Allow me to introduce myself

In my copyediting course the other introductions are all like:

“Hello, my name is John. I have a Phd in astrophysics, a JD, a masters degree in cognitive psychology, another masters degree in English literature, plus a certification in underwater basket weaving. After serving in the peace corps, I worked as a lawyer and then as a rocket scientist,while publishing a few novels on the side. Although I’m fluent in five languages and have won both a Pulitzer and Nobel Prize, I realize that there is always room for self improvement. Thus, I have enrolled in this copyediting course. When I’m not working, furthering my education, travelling the world or fighting for world peace, I enjoy spending time with my beautiful wife of 25 years, Caroline and our three beautiful children.”

Then my introduction is all like “Um, hi, I’m Kira. I like to read. I have a dog and a cat. I’m in this course because I realized I can’t make money as a writer.”

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A March for Our Lives in March

I went to my first March last Saturday. It wasn’t the one in Washington but there was a local one that I decided I wanted to go to at the last minute. I didn’t have a sign so I wasn’t sure if it would be appropriate for me to go but I asked about it on Facebook and was assured that marchers without signs were welcome.

The crowd was large and parking was hard to find. People of all ages were there from babies to senior citizens. The bottom of one kid’s sign said “Babies against guns”. The top said “My right to live is above all rights.” His brother’s sign said “NRA go away.”

Other signs carried by children said “I can’t have peanut butter in school but you can have guns?”, “Arms are for hugging”, “School is to get an education not murdered”, “My life is more important than your gun” and “No guns, for safe schools.”

Adolescents and young adults held signs that said Protect kids, not guns, One life is worth more than all the guns on earth” “Students call BS”, and “18th century laws can’t regulate 21st century weapons.”

I took a picture of a “No more school shootings” sign perched atop an empty stroller. A woman commented that it was a good picture and I asked if I could take a picture of her sign, which read “I’m a ballet teacher. Should I carry a gun too?” with a picture of little girls in tu- tus next to a picture of a pink gun. Other signs that commented on the ridiculousness of arming teachers included “Bullets are not school supplies” and “Arm teachers with pencils not guns.”

A middle aged woman held up a sign with a picture of Maria from The Sound of Music that said”The Schools are alive with the sound of bullets.” A woman standing on the remnants of a dirty snow bank held a bright red sign that said “SOS save our schools from gun violence.” A man held up a sign that said “Taught not Shot.”  A woman standing next to him held up a sign that said “Finally a pro-life rally I can attend.” Then there was the woman whose sign had a list of things that were regulated more than guns: Alcohol, Sudafed, lawn darts, Roquefort cheese, Kindereggs, cars, fireworks and her uterus.

Older adults held up signs that said “Guns kill. Period”, “We are the majority”, “Choose life. Tighten gun laws” and “Resist, insist, persist, vote.”

There were signs calling out the NRA. One sign had NRA standing for national recall of arms. Another sign had it standing for no responsibility for arms (or children.)  There was a sign that said Ditch NRA or ditch office, a sign that said NRA, let go of my country  and a sign that said “The NRA can kiss my ass. Your blood money ends now. ” The most darkly funny sign said “Who’s afraid of the NRA? with the NRA as the big bad wolf and Donald Trump, Mitch Mcconnell and Paul Ryan as the three little pigs.

There were several signs pointing out that what we need is action and change, not thoughts and prayers. There were signs that stressed the importance of voting.  A woman wearing a shirt with the word Change beneath Obama’s picture was carrying a sign that said “I demand gun control and I vote!” I saw a sign laying on a table that said “We’re with the teens.  Get out and vote!” There was a sign that simply said “Vote, vote, vote” over and over again.

Some signs kept their messages simple but powerful.  There was a sign that said Disarm Hate.  There were signs that consisted of one word : Enough.

Another one-word sign simply said Love. And in the midst of all the anger and indignation at that rally there was a lot of love. People hugged, held hands, draped their arms around each other, carried one another on their backs.

