The Heather B. Hamilton Armstrong, a.k.a. Dooce, that I once knew

TW: suicide, mental illness, mommy blogs 

Please know as I process, I am mindful of Heather’s children. I’m not sure these words will ever cross their path. I am also a mom and want to show compassion for their mother. This is a post I never wanted to write. I thought by the time we were old, we would have worked this shit out. God, how I wish I could say these things to her face.

 It is not lost on me that I am a small piece in Heather Hamilton Armstrong, aka Dooce’s life experience.

I believe the Heather B. Hamilton Armstong that I knew is the Heather the internet fell in love with. Her life was a Shakespearean play, with a little of The Taming of the Shrew and a lot of Macbeth – ending in heartbreaking tragedy as a result of her Sisyphean struggle with mental illness. 

Heather and I were journal writers and record keepers. For me, this document is important. You see, I cared deeply about her. When things were good and when she was on, I could be completely unfiltered, our relationship was amazing. Our banter, gossip and deep conversations, inside jokes and eyerolls were a delicious treat. No one seemed to understand me like she did. That was her gift. She made me feel special. I miss it. I always will. 

I knew Heather Armstrong long before there were blogs, moms who blog, before smartphones, and way before people felt safe buying things online or making money from sponsorships and their social media streams.  Sadly, I would suggest that it was our relationship to blogging that ultimately tanked our friendship. In fact, we did not become friends as a result of our online personas. We became friends in real life because we were dating two dudes who lived in the same house.

We met in college. She met Kyle when he was born. When she and I made our way back to Utah, we lived one block away from each other — by choice. I visited her in the hospital when Leta was born. Leta wore Kyle and Eli’s hand-me-downs. My favorite was a fleece jacket made for me by a friend. We both worked in high tech. We both began blogging unrelatedly and at the same time. Heather was a brilliant writer. She understood me like no one else ever did. I bet she got a lot of people. She was whip smart and could be so absolutely kind. She cried at my sorrows and laughed at my weird sense of humor. 

Our college friendship was my favorite. Her boyfriend, Jonny Ebbert, lived with Dave. He was the person I texted when I received the news of her passing. When Heather and Jon E. began dating, we became a foursome. Dave and I lived together and I recall the day I was sitting in my room working on my laptop. Heather walked in with a stack of books. “Beth, can we talk?” I looked away from my laptop and said, “Of course.” “Beth, I think Jon and I are going to have sex. I went to the BYU library and checked out all of these science books.” We were all LDS and working our way out of being LDS. I said, “well the first thing you need to do is set aside all of those books.” We laughed about this for years.

During this same time I have fond memories of watching Law & Order because Heather loved Angie Harmon. Then we all loved Law & Order – only the Angie Harmon episodes. Heather was convincing that way. There was the time we were helping Heather and Jon E. move. Dave gave them this old, giant, wooden console television. Jon E. and Heather were driving a rented moving van. As they rounded the corner, from University Avenue to 500 North in Provo, Dave and I watched the television bounce out of the back of the van and skitter across the intersection. They stopped the van. We were all laughing hard. Heather and I kept saying, “I think I am going to pee my pants. Beth, I am totally peeing my pants.” (We may have.) Dave and Jon E. lifted the TV back into the van and we followed behind to see that it made it safely to its new home. The wood was scraped up, but it still worked! When Heather and Jon E. moved to LA, Dave and I visited them there a couple of times. We strolled through their cool West Hollywood neighborhood. When Heather mentioned having painful constipation, Dave and Jon went to the drug store to buy her an enema. She was certain to tell me how it worked. “Ok Beth. I read the instructions. I held the water in as long as I could. Oh my God. It worked. I pooped.” I loved that unfiltered and delightful Heather.

Years later, as we slow-rolled out of our friendship, Heather was ascending, stratospherically and ultimately became the most famous mommy blogger ever on planet earth. I wish she could have felt my pride. I wish she would have been able to feel my honest friendship. I was confused when she called me jealous. I had no idea why she could not feel my support. I wish she knew I was safe.  Mostly, I did not know or understand the voices that were in her head.

