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.

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. 

Teaching Peace – The Elevator Pitch

Teach Peace

Mine is purple, a hooded sweatshirt, and also has a small peace sign below the words. It’s a soft and warm sweatshirt, perfect for a below-zero bitter cold day.

And so it was that I was seated in the alcove next to our pharmacy awaiting at long last my annual influenza vaccine, alongside an elderly gentleman apparently awaiting the same. He asked me about the message displayed on my comfortable hoodie.

“Tea? Peach? What does that say?”

“Teach Peace.”

“Oh.” short pause “What does it mean?”

“It means teach people to get along with one another.” Phew, that was quick thinking. 

“And so, um, what do you do?”

I wasn’t sure exactly what he meant, so I answered the question I hoped he’d asked. 

“I teach middle school, so there are many opportunities to teach young people how to work together and be kind to each other.”

And before he could ask another question, the pharmacist arrived with her syringe and my paperwork. She slipped the needle into my upper arm with only the slightest of pokes – she knew what she was doing! – and away I went.

I came away with a feeling of relief that I’d finally been able to get the shot in the arm I needed to help me stay healthy. I’ll keep on washing my hands and taking other precautions to prevent these nasty viruses from entering my body. This visit was also a reminder that if I plan to wear my philosophies on my chest, I need to be ready to explain those philosophies. Wearing my “Teach Peace” sweatshirt today kept me physically warm and mentally sharp.

When school starts, I’ll be sure to follow through teaching kindness and peaceful behavior.

I’m Back Online!

Did you miss me? No, don’t answer that. I was offline for a (much too long) time while my laptop was repaired. When I got the laptop back, I couldn’t log into my dashboard or cPanel or AMP. After trying numerous combinations of usernames and passwords, even though I was darn sure I knew what it “should” be, I gave in and sought help from the hosting provider. The Helpdesk type person was very patient and, well, helpful. He went through a number of possibilities, verified my identify multiple times (for which I’m grateful), and within 20 minutes had me back on my dashboard.

Then the screen dimmed as if operating on battery, and I realized the rabbit had nibbled through the laptop cord while I was focused on troubleshooting the blogs. At this point, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, so I laughed. There may have been tears, but hey, I laughed. 

First world problems, indeed. When I went to the computer store to buy a new cord, I had a chance to tell the folks there about the problems I’d had. Bookmarks were fine, usernames and passwords not so much. Clerk/techie nodded thoughtfully.

Meanwhile, I did get into the dashboard for A Mother’s Garden of Verses early this morning. I posted an encore, one that unfortunately is very relevant today.

Read and enjoy. It’s good to be back online.

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.


Rating Signs at the Earth Day Rally

Listen to the Scientists.

Climate Change is Real!

Make America Think Again!

Science and Education are crucial to a Sustainable Future!

Think Global; Act Local (I prefer “Think Globally, Act Locally, personally)

Alternative Energy, not Alternative Facts

With that last one, I must persist in my role as English Language Arts teacher as much as my role as progressive activist. Positive statements are much stronger than negative. If you, the sign maker, need the word NOT in big letters, go back and rephrase it. For example, “Climate Change is Real!” is much stronger than this slogan.

NOT is not a good word for a protest sign.

The phrase “Liberal Conspiracy” is more likely to stick in someone’s mind than the idea that “Science is Real.” The sign to the right has a major problem, too: no one can read it. The letters are much too thin and faint, and they fade completely in the bright sunlight.

This sign is a good example of what NOT to do. Too pale, and features NOT prominently instead of a slogan.

Clever. Could backfire, though, if those watching the march don’t get it and instead feel insulted.

Picture is from a different rally, but I saw tee-shirts announcing this philosophy.

As for message, this one gets right to the point.

I’m with her, indeed.


Encore – Almost – for Autism Awareness

It’s April, again. Autism Awareness Month. What are the numbers now? A few years ago, autism occurrences were estimated at 1 in 88. That’s looking almost common, rather than unusual.

Well, folks, it’s time we start learning about each other, neurotypical or on the autism spectrum. Even under the old numbers of 1 in 166, the estimates indicated so many children and adults with autism that “normal” needed redefinition.

Awareness, people, is not enough. Awareness is a low form of knowledge, and knowledge itself sits down low at the base of the learning pyramid. Awareness means knowing that the student sitting next to your child in class might have autism. Knowledge and understanding come around when that child responds to gestures of friendship, perhaps awkwardly, yet making a step toward joining the social peer group in some way.

Awareness? Awareness means slapping a multi-colored puzzle-design ribbon magnet on the back of the family minivan. Understanding means that when the minivan next to yours at the red light is moving back and forth propelled by the rocking of the teenager in the front seat, you notice but don’t judge. You might offer an understanding smile to the driver if the opportunity comes up. By refraining from negative comments, a parent provides a role model for the rest of the minivan passengers. Parents can take it to the next level by explaining to the others in the car pool why it’s so important to be supportive of others, neurotypical or autistic or with no label at all.

