Life Ain’t Always Beautiful

I’m the baby of five and eleven years separates me from the youngest of my siblings.  You can rest assured that I’ve been asked at least fifty-eleven times if I was a mistake.  The short answer is no.  Have you ever known me to stop with the short answer?  Okay, so you know that this time is no different and you know that I have a story to tell.

My grandfather, my Mom’s dad, was an electrician, and they moved around quite a bit.  When they lived in Kentucky though, they lived about a block and a half away from where my dad grew up.  My mom and my dad went to the same school during those years and walked the same sidewalks and my dad thought my mom was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.  I wish I had a dollar for every time I made my mom tell me this story.  She was so very shy.  She knew that Dad had a crush on her and so she would see him coming and she would cross the street to the opposite sidewalk to try to avoid running into him.  Lord knows that every socially awkward statement that has ever come out of my mouth was the exact reason my mother opted to go with avoidance.  I regret nothing.  I wish.

By high school, my mother was living in Michigan and my dad was in a military boarding school.  Their lives had moved in totally different directions.  Mom graduated from high school and got married.    Mom had four children in like a really short period of time.  Which is why when I say she was always the most patient person alive, I can speak with confidence.  Dad joined the Army, got married and when the Vietnam War began he found himself in Japan.

Then the unthinkable happened.  My mother’s first husband was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident.  My mother was a widow and my siblings lost their father.  I can’t imagine what that time was like for my mother but she ended up packing up her four young children and moving back to Kentucky.  Around the same time, my dad was newly divorced and also making his way back to Kentucky…

So this is NOT where I’m going to pretend that their marriage was magical or perfect or even hard in the way that every marriage is hard because I don’t think that would be accurate or fair.  I think it was pretty difficult.  But I also think that my mom really really really loved my dad, (and I know she still does), and I know that my dad really really really loves my mom and always has.

Dad is in the hospital.  It’s becoming the norm lately.  I guess that’s how it is when you have stage four cancer.  I have sat with him through appointment after appointment and over and over I have heard doctors ask him what he wants.  What his expectations are.  What his concerns are.  What questions he has.  Over and over I have heard  his answers begin with, “My wife has Alzheimer’s…”

Tonight was no different.  The cardiologist asked him if he wanted them to try to resuscitate him if he coded and Dad began with his usual, “My wife has Alzheimer’s.”  Then he continued with the same responses I have heard him give every single doctor since he was first diagnosed.

“My wife has Alzheimer’s.  She’s in Calvert City.  I just want to be able to drive there to see her.  I don’t want to be too sick to do that.  I just want to be able to see her as long as I can.  She looks forward to seeing me.  She has the biggest smile when I walk in.”

Their marriage wasn’t perfect, but maybe love doesn’t have to be.

Life ain’t always beautiful, but it’s a beautiful life.

 

Now I Know That Dogs Choose You

When my ex-husband and I got married, I couldn’t wait to get a dog.   A little, cute, fluffy lap dog who would be calm and adorable and who would wear bows in her ears and have some perfect southern name like Sugar that matched her perfect white fur.   Sugar or Honey or Butterscotch or whatever other sticky sweet name that I could come up with wouldn’t be my first dog, but she would be the first dog of mine that I really LIVED with.  The first dog to be a member of the family.  I was always an animal lover but back then, I really didn’t know much at all about loving animals.

I’ll never forget when my ex called me to tell me that he had found a dog.  He was in school in Oklahoma and the kids and I were temporarily living in Kentucky.  He told me he found this dog and that she was skin and bones.  He opened the door to his jeep and she immediately jumped into the passenger seat like she had known him her entire life.  He went straight to a drive-thru and she ate two cheeseburgers in pretty much one gulp.

She was not little, fluffy or a lap dog.  He told me she was some sort of pit mix.  I don’t remember being just outright shocked, but I do remember being concerned.  Pits don’t have the greatest reputation and we have kids.  Our youngest was still pretty small.  This wasn’t anything close to the kind of dog that I envisioned for our family in more ways than one.  My ex kept telling me how sweet she was and I agreed to see how it went but honestly I was less than thrilled and pretty disappointed.  I had been waiting a long time for the dog that I wanted to come along and this wasn’t it.  I agreed that we would keep her for now and see what happened, but that I wasn’t leaving her alone with my kids and she was gone the first time I saw any sign of aggression towards any of us.  This was when I still believed that people chose dogs.  Now I know that dogs choose you.

