Guns ‘n Proses


Because I needed a good cry(?), when I got up this morning, I watched the father of the recently slain news reporter give an interview*.  I’ve said over, and over again that since having Thor, I cannot see a parent who has lost a child and not see myself there.  That child is the only person in the world who literally knows me inside and out, and I’ve known him since before he had fingerprints.  That child has made smiles happen on his father’s face that no one else can touch.  To say that he is the best thing in our world is to say too little.  I cannot, and do not want to imagine a life without him.

But that girl’s father and mother?  They aren’t imagining this morning.  They weren’t imagining, yesterday.  This is their reality:  Their daughter is gone, and their daughter is gone because of senseless gun violence.

I posted to my Facebook this morning, wondering what we can do?  I’m not anti-gun at all.  We own guns.  I grew up with guns.  All of them were within reach for me–I had easy access to the shotgun, and the pistols.  Because my parents were very clear about what a gun can do, and because I’m a big chicken, I left them alone.  Today, I don’t fool with the guns we have** because I don’t know enough about gun safety to feel comfortable with my ability not to accidentally shoot off my own big toe.  I can barely shoot an air rifle without busting my lip.

So, for me the answer is always education.  Education means safety.  Swimming lessons mean fewer drownings.  Driving lessons mean fewer traffic accidents.  Electrician school means fewer electrocutions.  See, I say fewer.  I don’t say they solve the dangers lurking in an under-tow, or on a slick roadway, or a broken power line, but they allow people to make smarter, safer choices.

For me, the answer is requiring continuing education to obtain a license, and a license to purchase insurance, and that license, and insurance to purchase and then register a gun.

I think you ought to be able to own whatever you like.  You want a .22, learn how to use it, follow the route to purchase, and go get it!  You want an AR-15?  Same deal!  You go to school and learn to use it, buy your insurance, pay for your registration, and go to town.

Is that going to stop pure crazy?  No.  Pure crazy, like the kind that shoots up schools, and trains, and movie theaters, usually has an exit plan.  No manner of restriction, or amount of hoops will deter that kind of crazy.  That kind of crazy has a plan, and that kind of crazy knows exactly how it is going to end, so they aren’t worried about The Government finding out who they are.

But maybe it stops A Little Crazy.  Or maybe it stops Crazy In The Moment.

Or, when I start stockpiling for my armory, maybe the government starts keeping an eye on me.  And you know what?  There is nothing wrong with that.  There is nothing wrong with The Government knowing that I have enough guns to establish myself as a leader of a militia.  If I’m trying to hide that, there is probably something wrong with me.

The government doesn’t limit the number of cars we can have, only what kind of license we can have to drive them based on our levels of education and experience.  Ditto airplanes.  Ditto operating tables.  I mean, I could probably learn how to do an appendectomy from YouTube tutorials, but if I go into the hospital in a white coat and cut you open, that’s a rightful felony–whether I’ve saved your life, or not.  My Lib Arts degree is not the same as an M.D.

Also, you don’t want me driving a semi.  I nearly creamed a car in my little Saturn the other day, and I know how to drive that!

I know people argue that guns aren’t the problem because you can kill someone with anything.  That is true!  I don’t think guns are the problem either.  I think lack of education and easy access are the problem.  You know why I get nervous when those Open Carry guys are wearing their assault rifles in Chipotle?  Because I’m afraid one of them is going to accidentally do something that will end up with me being the special sauce in my burrito.  I’m not afraid they are going to purposefully shoot me.  I’m afraid they don’t know how to properly handle their weapons–actually, they’ve proved that to me by showing up, wearing one to Chipotle.

You can kill someone with a machete, or a car, or a fork, or a frying pan, or an icicle, which will melt and disappear leaving no evidence of the murder weapon.  However, it is very difficult to commit a mass murder with an icicle, or a frying pan, or a fork, and it is harder to do with a car, or a machete.  It is very easy to kill a lot of people, in a little time, in a big, or small space with a gun.

And, more to the point, a gun’s purpose is to kill something. That’s its job.  Let’s not pretend that guns were invented for target practice.  Target practice was invented to get better at killing things.  Let’s not pretend that guns were invented so they could sit in a gun locker as a potential defense against home invaders.  Gun lockers were invented to store weapons safely.  Let’s not pretend guns aren’t for killing.

