Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Seeking Certainty

While watching Oppenheimer this summer, I had a LOT of thoughts (which this film will certainly do for most). One of the first thoughts I had was that I completely understand the draw of science and math. While I’ve never been adept at science or math, they both deal with certainty, at least more than a lot of other disciplines. What feels better than being sure?  Once things are discovered and tested and calculated, people get to be SURE. That calculation should always come out the same, that experiment should always yield the same results. The good ‘ole reliability and validity, right? Those people accomplished an amazing scientific feat but look what it did to the world. Certainty, yes. Horrific death, destruction, and a fear of that happening again forever? Also, yes. This amazing discovery isn’t something that can be undone, which the characters in the film realized. 

For my psychologist friends, please don’t come for me, but I don’t consider psychology to be a science in the same way as some of the others. There are branches of psychology that are more solid, like neuropsychology, but overall psychology is research, a list of symptoms, and guessing. There aren’t medical tests for depression, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder, it’s not an exact science. Last year after losing one of my best friends to suicide who was participating in weekly therapy and taking medication, I had a major crisis of conscience. What if this is all bullshit? Diagnoses can be wrong, medication can certainly be wrong, the interactions are different for everyone, and if the patient isn’t transparent with difficult truths, therapy doesn’t work. To receive a diagnosis from the DSM-V, all that really needs to happen is for the patient to claim the correct symptoms. I will never know what was truly mentally going on with my friend, and that will leave a hole in me forever. That being said, when the patient truly wants help and will tell the truth, of course it can be incredibly beneficial. Just feeling heard and being encouraged to understand one’s own patterns, beliefs, and worldview can help. However, getting to that point involves vulnerability, time, money, and access to resources, which are things that aren’t easily come by for everyone. Where does this leave us in this field? ALL the stars have to align for people to benefit from mental health treatment, and often they don’t. This is why the argument of “It’s not guns, it’s mental health!” makes my blood boil. There is also the fact that folks who are struggling with their mental health often don’t realize it, they think they’re fine. Simply making counseling options available to people isn’t enough. It’s never that simple.

People are drawn to simple, they want it, and crave answers to every question that exists. To me, the ultimate question is “are we really supposed to know all of the answers?” Doesn’t growing and learning involve quandaries?  Aren’t we supposed to WONDER?

Faith certainly plays into this question as well. My faith has changed a lot over the past decade or so, and while I still consider myself to be a person who has faith, it looks and feels a lot different now. I still pray, but it’s super personal and I do it alone. My prayers are usually, “please protect my babies”, because this young adult stage of parenting is no joke, and you have zero control over what happens. I believe that a number of the stories in the Bible are meant to be allegories that we are to digest and understand, and then apply it to our own lives. I believe the main point of Christianity is to treat others well and help people who don’t have as much as we do. I struggle to understand the folks who take everything literally, but now I think I understand the comfort they experience in doing so. There is an answer for every single thing. That’s got to be a great way to wake up every morning, to have an answer to all the world’s problems. Human suffering? Just a way to build faith in God. Horrible natural disasters? Well, someone must have made God mad. Horrible things on the horizon? It’s okay, we’ll all be sucked up into the clouds soon anyway. There is a part of me that feels a little envious of folks whose belief falls into this category, because I think they have a level of peace that I don’t have. But at the end of the day, I don’t believe for a single second that God expects us to just nod and smile and never ask questions. That feels fairly lazy to me.  If everything is pre-determined, then why try? Why put yourself out there to take risks and help the less fortunate? It doesn’t make sense.

The word “certainty” has been clanging around in my head for a few days now. Recently I saw a commercial for California Psychics and their tag line was “experience the joy of certainty”. Aye carumba, what a racket.  Being uncertain is part of being human, but also linked to anxiety, which I struggle with. It’s very hard to try to rewire your brain away from all the insidious what-ifs in the middle of the night. Although I think it’s gotten better, I have had the tendency in my life to try to make things happen instead of waiting for them to happen naturally because at least then I’ll know what’s going to happen. I used to find this comforting, but it’s gone left more than once, it usually backfires somehow. This mindest is a massive mistake. I can kick around something in the future that hasn’t happened and imagine scads of different scenarios and outcomes that might unfold. Usually, none of what I imagine actually happens, and I have zero control over what happens anyway. I’ve tried to tell both my kids, “we don’t know what’s going to happen, we’ll deal with it once we know.” I’ve had to get better about this for my job. I used to stress a lot about what might happen the following day at work and have everything planned in my head ahead of time. For those of you who are familiar with school psychology, guess how much you can predict, or how accurate your estimations for the following day are? 😂😂. I don’t know when I was able to make the shift, but when I was able to decide, “Hey, you know what? I’m going to worry about what’s going to happen tomorrow when I get up tomorrow.” has made my profession a lot more manageable. 

These days I don’t feel certain about much. I remember my dad saying something like “the older I get, the less I know.”  I completely understand that now. Sometimes I equate certainty with giving up. Giving up on critical thinking and just being a sheep that follows the herd. Or quite literally giving up, as my dear friend did. Once the decision is made to end your life, I’d imagine you’re pretty sure and certain. I don’t think she could handle not knowing what was going to happen in her life, so she took a horrible step that would provide her with that certainty. I’m sure that her decision was somewhat reassuring for her, I’ve read that suicidal people often feel a sense of peace right before they follow through with it. She made something happen, so she didn’t have to wonder what was going to happen. It’s over for her, but it’s sure hard on those of us she left here. 

One of the things that continually brings me peace is water, preferably water and rocks. Bring me to a waterfall, a creek, or crashing waves ANY day. There was a time on the beach in Tulum when the waves coming in were teeny, but so perfectly uniform. It was as though they were attached to some sort of machine that was making them come in the same size with the same amount of time between waves. I remember feeling kind of protected in a way then, without understanding why. The examples are endless, Crystal Cove in Laguna Beach after my cousin’s funeral, a hidden waterfall in Marin that I discovered with a friend last year, Eagle Falls this summer with my husband, waves crashing at Sea Ranch on the anniversary of losing my friend and my favorite beach in Bodega Bay, Schoolhouse Beach with my dear friend last February. It all makes me feel reassured. Because no matter what is happening in my little life, the world will keep turning, the waves will keep crashing on the shore, the water will keep 
falling, the rocks will continue to be gradually worn down. That I am sure of. The rest will unfold. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Our Collage

I wanted to make us a collage. We’d had 31 years of experiences with the 3 of us. Dorm shenanigans, bonfires, 21st birthdays, weddings, baby showers, funerals of parents, and endless, endless concerts. I’ll put more thought to it later, but right now these are the ones I remember: Sade, Jesus Jones, Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers, New Order, The Postal Service, The English Beat, Sarah McLachlan, Erykah Baku, Lenny Kravitz, Stevie Wonder, and the last show we saw together, the only band we saw twice, Death Cab for Cutie. There were always going to be more concerts, more getaways. We’re all still kinda young, and we had adventures ahead of us. We had empty nests and retirements and grandchildren and eating and sitting on the beach ahead of us. I believed that to be true, until I found out all those plans had been canceled a couple weeks ago. Because you decided to leave and now you’re gone. My plan was to make this collage for the three of us, frame it, and give it as a gift sometime soon. I’m thinking that I probably still will, but it will hurt my heart when I look at it now. My intention was for it to bring happiness, laughter and smiles to the three of us. Now it just marks an end. 