These days, with a dangerously unqualified Secretary of Education and a potential Supreme Court justice who has ruled against students with disabilities multiple times, awareness can go to…well, anyway, awareness is nowhere near enough. During this year’s Autism Awareness month, make a vow to move beyond awareness into the category of understanding – or better.

40 Bags in – Well, Approaching 40 Bags.

The 40 Bags in 40 Days challenge got difficult about a week ago. Chuck and I kind of hit the wall. Part of that was schedule related. I had some long days and a lot of grading to do. Chuck was working some mandatory overtime, and he needed to carve out time to sleep somewhere in his 24 hour cycles. Excuses aside, we weren’t keeping up.

And then Chuck started the Piano Project. We’ve been looking at our antique baby grand piano, a lovely piece of furniture with many memories, just as lovely. No one in the home currently plays piano, unless it’s in the guise of helping Amigo learn his barbershop music. For that purpose, we bought a Yamaha electronic keyboard. It works well and takes up very little space.

The piano is now destined to be repurposed and upcycled. Can an object be both? This one can. Chuck is currently taking it apart, piece by piece, with a goal of creating bookshelves. As he’s working, we are storing all the pieces. This isn’t helping the de-junking project, but it is going to help create space in a big way.

What’s that keyboard doing on my fireplace mantel?

The felt hammers needed to rest in the living room. That’s Amigo’s Spark Plug award on the left, a white elephant gift in the middle, and a cactus on the right.

A cactus in a tuba. Every home should have one.

Meanwhile, Chuck is working diligently to loosen the strings and remove the sound board of this lovely instrument. I pulled out the dampers today and set them aside.

When the project is done, I’ll post a few “After” shots. I think you’ll like it, readers. Maybe you’ll even forget that I didn’t make it to 40 bags in 40 days. Instead, we attacked a major family project.

The People are Speaking, and Speaking Loudly!

The original Executive Order on immigration was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Or was it the hole in the dike? I have no idea how the protests started. I only know that citizens knew it was wrong. Americans knew they had to take steps to take care of those who fell victim to the timing of this awful, unconstitutional action.

Folks, it’s like the sixties, but with the addition of social media. When word gets out, it goes out far and it gets out fast. As I watched news from airports all over the country, I was struck by the signs. The homemade signs, quickly conceived and quickly made. They didn’t look uniform and artistic like the signs (and hats) of the Women’s March a week earlier, but they looked fantastic.

No hate; no fear; Immigrants are welcome here. No ban; No wall. 

And it gets better.

Mr. Trump, you’re making Voldemort look compassionate!

Immigrants make America great! 

Deport Trump! 

Grandchild of an Immigrant (but she was white and Catholic, so that’s cool, right?)

Fear ignorance, not Muslims.

My grandfather is from Syria.

And a favorite, seen at several airports: 

Give me your tired, your poor; your huddled masses yearning to breathe free; the retched refuse of your teeming shores;

Send these, the homeless, tempest, tossed to thee;

I lift my lamp upon the golden door! 

Get used to it, Mr. President. You’re doing dumb things. People will resist. This isn’t the first time, and it won’t be the last time the American people will speak out. Face it; the right of the people to peaceably assemble is still there, in the first amendment, and no executive order will knock it down.

Project Postcard

I didn’t attend the women’s marches. I didn’t protest the pipeline. I don’t have my senators and representative on speed dial, either. Email is easy to send – so easy, in fact, that many in the legislative branch have inboxes that are full to overflowing, making email actually unlikely to be read.

Nevertheless, I feel I must persist.

La Petite and I have embarked upon the journey we call Project Postcard. Here’s the list of ingredients.

Awesome, artsy postcards

Postcard stamps and an easily accessible source for buying more

Return address labels, complete with zip code

Address labels for our congressional reps and our senators

All this makes it easy to make a statement quickly and get it in the mail immediately. The flashy postcards make the process fun. The stamps and address labels make it easy. We’re ready, so ready, to take on the legislative branch of that three ring circus in Washington, D.C.

Letters to D.C. offices take a while to get through. Remember anthrax? Yeah, the vetting process for mail is lengthy these days. Postcards should go more quickly, right? Well, just in case that process is also super slow for postcards, we ran address labels for our public servants’ local offices, too. Ron Johnson has an office in Oshkosh, Tammy Baldwin in Green Bay. Mike Gallagher’s local staff work out of a nice place in my lovely downtown. La Petite lives in a quasi-suburb of Milwaukee, so she sends her postcards to quasi-suburb Brookfield.

Here’s an example. Concise, to the point, includes the name of the bill and why it’s a bad idea.

No caption needed. Nope.

Mailing after the fact is important, too. My fair state has senators on opposite sides of the aisle and on opposite sides of many issues, as well.

Unqualified? That’s an understatement.

Senator Tammy Baldwin is up for reelection in 2018, and the conservatives are already taking aim at her seat. I plan to let her know when she’s voting wisely, just like I will let Ron Johnson know when he isn’t.

And so Project Postcard begins. Readers, take note. How are you reaching out to contact your elected lawmakers? Town hall meetings? Phone calls? Or will you join us in Project Postcard?