Friday, January 29, 2016

We took our time getting downstairs.
There were books to read and foam candles to put in and out of the foam menorah.
But hunger overtook Grandma, so on went the clothes and downstairs we went.
Breakfast was cottage cheese (note the spoon for self feeding) and fruit and then it was time to brush brush brush those teeth.
Once again, FlapJilly asserted her independence.
She gets those back molars with enthusiasm and vigor.
It was a very soft shirt she wore for breakfast.
The sippy cup with milk was empty.
Refilling it was easy; replacing the cap was not.
I failed.
She was covered in milk.
Off went the soft pink outfit, and on went Outfit #2.... which fell victim to Grandma's Perrier bottle.
For some reason, I thought that sharing with Miss Independent was appropriate.
It was not.

I was tired of choosing outfits, so into the tub we went.
The Splash Party was so much fun, 
but naked baby pictures are not going to make their way into The Burrow
 so you'll have to use your imagination.
Be sure to include a sodden grandmother in your imagining.... the kid does like to splash!

Seret came over for lunch, bringing a guitar for the clad-only-in-a-diaper baby.
It didn't take long for her to rock out. 
Lunch was corn and lox and noodles from the bowl.
I took a clue from Little Cuter's attitude and put FlapJilly in the high chair.
After all, I do want to be invited back.

There were more books after nap time, and some Elmo on Grandma's phone, and then it was time to go to the train station and pick up Mommy. 
There's nothing better than this.

How lucky I am to share it.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

There was breakfast in the big girl chair, once again.
Mommy is not too pleased with me, but I'm ignoring her.
FlapJilly is happy to be there, and that's all that matters to me.
We went to the big library in Naperville.
The kids' area is different from the children's libraries I knew as a child.
Toys, play rugs, noise.... it was a welcoming space with no shushing. 
Family Story Time was nearly 100 kids and grown ups in a sunny, carpeted auditorium.
The librarian had a microphone and a projector to display the pages on the screen and a lovely felt board right in front of us.
FlapJilly was enthralled.  
We danced and listened and danced some more.
The Hokey Pokey is ubiquitous; she remembered it from Music Class and had a great time shaking it all about.

Grandma was hungry after all that fun, so we hit Panera for some mac and cheese.

After some initial exploration,
my apple became her dessert.
She was quite serious about choosing her bites.  
Her precision amused the other grandparents in the surrounding chairs.
We shared the love, agreeing that FlapJilly made everything taste much better.

After we napped, in separate rooms but for exactly the same amount of time,
it was tie to throw some balls around the family room.
Climbing up on the ottoman was a new trick, and the applause was overwhelming.
We dumped and picked up and dumped and picked up the balls... over and over and over again.
I really tried to have the house cleaned up by the time her parents returned, but I failed.
They didn't seem to care.
That made everyone smile.

We listened to Pandora kids radio and danced and kicked balls and dunked balls in the hoop and played peek a boo and then it was time for dinner.
I've never seen a toddler eat lox before.  
I sent my siblings this picture, though I'm not sure what point I was trying to make.
Perhaps I just needed to share the joy.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

We read books.
We ate breakfast and snacks sitting in the big girl chair,
even though Mommy said the high chair was the appropriate venue.
Grandma's a soft touch.
We cleaned up the balls, after dumping them out and picking them up and dumping them out and picking them up.  
Sometimes the basket ended up on her head, 
but books could be read through the mesh, 
so there was nothing to worry about.
There was time to love the doggie,
and then there were more books.
After nap, and a change of outfits,
we spent some time watching the migrating birds out the front window.
Thomas the Wonder Dog was as interested as we were, 
and we were very very glad that he was around.
A trip to the grocery store afforded the opportunity to wear the silliest hat that Grandma crocheted.
And then Mommy came home and joy abounded. 
The young family rested while Grandma made dinner.
They worked all day and deserved the couch time.
Sesame Street entranced them as I made spaghetti and meatballs.

It's not profound.
It's not deep.
But this post makes me very happy.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A Travel Day

I left class at noon, and couldn't find anyplace enticing for lunch on the way to the airport. I parked, splurging for the $3.99 per day covered space, and was delivered to the terminal efficiently and effortlessly.  Since I leave clothes with the kids, I travel with electronics and not much else.  Packing is a breeze, and walking through the airport is a non-event.

How different this is as time passes.  It wasn't long ago that I was leaning on a cane, begging for an early boarding pass so that no one would bump me.  I'm a comfortable, confident traveler again, and it feels great.  Progress is hard to measure when all the days are the same; it takes returning to a formerly-difficult-situation to impress myself.

My change-in-DFW flight was at the gate next to the direct flight, which hadn't left yet, which had seats available, and which carried me non-stop from Tucson to O'Hare.  From the sunshine to the pouring rain.... but at least it isn't snowing.

SIR and I caught up on his work and his weekend with his daughter.  "It's not babysitting... I'm her FATHER!" was his response to co-workers' amazement that he'd be spending the weekend assuming total responsibility for his daughter's care.  Little Cuter was away, honing her craft, as he built a fort out of sheets, covering the family room and causing his little one to twirl and spin and stare at the lowered canvas above her.  He seemed none the worse for wear.

FlapJilly was awake and reticent when I walked in the door, but within a little while she was snuggling and giggling and peek-a-boo-ing .... and I was in love.  She is bigger and more beautiful, as if that were possible, and she is so much more connected to the world than she was even two short months ago.  I can hardly wait for her to wake up so we can start the fun.

The kids think I am doing them a tremendous favor by acting as the substitute babysitter for a week. If they only knew........

