Wednesday, October 24, 2018

A Different Season

This is usually my favorite time of year, and I'm working on it. I think of where I was just a year ago, and I don't even feel like the same person. Last year at this time, I had no idea that I would be moving, that the year would bring so much strife and loss. But I'm still standing, as I always do. We can never really know what's coming down the pike; life does what it does despite how well we plan. And I DO plan. I'm not a huge fan of surprises unless they are really good ones, but it is what it is. I learned a lot this year.

I learned that the people you love and trust can turn on you in a second if they don't get what they want from you. I learned that people can think they know everything they need to know about your situation, without ever talking to you, based on nothing more than the word of someone who's trying to hurt you. Okay, that was hard. But I also learned how to recognize who I am, independent of somebody else's flawed characterization, how to finally stand up for myself, to say "No more", and to accept that people don't always make sense. I also learned that I have a lot of friends, a LOT of support, and that I'm okay and surrounded by love. Nothing is more valuable than that. I may not have learned that otherwise, or maybe I wouldn't have been so aware of the blessing that it is. It's all good.

Moving wasn't something we planned. If you had asked me last year, I would have said "No way". The idea was completely overwhelming. The nasty dog down the hall was the catalyst, and as unpleasant as that situation was, it compelled a change. The move was awful (though the help of friends made it less so). Planning the move was awful. Packing and cleaning sucked. It WAS overwhelming, the timing was financially terrible, and all the last-minute complications around logistics were a nightmare. But we're here. We're glad we're here. My daughter and I are both still kind of marveling at how awesome our new space is, and so, no regrets. Just more gratitude.

I didn't know I would lose Murphy this year. I suspected I might, but he was such a big, solid guy, such a presence in my life, that he felt kind of immortal, I guess. I knew when he turned 12 that every day was a gift. I knew it on a logical level. But even when you know, it's impossible to prepare. Of all the major changes that occurred this year, this was by-far the toughest. But I'm still standing. I'm still planning. I'm fighting like hell to find my equilibrium, but I know that I will. It's the first time in 25 years that I haven't had a dog (my daughter does, but I don't!) It's kind of weird. I pretty much come and go whenever, and I don't really know how to handle that. I hurt too much to get a new dog right now, but I have a plan. I'm sort of going with the flow on that one I guess. I'll know when I'm ready.

As the year wraps up and I sit here drinking my same coffee but looking on an entirely different (and much nicer) view, I feel how lucky I am to have managed each of those hurdles, only to discover a new opportunity or something better on the other side. Okay, I can't really say that about losing Murph, but otherwise it's true. I've always known it to be true. Sometimes the most terrifying and/or difficult experiences can lead to the most unexpected and amazing things. I'm keeping that in mind as it applies to all areas of life right now. I'm looking forward to Halloween (always! Spooky season is my 'thing'!), and it looks like Christmas might be pretty cool, too. Thanksgiving is still up in the air, but we'll figure it out. My daughter and I have done it alone before, and it was still an awesome day.

I feel like my world has been turned upside down and inside out, but I landed on my feet. I feel like there are surprises yet on the horizon, but I suspect that they will be good ones. I wish you all the same <3

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

For Murphy

It's been a week today. This evening, actually, if I want to be picky. It feels like yesterday, and it feels like last year. Either way, I'm sitting here drinking coffee, and picking a scab on a wound that's already trying to heal. I owe him that much. I owe him much more, but it's a debt I can never repay. Murphy was the center of my universe for 12 years, and now he's gone. I feel like a piece of my soul died with him. I know that more than a few of you understand completely. You are the people who have kept me afloat this week, and I love you for it. We are not casual pet owners, but dog (and cat) people. Many of us have built our lives around our animals in one way or another, and have devoted a great deal of time and attention to our understanding of them and our care of them. We get it.