There were signs that listed the names of the Parkland victims and signs that displayed the pictures of the Parkland survivors who are acting as advocates for gun control. While I was participating in a local march, those survivors were participating in the national march in Washington D.C. where they gave moving and eloquent speeches. They were mostly lauded for their bravery but some rabid defenders of the second amendment had a real problem with them exercising their first amendment rights.  I never would have thought anyone would have a problem with survivors of a horrific tragedy taking action to prevent such a tragedy from happening again, much less target those survivors in a cruel manner but these are interesting times we’re living in.

In addition to the signs, there were also powerful speakers at this rally. One young man described his terrifying experience as a student in a school that had an active shooter.  He sat huddled under a desk wondering if he was going to die. He pointed out that the shooter was not a bullied social outcast as the media stereotype would have you believe. Another young man discussed an aspect of gun violence that doesn’t get as much media attention: suicide. He described a friend of his who died of suicide by gun. He argued that although it’s commonly believed that people who commit suicide want to die, the truth is most of them don’t want to die. It is an impulsive act of desperation, as evidenced by the fact that most suicide attempt survivors do not try again. I’ve often felt depressed and thought about wanting to die but I’ve never attempted suicide or formulated a plan. I wonder if things would have been different had I had access to a gun.

When the talk became about the politicians who bow to the NRA, the crowd chanted “Vote them out! Vote them out!” Acknowledging that he felt awkward taking the stage amidst those cries, a New Jersey state representative explained that although he owns a gun, he supports gun control laws and will not bow to the NRA. I have no interest in owning or using a gun myself but I appreciate the voice of reasonable gun owners in the gun control debate. I’m annoyed that it’s even a debate to begin with. Gun control just seems like common sense to me and those feelings were obviously shared by a woman carrying a sign that said “Pass common sense gun control laws”. Another sign that sums up my feelings well said “Sensible gun laws!  Save lives. Don’t violate the second amendment. Worth the “hassle”. Arrrrgh.”

As the speaker portion of the march drew to a close we were reminded that we shouldn’t just go home, feel good that we participated in a march and then do nothing else. We need to take other actions as well, such as writing to our representatives and voting in upcoming elections. About a month before the march I wrote a letter to one of my representatives about the gun problem and a few weeks later I was pleasantly surprised to get a response, outlining the steps he was taking to address it.

“Do you want to visit your brother? He’s here” my father said as we left the march.  At first I had no idea what he was talking about. Then I realized we were walking by the cemetery where my stepbrother is buried. My stepbrother did not die of a gunshot wound but he did die tragically and unexpectedly at a young age, as did the kids whose lives were ended by bullets ringing out in the hallways of their schools-in Parkland, in Columbine, in Sandy Hook and in so many other schools throughout our nation. As did those whose lives were ended by guns shot by madmen at a concert in Las Vegas, at a club in Orlando, or at a movie theater in Colorado. As did those who were shot in their church or in their own home by a relative, by a friend, by an enemy or by their own hand. My stepbrother was a victim of another poorly handled and hotly debated epidemic that is sweeping this nation-the opioid epidemic.

Afterwards I discovered that several of my friends also attended the march but I did not see any of them them there, probably because the crowd was so large. Although I could not kid myself in to thinking I had made a big difference in my country’s gun violence problem, I allowed myself to feel good about the fact that I had participated in my local March for Life. It was an energizing, valuable and worthwhile experience. I look forward to my next march.

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The General Insanity of It All

We have a president being sued by a porn star over an affair he had with her and somehow that’s not even the biggest news item or 45’s tackiest, most classless, most horrific behavior. And to think of how scandalized I was by the whole Monica Lewinsky affair back in the 90’s…or how much I dreaded a Romney presidency back in 2012…

I was in 8th grade when the Monica Lewinsky scandal happened and I think I was also in 8th grade when Columbine happened. Of course I’ve heard about countless shootings since then and nothing has been done about this nation’s gun problem. After the Las Vegas shooting I wrote a blog post about gun control that ended up getting posted on a site called Writer Beat and I ended up wasting my time arguing with a bunch of gun-loving idiots.  I realized they were truly insane when they said that liberals don’t really care about the lives that are being lost as a result of gun violence, they just want to take away the guns so they can run roughshod over the rest of the population.

