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Did you know that Thomas Jefferson was the first President to propose and use ballot initiatives while WE the people are voting for our elected officials? And next week, for the first time since the killing of 20 schoolchildren in Newtown, CT between the ages of 6 and 7, the state of Washington will have 2 questions on the ballot about guns.

Initiative 594 would require all firearm sales, including those at gun shows and conducted online, to be predicated on a background check of the buyer. Initiative 591, however, would disallow background checks for gun purchases unless explicitly required by the federal government. http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/04/16/us-usa-firearm-measures-idUSBREA3F1XL20140416

62% of voters in that state favor expanding background checks according to polls, but since they can vote on both questions it may be confusing. Will Washington be the fifth state to close the gun show loophole, along with New York, Connecticut, Colorado and Delaware? Considering the most recent school shooting in Marysville, it is a timely question.

When we were young, we had fire drills in school. An alarm would go off and everybody had to proceed calmly towards the door, file into the hallway one by one in a straight line and convene outside in the parking lot. Teachers counted heads to make sure everyone was present and accounted for. They tell me we had atomic bomb drills too, hiding under our desks, but I don’t remember those. I do remember filing upstairs at Sacred Heart School for our first dose of a newfangled Polio vaccine

But today teachers and students are practicing what to do should a person with a gun walk through their front doors. It’s conveniently called a “Lockdown Drill.” Think about that for a second, our children are taking time out of their day to play hide and seek in a pretend scenario with a crazed maniac.

In this Washington Post article a teacher talks about having to keep her 4 and 5 year old students hidden and quiet in a classroom closet for 13 minutes!  13 minutes…”16 tiny bodies sitting crisscross applesauce, hands in laps, plus two adults…Instead of controlling guns and inconveniencing those who would use them, we are rounding up and silencing a generation of schoolchildren, and terrifying those who care for them. We are giving away precious time to teach and learn while we cower in fear.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/rehearsing-for-death-a-pre-k-teacher-on-the-trouble-with-lockdown-drills/2014/10/28/4ab456ea-5eb2-11e4-9f3a-7e28799e0549_story.html

She has a point, a very valid point. Instead of rehearsing for death WE the people should start screaming. I was sickened to learn that three states have ballot initiatives to try and curtail a woman’s ability to choose to have a child. TRAP laws and Personhood amendments galore, our glorious, religious right/wing/nuts would love to have government by and for WE the people control our sexual and reproductive health. But, hey keep your hands off our guns! They would rather have our teachers and children terrorized in school – and believe you me, WE are more likely to be gunned down outside a school in this country –  than propose universal background checks for gun owners. How sick and sad is that.

A ratio of 3 to 1, three states against choice to one that is trying to tackle gun violence. After Newtown, President Obama said “Shame on us,” if this tragedy doesn’t result in new gun laws. Shame on us indeed.

I teach in a country awash in weaponry. Maybe that moment I stood alone in my classroom was when I was closest to the truth. In 13 minutes, according to my gruesome and involuntary mental calculus, a single gunman with his effortlessly obtained XM15-E2S rifle and 26 rounds in each of two additional magazines could potentially kill 78 of us.    Proponents Of Increased Gun Control Laws Demonstrate In Washington

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I’m back on the road again. My pilgrimage past Davy Crockett’s birthplace and Dollywood has me listening to another podcast of This American Life, and this time the theme is “Mean Friends.” You’ve got to love being able to laugh out loud while driving through pop-up thunderstorms and trucks-in-left-lanes on windy mountain roads. The girl’s name was “Cohen” and she fluffed off a would-be suitor in middle school by letting him think they could be “Hi, Bye” friends. In other words, she’d acknowledge him in the hallways but that’s all…and he was ecstatic!

Are girls better at being mean? Is this our first feeble attempt at self-protection? I remember in high school a boy from a private school asked me to go to his prom. I accepted, but only if he promised to drop me off at my future-husband-then-almost-boyfriend’s house afterwards. And he did! I didn’t think I was being mean at the time, I actually thought I was being kind?!