The first time I saw Molly, I cried.  You could see every knob of her spine.  I watched her like a hawk.  She wasn’t perfect but what I saw was she was protective.  Protective of anyone who seemed to need protecting.  Until the day she left us, no one made her run to the door faster than my ex-husband and it was like that from day one, but she loved us all.  He couldn’t discipline the children with Molly around even though he was her true Alpha.  She would never bite, but she would clearly make every attempt to get between them.  That’s just one of the things she taught me.  Protect the person who needs to be protected.

If you haven’t been around pits much, you may not know this about them.  Turns out that I did get my lap dog.  It didn’t matter that she quickly went from skin and bones and 65-70 pounds depending on her activity level, she wouldn’t hesitate to try to sit in your lap.  Anyone’s lap.  My lap.  The baby’s lap.  She wasn’t picky.  She loved to be loved.  She loved to be beside you.  She loved her family.  She loved visitors.  She had zero manners.  I had to put her up if people were coming over because she jumped on everyone and she wasn’t exactly small.  She terrified people on a regular basis and I don’t really blame them.  I wouldn’t love seeing a pit bull racing at me at 15mph, (yes, I know how fast she could run from the days when she would jump our rock wall in El Paso and I would have to drive around the neighborhood trying to catch her).  She just wanted to say hi.  Her tail was about two inches long so she would just wag her entire back end.  In all of our years together I did see a handful of people who she didn’t love but I never saw her do anything beyond a warning to another human being.

I have no doubt in my mind that Molly would have died for us.  How can you not respect any creature that would do that for you?  How could we have anything other than respect for her?  She LOVED us.   And we loved her.  I was always an animal lover but until I met Molly, they were just animals.  Molly taught me not only that they are so much more but she also taught me a lot about life in general.  I know there are people who will read that and think that it sounds crazy and I don’t blame you.  I wouldn’t have understood at one time, either.  Not everyone is blessed with a Molly.

She taught me about loyalty.  Selflessness.  True, unconditional love.  Companionship.  She taught me gratitude.  No one in this world will ever be happier to see me than Molly was.  That felt good.  She wasn’t just a dog.  She was a family member.  I would jokingly say my favorite child.  She wasn’t that far from being one of my children.  I mean it didn’t matter if I was gone ten minutes or two days, Molly was thrilled to see me.

She loved to go for rides.  She tore a hole in every blanket we have because she always wanted to be covered up at night.  If the covers came off, she would use her teeth to try to cover herself back up.  She was afraid of storms.  She could catch food in midair.  Pretty much the second it left my fingertips.  Her tongue was about 4 feet long and she could manage to lick you no matter how you tried to get away from her.  She loved to be as close to us as possible.  Preferably right on top of us.  She was never far from me.  I stepped over her all day long.  She lost her mind if she saw a leash in your hand.  She was so excited to go somewhere.  She barked at everything and thought she owned everything in a mile radius of our house.  She didn’t like sharing us.  I don’t know how many times I was petting another one of our pets and caught her giving me the side eye lol  She knew exactly what look to give me to get her way.  It worked every time.

A few months ago, my ex-husband and our youngest came home from riding their 4 wheelers with another dog.  A dog that is so big, he made Molly look petite.  He was so stinking sweet that I couldn’t say no.  I did wonder if I was crazy more than once when I had 140 pounds of dog wrestling in my living room and pushing my furniture around.  Buddy is big and dopey and he pretty much believes he belongs to the entire neighborhood.  I’ve never heard anyone say they didn’t love him.

When I pulled into the driveway last night, the kids came running out the door.  Molly’s breathing was very labored when I left for the vet and they hadn’t heard from me while we were gone.  I know they knew.  I told them to go inside and they pushed past me to look inside the truck.  My ex picked the baby up.  He was already crying.  We came inside and the four of us sat on the couch.  Buddy was right there with us.  His put his big, dopey head in my hands and looked in my eyes.  My ex said, “God knew we would need you.”  Buddy is sad today, too.

