ right to be free from fear. I’m tired of the NRA.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in the second amendment.  I believe that people have a right to defend their homes. I don’t hunt, but I have “killed” many a target with a range of guns, including the much maligned “assault rifle.” I also believe it’s time we made some changes.

It’s time that we kick our NRA sponsored politicians to the curb. It’s time that we stand up and demand that our political leaders pass common sense legislation. It’s time that we make our children’s safety more important than the inconvenience of waiting a week or two.

And for those of you who still aren’t convinced of the NRA’s political influence? I suggest you read this article from NBC that ran just after the Pulse club massacre. They list five additional ways the NRA cheats the system to buy political clout:

1) The National Rifle Association could also give to party committees and the national party. A maxed-out donation to the national party quickly increases campaign spending to more than $100,000. Any organization – or person – can also give $33,400 to a party committee, like the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee or their Democratic counterparts. Finally, state and local parties can each receive a $10,000, quickly allowing campaign finance totals to sour to nearly half-a-million dollars.

2) While the organization has to follow campaign limits, its members can make their own political donations, also following campaign finance limits noted above. But with millions of members, political clout builds quickly.

3) The NRA has a politically active membership. With more than five million members, the NRA constantly communicates with its members about gun issues and advising them how to vote. The organization is also constantly increasing its voter rolls by registering people to vote.

4) The NRA also activates its membership when elected officials are facing gun-related legislation, resulting in phone calls and emails and letters to Congress. In addition, lawmakers’ votes are noted and advertised to their issue-oriented membership.

5) The NRA has its own super PAC and 501c4 political organization which can run its own political campaign. The two groups combined spent more than $27 million in the 2014 midterm elections on Senate and Congressional candidates, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. A lot of that money was spent on political advertising on television, radio and digital, and on direct mail.

Join me. Write and call your representatives. Write and call and email and march. Write and call and email and march and stand up. Stand up for common sense legislation.  Stand up for your right to protect your love ones. Stand up for those who can’t.

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One Year Later

Anniversary noun

an·ni·ver·sa·ry | \ ˌa-nə-ˈvərs-rē
, -ˈvər-sə-\

plural anniversaries

  1. the annual recurrence of a date marking a notable event
  2.  the celebration of an anniversary

Some anniversaries are meant to be celebrated, some only mark a spot – a moment in time when things changed. Today is not for celebrating.

It’s been one year since the shooting at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks.

One year since we learned that twelve people weren’t coming home.

One year of  wondering why?!?

Once Upon a Time, I was a DINK* who spent her free time drinking and dancing with friends and strangers at the Borderline. It became my home-away-from-home on the nights when my husband was working and there was nothing good to watch on (pre-Netflix) TV.

Motherhood changed that (FYI motherhood changes everything). I promised to return to dancing after the baby was born, and so I did – 18 years later. There were tons of new kids on the floor, but some of my friends were dancing still. Introducing the girl to my old hangout made my heart sing.

She loved learning to line dance and said that Borderline “felt like home.” My husband is not a C&W fan, but he didn’t begrudge us our mother-daughter bonding nights.

All too soon the teen told me that, although dancing with “long time” (I suppose I should be happy she didn’t call us “old”) attendees was fun, she wanted to join her friends at College Night . As a college freshman,  her father and I were concerned that College Night was open to all ages, but when a classmate invited her to a birthday celebration on November 7th, 2018, we gave in with a “Don’t walk to your car by yourself.” and “Make friends with the bouncers.”

She changed her mind at the last minute. She had “a ton of homework”, and a long road trip planned for the weekend and decided staying home was the best choice. Or maybe her guardian angel blew sleep dust in her eyes.

I don’t know why she stayed home, but I will be eternally grateful that she did.

We still dance together at local Borderline events at The Canyon Club in Agoura and Sunland Winery. They may not be “home”, but our family of heart is there, and they’re amazing. Funny, smart, friendly, kind, willing to help people with two left feet, willing to make friends out of strangers.

There are memorial events planned over the next few days, and  a ton of stories being told today. A lot of interviews with the friends and family members of the twelve we lost. My heart is with them, and with the 248 people who were there but managed to make it home.

We’re still here, and we’re #BorderlineStrong. And maybe, just maybe, that’s something to celebrate.

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*DINK – Dual Income, No Kids

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Awareness Matters

october-national-depression-mental-health-screening-month[1]October is  important to me because it gives me a chance to play with zombies, clowns and broken dolls. Of the three, the only one that scares me are dolls clowns (ok, maybe clowndolls).

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But October is important for other (more important) reasons.

October is Mental Health Awareness Month. There have been a lot of posts on social media sharing crisis hotline information, listing the signs and symptoms of suicidal ideation and advising us that depression isn’t always obvious.

Mental Health Awareness month is important to me because it has personal significance. I come from a long line of women who self medicate for depression, and I’ve shared stories of my battles with the Black Dog. It should be important for everyone.

We are suffering from a crisis. The World Health Organization states that “Around 450 million people currently suffer from (mental health issues), placing mental disorders amount the leading causes of ill-health an disability worldwide.” The article continues:

“Treatments are available, but nearly two-thirds of people with a known mental disorder never seek help from a health professional. Stigma, discrimination and neglect prevent care and treatment from reaching people with mental disorders, says the World Health Organization (WHO). Where there is neglect, there is little or no understanding. Where there is no understanding, there is neglect.”

Even more alarming is the fact that according to the Centers for Disease Control data, the suicide for Americans aged 15-24 (aka Generation Z) is the highest it’s been since at least 1999. The overall suicide rate for this age group has risen by 51% over the past decade. We tell people that suicide is “selfish” instead of recognizing it as the last choice of someone who is in more pain than we can possibly imagine (full disclosure – I’ve been guilty of this one).

Mental Health issues are one of our remaining taboos. We suggest that people who are clinically depressed should avoid medication and tell them that they “just need to change their diet and exercise more.” We call them “Eeyore” and tell them they need to “buck up” and get out of the house.

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I came across a great article in (of all places) People magazine. PEOPLE magazine wants to change the stigma with their Let’s Talk About It initiative to normalize mental illness. In the article, Ashley Womble director of communications and crisis counselor for the Crisis Text Line says that communication with friends and loved ones who are suffering is vital.

“Always ask!” she says. “If you’re concerned about a loved one, it’s important for you to tell them why and make it easier for them to ask for help or support. Suffering is hard enough. You can make it easier by starting the conversation.”

Most importantly, I think we need to stop judging people who struggle with mental illness and offer them sympathy instead. Maybe we should just stop judging people, period.

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If you or someone you love is having a mental health crisis, please reach out for help. NAMI has a downloadable guide for navigating a mental health crisis, and you can always call or text to speak to a trained professional.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – Call 800-273-TALK (8255)

Crisis Text Line – Text NAMI to 741-741
Connect with a trained crisis counselor to receive free, 24/7 crisis support via text message.