To Run or Not To Run

They want me to run again, and I don’t know what to do.

Not actual running (although I do that all of the time these days).   The local Democrats called me into a meeting last week and asked me if I would be interested in running for the Board of Education here in town.

I ran four years ago for the same position.  Me and three other girlfriends, we all ran together.  We were naive and hopeful and thought that we could truly make a difference.  We thought we all would get elected if we just worked hard enough, campaigned hard enough.  We were smart, we were active in all of our kids’ schools, our hearts were so in the right place.  We weren’t using the election to this board as a stepping stone for anything else, like mayor (we call them Selectmen here in New England).  We just saw a lot in our kids’ schools that we thought we could change.

We lost.  Badly. 

Only one of the four of us got a seat on the board, thanks to a rule in our town charter called Minority Representation.  There had to be at least three members of the minority party on the 9 person board.  That meant even though the four of us had the least votes of any candidate running, one of us, the one with the most votes, would get a seat.

That wasn’t me.  It was my friend Kelly.

In the last four years, I’ve watched her, talked to her about her experiences on the board.  I was sure she’d run again for her seat because she’s been very good on the Board.  People like her, and respect her.

But it’s hard.  It’s a lot of meetings.  And while those outside the board and local politics like her and respect her, she gets a lot of pushback from one member of the opposite party on the Board.  Enough to make some of the meetings fairly miserable.  She also gets some pushback from members of her own party, the Democrats, when she compromises too much or agrees with the other party “too much”.  Which is also unpleasant.

She’s done a lot of good on the Board.  She did an awful lot when the Sandy Hook students came here to our town to get their school ready.  She was there every day working in the school, meeting families and parents, doing an awful lot for people who truly needed it.  If I’d been in that chair, I could have done those things too.

Kelly isn’t going to run again for her seat.  She has a lot of other things she wants to do with her time, and it is very time consuming.  She’s done some of what we all had set out to do four years ago, and resigned herself to the fact that she can’t do it all.

Watching her over the last four years has given me a very honest, real perspective on what I would be in for if I ran and were elected.  And I keep waffling.  On the one hand, I don’t have a boatload of spare time either.  I’m trying to expand my freelance work, I am president of our Parents’ Council, I am on our Farmers’ Market Committee, I work with a local education advocacy group and I am in charge of our local 5K this year (more on that in another post).  It’s a lot of commitment.  Do I really think I can add one more?

But I still wonder what it would be like to actually sit at the table.  To get a say, to have a voice.  To make a difference, to really have an opportunity to do those good things for the children here in town.

I just don’t know what to do.

March for Change

I remember writing in my high school journal about activism and how amazing it must have been to live in the 1960s where there were peace ins, and rallies, and marches, and sit ins to change our society.  My teacher that year, Mr. Vance, was a proud child of that era and had done plenty of those types of things when he had been the age I was back then.

I remember the envy I wrote about.  “How amazing it must have been to be a part of that change, to have some ownership of it, to be witness to it as it happened, to be one of those who helped make it happen.”

I glossed over the angry part of that era.  The divisiveness, the real anger and hatred that came from those who love their way of life so much, they’ll do anything to make sure it never changes.  The 1960s were a time of riots, shootings, assassinations in addition to a time of social change.  And as I idealized all of the wonder that made the 1960s such an amazing time, I never really gave much credence to the danger and fear that surrounded that era as well.

It feels a lot like that these days, here in Connecticut.

Last week I attended a rally in our state capital.  It was billed as The March For Change, and the premise of it was that we would be demanding safer gun laws.  It was a powerful thing to be a part of.  Over 5000 people came, with placards and signs with varying messages.  Some just wanted to show support for those who have lost family and friends to gun violence.  Others were much more clear:  they wanted stricter gun laws and more accountability to the ones we currently have.

I’ve always considered myself “pro gun control” although to be honest, I’ve never really had very strong emotions about it.  I’ve never really understood the need for guns.  I get that people like to hunt for sport, for food, and that’s fine with me.  I get that people feel the need to defend themselves.  But that second part of the equation always leads me to the same question:  if there weren’t so many damn guns around all over and everywhere, would you really need a gun for self defense?

There were lots of questions posed that day at the rally.  For one, how many people truly need an assault weapon to go hunting or for self defense?  The answer seems obvious to me:   a high speed gun will obliterate any meat you could get from any animal you’d kill with it.  And for self defense?  If you’re threatened, any old gun will probably do the trick.  Why do you need a military grade one?  I truly don’t get it.

Another question that just seemed like common sense to me was, why do we have loopholes in our background check system for gun purchases?  Why would it be a bad thing to have every single gun sale, whether private or at a gun show, subject to a background check?  Why is that bad?  Don’t we want to keep the guns out of the hands of the bad guys?  If you’re a good guy who wants to be a responsible gun owner, what’s the problem?  Wouldn’t you want it to be not incredibly easy to get access to a gun?  Especially for someone who might not be the most stable?

