Thursday, April 4, 2013

Guns Don't Kill People

Once again, my silent writing self has been pulled from lethargy to respond to a Facebook post I have been receiving from numerous sources.  Many of the posters are people I love and respect and I refuse to engage in FB political conversations as I have seen too many of them deteriorate into nasty exchanges.  Here is the picture that has been posted:
Okay, this is a clever piece, meant to point out the ridiculous assumption that a gun could actually kill someone without a person involved.  In other words, the point that I DO get is that a gun, in and of itself, should not be blamed for the mayhem we have in our current society.  And right, spoons don't make people fat.  But here is another example of misplaced blame:
Yesterday I placed my car in the driveway, full of gas, key in the ignition, ready to go!  While I was gone, many other cars had passed and children had played in the street and even pedestrians were not killed or hurt. 
I think my drift here is obvious, so I won't belabor the comparison. Yet who among us argues about the need for licenses to drive, an age limit, driver's ed classes, speed limits, traffic lights, safer cars, airbags, drunk driving laws, road signs, insurance, laws about uninsured motorists, jail terms for those who, even unwittingly, kill or maim innocent bystanders.  Just this last week, we here in Seattle were heartbroken by a family being mowed down by a drunk driver while crossing the street. And today we have another example.  There is a hue and cry to make and enforce tougher laws, requiring ignition locks on cars to keep the impaired from driving, harsher sentencing in DUI cases, better signage and crosswalks on the busy street.  And how do we justify a law that requires us to wear seat belts?  Aren't my civil liberties being attacked by that law?  Is it enough that a seat belt law saves lives and saves taxpayer dollars in medical costs?  NO ONE suggests taking cars out of the equation, just as many sane and rational people do not suggest removing all of society's guns. But we are a society that makes laws when one person's liberties impact the life and liberty of others!

What continues to baffle me is that we are unable to bring that same rational thinking and conversation to the issue of guns.  Why do I have to read stories like the one in today's Seattle Times? Here's a quote:
Each year, lawmakers quietly tuck language into spending bills that restricts the ability of the federal government to regulate the firearms industry and combat gun crime.
It’s the reason the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) can’t research gun violence, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) can’t use data to detect firearms traffickers, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) can’t require background checks on older guns.
Since the late 1970s, more than a dozen provisions have been added to must-pass spending bills with no hearings, no debate and no vote, in a way that’s designed to circumvent the usual legislative process. . . .
Congress has approved stand-alone bills on firearms before, but as Capitol Hill becomes more acrimonious, lawmakers have attached measures to other bills. A provision allowing owners to bring guns into national parks, for example, was tacked onto a bill outlining restrictions for credit-card companies.
What will it take for our country to wake up to the fact that the rules around gun ownership and use could stand some tweaking and still allow gun owners to co-exist with the rest of us?  I'm not ready to give up my car, but I will respect the laws of the land and do whatever I can to protect the lives and liberties of everyone else while using my car!  Is it too much to ask gun owners for the same respect?

Saturday, February 16, 2013


After a long silence, the last thing I want to write about is something extremely controversial.  However, I have just finished listening to Guns, a 49-minute essay by Stephen King, sold on Amazon for $.99 in the Kindle edition or $.69 for the audio version.  I believe you have to be a member of to download the audio version.  Either way, it is a must read/hear for everyone. Except for the expletives, I can heartily recommend this to everyone. 

As I said, I hesitate to start a bitter conversation with anyone about the 2nd Amendment.  I do not believe that guns should be outlawed and unfortunately there is very little room in the conversation for a middle ground.  I think this author has found such a middle ground and I am happy to hear it put forth so eloquently.  Following is a summary, copied from the Amazon website, that describes the book:

In a pulls-no-punches essay intended to provoke rational discussion, Stephen King sets down his thoughts about gun violence in America. Anger and grief in the wake of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School are palpable in this urgent piece of writing, but no less remarkable are King's keen thoughtfulness and composure as he explores the contours of the gun-control issue and constructs his argument for what can and should be done.
King's earnings from the sale of this essay will go to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
Stephen King is the author of 11/22/63, Under the Dome, Carrie, The Shining, and many other best-selling works.
"The overwhelming response from readers of the Kindle Single edition of Guns underscores the great need for thoughtful discourse on the issue of guns in America. I'm thrilled Audible is bringing Guns to the quickly growing audience of audiobook listeners." (Stephen King)
Please consider taking the time to listen to or read this well-thought-out call for discussion. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


As the New Year begins, I am resolving to write more on my blog.  Not because I need people to read it -- just because I need to write.  I have been uninspired for quite some time but continue to write blog posts in my head so alas, it is time.  I'm going to use the many folders of "quotations" and funny bits and pieces that I have saved for years and years.  And then, perhaps, I can toss the primary source and let those folders full of trivia go!

So the first bit of trivia is a quote from William Blake:  "He who would do good to another, must do it in Minute Particulars.  General Good is the plea of the scoundrel hypocrite & flatterer...."

My resolve for the year 2013, along with writing more, is to try to do good in minute particulars.  What have you resolved? 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Creche Revisited

I've been silent for about six months.  Perhaps I will get reinspired in the new year.  But I can't let my Christmas traditions post go unpublished so here it is, repeated yearly on about this date!  Caleb is now 6 years old so this is a very old post, but one of my favorites.  Merry Christmas to all!

This is one of my favorite Christmas stories and I post it here again as Christmas approaches.  

One of my regrets in life is that my husband and I simply did not manage to have a lot of traditions in our home that carried on from year to year. I’m not exactly sure why this happened, but we just didn’t seem to have very many traditions that stuck. We tried getting our Christmas tree together a few times, had birthday parties for Jesus, opened presents at night, in the morning, collected ornaments -- some years! In fact, when I recently asked my daughter what we should have to eat on Christmas Eve, she stated that our family “tradition” was to have something different every year. That’s one way of reframing it!

One thing we did have, however, was a Christmas crèche. When Ken and I were first married, we bought a complete crèche scene and painstakingly painted and antiqued every piece. We still have all the pieces, minus one chip out of the donkey’s ear, knocked off the shelf by the family cat. We never did find that missing ear and finally decided that the crèche was just perfect without it!

As our children grew, however, the crèche took on “other” meanings during the Christmas season. Our kids had a lot of fun changing the scene. One year the shepherds and wise men formed a rock band, complete with little guitars and drums. Another year, Sylvester the Cat would show up in the scene. Or various animals would roam the stage. Or the smurfs. Or whatever action figures happened to be in vogue at the time. Our kids recreated life, mostly in fun.

But one year, as we were waiting to have our Christmas eve dinner, we got a phone call from our middle son. He had pulled out into oncoming traffic, driving my car, and been hit by a car he hadn’t seen coming. He and his girlfriend were fine, but shaken up, and we interrupted our planned events to go and sort things out.

When we returned home, the crèche had mysteriously morphed into a new scene, complete with a wrecked toy car with shepherds and wise men all looking on with concern. Joseph was on the phone, Mary was sitting at the dinner table waiting for the family. And above it all, the angel hovered, having done her job, keeping everyone safe.

Today the crèche sits, undisturbed by the hands of children, awaiting the next generation’s take on the meaning of Christmas. And, after a half hour search in my completely disorganized photo storage system, I found the picture! If you look closely, you can even see the missing donkey ear.

Last year I had my 2-1/2-year-old grandson, Caleb,visiting and he and I set up my Playmobile creche scene. It has a cardboard backing with a stable and door. We set up the camel, the wise men, Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, the angel. I was waiting for Caleb to begin acting out the story of Christmas. Caleb picked up a shepherd and resolutely walked him over to the stable door. "TRICK OR TREAT!" he yelled!

Guess we've got a little way to go til he gets the story down!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

On Health Care

On this day when the Supreme Court has upheld the Affordable Care Act, I'm posting something my physician husband wrote in 2010.  I think it is well said. 

