Aurora Colorado Shooting and My Concerns Regarding Humanity

I’m sure you’ve heard about the shooting in Colorado by now. If you haven’t here is the link from CNN.

I don’t ever comment on the news, politics, or anything that might be slightly controversial even thoughI am news obsessed  But this morning I just couldn’t take it anymore. I have to get some thoughts out of my system and send them out into the universe.

When I turned on the Today show this morning, I was shocked and deeply upset by the news of the theater shooting in Aurora. I sat down with my coffee and oatmeal and couldn’t eat or drink because I was crying. I even stopped to say a a few Hail Mary’s, because I didn’t know how else to react. I don’t know any of the victims, but I am fellow human.

And, I have to say, for the first time ever, I’m a little worried about leaving my house to go to a place where there may be crowds.I’m not agoraphobic. I enjoy crowds and being around people. I did attend the Jon Stewart Rally in D.C. and had general admission tickets to Gaga for crying out loud. Crowds don’t really bother me. I have also attended midnight showings of Harry Potter, Twilight, Hunger Games, and a few others. Never would I have imagined something like this happening at a movie.

While what happened in Colorado is tragic and abhorrent, I also feel deep sadness for the people in Syria, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and of course, Israel. Yesterday, there was a suicide bomb attack in Bulgaria yesterday that killed a bus full of tourists. I mean, what the hell? It seems there is so much turmoil everywhere, and I just hate it. I feel so terribly helpless and sad. The thing is, those international events of violence are part of a revolution, and while they are tragic in their taking away the lives of the innocent, unfortunately death and violence are a product of revolution and of course religious extremism (which is a whole other topic and I’m not about to digress). I don’t like it, I’m not justifying it, but I get it. However, my brain can process violence caused by war.

Shootings in schools, malls, college campuses, and movie theaters; random killings of innocent people just because–those kinds of massacres make me afraid to produce children. These events make me want to build a bunker so I can shelter myself, my family, and my friends. Acts like this make me question my faith in God and in humanity.

I think one of the reasons that makes a situation like this so upsetting is that the killer showed warning signs, or had a manifesto, or was bullied. Of course, oftentimes society doesn’t get an answer because the killer was shot or took his own life. At least in the this case, society may get answers, although to what end. Knowing his motive isn’t going to change anything. It didn’t change the way we felt in Norway when Anders Behring Breivik shot 69 teenagers. It was only more upsetting to find out why he murdered those teenagers who were at a camp learning about tolerance and diversity.

Of course, even though I’m tempted to hide and never come out of my house, I know that is not going to be happen.

I was a senior in high school when 9-11 occurred. A club I was involved in had planned a trip to New York. We had been planning it for almost a year, and our club sponsor had no intentions of canceling the annual trip. The trip was scheduled for 3 weeks after the attack, and we were all weary of flying. Some of the parents pulled their kids out of the trip. My mother did not. She wanted us to go. I asked my mother why she wasn’t pulling my sister and I out of the trip and she said, “One Mean MFA, when it is your time to go, it is your time to go. You can’t stop living because of tragedies. If that was the case, you’d never live your life.”

I remember thinking she was wrong. I wanted her to come with my sister and I because I was afraid. Of course, the minute I saw Ground Zero (still smoking from the attack) I knew how important this trip was and that it was going to shape me in some way. I remember a few things very vividly from Ground Zero. I remember the smell, the energy of the place–there was such a sorrow in the air (cliche, but how else can you describe the feeling of death all around you?), and I remember the disdain of the native New Yorkers who shouted at our group for stopping to see Ground Zero. One man shouted at one of the teacher chaperones telling her, “this isn’t a tourist attraction. Why don’t you go see the Statue of Liberty instead?” She countered by saying, “It’s important for them to see this. It’s important.” He was hushed after that. That visit to Ground Zero was a lesson in the evil that lives on this planet. That humans are very capable of destruction. Still, time moves forward, people heal, and life goes on. The Earth continues to spin with the good and the evil together. There isn’t much we can do about it.