It’s not possible to explain everything Molly was to our family in one blog.  Just know that she was perfect.  She was everything I wanted but didn’t know I needed.  She was “that dog” for me.  The one that changed everything.  The one that showed me that animals are capable of human emotions no matter what anyone says.  She was my best friend and not just mine.  She was able to make all of us feel like we were so very special to her.  I will miss her every single day.  I will miss tripping over a hundred times a day. I don’t even know how long I will continue to look for her…  I’ll gladly miss her for the rest of my life because that means that I got to love her and to be loved by her.  I’m the luckiest person alive.

Thank you for choosing us, Molly Kate.  The honor was all ours ❤

there’s freedom in a broken heart

I kind of had an epiphany this morning.

I initially woke up at four.  Buddy likes to wake me up around then.  He cries until I go open the door, then he stands there for a few and decides if he wants to go outside or not.  I’ve decided that he’s got to be a member of the twilight bark and he’s listening for his people.  One time I refused to let him out and he pooped in my bathroom.  He’s basically the size of a Shetland pony so that is something that I never want to experience again.  When he wakes me up crying, we go stand at the door…

My head was killlllllling me.  My sinuses are awful.  I had made plans to try out a new church this morning and I was supposed to meet up with a friend who goes there.  I was so close to cancelling on her.  I never make plans because if it’s not my anxiety that gets in the way, it’s my body or I have a migraine, etc.  It occurred to me in that moment how much I was the biggest obstacle in my life.  If my head was going to hurt, it was going to hurt. It didn’t matter if I was at home or at church.  So I got up, I snorted my Flonase, drank my coffee and stopped letting myself stand in my own way.

When it comes to God, I don’t believe in coincidences.

I met up with LeAnn and we found our seats.  There was an older man stepping into the baptismal tub as we were listening to the band.  “Well that’s weird,” LeAnn said.  “People don’t really get baptized that often, unless it’s Easter or something like that.”  I didn’t really think much of that at the time.  The band played a few songs and then they began to play a video of the story of the man being baptized this morning.  He was a marine.  When he was a young marine, he was deployed and fell ill with malaria one day.  He wasn’t able to do his job the following day and one of his buddies filled in for him.  His buddy was shot and killed that day and this young marine was left with the realization that he not only narrowly escaped death, but his buddy died because he was filling his spot.  That’s when I knew that I was supposed to be right where I was today.

Combat, survivor’s guilt, PTSD, TBI, all of these things have turned all of our lives upside down.  I feel a kinship with anyone who walks this road because I know what a difficult, confusing, lonely, desperate road it can be for both the sufferer and for the people who love them.

In my last blog I talked about Thomas and I separating and my recent confusion and in the last few days he and I have had so many discussions about our relationship going forward.  See, for me, nothing has really changed other than our address.  While Thomas was absolutely, 100% the love of my life, the last couple years of our marriage we weren’t much more than roommates.  So for the last year, I really haven’t felt much differently than I did when we were actually married.  The last few days he and I have had a lot of conversations/arguments over my need to start figuring out my own way but he likes things just the way they are.  I have been truly struggling though.

Guess what today’s topic was?  Both the importance of boundaries and how important it is that you are spending time with people who reflect what you want out of life.  Thomas and I almost never went to church because we could almost never find a church that we were both comfortable in.  When I told him how much I loved church today he asked me if he would like it.  I laughed.  Of course not.  Like, we both love our kids and that’s probably where our commonalities end.  He likes the old school hellfire and brimstone and I don’t respond well at all to raised voices and threats.  Neither of us are wrong.  We just are who we are.  He needs what he needs and I need what I need and when we tried to achieve that together we ended up just giving up because we had to sacrifice too much of ourselves to meet in the middle.  Neither of us reflect what the other wants out of life.

My kids have talked to me off and on the entire time I’ve been writing and I feel completely all over the place with this post. I guess what I’m getting at is I have realized a lot in the last couple days and I am taking baby steps towards getting my life back.  Thomas and I will probably always be close.  I was with him during his darkest, pre-therapy, pre-medication times and we have seen hell together.  We truly have.  You know how old veterans can spot each other in a crowd and instantly connect even if they have never met?  That’s us.  We have bonded through combat.  I’m still reclaiming my life, though.  Just putting up a few guardrails.

