Remember When – This Shooting Happened

When Sandy Hook School was attacked, 20 children slaughtered, 6 staff members murdered along with them, I wanted to stay home. I wanted to hold onto my own children, even though they were no longer children.

I had promised to attend a piano recital, though. One of my students was playing, and I didn’t want to let her down. What to do?

I took a deep breath and went to the recital, and I’m glad I did. By leaving the house, I could tell myself that life was normal and all was well – even if it wasn’t, might never be all well in the world. My little bubble was okay, no matter how awful the scene was in Newtown, Connecticut.

My colleague was substitute teaching in a first grade class that day. She will forever remember looking into those children’s faces and realizing that those who died were just like them.

We teachers view school shootings like that. It could have been my school. Those children were just like my students. The teachers did everything right, followed all the safety procedures. And still, they died. They died violently, in a tragedy that made no sense.

My message today is this: The Sandy Hook tragedy made no sense then, and Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School’s tragedy makes no sense now. The inaction of our elected officials made no sense then, and makes no sense now.

In conclusion? There will be no conclusion until Congress takes action and bans weapons and ammunition that have only one purpose: to kill.

More Postcards I Didn’t Send

Dear Mr. Vice President;

Your behavior during the Olympic Opening Ceremonies was tacky, unsportsmanlike, and just plain wrong. By standing only for your own country, not even acknowledging the Korean hosts of the game, you showed the America First attitude at its worst.

Cheering for the Masses,


Dear Mr. President;

When you support abusive men, women are listening. We’re listening, and we vote.


Dear Mr. Speaker;

You responded to 17 deaths in another school shooting by telling us that “This is not the time to jump to some conclusion.” No one is jumping anywhere unless they’re jumping out of range or running for their lives.

From the Island of Conclusions (jumped there, of course),


Who Are The Next School Shooters?

Who are the next school shooters or mass shooters? How can we recognize them, and how do we stop them?

It’s a complex problem, and stopping the mass shootings that are becoming all too common will require a complex solution.

Activists work to tighten gun laws. They want to outlaw guns like the AR-15, guns with only one purpose: killing. They want to require background checks, thorough background checks, any time a person buys a gun.

Mental health advocates work to help people who might consider carrying out such a shooting. Depression, anxiety, and more can be factors in producing a killer of many.

Not to be forgotten are the National Rifle Association (NRA), those who work to keep gun laws weak and widespread access to weapons strong.

It’s a complex problem. After Sandy Hook, after Columbine, after Parkland, expert and not-so-expert analysts look for red flags, events or ongoing stresses that might have built up the pressure on this individual. After the fact, folks in the know pick through a shooters’ profiles and backgrounds, identifying possible triggers, the proverbial straws that broke the camels’ backs.

It’s a social problem. Was the shooter harassed? Bullied? Excluded and isolated? Did anyone reach out to this person? Did anyone recognize the risk, help this person before the potential for disaster became real?

It’s a medical problem. Mental illness, diagnosed or not, can be a major factor in someone deciding to carry out such a horrific event, taking lives of so many others. Mental health care must be available to all who need it – and mental health coverage must be part of any health plan.

It’s a legal problem, a gun problem. That’s hard for me to say because I know so many responsible gun owners. Hunters, mainly, these friends would never dream of leaving their firearms loaded and accessible to someone – anyone – who might misuse them. That said, no one needs a semi-automatic for hunting game. The AR-15 that’s been in the hands of so many mass shooters doesn’t need to be legal.

It’s an accessibility problem. Felons, domestic abusers, people who have been identified as a danger to others must be prevented from owning guns. License to kill only exists in fiction. In reality, life is precious.

It’s a complex problem, and the solution will not be simple. I wish I had an answer.

The Postcards I didn’t send – yet

I’m still sending postcards to my elected officials. I write them in cursive in the hopes that it’ll make the office interns have to work to read them. I did tell a certain office-holder that eliminating Net Neutrality would cut down the number of followers to his Twitter feed. But other than that, I’ve restrained myself rather well. Here are a few messages that have gone through my head, but not through the mail.

Dear Senator Johnson;

A secret society in the FBI? What’s next, a conspiracy theory about the moon landing? A committee to find Communists? One Red Scare was enough, thank you very much. We Wisconsinites are not proud that McCarthyism started with one of our own.


No Red Rose, just Daisy

Dear Congressman Gallagher;

Your letters are long, wordy, and low on substance. Many times your responses seem to carry the intention of educating your constituents. Unfortunately, your man-‘splaining essays do more to insult the intelligence of your well educated voters.

Daisy (with a Graduate Degree, I might add)

Dear Senator Baldwin;

Keep fighting the good fight. You have many supporters here in our fair state.

Daisy, campaign volunteer

Dear Speaker Ryan;

You’re good with numbers. However, you keep forgetting that each number on your spreadsheet represents a real person. A person with rent or a mortgage, a person with bills to pay, a person who pays taxes. A person, if she has the proper ID, who votes.

A voter paying attention,


Dear Mr. President;

Have you read the story “Kaddo’s Wall”? My students, unprompted, said that Kaddo reminded them of you. Oh, what am I thinking? You’re not a reader.