And these high capacity magazines?  So that people can fire up to thirty rounds without reloading?  Is that really necessary for hunting?  Or self defense?  The answer seems pretty clear to me.  There’s only one reason to have such capacity and it isn’t for either of those reasons.  Why do we need people to be able to shoot so many bullets in so little time?  Isn’t that just a recipe for disaster?

There was more, much more.  We train people to be safe while driving cars, a potentially deadly weapon when not used properly.  We give them months, sometimes years of training.  We license them.  We make them register and insure those very dangerous vehicles so we know that they are properly maintained, that a licensed, trained driver is using them and that if somehow an accident happens, there is the ability to pay for the damage that could ensue.  Heck, we make people register their boats, their snowmobiles.  You have to get a license and pass a test just to catch a fish.  I truly cannot see the logic as to why we take such a lackadaisical attitude when it comes to guns.  These aren’t just a potentially deadly weapon like a car or a snowmobile.  These are things that have one purpose only and that is to kill (or injure).  Wouldn’t we want people trained carefully with such a dangerous device so they can respect the power they have in their hands?

These are things that I feel, and feel strongly since attending the rally last week.  But honestly, I have hesitated to express them because I have seen the anger and divisiveness around this issue.  But I kept remembering the last speaker that day, Veronique Pozner, whose son died at Sandy Hook Elementary.  She said, “Was my son’s life so disposable that the answer to this tragedy is to do nothing?”

The answer is no.  We have to start the kind of societal, cultural shift that ended legal segregation in this country.  It may take decades.  But just because things are the way they are doesn’t mean they can’t change.  Because we can’t keep burying our children.  We just can’t take life and the ability to end it so lightly.

Celebrate Life

Well, it’s here.  The big one.

Today my mother has been dead for twenty years.  A perfect, round number.  A really big number.

It’s a long time.  A long time to be without her.  I’ve done this now, twenty times.  Lived this day, twenty times.  Each time Feburary 13 rolls around, I I have mourned for my mother.  Relived that day so long ago.  Remembered each last moment.  The gift and the wonder and the terror or watching someone pass from this life to the next.  I have thought of her and remembered with sadness all I lost when she died.  All she lost when she died.  All that she missed out of her life, how much she never got to do.

Nineteen other times I have woken up, my first thought being of her, and spent the day mired in sadness and memories and what ifs.

This year, it feels different.  Or maybe I want it to feel different.  Perhaps I will it to be different.

I am not sure why.  What has turned inside my heart.  But it feels lighter this year.  I want to spend the day celebrating her, not mourning her.  Thinking of what a wonderful, strong woman she was, how much she persevered through the difficult times of her life.  What a wonderful model she was of a strong willed, determined woman.  How smart, determined and thoughtful she was.

She was a lawyer during a time when women who worked mostly were teachers or nurses.  She was subject to discrimination in her work.  She used to joke about wearing low cut blouses on hearing days with certain judges; she wasn’t above using what she had to get what she needed for her clients.

She was fiercely loyal to those she loved, offering a place to live to anyone who needed it.  We had extra people sleeping on the sofa or in the spare room from time to time, sometimes for months.   My mother didn’t have a lot, but whatever she had, she always shared with whomever she loved.  She was a kind and generous friend.

She was funny, smart, but also knew how to have a good time.  We used to joke that she had a more active social life than I did.  She had great girlfriends, and they loved her just as much as she loved them.

She loved our dog, initially having reservations about getting a rescue animal from the shelter.  In the end, he was her companion and confidante, and wouldn’t leave her body after she passed away at home on the sofa.

While my mother wasn’t a perfect parent, she always was honest and fair, and did her level best in sometimes very difficult times.  She was wonderful at withholding judgement and treating us children with respect and trust.  Even though she was a working mother, and therefore not always available, I never once felt as if she wasn’t 100 % there for me and my champion, always.

I miss her.  I love her.  But I think it is time to put away my heavy heart when I think of her.  She missed much, I missed much, but I also was so lucky.  Lucky to share those last moments with her.  Lucky to say all that I wanted to before she passed.  Lucky to take care of her when she needed me to.  Lucky that she passed onto me her determination and strength.

I know that she would not want me to think of her with sadness in my heart for the rest of my life.  So today, I choose to be happy.  I choose to celebrate her 53 years on this earth rather than gnash my teeth over the twenty she’s been gone.  I will raise my glass to her, smile, and appreciate all that she was and all that she gave to me in her too short life.

Love you, Mom.

Hype? More, please.

I’m not sure why I care.

