The Gun Talk

I finally did it, I finally had the gun discussion with Annika the other day. We talked about real guns and what to do if she ever sees one.

guns
Google image search on guns. It felt very strange to show this to my 4 and a half year old.

She asked me how guns work one morning over breakfast (she had watched a cartoon the day before that had a gun.) And so I jumped on the discussion that had been in the back of my mind since mid-January.

It took me about a month after the shootings in Newtown at Sandy Hook Elementary to come to the conclusion that the best lesson I could take away from the horrendous act was to teach my daughter about guns.

Honestly, I never thought about discussing guns with her at the young age of 4 and a half. We’ve discussed body parts and privacy. We’ve had discussions about strangers, but guns weren’t on my radar. It’s not something I thought I’d need to shelter her from at such a young age.

The only discussion we’ve ever really had about guns is that we don’t point toy guns at people. Until a few days ago, I’ve never told her that real guns kill people and that death is forever. The only death she’s dealt with so far is the death of our dog (who lived with Toyin) and she is still very sad about that. But she also thought for a while that he would “come back alive.”

During our discussion, I told her that guns are dangerous. I purposely left out the word “scary” during our discussion. I want her to know that guns are dangerous. But I worry that if she’s scared, she would freeze up if she ever saw one.

Very matter-of-factually, I told her three specific things:

  1. Guns are not to be played with.
  2. If you ever see one, run away and go tell a grown up.
  3. Never touch it.

And then I did an image search on Google for guns and showed her a few.

I pointed out a pistol.

A shotgun.

And for the semi-automatic, I just told her that, that gun was the most dangerous and could shoot a lot of bullets really fast.

I wondered if I was giving her too much information. Perhaps some of the details slipped on by and didn’t sink in.

I wonder if I’ve added to her anxiety about life. I definitely didn’t tell her that there was a shooting at a school, nor did I give her any indication that it could happen to her anywhere.

But I have to admit, I feel better that we’ve discussed it. And I feel worse because we had to discuss it.

 

 

Civil Rights Fraud

It's always sunny in Austin, Tx.

Yesterday, being Martin Luther King Jr’s day and all, I felt like I should post something. Being the mama of a child who is essentially “African American” I think that it’s expected or something. It’s kind of silly, these expectations I put on myself, because in all reality, I don’t think anyone is really looking around wondering what I have to say about MLK that any other white American woman might say.

Yada, yada, yada, MLK was awesome. He wanted peace. He would be proud of us today for electing a black man as president.

Sometimes I feel like I’m hiding behind this mask that I’m somehow more enlightened or open-minded or something or other because I have family who doesn’t have the same skin color as my own. People give me acknowledged smiles or say vague things about race that I’m not always sure I understand. The longer Annika has been alive, the less I think about the differences about our skin color. And when it happens, I’m jolted back into the reality about how others view us, especially me, from both sides of the racial divide.

I often feel like a fraud when it comes to issues surrounding race. Just because my daughter is black, doesn’t make me an expert. Nor do I feel any closer to the black community because of her race.

Honestly, I felt closer to the issues surrounding racial tension when I lived in Detroit and worked as a reporter (even though I didn’t cover racial topics, necessarily.)

As a mom to a child of color, living in largely white Austin, Texas, I don’t feel as connected to the black community in the way I did when I lived next door to, worked with and befriended a wide swath a people with skin tones darker than my own.

It wasn’t just that I was near them, but I heard them. I heard their complaints. I saw the injustices piled upon a city left ravaged from historic racism and white flight. Detroit is still fighting for its life. And the city is losing.

But here in Austin, I don’t really have many black friends. And the friends I do know, I rarely see. And black folks are seemingly different here, than in Detroit, anyway.

The racial divide is unspoken in Austin, where I’m surrounded by white liberals who talk the talk. We are open-minded and we love Obama. We actively seek out diversity in our schools. We welcome people of color into our inner circles. And amongst my white liberal friends, you will never, ever hear something about a black person that you wouldn’t hear if one was nearby.

After living in Detroit and hearing racial epithets tossed about casually when white was the only skin color around, it’s refreshing.

We white liberals use lots of subtext when we talk about race. We don’t say “those people.” We talk about being proud to live in this day and age. We make casual references glossing over racial discussions. The vague, but strictly pointed subtext lies below. We are open-minded. We are not racists.

But I’m a civil rights fraud. I don’t actively work toward a better future for the racial divide. Other than being open-minded enough to screw outside my race, I haven’t really ever stepped outside my comfort zone to work toward equality.