Monday, January 25, 2016

On My Way

It must be love.  There is no other answer.  I am leaving the sunshine and temperatures broaching the 70's for clouds and rain and half the therms.  I'm leaving my exercise routine and my husband and the pile of work on my desk.

The baby awaits and I am ready.  Little Cuter and SIR have unbreakable work commitments and Michelle the Magnificent, their own personal Mary Poppins, is taking vacation.  "Mom, would you be willing to...."

Obviously, she didn't have to finish the sentence.  Grandma is on her way.

I have practical worries. Will FlapJilly have grown so much that retrieving her from her crib will be an undertaking of massive proportions?  I'm sure I'll get her out eventually; I am much stronger than I was the last time I visited, and so is she.  With some help on both sides of the crib slats, I'm certain that I will manage to extricate her from her bed.

At least, that's what I am telling myself as I slip into an anxious sleep these last few nights.

The family has established routines, and I've got most of them down pat.  Saying goodnight to the downstairs furniture, songs and books and then bed.... those I have mastered.  It's the signing that worries me.  SIR learned ASL as his language in high school; I wonder if he ever imagined that he would be teaching it to his own little one giving her a means of communication until her mouth and brain catch up.    

Watching her pull on imaginary udders when she wants milk makes my heart sing.  Her thank you's, most often unprompted since she is very well behaved, are charming.  But she is brilliant and talented and has a gaping void just waiting to be filled with new information and I am not looking forward to the confrontation between an ignorant grandma and an indignant toddler.

I do have a plan, though.  I will take a video of her frustration and send it off to her parents for explication.  Always have a back up plan in place - that's my motto.

TBG is staying home; it will be just the two of us, Grandma and FlapJilly, in the suburbs, watching the world go by.  We'll go to swim lessons one morning and to story time at the library on another. We'll visit with Seret, and FlapJilly can listen as we who raised her mother and her future husband reminisce about the past and plan for their future.  I know that they are not even two years old, but girls can dream, can't we?

I'll cut up veggies and make eggs and spinach and we'll share yummy muffins and clementines and dried strawberries.  We'll walk to the park with Thomas the Wonder Dog, if it's not too cold or slippery.  We'll go to Zoup! for soup.  We will read books and build towers with pillows and we will laugh.  We'll laugh at my feeble attempts to wrangle her hair into pony tails.  We'll laugh as I try to get her out of the crib.  We'll laugh as we play hide and seek and dunk her little pink soccer ball through the retrieved-from-the-neighbor's-garage plastic basketball hoop.

And, mostly, we'll feel the love.

I'm not sure how profound I will be this week; tomorrow's post will be written while traveling and then you may be overwhelmed with baby pictures.  I'm going to try to leave Hillary and Bernie and The Donald and Ted Cruz behind.  My mind will be on more important matters.... does the baby need anything?

Friday, January 22, 2016

A Video Treat

Sierra Leonean Technologist teams with American Sculptor to create GIF inspired Stop-motion Afrobeat music video..

Joey Foster Ellis is the American Sculptor, although I know him as the son of our Cornell friends, the one who decided to cross California Street in San Francisco all by himself, when he was about 10, without considering where his family and friends might be headed, nor whether the approaching cable car, clanging with great enthusiasm, might intersect with his path.

He has been on that same path from Upstate New York to China, where he became the first American graduate of the prestigious China Central Academy of Fine Arts, to Doha and Kathmandu and Juarez and Delhi and Istanbul. 

He is curious and insatiable and delightful.  His work has been showcased at The Smithsonian Institution's 40 Under 40 exhibition at the Renwick.  He's one to watch, and I'd say that even if he weren't my friend... and my friends' son..... and a really great guy.

The video is spoken in Sierra Leonean Krio, and I heard some English in there, too.  I'll admit that I went with the flow, watched the images, and didn't worry too much about the lyrics as I watched it the first two times.  I'm ready for another exploration, and this time, I'll have the producer's words as a guide:

It’s not about race and it’s not about looks. 
It’s about how new experiences not only replace old ones but provide layered views of how we see ourselves, and the world we inhabit.


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Taking My Own Advice

When Dr. Jim was diagnosed, he became obsessed.  He woke early, he stayed up late. He read and researched and pondered and worried and thought about nothing else.

He could be distracted, but only momentarily.  His brain refused to think about anything else.  His psyche kept him in lock step.  The result was anxiety.

He was never present, in the moment, unless the moment was centered on the disease.  This became tiresome to his wife, and, ultimately, to himself.  Even so, he was stuck in the sludge.  He saw no way out.

That's the charm of anxiety, a close friend of PTSD.  They are gifts which keep on giving, tossing the victim into a tumbling stew for which there seems to be no ladle.

I offered a ladle, of sorts.  To this 68 year old who was on no medication at all, I suggested an anti-anxiety medication.  Ativan has been a close companion of mine for years; I was happy to share her with a friend.

He was surprised at me.  I presented such a strong face.  He had no idea that I'd needed that kind of help.

And so I explained to him what had been explained to me:  Rage, Anger, Fury, Sorrow, Fear... these are all things we can work with.  They have weight, potency, are packed with valuable insights and help is possible.

Anxiety just gets in the way.  It muddles the waters, or thickens the stew, to avoid mixing metaphors, even those separated by paragraphs.  It's useless.  It keeps you stuck.  There are times when you need to feel the pain; I took no pills when Daddoooooo and G'ma died.  But that was sorrow and loss and bone deep emptiness.  There was no anxious edginess involved.

Flying home, in the snow, with delays and a sore hip and a dead mother, I took an Ativan to ease the trip.  There was nothing I could so to remedy the situation.  It was what it was.  I could do something to remove the anxiety, though, after yogic breathing and a swift, pulse raising walk through the airport failed to move my endorphins.  We were just as delayed; I was more relaxed.

