Wednesday, February 27, 2013

When The Police are Outgunned, No One Is Safe

Sergeant Loran Butch Baker, and Detective Elizabeth Butler

On February 26th, 2013, there was yet another incidence of gun violence in America. Two police officers were shot in Santa Cruz, a peaceful community of artists and hippies and vegans. This was not just a blip in the news cycle in my household. Sergeant Loran Butch Baker was my husband Troy’s childhood friend.

For years, I’ve heard stories about Troy and Butch, and their childhood escapades. They loved to ride Butch’s minibikes, and target shoot, and play cops and robbers, pretending they were the guys from their favorite TV shows: Chase, One Adam Twelve, Emergency, Hawaii-5-0. They rode bikes, talked to each other on their CB radios, took family trips together, played Little League, and got into general mischief, like little boys do. Troy grew up to be a musician (with a secret desire to be a cop) but Butch actually grew up to be a police officer.

Butch, and his partner, detective Elizabeth Butler, were taken out by a maniac with a gun. This maniac, whose name I will not honor, was known to be unstable. He had a criminal past, had been arrested for sexual assault and carrying a concealed weapon. And yet, according to San Jose Mercury News, he had three guns registered to him, including a .40-caliber semi-automatic Sig Sauer.

Yet another infuriating case of private citizens outgunning the police. Butch and Elizabeth were taken down instantly, never stood a chance. A 28-year veteran of the police department, Butch was just months away from retirement.

Like Troy, Butch had a wife and kids. They will have to find a way to go on without him now. Detective Butler also leaves behind two sons. Having been impacted by gun violence in my own family, I know all too well that these families will be forever affected, and generations will feel the impact. The damage goes far beyond what a bullet can do.

Gun violence is not a local problem. It’s not an inner city problem. It is an American problem. When this madness extends to quiet communities like Newtown, and peaceful hippie artist communities like Santa Cruz, it’s time for us to wake up.

There are almost as many registered guns as there are people in this country (88 guns to every 100 people). That does not include black market and unregistered guns, which could make up to 40% of the guns in America. Gun violence is the second leading cause of death to American children between the ages of 2 and 19. Every day in our country, eight children are killed by guns. Every day. Are we paying attention yet?

The first assault weapons ban was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994, and allowed to quietly expire under George W. Bush in 2004. Since then, mass shootings have become an epidemic. Bloomberg news reports that by 2015, firearm fatalities will exceed traffic fatalities as the leading cause of accidental death.

For those of you who believe guns are not the problem, consider this. According to Forbes, “In 1991, 15 years after Washington, D.C. banned handguns, researchers from the University of Maryland conducted a study to assess the impact of the ban. They tracked homicides and suicides in the district from 1968 to 1987 and found that homicides by firearm fell by 25 percent and suicides committed with firearms dropped by 23 percent.”

When maniacs have open access to military style assault weapons, no community can be deemed safe. Quiet community schools are not safe. Movie theatres are not safe. Safeway stores are not safe. Kindergarten classes are not safe. The police are not safe. When does this insanity end?

There are solutions to this problem. When car accidents were killing mass amounts of Americans, we stepped up and regulated that industry. Today, cars are safer than ever thought possible. We can make this better. No one is talking about overturning the second amendment. No one is coming for your guns. Common sense gun regulation is all we’re asking for.

If you are an American citizen, this is YOUR problem. Every single one of us has to take responsibility and do something. When we band together, small simple things, like an email or a phone call to congress, showing up for a rally, or voting, make a huge impact.

Please, be part of that impact. Let us stand united and make our country safe for all citizens.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Jody's Table

(A short video of the joyful energy at Jody's table. Special appearance by Ken Ferris, giving my hubby a shout-out and a kiss. ; )

From the moment you touch ground in San Miguel de Allende, you feel the shift. All the ex-pats who live there will tell you, San Miguel is a magical place. It's built on a bedrock of quartz crystals, they'll tell you. It's the heart of Mexico, they'll tell you. But the true magic of San Miguel is what happens inside of you, while you are there. Something begins to shift. New possibilities begin to take root. The hard frozen ground of your routine life begins to thaw, as the muse unfurls anew. And much of this happens at Jody's table.  

