All posts by Kerry

94 Lives.

94 Lives Lost. 94 Lives Matter.
94 Lives Lost. 94 Lives Matter.

I was recently moved by an interview with a police chief who lost his composure in what I felt was a most eloquent way. (Chief Flynn after Nov. 6 police commission meeting.) He said, “if some people here gave a good God damn about the victimization of people in this community by crime I’d take some of their invective more seriously… They know all about the last three people who’ve been killed by the Milwaukee police department over the course of the last several years but there’s not one of them can name one of the last three homicide victims we’ve had…”

His statement got me thinking. I can’t name any of them either. I began to wonder how many other deaths had there recently been? Besides the high profile ones? I recently held a gun for only the second time in my life. As I held it, all I could think was, “Wow. How can so many people be so cavalier about guns?”  This sent me down the rabbit hole where I learned there were 101 deaths in a 72-hour period between July 16 and July 18 at 3 pm. You can review any of the latest 72-hour statistics by visiting http://www.gunviolencearchive.org/last-72-hours. By the time I came up with the idea to give these statistics back their names, the data had shifted. Luckily, I suppose, a hot Monday yields less deaths than a hot Saturday. Between July 17 and July 19, 2016 we lost 94 lives due to gun violence. Even with fewer numbers, that still works out to over 1.3 lives lost per hour. There were an additional 255 people injured by gun violence in that same period or 3.5 injuries per hour.

I do not want this post to be about gun control. I don’t want this post to be about anti-gun control. I want it to be about potential. 94 lives lost. 94 lives gone forever. Someone’s child. Someone’s husband. Someone’s wife. Someone’s friend. Someone born full of hope and potential. Someone who could love and be loved. Some of these people were victims. Some of them were the perpetrators. I grappled with separating them out of respect for the survivor’s of the victims. In the end, I decided to list them in the order they died, often meaning a victim was listed next to the perpetrator. I did this because we have to be able to do more to stop this violence. And that has to take place before the violence occurs. We have to be able to stop the perpetrators from wanting to hurt others.

WE HAVE TO.

Oh, it is so very easy to turn it off. It’s too much. We feel powerless in the face of such enormous problems. We need to stop the poverty. We need to stop the alienation. We need to stop the humiliation. We need to stop the anger. We need to stop the hurt.

We need to love. We need to care. We need to help.

When my boys ask me why someone is being mean I often say, “Well, I just don’t think they got enough love today.” And if these perpetrators had received enough love in their lives, maybe, just maybe this list would be shorter. And maybe, if whole swathes of our society weren’t made to feel like second class citizens, this list would be shorter. And, maybe, if we just take a few minutes to read these names, every last one of them, we’ll stop focusing on the forest and start  noticing the people standing among its trees.

Forest and the Trees
Forest and the Trees

The youngest of these victims was a 4-year old boy. Another was a brand new father, accidentally shot by his brother. Another was a teen playing basketball on a community center play ground. Another was a mother of four. So many murder-suicide combinations. So many related to drugs. So many related to anger. So much pain. It will not be ignored. Like a festering wound, it just spreads until the body can ignore it no longer. If we want to heal, we must face the wounds.

I do not want these people to get lost in the shuffle. Let’s not forget their names. Let’s not forget there are people behind all the debates.

So here they are. Above, in an image format. Below, in a text format. There are a few where I have simply listed the gender and city as their names have not yet been released pending notification of next of kin. I have done as much research as possible to put names to the incidents. Where not possible, please know that I respect your loved one’s life. THEY MATTERED. YOU MATTER TOO.

If you wish to add a name to this list, please feel free to contact me and know that you are in my heart and prayers. ♥

EMILIO FLORES ~ DONZIE TAYLOR ~ LARRY STEWART ~ CAPTAIN ROBERT MELTON ~ DAYRON STATEN ~ TYRONE JOHNSON ~ HENRY VARNADO ~ KENT FRANKLIN ~ ALFRED MATTHEWS ~ JERRY BRIMER ~ SHERIC ANDERSON ~ NAME WITHHELD, KANSAS CITY, MO ~ SUZANNA PEREZ ~ EBONY SMITH ~ BRAHEEM QUEEN ~ MIKHAL DELOVE BAILEY ~ KEVIN DAVID POWELL ~ LUKE SMITH ~ RON EASTERLING ~ JOVANNI SIMS ~ BRANDON HANSFORD ~ FERNANDO MONTANO ~ ANNASTASIA MACKIN ~ ADDISON “HOLLYWOOD” SHEARIN ~ SETH MARTIN ~ ANGELICA FISCHER ~ EMMANUEL COACH ~ NAME WITHHELD, MALE, CHICAGO, IL ~ JERMAINE SMITH ~ DERRELL PEDEN ~ MICHAEL BROWN ~ MARK CUMMINGS ~ MARK FLETCHER ~ NAME WITHHELD, MALE, GARDEN GROVE, CA ~ JOHN STOWERS ~ NAME WITHHELD, MALE, BALTIMORE, MD ~ SHANE MCCORMICK ~ JESSICA ARRENDALE ~ ANTOINE DAVIS ~ CHUEMO GATEWOOD ~ KRISTI MAXWELL ~ RICHARD MAXWELL ~ KEVIN WHITE ~ KEVIN VILLEGA MELENDEZ ~ RAYMOND GONZALES ORTIZ ~ FRANCISCO ORTEGA MARTINEZ ~ EDWARD LONG ~ TOMAS URIEGAS ~ PHILLIP BANK ~ JESSIE GARCIA ~ MICHAEL RAY RAMSEY ~ NAME WITHHELD, FEMALE, ROCHESTER, MI ~ JACOB COMSTOCK ~ LOUIS TATE ~ JASON AQUINO ~ CYNTHIA ZINGSHEIM ~ CARRIE ROUZER ~ NAME WITHHELD, MALE, CARROLLTON, GA ~ TYISHA AUSTIN ~ LAQUITA ROBINSON ~ SHERIDAN THOMPSON ~ NAME WITHHELD, MALE BROOKLYN, NY ~ JERMAINE JOHNSON ~ PATRICK DEWAYNE DECKER ~ JOSEPH BROWN ~ 4-YEAR OLD BOY, SULPHUR, LA ~ KENNETH BACQUE ~ MARQUES ADDISON ~ MAURICE BROWN ~ MICHAEL REED ~ KEVIN HIGGINS ~ JULIUS SMITH ~ MICHAEL LEON KING, JR ~ ATHENA NICHOLAS ~ DENZEL OLAJUWON MORTON ~ OTAVIOUS BROWN ~ CARLOS HARDING ~ ARTIVIS GLADNEY ~ SADIE ROBINSON ~ BRANDON BERNARD BOWMAN ~ NAME WITHHELD, MALE, CHICAGO, IL ~ COURTNEY TURRELL GUY ~ ATRAYU RAMAL DAVIS ~ OFFICER MATTHEW GERALD ~ OFFICER MONTRELL JACKSON ~ DEPUTY BRAD GARAFOLA ~ DEPUTY NICHOLAS TULLIER ~ GAVIN EUGENE LONG ~ CHEYENNE STEWART ~ NAME WITHHELD, MALE, LOUISVILLE, KY ~ BRANDON HANSFORD ~ HASSAN MCALLISTER ~ HASSAN AL-WATAN ~ NAME WITHHELD, MALE, SAN FRANCISCO, CA

The Potato Proxy

thepotato_umbrellamoms

Have you heard the one about the picture of a potato selling for $1M? The artist, Kevin Abosch, says the picture is an “ontological [philosophical] study of the human experience.”

I see commonalities between humans and potatoes that speak to our relationship as individuals within a collective species,” Abosch told CNN. “Generally, the life of a harvested potato is violent and taken for granted. I use the potato as a proxy for the ontological study of the human experience.” Epoch Newsroom. (2016, February 2). Potato Photo Sells for More Than $1M: Reports. Retrieved February 04, 2016, from http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/1952097-potato-photo-shot-by-kevin-abosch-sells-for-more-than-1m/

Indeed.

This is clearly a man capable of deep thinking. I get it. I really do. I also see its sale, the sale of a picture of an ordinary potato, for $1M as an ontological study as well. I don’t mean to vilify the person who bought this picture for that amount of money or the artist who sold it. It is entirely possible they each donate an obscene amount of money to worthy causes. Clearly the abysmal state of some of our fellow humans speaks to them or they would not have thought to take the photograph or had an interest in buying it. It’s just the idea of all that money going to a picture instead of the proxy it is supposed to represent. Let’s be clear, I have always had feelings like this. When I toured the Tower of London at 14-15 years old I was left feeling sick to my stomach. I vividly remember seeing a giant gold and jeweled punch bowl with a golden ladle that required the strength of more than one human being to serve its beverage contents. All I could think was, “Why?!?!” Why not melt that opulence down and serve a few million starving people food? I don’t get it and maybe that’s why I will never be rich.