We think nothing of taking an aspirin for a headache or a strained muscle.  I'm not sure why there is such a stigma about taking a pill for a strained psyche.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

A New Hair Cutter

Jesse, he of The Wedding and G'ma and my stylist for the last 8 years, Jesse has moved to San Diego.

His Dad travels through there for work on a regular basis, often landing for several months at a time. His lover is in school there.  He's found a salon with a welcoming atmosphere, and he's slowly building his clientele.  Traveling back to Tucson every month for 7 days, styling his steady clients and reconnecting with his Mom and siblings, was too distracting.

He had to make A Decision.  December was his last month of travels.  He's committed to making a life in So Cal.  He left me despondent.

Finding the right person to touch my scalp is crazy making for me.  I am quite particular.  I know that, with the right cut, I can shower and dress and be in the car in ten minutes; my hair is an afterthought.  I towel it dry and run my hands through the strands and I'm good to go.  If I'm  really feeling special, I'll use a brush.

With a bad haircut, pieces stick up in unruly patterns.  With a bad haircut, my bangs dip into my eyes, crazy making for TBG.  I'm blessed with heavy tresses, which lay flat on my skull unless they are properly freed.  Finding someone with talent and skill and without bad breath or annoying mannerisms has never been easy for me.

I found Jesse through a Group On, figuring $30 was as much as I would wager on a new person.  I was the only Group On purchaser to become a steady client.  Apparently, the switch to a full price session was more than most Group On buyers were willing to take on.  But I loved him and G'ma loved him and Little Cuter thought he was absolutely perfect.

I liked talking about my family with someone who'd been intimately involved in their personal care.  I liked hearing about his siblings and his parents and his Halloween decorating.  We were in one another's lives, catching up ever 4 or 5 weeks.  Relationships like these don't grow on trees.

He handed me off to the shop's owner, and my haircut today was fantastic.  She cut it dry, because Wet Hair Lies.  She snipped and fluffed and left me perfectly coiffed.... but curiously empty inside.

The haircut was fabulous, but I miss my Jesse.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Sports Snippet - A Tempest in a Teapot

The Short Version for the Water Cooler after Sunday's NFC playoff game - The Cardinals won both coin flips.  Green Bay's defense allowed the Cardinals to score.  End of story.

The Long Version- The rule in overtime is that the team which wins the coin flip decides whether their offense or their defense will take the field first.

Please, note that I said coin flip.  This is important because the first time the coin went into the air it did not flip.  The big boys surrounding it were upset. The ref tossed it again, the Cardinals won again, and three plays later Larry Fitzgerald caught a deflected pass in the end zone and, by scoring that touchdown, sent the Cardinals to the NFC Championship Game next weekend.

The nay-sayers, read that Cheeseheads from Wisconsin, think that Aaron Rogers should have had the opportunity to change his call before the re-flip.

My response?  Oh, stop whining. 

The other complaint is that Green Bay never got the ball.  Why?  Because the rule in overtime is that if the offense scores a touchdown, the game is over.  If the defense manages to extricate the ball from the offense and score, the game is over.

It's a team game, with no I.  It was the Arizona Cardinals' offense versus the Green Bay Packers' defense, and the Cardinals triumphed.

End of game.  End of story.  End of snippet.

Monday, January 18, 2016

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

FAMBB sent a lovely set of blue napkins along with her thank you note for my Christmas brownies.  She's been sending me Hanukkah gifts since my post several years ago bemoaning the lack of the holiday's tchotchkes here in Tucson. I smile at the pillows and the towels and, this year, the napkins.  It's obviously getting harder for her to find cool things, too.

But it was her letter that stumped me.  She's been making my brownies for her family ever since I sent her the recipe years ago.  They are named after me.  The kids love them.  I really don't have to send them to her every year.  She'll know I love her without the chocolatey evidence.

I wonder if she feels obliged to reciprocate and is singing the I-Can't-Find-Any-Hanukkah-Stuff blues?  That would make me laugh.

I never wonder if she doesn't like them; according to Mr. 10 everyone should like these brownies - they are the best in the world. 

Is she trying to pare down and assuming that I am too?  In that, she is absolutely correct.  I am holding fast to my New Year's Resolution; I'm going through closets and drawers and shelves with a ruthless purpose.  I do not want anything extra in my life.  Perhaps sending brownies to a woman who likes to make them herself is exra?

But, I like checking in with her.  I like addressing the package and picking out a return address label and putting all those initials on a box filled with love.  She reads The Burrow, so she's caught up with my life.  But the personal touch of writing her name on a card and sending love and hugs her way makes up for the decades which have passed since we've seen one another.

Do you have a good friend you haven't seen since you were 20?  I do.  I don't want to lose the connection.  I don't want to overburden her with unwanted sweets.

I think a donation to Heifer International is in the offing.  I have a year to decide between the rabbits and the chickens.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

First World Problems

I shared a lovely lunch with lovely women in a lovely setting this afternoon.

We were all of a mind, politically, and we were all outraged.

Trump.... Cruz.... where is the Republican Party of old?.... he's a Democratic Socialist....

There was so much to be upset about.

And then someone wondered if I was as angry as they were.

And, I'm not.

We're women who drove ourselves to a public place where we shared political opinions loudly and freely.  We wore pants.  Some of us were thrice married and some of us were lapsed Catholics and no one paid us any attention at all.

Yes, Donald J Trump and Ted Cruz scare me.  No, I don't have any idea where those-who-used-to-call-themselves-Republicans have gone.  I really don't care if Bernie Sanders calls himself a Democratic Socialist or a Purple People Eater.