Jody, at the head of her table

Jody Faegan is the original founder of the San Miguel Writer's Conference (but has since turned the reins over to the wonderful Susan Page). Every year during the conference, Jody hosts friends from around the globe at her dinner table. People from all walks of life, all ages, all political leanings - writers, artists, photographers, construction workers, wine-makers, gypsies, feminists, therapists, wanderers gather there. All are welcome. There is an open and inviting energy in her home, that emanates from her, of course. Conversations at her table have shifted lives. I've witnessed this. I've experienced this.

This year, Jody sold her incredible (jaw-dropping amazing) home, which 400 years ago was the town orphanage. Saturday, February 16th, was the very last gathering at Jody's table. It was lively and joy-filled. As always, I felt supported, fed, nurtured in every way. And it ended, for me at least, with some tears. But Jody's beautiful smile and upbeat personality held us all together. She left San Miguel excited about new adventures in new places, and imagining other tables where we will soon gather.  

As Jody steps into her new journey, I hope she will take these words, from her many friends, with her:

"the first year i thought, hmmm, maybe it's the altitude, i feel so full & joyous & oh so happy sitting here at this table and yes, i made a few new lovely and glorious friends in the process. the second year i thought, hmmm, no, no, it's not the altitude at all, i feel so full & joyous & oh so happy sitting here at this table, and yes, i made a few new lovely and glorious friends. and then this year, the third year it became crystal clear: it wasn't at all about the altitude or the table - it was all about the friends: the beauty & all the love, the goodness, the kindness. the funny and truthful. the opening up and sharing our stories, our lives. the sense of community, the huge, massive generosity of spirit that filled each and every chair. hmmm, i thought, it's not at all about the table, it's all about jody. generous, gorgeous, amazing jody" 

- Amy Ferris

"Jody’s table… A celebration of creativity and life, of secrets shared, tears shed, laughter echoing from the core.  Where new friendships blossomed and old friendships were renewed.  A table that will be cemented in my memory, felt inside my heart, and stored permanently inside the “happy box” of my soul; a pleasant place to revisit in my mind’s eye when life attempts to lead me down a path void of love, laughter and smiles.  Thank you Jody for letting us all experience your warm, inviting heart."
- Tracy J. Thomas
"Jody's table creates magic, laughter, tears (sometimes from laughter) and new and old connections. I felt so much joy and love sitting with these extraordinary women – they are a powerful group! Thank you, Jody, for bringing us together."
- Erin Doyle  
"Jody's table cracked open my heart and inspired me to take a risk I've been afraid to take for ten years. Thank you for your generous table and creating a space for me to meet some of the most remarkable women I've ever met."
-Laura Davis

"The heart of San Miguel's magic was for me at Jody's Table. I felt so welcomed and embraced by these new vibrant, fun, creative, and soulful women in my life with whom I felt a such a powerful connection, as if I'd known them for years. Part of me will always be at Jody's Table–a place where I drank up the love and synergy, the soul bearing, the shared laughter and a few tears, and good amount of margaritas. A generous, loving gift from Jody to all of us and one I will carry everywhere with me. Thank you Jody. xoxo"
- Robin Horton
If San Miguel is the heart of Mexico, then Jody's table is the heart of San Miguel, and Jody is the heart of Jody's table. This is a tribute to you, Jody Faegan, for setting an example for the rest of us. Thank you for showing us what it means to have tremendous generosity of spirit. For giving us the space to expand into our full beings. For teaching us how to be Jodys in our own lives. 

May the tradition continue, and may we all create Jody's table in our own homes and communities. 