 

seasons change, people change

I’ll be forty-three next week!  Honestly, I’m struggling.  It’s not the number, it’s the stage in my life.  Why does change have to be so hard, even when it’s what you asked for?

For eleven years I thought that I had at least part of the future figured out.  I thought that I had my lifetime date squared away.  I thought that I knew who would take care of me when I was sick.  I thought that in a world full of uncertainties, at least I knew the that the basics were covered.  I didn’t think that I had it all, because I knew that I didn’t, but I did think that I wouldn’t be figuring it out alone.

Then one day, I just couldn’t do it anymore.  I couldn’t do it anymore.  I still can’t.  We wanted to be adults and we wanted to be friends and we wanted to still raise these kids together but we have so many mistakes along the way.  Mistakes that I’m just now seeing.

For the last year, we have still been family.  When we separated physically, we didn’t separate completely.  We haven’t cut the cord.  I still offer him dinner.  He still checks on me throughout the day.  We are still legally married.  We are still intertwined in 9,000 ways and all that did was give me a false sense of security.  For the last year I’ve been able to have my cake and eat it too. I haven’t had to stand on my own two feet.  I’ve still had my best friend/arch enemy.  I have been “single” without being alone.

Deep down I know that that is how I wanted it.  I’m too scared to move on.  There is no way in this world that I can let someone else in.  Our marriage brought me some beautiful things but it also caused me pain.  I don’t even think about trying to trust someone else.  I don’t even think about entertaining that option.  I don’t think that I ever will.  I know that Thomas loved me and I know that he still does but that just wasn’t enough.  We couldn’t combat our differences.  We couldn’t combat the monster that is PTSD.  I think that I tried for too long.   At some point, I stopped existing.  I don’t think that I could find that part of myself even if I tried.

I just now realized that I’m alone.  It takes my breath away.  I’m 42 and I’m alone and while that’s what I want for now, I’m scared to think about living this way for the rest of my life.  People need people.  My kids are growing up.  Will is in Florida.  Parker is a year away from college.  Jace will be gone in a blink.  It will be me and my zoo.  I’m afraid that won’t be enough.  I thought staying was part of my marriage vows- in sickness and in health.  I left too late to save myself.  I gave too much away.

So where do I go from here?  What do I do?  Nothing changes if nothing changes.  I still didn’t make the right choices.  I have spent so much of my life worrying about what everyone else needs and I just now realized that no one is doing that for me.  If I don’t, who will?  I don’t know how to put myself first.  I never have.

Everyone in my life is moving forward without me.  I don’t know how to catch up.

I’m much too young to feel this damn old

I’m in a lot of facebook groups.  A lot.  As such, I’ve learned so many things that I didn’t used to know.  Things like words choices, and phrasing and how you can be offensive to people without even being aware of what you are doing.   One thing I’ve learned is people first language.  Basically that means that people who happen to have disabilities are still people and they want that to be recognized first.  They aren’t a blind person.  They are a person who is blind or visually impaired, for example.  If you break your leg you aren’t a broken leg person, you are a person with a broken leg.  I understand why this is important and I’m grateful to have been made aware because I don’t want to be a person who hurts people even unknowingly.

In typical LA fashion, this post has zero to do with any of that but I needed to explain it to you so you would understand what I mean when I say that I am fibromyalgia.  In no way do I feel like I’m a person first.  I’m not disabled.  I’m not incapacitated.  I’m blessed in a million ways.  I don’t bear any resemblance to the person who I used to be though.  I think she died.

Have you heard of the spoon theory?  Basically it’s a metaphor to try to explain the reduced energy level of someone with a chronic illness/condition and where that energy goes.  For example, say I start my day with ten spoons.   On a bad day, getting out of bed costs one spoon.  Showering and getting ready?  Two spoons.  Grocery shopping?  Three spoons.  There’s a whole day still ahead of me and I just have four spoons left to get through it all.