What happened in Colorado is simply devastating and, quite frankly, frightening. Acts of terror, like the one this morning, can happen anywhere; in a small suburb outside of Denver, on a college campus like Virginia Tech, at a high school–anywhere, at a mall–anywhere. That’s what makes them so horrifying. Where is the next one going to happen? Still, I know I can’t go hide for eternity to avoid being a victim in something tragic. As Husband, so eloquently put it, “something is going to get you.”

Even though these events make me question humanity, seeing the victims being interviewed is shocking, some discussing bravery, remorse, and regret not sure why they were spared while a friend or family member was not shows me that not all people are bad, most are just victims of circumstance. Of course, the media finds ways to make tragedies about politics discussing how the Obama campaign and Romney Campaign have pulled attack ads in Colorado–as if they are doing the people of Colorado a favor. This isn’t about politics, this is about the tragic human condition. The same is true for Bloomberg who is calling for Obama and Romney to explain how they would prevent attacks like this. Can’t society be given a time to process this before we decide who the hell we’re going to vote for?

Tragedies like this are tough on everyone: victims, the families, politicians, and society. The responses to these acts are just as tough. The news is calling on “experts” to discuss gun control and speculate on motive, and analyze how this will impact the election in November. Meanwhile the rest of America is wondering if it’s okay to go see The Dark Knight Rises, not necessarily because they are afraid, but if it’s socially acceptable now that this tragedy occurred (what is the etiquette in a situation like this?).  Then, of course, there are people like me who are deeply concerned with the welfare of humanity and know only one way to put a Band-Aid on the symptom: say the Rosary.


Makin’ Copies (SNL style)

I don’t usually post twice in one day, but what I’m witnessing right now is too hilarious not to share. Not to mention if I don’t tell someone what I’m seeing I might explode.

The adjunct office where I work has a brand new photo copy machine. It’s so beautiful. It makes copies quickly and can do all kinds of neat tricks.

Currently, one of the faculty members is trying to make copies. She is a sweet lady, who speaks hardly any English. She also has no idea how to use the copy machine.

When first came into the office to make copies this afternoon, she accidentally told the machine to make too many copies. She stood in front of the machine while it made at least 30 more copies than she needed. She mumbled to herself in her native tongue, and pushed practically every button on the machine.

She continues to make copies, but isn’t clearing the previous job so she keeps making too many copies. She pushes the delicate buttons on the machine with such force. No wonder the machine is retaliating and making extra copies.  This is hilarious, because the department keeps complaining that there is never enough paper in the machine.

There are signs all over the copy machine that tell the faculty to send big copying projects to the print shop and not use up all the paper in the machine. The signs were printed on a dark red paper. They are taped to the trays that hold the paper, the front the copy machine, the wall directly in front of the copy machine, and on the laser printer tray.

This is why I use Blackboard. I hardly ever make copies and it makes my life so easy. I also feel like I’m helping Mother Earth. Recently, I was discussing my love of Blackboard and how it was environmentally friendly and my coworker (an older, very conservative member of the faculty) stated that online posts and being paperless wasn’t environmentally better because of the energy output to post work online. I had to refrain from dying of laughter), but I digress.

Anyway, I feel bad for this lady making copies. I think she’s finally figured out the machine.

Nope just kidding. The machine is now misfeeding and it’s out of paper. She is taking the paper out of the printer tray–hence the reason for the red signs.

Maybe I should stop writing about this, and help this woman out.

This is why there is a room reserved in hell for me.

Spring Ahead, Fall Back–What Crap

My morning–actually I should start with last night.

It was about 10:45 (with the time change) when I decided to get my booty to bed. I wasn’t tired at all, but I wake up 5:30 to hit the gym every other morning so I wanted to be rested. It wasn’t until about 3:30 in the morning that I finally fell asleep. I tossed and turned for a good four hours. Seems unjust.

When my alarm went off this morning, it felt like the middle of the night. I wonder why? Probably because it was the middle of the night. I debated if I should just sleep until 8 (I’m lucky and don’t teach my first class until 10). I was in bed trying to talk myself out of going to the gym.