I remember so clearly chasing the Bride around a preschool birthday party, telling her it’s not OK to tease and chase another little girl. I could see it already, my tyrant in blonde curls was the queen bee of her little posse, she was the mighty, mini trendsetter. Probably our move back to NJ when she was in 2nd Grade nipped that in the bud. It’s so easy to go all Lord of the Flies when your family stays in one insular community, “,,,after all we aren’t savages really…”

I asked my little Mussolini how she would feel if her feet were in that girl’s shoes. Yes, at times like this I would go all biblical, and believe me parents, you will too. I recently read a letter on Momastery titled “Brave is a Decision” this is excellent reading before the little ones head off to school. If you’d like to instill a little compassion and not so much as a mean bone in your child’s body, this one’s for you.

We don’t send you to school to become the best at anything at all. We already love you as much as we possibly could. You do not have to earn our love or pride and you can’t lose it. That’s done.
We send you to school to practice being brave and kind.
Kind people are brave people. Because brave is not a feeling that you should wait for. It is a decision. It is a decision that compassion is more important than fear, than fitting in, than following the crowd.

– See more at: http://momastery.com/blog/2014/08/21/the-one-letter-to-read/#sthash.0aYv3r2N.dpuf

I’m meeting my “bad” in a good way MIL, the queen bee of her generation who broke a few hearts along the way, to pay homage to the next generation of “it” girls, our Love Bug is turning the BIG TWO. She has just started school and I’m hoping she’ll sit next to the kid without a lunch and offer to share her bento box. But she’ll also need to channel some mean into her young life, so she stands up for herself, so she can fight back when needed.

You can’t take Jersey out of the girl.

Carousel of Time

Carousel of Time

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Holden 09 005 FB

Serenity in a mountain view

August and September are filled with birthdays in my family. The Bride and my sister Kay share back to back birthdays, I call us Virgo/Libra types (you can count me in later this month) – the Christmas party babies! Happy Birthday to them on this glorious weekend.

These two share more than a couple of dates on the calendar. Kay introduced the Bride to art in her New York City apartment. My sister studied at the Art Student’s League and she also helped to illustrate many medical books during her years working at Mt Sinai Hospital and producing graphic art for the Medical School. With sun pouring through her beautiful Upper East Side window overlooking a garden, the young Bride was given a pencil and a blank canvas along with the love and encouragement of her Aunt Kay.

Painting has been a common thread throughout both their lives. After a long high school day filled with too many AP classes, the Bride would settle into her art class and paint along with beautiful music.  My home is filled with drawings from those days. And Kay’s renditions of our farmhouse in the Berkshires, and our beautiful Welsh Corgis will always decorate our walls.

This meditative time, setting up the instruments of art, the pencils or delicate brushes and turpentine, the smells, the easel outdoors, the time alone to ponder and really see – to see their way into a subject – this bit of creation helped them deal with the everyday stress of school and work. It helped them to slow down.

The Bride sent me an article this week about being busy. http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/30/the-busy-trap/?_r=1&

Almost everyone I know is busy. They feel anxious and guilty when they aren’t either working or doing something to promote their work. They schedule in time with friends the way students with 4.0 G.P.A.’s  make sure to sign up for community service because it looks good on their college applications. I recently wrote a friend to ask if he wanted to do something this week, and he answered that he didn’t have a lot of time but if something was going on to let him know and maybe he could ditch work for a few hours. I wanted to clarify that my question had not been a preliminary heads-up to some future invitation; this was the invitation. But his busyness was like some vast churning noise through which he was shouting out at me, and I gave up trying to shout back over it.

The author, Tim Kreider, calls this addiction to busyness a kind of hedge against emptiness, an “existential reassurance.”  We impose it on ourselves and it makes us feel important. After all, if we’re always so busy, how can we ever take time off for self-awareness. He posits that you don’t hear people holding down two jobs with four kids complaining about being too busy, because they’re just plain exhausted. Interesting stuff, this monkey brain!

Surprisingly an old friend simultaneously posted an article about being a distracted parent, about always saying, “Hurry up!” to her child. And I could see how this attraction to being busy can get its start. The child who likes to dawdle, who stops to talk with strangers, who wants to engage with her environment soon learns to make a goal and stick to a time schedule. And if she or he doesn’t, they may be labeled “special” in school…instead of “artist.”

The Love Bug likes to stop for ice cream with her parents. Slowing down is something children can either help us to do, or we can teach them how to be anxious. We’re the adult in this equation, it’s our choice.  photo

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