The last picture of the three of us was taken in Fairfield at the end of October. The Death Cab show was outside in Napa, having been postponed due to Covid. It was during the weekend of the big “atmospheric river” storm in Northern California. Nothing went well that weekend. You had actually tried to get out of coming because of the weather, but we talked you into it. I was sick, Beth was stressed out about stuff with her business, and you didn’t seem like yourself. Your hugs had gotten distant and kind of watery. The weather sucked, the parking sucked, the walk to the amphitheater sucked, the Home Depot rain ponchos sucked. I came very close to having my cell phone plummet into a porta potty. The band cut their set short by about 6-7 songs because of the weather. Everywhere in Napa was outrageously expensive, so we stayed in Fairfield, and the place wasn’t very nice. Things just didn’t come together as they usually did for the 3 of us. We had breakfast the next morning, and we all drove home in a monsoon. It was a scary drive home, I don’t think I drove over 40 because we Californians aren’t used to rain like that. We had some good moments, but it really wasn’t as fun as it usually was for us, and that bums me out since it was the last time. But I didn’t know it was the last time. 

So being the big planning freak I am, I made new plans. I found an incredible Airbnb in Mill Valley, a gorgeous mid-century home on the top of a mountain, with a view of San Francisco. I chose that place because I knew it was an aesthetic that you appreciated, I literally had you in mind. We agreed on the weekend in March. This is so sappy and dumb, but there is this VRBO commercial that shows people arriving at their rentals and Kermit the Frog is singing happily, “Now I’m here, now you’re here, nothing can go wrong because I’m right where I belong!” It’s so hopeful and cheerful and sweet and when I was anticipating our next trip, that stupid commercial made me so happy. But about a week before, our communications got odd. You were dealing with way more than what we knew at the time, but in a group text in which I thought we told each other everything, you lashed out at me. I was trying to talk you out of a bad decision as we always had for one another, and out of nowhere, you said F next weekend, and some other things that sounded NOTHING like you. I was beyond hurt but mostly shocked. A couple days later you apologized, but it still didn’t sound like you, you said you were sorry that you were rude. That wasn’t “rude”, it was irrational and hostile and I still didn’t understand. I told you I had spent most of the day before thinking that you might have hurt yourself. Soon after, you sent me an assurance that read in part “I want to put your mind at ease about the suicide issue”. As the days progressed, we tried to convince you to come on our trip, but you declined, or just didn’t directly respond. Beth and I went anyway, and bonded in a way we hadn’t in years, connected in our major concern for you and your bitterness that didn’t seem to have an end. We knew you’d had a tough second divorce and some other complications, but those were wrapping up and we thought there was a light at the end of that tunnel. We were wrong. But we ate and hiked and saw a beautiful waterfall, complete with a Bench in The Wild (Beth will understand). We kept trying, but it seemed you were in the depths, so we both gave you some space. I’d still check in from time to time and say I was worried and you’d say “Oh, no. Don’t be worried.” Even in text it sounded stilted and not anything like the person I knew. You reached out the Thursday before Easter, saying you missed talking. We both immediately responded, we loved you, we were worried about you, and that you needed to be honest with us and let us know what was up! We joked a little. When I told you I’d walked 92 miles on my new treadmill, you said “today??” and you made me laugh as you always did. 

I understand now that you couldn’t let us know what was going on with you. It was too painful for you to admit that you were in that bad of a place, and I KNOW you never wanted to worry us. I can’t imagine the darkness that must have permeated every part of your heart and mind. I can’t imagine it because you didn’t share it with us, and that hurts. The little bit that you did share alarmed the hell out of us, and I know that’s why you didn’t elaborate or go into the really desolate thoughts you were having. We would never judge you, we only wanted to love and help you. By the time you couldn’t hide it from us anymore, I think it might have been too late. The hole you were in was so deep that you couldn’t see the light at the top anymore and no amount of dedication, love, or logic was going to pull you out or make you change your mind. When I think about those final days of yours, my heart just cracks. I hate to think of you in pain, my beautiful friend who was so loyal, and SO incredibly funny. You were the one who introduced me to school psychology. You were the one of the ones I would tell everything to, and you gave the best advice. You made me laugh my ass off for 31 years, dude! Where did that person go, and when did that person leave? The tormented person wasn’t you…I don’t know when the shift happened, although I know the last two years were particularly hard. 

Strangely enough, even though this was my biggest fear, when I got the message from your sister to call her, I thought you’d just be in the hospital. I really did. I was in an IEP on Zoom when I got the message and I excused myself to call. She told me you’d died. And it is truly a trippy experience when you receive news like that…something so incomprehensible and unreal. I don’t remember a lot about the rest of the conversation…I asked about your dad and your daughter. I didn’t understand that you’d just been found that morning. I started to shake, I told my sweet coworker who hugged me, and I drove home to tell Mike. He was in the garage as I pulled in, and he asked why I was home early because he knew I had an afternoon meeting. “Lesli killed herself.” I don’t think I will ever forget the look on HIS face for the rest of my life. Just total shock and horror, and he said, “Oh BABE! Oh no.” and rushed to hug me. You were in my life longer than he has been, more than half my life. He knew who you were to me. Then I had to call Beth and tell her, and I have to admit that I’m going to have a hard time getting over having to do that. That was one of the hardest things I have ever done, and I’ve had to do some hard things. 

The next morning, I was doing the dishes and listening to music on shuffle, I have hundreds of songs. These were the four that came on in a row: Save it for Later by the English Beat…that was one of your favorite songs by them and we had seen them a few years back and it represents so much carefree fun we’d had over the years. The next was You’re My Best Friend by Queen. Self-explanatory. The next was Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd. By that time, I was crying at the sink and I remember saying out loud to the empty kitchen, “Really???” The last song was Surrender and Certainty by Sarah McLachlan, who we had also seen in Berkeley. A snippet of lyrics: “smooth stones down by the waterside, give in to ebb and flow. Collide in blindness, embrace and part, no fear of letting go. There’s no fight to get ahead, nowhere that they’d rather be. Safe in the arms of surrender and certainty, caught in a moment, and sure they’ll be carried. Take me back down to the water to feel that sure of anything.” I heard you dude. Loud and clear. We had so much fun together, we were best friends, you were going to miss us, but you truly felt like you had to let go. 