Me: You have a huge break between your day and night classes, you could always go to the gym, shower then head back to campus.

Me: No, you shouldn’t. You’ll be rushed and not have a good workout.

Me: You’ll be better rested if you sleep a couple more hours.

Me: Get. Your. Fat. Ass. Out. Of. Bed.

And so I hit the gym.

For whatever reason, I was almost fifteen minutes late for my 10 am class. I still can’t figure out how. I was rushing like a mad woman to make my lunch, and throw some clothes in the dryer. I had the same amount of time that I always do.

 I swear I am perpetually in a different time zone from the rest of society.

It seems like Springtime is the time of year when you’re supposed to get your things in order. Why then does that Monday after daylight savings feel like the worst start to getting your life/year in order?

These are the answers I will seek from my maker.

The Bearded Guy Who Saved Humanity: Jesus

I was recently inspired by Wide Lawns to write about the Lenten season. If you haven’t read her post from today you should, it is a beautiful reflection on peace, love, and faith. Unlike Wide Lawns, I was raised in a super Catholic family and for the first time in years, I am unable to attend Ash Wednesday Mass. I’m totally bummed about this because I love the forty days that lead up to Easter.

Easter is my favorite holiday. I’m such a freak that way. Everyone else I know loves Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween, and the Forth of July, but not me. I love Easter. It could be because my mother repeatedly told me that my name (yes my real one) is related to Easter. My mother has always told me that my name and its meaning have always brought her such joy (partly because my mother is a very sweet woman, but also because my mom is super religious). My first word,  my mother swears, was Jesus–not like Do-not-take- the-Lord’s-name- in-vain” Jesus, but like the-bearded-guy-who- saved- humanity Jesus. It’s like I’m destined to love Easter.

Growing up my parents did a great job of teaching us about Lent, and not making it seem overly challenging to practice sacrifice. We already always eat fish on Fridays, even though the only time of year the Vatican asks that practicing Catholics do sacrifice meat on Friday is during Lent, we always go to mass, and my parents enrolled us in religious education. Being a Catholic has never been a challenge for me. I think I’m lucky that way. I completely understand why many Catholics have walked away from the Church. Sometimes, politically, I struggle with Catholicism, but I still practice.  

I, like most college students, went through a phase when I questioned my faith and beliefs. I seriously considered leaving the Church, but simply couldn’t do it. I researched many religions because I considered conversion. The idea to completely abandon God and religion was not an option. God and the Church have always kept me grounded; I knew, even as I considered leaving the Catholic faith, that I would need something.

At the time of the religious crisis, I was a junior in college and had a lot of Jewish friends. I always say that if I hadn’t been born in a Catholic home, I would have been born into a Jewish home. I love the Jewish faith. It is so rich with history, culture, beautiful stories, and a true understanding of what it means to be human. In many ways, Judaism and its culture is similar to Catholicism. There is the guilt (which unlike Wide Lawns, I am continually plagued by it) and the food. The food part might have something to do with the Italian in me.  Anyway, I digress. My fascination and appreciation for the Jewish faith encouraged the questioning of my Catholic upbringing.

My mother and I are very close. When I told her about my religious crisis and my doubts, never once was I told that I was wrong, or would be condemned a sinner and all that other dramatic crap. She was very supportive. Her support enabled me to feel very comfortable in my exploration.

The peak of my crisis occurred during Lent. It was the middle of the Spring semester. I struggled with stress (still do) and needed something to turn to. My college experience, while phenomenal, was not the completely happy-go-party experience of some of my peers and roommates. I struggled academically–I almost failed out of college. My family was going through some major drama (the subject of my memoir–when I of course get up the emotional strength to sit down and write it) and I didn’t know what do with myself. Being the good little Catholic girl that I am, even in my religious crisis, decided to practice Lent. I gave up cursing (which I swear I do every year with the hope that Easter will arrive and the foul language will have escaped me) and set up a curse jar.

