March for Our Lives

I had been planning on taking my girls to the March for Our Lives in Charlottesville yesterday. On Friday night, I talked with them about what the march was about. I told the little one that there were too many guns, and we want people to not have so many guns, especially the kind that can hurt people the most. I told the older one that the right to bear arms is in the Bill of Rights, but in the context of a well-regulated militia and arms that fired at much slower speeds than arms today. I told her that her right to be alive is far more sacred. We talked about how we are asking for better regulations of guns and enforcement of regulations. Extensive and ongoing training and practice should be required for every gun owner, and we discussed that.

As we talked, my nine-year-old’s eyes were growing wider. “Mom, what if there are people with guns at the march? This is going to make them mad. What if they start shooting?”

My oldest is generally fearless. She was the toddler that made all the other moms at the playground hold their breath with how high she would climb. She has, of her own initiative, asked strangers if they will please donate to the SPCA or Dancers for Dance.

Guns can take our children’s lives in more than one way.

What I didn’t tell Emma was that I felt safer taking her to the march than I did dropping her off at school. Instead, I listened, and I told her that we didn’t have to go. That I’m glad she’s listening to her inner self and how she feels. There are times to teach children to do things that feel scary, but at age 9 when their life really is on the line, isn’t one of them, at least not for us.

I am in awe of and encouraged by the young people who led and participated in the March for Our Lives yesterday, across the country. And I am sad that they have to march at all. I wonder how many children would like to march but are, justifiably, too afraid to do so. We certainly can’t tell them their fears are unfounded. We want them to live to be old enough to vote out of office anyone who thinks the right to bear arms is an unfettered right triumphant over all others.

The girls and I still made signs, and we hung them on our front door. We talked about other things we can do to support common sense gun reform, such as donating to groups like Everytown and Americans for a Responsible Solutions, which are able to research, produce information about good policy, and lobby for it.

Because kids are more important than guns. Life is more important than guns, and with the current lack of sufficient regulation and requirements for training and practice, guns are far more likely to kill us than keep us safe.

March for Our Lives

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More on this topic
Guns in America: A Mother’s Terror

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If This Isn’t Nice

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I’ve been experiencing some early midlife restlessness lately. The older I grow, the more choices I have made, and those necessarily limit the opportunities still available to me. It turns out that I’m not going to be the youngest person ever elected to Congress. (There’s still time to be the youngest person elected President, so stay tuned.)

However it also turns out that I do have a yoga practice. That was on the Person I Want to Be list that I made in my early 20s.

And tonight the girls and I ate dinner outside in the dark because it is the first warm night of the year. As we carried the candles outside, Maggie said, “This is the best day of my life.”

So there’s that.

Years pass and choices are made and possibilities change. Am I still becoming the person I wanted to be? Would I trade my four year old’s pronouncement, “This is the best day of my life,” for any other award?

If this isn’t nice, what is?

Update: Wellness Policy to Be Presented to the Charlottesville School Board on August 3

This evening, a wellness policy that prohibits taking away recess as punishment will be presented to the Charlottesville City School Board. The board will vote on the policy at their next meeting on September 7.

The wellness policy is a revision of a previous policy and was drafted by the School Health Advisory Board under the guidance of Patrick Johnson, the CCS Coordinator of Health and Physical Education.

While I was not able to attend the SHAB meeting last month when the final draft of the policy was discussed, I spoke with Patrick by email and phone after the meeting. I am very pleased with the wellness policy that is going to be presented tonight. I think it best to wait until it is presented to the board to discuss the details, but I can say now that it states explicitly that recess will not be withheld as punishment. The policy also addresses the issue of weighing students. I believe it does so in a way that is clear and empowering for students and their families.

I look forward to writing more about the policy after tonight’s board meeting. As long as it seems appropriate at the time, which I think it will, I am going to live tweet the presentation of the policy to the board and the board’s response. You can follow along on Twitter: https://twitter.com/c_v_bennett.

What this campaign needs from its numerous supporters: can you mark September 7 on your calendars and show up to the school board meeting that evening? There is a time at the beginning of meetings for community members to speak for three minutes. It would be wonderful if the board could hear from other parents who want them to pass the wellness policy. If you can’t show up in person, please consider writing to the board members and our superintendent, Dr. Rosa Atkins. I am pasting below their email addresses.

CCS Board Webpage

Email our CCS board members:

School Board           SchoolBoard@charlottesvilleschools.org

Dr. Adam Hastings hastina1@charlottesvilleschools.org

Dr. Sherry Kraft        krafts1@charlottesvilleschools.org

Amy Laufer   laufea1@charlottesvilleschools.org

Jennifer McKeever mckeevj1@charlottesvilleschools.org

Ned Michie   michien1@charlottesvilleschools.org

Leah Puryear           puryeal1@charlottesvilleschools.org

Juandiego Wade wadej1@charlottesvilleschools.org

Superintendent Dr. Rosa Atkins Rosa.Atkins@charlottesvilleschools.org

*****

Read evidence supporting our request to end weigh-ins and taking away recess here and here.
Sign the petition to end weigh-ins and taking away recess here.
Read my May 4 statement to the CCS School Board here.
Read my June 1 statement to the CCS School Board here.
Read all posts related to this issue here.
Read about media coverage of our campaign here.

