Quick, Write Down Your Memory of the March

 

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Friends, you know I have memory issues, so… quick, let me just get down some memories and initial reactions before I forget.


We walked from a friend-of-a-friend’s office building, just a few blocks to the top of the mall. We could see the Washington Monument in one direction, half of it disappearing into a cold mist. In the other direction we could see the Capitol Building. And in between there was just a sea of people, mostly women, and lots of them wearing pink hats and carrying signs. Now and then a cheer would erupt from far away and then grow closer and closer. It reminded me of other marches, but even more than that it reminded me of being at a basketball game or a baseball game. The cheer starts on one side of the crowd and made its way over to you– stretching across city blocks, maybe even the whole city.

My little group of friends and I stuck close together as we dove into the crowd, heading toward what seemed to be the center of the action. As we pressed forward the crowd got tighter and tighter. Soon we were packed together in a street full of people, just like on a rush hour subway, only outdoors. At one point, an ambulance was trying to make its way through. The crowd squeezed tighter and tighter to make way. I was smooshed, but comfortable, until my feet left the ground just for a few seconds. I was suspended a few inches from the earth by the crowd around me. A tall man in front of me said calmly, loudly, not to me personally, “Keep your feet. Don’t lose your feet.” I twisted a bit so that my boots landed squarely on the ground and planted myself, refusing to budge for the next few minutes, until my little group started to move. We found a spot with a bit more space and watched the rest of the march from a damp, grassy median.

If I stood on my tiptoes I could see a screen displaying the speeches. We couldn’t hear the speeches, really. The roar of the crowd drowned out most of it, and the sound was too far away to be able to make out the words, but it didn’t matter. The size of the crowd, the noise of it, the energy. The obvious effort that every. single. person. had made to be there was palpable. This was important. This mattered. This, I hope, will make some sort of difference.

I was with a group of friends I haven’t known very long. I was surprised to realize that it seemed they hadn’t been to very many marches before this one. I was excited for them. And excited in general that this would be the first march for so many. Maybe the beginning of a new era of activism?

For me, being somewhat geeky and always opinionated, this was just one more of a long list of marches beginning as a college student. Too many to list. Examples: marches to protest animal testing, marches (plural) protesting George Bush’s election, to reduce carbon footprints, against the wars in Afganistan and Iraq, standardized testing, against school privatization, gay pride marches, Black Lives Matters. I’ve marched many times before, and I’ll march many times again. But this one was very different.

On the one hand, I felt so hopeful that there were so many people that felt strongly enough to get out and participate. This was absolutely a once-in-a-lifetime experience. An “I Have A Dream” or Woodstock moment for my generation. I am positive that years from now, my friends and I will say, “Remember the Womens’ March?” Wasn’t it just remarkable how many people came out? (And hopefully we’ll also say We’re so glad THAT’s over.)

On the other hand, I was disappointed that there weren’t more obvious demonstrations on the part of white women in support of diverse groups. To be honest, though I’m relieved at how peaceful everything was,  I was a bit disappointed that people weren’t more angry. The crowd was overall happy and peaceful (and mostly white). Almost celebratory at points. The only thing people seemed angry about was the fact that the speeches went on too long. At other demonstrations that I’ve been to people are upset that their sons are dying. Their land is being destroyed. They can’t drink the water. Their schools are segregated. Their sons, daughters, husbands, wives are being sent to fight a pointless war. Compared to all that, the long speeches didn’t bother me much. I was annoyed when the crowd around me began to chant, “Let us march. Let us march.” (No offense if you were one of those people).

Don’t get me wrong. I’m including myself in this criticism–I too was swept away in the moment, wearing my cute pink hat, and totally swept away by the massive scale of it all. I didn’t carry a sign. In retrospect, I think I should have.

I kept thinking back to a march I participated in following 9/11. When the RNC held a conference in NYC, near my apartment I headed out, only to find out I was terrified to be there alone. People were REALLY angry. There were protestors coming from all different perspectives — and they didn’t exactly all get along. All around me people were talking about the police arresting people for no reason, and that it could take days to be “processed” in the New York City jails. It was scary. I was twenty something and alone, so I made my way back to my little apartment.