The curse jar was an old Smucker’s Strawberry jam jar. I peeled off the label, and taped a new one that read: Curse Jar 25 cents a Curse. I eventually had to up the price because the quarter was not enough of a deterrence. I upped it to a dollar, which, let me tell you, was painful. So, Lent began and during those forty days, I practiced my Catholic faith harder than ever. It was like working out the way you do in January because this is the year you’re finally going to drop those fifteen pounds. You know?

I went to mass every Sunday and as Easter approached, I became more and more sure that being Catholic was for me. I should probably mention that during this semester I was enrolled in a Christianity course. It was essentially a history/religion course where we had to read the New Testament. There was no religious agenda. It was a very sterile look at the New Testament. We studied it like a historical document/ biography on how Christianity came to be.  At the beginning of the semester, some of the readings had put doubt in me that Christianity made no sense. How could Jesus be so important? Maybe Judaism was right, maybe Jesus was a prophet but not the Savior. Having attended religious education and Mass, the New and Old Testament were not something new to me, but for whatever reason, reading them in this class made me question it.

The entire time I doubted my faith and questioned it, my mother always reminded me that there was nothing wrong in questioning your ideals, and digging deep and doing research to decide what the Truth was. It made me think about what Benjamin Franklin said, “It is the first responsiblity of every citizen to question authority,” and what bigger authority is there than God?

I took the time to question and reflect, just like you’re supposed to during Lent. By the time Easter rolled around, I felt better, more confident and strong. And. Catholic. 

This year I look forward to Lent. Easter is going to be very special this year. For the first time in a very long time (maybe since I was about eight) I will be with my family that lives very far away. All the aunts and uncles and cousins will be together. After forty days of sacrifice (most of us give up something like sweets, or ice cream) we will get together for a delicious feast. There will be biscotti, cakes, ricotta pie (to DIE for) and chocolates. Not to mention FH will finally get to meet the whole gang.  Of course, it would be difficult to not be excited for all the good food and people. I’m looking forward to Lent because my Spirit is definitely damaged (I’m sure you’ve all noticed the less that happy posts recently). I’m in desperate need of reflection and nourishment. Just like I was junior year of college, I’m once again in crisis (Spiritual and Existential–that’s practically the same thing) mode.

I’m very confident that once again, the Lenten season will save me, and help me feel whole again. That’s what faith is supposed to do. Right?

Random thought…thoughts

For a Monday I wasn’t as productive as I would have liked. Still, I got some writing done, both fiction and personal.

Lately, I’ve been reading the letters that writers like Fitzgerald and Sherwood Anderson wrote to their wives and I think that this is where some of their best writing was. It’s overwritten yes, but it’s good and when you read these letters, they move you. Most of these letters were written before they were famous and I wonder if they wrote these letters hoping they’d be found and published. Probably not, they were just good writers. If they were writing in the hopes the letters too would be published it would make me sick. There is only so much narcissism a person can take.

Practice Makes Perfect

So while ago I wrote about my non-existent writing schedule. I am proud to say it is no longer non-existent.

Initially when I started grad school I was writing only when I had deadlines. I think this is an issue with a lot MFA students. We are so bogged down with our literature classes and writing feedback for our classmates for workshop that we neglect our own work. I know that was my issue.

I’m currently enrolled in a three year program that requires both literature classes as well as workshops. The amount of literature  credits that I am required to take is three credits short of receiving an MA. It’s quite literature intensive, and because of the heavy focus on literature courses I knew I’d need a writing schedule that would enable me to write my own stuff.

If I continued to let my deadline system continue to be the only drive I had to write, all I’d have written is a crappy thesis I’d be embarrassed to revise, and way too many literature papers than I’d know what to do with. When would I produce anything else?

I was discussing this with my thesis chair. My professor suggested I write first thing in the morning, so that  “then it’s done.” I could move on with my day not worried about not having written anything because it would have been done as my first cup of coffee was being finished.