The day before your burial last week, Beth and I were getting ready to leave my house, but a little red headed finch (?) got into our garage and wouldn’t fly out. We opened all the garage doors and the side door, but he just flew around in circles and wouldn’t leave. Finally Mike told us to go, he’d take of it because he knew we had a long drive. Later I asked if he’d gotten the bird out and he said “yep, as soon as you guys drove away, he flew away.”  So that was you. You wanted to be present, and maybe delay our sad drive?   Once in Fresno, we helped your beautiful girl pick out something to wear, and I helped tie up the back. The service was really lovely, there were maybe 12 of us? We were asked for a couple songs to be played and we chose Angel by Jimi Hendrix and Transatlanticism by Death Cab. The pastor did a beautiful job, I was worried he would shy away from the reality of what had happened, but he didn’t. He spoke about mental health and depression and suicide. He assured us you had been suffering but you weren’t anymore, and that was very comforting. We all cried and most of us spoke. Before we left, I went up alone and touched your casket and said goodbye to you. I took a rose, I think we all did. I have a picture of your casket covered with those roses, but I won’t post that. I think I just needed to take it to remind myself that this is real. 

You were always supposed to be here but now you’re gone. No amount of reading back over texts or replaying conversations will change that. This kind of grief is really debilitating because it was your choice. While I hate that Beth has to experience this too, I am SO glad we have each other right now because there truly is no way to understand what this is like unless you’ve been through it. I can’t concentrate or focus on crap, I’m lucky in a sense that the school year is winding down. The physical part is NO joke, I feel like I have an anvil on my chest. Although I’m losing a little weight, my body feels about 50 pounds heavier. I have a perpetual headache. And while I know your pain was larger than anything I can imagine, I have to admit that I’m mad. While I do take comfort in the fact that you’re no longer hurting, the pain we’re all feeling isn’t fair. Could you have stuck around and gotten the right kind of help and gotten better? Could we have gotten our friend back? I will never know the answer to that. 

Back to the collage. I will still make it, one day. For today, I’ll simply include the pics of us the last time things were happy, or we thought they mostly were. Pics from last June, on our trip to belatedly celebrate our 50th birthdays that we all missed due to Covid. In our beautiful little haven in Marin County, we ate and talked and slept and listened to music. We drove through the redwoods, we took pics of deer in our courtyard and sat out by the fire table. It was a perfect trip. You told us both that you hadn’t laughed that hard or felt that cared for in a long time. That is how I will remember you.

 I love you and will always miss you. I wish things had been different, but your friendship was such a gift to me and when I can come out of this fog, I will write down every memory, every fit of laughter. Godspeed, dude. Feel free to haunt me on occasion.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Rose-Colored Privilege

I’ve had the worst time even thinking clearly about my perspective on everything that has been going on in the world, let alone articulate my thoughts out loud or in writing. Even now as I know what I want to say and am actually motivated to express it, I worry. Who am I and who gives a shit about MY perspective? Am I being oppressed right now? Nope. But anything personal is risky, so here goes...

Over the last several weeks after George Floyd's death I have been thinking and reflecting a ton. I have been thinking about my own privilege, which I recognize in the same way other people do...people don't follow me in stores, or check my receipt at Wal-Mart.  But I also have a unique one I think. I don’t even know what to call it and I hesitate to give it a name. Maybe it’ll come to me as I write this.

Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s in Pasadena and Altadena, my surroundings were always diverse. Always. Both my parent’s homes were on blocks where I can name several families who weren’t white. There was one white trash family a couple doors down from my mom…and we did experience what THEIR racism looked like by how they treated our other neighbors. When we saw that, we spoke up (and by spoke up I mean that my 8 year old self and my friend Matt threw rocks at their house and yelled at them). But they were the minority, they were the weirdos who didn’t belong.

When I was school aged, busing had just begun. I don’t know which kid it was, if it was me or one of my siblings, but there is lore of my mom standing with one of us outside Longfellow Elementary with a sign that said “welcome” when it started. As a result, my schools were a gorgeous mix of everyone. It would have felt completely bizarre to me if I had ever been in a classroom with only white people. I can think back to my school pictures and I don’t think it ever happened. It STILL feels bizarre and uncomfortable if I’m in a large group of people and everyone is white. It feels unsettling to me, and just not as familiar and relaxed. Being in a diverse group was normal, it was what was expected. I don’t ever remember having a deep conversation about racism with either of my parents. My mom was a big time activist in a variety of areas. My dad was a high school teacher who was disappointed when his students from San Marino (a very wealthy, mostly white and Asian suburb) referred to his town of Altadena as “Afrodena” because of how integrated it was. I remember him telling me that he called them on it. But beyond that? It just WAS. Being a decent human was the only option. You just didn’t do it because it was wrong. Don't rob people. Don't hurt people. Don't be a racist asshole. And I suppose we watched our parents not be racist assholes. So I grew up with black friends and spent time with their families and became close. My  brother has been with his wife, a black woman, since I was 10 years old, 40 years! Her family became our family, and growing up, I ate greens and macaroni and cheese and monkey bread. My two favorite kinds of food to this day are Southern food and Mexican food. My older brother was a DJ, then a music writer, and now an entertainment attorney. So I listened to Prince, Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind and Fire, and Marvin Gaye growing up, and I didn't see it as being novel or unusual.  

Even though I knew some of the stories when we were younger, I have been heartbroken to hear the awful stories from the black folks in MY life that I never knew until now. Again, the upbringing was such that it honestly didn’t come up very often. There were some instances when I was younger that I actually was either a part of or witnessed. I was disgusted then, and I reacted and spoke out then. But I had absolutely no idea how prevalent it was at the time. Thinking back to my 17 year old self, it’s not as though I knew nothing at all about racism. As far as formal education is concerned, I can confirm that they didn’t teach us much. I knew the general, palatable version of Martin Luther King Jr. Annnnnd….I think that’s it. I never heard of Malcom X until college. I will say that our Humanities teacher Mr. Barnes did show us the film they made about Jane Elliott’s “brown eyes, blue eyes” experiment, and I remember us being outraged. But that experiment took place in 1968, none of us had been born yet. It all just felt so far removed, as if racism happens/happened according to one of these options: 
  • Racism happened a very long time ago.  
  • Racism only happens in the south. 
  • Yeah, there’s some racism, but it’s not that prevalent. When it does happen, it's an outlier.  
That pretty much incapsulates my belief system in my teens, because my environment and the people I surrounded myself with didn’t allow me to ponder the possibility of it being any worse than what I wanted to believe. Now, 30+ years later, I’m learning about these stories of people I love, some of whom have been in my life for decades. And I didn’t know. I mean, we didn't ignore these issues. We all went and saw School Daze and Do The Right Thing and Boyz n the Hood in the theaters when we were young. So it's not as though it was totally unreal, but I didn't realize it touched so many people I know and love, on an absolute regular basis.  I assumed that everyone grew up with a similar experience as mine, why wouldn't they? It was 1988, we were evolved, correct?  INCORRECT. 