When we lived in Charleston, South Carolina, we enjoyed taking a tourist-type tour of the old town "South of Broad." One of the interesting sights would be a small iron plaque firmly mounted to the side of an historic house called a "fire mark," which indicated that the house had purchased fire insurance, and was entitled by contract to the fire company’s services. Fire marks are valued antiques today, and are an interesting and quaint anecdote in American history. If a fire occurred and the firemen arrived at the house, and there was no plaque, they would allow the fire to burn the house. It was not until after 1850 that American cities began to decide that fire protection was something that every house should have, and formed city fire departments supported by taxes. Having partial coverage for a few was simply not practical.

With passage of the Health Care Overhaul recently, our country has declared that having health care coverage only for some Americans is simply not just, nor practical. Health insurance companies have wasted time and money deciding who and what conditions are covered, and denying claims. Patients who aren’t covered can’t go to a doctor for preventive care of a minor illness, but tend to wait until the illness is much worse, then go to the emergency room where, according to law, they can’t be turned away. The treatment is more expensive, and the hospital and other patients have to bear the cost of the delayed care. With the country dedicated to universal coverage, everyone will have health care, which will reduce the cost and eliminate the “who’s covered, who’s not” question.

Other countries adopted the concept of city fire departments first, and America caught on late.

On March 11, 1733 the French government decided that the interventions of the fire brigades would be free of charge. This was decided because people always waited until the last moment to call the fire brigades to avoid paying the fee, and it was often too late to stop fires. Wikipedia

Other western societies have taken this approach to health care successfully for years, and at last America is beginning to adopt the concept.

It’s good that we have finally recognized that health care is a necessity, and should be elevated to the same status as fire protection, water, electricity, and education, supported by public funding and available to all. It’s a mark of a civilized society.

Kennard McNichols MD

(Photo by MarieMcC, shared via Flickr)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Talking to Your Child About Sex

From the title of this blog post, you are going to think that I am about to give advice about talking to children about sex.  Alas, that is not my intent.  I want to recount a situation I found myself in with my 7-year-old grandson last night.  Let’s call him “G.”
I was asked to “babysit” my two grandchildren last night and that meant I would be putting the two kids to bed and reading stories, a fun task.  I finished reading to “L” and put her to bed and asked G to pick out a book.  He spent a few minutes in his bedroom and came out with a book titled “Where Did I Come From?”  I had just a fleeting moment of hope that perhaps this was a book about geography or at worst, a simplified version of the birds and the bees.  My hopes were dashed by the first page which mentioned that the topic we were going to discuss might cause some people to blush.  By page two, with the cartoony completely nude pictures of the male and female anatomy, with description and numerous slang versions, just for educational purposes, I guess, I was in over my head.  

What to do?  “Have you ever read this book before, G?”  “No.”  “Where did you get it?”  (hoping maybe I could somehow get out of this reading….) “From my church.”  Well, I assumed, if he got it from his church, it must be sanctioned by his parents.  After all, it was on his bookshelf.

I continued reading, getting in deeper and deeper, page by page.  This book not only talked about the anatomy but described in great, albeit youth-oriented, detail the entire sex act, complete with such phrases as “on top of,” “wriggling around” and “explosion.”  Fill in the blanks yourself.  And did I mention the illustrations?  At that graphic point in the reading, G said softly “THAT part doesn’t happen!!!”  “Oh, yes it does," I said, hoping against hope that I wouldn’t be called upon to clarify any further.  G seemed to take my answer in stride, not asking any further questions.  

After the complete description of the sex act, the rest of the book was quite tame.  It showed the growth of a baby inside the womb and the umbilical cord and completely glossed over the graphic parts of birth, never showing any further body parts.  I guess most children have had a little more exposure to the actual birth but rarely have gotten the true picture on exactly HOW that little egg and sperm get together.  That was always a mystery to me for many years.  I certainly didn’t learn it at seven!

We finished the book, G had no questions, although I didn’t really ask for any, and G went to bed.  When his parents came home, I thanked them profusely for this amazing “opportunity” to be the first to explain these issues to G.  They did not recall the book, finally remembering they had picked it up a few years earlier at a church used book sale.  It had been sitting on the shelf for a couple of years.  Why tonight?  Why ME?  I guess we won’t know the answer to that question.

