Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Dick's et al

At some point in the next week, I will buy something from Dick's Sporting Goods. I'm not sure what I'll get... a new yoga mat, perhaps, or some new sneakers. I would hope anyone who feels passionately about the need for gun control reform will do the same.

If you missed it, in my previous post I suggested that making changes to the gun culture in the United States will be a long and arduous process, but we can bring about those changes, just as we changed the societal norm of smoking a few decades ago. Instead of sweeping legislation (that I would love to see but seems improbable since so many politicians are more concerned with saving their seats instead of saving lives), we can turn the ship around by means of small, incremental steps with the goal in mind of not overturning The Sacred Second Amendment but rather limiting accessibility to mass-kill weapons and accessories and doing more thorough background checks (just for starters).

Last weekend, MetLife, a company that offers life insurance and other financial products, was the first to come forward and say, "We will no longer offer discounts to NRA members." Company executives stated that this policy change was made because "We value all our customers" (emphasis mine). Aaaaand BOOM, just like that, within 24 hours, a long list of companies followed, including major airlines, car rental companies, software companies, and so on. When I travel to Missouri in June, I will be reviewing that list of companies to find the airline and car rental agency I will patronize as a way of supporting their courage to do something, however small.

This morning, the CEO of Dick's Sporting Goods made an appearance on Good Morning America to announce that the company will no longer sell assault style rifles or high capacity magazines, nor will they sell a firearm to persons under the age of 21. Bravo. And so to support the company's brave step (because, yep, they know it will--at least temporarily while some folks throw temper tantrums at not being able to purchase all the pretty shiny destructive toys they want--reduce sales and result in a decrease in stock value), I will be buying something—anything—from the Dick's in Upland, California when I head out that way later this week.

Small steps... these are small steps. But they are similar to decisions made by owners of chain and independent restaurants a few decades ago that banned smoking inside the restaurant. Everyone said those businesses would lose business. In fact, studies have shown that restaurants and bars that have banned smoking (in some states, you can still light up inside your local pub) have not seen any decrease in revenue.

I imagine Dick's will see a small blip in sales... maybe... but maybe good-hearted folks around the country will do as I am doing, decide the kids need new sneakers this month or some cleats for Little League coming up in the spring or a really nice hoodie from The North Face or Field and Stream. Spread the word. Maybe we can make that happen, and maybe Dick's will see, in its next quarter financial report, that sales actually increased after this critically important, potentially life-saving decision.

Wouldn't that be cool? 

Sunday, February 25, 2018


When I was a kid, everybody smoked. If you're my age, you remember. Mom, Dad, Grandma all sat on the couch puffing away. When my sister and I were charged with cleaning the living room, we had to empty the ash trays. Remember that? Every home had ash trays. Every business had ash trays, too—tall, industrial size metal cans. At the bank. At the post office. At the library. At church....

People smoked in restaurants, too. It never bothered my mom at all—until she stopped smoking. "I can't believe they're smoking in here. It smells terrible," she would grumble, sotto voce, to make sure the person heard her. Of course, that was much later. After she'd smoked for 35 years.

In junior high and high school, I learned "the dangers of smoking," as every student did. But for most kids, those lessons fell on deaf ears. Because everyone smoked. It was part of the culture. If I suggested to my mother that she quit, she would smirk and say, "My mother has smoked all her life, and she's still alive."

See, there were studies that indicated smoking contributed to all kinds of evil in our bodies. But the idea of everyone quitting smoking was met with derision. Cries of, "It's my constitutional right to do what I want with my body!" were heard, and "The government's not gonna take my cigarettes away!" and "This is America; we're free to do as we choose here!"

If this rhetoric sounds familiar, it may be because we began to hear similar outcries in the wake of the recent shooting in Parkland, Florida.

This week, as some of us were pleading for tighter controls on the dissemination of guns across the country, others were clenching their fingers tighter around their assault weapons and parroting Charlton Heston: "...from my cold dead hands."

The difficulty here is multi-layered. Clearly, it won't be enough to simply tighten up some of the pre-existing gun laws. We can raise the age of majority to 21, but that wouldn't have stopped the Las Vegas shooter who killed 58 and wounded 851. We can make it illegal to own certain types of weapons such as the AR-15 (the semi-automatic rifle Nikolaus Cruz used to kill 17 people in the Parkland mass shooting), but opponents argue that "criminals will find a way to get them anyway." We can arm teachers—okay, no, not really, not realistically, oh my lord the thought of some teachers I've worked with having a gun in the closet—just NO.

But something has to be done. Something has to be done NOW.

Here is what my friend Doug Brooks had to say on his Facebook page about this issue:

The fact that anyone is surprised at the violence constantly being played out across our country is in itself a surprise to me. For several decades, we have been programming our youth for just this outcome. This programming has been achieved through what we call "entertainment." There has been a complete lack of any kind of moral compass in television, movies, and video games. Graphic violence in entertainment has become a "normal" part of our children's lives. Have you seen the first person shooter video games that children play every day? Our society is reaping exactly what we have sowed. This is not a gun control issue. It is a mind control issue. The United States of America was established to ensure and protect an individual's right to be "free." However, this freedom, without a strong ethical and moral base, ends up as chaos. And that, my fellow Americans, is where we seem to be heading....