I can't speak for everybody, but for me, I've often been closer to the animals in my life than the people. They are more honest; they "say" exactly what they mean. They aren't afraid to share their affection for you or to ask for what they want or need. They aren't afraid to give, either, and do so tirelessly. I've always been around animals, from the time I was very little. It's a central part of who I am. Now, for the first time in 26 years, I just have me to worry about. I'm not happy about it. For 26 years I've had a baby to take care of, then a kid and dogs, then a kid and dogs and horses, then a kid and dogs again, and then, for the last few years, just my dog needed me. Murphy has seen me through the loss of two other dogs, having to get out of horses for financial reasons, a horrific relationship, quitting smoking, a major move, my daughter's teen years, and finally my daughter's adulthood and independence. That's a hefty chunk of my life. He was my rock, the thing that kept me anchored no matter who came and went and no matter what else was going on. He provided that consistent companionship, and caring for him was a steadying influence on me. So now, folks talk to me about freedom, but it feels like anything but. My dog friends get it: "Use this time between dogs to your advantage" is the message. That I get. But freedom isn't the right word. It's more of a Janice Joplin/Bobby McGee kind of freedom, the line in the song that says "Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose". For me, it's not freedom, but a shallow kind of emptiness; meaningless days stretched out in front of me without purpose. I know that it will sound odd coming from somebody who is probably the most awkward, reclusive person on the planet, but it's connections that give life meaning. Everything else is secondary. And my powerful connection to animals has always been central to my existence.  

Murphy taught me a lot about dogs and myself, too. He was "that" dog. The one that humbles you, that knocks you out of your comfortable ideology and expands your way of thinking. He's the one that gives you a choice: Change your ingrained assumptions, or fail. He was attacked by an off-leash dog when we first moved into town, and it was the beginning of a very trying two years of rehab. When you live in a situation where you literally cease to have any control over outside circumstances the moment you step out your door, it changes a lot about how you can and can't handle things. Endless advice from folks who's entire protocol is dependent on controlling any and all outside influences becomes entirely useless. Add the layer of blame that inevitably comes with failure (despite impossible circumstance) and you have a formula for all manner of bad. I wish more trainers understood that. But being in that situation creates priorities: Keep my dog safe, keep me safe, keep others safe, and do the best we can. I read on a web board somewhere that a woman was upset that she was being sued by a neighbor because her 80 pound German Shepherd bit a child. She thought it wasn't her fault "because you can't expect a small woman to be able to hang on to an 80 pound German Shepherd". You're damned right you can, and that absolutely IS the expectation. I was never going to be *that* person. Moving to town made me all too aware of the crappy boundaries people have when it comes to dogs, and it made Murphy's rehab take much longer than it otherwise would have. It also meant I was very aware of my responsibility to control my own dog, since nobody else was.  Our safety meant I used a prong collar on Murphy to mitigate the strength differential. I lost friends over it (no, seriously) but Murphy's needs and Murphy's success were my priorities, not bending to ideologies of others. It was the first time I lost friends for putting my dog first. So be it.

I've known Murphy his whole life. I loved his parents and his grandparents, and he himself was loved before he was even born. People gave me grief because he wasn't a rescue. But he was born to be healthy and strong, and to have a great temperament. There are never any guarantees with living beings, but by being careful and conscientious, you can stack the deck in your favor. So we did. I heard about how unhealthy Dobermans were supposed to be, how unstable their temperaments were. But I knew better. Murphy lived to be 12 years old without ever having a breed-related issue. He got his CGC when he was a cheeky, nine-month-old puppy. He never bit anybody. He never snapped at children. In a world of good boys, he was the best. I made sure to tell him that every day. I can look back on Murphy's life without regrets. He ate fresh food and had a healthy diet that was carefully researched and balanced just for him. He had a lot of training, which for him was fun, one-on-one time. He knew everything, and a trained dog is a free dog. He used to go hiking with me. He ran around Shelburne farms with me, off leash. He traveled with me. He hated water, he didn't swim, and he didn't like the beaches here in Vermont. He LOVED to run on the soft, white sand on the beaches in Florida though, and he had opportunity to do just that. We played fetch at the park until we were both ready to drop (and sometimes Murphy would be left covered in mud!), and we would go snow shoeing. Sometimes, Murphy would jump on the back of my snowshoes to get out of the deep snow (he was no fool!), and I would do a (not) graceful face-plant. Only if there were people around to see it, though. We had a couple of memorable (and public) moments involving ice and squirrels, too. Murphy had a sense of humor, for sure. But I always made sure that he had plenty to do, and plenty of time to rest as well. When he started to slow down, we adjusted. I let him choose the pace. He spent hot, muggy summer afternoons snoozing in air-conditioned comfort. We changed his diet to accommodate his changing needs. As his ability to exercise diminished, his toys, games and treats became more important. We made sure he had plenty of all. He was walked everyday, brushed everyday, and had his teeth brushed everyday. Every morning, I told him he was beautiful. Every night, I told him that I loved him before we fell asleep. When folks ask "would you have done anything different if you had known it was his last day?" I can truthfully answer "no". I cared everyday. Every single one. Murphy wasn't a rescue dog, but he was a healthy dog who never knew a single day of fear, of loneliness, of being unloved. If I had a one wish for dogs, it would be that they all could be so fortunate. I think it's as important to support people who actively promote that ideal as it is to support rescue. The point is the well-being of the animals, always.