Not only is the rest of the world not like that, neither is our country, California, or sections of Los Angeles for that matter. While in my weird ass freshman year of college in Palos Verdes, I felt like I’d landed on a different planet, it was insane. The diversity there was nearly non-existent, with the exception of the basketball team. It was mostly white, sub-par students like myself whose parents were willing to pay a lot for a private junior college where the students could live “on campus” at apartments a couple miles away in San Pedro. It was complete and utter culture shock and I remember really struggling with it. A group of people I’d just met would tell the most horrific racist jokes, and I wasn’t having it. I’d speak up every time because it was disgusting, but also because WHAT?  What the hell are you talking about, you can’t say that! Because saying that kind of shit in my home town was not accepted. That situation evolved to this person actually saying to a group in my presence, “Hey, we can’t joke like that around Jane. She likes black people.”  That was so stupid and absurd that I made a joke about THAT. I believe my response was, "Yes, that's true. And I know every single one of them."  I didn’t hang out with that guy much after that. When people would come over to our apartment and look at my pictures and cassette tapes, occasionally I would get crazy looks and a couple of “do you think you’re black?” from the wealthy white bread girls. Again, absurdities…I know I responded, but it didn’t register or really stick with me in a horrible way because it was so stupid. Racist rich white folks snorting cocaine and driving new BMW's was not my speed. 

I only had that experience for a single year, but it was eye opening. I was blessed to make two very good friends who I have to this day, and neither of them really belonged there either. From there I went back to Pasadena to attend PCC, then to San Francisco State, then UOP in Stockton. All of those environments were diverse and inclusive, so I think I was able to write off my experience in Palos Verdes as an anomaly.  It's not as though we didn't see awful stuff happening. I was in San Francisco when the whole Rodney King thing went down, and we protested downtown. I returned to LA to see one of my best friends graduate from Loyola, and my dad and I had to drive through South Central LA to get there. We saw all the buildings burned and destroyed, and it was heartbreaking. I knew we had a long way to go then, and I had no idea we would still be in such a horrible spot 28 years later.

When I was 24, I met my now husband when I was in graduate school. He had to go to Jacksonville to work for awhile and the company flew me out there to see him. I still don't know how or why, we weren't even engaged yet...but anyway. I knew nothing of Florida, just Disney World and Miami and I'd never been to either. Whooooo, Jacksonville! It's basically southern Georgia, and it was insane. Lots of pickled eggs and boiled peanuts and racism that was so ingrained that it was a normal way of life. Mike heard horrible things while working that I won't write here. But what I saw, and still sticks with me is when we went to see a Jaguars game. We had to park in a neighborhood that was mostly black, and walk to the stadium. People were on their porches watching the people walk through, and I smiled. People didn't smile back. It wasn't hostile, it was as though it was easier to pretend we weren't there. Inside the stadium, we were seated behind a black family. A little boy was standing on the seat, he was maybe around 6 or 7. He suddenly slipped and started to fall backwards. I caught him and said, "whoa buddy, are you okay?" He looked at me completely confused, as his parents did. Not angry, but maybe a little surprised and shocked? I gathered in the week I was there that black and white folks all lived there, but they really didn't interact and everyone just accepted it. Would letting that child FALL be accepted more than me trying to catch him? It felt so unnatural and wrong, and I mostly just wanted to get back to California, in MY world where everyone could interact and it wasn't weird. Because that is what I wanted to think the world was. My world needed to stay like John Muir High School in Pasadena, circa 1988. 

In my job, I have to compartmentalize a lot just to be able to emotionally manage it. So I think I've been able to do the same thing to an extent when it comes to racism and injustice. I've never ignored it, but I'd be lying if I said I haven't avoided it. I haven't watched "When They See Us" or "13" yet. I have read "The Warmth of Other Suns" and "On the Laps of Gods" and I'm glad I did, even though they broke my heart. I have "White Fragility" on my nightstand and will read it when I'm done with the book I'm currently reading. But you know what I have honestly never really done before now? Imagine my children in these situations. I haven't imagined Stephen at 15 being cuffed and slammed against a police car for nothing. I haven't imagined Maddie at 19 being yanked from a car during a protest with a gun pointed at her head. I'm trying to do it now, and it fucking hurts. Lots of tears and nightmares and sleeplessness, empathy is a bitch. But it's truly important and I understand that. People I know and care about it have had to live it, not just imagine it. When a co-worker talked to me after Eric Garner was killed, he shared what he has to tell his two adult sons when they leave the house. I was so upset he has to do this, and he just shrugged and said, "that's the way it is."  If people have to live with this insane, illogical reality, the least I can do is try to put myself in their place, which is a place I will never truly have to be. 

So last night when I couldn't sleep, I thought about the term Rose-Colored Privilege and how I could link it to my experience in my home town. Pasadena is known for the Rose Bowl and the Rose Parade. Some refer to it as Rose City and we spent many many hours in Rose City Diner as teens. So Rose-Colored Privilege seems to fit the bill in more ways than one. Thinking about it now, I got to benefit from all the gifts of being accepted in a culture I wasn't born into. I got to have the friends and family, eat amazing food, dance and listen to the best music. But I didn't have to deal with the downsides very often. I didn't get pulled over all the time, or accused of things I didn't do, or get followed and questioned constantly. And that feels really fucked up and unfair. THAT is some privilege right there. I wouldn't change how I grew up for anything, and I would do anything for the people I know who have had to shoulder this shit since day one. I don't think that racism in this country will ever disappear, I'm not that naive. The people who want to learn are trying, and the rest of the folks who can't grasp the BLM analogies don't really want to understand. What I feel has happened is this: The nasty ass roaches have always been there, but someone turned the lights on and they are everywhere, scattering into every corner. They need to go back into the dark, back into the garbage where they can hang out with the others. Back to where their ignorant vitriolic nonsense isn't accepted or tolerated. I'm seeing some signs of hope, but it's not going to be easy or fast. 

My glasses have been comfortable and reassuring, but I can take them off. Who else is willing to? 