You know how you never seem to be as affected by the nice things someone says as you are by the rude things people say?  That’s me to a T.  Did I glow for days when an old friend mentioned how inspirational she found my Couch 2 5K success that she started it herself?  No.  Sure it felt good to hear, but I wasn’t going on and on for days about it.

But an old friend of mine posted something on Saturday to Facebook and it just made me so angry, and I can’t stop thinking about it.

She posted this:

meanwhile

And she lives in MIchigan, where they only received about six or seven inches of snow.  She was complaining about the “hype” surrounding the storm that hit the Northeast from Friday to Saturday.  Apparently, judging from the photo, she thinks we should all just shut up about the historic snowfall and blizzard here.  The commentary went on.  She and a few other like minded friends were saying that when they were kids, storms like this happened all the time.  That they couldn’t believe the governors out here instituted travel bans and closed the roads.  That people should be free to get in an accident if they want to, because the government shouldn’t be able to tell them what to do.

Except.

Except that it’s that government that you will expect to show up when you get in that car accident.  Police officers or public works plow guys who will be put in harm’s way because someone did something stupid.  It’s the government that you’ll expect will come tow your car when you get stuck on the highway because you thought the roads weren’t “that bad”.  Some poor DPW guy will be diverted from plowing that necessary high way to a: go around that idiots car and b:  get him to somewhere safe because the government shouldn’t be able to tell them what to do.

Jesus.

I can’t even tell you how much this riled me.  Because this is what I woke up to Saturday morning:

I mean, it’s pretty easy to complain about the hype when you don’t live here.  But frankly, I am glad for the hype.  Because it meant a lot more people didn’t get stuck on the roads, because most people stayed off of them due to the well predicted storm.  It meant we had a lot of good information about what was going on around us, since we couldn’t venture out for two solid days.  I personally thought it was a great idea to close the roads in our state, since it would take that level of seriousness to keep some people off the roads.  I saw a woman drive by my house on Saturday, with the road still covered in several inches of snow, with her SUV blowing snow from its roof (she hadn’t bothered to clear it) with a cell phone stuck on her ear.  Really?  People can be seriously stupid.  I’m sorry, but you CAN’T be free to be as stupid as you want.  Not when you are endangering other people with your idiocy.

Our schools are closed again today, which I think is the right call.  We ventured out for the first time last night and found the roads icy and slippery.  I know people who are still trapped in their homes because it was impossible for most regular plows to cut through this deep a snow.   Many towns here will take a day or two more to return to normal.  Towns to our east are still without power.  Can you imagine being without power along with having this kind of snow?  I was worried about that the most, more than the snow, more than anything else.  I was so grateful not to have to deal with that on top of moving this snow.

So hype?  Sure.  Nanny state?  I’d rather that then a bunch of idiots endangering other people.

But seriously.  When did our country become so unsympathetic to the plight of other people, that you make fun of and mock a disaster of this magnitude?

A Long Slow Sigh

It’s been twenty years since I celebrated this day with my mother.  Her last birthday.  She turned fifty three that day, and would die five days later.  It’s hard to imagine that, that it has been twenty years.  Twenty years, a lifetime between then and now.  She knew me as a child, even though when she died I was doing very adult things:  I was a single parent taking care of my terminally ill mother.

But now, when I look back on those days, I realize how very young I was.  Twenty years will do that to you, of course.  But still, I just wish somehow that I’d been able to know her as an adult.  The way I know my father now.  The way he comes to me sometimes, seeking advice, counsel, as equals.  My mother and I certainly had much more of that type of relationship than any other 22 year old I knew with their mother, but still.

I was selfish.  I was twenty two.

When I watch my father these days, taking care of his aging mother, worrying about her health and her mind and how to manage the eroding of both, I marvel that I won’t ever have to do that with mine.  She used to joke, of course, that the cigarettes she was insanely addicted to were her way of getting out of the maladies of old age, but it was one of those things that was never really funny.  Because sadly, in the end, it was all too true.

I wonder what my mother would be like, these days, if she had lived.  Would she still be working, at age 73, or not?  Would she approve of the life I’ve built for myself, of the ones my siblings have built for themselves?  What would she look like these days?   Would she be one of those mothers that visited often or not so much?  What would she think of these grandchildren of hers?

Questions I’ll never know the answers to.

I miss her.  When friends of mine lose their parents, as they are starting to, I try to help them with some kind, encouraging words from someone who has been there.  But when they ask if you ever get over it, the answer I always give them is a tough pill to swallow.  You never do.  You never stop being sad about it, feeling that a piece of yourself is missing, wishing that life had not been so cruel.  You learn to live with it, you find eventually that the white hot pain becomes a slow, deep ache that you can almost forget about if you try hard enough.  But it never goes away.  Not ever.

Not even twenty years later.

Happy Birthday, Mom.

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