Guns are for killing.

Why wouldn’t you want to know if I was amassing an armory of things meant for killing?

Why wouldn’t you want to know if I was buying and arming myself for big game hunting, when I live in a suburb, and the only lions and elephants are in the zoo?

Why wouldn’t you want me to learn how to use those weapons before someone set me loose with them?

If I buy it, you’ll pry it from my cold dead hands, but if it would save one mother from waking up to a world without her child, I would happily take the class, buy the insurance, and pay the registration to own it.

*I always hear people saying that we need to wait after a shooting to talk.  Wait until the emotion dies down.  But, I think that’s part of the problem.  You have to talk about it when what’s at stake matters.  What’s at stake with gun crime is the worst thing that can happen to you:  You lose someone you love.

**And we keep the guns and ammunition in very different places, safely away from the child, who isn’t even aware of what we have.

Black Hair from Blue Eyes


My Rainbow World is official today!  While I’ve shared how the book came to be, re-imagining and re-purposing art from a different project to fit a new story, I haven’t talked about how I chose the model for my main character.

In 2007, I started a job in the most ethnically diverse group I’d ever encountered. Before I worked there, I would have told you I was well aware of how things like racism, prejudice, and privilege play into every day interactions for both myself and the people around me.  By the time I left, I would have told you what an ignorant git I had been two years prior.

After working for that company, and in particular, working for an African American woman, I set myself to learning, and I was–the only way to phrase this is so base, but I was GROSSED OUT by myself.  I was grossed out by my ignorance.  I was sick at myself over my ignorance.  I was disgusted by how I had allowed that ignorance to color every interaction I’d had, and was beside myself at how that ignorance had probably caused me to hurt people without ever even thinking I was close to “the line” much less four feet over it.

I purposefully started reading about the history of slavery in our nation, the Civil Rights movement, and the period between Restoration and Today.  It took me literal weeks just to get my head around the fact that I’d never heard anything about the Freedom Riders, other than that they had done a lot of marching.  I was 38-years-old when I learned what a lynching really was, and I still haven’t been able to reconcile that with the still-awful but criminally white-washed (yes) version of it I learned in school.  I was 38-years-old when I learned why jokes about Mississippi after dark weren’t funny.  And, I was 38-years-old when I realized that when I walked into Target to look at haircare product, there were aisles of things for People With Hair Like Mine and a tiny strip of shelf for People With Hair Not Like Mine.

Since my then-boss had mentioned hair to me, I asked her about it, and I went home that night feeling sick that I was nearly forty, and had only just realized that when I walked down the hair aisle at Target, I was having a different experience from a woman I greatly respected.  I was having an experience that normalized everything about me and my color, and she was being marginalized.  Everywhere I looked, the world looked like me.  She had to find the tiny strip of shelf to find anything that looked like her.

Let it be known that I am still ignorant of a lot of things, but never willfully.

I started looking for diversity because of the wonderful inclusiveness that boss generated.  I started trying to find ways I could be inclusive, which is sometimes messy because of feelings.  I messed up a few times that I thought I was being complimentary, only to realize that from where I stood, my words sounded patronizing.  I still struggle with where I fit in to building a world of equality, what my responsibility is, and when I am overstepping.  I probably will until the day I die.

But, when I had the opportunity to re-work the art for this book, a few things had happened:  Baltimore had happened.  South Carolina had happened.  Sandra Bland had happened.

I wanted to make a statement of support, and when the opportunity presented itself, I knew exactly how I wanted to do it.  I wanted to do it like this:

mrw cover

I hope that doesn’t sound self-congratulatory, or like I think I’m being magnanimous.  I’m not.  I know I’m a drop in a bucket.  But, I want to see all children represented.  I see plenty of children in media, who look like my son.  I don’t see children who look like my current boss’s granddaughter, so I borrowed her for a model, and I hope that representation does something toward change.

In the meantime, Happy Book Birthday!  My Rainbow World is available from your favorite bookseller.