In my own defense, in spite of my red cheeks and stilted voice, I KNEW that I needed to read that book straight out, not leaving out a word (G is a voracious reader and would have known), never faltering or acting embarrassed.  If this was to be G’s introduction to the world of sex, far be it for me to give him any reason to see a therapist or be traumatized in his later years!  

As an addendum, here is the email I got from G’s mother later that evening:

That book has LITERALLY been on G's shelf for at least a year (maybe two?) with no one bothering to look at it.  A twist of fate made it your night.

I just read it cover to cover and it's a book that I'm happy to own.  I think it's a book that G is ready to hear and dives into the next step of information in an age appropriate way.  My only regret is that it was thrust upon YOU!  Please know I would have also been red faced and teary eyed.

What can I say... THANK YOU for taking it stride, taking the bull by the horns, and getting through such difficult material with grace and love for our son.

If you’d like the opportunity to read this book to your child or grandchild, it is now a collector’s item, written in 1974, and available in hardcover from Amazon for a hefty price.  Where Did I Come From?:  Facts of Life without Any Nonsense and with Illustrations.  THAT is an understatement!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Improving Relationships Sometimes Means Examining Your World View!

When my husband and I were engaged to be married (42 years ago this month!), we were required by our church to have several sessions of premarital counseling. The pastor who counseled us was an older, single man. He asked us how we handled conflict. I answered, "That's easy! We fight and fight and fight and then I cry and he gives in!" I was dead serious. The pastor suggested that perhaps we weren't ready to get married and should put off our decision until we had worked out better ways to solve our conflicts.

Being all-wise at the age of 21, we were quite sure that this pastor, having never been married, couldn't possibly know what was best for us and had no right to tell us we weren't ready for marriage. Besides, our method was working quite nicely (for me at least), so we ignored his comments and proceeded to use this very method of conflict resolution for the next 6 or 8 years. I was the master of the long pout and could hold out for several days, if necessary, to get my way. My husband, himself a conflict avoider, wasn't happy with the outcome at times, but since his goal was to keep me happy at all costs, this method worked for him as well. We would kiss and make up and have great make-up sex!

A funny change happened about 8 or 10 years into our marriage however. At some point, my tears stopped moving my husband to give in, and we gradually realized that our methods weren't getting either of us any satisfaction. We began the long process of learning to fight fairly, learning to negotiate, learning to look at the possibility that we might both have a valid point in any given situation. Many methods, books, counselors, retreats, friends helped us along the way. I plan to bring some of those ideas to you in later posts, but today I want to talk about how my own world view changed.

We establish our world view in our family of origin (the family we grew up in) and usually don't realize that we are acting out of that world view. My world view was that the most important thing about an argument was being "right." If I wasn't "right" then my whole belief system began to crumble around me. I needed to be "right" to prove that I was a loveable, "okay" human being. If I was "wrong," then there must be something fatally flawed about me. Many of us suffer from this black and white thinking.

One of the most important changes you can make in your relationship is to begin to accept the fact that your partner's position on a given subject has equal validity to your own and that there is a possibility that you are both "right." For example, you might assert that the "way" to get to the grocery store is by taking certain streets, making sure that all of your turns are left turns. Your partner, however, may choose a route that goes past some familiar landmark and assert that this is the correct route. Is there a "right" way to get to the grocery store? Obviously, this is a simple example, and many far-more-complex examples abound in any relationship. What is the "right" way to discipline your child? Or the "right" way to clean the kitchen? Or the "right" way to celebrate a holiday? Or the "right" way to spend or save your money?

When I began to accept that both my husband and I had valid points in a disagreement, our relationship began to grow. I began to understand that we could both hold different ideas at the same time and both be "right." I began to look at the world as a place where not only black and white exists, but many colors and shades in between.

Think of some areas where you might be willing to consider your partner's point of view and begin to change the way you see the world!