I know there is still work to be done. Perhaps I could write my senators about laws that need to be passed. The DREAM Act, would be one such law I could support. I could join in the voices complaining about how black men are disproportionately jailed vs white men in the United States.

I could find some displaced youths to attend to. I could join local groups and write letters. I could actively work toward inclusion in our schools and community groups. I could be a mentor. I could point out that white Americans have it better because of history and that the same hard work doesn’t always spell out the same success. It also depends on where you started. White Americans have had a leg up for years. We don’t understand because we didn’t start in the same place.

I could spend more time writing rants about the ridiculous stereotypes I’ve encountered. I’ve only learned about some since Annika was born. One such is the notion that black women are less attractive than other races. This one pains me because Annika is already questioning her looks because of her skin color.

But I don’t. I don’t do these things because, well, because we live in a really nice world. I don’t see the injustices day-to-day. I do think that our country is moving forward. But I think we still have a lot of work to do.

But it’s really hard to do it when I’m surrounded by summer sun, nine months out of the year, public pools, margaritas and breakfast tacos.

We live a good life here in Austin, Texas. While the city is still divided along many racial lines, the intentions are good. It’s hard to remember that in other parts of the world, it’s not so great. I live in my bubble.

So I’m a civil rights fraud, with my biracial baby living in my mostly white world.

The Question is Not Just What, But Why? In the Sandy Hook Shooting

When I first heard of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn last Friday, my first thought after the shock and horror registered, was “Why?”

Why on earth would someone shoot a mass of children. Babies. Innocents.

Then I spent the rest of the day tearing up and imagining the excruciating pain the parents would be feeling.

Schools are supposed to be safe. Elementary schools are filled with chatter and love; paint and crayons; magic and wonderment. The worst possible fear I ever had about school was predators. But not guns. Never guns.

Until now.

Monday morning when I dropped Annika off, I acted like everything was normal. I didn’t tell Annika what happened. She doesn’t need anything else to worry about. I wondered if I made the right decision. She could potentially hear something at school from an older child or a sibling of an older child. But I thought it was worth the risk. If she comes home asking questions I’ll be honest and tell her I didn’t want her to worry because it was such an unlikely scenario at her school.

Now that I’ve had a few days to reflect on the shooting, however, my thoughts are starting to move in the direction of the shooter’s family. Adam Lanza, however angry everyone is at him for doing what he did (and with good reason) I can’t help but feel sorry for him and his family.

Whatever he was going through, to feel justified in killing babies, must have been torturous. Human beings hurt others when they’ve been hurt. Clearly Adam Lanza’s anger and hurt was misdirected.

The actions and outward appearance of a human being is a reflection of their inner thoughts and emotions. The outside of us shows us what’s on the inside. And if you can look at what Adam Lanza did last Friday in Sandy Hook Elementary, you can feel his pain inside, the same pain we were all feeling when we first heard of the attacks. The same torturous, raw, breaking pain that the parents and families are feeling right now.

So why? Why would someone do this?

Since Friday afternoon all I’ve been hearing is how we need stricter gun laws.

This Slate article breaks down how much better of we’d be with stricter gun laws by comparing the Sandy Hook attack with an attack in China.

But I wonder exactly what kind of pain those children in China will hang on to and perhaps perpetuate upon others after they’ve been stabbed and terrorized.

If I were forced to choose, it’s no contest, I’d pick my scared, but alive, child any day. But I’m not sure that it’s much better for society to have masses of paranoid, anxious, angry children growing up.

So yes, we need more gun control. But we also need to ask why? Why do we have people/men feeling such urges to kill in en masse.

I think we need to start looking around and seeing what we can do to prevent the pain. Prevention of shootings will only continue to perpetuate the pain.

Ways you can help out Sandy Hook victims: http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/how-to-help-in-newtown-conn/

Body Cleanse, Detoxing Before the Holidays

I’m on day eight of a cleanse. Not a juice fast, just a cleansing diet. It feels so good. It’s hard, not eating all the scrumptious yummy food that I want. But I just keep reminding myself how delicious it will taste when this is over. It’s going to be simply amazing!

Several people have asked me what I’m doing so I figured I’d write it all down. It’s easier and not as taxing as a juice fast, from what I understand of a juice fast. I’ve never done one and I’m pretty sure I don’t have the stamina for it.

But this cleanse will reset your appetite; reduce your sugar cravings; and cleanse your body of toxins. I’ve also lost five pounds so far. I’m hoping that it stays off when I’m done. That will, of course, depend largely on if I stick with my goals, but I’ll get to that later.