Ten things you can buy with a million dollars:

  • 10 high-end Habitat for Humanity houses
  • 45 new schools from World Vision
  • 66 deep wells and hand pumps (2,800 gallons of safe drinking water every day for 300 people) from World Vision
  • 7,000 pairs of glasses through Toms One for One program (one donated for every pair purchased)
  • 18,000 pairs of shoes through Toms One for One program (one donated for every pair purchased)
  • 20,000 antibiotic kits from Save the Children
  • 47, 619 family mosquito nets from World Vision
  • 20,000-50,000 symbolic adoptions of endangered species animals from the National Wildlife Foundation
  • 333,333-100,000 trees from the Arbor Day Foundation
  • 11 million meals through Feeding America’s food banks

That being said, I do have a sense of humor and I am willing to put money where the potato is. Therefore, bidding is now open for an alternate interpretation of the potato/human experience. I call it, “The Potato Sustains.” Should someone bid upon this picture, I pledge to invest/donate the proceeds as follows*:

  • 20% to a charity of the buyer’s choice
  • 20% to art school/art camp scholarships
  • 30% to food/anti-hunger charity
  • 30% to college education savings for my children (three kids, 10% each)

*Depending upon the bid amount, I am willing to negotiate the charitable recipients with the buyer. I will throw in a bottle of wine for free if the bidding goes to $1M!  

Now, if you will excuse me, for some reason I am craving a potato. ;)

Acorns and Love

Emerson's Acorn Phase
Emerson’s Acorn Phase

Love is a feeling as real as touching something. I like to soak it up when those moments hit me.

This morning I should have been worried about getting back home after the school bus picked up Silas. There are a million and one things I needed to do today. But there it was, that feeling of love.

Emerson has entered into what I like to call the “acorn phase.” He collects each and every acorn he comes across. Autumn is approaching, so that means a lot of collecting. Emerson is different than his brother was during this phase. Silas would collect them and they would find their way into the house, the basket on his bike, his pocket. Anywhere they could be stashed you would find an acorn. Emerson, however, loves to pick them up, treasure them for a bit and then find a perfect spot for the squirrels to retrieve them.

As I watched Emerson search for the perfect spot this morning, I just stood there smiling, all Pepe Le Pew, marveling at that feeling. As real as if someone were hugging me, brushing my hair or rubbing my feet after a long day. It soothes. It brings a smile to one’s face. It relaxes you just as much as a lengthy professional massage. He walked all about our front yard in search of the perfect place. He walked from one side to another and back again. I just stood there wistfully smiling away, allowing my soul the joy of loving him.

My grandfather always used to say, “the tiny acorn grows into a mighty oak tree.” Well, the love I have for my boys feels like a mighty oak already. I can only imagine what the future holds but I tend to think of the sound of acorns falling from the trees as we walk together. I hope each of our boys will grow as tall and strong as the trees. I want them to then share their love and strength as freely as the oak shares its bounty.

I very much enjoy the acorn phase. And yes, eventually, he did find the perfect spot.

A Mom’s Survival Guide to the First Day of Kindergarten

My first born is heading off to kindergarten. Yes, that little one there in my arms.

IMGP00601The whole notion makes me feel like I could throw up.  I have read and been touched by all the beautiful, heartfelt, sure to make you cry blogs. If you haven’t, just log into Facebook. I think there is a new one posted every two seconds. Ironically, since I am a sometime blogger myself, I have started boycotting blogs on this subject because, frankly, I need to keep my $#!+ together! But this is a BIG milestone, isn’t it?!?! I should write something. So here it is:

A mom’s survival guide to sending your child off to kindergarten.

SUPPLIES:

Mirror. You are going to have to practice your game face. So log into your Facebook account, read one of those super sappy sure to make you cry blogs in front of the mirror and practice smiling. It has to be convincing so you know you are going to need practice. Smile. If you can’t smile, paint one on. Go all clown if you have to. You can’t let that precious child see your fear.

Man_making_a_grimaceYou can practice making silly faces too. You can use them to distract both of you from the “What the heck is wrong with me?!?!” emotions you are certain to feel. And if you still can’t stop crying, then you can just say you must have pulled a muscle making those darn silly faces.

sunglassesdogSunglasses. You are going to cry. Trust me, there are only so many times you can tell your child you got something in your eye or, “Gee, my allergies are bad today” before they catch on. Start covering those teary eyes up now. And, for God’s sake, make certain you wear them to the bus stop on the first day. Maybe every day that first week. Or month.

sunglasses-woman-girl-facelessIf you are failing miserably, as I expect I will, you could try the Cousin It look.

praline-182861_1920Chocolate. I suggest the good kind. Not even the good Lindt chocolate that you can get at the grocery store. I am talking about going to a real Chocolatier and buying the $2 a piece kind. And lots of it. Your survival depends on this. Don’t be cheap.