The sun came up this morning, and I was here to see it.  The fact that we had this conversation, that we asked these questions, in a Mexican restaurant 65 miles from our southern border, and we weren't worried about caravans of refugees or stray missiles crossing that border, was just the icing on the cake of an already Very Good Day.

And Then I Medicated in the Cafeteria

Lunch is a big deal at Prince Elementary School
The trays are created behind the steam table by the staff,
but the veggies and milk are serve yourself.

The stickers (see the cheeks and the pointer finger?) come from me,
the Official Adopted Grandmother of Prince Elementary School.
I put them on shoulders.
I put them on chests.
I put them on noses and cheeks and foreheads and ears.
Some students are stunned..... 
and some are bemused.
Bemused is an interesting word to share with kids.
These faces are a dictionary definition of the word. 
The littlest ones go for the cookies first.
Try to avoid crying over the lack of color on the trays.
This is what passes for healthy school lunches in Arizona these days.
There are carbs and there is grease and there is ketchup-as-a-vegetable.
I sigh, and compliment the kids with carrots and cucumbers on their trays.
It's the best I can do. 
The kids remember Christina-Taylor, at least the ones who are old enough to have known me over the years.  They wonder how old she'd be now.  They marvel at how much better I am walking.  They wonder when I'll walk the playground with them again.  They share family stories and bites of french fries and wave at me from the end of the table.
Granny! Gramma!!  Miss Suzi!!!

It's balm for a sore soul.
It doesn't bring her back.
It eases the edges, and, on Friday, that was enough.

As I have said before, and as I will say again,
it's impossible to be sad when little ones are hugging me.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

How I Got Through The Anniversary of Getting Shot

Actually, I'm not sure I got through it at all.
The day happened, and I lived.  That's one way of looking at it.
But the sludge of the sorrow is stuck to my skin and I can't seem to shake it.

It didn't help that when I drove to and from playing cards this afternoon 
 the Safeway parking lot where I was perforated was cordoned off with yellow crime scene tape, 
was filled with fire engines and police cars and ambulances, 
was noisy and sunny and frantic.
Four hours of commotion; this was more than a fender bender, I'm sure.

For me, it was lying on the cement outside that Safeway, 
it was being carried on a slant board to a medevac helicopter, 
it was feeling terrified, it was Christina-Taylor.

The feelings are never too far from the surface.  Sometimes they refuse to be kept down.
That's how it was last Friday.
The five year anniversary was, as Ms Levine told her kindergarteners, "a tricky day" for me.

Because she knew it would make me smile, 
Ms Levine let this little one take her new, Santa got it for me hat from her cubbie.
Taking things out of cubbies is not part of the usual routine,
but Friday wasn't a usual day.

The kids were very proud of their pictures,
showing off all the details.
Details are very important.
This depiction of Stinky, the garbage truck has smells emanating from every side.
Her story is filled with complex sentences.
She sounds out the unfamiliar words and uses the Sight Words posted on the wall for the easy ones she's momentarily misplaced in her brain.

The tangrams fit on the paper and create words.
Reading them was simple, she said.
I was as proud of her as she was of herself,
as he was of himself.

The b and the d were a source of great amusement to her,
but obviously blue required a b.
Watching them think was better than watching the clock.
Ms Levine kept trying to distract me,
and gave me a moment at 10:10 am,
and then it was back to Reading Centers 
where we were making the letters out of our bodies.
That is an F.
F as in friends, which these two most definitely are.

The hours passed.
The sludge is still here.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

A Young Man's Fancy Turns to Thoughts of.....

He's 13 years old.  

At about 2:30 AM I started drawing and I was just searching the computer for ideas
 and I realized how relevant shootings are 
so I created that.

His mother sent the artwork to me this morning.

Her son's late night thoughts should revolve around pretty people he'd like to kiss,
not dead 9 year olds, or 17 year olds, or college students, or high schoolers.

Ta'Nehisi Coates's Between The World And Me describes his daily struggle to get through the day.
His body language, his clothing, his gaze - all circumscribed by the violence surrounding him.
He didn't relax.  He couldn't.  It wasn't safe.  
He might die.

When it's the other who is afraid to walk home from school, it's easy to shake your head and sigh.
When it's a friend's son facing the reality of gun violence at 2:30 in the morning, it's harder.

Perhaps this is what the current focus on guns can achieve.
Our children are watching and they are terrified.
Bombarded by images of his peers being carried out in body bags, it's only natural that my 8th grade friend's thoughts would turn to handguns in the middle of the night.  

He realized how relevant shootings are.
That is outrageous.
They should be irrelevant to schoolkids.

Here's my wish for 2016 -
Let's make gun violence irrelevant.

Monday, January 11, 2016

My Son's Trial Separation from the NFL

A guest post by Big Cuter.

It’s not because my formerly beloved San Francisco 49ers have gone completely in the tank.  Sure that helps, but I like to think that it really just freed me to follow my head.  My heart is no longer in it. This isn’t some knee jerk reaction.  This is something that I’ve struggled with for the past 18 months.

Lets back up a bit.  Who am I and why does/should my trial separation matter to the NFL?  Well, Burrow denizens, I’m Ashleigh’s son, so there’s that.  I’m a 32 year old, single (much to my mother’s dismay), man who for most of my life defined myself by my football fandom.  Examples?  Well, I’m glad you (didn’t) ask!

  •  Shallowly, in those Facebook word-clouds of most used words in the last year, FOOTBALL easily came in first. 
  •  I’ve created 15 page PowerPoints to teach football to significant others.
  • Every Wednesday during the football season TBG  and I go through every single NFL game and pick the winner against the gambling spread – all for pride, and mostly to prove that we shouldn’t gamble.  We shouldn’t. 
  • I’ve played fantasy football for 16 consecutive years, and have been commissioner of a league with an 8 page rule sheet (written by me, of course) for the past 6 years.  
  •  A sizable portion of my wardrobe is 49ers branded.  
  •  I’ve always said that one of my two deal-breakers in accepting a potential life partner would be her not respecting the fact that, from August through the Super Bowl, Sundays are reserved for football.  
  • And, I’ve spent the past 200 words describing my fandom and probably not even scratched the surface. 