He has a point.

I walked past my granddaughter's room one day to find her sprawled on the floor in the position of a military sniper, holding her game controller. On the monitor before her, the point of view was down the barrel of an assault rifle. My first--but non-verbal--response was 'holy shit.' My first verbal response was to ask about the "game." She explained that yes, she was killing people, but that "we're the good guys." So that made it okay.

That is not okay, at least not with me.

But she's 18. She can choose for herself--in the same way that she could choose to take up smoking if she so desired. "But," she told me (later, after the Parkland shooting) when we discussed whether playing violent video games contributed to the likelihood of someone shooting up a school, "I would never go crazy and start shooting anyone." No. She wouldn't. But... I have also seen my nephew, when he was 15, playing a far more violent video game. This is a young man with profound anxiety and mental health issues. He also has a severely violent temper and has threatened his own mother with bodily harm while enraged. (Before you panic, there are no guns in their home. He has never been around guns. Of course, that doesn't mean he couldn't easily get one, the way things are right now. Because now he's over 18. He's actually over 21, so even if the age of majority is raised, he can still get a gun if he wants one.

If you believe that it's okay for that young man to own an assault rifle because "it's his right as an American under the Second Amendment," I would have to question whether you are capable of thinking rationally. If you agree with me that no, he should not have access to any kind of weapon, nor should others like him, then we're taking a small step in the right direction.

And that's what it's going to take to turn this ship around--many, many small adjustments in the way we do things, the way we think about things, including the culture of gun ownership and availability in the United States. The process will be slow and arduous and, for some, painful (as was quitting smoking for so many people). Is it worth it, though? Oh, hell yes it is.

We need to bring about change that is substantial and far-reaching, just as we ultimately accomplished with smoking. Back then, some said it would be impossible to shake ourselves free of the spell the tobacco industry had cast upon us. Remember the Marlboro Man? He was so handsome, so cool. Until he was diagnosed with cancer....

Our culture is suffering from its own form of cancer currently. But we can beat it. One step at a time.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018


For those of you who are less than super-tech-savvy, I often include links to more information on certain topics in my posts. When a word or a phrase is in purplish-blue instead of black, that indicates a link (which you can click on) to read more information about the subject of that word or phrase. 🙂

If you haven't read my previous post, you might not know that I've been putting up with a tiny bit of illness since mid-November.

I'm better now. Much better. A week ago I saw Stephanie, a Physical Therapist at Kaiser Redlands (who is terrific, by the way—kind, patient, empathetic and a great teacher). She did some evaluation, told me she suspected I have Cervicogenic Dizziness, and gave me some exercises that are classified as Vestibular Therapy to unlock the stiffness in my neck (which I will discuss further in a sec—keep reading because that's the human interest part).

It was a lot to take in, but I will tell you I was literally sitting on the edge of my chair as I listened to her, and I was so relieved when she said, "Oh yeah, I think we can relieve your symptoms" that I had to will myself not to start crying. ("Focus, Kay, focus," said the rational part of my brain.) Even as she demonstrated and had me do the exercises, I began to feel a bit of relief from the constant wooziness. Now, one week later, I am immensely improved—so much so that I think after another few weeks of doing the exercises I will feel better than I have in years in terms of the chronic neck pain I've had forever. (Well, not literally "forever," but you know what I mean. I haven't even been alive for "forever." Kinda feels like it sometimes, though.)

Two funny bits to share (and this is where the human interest part comes in):

My crush in the sixth grade was Ricky Smith. He liked me, too, and he came over to the house a few times, took me square dancing and gave me a St. Christopher medallion. After school one day, he mentioned that I should relax more, telling me, "You walk around school with your shoulders all hunched up." Oh my Buddha! How embarrassing that he noticed! Yet... how true. At eleven years old, I had already experienced enough in life to keep me in a state of constant cringing. So add all that neck tension to the injuries I sustained to my head and neck around the same time (from getting tossed off horses), and you have the makings of chronic neck pain.

Also: Kudos to my bestie Donna who had read my previous post, so when I told her about the cervicogenic dizziness diagnosis she was able to link the onset of it with that two-hour stint in the dentist chair for the crown. (Her super-power is analytical reasoning.) I don't think I've mentioned on the blog before that my childhood dentist was a sadist. No, I mean, he actually was a sadist. For thirty years, I have seen my dentists twice a year, but it still triggers profound anxiety.

I want to extend giant hugs to all my friends, family members and blog readers who prayed for/chanted for/sent energy to me plus all those who continued behind the scenes to make suggestions as to what might be the cause. I love all of you, and thanks so much for your support through these weeks. You kept me on the sunny side of life while I was slogging away with the docs, trying to find a resolution.

Life is good! (Hence the smiley seal pictured above.)