A Quiet Frustrated Rant

Open any news site today and you’ll see reports on two different theater shootings.  The Holmes trial is in the sentencing phase, just miles from where I live.  The Houser shooting happened less than a week ago.  These two events have me ranting in a quiet anguished way.  Three factors make these events personal to me: proximity, gun control, and mental health.


July 19, 2012 I flew home from a work trip.  It was late.  I drove home, and from the highway I could see the Aurora movie theater where less than three hours later James Holmes would open fire during The Dark Knight Rises.  I was right there.  Holmes could have passed me on the road as he made his way to start killing.

This February my family and I stopped at a great restaurant in Lafayette, GA while driving from New Orleans to Houston on Mardi Gras Day.  I made the mistake of ordering barbecued shrimp, forgetting that they come with the heads still intact.  After beheading my lunch I enjoyed my meal just blocks from where John Houser opened fire in a movie theater and killed two women and himself on July 23, 2015.

There is something about proximity that makes horror real.  I was there.  I can picture both of these places.  I have swam in meets at Arapahoe High School and have friends who went to Columbine.  It makes me wonder, are each of us one step away from knowing a victim or knowing a shooter?

Gun Control:

I want there to be an easy solution to this problem.  I want some politician to stand up and say, “That’s it!  No more guns in this country, at all, ever.”  Except I don’t.  I am solidly torn on gun control.  I grew up with guns in my house.  I learned how to shoot, I learned to respect guns, and I fondly remember the hours I spent watching my dad and grandpa reload after target practice.  I enjoyed target practice.  If I walked into a gun shop today the smell of it would bring back happy memories.

My dad hunted.  As a child hunting put meat on his family’s table.  I don’t hunt and never have, but I can tell you that nothing will teach you to respect a weapon like watching your uncle and dad gut and skin a deer they have killed.  I have never questioned what a gun can do to a living creature.  I don’t like play guns.  We weren’t allowed to watch violent movies or play violent video games as kids.  We were taught to respect guns to the point that I still feel a little weird pointing a Nerf water gun at my daughter and spraying her.

There are people who believe they need guns for personal protection.  There are so many guns out there already that we can’t make them go away.  I can’t round up every kid in the country and teach them the power of a gun, install new morals, and make them respect weapons.  The problem seems insurmountable especially when there seems to be no middle ground.

Mental Illness:

The other thing Holmes and Houser had in common was a history of mental illness.  So there should be an easy solution there.  We just need to take care of the mentally ill in this country and we won’t have anymore mass shootings.  Well, let me tell that it is not an easy problem to solve either.  I’ve got close personal experience with mental illness in my family: depression and bipolar disorder have wreaked havoc on the Aftheads and extended Aftheads.  I can tell you that even when mentally ill people want help it can be next to impossible for them to get it, or for their families to get it for them.  There aren’t enough doctors, there is horrible stigma, the meds are expensive and can make people worse instead of better.

I’m obsessed with the news filtering in about Houser because it is all so true.  I’m not surprised by the loophole in the law that allowed him to buy a gun.  The rights of mentally ill people are slippery.  Even if someone is a danger to themselves and others, there is a limit to what you can do to get them help.  In the end, they are people and you can’t just go around limiting people’s rights, even if the people who love them are begging for help.  I’m not surprised by his brother’s comments that the shooting wasn’t a surprise, and his words resonate with a truth that only some unlucky families get to experience.  The kind of sick his brother was will rip apart families for a lifetime.  I’ve seen it happen.  Eventually you have to pick between your own life, your own family, your own safety and caring for the guy who just might end up being a shooter.  With little to no help, no support, and no power what is a family to do?  The problem is so big it seems hopeless.

The Solution:

This is a hard problem, and you do not make hard problems go away by ignoring them or doing nothing.  I know that.  We all know that.  So, we have to start a conversation that’s going to make everyone uncomfortable.  We are going to have to talk about guns killing people and we might slip up and talk about crazy people and we might end up with a solution that limits some rights.  This will all piss people off, but isn’t it okay to piss people off to make sure that there is never again a room of dead first graders?  (I’ll admit, as the mom of a daughter who just graduated first grade Sandy Hook is a horror story has a closer proximity than I can even comprehend.)

My favorite article about this topic is from one of my favorite authors, Stephen King.  It’s called Guns, and it’s worth the $0.99 to read it on your Kindle or $2.99 to listen to on Audible.  I have both versions.  Know that if you buy it you are supporting the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.  You might not be into such a charity, or Stephen King, so I’ll highlight his three measures to curb gun violence:

“Comprehensive and universal background checks.

Ban the sale of clips and magazines containing more than ten rounds.

Ban the sale of assault weapons.”

These seem so reasonable to me, and such a good start. Yes, people can still die if you have a gun that has a clip that holds ten rounds, but Holmes couldn’t have done what he did without assault weapons.  Sure, people can still steal guns or buy guns for their family members, but Houser couldn’t have bought a gun with stricter background checks.  King doesn’t provide a road-map for solving the mental health issues in this country, but he does ensure that when someone has a history of going to dark places they can’t buy weapons.  That’s a start and we need a start.  If there is a chance that someone is going to use a gun to kill another human being, isn’t it worth it to limit that freedom to make sure that we don’t end up being a country where every single person either knows a shooter or a victim?  Can we start taking some steps to solve the  hard problem before the next tragedy?

Three Random Rants

A few things have been swirling around my mind lately and I need to get them off my chest.  Three rants are below and are unrelated and unequal in magnitude.