My daily spoons vary.  As someone who owns a business and is the only employee, I have to use those spoons wisely.  It’s ironic that someone who works from home typically looks homeless, but somedays I just have to use my spoons to pack orders, answer questions, get a load of dishes done.  So much gets pushed to the side.

On bad days, even answering questions costs me spoons.  Fibro is so much more than just physical pain.  It’s mental too.  It’s a fog.  It’s extreme fatigue.  It’s utter exhaustion.  And I never know what the day is going to bring.  My body changes by the hour, not the day.

I can’t make plans.  I feel like I don’t have a life.  I’m too tired to have a life.  Even netflix checks to see if I’m still breathing on a regular basis.  Stress triggers my worst flares which means my worst flares are always at the time that I most need to have energy and to be healthy.  It’s a vicious cycle.

I’m not disabled.  I’m not incapacitated.  I’m blessed in a million ways.

I worry about the future.  I will never be the same.

I am fibromyalgia.

hide your crazy and act like a lady

So when we last spoke, I talked about how important it is to address mental healthcare in this country.  Now I want to talk about what an uphill battle that really is.

The earliest that I can remember and can identify as having been “depressed” is when I was twelve years old.  What I remember is not actually wanting to die, but wanting to get someone’s attention.  Wanting someone to see how very sad I was and wanting them to help me.  I made half hearted attempts to commit suicide for the next seven years.

When I was around seventeen, I went to the doctor for another issue.  Migraines, I believe.   The doctor must have seen something in my face.  Pain.  Sadness.  Total despair.  He asked my parents if he could speak to me alone.  They left the room and I just remember crying.  The doctor brought my parents back in and told them that I was depressed and he was writing me a prescription for an antidepressant.  I felt saved.  I felt like my struggle to want to live was FINALLY recognized.  Finally.  Thank God.  I saw a quote once that said something like, depression is a body that wants to live with a brain that wants to die.  For me, that’s exactly what it is and has been off and on for the last thirty years.  I felt so relieved.

My parents wouldn’t fill the prescription.  They meant well.  My mom didn’t want her teenaged daughter on psych meds and many parents still feel that way today.  They can’t have known how unbearable my life was.  They felt like many others, we can’t just throw pills at problems.  Yes, that’s sometimes true.  I have a chemical imbalance in my brain though.  If I had diabetes they wouldn’t have denied me insulin.  We didn’t have insurance.  We were a single income family.  There just wasn’t money for behavioral health.  There probably wasn’t really money for monthly psych meds.  Thirty years later these are still obstacles that families are facing.  Not enough money.  Not enough education.

I had to keep on doing what I had been doing since I was fourteen.  Self medicating.  I drank.  A lot.  My parents were the most strict parents in the world.  Let me assure you that teens will find ways to get around those rules.  I self medicated with alcohol and made a million bad decisions.  The next morning, my depression would be a million times worse with nothing but depressants and embarrassing memories of the previous night consuming my brain.  Looking back, I don’t know how I survived.

I was in my twenties before I finally started therapy.  Both behavioral and medicinal.  Honestly, I only did that because I was a parent at this point.  I HAD to live because I had a little boy who would never understand why his mom “chose” to die.  He would never understand that it wasn’t lack of love.  My brain is a saboteur.  I had him to motivate me.  I had a reason to want to live.  Obviously we don’t want teens having babies to give them a reason to pursue behavioral health.  Where is their motivation going to come from?

I was in my thirties before I finally found the right drug combinations to treat both my depression and extreme social anxiety.  Until then, I still used my self medication cocktail of alcohol now coupled with various meds.  That’s something else that people don’t realize.  Without proper supervision, there is no magic “one size fits all” treatment.  It’s trial and error.  It’s adjusting dosages and sometimes having to change medications because your tried and true just stops being effective one day.  If you aren’t fully engaged in keeping your mind healthy, it just isn’t going to work.  I don’t know what the right answer is, but we can’t leave these troubled teens and young adults out there just winging it.