Flaming_cocktailsWine, beer, hard liquor. Your choice. Maybe all three if you are really taking things hard. Heck, I may make myself a flaming martini to get through the ordeal! If you have other children, you may want to hire a babysitter so you can curl up into a ball and cry as you reminisce upon every single memory you have had with your children in the past 5 years.

UmbrellasUmbrellas. All kidding aside, call your friends. Invite those umbrellas over. These people have been where you are before. They will assure you survival is not only possible but certain and often times pleasant. They will highlight the absolutely wonderful things to come in this new future. They will hug you when you dwell incessantly on all the things you will miss. They will cry with you, smile with you, laugh with you and then tell you it’s time to pull it together because you have been ruminating for so long it is time to go to the bus stop to pick up your kids.

mismatched_mothers_dayYour own mom. Whether it is a phone call or a visit. Touch base with your own mother. I realized tonight as I sniffed my way through bedtime songs and was hanging onto my good night cuddles WAAAAAAAYYYYYYYY longer than was necessary, the long and loving hugs are one of the things I will miss most about having very young children. It struck me, “When is the last time I hugged my mom like this?!?!” I honestly can’t recall. I am resisting the urge to drive over there right now just to hug her because that would be a little nutty. ~But I know just what I will be doing tomorrow.

grass-730399_1920Focus. Focus on your child’s joy. Focus on your child’s growth. Focus on your child’s love. Focus on your child’s needs. Just as you always have and always will.

GOOD LUCK!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Whispering Neuron

One Whispering Neuron
One Whispering Neuron

Oh yeah, today was a pray for patience kind of day. All three kids were either melting down, dragging each other into trouble or bickering with one another. All morning long.

After about three hours of constant bickering and crying, all I wanted to do when Emerson came up to me in tears (once more) was throw the silly toys away. I nearly did. But a voice inside me said, “this is important to him.” These two silly green blocks are very important to him and if you want him to come to you later with the really big things you need to pave the way now.

Silly Little Blocks
Silly Little Blocks

Alexandre had been up, feeding or crying, since 5:00 am. It was 11:00 am. That’s six hours of my attention going mostly to him. Peppered in those six hours are the needs of two other kids being haphazardly addressed.

An exhausted mommy replies, “of course” to Silas’ request to go on a treasure hunt. This involves running around the first floor of our house finding “treasures” he has hidden. (Oh, my goodness, I always thought I was creative and imaginative, but I do not hold a candle to these kids! They can pretend ALL DAY LONG. It is exhausting, especially when you have had a crying baby in your arms for hours.) Today’s treasure? A sticker of a treasure chest. Stuck to our wood floors. As pirates often say, “Argh!” And do you know what?!?! I do not care. They aren’t bickering. They aren’t crying. For the first time today. Now THAT is a treasure!

Buried Treasure
Buried Treasure

This mother of three thing is hard. You are “everything” to three humans. Some days (thankfully, not even close to all days) you are just completely exhausted. Physically. Emotionally. Spiritually. Yet, you MUST summon more. And you do. Somehow you do. Because one sleepy neuron in your brain is still firing. It tells you these things that seem so insignificant in the scheme of things (two green blocks and going on a treasure hunt or 100 of them) are huge to an almost 2- and 5-year old. Especially ones who have very recently and graciously welcomed a new little brother into their lives. That one neuron nudges you, whispering “you are building the foundation now for your future with these boys.”

One Whispering Neuron
One Whispering Neuron

I want them to come to me later. Right now, wooden blocks and treasure hunts are the big things. Later, it will be bigger things like difficulties in school, troubles with friends, hard decisions. Eventually, it will be really big things like peer pressure, drugs, mental health issues.  They will have a much wider pool of people to choose from for help later on in life. If I am to have any hope they will seek my wisdom and guidance then, I must lay a solid foundation for being there for them NOW.

Building Blocks
Building Blocks

Eventually, all the little pieces will come together.  My actions today build something in the future.  -Much like building a tower or a train out of those silly little wooden blocks they have been fighting over all morning. I must remember that, as a mother, I am slowly building two things: Character within in each boy as well as a solid relationship with me. I could recklessly tell them the blocks are silly and unimportant or I can see the world from their eyes and recognize it is about so much more. Their need to create. Their need for space. Their need for recognition. Their need for love and attention. For me to show them that while Alexandre has needs their needs are still important to me as well. They will also learn how to be there for others, even when they are stressed and exhausted.

Yes, today, one whispering neuron reminded me how important it is to be a mother and just how lucky I am to be doing it to three young boys… Even on the hard days.

Now, if you will excuse me, it’s time to play astronauts. Apparently, the big red planet has a bouncey house only astronauts are allowed to use. I have just been informed our flight is about to take off!

Astronaut Alexandre's Mural
Astronaut Alexandre’s Mural