Sunday, February 10, 2013

School Killings: Doing nothing is no longer an option

1/23/13  Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

 “On Jan. 11, in Columbia, S.C., a boy armed with a gun killed one of his schoolmates and severely wounded several others. Presumably firing upon them in retaliation for bullying, he expressed no regret for his deed. It’s a disturbing story…the kind of story that makes us long for simpler times. The year was 1890”*

Since that time, history has continued to repeat itself. CNN reports there have been over 100 school shooting related deaths in the last 20 years. The deadliest was 35 in the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting.

Just six weeks ago, a young man, bearing a mini-arsenal of weapons, added to that number in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn. He went from room to room and deliberately killed 20 children and six adults; wounding many others. The actions of one deranged, irresponsible, self-centered individual plunged our nation into deep mourning—again.

The barrage of bullets snuffed out young lives and riddled tiny little bodies with multiple holes. The thought of such needless devastation ripped holes in my heart. I can only imagine what it did to the hearts and minds and souls of the surviving families and community.

One family lost an adorable little girl in the violent slaughter. Later, at a press conference, as parents held photos of their dead children, her mother simply said, “I am Anna’s mom. On Fri. Dec. 14, I put two children on the bus and only one came home. I pray that no mother, father, grandparent or caregiver ever has to go through this grief.”

At that same conference, Dylan’s mother stood with tears running down her cheeks, holding a photo of her son, as her husband, the boy’s father, spoke these very simple and eloquent words: “Ask yourself what is it worth doing to keep your children safe? What is it worth to you? What is it worth doing?” The answer was silence.

Personally, I don’t understand why the safety of children on every level of life isn’t everyone’s priority. Sane or insane the instinct of man and beast is usually to protect the young. Who changed the rules?

Safety is a problem we didn’t have to grapple with when I was in school. Our parents dropped us off at school, watched us walk in the front door and picked us up in the afternoon. We were safe. We were in school. Although there are reports of school shootings as far back as the 1700s, school children were not generally the target of out-of-control, enraged gunmen.

A half century ago, my school had three safety drills. “Drop, Cover and Hold” was the most memorable. We lived in earthquake country and the ground often rolled. The principal would give the command over the intercom and we would drop down under our desks and stay there until given the “all clear.” Fire drills were universal across the nation and always a welcome relief to march outside in the sunshine and wait until danger had passed.

The atomic bomb drills were a little trickier for the teacher to keep us under control. All of the classes lined the school’s interior hallways, away from the possibility of breaking glass and deadly fumes. The effort, of course, would have been futile in a real attack but the threat could not be ignored. We had to be trained to respond.

At home, our parents would constantly remind us not to talk to strangers on the street. All parents of that generation remembered the famous Lindbergh toddler kidnapping in 1932. The boy was eventually found dead of a massive skull fracture. His killer was found, tried and executed but our parents never let us forget what could happen if we weren’t careful.

Still, those were the sweetest days of my life. Looking back, my life was like the scene in the Lion King when they sing, “Hakuna Matata! It means "no worries for the rest of your days.”

Things didn’t change much when my own three children went to school. Life was pretty uneventful. They all took the school bus to their respective schools where the biggest danger was from their rowdy fellow students! Weekends it was not unusual for the boys to ride their bikes (without adult supervision) three miles into town. Kathy and her best friend would dress up, go to the bus stop and ride into the shopping mall (alone) to eat lunch at Woolworth’s.

My grandsons do not have those privileges. Times have changed.  Today, children no longer ride bikes or buses to town alone. It’s a dangerous world out there. We live in a charged atmosphere of anger. Everyone is concerned about safety but the senseless violence continues.

My oldest son is a teacher and doctoral student at UCSD where they receive text messages warning of trouble. He said, “We function more like a city than a small school and we have our own police department. There are giant blue buzzers attached to light poles that can be pushed in case of trouble. An emergency signal is sent into the police and the problem is addressed.” 

Most schools have rules for lockdowns in dangerous conditions. Sandy Hook Elementary School had a new security system that required visitors to be identified and buzzed in. But the gunman allegedly used an “assault weapon” to shoot his way into the building and destroy the innocent. 

I read this report and shuddered. What causes an individual to do this? Is it anger, mental illness, bullying, a desire for power, available weapons, violent movies or games? I don’t know. It's despicable and terrifying.

But this I do know: If it takes a village to raise a child, it will now take a nation to save them. Doing nothing is no longer an option. Open minded, compassionate dialog has to prevail. Only then will wise decisions and progress be made.

Simply put, we must stop the killing and start the healing.

*The Christian Science Monitor, Jan. 16, 2013

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart. 

When is your birthday?