So, I’m an enfranchised fan of the NFL.  Or I was.  Why am I working on a trial separation right now, writing this blog post while a playoff game is being waged between the Green Bay Packers and  the Washington Professional Football Team?  Many, many reasons.  But let's start with the home team in that previously mentioned game.  

Outside of Our Nation’s Capitol, it is widely, and legally, recognized that the term “Redskin” is a racial slur. It might not trigger the visceral revulsion that other words do, but that’s likely because most of us don’t come across Native Americans nearly as much as we do other minority groups (and that’s a topic for a different post).  Rather than change with the times, The Washington Professional Football Team’s owner has defended this ridiculous moniker.  

Mr. Snyder is widely reviled, and for many reasons having nothing to do with football, but in my mind this is the best reason.  When you’re lumping yourself in with “SHANK THE B!T@H board games” and “RETARDIPEDIA”, maybe that’s a signal that you’re on the wrong side of the argument. 

Another reason that I am considering a trial separation from the NFL is the public funding of stadiums.  I’m fully in favor of a free market, and I think financial success should be lauded. But when St. Louis's offer of 300 million taxpayer dollars to the owner of the Rams is deemed "inadequate" by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, something is really wrong. 

Nope, this is a check of tax payers dollars that is being handed over to a .0000001%-er.  Is that “.0000001%-er” necessarily a bad person?  Not at all, although many, as Redskins fans well know, are.  

But should the public be forking over hundreds of millions of dollars to private industry when the case that the public benefits in any tangible financial way is tenuous at best?  I’d argue that there are better ways for that money to be spent.

 Do you need more reasons? 
So, right now, rather than watching the playoffs, I’m flipping through e-sports, reading a book, and then probably flipping back to the football while I chat with with Ashleigh and TBG on the phone.

It’s just so hard to quit, but I’m trying.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Anniversary Thoughts

In 2012 I was too wrapped up in planning the commemorative event to write about the shooting that created the need for an anniversary.  Or, maybe I was too wrapped up in the sad and the sorrow to allow myself to think about it right then. 

In 2013 I was looking forward, planning good deeds and civic engagement and confident that I could make a difference.  There wasn't a lot of retrospective then, either.  Was it because I wasn't strong enough to look backward, or was it that I didn't have far to look.  Backward was with me all the time, every day.   

2014 and 2015 were cut from a different cloth.  I was saying good-bye to CTG, although I didn't know it at the time.

I know that the distance which time has put between that sunny day and the rain I'm looking at right now has softened some of the edges.  I'm not healing the way I was a year ago, and I'll probably approach it from a different perspective next year.  My years of magical thinking, of remembering, of looking backward, are morphing into several months of calmer reflection.  

I'm trying to embrace the loss, to lushly love the feelings.  I'm not to try to change the facts; I don't have the power to fix these things.  I'm trying to accept that concept, but asking a social worker to stop trying to make things right is not a simple task.  It's programmed in my DNA, I am sure.  It's been my modus operandi since childhood.  

But this is something I cannot fix.  This can be honored and cherished as a part of who I am.  Not all of me, but a very real part of me.  I don't have to have a plan fix it in order to think about it.  

If that was obvious to you, please forgive me for taking five years to catch up.  

I can't bring her back, but I can keep her near.
If you're wondering how I'll occupy my time today, let me quote my favorite kindergarten teacher:
26 kids can keep you busy!
I'll be sharing the love with little ones and their hugs and their smiles and their lower case h's.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

A Syndicated Expansion asked me to expand on Wednesday's post about President Obama's Executive Actions on gun safety.

This is the link, if you think you want more of me.

A Snippet - The Beauty of a Throw-Away Comment

I'd been stressed about it for a while.  I asked for opinions, and, as expected, the answers revealed more about the respondents than they did anything to resolve the issue.

I was starting to cry at odd moments.  It's a tough week, and the confusion was making it worse.

Then, I reconnected with a helper-bee from years ago.  She's in a new job, but her willingness to fix things hasn't changed a bit.  I explained the problem, after swearing her to secrecy. We were discussing solutions when, in an aside, she mentioned me that what I thought was a problem was actually viewed as a positive by the other side.

The issue was in my head.  Not unusual for me, but startling nonetheless.

I started to cry.  I thanked my old acquaintance for providing relief, unwitting relief but relief all the same.

She laughed, and thanked me for thanking her.  She said I made her day.

She has no idea how important she was to mine.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

So Proud of POTUS

Not many grown men cry ... not many grown men cry at work .... not many grown men cry on television.  Our President did all of that, and more this morning.  I am so very very proud of him.

My friends were there - Roxanna and John and Daniel and Pat and Pam and Mark and Gabby - representing our shooting, which has gotten lost in the shuffle as time passes and more deaths are recorded.  My President hugged and smiled and hugged some more.  The audience clapped and cheered as the simple solutions - mental health services, expanded background checks, responsibility for lost and stolen weaponry - were detailed.

As he said, It's not enough.  Those of us on the right side of the issue (my side, obviously!) must be as loud and committed to action as those on the other side.  As Mr. Obama reminded us, 90% of Americans want action on this issue.  If our elected representatives can't give it to us, then it behooves us to vote them out and replace them with those who can.  We cannot rest on our laurels with this victory; it must motivate us to further and louder and stronger actions.