I saw it coming, but I didn't. Some of you know what I mean. Murphy was a 100 pound, 12 year-old Doberman. The fact that he existed was kind of miraculous, and I knew that every day with him was a gift. His well-being was prioritized right up to the end of his life. When an aggressive dog moved in down the hall from us and kept going after Murphy (twice very memorably, and requiring animal deterrent), we decided to move. We tried everything else first because we had lived in our home for 10 years, but it became clear that nothing was going to be done and we didn't really have a choice. It took weeks to prepare, and a grueling few days to execute, but we did it. Murphy was safe, and our new place an upgrade from where we were. It took a couple of days to settle in, to unpack, to put up shelves. And finally, last Wednesday, I woke up knowing we were done, and I was in total celebration mode. I was messaging a friend to that end and getting ready to pour myself a glass of wine when I saw that something was really wrong with Murphy. He couldn't get up. Over the last few months I had noticed some potential spinal degeneration, and he had vet appointment scheduled. But even that very day, everything was normal. He went for his walks, he ate his meals, just like any other day. And then suddenly, he lost the ability to use his hind end. My daughter's boyfriend was here, and the two of us tried to lift Murphy, to help him to his feet. Murphy couldn't stand at all. My daughter came home, and I called Tommy. Tommy was a boyfriend for ten years, a friend for even longer and the owner of Murphy's parents. He helped deliver Murphy into the world, and handed him over to me instead of insisting we sell him for some real money. He's always been an "animal first" kinda guy. His heart was as broken as mine. Tommy and Taylor (my daughter) carried Murphy, on his bed, to the back of my station wagon. We drove to the emergency vet. They put him on a stretcher, and laid him and his bed on the floor of a room. Taylor stayed on the floor with Murphy from the moment we arrived. We were all there. Taylor, Matt (my daughter's boyfriend), Tommy, and my dear friend Debbie even showed up, too. He was a very popular pinscher. Tommy and I knew the prognosis wasn't great from the moment we saw that Murphy couldn't stand up. The vet confirmed it. No matter how much money we spent or how much we did, there was no good outcome.

I don't remember much beyond that. It's funny how our minds work. I remember my daughter losing it because it's so odd for her. I remember saying goodbye to my best friend at 9:45. I remember my dear friends being there. I remember crying hysterically on Tommy's shoulder. I remember waking up in an unfamiliar place, surrounded by familiar things, but with someone important missing. I never did have that glass of wine. I know it sounds odd, but it still hurts too much to drink. It's been a week. One week. I still feel oddly disconnected from everything. I went for a walk in my old area just for some grounding and familiarity, but all I did was cry. Maybe I needed to. I might for awhile. I know how this goes. I have the Chase Away 5K this Sunday, and my daughter and I will be there. I feel like every step forward that I take is a good one. My friends are amazing people. The support and kind words have meant everything. I don't say that casually or lightly. I love you guys, more than you can ever know. And now, there's nowhere to go but forward. I'll take Murphy with me, always in my heart, always a part of me, wherever I go. I'll love you forever, big guy.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

"Victim" Mentality

It's been a day, and I'm tired. The full moon is kicking my butt, and there is a lot going on in my life. Some of it makes sense, some of it doesn't. I'm going with the flow (well, as much as I do, anyway). I'm not alone here. There seems to be more than a few people going through some stuff right now. I see you, I feel you and I love you, so know that. It is what it is, and we'll all get through our collective stuff, but I had a conversation today that was sort of a touchy one for me, and even relevant on a broader scale. Sometimes what I do when I don't know how to process something is to put it here. I have the time and the need, so here goes.