1/9/2013  Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Thirty days has September,
April, June and November,
All the rest have thirty-one,
Except for February alone,
Which has twenty-eight rain or shine,
But on leap year, twenty-nine.

No matter the number of days in the months, every New Year of our lives begins with the month of January. So if this is your birthday month, congratulations! You and I, along with millions of other talented and organized Capricorns, will be the first ones this year to celebrate becoming another year older and hopefully wiser.

As a youngster, I remember that birthdays made me feel really special. It was all about being older and celebrating the responsibilities that came with age—from crossing the street by myself to babysitting the neighbor’s kids to taking the streetcar to school—getting older was a good thing.

As the birthday girl, my mother brought cupcakes and punch to school and the whole class sang me the birthday song. After school, my favorite friends came home with me to play games and gleefully watch me open presents. Then, I made a wish, blew out the candles and we all enjoyed cake and ice cream. They went home with party favors and I went to bed a happy girl.

January is a tricky month to have a birthday. Coming on the heels of Christmas and the cusp of a new year it catches folks off guard. I can’t tell you the number of times that family members say my card or gift will be late because they forgot to turn the page of their calendar to January. Of course, I really don’t care if the cards are late. As long as they trickle in, I’m happy. At my age, the important thing is to be remembered. I’m already old enough!

So, tell me, what month were you born in? Every month has something interesting or unique about it—starting with you! As you know, we use the Roman calendar. Originally, it had only 10 months beginning with March. January and February, coming in the dead of winter, were unnamed until Julius Caesar reformed the calendar. He named the unnamed, changed the number of days in some and renamed others. This is what we ended up with:

January is Janus’ festival month: the Roman god of gates and doorways is the door to the New Year. It has two faces looking in opposite directions and the ability to see all things past and future. We now have 31 days to begin the year.

February is the month of Februa, the Roman festival of purification on Feb. 14. In Old English it means, “Mud Month.” Thanks to Julius it has 28 days for three years and every fourth year 29 days.

March stands for Mars, the Roman god of war. It was the original first month of the year and time for resumption of war after winter. It has 31 days.

April is Aphrodite’s month. She is the Greek goddess of love and beauty identified with Venus. It is the growing month when trees and flowers begin to open.  It is 30 days long.

May is for Maia the daughter of Faunus and wife of Vulcan. She is identified with the Italic goddess of spring and fertility. It has 31 days.

June is Juno’s month. She is the principle goddess of the Roman Pantheon; goddess of marriage and the well being of women; wife and sister of Jupiter; mother of Mars and Vulcan. It is considered good luck to get married in June’s 30 days.

July is Julius Caesar’s month. He reformed the Roman calendar and renamed this month after himself in 46 BC. It is considered the warmest month in the Northern hemisphere and has 31 days.

August is Augustus Caesar ‘s month. He clarified and completed the calendar reform of Julius Caesar and renamed this month after himself. It has 31 days.

September kept its original name and means seventh month although it is the ninth month. Under Julius it became 30 days.

October kept its original name and means eighth month although it is the tenth month. To Anglo Saxons it meant winter full moon. It has always had 31 days.

November kept its original name and means ninth month although it is the eleventh. In Old English it is the Blood Month. Originally 29 days it became 30 days.

December kept its original name and the tenth month but it is the twelfth and last month of the year. It had 30 days; 29 and finally ended up with 31.

Now we come to the good part. There are special flowers and jewelry that are associated with certain months. So if you want to give someone an especially meaningful bouquet of flowers or striking piece of jewelry keep reading.

January: Carnation, Snowdrop
February: Violet, Primrose
March: Daffodil, Jonquil
April: Daisy, Sweet Pea
May: Lily of the Valley, Hawthorn
June: Rose, Honeysuckle
July: Larkspur, Water Lily
August: Gladiolas, Poppy
September: Aster, Morning Glory
October: Calendula, Cosmos
November: Chrysanthemum
December Narcissus

January: Garnet (Constancy)
February: Amethyst (Sincerity)
March: Aquamarine, Bloodstone (Courage)
April: Diamond, White Sapphire (Innocence
May: Emerald: (Love, Success)
June: Pearl, Moonstone, Alexandrite (Health and Longevity)
July: Ruby (Contentment)
August: Peridot, Sardonyx (Married Happiness)
September: Sapphire (Clear Thinking)
October: Opal, Tourmaline, Pink Sapphire (Hope)
November: Topaz, Citrine (Fidelity)
December: Turquoise, Zircon (Prosperity)

Now that we’ve covered all the months of the year, I wish you all the happiest of birthdays whenever it may be. May all your wishes come true and you have many happy returns of the day.

 Happy Birthday 2013!

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart.