Archive for the ‘ Losing a Parent ’ Category

How To Teach Kids About Religion?

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

I decided to take Fia to church on Sunday. This, after a recent vacation to Mammoth, California where we visited an old ghost town.

Me: “Fia, let’s go look at the old church.”

Her: “Mama, what’s church?”

Cue brakes screeching to a halt. Uh-Oh.

Phil’s father is an Episcopalian Priest. He baptized both our kids. His mom is the epitome of a loving, Christian woman. “Rev and Bev” we call them. Part of the deal in baptizing, besides tradition, is to raise them “in the faith.” However, neither Phil nor I are particularly religious. I would call us more spiritual, even though we both grew up going to Sunday School (and when my family was falling apart in the 9th grade, I briefly became a born-again Pentecostal. Yep. Not kidding).  Phil’s experience–which included family time, church picnics and “preacher kid” mischief–was far different than mine.

My parents would pull up in a big cargo van that my mom used for her plant business. They’d open the side door and we four kids would come tumbling out. My adopted brother Carter would bounce in with his huge black Afro and my sister Tanya would follow with her neatly woven cornrows. Kelly, my biological brother, and I would lead the way.

“Come on you guys, we are going to be late!” I’d say, glad to be the older sibling/ring leader. We were a motley crew, no doubt.

My parents would slam the door and shout, “See you in an hour!” and go tearing off. My mother probably went and got high. My father probably went and made charts (we had a sign-in and sign-out chart growing up. Um, yes.).

I didn’t care about the drive-through drop off and I still don’t. In fact, in many ways, I get it. Woo hoo, an hour of free time! No babysitter, no kids. Where I differ from my parents (in addition to the 99% of things they did in child-rearing) is that I’m way too paranoid to ever leave my kids like that. Even when Fia is 8 or 9. No way, no how.

Not only would I not leave her at church alone, I wouldn’t leave her in Sunday School, even if I was at the church attending the main service.  I’m much too paranoid; especially after my “Stranger Danger” post and the warning many of you gave me about “tricky people.”

But here’s where I’m grateful for my religious education: I know the stories. I know a whale swallowed Jonah and Daniel got thrown into a lions’ den. I know the implications and the message behind those stories.  Many of the tales/allegories are cultural references too, and I think it’s important to know them. And no matter whom you worship–AllahBuddhaJesus–the common thread, at its core–is at least supposed to be about compassion, kindness and being a good person. Those are not bad things to teach your kid. One of my issues though, is I feel like I do that regardless. Must I take them to church every Sunday to learn this? Especially because I feel organized religion–also at its core–is deeply flawed?

I won’t go into my issues or grievances. This isn’t about what you believe. It’s about how to teach what you know to your kids without it feeling hypocritical or obligatory.

Back to my church excursion with Fia. On the way there I explained to her we were going to a church to learn about Jesus. Bev sent her the book, “Jesus Loves Me.” Fia knows all the words, partially because I’ve sang her (and Emmett) that song since birth, substituting “Jesus” for “Mama” and “for the bible tells us so” to “for she always tells you so,” etc.

I told her Jesus was a kind person who helped the blind see, the crippled walk and the poor eat. She asked where he was. Instead of saying, “in all of us” or some proper church response, I didn’t think it through. I got distracted because I was driving.

“Well, he died.”

“How did he die?”

“Some bad men killed him.”

Silence, then:

“Oh, oh, I know!” she piped up in earnest. “He was smushed and turned into soup!”

(Pause.) (Pause again.) (Pause more.)

“Well, not exactly…”

And so it goes. My search for answers. To be continued…

 

Pic of church via Shutterstock

 

 

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Remembering the Boston Marathon…

Monday, April 15th, 2013

The feel of your soles hitting the pavement. The roar of the crowds. The pride in pushing your body to do something so extraordinary. You do it for a charity, for a lost one, a loved one–or just for yourself. This is what runners do. This is what marathoners do.

I ran the Boston Marathon in 2008. I did it with two of my best running friends, Katie and Rachel. We were part of a team that trained together for multiple marathons. We ran through ice and snow in the Bronx, through wind and rain in Brooklyn, logging the miles, counting the minutes and checking off the weeks.

I sit here today in shock and heartbreak over the news of two explosions at this iconic event. Reports are still sketchy–many injured, possible packages found… your mind goes to the immediate: terrorism. It’s tax day. It’s Boston. It could easily be domestic. It’s also the world’s most famous running event. So it could be international. Or maybe a gas line exploded. We don’t know. The facts will come.

What is on my mind now are the runners, the spectators, the emergency workers, the reporters, my fellow running friends and anyone else who was, until a few hours ago, enjoying being part of this storied event. On so many levels the Boston Marathon signifies what is good in the world: Persistence, Drive, Kindness, Endurance, Humility, Charity.  But right now, it also signifies the bad. Or the potential of badness that exists. I am trying not to jump to conclusions.

Soon I will put on my running shoes and hit the trail. I will think back to that day when I crossed the finish line: elated, exhausted, proud. For all of those who crossed today and for all of those who watched, it will be a different memory. One mired in death and destruction. Even one of the toughest events in the world remains, at this moment, so incredibly fragile.

 

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Newtown Needs Your Help. Honor the 26.

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

It has been a month since the horrific Newtown shooting. A month in which normal lives were shattered beyond belief.

I was at Fia’s gymnastics lesson yesterday thinking about this. As she walked across the balance beam and did seat drops on the trampoline, I was struck by how normal my life has remained.

I can hold my daughter’s hand. I can kiss my son’s head. And right now, in this moment in time, that is all I care about. Truly.

When it happened, my grief for the families was so overwhelming, I had to seek help to get through the holidays. I also read another mom’s blog which helped tremendously in trying to not project this awful event onto my own family. I urge all of you who struggled or are struggling with this issue to read it.

So what have we learned in a month? We’ve learned there are so many whack jobs who make up this country, that we, the sane ones, need to work extra hard to get reasonable laws passed. I am calling out people like “Editor JP” who posted a handful of delusional and profoundly ignorant comments on my blog. I was tempted to take them off. But then I thought, no, everyone should see the kind of people we are dealing with in this national debate. The people who even refuse to debate. To listen. The reasonable need to stand up and overpower the unreasonable. Yes, I’m talking about people like you “JP” (are you doing your nails or cleaning your arsenal in anger?).

We have learned that the Newtown parents, in the midst of their grief, have formed a nonprofit to promote peace along with gun responsibility. It’s called the Sandy Hook Promise.

We have learned that many of the Newtown families are gun owners.

They are also reasonable gun owners who believe some sort of change must happen.

I’ll say it again: No one is calling for a ban on guns. No one is taking away the Second Amendment. All of you “JPs” out here, calm the f–k down. Yes, we all have a right to bear arms. What we don’t have is the right to bear weapons of mass destruction. As in assault weapons. Conservative Judge Larry Alan Burns recently sentenced Jared Lee Loughner–the man responsible for killing 6 in Tucson–to seven consecutive life terms plus 140 years in federal prison. Judge Burns wrote an article on “The Conservative Case for An Assault Weapons Ban.” In it, he clearly comes from a place of R-E-A-S-O-N.  Some excerpts:

“I get it. Someone bent on mass murder who has only a 10-round magazine or revolvers at his disposal probably is not going to abandon his plan and instead try to talk his problems out. But we might be able to take the “mass” out of “mass shooting,” or at least make the perpetrator’s job a bit harder.”

….”So what’s the alternative? Bring back the assault weapons ban, and bring it back with some teeth this time. Ban the manufacture, importation, sale, transfer and possession of both assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Don’t let people who already have them keep them. Don’t let ones that have already been manufactured stay on the market. I don’t care whether it’s called gun control or a gun ban. I’m for it.”

…”I say all of this as a gun owner. I say it as a conservative who was appointed to the federal bench by a Republican president. I say it as someone who prefers Fox News to MSNBC, and National Review Online to the Daily Kos. I say it as someone who thinks the Supreme Court got it right in District of Columbia vs. Heller, when it held that the 2nd Amendment gives us the right to possess guns for self-defense. (That’s why I have mine.) I say it as someone who, generally speaking, is not a big fan of the regulatory state.”

 Quoting from the article in the New York Times, on the Sandy Hook nonprofit, one of the founding parents said,

“We hunt, we target shoot. We protect our homes. We’re collectors. We teach our sons and daughters how to use guns safely. We’re not afraid of a national conversation in our community and in Congress about responsibility and accountability. We know there are millions of people in this nation who agree with us.”

Another parent who lost his 6 year-old boy said that he’s not done being a parent to Benjamin. Because there is so much more to be done on Ben’s behalf.

Those 20 children cannot have died in vain. Nor can the other 6. Or the countless others who are shot to death every day in this country. Do something to show your support for change. Perhaps it’s signing the Sandy Hook Promise. Perhaps it’s something else. Tell me what you have done. I can sign more than one pledge as long as it harkens towards peace and reason, not violence and hatred.

Do what is reasonable, what is right, what is logical. And what keeps us and our children alive.

If we can’t draw a sensible line on guns, we may as well call the American experiment in democracy a failure.”–Judge Larry Alan Burns

Picture of Sandy Hook courtesy of Shutterstock
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A Great Blog–No, Not Mine

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

Oh, don’t let the title fool you. I think my blog is simply amazing. Maybe the best out there… (ha).