Dress Codes


In the past week, I’ve read two stories about girls being sent home from school for dress code violations.  Since I can’t remember where to find them to link you to them, you’ll just have to trust me when I say each of these girls was dressed so appropriately, I felt like I was looking at a Where’s Waldo of violation.  One was wearing jeans, a top, and a cardigan.  The other was wearing a mid-thigh length tunic over leggings.

The problem with the first girl?  Her collar bones were showing.  Her COLLAR BONES.  I found the link to her article.  This is a picture of what she was wearing.  I should be so modest!  Look at this child!  She is dressed beautifully.  I found the other link as well (Google is magical).  That child isn’t dressed as nicely, but she is more covered up than some of the kids I see going into my son’s elementary school, and if that’s what sparking the imagination of young boys these days, we need to be more worried about ISIL recruitment tactics.

I do believe in dress codes.  Let me say that right there.  Without dress codes, I would have no reason to bother getting out of my pajamas in the morning, and you should just believe that if I were allowed to show up at work in yoga pants, I would.  Because I would.  I love my yoga pants, and the only reason I don’t wear them more places is because…it is hot in the summer.  I wear them anywhere in the winter.

I also agree that some clothes can be distracting, not sexually, but just because.  If your kid goes to school dressed like Pete Burns, people are going to be more interested in looking at your kid than the teacher because that is a lot of look to take in.  If your kid goes to school dressed like a Baywatch poster, same thing.  And let’s be very honest that many of us get dressed in order TO be looked at.  We are trying to express something with our clothes, and we hope you are looking.  When I spent twenty minutes getting a single braid just right, I bloody well hope you notice!

It’s silly to pretend that we aren’t all looking at each other, so it is silly to pretend that another person isn’t going to notice your Hooters t-shirt, or your booty shorts, and it is irresponsible of adults/parents to fly into outrage that their snowflake is sitting in the office for blatantly disregarding the school dress code.  That out of the way:  Collar bones?  Seriously?

The problem is more often the dress code than the kid, and it is a truth that dress codes much more heavily restrict girls.  Dress codes for boys generally translate to: Don’t be sloppy.  Dress codes for girls translate to:  Don’t be sloppy, or sexy, or alluring, or fashionable, or have breasts and thighs–seriously–hide those things.

I’m going to help schools across America right now.  I’m going to compose a dress code that should help everyone.  Ready?

  1. No exposed butt cheeks, or genitalia.
  2. No exposed nipples.
  3. No strapless, or spaghetti strap shirts.
  4. No exposed undergarments.
  5. No slogans on clothing, other than school spirit wear.

There.  It is gender inclusive, and basically asks all kids not to show their bits.  Beyond that, what do we really need?  Fashion and social herding will take care of the rest.  Because, listen, kids are going to be sexually distracted by one another no matter what they are wearing.  It’s part of being kids.  It’s part of being human.

Rather than focusing on bodies, we need to focus on behaviors.  We need to teach all children, regardless of gender, what is and is not appropriate when it comes to respecting neighbors, and we need to give kids credit.

If boys weren’t able to control themselves around scantily clad girls, you’d never see one in a swimming pool, or waterpark because they would all be running for the toilets every five minutes.  Give the boys some credit for being able to do algebra AND sit next to Cute Suzy at the same time.

And give Cute Suzy some credit for having brains that matter more than her boobs.

Stop telling boys that they can’t control themselves.

Stop telling girls that they are a distraction to boys.

Stop telling boys that if they can see a girl’s thighs, their brains shut off.

Stop telling girls that their bodies are the problem.

Stop telling boys and girls that male nipples are okay, but female nipples are dirty and bad.

Stop telling girls that wanting to look attractive makes them dirty and bad.

Stop telling boys that finding girls attractive is reason to hurt a girl.

Stop telling girls that a boy’s distraction-free education is more important than her own.

Stop telling boys that it is okay to marginalize and objectify girls based on how they are dressed.

Stop telling girls that their bodies are more important than their feelings.

Start telling children the truth:  There are going to be times when you want to stare at someone, and feeling that is okay.  Doing it is rude.  Feel what you feel, but don’t always act on the feeling.  Pay attention to your teacher, not the outfit of the person across the room because knowing where to place a comma is going to do you a lot more good in the long run, than fantasizing about where you’d like to place something else.