It’s incomprehensible to me that so many people are still opposed to gun control, just like it’s incomprehensible to me that so many people still support 45. He truly disgusts me and he’s as evil as he is stupid.

His brilliant solution to the opioid crisis is to put drug dealers to death, which is an idea that is as evil as it is stupid.  Does he not realize that opioid addicts and opioid dealers are often one and the same? So he’s going to try to solve the problem of people dying from opioid addiction by killing opioid addicts. Great.

Speaking of the death penalty, it’s being sought for the Parkland shooter. How disgusting that it’s easier to get the state of Florida to consider killing a teenager than to consider implementing gun control.

I think the same kind of toxic masculinity that’s responsible for the U.S. gun culture is responsible for the death penalty. People stock pile loads of ammunition, thinking it makes them look big, and bad and tough, that it will protect them and keep them safe but the reality is that it puts them in danger and causes more problems than it solves. People also think killing vulnerable prisoners makes us look, big and bad and tough and will protect us from future crime when the reality is it doesn’t. It just needlessly ends a life, wastes money and makes us a sick society.

Enough with these claims that mental illness rather than guns is to blame for the shootings. The mentally ill are far more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators of it and mentally ill or not, you can’t shoot someone without a gun.

It’s also disturbing to see kids shamed for protesting gun violence. They’re being told that they should be nice to people instead. Puh-lease. That is some victim blaming bullshit.  Shooters are not typically those who have been bullied by their peers and I see no reason to believe the students taking a stand against gun violence are bullies. You can be a nice person and support gun control. The two are not mutually exclusive. Just like fighting for better mental health care and fighting for gun control are not mutually exclusive. In fact I’d say they tend to go hand in hand, whereas the gun nuts don’t really care about being nice to people or attending to their mental health unless they can use it as part of their asinine arguments as to why they deserve unrestricted access to dangerous weapons.

45’s brilliant solution to the problem is to arm teachers, proving that his IQ is as low as his approval rating.

I’m going to bed now. I expect the world will only be more insane when I wake up.

 

When Online is Out of Line: Your Time Here on This Board is Done

Under the line in the message informing me I had been banned was a line that said When ban will expire: Never. Under that line was a line that said reason for banning: E-mail sent to Kira*****@****.com.

A swift punch to the gut.

I opened my email. It read:

Hi Kira,

I think the posts in that George Bush thread were a long time coming. I think your time here on this board is done. At this point you have burned through all the good will people may have had. Once that happens the relationship just deteriorates completely.  I feel for you because I know you struggle but we don’t think this place is going to help you. We see the same patterns over and over again. It is destroying this community. It is time for you to move on. We will be closing your account. We wish you all the best in your life.

-NinjaMod6

At least that message from the moderator was more empathetic than the one I got when I was suspended.

“I’ve been banned” I said to Karen.

“Wow, really? The moderators haven’t said a thing on the board.”

A few minutes later the moderators announced my banning on the board. Their announcement read:

“The other moderators and I have agreed to ban Kira. Ultimately she didn’t have a healthy relationship with this board and that didn’t seem to be changing. We got more reported posts about her behavior than everyone else on this board combined. We think this is for the best for everyone involved.”

If it was true that they got more reports about my behavior than everyone else on the board combined and not just an exaggeration for effect it could have been because my behavior was exceptionally heinous but it also could have been because a bunch of petty and immature tattletales decided to complain to the mderators about my every move in an effort to get me banned.

“What are people saying now?” I asked Karen.

“They’re saying how surprised they are. Most people thought you would get a warning or a suspension.”

I wasn’t really surprised that I got banned but I was still devastated.  A place that had been an important part of my life for twelve years,a place that I had devoted so much of myself to, a place that was my main and often my only source of entertainment, socialization, conversation and friendship had just been taken away from me and I was never going to get it back.