It’s quite simple. First you need to get some Bentonite and some flax (oil or power is fine). Bentonite is a clay, so it’s imperative that you drink lots of water. My minimum is 60 ounces per day. The water will not only keep you hydrated, but will assist in flushing out the toxins (read: you should be pooping a lot). I use the Yerba Prima Bentonite.

Bentonite is also good as a nice, clarifying mask on your skin, fyi.

For the flax, you can use oil or powder. I used to use the powder, but this time around I’m using flax oil. The mixture doesn’t taste quite as bad as the powder mixed with the clay. I used the Flora brand flax oil.

Mix one teaspoon of Bentonite and one teaspoon of flax oil or powder in 8 ounces of water. Drink this twice a day, once in the morning and once at night.

Aside from this mixture and drinking a crap ton of water, the rest of it is just watching what you put in your mouth.

Here’s what I’ve been eating:

Breakfast:

Boiled egg and some chopped up fresh veggie along with a my detox mixture, 20 ounces of water and some green tea.

Snacks:

Almonds (or other nuts) and blueberries or a tiny bit of other fruit. You only want to eat enough to satisfy a craving. Don’t pound it down.

For lunch:

A salad

Dinner:

Homemade vegetable soup and another glass of Bentonite and flax in water.

Drink water throughout the day. Make sure you drink at least 60 ounces.

You can also have a bit of fish, so I had some tuna over the weekend when I was feeling particularly hungry.

That’s the basics. Small amounts of protein, tons of veggies in whatever form you desire. No processed food. No sugar. No meat or very small bits of meat. Definitely no red meat. No caffeine, except green tea. No booze!

This time around, I also did no grains. But if you aren’t trying to lose weight, you can also have brown rice or probably some quinoa. Just make sure it’s something that’s easily digestible.

For me the hardest part, oddly enough, is the sugar cravings. That was the case even before Annika was born when I wasn’t much of a sweets person. But for some reason, the first three days of the cleanse I have always had intense sugar cravings and headaches.

Today, day eight, I’m craving a glass of wine. But otherwise, feel fine. I am planning to do this until Friday afternoon, which will make it 10 1/2 days.

I was recently told about a couple who did a juice fast for six weeks and now I feel like a huge wimp. But in reality, if you’re just looking to reset your appetite and cravings; and cleanse your body of toxins, this is a great way to do it.

My plans going forward include sticking to a light breakfast and lunch. Very little snacking, and then, only nuts and berries. More vegetables. Lots of water. No sweets unless it’s super duper appealing. Fewer carbs in general.

Also, please note, I am not a health professional. This is just my personal experience. If you have any health concerns you should discuss this with your doctor before trying it. Also, listen to your body. If you get to a point where you are feeling seriously ill, eat something for god’s sake!

Happy Holidays y’all. I’m planning to enjoy the shit out of some sweets and alcohol this weekend!

Sick in the Country

Americans have been very sick for quite a long time.

I have long held the belief that Americans are held hostage by fear of poor health or losing health insurance. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard stories from people who are too scared to move jobs or quit or go out into the freelancing world because of fear.

It’s time for that to end. And now that Obama’s been re-elected, I have hope for my health insurance future.

I took a risk four and a half years ago when Annika was born. I quit my job and within six months, I had no health insurance. It’s been in the back of my mind consistently these few years, the worry. What if something happens to me? What if I develop cancer or get into a car wreck?

If I get sick and need prescription medicine is a worry, but not so much of one. I can afford a cash trip to the doctor, although, I’d rather spend my money elsewhere, for sure. Anyway, I pretty much avoid doctors, since I find that nine times out of 10, they will tell you what you already know and then slap you with a handful of prescriptions that you don’t honestly need. And in all reality, might just do things to your body that you are not really happy about.

This week, I’ve been battling a pretty nasty sore throat and worrying that it might be strep. According to all the mainstream sites, strep throat is only curable by taking antibiotics. I hate antibiotics. They mess with my gut horrendously. I have only taken them once or twice as an adult and each time, I was left with side effects that made me feel worse than the actual illness.

But according to the natural health websites, a good dose of probiotics, and some various home remedy gargles will work. I’ve been swilling a concoction with apple cider vinegar and other various things all week. And my throat does feel better, although, it’s not 100 percent. (To be honest, even if I had insurance, I probably would be doing the same thing.)

It’s fear though, that we Americans face when we make these choices about health care and medicine.

“Nothing will cure you but this!” They tell us.

“You’re all going to die and you need to have crazy coverage!”