Let me be clear: I also did not know how to handle fame, or rather, my weird relationship to fame. The constant onslaught of people trying to get closer to her through me was confusing. Have you ever had a best friend suddenly become famous? I made mistakes. I experienced Heather’s rise in our neighborhood, online and via our mutual friends. I had a neighbor who constantly complained to me about Heather and Jon. She would walk over to me and say, “can you believe Jon and Heather.” I should not have listened. I had friends who were annoyingly and stridently neutral. I wish Heather was able to understand me. I wish she did not feel the need to actively shun me. I wish our neutral friends had picked sides, or better, picked her. We were no longer equal in our friendship. She was famous and from what she communicated to me, she wanted me to know that it could never be equal. 

The sycophants were also real. Bloggers reached out to me so they could get closer to her. It was all new territory. It was the Wild West of the internet. I should not get a pass. However, those neighbors, friends and internet people who used my relationship with Heather to leverage their relationship with her are also responsible.

In the purest form of the word sycophant, they used Heather to get what they want and to get a price of what she was having. I am ashamed of the moments I fell for it. I am sad I got caught up in it. It didn’t take me long, however, to see how unhealthy and unkind it was. Heather was not something to use to prop myself up. Heather was my friend, albeit a difficult friend.

I also helped build the wedge. 

Near the end, I was frustrated that our friendship was not withstanding all of the craziness. I wrote something. It stung. I hurt her feelings — deeply. I told myself she could handle it. Her words, especially the ones about me and Dave, were often biting and cruel. I was wrong. She told me she cried for a month, that she could not get out of bed for a month. “Beth, you are my very best friend. I don’t know if I can forgive you.” 

Honestly, I thought she was being overly dramatic. Maybe she was? But if you are going to expend the energy to be that dramatic, might you be suffering? I did not get it. I didn’t grasp her mental illness. I make no excuse for her cruelty. She was brutal. I remember, and to quote her, “I will send my minions” to DOX anyone who trolled her or “hurt her feelings.” She hated to be opposed or pushed back on. This was no longer the Heather I knew. I cannot state this enough. 

I was terrified of her, yet I didn’t get it. I did not understand that maybe there was actually some truth to her words. Maybe she really was upset for a month and she really did struggle to get out of bed. I get depressed. I have never known a kind of suffering that causes you to stay in bed for a month. I did not get it. I did not comprehend.

What I also did not realize then and what I see so clearly now is that there was nothing I could do to fix Heather, to make her trust me, trust my intent or heal her brokenness. I am just not that powerful. My guess is we were destined to end, which sucks. There was so much I loved about her. I feel selfish. I am not sure she could be the person I wanted her to be.

May 10, 2023, I received a text from my friend Sarah, with a link to an Instagram post: “I assume you saw this but just in case.” As the world was learning, I also learned that Heather B. Hamilton Armstrong had suicided. 

Tears streamed down my face. I did not know I was crying. Words came out of my mouth. I couldn’t understand what I was saying. My hand picked up my phone and my fingers began texting; words missing words and incomplete sentences. It felt like my fingers, my words, my tears were already grieving something my brain was not ready to process. 

Oh Heather.” I said out loud. For her, for her children, my heart broke.

…Salt Lake City is a small town. Despite that fact, and that we had lived near each other for more than a decade since our breakup, it had been years since I was in contact with her. I still hopefully believed we would run into each other at the grocery store. I realized she was troubled. She pushed healthy people away. It was my observation that unhealthy people held her hostage and did not push back. It was my experience that when you did push back, eventually she would cut you off.  

Now all these years later, she seemed isolated and enabled. I know it would have been impossible to reconcile. Yet, by the end, and from the casual observer, it seemed her current boyfriend had built a firewall between her and the rest of the world. I wonder if he loved her or was more enamored with the status she provided him. I hope he loved her. For her, I will say my observations out loud. I will never know. What I do know is something my husband, Dave, shared, “She still has it. Her writing is so good. I am just sorry she felt so desperately lonely…We were just down the street.

The last words I spoke to Heather were, “fine, you fucking whore.” Then I hung up the phone. We never spoke again. I always believed we would. 

My sons were six and four. I remember it vividly. I can see their tiny, desperate faces as they urgently clung to my legs: “Mommy, why is that lady screaming at you? Why is she calling you embarrassment? What does embarrassment mean? Mommy, please don’t cry.” Terrified, they began to sob. Heather’s shrieks stole the oxygen. I could not speak. I was shaking. I was shook. I was afraid. I could not get a hold of Dave. So I called my Mormon bishop, even though I didn’t go to church. He was also my friend. I wailed. Between gasps and heaves, I told him what had happened. I don’t know why. 

At that moment, I was a wobbly shadow of myself. Looking back, I wish I could have done it better. I wish I had held my boundaries or had more compassion or both. I also wish that in that moment I had the wherewithal to forgive both of us. We were both dealing with our own shit and traumas. Mostly, I wish I understood: what was going on with Heather had nothing to do with me. I did not understand her rage. I cannot express its power. We were in a feedback loop. It was a mess. It went well beyond a normal fight between two best friends, even a really bad fight. 

Since that night and through a lot of therapy, I have come to realize that we were both hurting. We were both triggered. We both flooded as a result. I had a dysregulated stress response to Heather as a result of the past abuse I experienced and my own unrelated traumas. At that moment, I could not see past her very loud screams and cutting, cruel words. This was not the Heather I knew. I one-hundred percent did not get it. It was rough (understatement). Our exchange left scars that took years (on my end) to repair and speak of without feeling extreme anxiety. 

I will carry this. 

At one time, and for quite some time, we were best friends. And then we weren’t. 

Now as Heather fades away, I believe we all know what an absolute tragedy this is. I don’t feel any peace. I hope she does. May she find rest.

(PS: I am currently in Japan and wanted to get this up before another day passed. I would like to add links to this post/and maybe more edits.)

Amsterdam to Melbourne then on to Sydney

Our bags are packed. We are (almost) ready to go. We fly home tomorrow. We will arrive on Thanksgiving afternoon. We ordered our Thanksgiving dinner while we were still in Melbourne, from a popular and hip restaurant in Salt Lake. Eli has graciously offered to pick it up so we will  have a feast ready when we roll into town.  (Thank you, Easy E! ❤️)

Five weeks plus one day ago, Dave and I set out for our epic (work trip) adventure. We flew to England then Amsterdam (where Dave’s wallet remains), and then to Melbourne, Australia via Chicago and Los Angeles. On our Chicago to Los Angeles flight, I glanced at the lady sitting behind Dave. She was pilates-fit. Her forehead looked pressed like a starched shirt and plumped like all the best fillers LA can serve up. As I glanced, she glared, which forced me to abruptly move my head.

“Wait? That looks like Christopher Loyd, the guy from the “Back to the Future” movies.”

I turned my head back and quickly googled Christopher Lloyd and his wife, which I believe is his fifth wife. The woman sitting behind Dave looked exactly like her photo pictured in my search. It was Christopher Lloyd. Dave did his best to take a photo surreptitiously. As we exited the flight, Chris (that is what his wife called him) said, “Chris, will you grab my hat?” He did. We were inches from one another. I made eye contact. I smiled; he smiled back. Truth be told, if it had not been Christopher Lloyd, I would have started talking to him, but it just seems weird to make chitchat with a celebrity.

Me making eye contact with the actual Christopher Lloyd

It has been a long, strange, happy, exhausting adventure. The time flew by and often I threatened to fly home:

“Dave, I think you should stay. I already looked at flights and it will only cost 65$ US to change my ticket. You will be fine!”

Dave was never thrilled that I wanted to go home. I wasn’t necessarily homesick. I was tired of traveling. I know. I am the one who is supposed to love, love, love travel, planes, lounges, foreign grocery stores, and exploring new destinations. I do. In fact, this trip has been largely wonderful. 

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Me in front of the women’s hospital Melbourne

One of the sources of my malaise was that, as soon as we landed in Melbourne, well actually like two days later, I was bitten by a completely insane flying Australian insect. Dave and I were walking to a new park. I was bitten between the Melbourne Women’s Hospital and Royal Park. I felt the sting immediately. I also noticed the accompanying and prompt blood blister that appeared on my arm. The blister was followed by swelling, big red bumps and strange red spots. I truly wanted to itch my arm right off my body.

Then I was assured,

“Beth, it’s inflammation. You know you are allergic to everything!”

It is true. I am allergic to a lot of things. I was not dead yet, so I assumed I would be ok. 

Docklands, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

That was until like three nights later. It was 1:03AM. I shot right out of bed grabbing my throat. I could not breathe.

“Dave, I cannot breathe!”

I tried to point to the location of my inhaler and any other medication I thought might help. Dave tried to help. We were a disoriented mess: two people in REM sleep, startled awake to a medical emergency. I could not catch my breath. I could see it in Dave’s face. He was scared. I was scared. In seconds I went from coughing uncontrollably to wheezing. I sounded like a crackly-chested seal. I asked Dave to put my Apple Watch on so he could check my oxygen levels. They were good, which gave me peace of mind.

I also knew what it was. I have asthma. I was having an asthma attack. Asthma has never woken me out of a sound sleep. I used my inhaler. Usually after two inhaler puffs I start to feel better. I was not feeling better. I could not catch my breath.

I asked Dave (repeatedly),

“Why am I having an asthma attack? We are in a hotel!”

Docklands, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Tears flooded my eyes. Then they covered my face. I looked at Dave and asked him to look at me. Then I said,

“I need you to hear this. I am really scared. I also want you to know that I have been in regular contact with Eli and have been struggling to get a hold of Kyle. A few hours ago Kyle messaged me. I am so glad. See, if I die tonight, I am glad for him that we connected.”

I am not trying to be dramatic to be dramatic. The dramatic moment and the fear Dave and I felt, stands all on its own. 

Flying Foxes, Yarra Bend Park, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Seriously, I have never felt the sustained loss of breath like I did right then. I tried to calm myself by sucking on a cough drop. I took some other drugs and noticed the prednisone my allergy doctor urged me to keep on deck:

“Beth, you travel all over the world. I would hate to see you suffer.” I settled on the couch and asked Dave to cue up Netflix. I followed with, “I will not sleep. I will be sitting upright watching a show.”

Flying Fox (Fruit Bat) Chau Chak Wing Museum, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

True to my word, I sat upright all night long. Every time my head dropped, I started coughing and then I would choke as I tried to catch my breath. It completely sucked. A few episodes in, I noticed that Dave slept with the door open in our “upgraded from a room to a suite” room.

“He will hear me. I will not die alone.” I was relieved. He tells me, “Beth, I did not sleep. Instead, I listened.” 

The next morning we were exhausted. I was also feeling better. We decided to go to a pharmacy for more meds. On our way out of the hotel, I asked the lovely front desk person where the nearest hospital was in case I needed to make a visit. That is when they talked to me about allergy season:

“Well mate, it’s really bad this year. And we had a thunderstorm last night.” What did not compute to my northern hemisphere-brain is that it is spring here in Australia (and the rest of the Southern Hemisphere.)

“You have asthma? You need to be really careful this week. There have been warnings all over the news.” The front desk person stated.

“WHAT?” I said.

“Yes. They call it Thunderstorm Asthma. It is really bad.”

I really thought they were joking. I was like, “Thunderstorm Asthma. That sounds like something from Mad Max.”