Although I had been deeply hurt by all the ways in which people on that board had attacked,insulted and ostracized me over the years, I had never shed any actual tears over it. The night I was banned I cried myself to sleep.

Top Ten Signs I’m a Very Stable Genius

  1. I let the bathtub overflow….while I was in it.
  2. I failed an online quiz twice…and it was the same questions both times.
  3. After cleaning the litter box I placed the kitty litter scoop over a pile of clean laundry.
  4. I tried to remove waffles from the toaster with a fork.
  5. I was wondering why the camera on my phone wasn’t working and all I saw was a blue screen when I went to take a picture. Turns out I had my phone’s blue carrying case folded over the lens.
  6. I walked up to my mom in the bookstore, shoved my phone in her face and said “Hey, look at this picture on Facebook”…turns out that wasn’t my mom.
  7. I can’t figure out how to set up Jenga….or Connect Four. An intellectually impaired person did it for me.
  8. The first time I entered my house I banged my head on a light fixture in the living room…twice.
  9. I can’t tell you how many computer cords I’ve broken, ID cards I’ve lost and passwords I’ve forgotten.
  10. I complain abut how I’m always tired and have such bad sleep problems…and yet I was up until three last night reading a personal essay about an emergency appendectomy in Egypt that mysteriously still left the author with her appendix.

Daily Prompt: Courage

Courage

We often think of courage as being exemplified by grand acts full of bravado. We think of courageous acts as the kind of acts that win medals and make newspaper headlines, such as saving a puppy from a burning building or being a war hero.

Yet when I look around me and within me, I see acts that won’t make any headlines or win any medals but are courageous nonetheless.

It takes courage on my part to write about some of the things I do on this blog because I’m making myself vulnerable and opening myself up to criticism (I would like to reiterate that my misadventures in internet forums and depression are not being written in real time. I would not have had the courage to write about those events around the time they were happening.) It takes courage to continue to telling my story when the people who bullied me on that forum continue to try to bully me in response to my writing.

It takes courage to submit my blog posts I write through another site for the approval of clients when I’ve been declined and disappointed so many times (I think it was especially courageous of me to submit a blog post about gay sex toys. That one was accepted.)

It took courage for me to reach out to old and new friends when I’d spent so many years in self -imposed isolation, when I was so afraid of being rejected.

It took courage on my friend’s part to send her daughter to medical daycare for the first time when they’ve never been apart from each other for so long.

It takes courage on her daughter’s part to be away from her mother in a strange environment, to submit herself to needles and procedures every time she has to go to the hospital.

It took courage for me to reapply to college after I’d dropped out multiple times.

It took courage for me to put myself out there in the world and volunteer when I was so afraid of performing poorly, of being judged by the people I interacted with.

It takes courage for the ESL students I volunteer with to sign up for ESL classes because they too are afraid of performing poorly and being judged. It takes courage for them to show up to class every week, when some of their peers are afraid to leave their houses, when they are living under an administration that tells them they are not safe and are not wanted in this country.

It takes courage for me to challenge that narrative I have in my head that I’m a worthless failure who’s a burden and a disappointment to everyone, that I’d be better off dead.

They say courage is not the absence of fear but the mastery of it.

Sometimes just getting out of bed in the morning and facing the day is an act of courage.

When Online is out of Line: Bird Noises in the Bathroom

As I read the latest thread that had turned in to me being attacked en masse, there was that familiar sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. My heart was racing. I felt like I was in the middle of a hungry wolf pack, being attacked on all sides.

The attacks and the insults just kept coming. People who had previously defended me attacked me. People who I had assumed liked me or were at least neutral towards me attacked me. People who had been away from the board for a long time came to the thread to tell me I was the reason they left and to attack me.