The problem doesn’t end here.  I am very aware and proactive about my mental health.  I’ve had years of therapy.  I have been on the right medication for me for around eight years now.  I quit school a semester away from a psych undergrad degree.  I research. I read.  I am self aware.  Even with all of this, if my medication dosage is too low, (seasonal affective disorder, major life changes, etc.,) when it’s time to have my dosage increased, I can’t always be trusted to recognize that.  My brain is abnormal.  In December, I came closer to losing my battle than I have in sixteen years.  I WANT to live.  I want to live for me.  I want to live for my kids.  My mom was in one hospital.  My dad was being sent to another.  I was driving to meet my dad and the urge to just cut the wheel was almost overwhelming.  I had been suffering for months and still didn’t make the connection that every single Fall I have to increase my dosage because when your brain is sick, it’s sick.   My healthcare provider who is also one of my favorite people in the world, had been messaging me all week and checking on me.  That morning I had told her that I was really struggling and she told me to increase my meds to twice a day.  The only thing that got me to that hospital that night was thinking that I had to give it one more day for my kids.

Don’t read that and think that I want sympathy.  I don’t.  I want understanding.  Within a couple days of doubling my dosage, I still had all the same issues in my life but I could think clearly for the first time in months and that is my point here.  That’s why I’m telling all of you a fact about myself that embarrasses me because even though I’m an outspoken proponent for mental healthcare and removing the stigma associated with it, letting people know that I have had to actively battle suicidal thoughts for the last thirty years is embarrassing to me.  I wish my brain was “normal”.  The point is that mentally ill people don’t always have the capacity to recognize that they are in need.  Depression especially robs you of the will to do anything and I don’t even know that I would have mustered up the energy to address it if my friend and healthcare provider wasn’t messaging me multiple times a day to check on me.  I’m so fortunate to have her.  What happens to all of those people who don’t have someone actively concerned about their wellbeing?

I wish I could sum all of this up with the perfect answer.  If you get anything from this, I hope you get that there really isn’t one.  If you don’t deal with mental illness, I hope this helps you understand how deep the problem is.  I bet so many people who know me will be shocked to find out how much I struggle.  You know that I love my life.  You know that  I love my children.  What you may not know that is that I have to fight my disease to maintain that life.  Truly my biggest fear is that there will be some sort of disaster/terrorist attack/end of the world as we know it event someday and I won’t be able to get access to psych meds.  How sad is that?

Maybe we just need to understand it so we can figure out where to start.  Part of understanding that is understanding that we can’t trust mentally ill people to seek help on their own.  I don’t know how to fix this.

you should be here

As the former wife of a soldier, for a long time my biggest fear was losing my spouse in combat.  That was a real fear.  An expected fear.  When my oldest child decided he wanted to join the National Guard, I again had to fear losing one of my precious loved ones to terrorists in foreign countries.  I even had mild concerns about being targeted in the states simply because we lived on military installations.  Again, these are relatively normal and understandable fears for anyone who serves or loves someone who serves but it’s just part of life and we learn to live to with it.  I never expected to be worry more about my school aged children than I do about the soldiers in my life.  I never even saw that coming.

I should have.  Just twenty years ago, around 50 miles from my hometown, there was a school shooting in small town Kentucky.  They were relatively unheard of then.  I believe it was actually the seventh school shooting ever.  Even experiencing something like this so close to home, I think most of western Kentucky still felt like these kinds of things happened to other people.  Certainly we didn’t expect our little corner of Kentucky to be the scene of another school shooting twenty years later.  Certainly we couldn’t have envisioned a time when mere weeks into the year, there would be eighteen school shootings.  Certainly we never envisioned a time when our children were targets and when even life in a small town couldn’t afford us the luxury of sending our children off to school without fear.

As parents we are afraid and fear brings out the worst in us.  We start looking for ways to understand what can never be understood.  We start looking for someone to blame.  We start ranting and fighting and alienating each other in a time when we need to come together.  These shootings didn’t happen in a vacuum.  Just in comparing the Marshall County shooting and the most recent shooting in Parkland, Florida, there are correlations that go far beyond the weapon of choice.  Stories of kids who didn’t fit in.  Children with difficult home lives.  Parents who died.  Mental illness.