Friday, March 29, 2019

Face the Musicals

My dad was a big theater dude. He moved out to California from Virginia to become an actor in 1950. He had a beautiful singing voice and was in numerous plays and musicals for much of his life. It never turned into a career as far as being able to live off it, but it remained his passion until the day he left.  When I was growing up, my dad had the Broadway versions of the most popular musicals of the 60's and 70's on constant rotation at his house, all on vinyl. All musicals all the time. I've seen a quite a few, but there are many more that I have never seen, despite knowing the entire soundtrack by heart. It's funny how these memories get so solidified in our subconscious. Dad has been gone for over 9 years, but there will never be a time when these musical soundtracks do not remind me of him, and the lines from these songs pop into my mind ALL the time. 

Since my dad died, I've been pretty successful at dodging the musicals. How can I explain how touching these songs are, and how quickly I'm 8 years old again in my father's living room, dancing around to them? I can't. I actually had the idea for this blog post almost 5 years ago, and I stopped writing it, so that shows you guys the power of avoidance. 

A Chorus Line is one of my favorite shows of all time, I've seen it twice (and the crappy movie), and know every line of every song. At The Ballet kills me, KILLS ME, every time I hear it, and I am realizing there are so many reasons why it does and the lyrics that go along with it.

"Mother always said I'd be very attractive, when I grew up, when I grew up. 'Different" she said, with a special something and a very very personal flair. And though I was 8 or 9, though I was 8 or 9, though I was 8 or 9...I hated her. Now 'different' is nice, but it sure isn't pretty, pretty is what it's about. I never met anyone who was 'different', who couldn't figure that out? So beautiful, I'd never live to see. But it was clear, if not to her, well then to me."

Uggggg. Well, shit...this is a true story. When I really WAS 8 or 9, Charlie's Angels was super popular and we would play it at school all the time. I always got stuck playing Kate Jackson, who was the smart, plain one. I always wanted to be Jaclyn Smith, who was just totally gorgeous. Once I was talking to my dad about this and he said, "Well, when you grow up, you'll be cute, but you'll never be beautiful." I remember just accepting this as a fact. Not making excuses, but my dad was a full blown active alcoholic at that time, and he was never flat out mean, but he would say stupid shit sometimes. Years later after he got sober, I talked to him about this exchange. He was beyond mortified and he cried. He said, "I don't remember saying that, but I believe you. And I'm so sorry, and you ARE beautiful!" He felt so awful, and I totally forgave him and knew very well how he felt about me, but I am glad I talked about it before he died. Is this one of the reasons I remain fairly vain and self-conscious??  Perhaps...

"I don't know that they were for or against, really, except each other. I mean, I was born to save their marriage but when my father came to pick my mother up at the hospital he said 'well, I thought this was going to help, but I guess it's not."

The jury is still out as far as I'm concerned, and half the jury is dead. My mother has told me that I was very much planned, and intended to be a celebration of the fact that my dad had stopped drinking (unsuccessfully, as it turned out). I have also heard tell that I was an "ooops" baby. My sister is almost 9 years older than me and my brother is almost 6 years older. That's a big gap. My parents started their divorce when I was 3.  Was I supposed to fix it? I'll never truly know, and my parents had no business being together anyway, so things turned out the way they should have. At the end of the day, I'm glad I'm here!

"Up a steep and very narrow stairway, to the voice like a metronome. Up a steep and very narrow stairway, it wasn't paradise, it wasn't paradise, it wasn't paradise, but it was home."

I love dance, I always have. I record So You Think You Can Dance every year, and every year it confounds my husband. When I was a little person, I took ballet lessons and I loved it so very much, but I missed a lot of lessons and ended up kind of giving up on it. I regret that. However, although my mom and I didn't get along very well when I was growing up, one of the things we would do together was go to the ballet. One night we had really good seats, I don't remember why. I think it was a last minute upgrade thing. It was the American Ballet Theater's rendition of Giselle. The loudspeaker came on and said there had been a change and the lead would be played by...Mikhail Baryshnikov. HOLY CRAP.  That was an experience I will remember for the rest of my life, EASY. Every time that man jumped in the air, the entire theater gasped. And he made NO sound when he landed. NONE. I think I was around 15 then.

Soooo....that is one song, from one show. My word. The rest of them aren't that deep, I assure you. 

I never saw Pippin. The plot, from what I can remember was pretty confusing and it had to do with Charlemagne? But man, my father wore this album OUT. Ben Vereen was in his prime, and him singing "Magic To Do" still makes me teary. "Corner of the Sky" is still one of my favorites to sing along to.

"Cats fit on the windowsill, children fit in the snow. Why do I feel I don't fit in anywhere I go? Rivers belong where they can ramble, eagles belong where they can fly. I've got to be where my spirit can run free, gotta find my corner of the sky."

MAN. It's so hard to articulate. My siblings will understand. I have all these songs on my playlist and when I shuffle "songs" in my car, I need to be careful that I don't weep my makeup off, depending on where I'm going.

Ohhh,West Side Story! Easily my favorite by a large margin. If it's on, I will drop everything and watch. It was so brilliantly done, and I know the line of EVERY song in that one. They could have, oh I don't know, found an ACTUAL Hispanic woman to play Maria instead of darkening Natalie Wood, but that was a long time ago. The choreography of that show is impeccable. Gang activity with dancing? I'm there for it. And seriously, has anyone since Rita Moreno been able to dance like that? It was like she didn't have a spine, she was a boneless Puerto Rican lady in that movie. 

"I like the isle of Manhattan. Smoke on your pipe and put that in!" 

The romance in that film does me in as well. The performance and the lyrics of Somewhere always touch me and always make me cry when I watch it.

"There's a place for us. A time and a place for us. Peace and quiet and open air, wait for us somewhere. There's a time for us. Someday there'll be a time for us.Time together with time to spare, time to learn, time to care."

It's just so damn wistful and hopeful, and they pretty much know it isn't going to happen. It's one of those songs that also makes me really grateful for my life and the way things have turned out for me and my family. 

I never saw The Fantasticks, and honestly have no clue what it's about. I don't even know how often dad played this album, although I definitely recognize the album cover. It was older, in the 60's before I was around. But what I do remember and love about this show is the memory of my dad singing "Try to Remember" in his house. I downloaded Jerry Orbach's version recently and my dad had a better voice, so I was a little disappointed. 

"Try to remember when life was so tender that no one wept, except the willow. Try to remember when life was so tender that dreams were kept beside your pillow. Try to remember when life was so tender that love was an ember about to billow. Try to remember and if you remember, then follow, follow, follow, follow..."

When I got older, my dad and I would actually head out and see musicals. We saw Cats...good costumes, some good songs? Altogether weird. We also saw Les Mis and Phantom, which were amazing. You can always spot a theater dork by whether or not they abbreviate the names of the shows. I miss going to plays and musicals with my dad, but I am so thankful they were a part of my youth.