Yo-ya said “I tried to come back to the board a while ago but it was the same old Kira show. Autism is no excuse for your behavior. My 9-year-old stepson is autistic and has some behaviors that are annoying as shit like making bird noises in the bathroom but unlike you he stops when we tell him to. People who just want to enjoy themselves shouldn’t have to deal with you. You’re just birds noises in the bathroom.”

Jill said she was all for people being honest and blunt but telling me I was just bird noises in the bathroom was extremely mean spirited. Yo-yo replied that she didn’t see how it was any meaner than what anyone else said.

I was especially hurt at being told I was just bird noises in the bathroom but there were plenty of other mean comments:

“You’re a troll. Go be annoying somewhere else on the internet.”

“You’re ruining this board. Get a blog or something.

“You are literally addicted to this board. Get out of here. You should probably get off the internet entirely but baby steps…”

“Your standard of behavior is really shitty and it has zip to do with autism. You expect people to pat you on the head and walk on eggshells around you and when they don’t you lash out.  There’s no hope of you controlling yourself at this point.”

“Kira doesn’t give a shit about anyone else.  She uses mental illness as an excuse.”

“I can’t stand Kira.”

“We’re not your puppets or your therapists.”

“You are using the board in what is universally agreed upon to be an unhealthy manner.”

“Everyone is bothered by you.”

“You’re either going to get banned or this board is going to become a sad, empty place.”

“I’m ready to pack up and leave this board right now.”

“This is not the place for you. You need to go.”

“We have never distinguished between deliberate and unintentional trolling here.  If you troll you get banned.”

“If you get banned it’s your own fault.”

Despite or perhaps because of the emotional distress that thread was causing me, I could not tear myself away from it. I felt compelled to keep reading it, keep responding to it, keep trying to defend myself. Fear and panic were descending on me. Being banned now seemed like a very real possibility.

“I think I’m going to get banned” I said to my forum friend Karen.

“The ninjas said they’re monitoring the situation”

“But popular members are saying they want me banned so that will probably convince the ninjas to ban me.”

“It hasn’t convinced them before.”

I was keenly aware of how vulnerable I was. I knew that I could be banned at any moment and that I was powerless to stop it. My feeble attempts to defend myself left me feeling small and pathetic. The way I was once again being ganged up on and insulted, the way my words, my behavior and my life were once again being picked apart left me feeling utterly humiliated.

In addition to the people insulting me, there were people expressing concern for me.

“Kira, I know how important this board is to you and if a group that was important to me wanted me kicked out I would be devastated but it’s what needs to happen. I was hoping you would get over your obsession with this board but you haven’t. I don’t want you to be unhappy. You’re a smart girl. You’ve been to college. You can go back to college.”

“You’re a young woman. Your life shouldn’t be so boring that all you do is sit on the internet all day. Go out and do something. Volunteer, join a group, find a hobby. Don’t die without anyone knowing or caring. There’s a serious danger of that happening.”

Kevin, one of the few men on the board, said:

“I’m not sure how true this ‘Kira is a recluse who has nothing in her life but this forum to occupy her’ narrative is.  Even if it is true I’m not entirely comfortable with what is undoubtedly an attempt to get Kira to leave the board being framed as an altruistic urge to help a troubled young person. It feels a little disingenuous.

That being said, it is undeniable that Kira has an extremely unhealthy relationship with this community and this community has an extremely unhealthy relationship with Kira. Kira, honestly at this point I don’t understand what you’re getting out of this relationship. I don’t know what the solution is though. I worry that if we run Kira off she will go somewhere where people will be far, far nastier than we could ever be.

I’m exhausted of these conversations and I cannot begin to imagine how they are making Kira feel. I’m tired of thinking and worrying about all of this. I’m upset that this is happening to a community I care about.”

I think that was the post that summed the whole situation up best of all.

The back and forth continued. Soon the thread was over ten pages long and for the second time the moderators created a thread devoted to bashing me, with my name as the title.

Dolly said I’d made no effort to change my behavior on the board and it was just the most annoying thing.