Today, I was blamed for being verbally abused. Well, maybe not blamed, exactly, but it was implied that I had some part in it (I didn't). I was told that if I couldn't just pretend it didn't happen and move on in order to keep the peace, that the issue was my fault and I was hanging on to a victim mentality. It seems like a good time to be clear about this over-used (and often IMPROPERLY used) phrase, and define what a victim mentality really is.

I can speak to this personally, and without hesitation. Folks who know me know that I've been through some sh**. My trauma history isn't for the feint of heart. But it is just that: history. And there's a reason for that: The reason is that I stood and faced it, I talked about it, I dealt with it and I had the balls to put things in perspective and to hold people accountable. Some of it took me a really long time to deal with, mostly because I didn't want to look at it too closely, but eventually I DID deal with it. I still do that, and I'm smarter about what I allow into my life as a result. Facing things directly and head on is NOT the easy route, it's not the simple or painless route, and it isn't without consequences. But IS the only way forward. Sometimes that crap (and please forgive the graphic imagery here) is like a big boil that isn't going to get better until you open it up and let all the goo out. Only then will it heal. And yeah, breaking it open is going to hurt like hell and cause a big mess, but that's nothing compered to the discomfort of continuing to live with that boil. Anyhoo, dealing with the ugly sh** head on and refusing to accept further abuse is the OPPOSITE of victim mentality. Standing up for yourself is the OPPOSITE of victim mentality. Refusing to allow abusive people to continue to abuse you is the OPPOSITE of victim mentality. Holding people accountable (in whatever form that takes) for the way they've treated you is the OPPOSITE of victim mentality.

Shutting up to keep the peace, pretending the abuse/assault/bullying/whatever never happened so you don't make waves, that's staying a victim. Being afraid to advocate for yourself, that is victim mentality. No, no, and FUCK no. It took me a long time to learn how to stand up for myself. Part of me needed to learn how to believe that I had a right to. How messed up is that? And to be here, at this place in my life, and to STILL be expected to shut up and take Never again. I am a lucky human to have awesome, loving people in my life. I love them dearly, and they love me and I know that. Nobody is perfect, but we know how to treat each other with kindness and respect, even when there is conflict. None of us has to jump through any hoops to prove anything to each other. Love is unconditional. If your excuse for abusing and threatening people is "I was mad", then you have a problem and a lot of work to do. But it is no longer my problem.

Friday, September 14, 2018


For the first time in ten years, we are moving. It used to be something we (reluctantly) did a lot, but it's our choice this time, and it really IS time. When we moved in ten years ago, it was a pretty perfect situation. It was affordable, safe and located just where we needed it to be. We've really liked it here. I'm not going to go on with a laundry list of complaints, because it's been a comfortable home, and there's been a lot of awesome here. It was the first place I lived that wasn't a chore factory, it was close to a really awesome rec path, close to school, and my neighbors (most have them) have been pretty great. Hell, I even wrote a book here! We were able to have cable for the first time in forever, and we got to experience the joy of having food delivered. I know it sounds like little stuff, but my daughter and I have spent a lot of time in the middle of nowhere, so it was an exciting new experience.

But life moves on. Things that used to matter, don't anymore. Priorities change. And sometimes, life gets so outrageous that you just need to hit the reset button. I'm there. And yeah, I have specific complaints about the area (not the least of which is the aggressive dog that continues to live down the hall, despite multiple complaints and two police reports), but it was time, anyway. So after a particularly nasty encounter with the dog down the hall, I just said to my daughter "Let's move", kind of on a whim. When she came back with "God, yes", I knew it was happening. And what an overwhelming (but exciting) proposition that has been.

