America’s Latest Mass Shooting was Local—and I Refuse to Stay Numb

My heart breaks at the news out of Las Vegas. I am sharing the post I wrote about the aftermath of Orlando and a shooting at a dance club in my home of Fort Myers. The words I wrote then remain true today: I refuse to remain silent. I refuse to stay numb. And I am tired of this madness.

Just Follow the Joy

This morning I found myself standing in a strip mall less than a mile away from where I used to live, a dozen roses in my hand and more than two dozen reporters in my face.

I was standing on the site of the latest mass shooting in America.

A reporter asked me was why I was there.

I’d thought about this as I purchased a bouquet of small yellow roses at my local Winn-Dixie this morning. (What types of flowers are suitable to leave at memorials for mass shootings? I wondered. This is now a question we have to ask ourselves in America.)

I thought about gun violence as I made the twenty-three minute drive north from my home, driving past my church that only five short weeks ago hosted a vigil for the Orlando mass shooting victims. I thought about it as I exited the…

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Look for the helpers. (They are in the yellow shirts!)

Palm tree, meet Baptist.  Baptist, meet fallen palm tree.

(The Baptists wouldn’t let me take a photo of them. “We aren’t here for the photos! We are just here to help!” they told me.)

Who are the Baptists? A bunch of gray-haired sixty-something men in bright yellow shirts from a Pennsylvania Baptist church who came to Florida to chop up my tree with their chainsaw. (To be fair, they came to chop up lots of trees that happened to include mine.)

They just showed up yesterday and chainsawed the palm tree that was on our tree service guy’s very, very long wait list. Boom, done. For free. Because BAPTISTS.

He and my neighbor swapped heart attack stories (as sixty-something men do) and the Baptist (not John as far as I am aware) said his doctor found a 95% blockage two years ago. Saved his life. Told him he was one lucky fella.

“I told him, not luck. FAITH! I prayed for my heart and for my doctor to fix it and he did.” And two years later here he is volunteering all the way from Pennsylvania.

Look for the helpers my friends.

A slow return to normal

I’m having a hard time writing which makes no sense to me. Here I sit, in my home, in air conditioning (WE HAVE POWER!!) with precious alone time, of which I had very little during the Irma experience. (And it was an experience.)

And yet. I don’t know what I want to say.

Do I want to write about how grateful I am for safe drinking water, cool air and hot food? (Very.)

Do I want to write about but there for the grace of God go I?

Do I want to write about how quickly chaos can return to normal but normal doesn’t quite feel right after the chaos? (But, but, did you just SEE what happened? Do you see what is still happening?)

Do I want to write about how my understanding of climate change and fossil fuel dependency shifted from a knowing of the head to the knowing of the heart? 

Do I want to write about community and love and civility in the midst of crisis?

I want to write about all the things but right now can’t seem to articulate any of them. The words will come. For now, I leave you with pictures from my walk yesterday with the dogs–the first “normal” walk since Irma came a knockin’, but as you can see from the pictures, things are still anything but normal.

(Photos taken 9/19/17:)

trees down every where you look

So many trees uprooted (and people, too)

A lot of devastation at the lake near our home. The lake is still flooded (the water in front should not be there). We have seen record-breaking rainfall this year.

There is a little blue heron in there. Can you find it?

Curbs lined with debris for pickup. 

Who are you waiting for?

who are you waiting forThe President? The congress? The reasonable republicans? The unreasonable republicans? (Oh Marco, I have you on speed dial but honey I AM NOT WAITING FOR YOU.)

Are you waiting for Bernie? Hillary? Kamala? Cory? The alt-left? (WHAT IS THIS AND I THINK I AM A PART OF IT MAYBE??)

Are you waiting for the mid-terms? Are you waiting for the tax returns? Are you waiting for an anointed leader-of-the-people to magically emerge? Are you waiting for Godot? Are you waiting for Justin Trudeau to hug you and tell you it will be OK? (PLEASE, LIKE YESTERDAY JUSTIN.) Are you waiting for Obama? (WE DID LOVE THAT TWEET.) Are you waiting for Michelle? (OMG REMEMBER MICHELLE???)

Are you waiting to “just see how it all works out?” Are you hiding until it all works out?

Are you tweeting the revolution? (THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT BE TWEETED. BY REVOLUTION I MEAN NON-VIOLENT AND ROOTED IN LOVE MKAY? ALWAYS.)

Are you waiting for permission? Are you waiting for support? Are you waiting for the bat signal?

Are you numbing out? Are you hiding out? Are you making jokes? Are you freaking out?

Are you blocking family-who-voted-for-Trump? Are you blocking family-who-voted-third-party? (BLESS YOU MY MILLENNIAL COUSINS. I FORGIVE YOU.) Are you hiding from your neighbor who voted from Trump? (SERIOUSLY SHE BLASTS RUSH LIMBAUGH AND IT DRIVES ME NUTSSSSS.)

Are you angry? Are you scared? (YES, YES.) Are you defiant? Are you indignant? Are you usually the follower? Are you usually the leader? Are you done? Are you SO DONE you could stick a fork in it?

ARE YOU FED UP YET?

Because here is the thing: American needs you. YES, you. It was always you. (CUE THE ROM-COM CLIPS.)