I pointed out that I had taken other people’s criticism of my posting in to account and adjusted accordingly. For instance, I now included my opinions about every news story I posted.

Sprinkles retorted that I had been asked to post less but I was still starting a lot of threads and asked if I honestly didn’t see the what the problem was.

I wrote some reply about how I didn’t see the problem with it because you didn’t have to read what I posted if you didn’t want to and you were free to start your own threads but no one ever saw that reply because when I went to post it a message popped up on my screen. It said ‘You have been banned.’

 

 

 

 

 

A Valentines Dance

The weather reports are predicting snow. I keep checking my e-mail to see if tonight’s Valentines dance will be canceled but it appears to still be on.

I’ve never been to a Valentines dance before (or any holiday dance for that matter) and I originally wasn’t planning on attending this one but when my volunteer supervisor told me it would be fun and I should come, I decided to think about it. When I received an e-mail saying more volunteers were needed for the dance, I sent a reply saying I would be there.

I won’t have to worry about bringing a date or hooking up with anyone at this dance but I will have to worry about setting up the decorations. This is a worry for me because my fine motor skills are even worse than my social skills and anything that involves work with my hands is unlikely to turn out well.

At least my social skills have improved, even if my fine motor skills haven’t. Sometimes skills atrophy from lack of use and god knows I was quite anti-social in recent years. A year ago I wouldn’t have even considered attending this dance but I wouldn’t have even known about it because I wouldn’t have been volunteering in a special needs expressive arts class at the community recreation center. This dance won’t just include the students from my class but various other people from the special needs community.

My mother drops me off at the recreation center and points out that no one appears to be there. I point out that the dance hasn’t started yet and assure her that the people will come. Upon entering the building, I see the DJs setting up their equipment and the other volunteers decorating the walls with red paper hearts.

“Kira, I’m so glad you came !” Lois, the expressive arts teacher exclaims as she hands me a paper heart and some tape. The other volunteers are hanging the hearts throughout the room, one after the other, making it look easy.  It’s not easy for me though. As I feared, the hearts become useless in my hands. Rolling the tape so that it sticks to both the heart and the wall is too complex a feat for me. Eventually I manage it in a haphazard way, only to be told that I’ve taped the heart to the wrong wall.

“Kira, what grade are you in?” a volunteer asks me.

“Oh, I’m an adult.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.  You look so young.”

Exchanges like this are the story of my life.

The dancers are beginning to arrive. Quentin glides up to me in his wheelchair.

“Kira, you and I have something in common. We both go to Richards University!”

I’m attending Richards University for the third time after dropping out twice previously. This time I’m determined to finish my bachelor’s degree.

Quentin has a job at the Richards school cafeteria. I remember the times I spent eating in the cafeteria with my friends when I first attended the college-and I remember the times I spent eating alone there, feeling self-conscious. I remember when I found out that one of the girls in our friends group had asked the other girls not to invite me to come eat with them because I was “special” and she didn’t like that.

The music starts and the strobe lights are turned on. Glancing out the windows covered in signs that say ‘Happy Valentines Day’, I can see that snow is falling. Some people are dancing, some people are watching others and some are wandering around aimlessly making animal noises. One guy hoots and tears a heart off the wall.  Oh well, if it was one of the hearts applied by me it wouldn’t have lasted long anyway.

I’m one of the people dancing. On this dance floor I have no room for self consciousness.  I have this inability to sit still and am often ”dancing” around, no matter the time or place. This often gets me negative attention or expressions of concern from others who find my movements odd or socially inappropriate. Now that I’m in an environment where it’s considered socially appropriate to wildly move about, I’m not holding back. Several of the dancers are wearing flashing hearts around their necks. I find myself wishing I had one too.

An intermission is called and we head to the kitchen where refreshments are served. As I fill my plate with melon and a pink frosted cupcake, I notice a woman with short brown hair and glasses. She’s not one of the students from the expressive arts class I volunteer in but she’s a familiar face nonetheless.

“Hi, Maren. It’s Kira.  Remember me from Camp Everest?'”