I'm not a materialistic person, like, at all. But I have a stupid amount of stuff. There was a time that that gave me a feeling of security, now it just makes me feel like I'm suffocating under the weight of it all. Most of the stuff that I have was somebody else's stuff that was given to me. I could always say no, but the combination of being raised by frugal people and coming from a personal place of scarcity has made it difficult to do that. I am SO over it! I've given away everything that could be of use to somebody, and I've mercilessly tossed and purged anything else that wasn't immediately useful. It's long overdue, and the more I get rid of, the better I feel. It's a tangible representation of what is happening for me psychologically, too. I'm done taking on other peoples' sh**. I won't own it, take it, accept it or take responsibility for it. It isn't mine, and it's gotta go. Even moving; the physical act of moving on, feels absolutely right. What once was has value, has taught me what it needed to teach me, and will always be important in that way, but it's done. Everything is different from now on because it has to be. Old patterns are no longer acceptable. It feels like freedom.

I'm still a bit thrown by the reality of getting our stuff from point A to point B. Financially, the timing is pretty crappy and we really need more muscle, but my daughter and I have done a lot more with a whole lot less. Struggling sucks, but it's made us extremely resourceful and pretty philosophical about it. We've got this, even if we feel like we don't, we do. And our new place is AWESOME. It keeps a lot of what I like about our current home: Proximity to necessities, security, and it's clean, and well-maintained. But we like it's specific attributes even better (flooring, kitchen space, etc.) and it's a much quieter area. That's a biggie for me. It's been tough for me to live in proximity to so many people and so much traffic. In my ideal world, I live in a sturdy little cabin in the woods surrounded by trees and sky and stars. In the real world where I can't afford that, I at least need home to be a haven. I think the new apartment is a step closer to that.

I remain grateful to our current space for holding us so well all these years, I'm grateful for healthy closures and the strength to initiate them and move on. And I'm SO DAMNED EXCITED to see what the next chapter brings!!

Sunday, August 12, 2018

A Walk in the Woods

I walk toward peace, a sea of green, an explosion of summer abundance. My footsteps on the path, leading me away from the noise and chaos of my day.

Gradually the sounds of traffic fade, and my path narrows and softens. I see birds, some brown and black; others bright yellow, red, and even blue. they argue back and forth above my head the way birds do. 

The sun filters to the soft forest floor, all shadows and glitter. I feel the warmth on my skin and take a breath. I can feel the tension begin to leave me. Nothing is important here except right now.

A light breeze kisses the back of my neck, raising goosebumps. It whispers in my ear. It says "You belong here". It says "You are home". My soul recognizes that truth.

I hear the brook, water gliding over stone. I send my cares with it, to be washed away and to dissipate. I can hear my breath, and the woods breathe with me. My mind is finally still and calm. I take my time and linger in this healing space.

Eventually I walk home; grateful, renewed and reminded of who I am.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Pain and Letting Go

Photo: Allie Brosh*
I did a big purge last week, and it felt pretty good. I don't mean the murdery kind with looting and whatnot, I mean cleaning out things I don't need. For somebody who doesn't really 'get' materialism, I sure do hang on to some stuff. Mostly what I've been hanging on to was dog stuff. It's one of the very few things that I'll spend real money on. Just ask my dog; he's wearing a nice coat made just for him, and I'm running around in holey sweatpants. Priorities, don'tcha know! I even cleared out Murphy's things that he doesn't use anymore, so wow!

 I've had 5 dogs in the last 25 years or so, most of them at the same time, and they had a lot of stuff. For some reason, I couldn't make myself let go of it. And a few days ago, it was like a revelation: I don't need to keep that stuff anymore. I wish that thought had occurred to me two moves ago, but better late than never.

 I get why there are certain things I hang on to. Scarcity has been a real thing and a big thing. Anything lost wasn't easily (or ever) replaced. That's part of it, but no longer relevant. The other bit is emotional: "But that belonged to________! How can I get rid of that?" But the truth is, I was there for the good parts, I got to spend time with my critters, and they'll never be forgotten. The rest is just stuff. Sure, keep a little something. But I don't have to keep ALL of it! So I gathered it up and donated it to somebody with a rescue who could make real use of it, and where it could do some good for some living critters. I feel lighter!