Decade


Ten years ago, tonight, I had taken an Ambien to get my last night’s sleep before having a baby.

Image

I’ve had the best ten years of my life since our boy came into the world.  He’s been worth every sleepless second I’ve had since that Ambien wore off.

If You See Jo Rowling, Please Tell Her I Said Thanks


Dear Jo,

First, I know the odds of you ever seeing this are just as slim as if I had mailed it to your agent, but I’d like to put it out there in the world anyway.  Second, I probably shouldn’t call you Jo.  We haven’t met.  Well, you haven’t met me, but I’ve met your brain, and I am so fond of you that Ms. Rowling seems insincere.

I was late to the Harry Potter train because the books were first published while I was being a religious zealot, who forwent all secular entertainment, and especially avoided anything that seemed remotely witchy.  But I grew up a C.S. Lewis and Madeleine L’Engle girl, so eventually the temptation was too strong to resist and I fell down the Hogwarts rabbit hole, and I’ve never even wanted to find my way out of it.  Thank you for that. 

Thank you for extending the best parts of my childhood into my adult world through books, movies, and the unexpected joy of watching Hogwarts open to my son.

My son was reluctant to read the books.  He loves to read, but my enthusiam made him wary.  I am also enthusiastic about peas, carrots, and bedtime, so he had every reason to think I was just trying to put one over on him.  So, I did what every mother does, and after putting the books slightly out of his reach, I told him that I thought they might be too old for him, and I suggested he read Diary of a Wimpy Kid one more time.

Within the week, he had watched every movie, and was knee-deep in The Sorcerer’s Stone. 

Last night, I heard him giggling in his bedroom.  He’s moved on to Chamber of Secrets, and was laughing at some misfortune of Draco Malfoy’s.  Later, I found him face down, his nose in the crease of the book, sound asleep.  It took me back to reading myself to sleep, and how the Pevensies, and Pole, and Scrubb, and all those Murrays had kept me company in the dark, following me into my dreams, and how they buzzed around my head on waking.

image

This morning, on the way to camp, my son had been very quiet and grumpy.  All of a sudden, he perked up.  “Mom!  Why does Professor Snape like Draco Malfoy so much?  Because Snape is sort of a good guy, but he plays favorites with a bad one–I don’t get it?  And, why does Sirius Black have a House Elf–that’s bad.  And, I don’t understand how Tom Riddle opened the Chamber of Secrets if he’s a ghost.  Why?  How?”

My boy turns ten in just a few days, and we are balanced somewhere between how much he loves and wants to cling to me, and just how embarrassing it is to have a mother.  Normally, when he wants to chat, it’s about Minecraft, or World War II heavy machinery.  I don’t know anything about either subject.  So, what a sweet surprise to have him ask me about Harry Potter!  And not just asking any old questions–he’s asking some questions that will have an effect on his character. He’s asking questions that will lead to broader discussion, and as I pretend to levitate him in his bed at night (and he pretends to set my hair on fire,) we’re strengthening bonds that we’ll rely on in his teen years.

My thanks is so small in comparison to what you’ve given us.

My little Hufflepuff and I appreciate you to the moon and back.  And, that’s something else you’ve given us.  Pottermore sorted us into different houses, and he was very upset at first.  It was a pleasure to sit down and show him the good and bad in every house, and talk about why no one was better than the other.  Diversity and all that.  Now, he loves reminding me that his is the only house never to turn out a traitor. 

I also showed him that Honey Badger video on YouTube, which is probably terrible parenting on my part, but it made him laugh, and appreciate his house mascot.

All this just to say thank you, and thank you again.  Thank you for the joy you gave me in the first place.  Thank you for Hermoine Granger, and Minerva McGonagall, and Molly Weasley–women any girl can aspire to be.  Thank you for Dumbledore and Snape.  Thank you for Harry.  Thank you for Hogwarts, and quidditch, and Hippogriffs, and, well, everything.  And thank you for giving my son a reason to chatter, and laugh, and want to talk.

I am eternally grateful,

Lane