“Camp Everest?”

“Yeah, we were in the same bunk at summer camp back when we were in high school.”

A flash of recognition passes over Maren’s face. She recites the first and last names of our camp counselors.

I remember how outraged I was when I first arrived at Camp Everest and saw that my bunkmates were Maren and people like her.  Yes, I knew this was a camp for disabled kids and I knew that I was disabled but I wasn’t that disabled, not in the way these people were disabled. My bunkmates were weird and you could tell they were disabled just by looking at them. I could pass for normal, at least at first glance. I had my fair share of problems but I was bright and articulate. My bunkmates were intellectually impaired and had trouble speaking in coherent sentences.

However, as time went on, I got over myself. I came to enjoy camp and the company of my bunkmates, especially Maren. I realized that I could roast marshmallows on the campfire, go boating on the lake, hike in the woods and it really didn’t fucking matter if the people I was doing it with were ‘”lower functioning” than I was. So what if the conversations were punctuated with random exclamations, questions and requests to go to Binghamton?  When it came down to it, my bunkmates were much nicer to me and more fun to be around than some of my more” typical” peers.

A few months after camp ended, I received a postcard from Maren.  It read “Hi, Kira. My name is Maren.  What is your mom’s name? When is her birthday ? What is your dad’s name? When is his birthday?….”and on and on until she ran out of room on the postcard mid question.

“Where do you live now? Where does your dad live? Do you drive?….Why don’t you drive….?'” I’m back in the present moment, on the dance floor with Maren. The final question she asks me is what my phone number is. I hesitate for a split second and then give it to her. She enters it in to her phone and then goes to tell one of the DJs that she wants her to be a plumber.

The music has resumed. The snow is picking up. A woman hands me one of those flashing heart necklaces. I pull out my phone and try to coordinate the flash of the camera with the flash of the heart necklace.

The swirl of colorful lights, the falling snowflakes, the rhythm, tempo and lyrics of the music are all coming together to create a dazzling, magical effect that leaves me feeling energized and giddy. A slow song comes on and the DJs instruct everyone to find a partner. I make my way to the other end of the dance floor. Two boys with Down Syndrome are dancing together hand in hand.  Maren has stopped dancing to gaze out in wonder at the rapidly accumulating snow.

“May I have this dance?” I ask Quentin. He smiles and takes my hands in his. I propel his wheelchair towards me and we sway with the music.

“Kira, you should join the special needs choir.”

“I’m not very good at singing.”

“That’s okay. They’d still take you.”

Now the dance is ending and people are leaving. They are thanked for coming and cautioned to be careful in the snow. The volunteers stay behind to take down the decorations. I am unable to get the decorations hanging from the ceiling off of their hooks.

“Kira, did you have a good time?” Lois asks me.

“Yes, it was a lot of fun. I think the snow added to the effect.”

“I was thinking the same thing.”

I reach for my winter coat.

“Thanks for your help. See you on Wednesday.”

“Yeah, I’ll be there.”

I zip up my coat and walk out in to the snowstorm, the flashing heart necklace thumping against my own heart.

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Another Day, Another Mass Shooting

“I’m sitting in an undergraduate psychology class when this guy runs in to the room exclaims ‘You gave me a D! Now I’ll never be a psychologist!’  He then draws out a gun, aims it at the professor and the professor falls to the floor. ”

“Oh my god” I say from my desk.

It’s February 12th, 2018 and I’m sitting in a different undergraduate psychology class listening to my professor describe one of her experiences as an undergraduate .

“Then the professor jumps up and says  “Okay, everyone, now I want you to write down what just happened and give a description of the guy who shot me.’ ”

“Would an experiment like that be allowed today?” I ask.

“I certainly wouldn’t do that kind of experiment today, not with all the school shootings we have and guns being everywhere” my professor replies.

Two days later, on February 14th, 2018 I’m doing my readings for that class when I get a text from a friend.

“I see there was yet another shooting, this one in Florida.”