(all friends of Jody's table, please leave your comments here for her!)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Ones Left Behind

After the Newtown shooting, I made the decision to share the story of my brother Christopher, who was shot in the head when he was seven years old. People who have known me for years had no idea this was part of my history. It's not something I bring up at cocktail parties or playdates. It is too painful a memory to recount. It took me three decades to be able to finally write about that awful day. But then Newtown happened, and I couldn't push the memory away. It haunted me day and night. When I learned that gun violence is the #2 cause of death to children between the ages of 2 and 19,  I couldn't be silent any longer.

I hope that in sharing my story now, I will reach the people who believe guns are not the problem. If an emotionally unstable teenaged boy hadn't had access to a gun, my brother's life would be very different today. My life would be different. My children's lives would be different. Maybe my brother wouldn't have violent fits, and my entire family wouldn't be estranged right now. Maybe my son Evan would know his Uncle Christopher. Maybe I would know my nephew, Christopher's son. But my family was shattered by a single bullet. The sound of that shot still reverberates.

After my story, A Single Bullet, went viral, I was asked to be part of this public service announcement for PBS. I met two other people on this day, whose lives were also shattered by gun violence, but who are using their lives to heal others. 

Linda Evans, whose brother was murdered, is now a grief counselor. Kevin Harris, whose only child was murdered, now works with SilverLiningOfHope, campaigning to end violence in Los Angeles. I am proud to know these strong warriors, though sad for the reason life brought us together. Our only road to hope is to turn this poison into medicine.

Our goal in making this PSA is that people will realize this: gun violence doesn't end with the 24-hour news cycle. The damage is felt in families and communities for generations. 

Please join me, Linda, Kevin, and millions of others, in our campaign to bring common sense gun regulation back to this country.

One Million Moms For Gun Control has changed its name to:

Friday, February 1, 2013

One Small Step

This is a blog about achieving a big dream one small step at a time, a philosophy I owe to an interview I read with author John Berendt.  Berendt’s novel, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, was originally turned down by his agent. She said it was too localized (Savannah, Georgia), that no one would ever read it. Undaunted, he found another agent who loved the book and sold it with ease. Problem was, no one was buying it. So he committed to doing one thing every day to promote his book. One thing every day adds up to 365 actions in a year. Midnight eventually sold more than 2.7 million hardcovers, was on the New York Times best-seller list for four years, and was made into a film, making Berendt a rich man.

Moral of the story: Persistence + small simple steps = Success.

I was so inspired by John’s story, as Amy and I are facing a similar uphill struggle with our book, Dancing at the Shame Prom. The publishing industry ain’t what it used to be. Authors are handed their shiny new books, placed on an iceberg and floated off into the deep arctic waters of self- marketing. We’re overwhelmed, to say the least. But one thing every day? That’s something we can do. So Amy and I made a pact to each do one thing every day to promote our book, adding up to over 700 actions in a year. Not bad. And we're keeping each other accountable by emailing what our one thing is each day.

But this method isn’t just for books. It can be applied toward any goal.

For instance, I feel overwhelmed by clutter, and dream of being better organized. So, I started with one pile of mail on my desk. The next day, my jewelry box. The next, the sock drawer. Next up - my purse.  Small actions. 365 actions in a year.

I also want to lose weight. I can make one choice every day toward better health. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Skip the second glass of wine and have a sparkling water. Do sit ups while I watch TV.  Just one change a day. 365 actions toward weight loss in a year.

Here are some more ideas.

Say you want to write? Write one page every day. 365 pages in a year. Sounds like a book to me.

You want inner peace? One action a day: Take a walk, meditate for five minutes, pray, write in a journal, call a friend. 365 actions more peaceful by the end of the year.

You want to find love? Do one loving thing every day. For yourself. For others. For the world. 365 acts of love can only create a love avalanche.

Anyway, you get the idea. By breaking a dream down into small simple steps, anything can be achieved.And it helps to have a partner to be accountable to, because it's easy to forget small simple things.

Let’s all choose one important goal, take a small step toward it today, and see what happens.


John Berendt’s very kind words about our book, Dancing at the Shame Prom:

"These are startlingly honest stories of deep-down, lingering hurt, bravely and eloquently told. Once you start reading you can't stop. The effect is oddly cleansing."

- John Berendt