Since he died, I haven't seen any. Mike and I were in Disneyland without our kids in early February 2010. We went to see the live Aladdin show just for fun, and it was super entertaining and well done, and yet I was weeping the whole time and I had no idea why. Probably because it had been such a long time since I'd been to something like that, and because it reminded me of him. On the way out of town to head home, we stopped by to see my dad in Altadena. He looked good, but as we left I was crying again...I think I knew it was the last time I would see him, and it was. He passed about 2-3 weeks later. 

I've got to get back into indulging in these things I love. I haven't seen Wicked, or Hamilton. I tell myself that it's because you now have to be independently wealthy to see musicals now, but that's only part of the reason. They remind me of my dad and the fact that I can't see them with him anymore, although I know it would make him happy if I did. I never acted, I didn't ever try. I never truly danced and stuck to it, which is too bad because I really did love it. I can't sing, that is just an objective fact. I still do it, but only when alone and when the music is so loud I can't hear myself. But this old art is in my veins, and it will remain there. I am so thankful to my dad and my mom for exposing me to these things! For my kids, it's all music. This weekend I am taking Stephen to SF to see Victor Wooten, a famous jazz bassist. This will be the 3rd show I have seen with him, and I've probably been to 5 or so with Maddie. I'm glad they'll have those memories, and I hope they hold them close when I'm gone. 

Time to Face The Musicals. 

Monday, December 31, 2018

Happy New Year.

So it's New Year's Eve again. I am in my very festive outfit of jeans, sweatshirt and Converse. I don't really know how to sum up's been trippy. Educational. Revealing. Here are some things that I've learned and taken away from the last year...

  • I don't have to be nice to anyone who is a dick. If this is at work, I will maintain and behave myself within reason. But if you are mean or cruel to a child, heartless and demanding to people I care about, and mostly think about yourself instead of the children we are ALL working for, don't expect anything extra from me. I don't smile, hug, or wave to people I don't like. If it's in my personal life, it's a little easier to pare them away. Boundaries are necessary and wonderful and BRILLIANT, but guess what? People who have gotten used to you always wanting to please don't much care for boundaries. Guess what else? It doesn't matter.
  • The friendships I have managed to maintain over 10, 28, 36 years are priceless. The feelings that I get when I am around these people are hard to describe, but are so incredibly reassuring and comfortable. Sadly, none of these folks are local, but they're also not horribly far away. I resolve to make more of an effort to spend time with ALL of you people. Renee, Lesli, Beth, Lisa, Mona, Cara, and Adam...let's just make it happen. It doesn't always have to be because of a reunion, or a funeral, or a convention. You guys mean the actual world to me and you know what? Life is fucking short. Spend the time and the money required to be with people who feed your soul.
  • We went through some tough stuff this year. It's all too personal for a blog post, but you know what I learned? No one is immune to a goddamn thing. Think "that" can't happen to you? You're wrong. Don't ever wrap yourself in that deceptive warm blanket of denial, because reality will end up kicking your ass. You get up, dust yourself off and take care of your business. I learned that I am able to deal with a WHOLE LOT of difficult shit, whilst working, washing dishes, and continuing to live life. Did I always deal with all of it with patience and grace? Ha, NOPE. I am a human being with intense emotions and a bad temper. But I do feel like we all dealt with things effectively and didn't ignore hard things. And HOLY HUMILITY. Humility is a good thing. We all go through awful stuff, and it's stupid to think that you won't. I'm not above anyone, and certainly not above any of the families I work with who are struggling. 
  • I care entirely too much about getting and looking old. It's fucking stupid and I need to get over it. Yep, I am a vain person and I own that, but I think it's time to start accepting some of this with grace. I'm not going to stop coloring my hair (TOTALLY hair is white), or stop wearing makeup, or gain a lot of weight (I hope). But I am going to try to not obsess over every little thing that is changing as I age. I'll try to stop looking at my 10x magnifying mirror and being so tough on myself. I will be 49 in April. I'm not that bad. And honestly, NO ONE CARES. Just me. My husband is more interested in me now than he was when I was younger, shouldn't that be enough? Get over yourself, Jane. Move along. And go get your bifocals because you need them. 
  • As a mom, letting go is about 127 times harder than I thought it would be. I have an 18 year old senior now, with her own car, with her own job, who will be attending college in August. She's already been accepted to four, and is pretty sure the Bay Area is her destiny. She is an intelligent, funny, capable, and insanely talented kid. And now, I am working so incredibly hard at backing off. I still need to know where she is (roughly), and know what time she'll be home. But what I don't need to do is try to navigate every single difficult situation for her. She can do it. Soon enough we will be dropping her off at school and driving away. I know NOW that this will feel as uncomfortable and abnormal as when we left her as a baby for the first time. I remember saying it was like leaving the house without my arm. I will have to learn to live my life without my arm now. I won't say the cord is totally cut, but I have been diligently sawing away at it. I couldn't be more proud of the person she is becoming, now she gets to do it without me. She's always going to be my baby, but she's NOT me. Me feeling like I had to help her with every single aspect of her life is about me, not her. She will be fine. And now I will have four years to do the same thing to her brother. 🙄
  • My faith has been shaky for awhile, and what has been nice about this year is that I'm okay with it being shaky. I'm disillusioned by faith way more often than uplifted by it. At the end of the day, it's not God's problem, it's the people who proclaim their faith the loudest. Some people are just full of shit, and that's their problem. I honestly don't believe that God loves me less for being disgruntled and questioning everything. I am lucky enough to have many people in my life who routinely question and debate issues regarding faith, and that we can all do it with love and acceptance. Questioning is how you grow. I've known this intellectually for years, but I don't think I really felt it until this year. When we were regularly going to church, I felt like I never fit in. I'm weird. I don't fit a mold. I curse a LOT. My marriage isn't "traditional", it feels weird even writing that! Our marriage WORKS, it's just that I work longer hours, Mike is the cook, and we really are partners. Neither of us is the "head of the household", we both are. So as far as the stuff we were fed about submission and honor, yada yada doesn't matter. I talk to God all the time, and I know He's still there. I just never managed to check all the boxes. Oh well. 
  • I've been dealing with some anxiety the last few years, and I haven't really faced it or talked about it before. I think the first time I really recognized it was when Sandy Hook happened in 2012, because I truly freaked the hell out. After that, some very close friends experienced close calls in life. Since those incidents, I know to take note of things when I start feeling really anxious. I can usually rein it in, it's not debilitating. However, I routinely worry about ridiculous crap. It can be day to day stuff, feeling like I am responsible for the state of everyone else's relationships, or imagining the worst possible thing happening all day long. Mindfulness and learning to ground myself helps. Learning to meditate helps, even though I am a major beginner. I'm also learning that my humor being a defense mechanism has it's place, but sometimes it exhausts even me. I don't have to make a joke out of absolutely everything, although I do see humor when others don't. Basically, while I won't be this way around everyone (nor should I), it's okay to cut the crap and be vulnerable sometimes. I'm always telling everyone else that it's okay!