Since I didn’t have any kind of schedule I decided to give it a shot. I will say I was concerned writing in the morning was going to effect my workout routine. I enjoy running in the morning because it hasn’t gotten so hot yet and I can usually beat whatever weather issue my area may be having. In order to prevent any kind of interruption to my running regimen I set my alarm an hour earlier and decided I’d write for an hour first thing in the morning, then run, then shower and finish up the rest of my classwork.

Well, I will say it totally works for me.  I always thought that I was a nocturnal writer; that my best work flowed from my brain in the late hours of the night. Au Contraire! After a decent night of rest (who get’s good sleep anymore or ever, I know I sure don’t) I’m able to think clearly and focus. The best part of this writing in the morning thing is if that hour of writing sucks I get to run it out of my system and know I’ll be better the next morning or if I have a little bit of time to spare in the evening after class I can try again.

I’m so glad to have found my groove. I was hoping that would be something that I learned in grad school and it seems that after a year I have.

I know that not everyone is a morning person. I definitely am. Actually, I’m kind of an insomniac but I think I prefer the morning to night as far as being productive is concerned. Regardless of the kind of person you are, I think the trick to finding a writing schedule is to force yourself to set aside an allotted amount of time EVERYDAY.

Maybe you don’t have an hour to spare, then give yourself  twenty minutes. I know I waste twenty minutes here and there all day everyday, why not write during that time instead?

I’m sure when the fall starts or when I start my summer teaching I may have to cut my hour down to 45 minutes or even to half an hour, still I don’t plan on stopping my schedule all together because “I’m busy.” My thesis and my writing career are too important.  Plus, I think this is true with so many skills…Practice makes perfect.

This has become my mantra: Practice makes perfect, practice makes perfect and so I encourage all you writers out there to remember that when you are in a slump and can’t “find time to write” you won’t get any better unless you write. That poem, essay, story or novel won’t write itself.

Practice makes perfect.

Hurricane Season Sweet Hurricane Season

Hurricane season has a huge place in my heart. While I’m not going to reveal where I am right now, I will say I have a lived in one of the states that is usually impacted every year by Hurricane season. You can take that however you please.

As a kid Hurricane Season was exciting; getting the supplies, water, cleaning up the yard to prevent debris of it was fun. The possibility of no school would buzz in the air. I will say that I have had many good times on days school was canceled because of a hurricane. Most of those times the storm was not a threat but the county wanted to be safe.  We’d get lucky and there wouldn’t be a cloud in the sky, my friends and I would be at the beach. It was difficult to be afraid of Hurricane Season when the years before we had cancellations like “snow days” but better because we could be outside throwing the frisbee around at the beach. But as I got older and we actually started getting hit with categories higher than one and the severity of the season started to sink in. When work or school would be canceled for a week because we couldn’t get around, and people had no power I started to realize how serious this was.

While I’ve never been one to laugh at Mother Nature’s power, I think I was a bit dismissive as a child, I still get excited during hurricane season because there is a certain energy about it. It’s tangible. Tracking the storms, looking into the eye of the storm as it rotates on the radar. It’s addicting. I’ve always liked to track the storms, and am a big part of the reason weather.com will get increased traffic. I love watching the radar in motion. I love looking at the maps that show Africa releasing storms into the ocean and I love predicting the strengths of the storms. I think when you have lived in a place where hurricanes occur your inner meteorologist surfaces. I know mine does. I’m obsessed with a lot of things and I think weather is one of them.

So, it’s June 1st and Hurricane Season is here. I have my theories on why it will or won’t be a scary season. I haven’t decided how active this season will be but something tells me it will be an active one, although my feeling is nothing more than a hunch and I have no evidence or training to back this up. 

It’s weird because the beginning of the season is always exciting, but it is also a relief when it ends November 30th and there aren’t devastation’s like we’ve seen recently in Caribbean, Texas, Florida, and Louisiana. I just want (as I think everyone who lives near these coastal regions does) the storms stay in the ocean.

Regardless of where we want these storms to stay Mother Nature is the one who decides and because of this I can guarantee you I’ll be hooked to CNN and the Weather Channel at the mention of a storm, being impressed, as I am every year, by these storms.