You cannot do it alone – no. But listen to me: it starts (end ends) with you. 

I am here to say, dear ones, that now is the time. To speak. To move. To find your voice.

You are the ones we have been waiting for.


You might also like: Let’s use this fire-breath to bring down the patriarchy! (Or something.)

Let’s use this fire-breath to bring down the patriarchy! (Or something…)

Something in me cracked open.

It seemed to come out of nowhere. But let’s be real, it had been building for weeks. (Precisely three weeks and five days…if you get my drift.)

Like all fine Americans, I got angry reading something on Facebook. But it wasn’t the orange one who set me off, or the skinny-tied-one or the gum-chewing-one or any of the other underlings. 

Yes, it wasn’t Trump per se that had me fired up. It was the response to the crazy. People I knew to otherwise be kind, loving individuals–it was their defending of Trump that seemed to be the final straw. mountainsmove

Something in me snapped. Actually, no. Snapped to seems to imply a reckless breaking. This was a crack. A crack like an egg hatching. A crack of shifting tectonic plates.

I’ve been fuming so much that I’ve written three draft posts in three days because there was SO MUCH FIRE in me that, well, I needed to let it simmer down a tad before I could hit publish.

We have this man (orange) who is the archetype of a predatory male. The embodiment of patriarchy. The creepy dude from the office who forwards racist, sexist conspiracy theories and is the guy whom we generally can all agree is unhinged.

But wait, maybe we can’t all agree on that fact. And there is the rub.

I’ m not different than so many other women whose body and psyche have been deeply harmed by someone who resembles Trump. To be a female in this world is to at some point feel unsafe in our bodies because of a predatory man.

Yes–this anger goes deep and is a fire breath I want to use to bring down the patriarchy! (Or something.)*

I understand that part of this anger is about my own deep wounds. My own story of harm by a mad man–and the perceived betrayal of the otherwise sane people who knew better than to believe a madman and ultimately align with a mad man.

This is also what I know about being wounded: there is no greater pain that not being seen. We don’t expect a mad man to see or understand our pain. He’s not capable of it. But the ones who we know are capable of empathy and love? We except better.

Yes, something cracked open in me the other day.

This anger feels deep.

Like the women of all the ages were standing as mountains within the earth, holding me up.

Who knows, maybe they are.

The question is, what to do with the fire-breath? We can’t keep it in–to do so will burn us from the inside out. No, this fire must be expelled. Unleashed. Art. Story. Dancing. Resisting with joy and humor and yes, righteous indignation too. Who knows? Maybe in the process we will burn down the patriarchy

*(Huh, maybe my daughter does get some of her flair for the dramatic from me after all…)

Are you ready to roar? Breathe your fire-breath with me!

Give light and People will Find the Way.

“On Friday we wept, on Saturday we marched, on Sunday we rested. Today we get to work. What will you do today?” – Valerie Kaur

I live in the very, very Southwest corner of Florida. Not near Miami, or Orlando, or Tampa, where you might find some blue dots in our red state. No. I live where it is not weird at all to see a dude driving his pickup around a parking lot with a shirtless dude in back waving a flag larger than my garage that says “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.” Totally normal. Totally happened in my local Ace Hardware parking lot.

Because of this lack of blue dots in a very, very red area of the state, I almost didn’t attend my nearest sister march for the women’s march. I was certain that it was going to be me and the usual twenty aging white hippies who usually show up at these things.

Illustration based on a photo posted on Facebook by the baby’s mom Jenny Sowry. This is #wokebaby. Marched in Charlotte, NC on Saturday with her crayon-scribbled sign. Can you handle the cuteness? (Follow my instagram @100daysofhope for daily art like this.)

I WAS WRONG.

As I approached the march location there was a fair amount of traffic. There were tons and tons of cars parked on lawns illegally. There was no way this was because of the march, I thought. Not in this long-established republican stronghold where the last democrat to win the county was Adlaid Stevenson II in 1952.  (Source: Wikipedia.)

It turns out the crowd, the traffic, it was in fact all for the march.The organizers expected 300: At least 2,500 people showed up.  

YES, that is right. Over two-thousand people in our sleepy little vacation town showed up to march. Thousands of people marched and chanted past the tony vacation homes and high-end boutiques. The retirees in sports cars gawked. The passer-bys on their way to brunch bristled.

It. Was. Amazing. 

There were elderly marchers being pushed in wheelchairs, young marchers being pulled in wagons. Families, singletons, teens, twenty-somethings. Men! Women! And yes, a lot of white sixty-something women. But not just the aging hippy-sisters-who-paved-the-way oh-so long ago. We couldn’t have been here without them, but we need more than just them to move forward.

The best part was that the tone of the crowd wasn’t angry (though we were angry, yes); it wasn’t sad, or defeated or gloom and doom. No, it was…joyful. Jubilant even. It was downright spiritual: we were transmuting our pain with art, with dancing, with music. And levity! (The signs were hilarious, no?)

(And in case you missed it, the baby marcher with her crayoned-protest-sign. THIS. This is what we need.)

Let’s keep doing it. Let’s keep showing up for each other. Let’s keep giving light so others will find the way. And let’s do it with much rejoicing.

Did you march, sisters? (And brothers!) Tell me your stories! 

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