 

Update: Campaign to end weigh-ins, taking away recess – what we’re asking for now, May 24

Cville Weekly has published a story about our campaign to end weigh-ins and taking away recess in Charlottesville city schools. (Click here to read it.) I am hopeful this will direct more CCS parents to sign our petition to the school board.

There has been progress since the petition was first created. Here is what we are asking for now:

1) Our superintendent, Dr. Atkins, send written communication to ALL CCS parents, teachers, and admin, stating that recess is not to be taken away from students in our schools, so that everyone is of the same understanding. On May 11, I emailed Dr. Atkins asking if such communication could be made. I have not had a reply from her yet. (See a copy of that email in the previous update.)

On May 9, Dr. Atkins stated to School Health Advisory Board (SHAB) that recess will not and should not be taken away from students. However, I have heard three separate reports from three separate CCS elementary schools of students having their recess taken away last week, the week after Dr. Atkins said that would no longer happen.

2) Dr. Atkins and the school board identify what tools teachers will be given immediately to use in place of so-called “Recess Academy.”

While programs such as VVTS and PBIS are valuable initiatives to institute positive behavioral management, teachers need tools *now* that they can use instead of Recess Academy (this is what some teachers call the practice of taking away recess as punishment).

3) A more transparent and methodical approach to weigh-ins be established. That might mean banning it altogether or better communicating with parents that it is being done and why.

4) An enforceable prohibition against taking away recess be included in the school policy manual or other binding policy.

Thank you to everyone who is supporting this campaign! Charlottesville city schools are strong schools, to be proud of. Together, we can make them even better and help ensure the health and success of all of our children.

*****

Read evidence supporting my request to end weigh-ins and taking away recess here and here.
Sign the petition to end weigh-ins and taking away recess here.
Read my May 4 statement to the CCS School Board here.
Read all posts related to this issue here.
Read about media coverage of our campaign here.

A Prayer for Easter

Witnessing the strength of our bodies and minds,
Spirit of Life, rejoice with us.

Witnessing our recognition by our selves and others; our being heard, seen, known, and accepted,
Spirit of Life, rejoice with us.

Witnessing our abundance; the times when we have plenty; the needs that are extravagantly met,
Spirit of Life, rejoice with us.

Witnessing the communion and unity among us,
Spirit of Life, rejoice with us.

Witnessing the healing of our grief and our ashes turning to beauty,
Spirit of Life, rejoice with us.

Witnessing our agency,
Spirit of Life, rejoice with us.

Witnessing how we use our agency to create and perpetuate equality and justice,
Spirit of Life, rejoice with us.

Witnessing our enlightenment,
Spirit of Life, rejoice with us.

Witnessing the wide path within which we walk,
Spirit of Life, rejoice with us.

Witnessing our words and actions and attitudes that have bound up brokenness and created joy,
Spirit of Life, rejoice with us.

Witnessing our wholeness,
Spirit of Life, rejoice with us.

Witnessing our contentment,
Spirit of Life, rejoice with us.

2017: Year of the Potato Cleanse?

My first reaction to the @NYTimesWell headline in Twitter, “The more potatoes in a woman’s typical diet, the more likely she is to develop gestational diabetes,” was, “Oh my goodness, I need to cut potatoes out of my diet” (even though I’m not pregnant. Let’s be on the safe side).

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My second was to take the declaration with a grain of salt (and full fat sour cream and butter), “Wait a minute, in another year, another study will come out that will dictate how awesome potatoes are, and we’ll all be doing potato cleanses.”

I’ve spent a lot of time over the years reading about nutrition research, and I’ve thus far concluded that all I really need to know about a healthy diet comes back to Michael Pollan’s: “Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.

potato

 

Community Well

My words tumbled out in a hurried anxiety. I was young, holding a new baby in my lap, in a circle of other moms. We were a postpartum group of women who had used the same midwife and met once a month. I noticed that several of the others communicated in the same way. It was as if we were desperate to be heard, to voice the stories that had become stuck in our hearts, to free them and have them understood. They were stories about our relationships and our shortcomings, our biggest hopes and deepest fears as we navigated this hardest and most important thing we would ever do. This mothering.Mama

It can be difficult prying those stories loose. They may come out full of anger at being ignored, or confused or afraid. They may come out in long run-on sentences. Our faces may blush and our necks splotch.

Across time and cultures, women have shared their stories as they gathered at community wells. They were their mothers’ support group, their girls’ night out.

As we have industrialized the ability to run water directly into our homes, we’ve lost that daily opportunity to see and be seen and to hear and be heard.

In many developing countries, the well as a meeting place is threatened by violence. In conflict areas, where people have been driven away from their villages into refugee camps, one of the most dangerous things a woman or girl can do is go out for water. She is vulnerable to attack as she ventures outside the camp.

It is crucial to our wellbeing – not just women, but all humans – that we have safe spaces to tell stories. Especially when they are hard to tell. Especially when no one has been willing or able to hear, really hear, them.

Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh teaches that we should listen in order to relieve each other’s suffering. We know how that feels, don’t we? The relief when someone has received our story without judging us, recognizing that our experience is legitimate, regardless of whether they have experienced it, too, and even when our story is tipped with anxiety, anger, or bitterness.

Community Well is a meeting place to share stories and to listen. May our suffering be relieved. May our happiness be shared. May our lives be well.

Well

Have a story you want to tell about your experiences and/or forces that have shaped them? Email Christa at christa@communitywellblog.com.