I feel no shock or surprise, just sadness and disgust.

“What part of Florida?’ I ask. I’ve traveled the state of Florida pretty extensively so I can’t help but wonder if this latest shooting happened in an area I’ve been to. Maybe it even happened in a building I’ve walked in front of.

“Parkland in Broward County” my friend replies. The town’s not familiar to me but the county is.

I Google “Florida shooting.”

“20 people injured.  At least it doesn’t say anyone is dead”

“It’s a developing story.  Hopefully they all stay alive” my friend replies.

A few minutes later another text comes through saying “Unfortunately, there are ‘a number of fatalities’. ”

“Happy Valentines Day, America!” I exclaim in to my phone.

“What a loving country. This is at least the eighth school shooting in seven weeks.”

More details from this latest shooting emerge. 17 people were killed. The shooter was a 19-year-old male who had been expelled from the school for fighting. The guns he used were purchased legally. He had a long history of disturbing behavior but the FBI failed to follow up on reports they got about him.

We’ve reached the point where shootings that result in few or no fatalities barely make the news-I couldn’t tell you the details of any of the other school shootings that happened this year-but the Parkland shooting has resulted in enough carnage to get everyone’s attention. It has resulted in a mass outpouring of grief and outrage. At first I try to limit the amount of memes I share on social media advocating for gun control and calling out the corrupt politicians for their complicity in the deaths of children but then I decide to share every last one of them.

When I return to school on Thursday the flag in front of the library is at half mast in honor of the victims of the Parkland shooting. It’s a nice gesture but it won’t prevent future shootings. I can’t help but wonder “Is this school next? Will the next school shooting be in the very library this half-mast flag is in front of?” The last school I attended had a shooting in its library.

On Friday night I’m watching a news show. The talk centers around the Parkland shooting. One guest points out that none of the other school shootings have resulted in change so what’s going to be different this time? Another guest points out that’s what different this time is that the child victims of this tragedy are speaking out.

The kids who were in that school are sharing their experiences, staging protests, calling out those who oppose gun control, making their way to Tallahassee to speak to their representatives.

Maybe he’s right. Maybe the outraged voices of those whose lives have been torn apart by our country’s gun epidemic are reaching a crescendo. Maybe they are becoming as loud, as regular, as impossible to ignore as the gunshots that ring out through our school hallways. Maybe they are becoming as threatening and dangerous to the anti-gun control crowd as guns are to this country. Maybe this is another ‘me too’ movement of sorts-“I too have been affected by gun violence and I will not stand for it anymore.” Maybe the addition of the voices of children who have watched their friends bleed to death on a schoolroom floor are what will push us toward a tipping point.

One can hope.

Daily prompt: Lecture

Two of the three classes I’m taking this semester have a lecture component. I enjoy the lectures and find them interesting. One class is about wrongful convictions in the criminal justice system. I actually didn’t know the class was about that when I signed up for it because it was just called Senior Seminar in Psychology and its description made it sound like it was a broad overview of the field of psychology.  Wrongful convictions happen to be an interest of mine though and I’ve read about it in my free time. The subject is as horrifying as it is fascinating.

My other lecture class is called Intro to Child Life and no, it’s not about the lives of children. It’s about a career most people have never heard of called Child Life Specialist, which involves helping children who have been hospitalized acclimate to their hospitalization. I doubt I’ll ever be a child life specialist myself but I like learning about the profession.

Shy as I can be, I’m actually a pretty active participant in the lectures because these are topics I have things to say about. The good thing about looking so young is that I don’t have to feel the least bit self conscious about sitting in a class full of 20-year-olds because no one would guess I’m older than they are.

Everyone tells me how happy and proud they are that I’m going back to school and that it’s such a great thing to do. I agree but as you may have noticed, my blogging has suffered as a result. I need to remedy that by doing these blogging prompts, which always end up taking less time to write than my regular blogs and by limiting the amount of time I spend on social media.

I do not consider writing on this blog to be any less important or beneficial to me than going back to college is.