#1: The acceptance of Caitlyn Jenner does not mean that the good ol’ USA is like Brave New World or 1984

Okay, folks, let’s chat shall we?  Regardless of how you feel about Caitlyn Jenner, her choices, or the attention the media is giving her can we try to agree on one thing?  Who she is and the choices she made has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with the classic novels 1984 and Brave New World.  This Washington Post article drawing similarities to conservative’s apocalyptic views and those two books has left my friends and family sick of listening to me.  There was no freedom and no individuality in those books!  That was the point!  Yes, there were all kinds of perversity happening, but not this kind of perversity, if you consider this a perversity.  Do conservatives not know that those who don’t agree with them worry that their policies direct us into the world of Big Brother and sameness?  Pick another metaphor people!

Phew. On a non-rant note, I really appreciated Laverne Cox’s take on Caitlyn’s unveiling.  At my local bagel shop there was an employee who had manicured nails, make-up, and a husky female voice and she/he didn’t look like Caitlyn or Laverne.  I don’t know which gender she/he most identified with, but she/he was always polite, always had a smile for me, and was really a happy person.  Working at a bagel shop isn’t going to give you the means to become Caitlyn, and that’s okay, so long as people respect who you are on the inside and outside.  I hope she brings us a step closer to this kind of universal respect.

#2  Toilet stall doors that close by default are a horrible design

Okay, I hate walking into a restroom where all the doors are closed regardless of whether or not there is someone in the stall.  Who decided that was a good idea?  Walking around hunched over peering under doors or through cracks makes me feel like a hunchback voyeur.  Make the doors open by default.  Also, this format causes unnecessary lines for those unwilling to be creepy or rude.

#3  Hobbies and avocations are unexpected bridge builders

I met a new client this week who introduced herself by saying, “Oh, I know you.  The owner at the local knitting shop said to watch for you at work.”  Uh, what?  This new client liked me before I ever met her because she knew I was a knitter.  How awesome is that?

The end of random ranting.  I feel better now.

The wisdom of older age

As I get older I have moments of clarity where I suddenly see things with a different perspective or understand things that seemed mysterious.  For example, there was the day I dropped my daughter off for a “sleepover with Nanna” and in her excitement I saw the joy of my childhood nights with my own grandma.  Then the light bulb turned on: my parents ditched me with my grandparents so they could go out and have fun just like I was doing with my kid.  Those weren’t just my special nights, but theirs too!

This morning I had another realization as a tweezed away the first of three offensive grey eyebrows.  “Holy crap.  This is why Aunt Bert had eyebrows drawn on with a pencil!”  I left the other two.  Random grey eyebrows is better than bald eyebrows.

Redefining our nation’s future (a message of hope)

This week one of my co-workers is getting married to her partner.  She is so excited.  They’ve been together forever, but finally they can have a real wedding.  She’s excited and giddy and cute in a totally not-her kind of way.  I’m not one for weddings.  My husband and I eloped.  But this wedding, this one feels special to me: fragile and new and filled with hope that things are changing.

We’ll be in her performance review together when my phone will buzz.  I’ll check, because I always check.  My kid might be sick.  There might be an emergency at work.  This time the message will be from the Washington Post.  It will announce that the Supreme Court has decided that marriage between two adults who love each other is A-Okay whether you are a man and a woman, a woman and a woman, or a man and a man.  (The message will be much more professional in it’s phrasing.)  I will tear up.  I will show her the note.  She will tear up.

We will celebrate together that for the first time there isn’t a question if her relationship or my relationship is more official.  We will both know that if our spouse is sick we will be able to visit him/her in any emergency room in any state because she/he will be recognized as our spouse.  We will know that when our spouse dies or we die our assets will go to our partner automagically.  We will have the same hard choices if our marriage doesn’t work out.

I hope that the Supreme Court makes law what I know in my heart to be true.  Adults who love each other and are willing to commit their lives to each other deserve the same rights and recognition regardless of the individual’s genders.  I hope I can tell my daughter someday about this week with pride and joy.  We are at a crossroads and I hope we go the right way.

Mornings are Not My Thing

I am not a morning person. I have friends who are morning people and I have coworkers who proudly show up at the office every day at 6:00, or so they tell me. I have never witnessed them at this horrible time of day, because I am still sleeping, almost always.  Occasionally a friend can coerce me to meet her for a run at that time of day, and I am usually surprised about 6:15 that I am dressed and moving outside at a quicker than walking pace. Once I enjoyed such a run wearing two different running shoes.  Mornings are dark and shoes look similar before dawn breaks.  Lesson learned.

I harshly judge myself for my morning choices.  A litany of self reproach runs through my head each morning when I wake up realizing I have turned off my alarm in my sleep and once again it’s 7:30. “You’d be skinny if you got up earlier and worked out.” “Your book would be done if you’d just get up and write.” “Good people, smart people, worthwhile people are morning people and they probably delivered papers when they were kids and what did you do?  Oh sleep, just like you do now.  Loser.”  Being mean to yourself is not a great way to start your day, but five days out of seven it’s my first item of business.  Well second item, after turning off my alarm set for 6:00.  “Loser.”

This evening on the way home I finished listening too 10% Happier by Dan Harris.  I really liked that book.  I liked his message.  I have been enchanted by Buddhism for much of my life and the real world, scientific perspective he gave to meditation, mindfulness and that asshole in my head spoke to me.  He made me want to get up in the morning and meditate, but I’m trying to be realistic here.  Am I going to do that when running (which I love), writing (also love), and work (pays for my house) don’t provide enough motivation?  Will meditation just become one more thing I beat myself up about, or will meditation replace the loser-talk?  One way or another, the mean person in my head must be replaced by a better morning habit.  She’s annoying.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Two Right Feet.”