 It has often been a challenge for me to let go that way. I've experienced a lot of loss, and I suppose it was my way of hanging on in the only way I knew how. But the longer I live, the less I need that stuff, and the more confident I feel in the depths of those connections and the memories of those real and awesome experiences. Keeping 'stuff' is a little like building a monument to pain; a focus on loss and what's missing instead of the bigger, more important parts.

 Pain is part of life; EVERYBODY'S life. It's certainly been a part of mine. But what do I want to do with it? Do I want to make it the central pillar that I construct the rest of my life around? F*** no! I want to acknowledge it, experience it, and move through it, knowing there is something on the other side. I want to learn what I need to from it, and then heal. I recently watched "Nanette" by Hannah Gadsby (Highly recommend! Very Powerful!) and there was one line that she said that really stood out to me: "There is nothing stronger than a broken woman who has rebuilt herself" And boy, she isn't kidding! But that means you don't stay broken! And I'm NOT a broken woman anymore, and haven't been for a looooong time. Not everybody seems to have gotten that memo.

 Okay, so this took a turn as it often does. I guess that's what my blog is for :-) But full disclosure: Parts of my life really hurt right now. There's nothing I can do about it. I'm having to be very 'Serenity Prayer' about some things, and it's hard. I know I can always resort to what my shrink calls "the Nuclear Option"(publicly publishing the truth of an ugly situation I'm involved in), but it isn't who I am. I would certainly be vindicated, but at what cost? Ergo, accepting the things I can't change, and trusting life to sort it out. It always has, so I have to have faith in that.

So like my purging of all the dog stuff that I don't need, I'm purging the unhelpful emotional weight that I've been carrying around. I don't need it. Letting go doesn't change time or experiences, or negate anything good or valuable. It just allows to me to focus forward on things that are positive, loving, nurturing and healing. Sometimes that's all we can can do.

*This photo came from one of my favorite blogs! It can be found here: Hyperbole and a Half: Boyfriend Doesn't Have Ebola. Probably

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Gun Violence

I was going to call this post something else, something a little less incendiary.  But I'm very much about telling it like it is whenever possible, and the title is apt. It's been another rough week. Another week of partisan propaganda, another week of circular arguments, another week of kids begging our government to do something, another week of protests planned. My friends and family know very well what my personal feelings on this issue are, what my opinions are, and what I believe. I will get to that in a bit, too. Just a little. I'm realizing though, that if this is a problem we want to solve (and I often have to wonder if there are some who like things just as they are), we need to get beyond our opinions, thoughts, feelings, political biases and personal beliefs. We need to understand that any proposed solution that falls into the ban guns/more guns box, is a non-starter. It's the argument we have Every. Single. Time. It gets us nowhere, it will ALWAYS get us nowhere, if for no other reason than each of these proposals (in their many incarnations) fails to consider the values and priorities of enormous groups of people. I don't like that idea because it means I don't get what I want, either. But there it is. This isn't about a party getting their way, it's about solving a problem that really needs to be solved.

Party politics hasn't been the only issue, but it's certainly been a major contributor. What we've failed to do is study this issue objectively, and it's something that really needs to be done ASAP. It's been difficult to do so because of legislation put in place to block that and to block funding that supports it. It's a situation that's outlined fairly well in this article: What's Missing From the Gun Debate  
Once upon a time, the NRA used to be a reputable American institution. They were about firearm safety, and about protecting rights. This is no longer the case. Please understand that I grew up in a rural hunting culture, and watching the decline of the NRA was like watching a trusted friend become a murdering psychopath. I mention this only for context. Without a doubt, somebody is reading this and assuming "brainwashed libt***". Sorry, no. I'm not going to fit into any of the neat little boxes you've been told to believe in, so don't bother trying. I'm just not very suggestible. But try to look at this objectively, if you can. The latest propaganda put out by the NRA isn't just alarmingly Orwellian and irresponsible. It's dangerous, outright lies directed at people who are less discerning about what they will believe, and inclined to act on the misinformation provided. The NRA knows EXACTLY what they are doing. On the upside, as their message has gone more and more off the rails, their membership has dropped. Last year I looked into the specific numbers (and I encourage you to do the same. It's a much better use of time than arguing with what you don't want to hear!) and the percentage of Americans who owned guns was somewhere around 40%. Of those folks, only about 5% were NRA members. This may have changed since last year (check it out! I will share non-partisan links if you find them!)  Money HAS to be an issue here. And here is a big ol' question for ya: How does a lobby that represents such a small fraction of our population have more power over our government than the people who elected that government? And why aren't we losing our collective sh** over that? Because we should be!

