When Prayers Aren’t Enough

I heard about last week’s school shooting at Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on the radio, while I was driving home from work last Wednesday. No, no, no, no, I prayed, but prayer doesn’t work that way, and the disembodied voice kept speaking with a collectedness that I knew neither of us felt. I felt both hollow and heavy, like my belly had been carved out in a single, sharp, cold scoop. Five days later, despair still seems a sane response. Why do we keep allowing our school children to be slaughtered? An ugly question with even uglier answers.

Political corruption enables the violence; our politicians receive a lot of money from the NRA, and as a result refuse to pass common-sense gun laws. Denialism also plays a role. There is clear, unsurprising empirical evidence that communities with more guns suffer from more gun-related violence. However, passionate proponents of a particular interpretation of the Second Amendment won’t budge in the direction that the empirical evidence points. But there were other, more malevolent factors at play in last week’s shooting, too. In a photo on Instagram, the gunman wore a MAGA hat, and although the claim that he trained with a white nationalist group turned out to be false, still a leader of that group tried to claim him.

I was hurting, when I came home from work last Wednesday to reunite with my own school-aged children. Hugging them and seeing the valentines they had received at school that day was a balm, after hearing news of the shooting. Then my children went to bed, and I read an email from their school notifying me that they would participate in a lock-down drill on Friday. The drill had been scheduled before the shooting occurred, the email stated, and while the teachers and administration acknowledged the difficulty of its timing with respect to current events, they felt the safest, most responsible choice was to continue with the drill as scheduled. I silently agreed. Then I wept.

We didn’t have lock-down drills at school, when I was a kid. I asked my nine-year-old daughter what it was like, when I picked her up from school on Friday. Her teacher had locked the classroom door and covered the windows, she told me, while she and her classmates practiced huddling together closely and quietly in a corner.

“Is it scary?” I asked. “To imagine something like that happening?” I couldn’t bring myself to say the words. A shooter. In your school building. Where you are supposed to be safe. Trying to kill you.

“Well, yeah, but it’s good that we know what to do,” she replied matter-of-factly. Then she asked if we could stop for ice cream on the way home. Her tone communicated that there was nothing weird about having to do a lock-down drill, it was just a normal part of going to school. I wept again.

We’ve been wrestling as a society with the problem of gun violence for years; I don’t have any answers in this post. But guns are now the third leading cause of death for children in the U.S., and I believe that I have both a personal and professional responsibility as a nurse to do something. My grief and my prayers are not enough, to treat the wounds that guns inflict on our children and our communities.

Since last week’s shooting, I’ve contacted my representative *again* about the issue of gun violence. I’ve donated to Everytown for Gun Safety. I will continue to vote for candidates who support common-sense, evidence-based gun legislation. I’m aware that what exactly common-sense gun legislation might be is an open question, but I plan to keep learning, and to participate in the goal-oriented conversation that we all must have, if we care.


Love by Numbers

27223164726_eef7ca2626_kphoto by Adam Levine on flickr via CC

Me to my husband: Do you think that everything can be quantified and measured?

Him: No!

Me: Right, but give an example.

Him: How much do you love me?

Me: On a scale of one to ten? It goes “up to 11.”

Him: Why not 12?

What I Know about Self-righteousness

5480771193_a5c5936900_ophoto by Timothy Krause

I’m really good at self-righteousness, and I bet you are, too. It feels GOOD to be right, am I right? Satisfying. Important. Powerful. Like that time when my redneck cousin posted on Facebook that Planned Parenthood and people who support the organization (that’s me, monthly contributor here) are baby murderers. I posted an articulate take down of my cousin’s deeply misguided position. I made a passionate, principled defense of women’s rights to body autonomy. I presented well-organized, factual about information about what Planned Parenthood actually does. I’m a professional nurse specializing in women’s healthcare, after all, an authority on the issue. I cited my sources, y’all. The result? My cousin and I are no longer Facebook friends, and I likely won’t be invited back to the next reunion of my staunchly conservative, “pro-life” family of origin.  Continue reading “What I Know about Self-righteousness”

January Super Blue Moon Tea: Cleavers

Our view from Austin of the super, blue, blood moon early this morning was clouded over, alas. But once the clouds cleared, I continued my monthly wildcrafted tea practice with cleavers. Here it’s called “sticky weed;” my children and their friends love to pick it and throw it at each other or stick it to each other’s backs. Other names for cleavers include “Velcro weed” and “backpacker’s colander,” since a bundle of it could be used as a strainer in a pinch.

IMG_3291 Continue reading “January Super Blue Moon Tea: Cleavers”

Burning Last Year’s Mistletoe

In winter Central Texas cedar elms lose their leaves, revealing birds’ nests, ball moss, and mistletoe. The white-berried hemiparasite particularly plagues the cedar elm growing just outside our front door. While mistletoe performs some of its own photosynthesis, it draws most of its water and nutrients from the tree hosting it. Mistletoe flowers and produces white berries, which birds eat. They then disperse the sticky seeds via their beaks or excretions. Here’s one of our American species, Phoradendron tomentosum:


Phoradendron is Greek for “thief of the tree.” Continue reading “Burning Last Year’s Mistletoe”

This Body Now

At the beginning of a hatha yoga class that I attended, the teacher led a centering exercise. It involved lying supine and progressively relaxing each part of the body, fully surrendering our bodies to gravity, to the floor beneath us.

“You are in this body now,” the teacher crooned at the end of the guided exercise. My third eye shot wide open.

No, no, no, no, no, I thought. I am this body now.

These thoughts, the limbs heavy on the floor, the belly inside the ill-fitting sweatpants billowing up and collapsing with the breath, the pulse of salt and iron blood, that persistent pain in my left hip, the tension in my jaw, the big black saucer pupils dilated in the dim light, tympanic membranes vibrating with the rhythm of the teacher’s voice and my classmates’ breath. Not just present with these processes; I am they and what they do.

No ghost in the machine. I am this body now.

5220731907_0ff2b32fd1_ophoto by Aniket Thakur on flickr