I'm crying a lot this week, and it was comforting to share those tears with the man in charge.  He may not be good at branding or self-promotion, but he is a terrific Mourner in Chief, because his reactions are real. He's a dad.  He's a husband.  He's a son and a grandson.  He wants to keep other dads and husbands and sons and grandsons from feeling the pain shared by those in the East Room this morning.

It's a noble idea.  It's a possible idea.  Its time has come.

I'm copying the fact sheet handed out to the participants last night.  It's long and detailed, but well-written and eminently readable.  Peruse it so that you are well-informed when the conversation around the water cooler turns to gun control.  You'll be glad you did.

Office of the Press Secretary
FACT SHEET: New Executive Actions to Reduce Gun Violence and Make Our Communities Safer
Gun violence has taken a heartbreaking toll on too many communities across the country.  Over the past decade in America, more than 100,000 people have been killed as a result of gun violence—and millions more have been the victim of assaults, robberies, and other crimes involving a gun.  Many of these crimes were committed by people who never should have been able to purchase a gun in the first place.  Over the same period, hundreds of thousands of other people in our communities committed suicide with a gun and nearly half a million people suffered other gun injuries.  Hundreds of law enforcement officers have been shot to death protecting their communities.  And too many children are killed or injured by firearms every year, often by accident.  The vast majority of Americans—including the vast majority of gun owners—believe we must take sensible steps to address these horrible tragedies.
The President and Vice President are committed to using every tool at the Administration’s disposal to reduce gun violence.  Some of the gaps in our country’s gun laws can only be fixed through legislation, which is why the President continues to call on Congress to pass the kind of commonsense gun safety reforms supported by a majority of the American people.  And while Congress has repeatedly failed to take action and pass laws that would expand background checks and reduce gun violence, today, building on the significant steps that have already been taken over the past several years, the Administration is announcing a series of commonsense executive actions designed to:
1.      Keep guns out of the wrong hands through background checks.
·         The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is making clear that it doesn’t matter where you conduct your business—from a store, at gun shows, or over the Internet:  If you’re in the business of selling firearms, you must get a license and conduct background checks.
·         ATF is finalizing a rule to require background checks for people trying to buy some of the most dangerous weapons and other items through a trust, corporation, or other legal entity.
·         Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch has sent a letter to States highlighting the importance of receiving complete criminal history records and criminal dispositions, information on persons disqualified because of a mental illness, and qualifying crimes of domestic violence.
·         The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is overhauling the background check system to make it more effective and efficient.  The envisioned improvements include processing background checks 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and improving notification of local authorities when certain prohibited persons unlawfully attempt to buy a gun.  The FBI will hire more than 230 additional examiners and other staff to help process these background checks.
2.      Make our communities safer from gun violence.
·         The Attorney General convened a call with U.S. Attorneys around the country to direct federal prosecutors to continue to focus on smart and effective enforcement of our gun laws.
·         The President’s FY2017 budget will include funding for 200 new ATF agents and investigators to help enforce our gun laws.
·         ATF has established an Internet Investigation Center to track illegal online firearms trafficking and is dedicating $4 million and additional personnel to enhance the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network.
·         ATF is finalizing a rule to ensure that dealers who ship firearms notify law enforcement if their guns are lost or stolen in transit.
·         The Attorney General issued a memo encouraging every U.S. Attorney’s Office to renew domestic violence outreach efforts.
3.      Increase mental health treatment and reporting to the background check system.
·         The Administration is proposing a new $500 million investment to increase access to mental health care.
·         The Social Security Administration has indicated that it will begin the rulemaking process to include information in the background check system about beneficiaries who are prohibited from possessing a firearm for mental health reasons.
·         The Department of Health and Human Services is finalizing a rule to remove unnecessary legal barriers preventing States from reporting relevant information about people prohibited from possessing a gun for specific mental health reasons.
4.      Shape the future of gun safety technology.
·         The President has directed the Departments of Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security to conduct or sponsor research into gun safety technology.
·         The President has also directed the departments to review the availability of smart gun technology on a regular basis, and to explore potential ways to further its use and development to more broadly improve gun safety.
Congress should support the President’s request for resources for 200 new ATF agents and investigators to help enforce our gun laws, as well as a new $500 million investment to address mental health issues.
Because we all must do our part to keep our communities safe, the Administration is also calling on States and local governments to do all they can to keep guns out of the wrong hands and reduce gun violence.  It is also calling on private-sector leaders to follow the lead of other businesses that have taken voluntary steps to make it harder for dangerous individuals to get their hands on a gun.  In the coming weeks, the Administration will engage with manufacturers, retailers, and other private-sector leaders to explore what more they can do.
New Actions by the Federal Government
Keeping Guns Out of the Wrong Hands Through Background Checks
The most important thing we can do to prevent gun violence is to make sure those who would commit violent acts cannot get a firearm in the first place.  The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which was created by Congress to prevent guns from being sold to prohibited individuals, is a critical tool in achieving that goal.  According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the background check system has prevented more than 2 million guns from getting into the wrong hands.  We know that making the system more efficient, and ensuring that it has all appropriate records about prohibited purchasers, will help enhance public safety.  Today, the Administration is announcing the following executive actions to ensure that all gun dealers are licensed and run background checks, and to strengthen the background check system itself:
·         Clarify that it doesn’t matter where you conduct your business—from a store, at gun shows, or over the Internet:  If you’re in the business of selling firearms, you must get a license and conduct background checks. Background checks have been shown to keep guns out of the wrong hands, but too many gun sales—particularly online and at gun shows—occur without basic background checks.  Today, the Administration took action to ensure that anyone who is “engaged in the business” of selling firearms is licensed and conducts background checks on their customers.  Consistent with court rulings on this issue, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has clarified the following principles:
o   A person can be engaged in the business of dealing in firearms regardless of the location in which firearm transactions are conducted.  For example, a person can be engaged in the business of dealing in firearms even if the person only conducts firearm transactions at gun shows or through the Internet.  Those engaged in the business of dealing in firearms who utilize the Internet or other technologies must obtain a license, just as a dealer whose business is run out of a traditional brick-and-mortar store.
o   Quantity and frequency of sales are relevant indicators.  There is no specific threshold number of firearms purchased or sold that triggers the licensure requirement.  But it is important to note that even a few transactions, when combined with other evidence, can be sufficient to establish that a person is “engaged in the business.”  For example, courts have upheld convictions for dealing without a license when as few as two firearms were sold or when only one or two transactions took place, when other factors also were present.
o   There are criminal penalties for failing to comply with these requirements.  A person who willfully engages in the business of dealing in firearms without the required license is subject to criminal prosecution and can be sentenced up to five years in prison and fined up to $250,000.  Dealers are also subject to penalties for failing to conduct background checks before completing a sale.
·         Require background checks for people trying to buy some of the most dangerous weapons and other items through a trust or corporation.  The National Firearms Act imposes restrictions on sales of some of the most dangerous weapons, such as machine guns and sawed-off shotguns.  But because of outdated regulations, individuals have been able to avoid the background check requirement by applying to acquire these firearms and other items through trusts, corporations, and other legal entities.  In fact, the number of these applications has increased significantly over the years—from fewer than 900 applications in the year 2000 to more than 90,000 applications in 2014.  ATF is finalizing a rule that makes clear that people will no longer be able to avoid background checks by buying NFA guns and other items through a trust or corporation.
·         Ensure States are providing records to the background check system, and work cooperatively with jurisdictions to improve reporting.  Congress has prohibited specific categories of people from buying guns—from convicted felons to users of illegal drugs to individuals convicted of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence.  In the wake of the shootings at Virginia Tech in 2007, Congress also created incentives for States to make as many relevant records as possible accessible to NICS.  Over the past three years, States have increased the number of records they make accessible by nearly 70 percent.  To further encourage this reporting, the Attorney General has written a letter to States highlighting the importance of receiving complete criminal history records and criminal dispositions, information on persons disqualified for mental health reasons, and qualifying crimes of domestic violence.  The Administration will begin a new dialogue with States to ensure the background check system is as robust as possible, which is a public safety imperative.
·         Make the background check system more efficient and effective.  In 2015, NICS received more than 22.2 million background check requests, an average of more than 63,000 per day.  By law, a gun dealer can complete a sale to a customer if the background check comes back clean or has taken more than three days to complete.  But features of the current system, which was built in the 1990s, are outdated.  The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) will take the following steps to ensure NICS operates more efficiently and effectively to keep guns out of the wrong hands: 
o   FBI will hire more than 230 additional NICS examiners and other staff members to assist with processing mandatory background checks.  This new hiring will begin immediately and increase the existing workforce by 50 percent.  This will reduce the strain on the NICS system and improve its ability to identify dangerous people who are prohibited from buying a gun before the transfer of a firearm is completed.
o   FBI has partnered with the U.S. Digital Service (USDS) to modernize NICS.   Although NICS has been routinely upgraded since its launch in 1998, the FBI is committed to making the system more efficient and effective, so that as many background checks as possible are fully processed within the three-day period before a dealer can legally sell a gun even if a background check is not complete.  The improvements envisioned by FBI and USDS include processing background checks 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to improve overall response time and improving notification of local authorities when certain prohibited persons unlawfully attempt to purchase a firearm.
Making Our Communities Safer from Gun Violence
In order to improve public safety, we need to do more to ensure smart and effective enforcement of our gun laws and make sure that criminals and other prohibited persons cannot get their hands on lost or stolen weapons.  The Administration is therefore taking the following actions:
·         Ensure smart and effective enforcement of our gun laws.  In a call earlier today, the Attorney General discussed the importance of today’s announcements and directed the Nation’s 93 U.S. Attorneys across the country to continue to focus their resources—as they have for the past several years under the Department’s Smart on Crime initiative—on the most impactful cases, including those targeting violent offenders, illegal firearms traffickers, and dangerous individuals who bypass the background check system to acquire weapons illegally.  During the call, the Attorney General also emphasized ongoing initiatives to assist communities in combating violent crime, including ATF’s efforts to target the “worst of the worst” gun crimes.  These efforts will also complement the following actions announced today:
o   The President’s budget for FY2017 will include funding for 200 new ATF agents and investigators who can help enforce our gun laws, including the measures announced today.  Strategic and impactful enforcement will help take violent criminals off the street, deter other unlawful activity, and prevent guns from getting into the wrong hands.
o   ATF is dedicating $4 million and additional personnel to enhance the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network (NIBIN).  The NIBIN database includes ballistic evidence that can be used by analysts and investigators to link violent crimes across jurisdictions and to track down shooters who prey on our communities.  In February 2016, ATF is standing up the National NIBIN Correlation and Training Center—which will ultimately provide NIBIN matching services at one national location, rather than requiring local police departments to do that work themselves.  The Center will provide consistent and capable correlation services, making connections between ballistic crime scene evidence and crime guns locally, regionally, and nationally.  These enhancements will support ATF’s crime gun intelligence and enforcement efforts, particularly in communities most affected by violent crime.
o   ATF has established an Internet Investigations Center (IIC) staffed with federal agents, legal counsel, and investigators to track illegal online firearms trafficking and to provide actionable intelligence to agents in the field.  The IIC has already identified a number of significant traffickers operating over the Internet.  This work has led to prosecutions against individuals or groups using the “dark net” to traffic guns to criminals or attempting to buy firearms illegally online.