Teacher (and lifelong learner),


Word for the Year – Action

More than a few years ago, in January of 2009, many bloggers welcomed the new year by choosing a word. The word was to provide a focus, guiding changes and progress throughout the calendar year. That year, I chose Action. 

Scrappy Affirmations (look her up, she’s awesome), asked for suggestions of goal words for her key chains. Without thinking further, I suggested Action. 

Action is a natural for this time. To begin with, it means to continue Project Postcard. I’ll print a new set of return address labels to make this action easy.

Don’t have a word yet? Haven’t thought about it? Take a look – adopt one of these or use them as a starting point to find your own.

This is not in any way a sponsored post. You can see “my” word in her collection, and if you check out her page, you’ll see a lot more. 

Caveman Politics

I saw this term in a comment on Facebook, and it stuck in my head. “Caveman politics” term was a commentary on a bill that would forbid University of Wisconsin employees from performing or assisting with abortions. You read it right, readers: people who do their work in the hallowed halls of government are trying to legislate training and practicing medicine at the University of Wisconsin Medical School and its associated clinics.

Perhaps I should call it Paleolithic Politics – it has a nice ring to it, with a bit of alliteration.How many of us actually know what the status of women was like in the Paleo- or Neolithic eras? I can look it up in my history texts, but what I really want to know is this: why does our state legislature want to take their ideological swing so far to the right that it tells the University of Wisconsin Medical School what it can and cannot teach?

Would you like to know more? It’s scary.


Health Care – It’s Personal

A few years ago, I posted this:

Strong Enough Now


Without access to health care, I might indeed have died or become severely incapacitated a few years ago. Thanks to health insurance through my employer, I was able to see the doctors I needed, get my stroke diagnosed, and then go to physical therapy and slowly but surely teach my left side to communicate with my brain. Ironic, I know. I lean left figuratively, politically, so leaning left literally – hey, why not? 

The stroke was only one item in a long list of illnesses and near-catastrophes. Had I not been covered through my job, I’d either be bankrupted by medical bills or – gone. Done. Deceased.

The vote on the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon allows the bill that would repeal the Affordable Care Act to be discussed, debated, amended, and eventually, it could be voted into law. Make no mistake, my friends, repealing the ACA will be catastrophic.

It’s time for us, the voters, to learn exactly what’s in this bill and how it will affect each and every one of us. Pre-existing conditions, maternity care, disabilities, mental illness, vaccinations, birth control, and more: learn what they mean and why these pieces matter in the puzzle as a whole.

It’s time for us, the voters, to pay even closer attention to our elected officials. What are they saying? What are they doing? And how do their actions affect us? And then we need to let those elected officials know that we’re watching, and what they do matters. Their votes on this bill will affect people nationwide.

For me, it’s time to get out the postcards again. I plan to remind my senators that being able to see a doctor is not an abstract concept. Without insurance, without access to medical professionals, people will die. Health care, indeed, is personal.


Insanity? Frustration? Or both?

Einstein is often credited with the quote, but verification in the form of evidence is slim.

Whether he said it first or not, it’s a good point. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results isn’t logical.

If the progressive leaders keep relying on outdated methods such as phone banks, we’re unlikely to regain the White House. Even the midterm elections in the Senate and House will be weaker if phone banking is the main tactic.

My point is this: keep training focused on messaging. Phone calls are not the most efficient way to reach voters any more, so we progressives need to find other ways to get our statements heard. With the training focused on spreading our message concisely and clearly, we can then move on to finding ways to get that message heard.

That said, I think I’ll make sure my caller ID is working. I might even reset the voice mail to kick in after two or three rings instead of its current five.

Education: valuable or dangerous?

I went to the post office one day to mail a book. The clerk was one who knew me as a regular, often mailing my Paperback Swap books on to another reader. As he went through the standard script and asked, “Does the package contain anything potentially hazardous?” I replied flippantly, “No, independent thought is still legal.”

He laughed, thank goodness. I can just see the post service suddenly searching my mail because of my slightly sarcastic sense of humor. Oops.

There have been a few changes since that day.

  • This guy, one of my favorite clerks, has since retired.
  • There’s a new majority on Capital Hill.
  • A recent poll indicates that the new majority, the Republican side, doesn’t value education in general. Worse: the Republican caucus thinks higher education is a waste of time and even bad for the U.S. (See the Pew Study results here)

Independent thought may still be legal, but learning and thinking are less and less valuable to our government. In fact, the impression I get is that the current folks in charge want to keep the populace ignorant, malleable, and easy to control.

This is scary, people. Very scary. Dare I suggest – keep reading, keep learning, and keep connecting with your legislators. Remind them that they work for all of us, not just those who voted them into office. Call, email, send postcards, attend town hall meetings. If you dare, participate in rallies and protests.

Independent thought is still legal. Let’s keep it that way.


Wisconsin LIngo

Seen on a car in a very conservative city in Wisconsin, the area our Republican governor considers his “base.”

I’ll translate for those readers outside of my fair state. In Wisconsin, America’s Dairyland, this statement implies that Scott Walker is making one feel rather ill. Sick, in fact, quite sickly.

It’s a relief to know that there are still people out there who understand that Walker’s Wisconsin is going downhill, not up. And that, my friends, is making a lot of us feel ill.