I am NOT opposed to stricter gun control laws.  I am NOT opposed to more extensive background checks and wait times.  I am NOT opposed to finding a way to ensure that someone who has posted on social media that they are going to be the next school shooter, has to work a little bit harder to get their hands on a firearm.  I truly don’t think that these measures will eliminate the problem, but I think that we are a sophisticated society with unsophisticated laws.  I think it just makes sense.

The things is, while I do agree that there should be changes to the law, I don’t agree that the problem is guns.  Did you know that more troops are lost to IEDs than gunfire?  Did you know that Timothy McVeigh managed to kill 186 people while injuring another 600+ and no guns were involved?  Do you realize that what we have here is a bigger issue than who can LEGALLY obtain a gun?  Legalities only apply to law abiding citizens, after all.  Could we all agree that getting hung up on the way that the terror is delivered is preventing us from having open discourse on how to resolve this horror?

So twenty years ago we had less than a dozen school shootings total and now twenty years later, we have had eighteen in a month in a half.  What has changed in the last twenty years?  The first recorded use of a firearm was in 1364.  Firearms are becoming more sophisticated, but they aren’t new and they aren’t anything that we didn’t have twenty years ago.  What has changed?

Social media happened.  Parents stopped parenting.  I would be lying if I said that I monitored everything that my nine year old watches on YouTube.  I’m not proud of that, but it’s true and it’s part of the problem.  We are all busy.  We never stop.  We pacify our children with access to the entire world so that we check a couple more things off of our list.  Our children are learning how to be citizens of this world and they aren’t necessarily learning from us.

Social media also allows our children who are bullied to never have a break from that bullying.  Your tormentors can follow you home in 2018.  I honestly can’t imagine navigating my teenage years with the addition of social media like our kids know today.  Some of those kids go home to loving families who can help ease some of their pain but others go home to absent parents, abusive parents, no parents at all.

Mental illness happened.  Okay mental illness is nothing new but this new world we live in where everything is at our fingertips allows troubled individuals to emulate what they see on the news, on Instagram, on Twitter.  We have given everyone access to just about anything that they could hope to find and while that unites some of us in positive ways, that fuels others in destructive ways and there is still a stigma. Still.  Not to mention the cost of healthcare.  Even with good insurance I still can’t manage to utilize my behavioral health coverage without being billed for costs that I’m not responsible for.  Don’t even expect to be able to seek help without insurance or without paying up front.  Our healthcare system is flawed but that’s another day.

We’ve become too politically correct.  I hate saying that because I hate the fact that there will be someone out there who will read that sentence and think that I’m some conservative alt-right person who wants poke everyone with a stick while calling them a snowflake.  That’s not the case.  At some point though, we have become so busy making sure that no one is ever offended, that we have stopped becoming alarmed by alarming behavior.  The guy in Florida posted that he wanted to be a school shooter on social media.  SERIOUSLY?!  That statement coupled with the fact that he had already been identified as a potential issue means that he should not have been able to buy a gun legally and he should not have been able to just walk into that school, pull the fire alarm and then patiently wait.

We blame our children for not alerting someone.  We blame our children for not caring.  We blame the children who take guns to school, forgetting that they are teenagers who appear to be mentally ill on top of the range of issues that teenagers are already facing.  We blame the government for not having stricter gun control laws.  We blame our fellow citizens for not voting the way we believe they should have.  Honestly, the only people we aren’t blaming is ourselves.  We are the ones raising these children.  If we aren’t teaching them how to be responsible members of society and if we aren’t teaching them to come to us with anything because we are way too busy to actually be present in their lives, WE ARE THE PROBLEM.  You, me, all of us.

Could we step up, admit where we have been wrong and brainstorm together? Can we put blame to the side by all accepting where our own blame lies and try to fix this shit?  Can we break it down into the smallest of parts so that they are more manageable.  Step one, start really parenting our own children.  Teach them to be aware of their surroundings instead of glued to their phone.  Teach them to be kind to their classmates and that there are adults they can turn to if something doesn’t seem right.  Then can we talk about how we are going to make their schools safe zones?  Can we acknowledge that no law can protect them as much as metal detectors, locked doors, and armed security guards?  Can we stop saying our children shouldn’t have to have armed guards at their schools and accept that sadly they do and that we will do what it takes to keep them safe even if it makes us uncomfortable?  Can we just try?