·         Ensure that dealers notify law enforcement about the theft or loss of their guns.  Under current law, federal firearms dealers and other licensees must report when a gun from their inventory has been lost or stolen.  The regulations are ambiguous, however, about who has this responsibility when a gun is lost or stolen in transit.  Many lost and stolen guns end up being used in crimes.  Over the past five years, an average of 1,333 guns recovered in criminal investigations each year were traced back to a licensee that claimed it never received the gun even though it was never reported lost or stolen either.  Today, ATF issued a final rule clarifying that the licensee shipping a gun is responsible for notifying law enforcement upon discovery that it was lost or stolen in transit.
·         Issue a memo directing every U.S. Attorney’s Office to renew domestic violence outreach efforts.  In the event of an emergency, victims of domestic violence should call 911 or otherwise contact state or local law enforcement officials, who have a broader range of options for responding to these crimes.  To provide an additional resource for state, local, and tribal law enforcement and community groups focused on domestic violence, the Attorney General is issuing a memo directing U.S. Attorney’s Offices around the country to engage in renewed efforts to coordinate with these groups to help combat domestic violence and to prevent prohibited persons from obtaining firearms.
Increase Mental Health Treatment and Reporting to the Background Check System
The Administration is committed to improving care for Americans experiencing mental health issues.  In the last seven years, our country has made extraordinary progress in expanding mental health coverage for millions of Americans.  This includes the Affordable Care Act’s end to insurance company discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, required coverage of mental health and substance use disorder services in the individual and small group markets, and an expansion of mental health and substance use disorder parity policies, all of which are estimated to help more than 60 million Americans.  About 13.5 million more Americans have gained Medicaid coverage since October 2013, significantly improving access to mental health care.  And thanks to more than $100 million in funding from the Affordable Care Act, community health centers have expanded behavioral health services for nearly 900,000 people nationwide over the past two years.  We must continue to remove the stigma around mental illness and its treatment—and make sure that these individuals and their families know they are not alone.  While individuals with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators, incidents of violence continue to highlight a crisis in America’s mental health system.  In addition to helping people get the treatment they need, we must make sure we keep guns out of the hands of those who are prohibited by law from having them.  Today, the Administration is announcing the following steps to help achieve these goals:
·         Dedicate significant new resources to increase access to mental health care.  Despite our recent significant gains, less than half of children and adults with diagnosable mental health problems receive the treatment they need.  To address this, the Administration is proposing a new $500 million investment to help engage individuals with serious mental illness in care, improve access to care by increasing service capacity and the behavioral health workforce, and ensure that behavioral health care systems work for everyone.  This effort would increase access to mental health services to protect the health of children and communities, prevent suicide, and promote mental health as a top priority. 
·         Include information from the Social Security Administration in the background check system about beneficiaries who are prohibited from possessing a firearm.  Current law prohibits individuals from buying a gun if, because of a mental health issue, they are either a danger to themselves or others or are unable to manage their own affairs.  The Social Security Administration (SSA) has indicated that it will begin the rulemaking process to ensure that appropriate information in its records is reported to NICS.  The reporting that SSA, in consultation with the Department of Justice, is expected to require will cover appropriate records of the approximately 75,000 people each year who have a documented mental health issue, receive disability benefits, and are unable to manage those benefits because of their mental impairment, or who have been found by a state or federal court to be legally incompetent.  The rulemaking will also provide a mechanism for people to seek relief from the federal prohibition on possessing a firearm for reasons related to mental health.
·         Remove unnecessary legal barriers preventing States from reporting relevant information to the background check system.  Although States generally report criminal history information to NICS, many continue to report little information about individuals who are prohibited by Federal law from possessing or receiving a gun for specific mental health reasons.  Some State officials raised concerns about whether such reporting would be precluded by the Privacy Rule issued under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).  Today, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a final rule expressly permitting certain HIPAA covered entities to provide to the NICS limited demographic and other necessary information about these individuals.
Shaping the Future of Gun Safety Technology
Tens of thousands of people are injured or killed by firearms every year—in many cases by guns that were sold legally but then stolen, misused, or discharged accidentally.  Developing and promoting technology that would help prevent these tragedies is an urgent priority.  America has done this in many other areas—from making cars safer to improving the tablets and phones we use every day.  We know that researchers and engineers are already exploring ideas for improving gun safety and the tracing of lost or stolen guns.  Millions of dollars have already been invested to support research into concepts that range from fingerprint scanners to radio-frequency identification to microstamping technology.
As the single largest purchaser of firearms in the country, the Federal Government has a unique opportunity to advance this research and ensure that smart gun technology becomes a reality—and it is possible to do so in a way that makes the public safer and is consistent with the Second Amendment.  Today, the President is taking action to further this work in the following way:
·         Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Department of Defense, Department of Justice, and Department of Homeland Security to take two important steps to promote smart gun technology.
o   Increase research and development efforts.  The Presidential Memorandum directs the departments to conduct or sponsor research into gun safety technology that would reduce the frequency of accidental discharge or unauthorized use of firearms, and improve the tracing of lost or stolen guns.  Within 90 days, these agencies must prepare a report outlining a research-and-development strategy designed to expedite the real-world deployment of such technology for use in practice.
o   Promote the use and acquisition of new technology.  The Presidential Memorandum also directs the departments to review the availability of smart gun technology on a regular basis, and to explore potential ways to further its use and development to more broadly improve gun safety.  In connection with these efforts, the departments will consult with other agencies that acquire firearms and take appropriate steps to consider whether including such technology in specifications for acquisition of firearms would be consistent with operational needs.