But in all seriousness, I do want to talk about someone else’s blog.

I got so caught up in the Sandy Hook tragedy there were moments where I felt like I was neglecting my own family while grieving for those in Connecticut. Then a friend sent me the following blog and it seriously helped me shift my focus.

The author isn’t at all cold-hearted. But she is logical. And from what she said, she too, goes down a dark path when tragedy strikes others.

At one point in my mourning my husband said, “You gotta snap out of this. If you want to be depressed, be depressed for everyone. Have you seen what’s happening in the Congo lately?”

Of course I had, as I read the New York Times every day (until I had to stop last week because of my emotions). I told him though, the thing is, Sandy Hook is much more similar to my life than the atrocities being committed in the Congo. It’s no more or less tragic. But it is different. I could “feel” how those parents in Connecticut must have felt (or so I thought before reading this great blog below and realizing I couldn’t and shouldn’t put myself in their shoes).

Phil didn’t buy my rationale. And I really don’t either.

I will continue my crusade for Gun Control no matter what. But instead of putting myself in the shoes of those who have lost their children, I will walk in my own shoes. I will hold on to what I have and know. Not only is it far better for me, but in many ways it’s also respectful to those parents who have lost so much. I can’t imagine what they are going through. And why should I try? It does no one any good.

But don’t take my word for this. Please take a moment to read this incredible blog post on Mama’s Minutia. She says it much better.

 

Picture of blog via Shutterstock

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Why I Need A Bullet Proof Vest in Oklahoma…

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

I was going to write again this morning about my anger at the gun lobby.

I was going to write about my anger at largely the GOP and how they are in bed with the NRA (though certainly the Democratic party needs a backbone as well to stand up to the gun lobby).

I was going to write about the mental health debate that is now at the forefront. I wanted to talk about the contradiction that the very same people who support the NRA agenda also don’t want their taxes raised. And guess what proper mental health facilities require? Money. From taxes. So we’re in a bit of a quandary aren’t we people?

I was going to ask you all to enlighten me. Democrats, republicans, survivalists (your end of the world comes tomorrow, right? I hope you’re snug in your bunker. Some of them now have televisions in them. Funny thinking about what television you’ll watch when the world ends, huh?), I’m all ears. I want to understand what you suggest we do about incidents like the Newtown massacre. If you say mental health, are you willing to have your tax dollars support it? I am. Not sure what we need, exactly…institutions? I am not sure some of these mass murderers would have been placed in one anyway. But I’m willing to try anything–and help pay for it. After all, we can’t expect someone else like Warren Buffett or Donald Trump to foot the bill (though Donald would certainly benefit from some mental health himself…)

But I digress. I was also going to write about video games. What is the correlation between these awful, violent games where kids learn to kill and become desensitized…and the violence in our society?

These are the things that have been running through my mind in the moments where I’m not grieving for the people of Newtown. I want to understand how this could have happened. And how to prevent another one.

But then I came across something that ignited even more rage. Oklahoma! Yes, the state made famous by Rodgers and Hammerstein has added more fame to its arsenal.  You ready for this? Back in October a law was passed allowing you to take your gun to yoga class! Or anywhere you want! Loaded and unconcealed! Yes, this requires many exclamation points of excitement!!!! Want to walk into a bank with a loaded weapon? No problem!  The only place you can’t carry is a government building, a school or a bar. Whew. But if you want to do downward dog with your gun next to you, you can. Breathe an extra Namaste while you’re at it. It may be your last.

This may be the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard. Well, almost.

You see, when the law went into effect, Oklahoma became the 15th state to allow people to openly carry firearms with a license. Huh? Fifteen states allow this?? Quoting from the New York Times article, here’s the skinny: “Those 15 states include Utah, Iowa, New Jersey and Connecticut. Several other states, including Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada, have even more permissive laws that allow the carrying of unconcealed firearms without a license. All but six states and the District of Columbia allow some form of open carry, said John Pierce, founder of OpenCarry.org.”

But here is where Oklahoma is different than the East Coast states, including Connecticut. Again, quoting from the article:

“On the East Coast, open-carry laws generate little controversy because several states make it hard for average citizens to acquire the permits necessary to display unconcealed firearms.

Oklahoma is considered a “shall-issue” state, meaning that once a resident meets the legal requirements, officials must issue a license. Others states, including New Jersey and Connecticut, are known as “may-issue” states, meaning that even if a resident satisfies the requirements, officials may or may not issue the license because they have the discretion to consider other factors.”

I mean, are you kidding me? WTF?? The thing is, Oklahoma isn’t the only lenient state either. That’s why we need federal reform. From the top.  Speaking of… I love how no pro-gun rights senators (31 of them were asked) would appear on Meet the Press this weekend. Cowards I call them.

