Monday, March 26, 2018

March For Our Lives, Fight For The Future

I grew up in the country. I grew up with guns. I had my own weapon when I turned 12 years old (a Daisy Multi-Pump BB Gun). It kinda looked like this:


I used it to shoot the pigeons in the barn. I was a decent shot. They would poop all over the hay bales that we'd store and sell to neighboring farmers and those birds had to be dealt with because no amount of netting or deterrents could keep them out of the barn. 

Everyone had guns where we lived. In fact when I went to high school, if you went out in the parking lot, you'd see the typical county-living stereotype of gun racks stacked with rifles in many truck rear windows. But we never heard of any incidents and no one was concerned. In college, guys I knew from all over the state brought their guns to school with them and we'd sometimes go shooting at a nearby quarry on weekends. They did have to register their handguns and rifles with the local police department but it was more of a formality. Again, I never heard of a shooting incident in the 4 years I was on campus in Pullman. This is all to say that I grew up around guns and felt comfortable living with them in my home, in my various communities and even around my schools as a young person and student. 

And even with all of that influence, how I felt about guns could best be summed up by: "Have them, don't have them. Whatever."

But the world has changed and so have I.

In 1999, a few years after graduating from college I found myself staying home from work with a cold on my couch watching cable TV. Suddenly breaking news cut in about a shooting in-progress at a high school in Colorado. 'Columbine' would soon become a household word and a euphemism for destruction of innocence and safety in the most violent and deadly manner. I watched that coverage all day and into the evening--horrified to consider that this was even an option of what could be done. 

A whole generation of kids have now grown up knowing what a mass shooting and an active shooter/lockdown drill are--some even know first hand what a gun sounds like when it fires inside their school. The most unlucky know the searing loss of family, friends, teachers, innocence...and the loss of feeling safe ever again.

I know that guns are tools and they can be used for good or ill. But this is different now. The access to guns is plentiful and the weapons are military-grade. I no longer live out in the country, and I now have children who are students themselves. The way I grew up--that time and place, that acceptance of being surrounded by guns without concern or action--is over. 

A machine that can kill people so easily must have tighter restrictions, the process to get a weapon must be more rigorous. The rules around them simply have to be shored up for all of our sakes. 
  • Banning assault rifles/military grade weapons
  • Banning high capacity magazines
  • Raise the buying age to 21
  • Expanded background checks
  • No guns for abusers, mentally ill or violent criminals
  • Ban anything that modifies an semi-automatic into a fully automatic

The world has changed and many people in this country, especially children, are needlessly dying because politicians, lobby organizations (NRA), gun manufacturers and zealous gun enthusiasts refuse to see it. So as Ken marches, I show up for Moms Demand Action. We keep calling to our Members of Congress and keep donating to gun reform groups. But most importantly, we never stop advocating so that our kids (and your kids) can live in this country with more safety and less fear from a preventable problem.


These are photos from the Seattle #MarchForOurLives Event that Ken attended on Saturday. Incredibly inspiring to see local folks, the big one in DC and all the national sister marches.
#Enough #NeverAgain #GunReformNow #GunSense #MomsDemandAction #Everytown








Dr. Jeremia Bernhardt & Ken (#MarchBros)

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Gun Violence Community Forum with Rep. Jaypal and Awesome Local Teen Organizers



Today with other members of Central Seattle Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense in America, I attended a Town Hall featuring our WA-07 Congressional Representative Pramila Jayapal (progressive rockstar!) and a group of high school students who are organizing the March for Our Lives Rally & March next Saturday the 24th. It was a Gun Violence Community Forum and an opportunity to meet these local teens from Ballard, Roosevelt, Rainier Beach, Ingraham & Tahoma High Schools. Some of them were also instrumental in organizing the gun reform walkouts and other protest events earlier this week on March 14. But they each spoke about what made them want to step up and motivate others to call attention to and make gun law reform. 

These students fill my heart with such pride, determination and resolve. This engaged and articulate generation is going to rock our world--for the better.

They spoke about how they are sitting targets in their schools while many politicians, the gun lobby and the general public have traditionally done little to nothing to change that. They spoke about how the lockdown drills and false alarms at some of their schools have created a heightened anxiety in everyday student life. One spoke through tears about her younger autistic sister and how when stressed the little girl gets louder, not quieter. If a school lockdown situation arose and the young girl had to hide and keep quiet, she literally could not do it so the greatest fear is that she would be an easy, locatable target. 

One of the students mentioned how when she first heard of the Parkland shooting that she was numb and it was just another day in America, but something in her reached the breaking point. She watched her peers in Parkland rise up, use their voices and get vocal. This young woman, Scout Smissen, helped organize the event on March 14 where local students marched to Red Square at the University of Washington. She mentioned how some adults would have preferred if they had just observed 17 minutes of silence and returned to their classrooms, accepting and normalizing gun violence, but she said, it's more important that they get LOUD.

"Your right to own a gun should not override our right to live." 

There will be 4 million newly-minted voters in the 2018 election. Candidates need to be on the right side of history and right side of humanity if they wish to keep their jobs. Gun reform and gun sense is front and center.


Saturday, February 24, 2018

To Pet or Not To Pet

The kids have been pestering us for the last few years to get a pet. 

Pets are great for kids in theory. I grew up with pets myself: dogs, cats, a few short-term fish. But we lived in the country and our dogs and cats were outdoor dwellers mostly. They had barns for shelter and acres to roam. Growing up with them fostered empathy, maternal instincts, consideration for other beings and provided companionship/friendship when human beings were disappointing--and in adolescence/teenhood, people are plenty disappointing. So yes, I totally want this nurturing, instructive and commonly shared experience for my children. 

