Posts in World-ology
#NeverAgain.

For the kids, teachers, and families at Parkland. For the kids, teachers, and parents everywhere. #neveragain.

And for them.

And for them.

Several years ago - 5 years ago, in fact, my daughter Rowen came home from 3rd grade to tell us that she'd had a lockdown drill in school that day. It shocked me, mostly because she hadn't ever talked about this before, and also because she was so matter-of-fact about it. That post is here:

Living in a Sacred Space 

I actually asked Rowen to read this post in the car on the way to school last Friday, when our talk of the massacre in Florida was getting grim. At 12 and 14, my kids are old enough to begin to appreciate reality of our world. The risk we all run as they get out of the car or off the bus. 

It has always been strange to me, how many of my emotions occur in a sort of delayed reaction to dramatic situations. As my shock over YET ANOTHER massacre of innocent kids at a school has given way to the despairing hollowness of why, sweet mercy, why, I was whipped back into focus this morning as I watched a clip reading out the names of the victims. I realized that seven of them were 14 years old. 

My kid is 14

She's halfway through 8th grade, and will be entering high school this fall. And my planned blog post in honor of the kids in Parkland, and in special honor of the staff and teachers there, suddenly shifted into clarity. This isn't just "the kids" and their heroic teachers, and their shattered parents. This is me, but for the grace of God. Me. 

I'm suddenly overwhelmed with two emotions.

One is anger. I recognize that one. But not the helpless kind of frustration I feel when I am moved by injustice and know that there is nothing I can do that will alleviate the situation.

For me, I regret that Sandy Hook wasn't the last time - the very last time ever - that kids got killed at a school. I am sad that their voices weren't big enough or angry enough or as good at organizing in social media as the teenaged voices are now. That perhaps we hadn't come to the tipping point just yet.

But I'm glad - so glad - that these kids who spend their lives connected are angry. That a hashtag can become a rallying cry can be come a movement that changes the world.

So my other emotion is hope. The kind of hope that grits its teeth and puts on its butt-kicking shoes and goes to war. That says hell or high water. Thy kingdom come.

Picking My Outrage Battle. Again.

Remember the post earlier this year about picking my outrage battle? Gun violence targeting children has just become one of mine.

I don't care enough about gun ownership to have a really open heart-to-heart with its advocates, especially about military-style weaponry. Not while there are children who still die as some kind of regrettable collateral damage, in our eagerness to protect what never should have been considered an inalienable right. Not while there is any chance that even one family or community can be spared. So I'm not a moderate voice. I'm a mama, scared and angry, who only escaped this horror because it was inflicted upon someone else. 

There are some rights worth the fight. Worth dying for. Some freedoms for which millions of soldiers have given their lives. That balance of freedom and responsibility - of what amounts to herd immunity at the cost of the rights of the individual - is the dazzling beauty of the American way. It's what makes America unique, and that push and pull is what keeps democracy alive.

But there have been times, landmark times, when we've made decisions as a nation that have changed the course of life for millions of citizens at a single stroke, because it's simply the right thing to do. What, in fact, MUST be done, even at the cost of the personal freedoms of some. This is one of those times. Enough kids - enough victims - have died from the same style of gun, that outlawing it should not even take a moment of consideration. 

For today, after my grand language, here's what I'm going to do. 

1. I'm going to find out where the marches are, and we're going to attend. I've never been a marcher, so this is a big thing. It takes a lot to get me out from behind my computer. ;) Here's one: https://www.marchforourlives.com/

2. Today I'm writing a letter to each of my childs' teachers, and their principal, thanking them for the work they do every day in the service of - and if necessary, in the defense of - my own children. They deserve it.

If you're a parent or a grandparent, I invite you to write a letter to a teacher. I'd love to see the posts if you do. I'll post mine.

With much love, and much hope. 

-JS

  

Farewell, David Bowie.

In Memoriam

David Robert Jones | David Bowie
1947-2016

I wasn't even alive when David Bowie first got started. - he was, after all, my parents' age. I was in high school when Changesbowie came out (1990), and it was on permanent repeat (or the analog version of it, since it was a cassette) for months. My best friend Share and I pretty much wore that thing out, interspersed with Billy Idol and the soundtrack to Lost Boys, during the summer between our Freshman and Sophomore years. 

That the album itself was a compilation of earlier music was lost on me, despite the album cover showing so many of his varied personae: 

He was beautiful and theatrical and strange, thin like Jack Pumpkinhead from Nightmare Before Christmas, and with an impossibly haunting high-low voice. I would catch glimpses in magazines of the pink hair, the shadowy makeup, the sculptural or strange or barely-there clothing. This was Sugar City, Idaho, now. People wear regular clothes, not crazy clothes. Boys don't wear makeup, or a pink wig that was possibly not even a wig. We don't do things that are weird, and it is not ok to be weird.

Trouble was, in my little town of 1200, in 1990, I WAS weird. Angry and lost and weird. And hell, I thought his pink possibly-not-a-wig was amazing. His androgyny was alluring, and scary to me for its allure.

Changesbowie was ABOUT change, in a time when I myself was changing. He was a master of invention, and every song on this album was different because each was a snapshot in time of an ultimate musical chameleon. And that voice. How could such a voice - so gorgeously and hugely glam, turn dance-pop in Let's Dance, and haunting in Space Oddity, and never sound inauthentic?

Because he - at least what we all believe is the real he, really was all those things. Theatricality and complexity, showmanship without self-aggrandization, earnestness and unresolved feeling and that body and makeup captivating like an otherworldly sculpture. 

I've been reading a lot about him today. And remembering that within a few years of the first time I was singing along to Changes:

“Turn and face the strange
Ch-ch-changes
Oh look out now you rock and rollers
Pretty soon now you’re gonna get older.”

And belting the gorgeous chorus of "Let's Dance":

If you say run, I'll run with you
If you say hide, we'll hide
Because my love for you
Would break my heart in two
If you should fall
Into my arms
And tremble like a flower
Let's dance
Put on your red shoes and dance the blues,

I myself would be turning to face strange changes he was only hinting about. I, who didn't even OWN a pair of red shoes, would indeed learn what it means to dance the blues - that it would be a lifelong dance (maybe danced to Space Oddity, even, because if you really listen, WOW.). And yes, of course, I would need red shoes for it. (I own 3 pairs now, btw).

I especially enjoyed this New York Times article about him. 

Can You Hear Me, Major Tom?

I guess I was as shocked as everyone that he suddenly dropped an album after seeming to disappear for so many years. What! A new Bowie album. And then to find out this morning that this gift of new music would be (as he knew) his parting gift to the world.

I think his most haunting song for me is Space Oddity. That crazy slant-harmony, and the bittersweet ending, with the anxiety and peace and not-quite knowing what happened. Beautiful. Here's the original:

And here is the first music video ever recorded in space, Space Oddity by Commander Chris Hadfield, aboard the ISS.

The stars look very different today, Major Tom. 

"The Stars Look Very Different Today"   Cartoon by Benjamin Schwartz, New Yorker

"The Stars Look Very Different Today"

Cartoon by Benjamin Schwartz, New Yorker

Put On Your Red Shoes

Changesbowie was one of my growing-up albums, and in some ways, he was the alter-ego to what I had around me. His message to me was that it's ok to be absolutely, wildly, creatively, boldly YOURSELF - seeing layers of joy and sadness and future and past and what could be, with a little loneliness, yes. But with an acceptance that your very strangeness is what makes you. That complex emotion is ok. That it's ok to earnestly be and think and believe and relish a million things authentically. That reality is our own to make, if we can envision it. And that if we want to wear red shoes, we should damn well wear them.