Basically, anything can happen to any of us. Shootings, lockdowns, cancer, horrible accidents. I'd be lying if I said that the future doesn't scare me, because we are all in for pain and heartache. But going into this new year, I am going to do the very best I can to focus on the good, all the many things that make everything worth it. Music remains my constant companion, and well-written books ("Becoming" is awesome). My family is my life. I adore and lean on so many of my incredible co-workers, whose support and love have been invaluable. There is an amazing amount of good and beauty out there, people. Everyone can see it, but sometimes you have to take the time to look for it. It's worth it.

Happy 2019, folks!

Monday, July 30, 2018

Sub-Par Summer Mom

I'm lucky enough to have summers off with my children, who are now 13 and 17. Social media can be counted upon to make me feel lazy, uninspired, and inadequate. Sooo many of my friends and coworkers went to Hawaii, Mexico, Alaska, Europe...we did not. This has been the case for a long time. Mike's pool business is such that taking time off during the summer is just too hard, it's his busiest time. 

In addition, our kids have their lives rolling...Maddie retook a math class during summer school (and did waaaay better this time, yay!), so for the entire month of June, I drove her to school at 8am and picked her up at 3:30. It was a big sacrifice for her, but I think she will have a much more enjoyable senior year now. I hope! She also has a steady job and is the lead guitarist in a band that is getting steady gigs in Sacramento. Said child has a license, but no car, so I was either driving her places or she had my car. Here she is with adorable is this? These young people are TALENTED with a capital T. 

Stephen participated in Stairway to Stardom this summer for the first time, which just ended yesterday. He had stuff to attend almost every Saturday for 8 weeks, in addition to weekly rehearsals and practises. The in-store practises were at Skips Music in Sacramento, which isn't too far. The out of store practises took place at the guitarist's home, for which I am grateful to their family. What I was fairly cranky and bitter about was the fact that this home was in Orangevale and practice was 3-5 on Fridays. 45 minutes to get there and about an hour to get home. I shopped. A lot. I walked around and shopped aimlessly so much this summer that I am sick of shopping. For anyone who knows me well, this is no easy feat. The music program culminated in a final concert yesterday at noon at the Quarry Amphitheater in Rocklin.  There is no way to predict weather and the fact that California is currently ON FIRE, so it was super hot and smoky. But overall it went great, and HE did great. Did he discover his life's passion? We aren't sure, but he followed through and never missed a single practice or clinic. We are super proud of him.

So although I did not take any exotic vacations, do day trips (because no one's schedule EVER permitted this), did crafts, cooked super healthy, exercised, or had any significant adventures with my family, I did do stuff.

Here's what I did:

  • I read books. BOOKS, plural.  This lovely little pile on my nightstand is somewhat completed. I read The Handmaids Tale for the first time this summer, and Holy mother of God. Really chilling, especially in the current climate in our country. I have not had the stomach to watch the miniseries. I know it's brilliant, I know I would appreciate it, but sometimes fiction that is too close to reality just upsets me. I would rather watch insanely ridiculous things, like "reality" that is total fiction, like the stupid Housewives. Sue me. I watch all of them. I also read Lisa See's most recent was okay, not my fav. I just finished The Girl with Seven Names that is a memoir about escaping from North Korea, and it was RIVETING. It was different from other stories about the same thing...this young lady defected somewhat by accident. For anyone who is interested in learning about this kind of thing, I highly recommend it. I'm currently reading Girls Burn Brighter, which has started well! The bottom three on the pile are still to be tackled.
  • I planted flowers and then I NURTURED THEM. 

This may not seem like a big deal to other people, for whom this stuff comes naturally. I'm somewhat known to have a black thumb. I love plants and flowers, but often have bad luck. This summer, my potted flowers just worked out and I'm so excited! I chose these plants so carefully, loving the brighter colors as opposed to the pastels. My favorite color combo is yellow and purple. Just looking at them makes me feel calm and happy. Turns out you have to do more than just water them. I learned about organic bug spray and dead-heading, and so far everything is still blooming. There are more around the pool, snapdragons, more pansies, vinca, and ones I don't remember the names of. Mike built me the plant stand out of scrap wood that he had left over from another project.

  • I watched my cat relax. Yes, that is indeed an activity. This animal has got relaxing down to an art form, and just being in the presence of it is a joy. I don't think she's normal, but she brings our family a great deal of happiness, and I swear to god she lowers my blood pressure. 

  • I parented. I parented HARD. I don't have any cute pictures of this, as there wasn't a lot about it that was cute. I remember the old saying of "this is going to hurt me more than it hurts you" and I understand it now. Disclaimer...not physical pain, no one was struck! Here's the truth...normal teenagers screw up. They lie, they omit important information, and they take advantage of certain scenarios to see how far they can go. A lot of that happened this summer, and a lot of it was unearthed. It sucks disciplining a kid! It truly does...when they're grounded, you are too. When you take the car away, you have to drive them everywhere again. And then when you're in a position where you have NO other option than to take away an opportunity that the kid has looked forward to and planned for months, it HURTS! I honestly had no idea, because we have never really had to do this before. Lots and lots of tears in our home this past month, and they did not all come from the punished teenager. Their brains, man. They are so far from being fully cooked, and this is our JOB, to teach them that their decisions and actions have consequences. It's a very hard job. But we did it, and we all lived through it, at least as of today. Shortly after The Big Consequence, there was The Big Heartbreak. I won't go into details here, but it was about 250 different kinds of fucked up. The only thing that hurts a mom more than having to majorly discipline their kid is to see them emotionally destroyed and not being able to fix it. This too shall pass, but DAMN!!!
  • I worked extra. I am currently working extra, actually. Why would I do such a thing? Am I insane? Am I a glutton for punishment and can't think of anything better to do? Maybe? But I wanted to do this...partially because I can get a lot done within a very short amount of time and appear superhuman. To my folks that I am currently working with, I appreciate the kudos, but I DO NOT work at this pace all of the time. Trust me on that one. Also, I desperately need my kid to acquire a car. She has to save a set amount, and we will kick in the rest. She is about halfway there, and I'm already looking at used beaters online. Let's all join hands and look forward to the day I will no longer have to drive my children to school, at least for a year. This will be my emancipation. Getting up and just going to work will be like a vacation unto itself. 
  • I didn't kill my teenagers. At least as of 7:56pm on July 30th, I have not. I didn't take them on numerous adventures. But I did go to the movies with them, helped the girl color her hair, helped them get their rooms together, did endless laundry, drove them approximately 5,000 miles all over the greater Sacramento area and replied to ten thousand texts. 
The comparisons are what kills us, moms. I see all the adorable, sun-drenched photos and I feel lame and inadequate. I feel like I am missing out on opportunities to "make memories". I feel like I am not trying hard enough. But then I have memories of being at my father's house with my brother and his now wife, watching MTV when it first premiered. I remember being at my mom's house, both of us studying while fresh bread was baking. None of this was exciting, or took place on a beach in Greece. Despite this, the memories are sweet, and I am grateful for them. We might not be the most exciting parents in the world, we're probably in the running for the most boring. We're pretty much always on our couch, desperately looking for something decent to watch on television. But we are ACCESSIBLE. Our kids know where to find us. There was not a single moment this summer during which they needed me and I wasn't available.