I applaud President Obama for saying he’ll propose something. Because something is better than nothing. But if he doesn’t, he loses my support (though I suspect the real problem will come from   the members of Congress who bend over to the NRA). I applaud Senator Dianne Feinstein for saying she’ll push for an assault weapons ban.  And I vow to never contribute to another politician unless he or she has actively pushed for gun reform.  It trumps everything else I believe in. Because none of it matters if you or your children are going to be gunned down.

To those of you who say there’s a .000001% chance that it will ever happen to you or your kid, I use the old adage, yeah, until it does. Then it’s a 100% chance.

Once again I reiterate what I said in my Newtown piece: no one is saying to make guns illegal. No one is saying to get rid of the Second Amendment. But what does need to be amended is the right to carry assault style weapons. That should no more be a part of the Second Amendment than the right to carry around a nuclear bomb.

I know people who hunt. People in my own family. Whom I love. But if you’re a hunter who requires an assault weapon to kill your prey then a) you’re not a real hunter and b) find another hobby. Like knitting.

Lastly, I will say, it’s a helluva lot easier to write from a place of anger than sadness. And right now I don’t feel like being sad. I don’t want to look at the pictures of those murdered children. I don’t want to imagine how those parents feel.

I’m now going to sign off and play with Emmett. I’m going to pick Fia up from school. I’ll probably hit Target, maybe even the grocery store. A typical day for me. Any one of those Newtown parents would kill for a day like mine. Sadly, for them, someone killed that typical day. Forever.

By the way, before you comment on my blog, consider the following from Nicholas Kristof’s latest column. He is responding to comments (in italics) made after his incredibly, fact-driven piece that was published last weekend. (read that one here). 

What happened in Newtown, Conn., was heartbreaking, but gun laws are feel-good measures that don’t make a difference. Norway has very restrictive gun laws, but it had its own massacre of 77 people.

It’s true that the 1994 assault weapons ban was not very effective, even before it expired (partly because it had trouble defining assault weapons, and partly because handguns kill more people than assault rifles). But if that law’s ban on the sale of high-capacity magazines had still been in effect, Adam Lanza, the gunman in Newtown, might have had to reload three times as often.

As for Norway, its laws did not prevent the massacre therelast year. But, in a typical year, Norway has 10 or fewer gun murders. The United States has more than that in eight hours.

If people want to kill, you can’t stop them. Even a fork can be deadly. On the same day as the Connecticut tragedy, a man attacked 23 schoolchildren in China with a knife.

But, in the attack in China, not one of those children died. What makes guns different is their lethality. That’s why the military doesn’t arm our troops with forks.

Gun suicides (nearly 19,000 a year in the U.S.) outnumber gun murders (more than 11,000), and a gun in the home increases the risk that someone in the home will commit suicide. The reason is that suicide attempts with pills or razors often fail; with guns, they succeed. When Israel moved to have many soldiers store guns on base rather than at home, its military suicide rates plunged.

We have the Second Amendment, which protects our right to bear arms. So don’t talk about gun control!

There’s a reasonable argument that the Second Amendment confers an individual right — to bear a musket. Beyond that, it’s more complicated. Everybody agrees on a ban on fully automatic machine guns. The question isn’t whether to limit the right to bear arms, but where to draw the line.

I’d like to see us take a public health approach that reduces the harm that guns cause. We could limit gun purchases to one a month to impede traffickers, make serial numbers harder to file off, ban high-capacity magazines, finance gun buybacks, require solid background checks even for private gun sales, require microstamping so that bullet casings can be traced back to a particular gun and mandate that guns be stored in gun safes or with trigger locks.

And if you need to enter a code to operate your cellphone, why not to fire your gun?

If you were at home at night and heard creaking downstairs, wouldn’t you want a Glock in your night stand?

Frankly, at that moment, I might. And then I might creep downstairs and fire at a furtive figure in the darkened kitchen — perhaps my son returning from college to surprise the family. Or, God forbid, somebody who lives in the house might use the Glock to commit suicide.

The gun lobby often cites the work of John Lott, who argued that more guns mean less crime, but scholars have since thoroughly debunked Lott’s arguments. Published research makes it clear that having a gun in the home simply makes it more likely that you will be shot — by your partner or by yourself. Americans are safer if they rely on 911 for protection rather than on a gun.

Nancy Lanza is a case in point. She perhaps thought that her guns would keep her safe. But they were used to kill her and then schoolchildren.

As children were being rushed out of Sandy Hook Elementary School, they were told to cover their eyes. I hope we don’t do the same and blind ourselves to the lessons of this tragedy.

 

Picture of Oklahoma courtesy of Shutterstock

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