I wouldn't be me if I didn't try to breakdown some of the proposals I've heard on social media. In the ban guns category, the most popular suggestion is to ban "assault rifles". I won't personally go into detail, but I will share this Wiki page with you: Federal Assault Weapons Ban  As with anything I post, if you don't trust the source, don't bother arguing with me about it. Do your own research. Learn some things. One of the unfortunate things about semi-automatic weapons (besides their obvious kill efficiency) is the ease in which they can be converted to automatic (which is illegal). They were designed to be easy to convert, and conversion supplies/kits/instructions are legal and readily available. This isn't by accident or oversight. IMHO, this needs to be addressed NOW, at the very least. I have friends who love their semis and are responsible with them. I've said I don't have a problem with these folks having them. But right now ANYONE can have them, right down to the dude arguing with the carrots in the grocery store (to be fair, that could be me on any given day as well, lol). That's not okay. The other popular suggestion is to ban guns entirely. That is a non-starter, what with the whole 2nd amendment and all. (Having said that, I wish people showed equal concern for the other amendments. Just sayin'.) And see above re: values and priorities of large groups of people.

Popular on the more guns side of the argument is the idea of armed guards at schools. The problems with that are many: There was an armed guard present at our most recent mass shooting, and that didn't stop it. In fact, there are armed guards at banks that still get robbed, in malls where items are still stolen and violence still occurs, and we've had presidents shot and/or killed SURROUNDED by highly trained, armed protectors. Personally, another issue for me is the normalizing of violence. This is a just me, opinion thing here, but I don't want to live in a culture that surrounds it's children with guns, or needs to. In my opinion, for a developed country, that is a HUGE fail. In the same category is arming teachers. I don't know who YOUR teachers were, but none of mine was Rambo. (I'm trying to imagine my gentle, elderly humanities teacher drawing down on an angry teenager with a semi-automatic. Yeah, not so much). Most of my mother's teachers were nuns. They could be scary, but seriously? Here's the biggest problem with that though: TEACHERS don't want that. You are asking them to be willing to commit suicide as part of their job description. We already have enough trouble finding and keeping good teachers, this expectation might just eliminate the profession altogether. We have made education so low on the priority list that we already have trouble funding schools, even to the point of providing basic supplies for the students. But now we suddenly have funds for tactical training and weapons? Um, huh?

Okay, here's the bit where I get personal. I don't want more guns. We have a huge issue with gun-related violence in this country, to the point we are uniquely violent within the developed world and getting more so. It's shameful. Having said that, I understand that it isn't just a gun problem. It IS a gun problem in that access is essentially unlimited. But there are other contributing factors, too, and I believe that we can't put all of our focus on one, single thing. We need to be willing to look at all the issues, and we need to study the issues in real time. In my fantasy world, lobbies no longer get to use money to influence policies. Our government is clearly a sh** show, let's DEAL with that. Taking away the financial influence would be a productive step in the right direction. We need to keep tabs on the folks who stockpile weapons. I don't mean 'Uncle Joe Hunter" with his cabinet full of hunting rifles. I happen to think a lot of 'Uncle Joe'. He's a decent guy, a good friend and neighbor, and he just wants to go hunting with his friends come November. I'm talking about the angry, paranoid guy who thinks his lack of impulse control and his anger management issues make him AWESOME. This guy won't take responsibility for his own behavior. He's an entitled, giant toddler who thinks everybody better tip toe around him, or else. And he loves to collect weapons and brag. THIS guy needs to not have guns. We have to find a fair and logical way to make sure of that, while leaving 'Uncle Joe' to do his thing. I don't have the answers here, really. I'm just a heartsick person who can't take any more of this sh**. I just know that the only way we are going to fix this and have a country worth living in is to want to solve the problem, and to want that more than we want to "win".