Maybe I don't suck as much as I think I do. Maybe most moms are just plugging along, being available to their children and doing the best they can. Wouldn't it be amazing if there was a way we could capture such a thing on Instagram? 

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Leave Them Alone.

What is striking me at this moment is that it's disheartening that I've already written about this, I wrote about school shootings in 2012 when Sandy Hook happened and my heart f'ing shattered. But here we are, and it keeps happening. Being redundant makes me cranky because I do it a lot, so I am going to attempt to make the focus of this entry focused in a different direction. Let's see how that goes!

Today I went downtown with my 17 year old daughter to participate in March for our Lives. It was an uplifting, positive, and hopeful experience. We made it all the way to the steps and were feet away from the speakers, many of them students. We were close enough that I could see their notes shaking in their hands, and hear their nervousness in speaking in front of so many people. I listened as some of the crowd was rude, screaming that they couldn't hear them. The PA system left a lot to be desired, but what can you do in the moment? But we heard them. We heard the kids from my daughter's school talk about how scary it was a couple weeks ago when their school was on lockdown for almost two hours due to a rumor of a kid being on campus with a gun. I know how scary that was for me. I know how scary it was for my daughter. However, somehow hearing it from other kids struck me hard. I hate hate HATE thinking about kids being scared. It's the main thing that just puts me over the edge in almost every possible scenario. Footage from war zones, kids who have been abused or experienced other trauma, kids put into adult situations that they don't understand, so the product is just pure confusion and WRECKS ME.

I know that my colleagues understand the following perspective, but I don't know if a lot of other people do. I've been an educational psychologist for 21 years, a good fat chunk of my life. Schools are my world. When you spend enough time in a certain environment, it seeps into your blood. I've always loved school culture. The routines, the traditions, the disciplinary challenges, the assemblies, the joys, the bad band concerts, ALL of it. I feel like I've gotten to intimately know so many elements of it and the people who dwell within it. Everyone has their own perspective, the admin, custodians, teachers, librarians, office staff, it's all unique. What isn't unique is all of these people's total dedication to keeping kids safe. One issue with having empathy (which honestly I often wish I didn't have) is that it hurts. Sandy Hook killed me. I could NOT get the images out of my mind, I couldn't stop thinking about all the staff that made it, and how I know for a fact that every single person at that school wishes they'd done more. I couldn't stop thinking about the parents waiting for their baby to show up at the meeting spot, and knowing some never did. My own kids were in elementary school at the time. Now, my children are in middle and high school, and this shit keeps happening. And when it does, it spins me right the hell out. I think of it from a parent's perspective, I hated with a passion that my daughter was so scared, stuck under her desk for two hours wondering what the hell was happening and texting me. I hated trying to reassure her when I honestly wasn't sure that it was nothing. I think of it from an employee's perspective, knowing that all the teachers and staff at her high school were just as scared as the kids were, and they were thinking about their own families. And I think about it from another perspective, with the knowledge that if that ever happened at one of my schools, I might not come home. If I saw a little person in imminent danger, I don't think I could keep myself from diving in front of them. And if somehow I was able to keep myself from doing that and kids died that I could have helped, I would never forgive myself. No matter the outcome, I would never be the same.

These kids from Parkland will never be the same. Over the past few weeks I have foolishly allowed myself to see how some are treating these kids. It has honestly blown my mind how many "adults" have attacked, denigrated, and condescended to these kids. I saw one lawmaker of some sort, claiming that the incredibly brave young people on the cover of Time weren't REALLY victims of the shooting because they weren't in the same building that the shooting took place. I've seen people claim that they're actors. I personally encountered people online (big mistake) who claimed that every kid who walked out recently just did it to get out of school, that their parents are losers, that they all need to get the shit smacked out of them.  This makes me CRAZY. I can't speak to the hearts of every single kid at Parkland, or the kids at CO who walked out with my daughter. What they do all have in common though, is that THEY ARE STILL KIDS.  They didn't ask for any of this shit, they just wanted to slog through the hell that is high school for so many and get on with their lives. I honestly don't understand the public and their disdain for this generation. One minute they're ridiculing them for eating Tide Pods (which is indeed beyond ridiculous) and then they're telling them that they can't vote, they can't change laws, so they should shut up and stay in their place. What the hell do they want from them? Let's say, for the sake of argument, that everything that these kids are trying to do will be useless. Let's say nothing will actually change...why the hell would people still want to ridicule and fault them for TRYING???  Isn't this better than getting drunk and eating Tide Pods? Isn't it amazing that they're attempting to affect change and make things better, even if it doesn't work? Why is it that the adults in this country can't afford them a teeny sliver of grace, even if they don't agree? It is heartbreaking to me.

These kids are traumatized, and are still marching, still speaking, still standing up for what they believe in. They aren't getting ready to graduate, to go to prom, to choose a college. That's what a lot of them thought they'd be doing two months ago, but it's not how it turned out for them. Those incredible young people are in PAIN. They're having nightmares, and flashbacks, and aren't eating, sleeping, thinking. PTSD is a real thing, and all the kids in Parkland have experienced trauma in varying degrees. Seeing Emma Gonzalez speak today in Washington killed  me. She is strong, amazing, brave, articulate, courageous, and incredibly intelligent. You know what else she is? She's 18, she's a KID. She lives with her parents, and probably fights with them sometimes, she's gotten into trouble, and cried about someone she's dated. She probably stressed out about her SAT's and her GPA. And now she and her classmates are in the public eye, something they didn't plan on, but something that they are going to follow through with because they believe in it.

People don't have to agree with these kids. They can disagree with every single word that comes out of their mouths, that's fine. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and perspective, and they usually have valid reasons for them. But for the love of God, LEAVE THEM ALONE. If you don't agree, don't attack them, don't send their families death threats. Let them heal. They have been through something so life-changing, most people can't even conceive of it. To me, they are heroes, trailblazers, world changers, and KIDS. The protective mama bear in me comes out every time I see an attack against one of these precious souls. Please, just leave them alone. They could be my kid, and THEY COULD BE YOURS.