When Ken and I were first married, he brought Oliver the Tuxedo Cat into our new family unit. He (Oliver) certainly wasn't the sharpest tool in the shed but was so regal and handsome. An added bonus is that he'd already been house-trained and was just the right amount of effort for two working professionals with no kids or other major distractions. 


Oliver surprised us when Sid came along in how gentle and interested he was in the new baby. He acted as a good 'fur brother' to Sid and it delighted me that she had him around for her first three years. 
One month after Cal was born though, Oliver died from what the vet surmised was a blood clot and stroke. He was twelve. Sad, yes. But in all honesty, Oliver received so little attention at that point with a toddler and a newborn in the house, I didn't even have one more ounce of energy to give. Alas he did live his best life up to that point watching the birds & squirrels and staring vacantly into the middle distance just like good British period drama actors do.  

******

The kids have come through to school-age now alive, well and semi-independent.  We have a few more cycles of energy to spare and between you and me, I wouldn't mind having another cat... someday

BUT.

The kids really want a dog. 

I'm like:


People, I've handled my lifetime share of poop. I simply shudder at the thought of a creature who will ALWAYS require poop handling. I am just now finally NOT having to manage other people's excrement anymore and after eight years of that shiz (literally), I'm done. Also I can't live in close quarters with another clingy, mess-making, possibly furniture-destroying creature. I've already got two of those. And let's be REAL honest here, even if the kids swear they will take care of *everything* who really ends up taking care of the pets and tracking all of their nonsense? 




(Imagine there is a mirror here)




At our current neighborhood home in Seattle, we have a lot less room, a busy road directly to the north of the house and a more hectic lifestyle than we did in rural Ridgefield. I know many of our neighbors manage having dogs but that's not the point. 




But since we're easing our way back into the pet game, someone suggested fish. I'm a little bit familiar with fish. I had two when I was about 10 years old and managed to keep them alive for some months in a glass bowl filled with pink rocks and a bubbling treasure chest. How hard could this be?

Mind you, this is supposed to be for the kids to do and take responsibility for. Ever since late last year, Sid (and Cal to some extent) have been insisting that they will take care of and pay for getting a fish tank.  

But have you heard of the Nitrogen cycle or New Tank Syndrome before? Hmm, me neither. 

Evidently there is a biological freshwater ecosystem that has to be established over the span of 30 days for tank survival involving the 'circle of freshwater aquatic life' including ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, algae, $20 worth of water additives, an aquarium heater, water test strips and, absolutely under no circumstances, putting any more than a pinch of food in the tank every other day. This is just for the water to be correct--you also need a tank, decor and of course fish with the WILL to survive.

Behold the five gallon tank of destiny, artfully decorated to make sure our White Cloud Tetras love it. 


For those keeping track, we got three fish initially after 24 hours of conditioning (demineralizing) and stabilized the temperature of the tank (76 degrees) but you know what we didn't do? There was no helpful bacteria in the tank to kick off the aforementioned nitrogen cycle so the fish looked sickly within hours of swimming around. 

About 5 hours later we had our first casualty. [RIP Fish #1.] The other two also looked bad so I assumed they would soon join their comrade in the fish afterlife or void of nothingness. [Are fish Atheist?] 
In the midst of explaining this early loss to the children who were concerned and wondering if all the fish were doomed, we went back to PetCo. This time we picked up some SafeStart Bacteria juice that would get the aquarium well on it's way into the Nitrogen cycle and give the fish a more familiar environment to the one at the store tank. 

WHY ISN'T THIS STANDARD ISSUE WITH A NEW TANK?


I also picked up two more fish since I ASSUMED the other two would be dead by the time we got home. We had left them resting on the rocks after all, losing color and barely moving.

And yet, we came home and they were still hanging on. I added the above SafeStart Bacteria juice (1/2 the bottle) because the directions are worthless and the Internet says you can't oversaturate this bacteria so 'just go for it'. Within a few hours the two old fish and the two new fish were perky as ever, darting around in the mid-tank areas. The water has been a little cloudy but not too bad. 

Today, three of the fish are like a mean girl clique swimming around and judging everything and the other one is always hiding in the corner writing comicbook movie fanfic or plotting revenge. Hard to say which.


The last 48 hours of my life have largely been spent worrying about this blasted aquarium that I did not ask for and the detailed knowledge of the Nitrogen cycle has supplanted fun memories of my early 20's that I will never get back. 

So we're going to get the tank through the 30 day cycle, I'm going to set up a feeding and cleaning schedule and then we shall see how the children rise to the occasion or not. 

Until then I'll be like, "Hey fish..."



Monday, January 01, 2018

Hello 2018.




2017 is thankfully over. 

Here are five of my favorite articles/podcasts/videos to boost your fortitude and ignite your resistance in 2018.


2. Pod Save America Interview with disabled rights activist Ady Barkan; podcast (selection starts 29:25) https://crooked.com/podcast/perpetual-bullshit-machine/

3. Interview with Arizona rancher, lawyer and wise human Tony Sedgwick; (Whole podcast is great, but best bit starts at 43:40)

4. Lovett or Leave It: Mic-droppingly-epic 2017 Summary; podcast (selection starts 1:03:49)

5. Luvvie Ajayi: Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable--about being the 'domino' & speaking truth; video 11 minutes