At this point, I’m a lot older and lot bolder. It’ll take a whole lot more than that to scare me. I won’t be heading home. I am angry. I am tired of this racist, sexist, xenophobic, islamophobic, anti-semite, homophobic, pro-war, corrupt, sh*t. Honestly, I can’t believe I’m still marching for basic dignity and human rights. Honestly, I can’t believe more white women aren’t explicitly standing up for the rights of our black and brown sisters and brothers and their children. But here we go. I’m hopeful. I’m glad there are more people marching this time. I hope they’ll stick it out for the long haul.


 

I know that we can win
I know that greatness lies in you
But remember from here on in

History has its eyes on you

~ Lin Manuel Miranda, Hamilton

 

New Year’s Resolutions

Resolution #1: Start making my bed every morning like a real grown-up.

Resolution #2: Stop drinking Diet Coke as a replacement for water. Drink water AND Diet Coke.

Resolution #3: Be as patient with my own children as I am with the kids at school. Yes, it’s the end of the day (or beginning, or middle…). Yes, we’re all cranky and hungry – hangry. But I could definitely try a little harder in this area.

Resolution #4: Floss.

Resolution #5: I’m not even going to pretend that I would consider willingly giving up sugar, or gluten, or cheese. I will, however, resolve eat an actual breakfast every day.

There are more… so many more resolutions. But I think this is a good start.

Laundry Cycle

On Monday I gathered the dirty laundry from all about the house: towels, still damp from last night’s bath-time, leggings and skirts from our daughter’s bedroom floor, my son’s toddler-sized tee, slightly crusty from yesterday’s snacks.

On Tuesday I sorted: whites, delicates, towels, and millions of play-clothes. I reach for something, glance at it, toss it in the right basket.  Reach, glance, toss. Reach, glance, toss. Reach. Glance. Toss. Reach… Reach… Reach…

Wednesday, the baskets of dirty laundry sat in a row, waiting. All day.

Thursday, one load of laundry after another, into the washing machine and into the dryer. One after the other.

On Friday, I still haven’t folded any of the clean laundry from Thursday, but I’m too tired to do it now.

Saturday…

By Sunday, ,most of the clean laundry is back in the dirty laundry piles again.

And so I begin again.

Teachers Write 6.27.16

For the next month or so, my posts will be devoted to Teachers Write. To find out more, click here.

This summer, in my notebook, I want to start fresh.  I’ve been keeping three separate notebooks for teaching: one for narrative writing, one for opinion/argument, and one for informational writing, and that’s been working really well for me. The problem is that I created them each in a hurry one night, and I’m not happy with how they look or feel.

When I start my fresh, new notebooks, I think I’ll begin with a new narrative notebook so that I can use it to help me plan out revisions to a book that I’ve been working on. I’m half way through the book, and my original plans and outlines are all on the computer. I really liked Stacy McAnulty’s storyboarding I saw on Teachers Write in one of the notebook examples and now I’m inspired to do some planning by hand instead of all on the computer.

 

gun violence

Sun shone brightly on the cobbled Church Street marketplace. Street performers called out, the smell of kettle corn wafted by from a food cart, the tinkling of silverware on the plates of outdoor diners at curbside restaurant.

Two young people, one young woman, and one dude, both wearing the T-shirt of their organization and super enthusiastic about their cause approached me.

“Everytown for gun safety?” they asked, almost in unison, smiling ear to ear.

What I heard was “Newtown… gun…” I couldn’t reconcile the instant gut-wrenching feeling of hearing “Newtown… gun” with their bright, twinkling smiles. It didn’t compute.

I asked them to repeat themselves.

“Would you sign our petition to congress to pass expanded background checks?”

I did. Their smiles grew even bigger and brighter, if that was even possible. I guess they weren’t getting many takers that day.

“Would you mind if you answered a few survey questions too?”

I agreed. Reluctantly. They were ecstatic.

“Have you, or anyone you know, been affected by gun violence?”

I paused, thinking. I could just say no. It would be so much easier. Paralyzed on how to answer, I finally blurted out. “Yes.”

Their smiles vanished instantly. Well, actually not quite instantly. First there was a look of confusion, then realization, then a pained expression washed over each of them, as though it was actually causing them pain them to continue on. I’m sure the look on my own face was worse.

There was a long pause, that grew even longer. Obviously the next question was a doozy and neither one of them wanted to ask it.

Finally I broke the silence. “I was an elementary teacher in Newtown. Newtown, Connecticut. It was many years ago, but I did know one person who died. I don’t really want to talk about it.”

Condolences flowed. Before I knew what was really happening the young people had apparently decided not to ask the next few questions. I walked away, a bit dazed, a bit relieved not to have to answer any more questions, but also annoyed — now their data wouldn’t be complete. Now that they were gone, I wanted them to come back – I wanted my information to get counted, or tallied, or whatever they were going to do with it.

After Newtown, the nation promised, collectively,”Never Again.”  We cried and cried, and wrote to senators, and tweeted out statistics, and held memorials, and vigils, and did all the things that good citizens are supposed to do. And nothing happened.

In fact, worse than nothing has happened. Terrible things have happened.

There have been hundreds of  mass shootings in the U.S. in the short time since Newtown.

Congress could have passed bipartisan legislation to expand background checks, something that 90% of Americans supported, but ultimately did not pass that legislation due to political maneuvering.

Following the mass shooting in San Bernadino, CA congress failed to pass another series of bipartisan bills that would have strengthened treatment for mental illness and drug abuse, as well as stopping people on the terror watch list from purchasing guns.

My heart is with the families and friends of the victims in Orlando. Despite what gun advocates may say, I believe the mass killing of innocent people could have been prevented. They say “Guns don’t kill people-people, people kill people.”  I disagree. Guns do kill people. A lot of people.

Meanwhile the CDC is BANNED from studying gun-violence as a public health issue, it’s easier to buy a gun than a frappuccino, my daughter’s kindergarten class and every classroom I work in has to hide in a closet for lockdown drills to rehearse for massacres, and to top it all off, there are people out there that actually think that it is a good idea to do straight-up creepy things like this.

I live in Vermont, which, I daresay is a very politically progressive place. Extremely liberal, depending on your perspective. We’re all about loving your neighbor, and taking care of the environment, and alternative lifestyles. We’re home to Bernie Sanders, after all.

Despite our decidedly lefty liberal politics, Vermont is a gun-friendly place. (Side-note, by the way, I did not support Bernie for president, largely because of his lack of support for gun control, and because of my sense that he is making a lot of far-fetched promises–and he knows it.)

I want to see expanded background checks, expanded investigation into domestic terrorists, investigating potential “lone wolves,” better criminal justice processes for domestic abuse, gun-education requirements for would-be gun-owners. 

None of my positions are popular at all around here.  Just look at this map. This is where I live – the pink are gun shops. The green are Starbucks. It’s much easier to get a gun than a frappuccino up here in VT.

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What do we do? Where do we begin? Research? Schools? My own neighbors? Do we keep on signing petitions and posting to social media? Do I write to local gun shops? Gun manufacturers? The state? All of the above? 

Seriously. What to do? Where to begin?

Running

 

Many years ago, before my husband and I were married, we used to run together. Several times a week we would head out, me running as fast as I could to keep up. My husband, over a foot taller than me could easily have just walked along next to me, but he “ran” along with me anyway.

One summer I made it my goal to run a 5K. For three months, my husband and I “ran” together nearly every day. When August came around I was as ready as I would ever be.

It was hot and humid on the day of the race. Some of the race was to take place on a trail through shady woods, but most of the trail snaked through a grassy field with nowhere to hide from the burning sun.

As the race began one person after another passed me. By the time I was out of the woods, I was running alongside a woman in her twenties wearing an elaborate knee brace, a pregnant lady, and a much older woman. I was pretty sure that the much older woman was hanging back just to keep the pregnant lady company. As they chatted away about the weather and baby showers, I was barely keeping up.

By the time I reached the unshaded field, I began to feel dizzy from the heat. At some point I realized that my “running” was actually a slower pace than my own walking pace. The injured woman, the pregnant lady, and the elderly woman were long gone. Alternating between walking and running, I tried to figure out some way to just quit. But there wasn’t a shortcut to the car. The only way out was to just keep running.

By the time I crossed the finish line, all the other racers and their families had packed up and left. The event organizers were cleaning up.

At the time, it was one of the most humiliating experiences of my life. I fought back tears as I walked off the field toward the car, where my my husband-then-boyfriend was waiting for me. At the time, I was furious with him for smiling, for saying, “But you finished!”

I often think about that race on hot days, days 80 degrees and higher, like the day we had today. And for some strange reason, on days like this, I always force myself to go for a run.

Go figure.

 

 

Mom’s Mistake

“Lily, for the hundredth time, go brush your teeth. . . right now!” I said, exasperated. Ever so slowly, she put one foot in front of the other, humming lazily, staring at the ceiling of the upstairs hallway. “Now!” I said, as calmly as I could manage. Lily swung her head to look at me, growled like a tiger, and then pounced toward the door.

We were running late, as usual. As she brushed her teeth, I walked down the hall to her bedroom, which was a disaster area. Normally, I would have gotten her to clean it up on her own, using special tricks to make it positive and fun. But this morning we were already late, and I had already used up all of my patience. I didn’t have any time for special tricks–or fun. I quickly folded the pile of blankets that had been used as “nests” for stuffed animals, tucked a dozen “beanie boos” away in the closet, and cleared all the dirty laundry off the floor. Here and there I came across scraps of paper, notes, and post-its. I glanced at each note briefly and quickly decided if they were keepers or recyclables.

By now Lily was finished with brushing her teeth and was making loud honking noises, pretending to be a goose, while studying her own goofy faces in the mirror. “C’mon. I’ll race you to the kitchen,” I started to say. But she was already bouncing down the hallway.

Distracted by the messy bathroom countertop, I didn’t notice right away that Lily hadn’t gone downstairs to the kitchen. Instead, she was back in her bedroom, complaining loudly about the way I had cleaned her room and pulling beanie boos back out of the closet. “Mommmm! I was still using these!” she shrieked.

I pretended not to hear as I scooped up hair ties, and put away bath toys, hoping this too would pass. There was a moment of quiet. I imagined her surveying her bedroom, studying it for anything else I might have cleaned up, moved around, or put away.

I didn’t have to wait long for a reaction. “MY POST-IT!!!!!!!” Lily came careening out of her bedroom. “Where did you put my post-it? Did you throw it away? Did you? I was still using it!” I stood in place, partly bewildered by her anger, partly amused, and partly guilty because I, in fact, had thrown out all the post-its.

Lily raced to the bathroom trash can and thrust her hand in before I could stop her. She held a crumpled purple post-it high in the air, fiercely angry, furious even. “Aargh! How could you! This was my calendar post-it! I’ve been check-marking each day so I know when Casey’s birthday party will be.”

I couldn’t help smiling. Her calendar post-it. Adorable.

“Lily, I’m sorry,” I said.  “I got so busy cleaning that I didn’t even notice it was your calendar post-it. I’m glad you found it though. Now you can make a check-mark for today.”

This seemed to take the edge off her anger enough to get her downstairs, and on with the rest of the day.

 

Snow in April

Spring arrived last week.

I washed the snowpants and parkas.

Mittens, hats, and scarves were tucked away in the basement.

Waiting until next year.

 

I wore shorts last week.

And sandals. And sunscreen.

Spring had already sprung, you see.

 

And then, this morning I peered out the window.

Snow. Snow was in the air.

Not just in the air–on the grass, the trees,

the daffodil greens that had not yet bloomed.

 

 

For a moment, I felt sorry about the daffodils,

But not for long.

 

Even though it’s now April,

And the season for skiing, and sledding, and snowmen has passed,

The snow conjured up the memory of winter,

And if I squinted my eyes, it was like time traveling,

Back to December, as if I could do the whole winter over again.

Only better this time.

The Truth Is. . .

 

My childhood

was spent fighting dragons,

defeating Darth Vader,

constructing a world of bricks, only to have it torn down.

 

I practiced my Jedi moves.

I danced and sang,

and cast magical spells.

 

In the night when shadows crept across the walls,

conjuring up a dragon,

or Darth Vader,

and I would banish them all by using the Force.

 

Now that I’m all grown up, the truth is. . .

The evil emperor, the dragon, the world of bricks.

It’s all real.

Just not quite the way I imagined they would look.