I don’t know. I spent many, many years buying into that system and you know what? Now that I’ve been out of it, I am none the worse for wear. I haven’t died. I haven’t made any trips to the doctor either though, and there are a few things I am behind on.

Now, I’m not advocating that everyone run out and ditch their insurance. I do know of many people who do really need it. (And as I’m writing this, I can hear their voices in my head.)

I just believe that we should all have access to it. It shouldn’t be tied to our jobs or our continuous health.

Yes, we should have incentives for preventative care. I wholeheartedly believe in preventative care, which is why I think that I’m doing okay overall.

But as I was pondering yesterday morning, that I might actually need a trip to the doctor and wondering how much it would set me back, I thought, “This is ridiculous. Everyone should have health care. I do a good job with my work and my mothering. I am a productive member of society. And I should have easy access to decent health care without having to go into debt for it.”

I recently had a visit from Canadian friends. They have socialized medicine in Canada. They were talking about going to the chiropractor for free, acupuncture as routine health care and overall, they have no major worries about getting sick. Unless it happens over here. One friend said if she broke her arm, she’d get on the plane with a broken arm and wait to get it fixed until she was back home because it’s so expensive here. (Btw, folks, they also get way more vacation time than we do. Like waaaaay more.)

The notion that we should all work jobs that we many of us hate, in order to buy into a system that doesn’t work for everyone is a broken fear-based system that leaves too many people out in the cold.

And I am very happy that it the future looks brighter on the health care front. Perhaps our country is on the mend.

At the time of this posting, you’ll be happy to hear that my throat is much better after one day of swilling probiotics and more tea concoction. I am pretty sure I won’t need to go see a doctor.

The Constricted Nature of U.S. Politics

It’s Barack Obama wearing a watch. I know it looks like a cigar. But it’s a watch. And it fits on both arms. Don’t question me.

I’m a Democrat. But not necessarily by choice. I’m a Democrat because it’s my best option given the two very small choices. I realized during this election season that I’m raising a Democrat. And that bugs me.

I wish there were more choices. I wish, for my daughter’s sake and for our country’s sake, that we had more choices in politics. Given the diverse nature of our country, it makes more sense to have a number of viable options.

Sure, I could vote with a third party, but would it really count? That’s my dilemma.

I’ve voted in six presidential elections now. I voted for Bill Clinton twice. Al Gore, John Kerry (begrudgingly) and now, Barack Obama twice. I’ve also voted in a number of primaries, wherein I’ve voted inside my own party. As much as I like to tell myself I’m an Independent, as much as I like to think I could potentially vote for a third party candidate or (gasp!) a Republican, if I so choose. The truth is, I’m a Democrat through and through. At least, I always have been. I’m not conceding anything on the future.

Tuesday night, as we watched the precincts votes being tallied, Annika drew this picture and we watched the numbers popping up on the screen.

Before she went to bed, she worried that Mitt Romney would win because at that moment, his numbers were higher. I assured her that it was looking good for our candidate as I tucked her in and sang her to sleep.

The last thing she whispered before she fell asleep was, “Mama, I hope when I wake up in the morning, Barack Obama is still the president.”

“Me too,” I agreed.

When she awoke around 1 a.m., I whispered to her, “Barack Obama won!”

A sleepy, “Yay” followed.

Wednesday morning we watched his victory speech and she wondered if his daughters were in the crowd. We talked about how proud they must be of their daddy.

I’m raising a Democrat. I’d like to think that she’ll grow up and think for herself. Be Independent minded. Perhaps, she’ll join a peaceful revolution. Make changes in the world. I’d like to think that perhaps we could even disagree on politics. Out with the old, in with the new, as generations proceed. That’s how change comes. That’s how we progress. I believe that firmly. I want her to challenge everything and think things through. I want her to look at the past and say, “We can do better.”

We can always do better.

But dogma is powerful.

Statistically children tend to stick to political affiliations of their parents.

And as the generations pass, the two-party system just keeps becoming stronger and stronger as the parties continue to move forward with their own agendas.

And I wonder where are the out-of-the-box thinkers in politics? We can’t assume that they are all paranoid conspiracy theorists.

Even though I’m glad Obama won. And I’d gladly vote for him again. I do not wholeheartedly agree with all of the Democrats’ agendas. I think our country is missing diversity in our government. And it bugs me that I don’t have a better way to impart that on to my daughter.

Yes, I’m happy our party won. Yes, I support the basic issues on our side.

But I still think that we can always change and do better. I think we can not only move on, but move forward. But to do that, we need to be able to move.