Beth, (because we were on a first name basis), you have to take it seriously. Please be careful. PEOPLE DIE!” 

Hours later the hotel sent me a news article and that we were indeed visiting during the height of  the apocalyptic phenomenon known as Thunderstorm Asthma, which involves high levels of grass pollen. And grass is the thing I am most allergic to. Oof! Yes. You read that correctly. In 2016, 3,400 Melbourne locals were hospitalized and ten people died. I decided to do all the things I do to calm down my inflammation response, which included asking our hotel for a non-feather blanket and foam pillows. After receiving approximately ten additional feather pillows and after speaking with the night time housekeeping dude, (who also assured me that “you know Covid is a hoax,)” well, after he spoke to his staff and I asked him if we could avoid the Covid conversations,

“I really like you. You have been good to us. Let’s just agree to disagree on all the Covid conspiracies.”

He reluctantly, yet sweetly complied and two foam pillows were delivered to our room. 

I survived. We truly had a lovely time. We were in Melbourne for two weeks. While there we explored the Southern Coast. We also explored Melbourne. Every night we set a goal of walking another direction, to another park, museum or landmark. We loved the National Gallery, walking back and forth over all the bridges that cross the Yarra River, walking through the Docklands neighborhood at night, and peering down seeing beautiful graffiti line the ally way. Our favorite city grocery store (Woolworths) is located on the 2nd floor of the Southern Cross train station. And then the day we bailed on the rental car, we had the amazing adventure of learning that flying fox is just a cute word for toddler-sized fruit bats. We learned this because on the edge of Melbourne is Yarra Bend Park where 50,000 fruit bats gather and sleep in the trees. In the evening all the bats fly a few miles and hang in the trees at Melbourne’s Botanic gardens. We walked under for what seemed like miles underneath and near those bat filled trees. One fruit bat pooped inches from my head. It is the stuff of nightmares.

We connected with dear friends. One hosted us at their beautiful farm, which included wrangling and penning sheep, kissing a lama, petting horses and wrestling a gigantic piece of black netting over six large fruit trees to keep the birds out. Our other gave us a tour of their stylishly cool and very grown up office space. 

Today we are in Sydney. We have been here for eight days. Sydney has been good to me and my reactive self. We enjoyed our favorite Messina gelato/sorbetto, our favorite Sunday ferry rides. This time we took the ferry to Watsons Bay where we visited Morton National Park and walked to Pointer Gap Lookout. We visited the Chau Chak Wing Museum at The University of Sydney, walked new neighborhoods and familiar one. We also discovered that are in town during the blooming of the vivid purple flowered Jacaranda trees, and found a groove that made Sydney feel right. In fact, just last night near Bondi Beach we enjoyed dinner hosted by Dave’s delightful French colleague and her delightful French partner, who both love to surf and stated,

“Beth, the way you say that, you get the timing. Are you sure you are not French?”

That was one of the best compliments I have ever received: two French lovers who relocated to Sydney told me, the American, that  I remind them of their homeland. Dave chimed in,

“She is. Beth has family from France.”

Then they said they would protect me from Melbourne and its allergens next time we are here: “We will watch Beth.” I quickly interjected,

“Dave, I will connect with a Hemsworth brother until you return.” We all laughed. It did feel like home. 

Thank you, Sydney! Dave and I have been staying in the lovely Darlinghurst neighborhood, which is east of Sydney’s Central Business District (CBD/downtown), if I have my coordinates correct. Each morning, wherever we are, I wake up with Dave and walk him to work. This is the first trip that I have done every single day, except on thunderstorm-asthma day. Today, I walked Dave down Darlinghurst Road, took a left on Williams, and walked down the big hill past the giant Coca Cola sign. Then as we did our usual diagonal walk through Hyde Park to Pitt Street, I was filled with melancholy.

“Dave, I knew this would happen and I am not sure you will believe me. I recognize I threatened to go home, especially during the allergy stuff, but come on, that is totally understandable, right? Today, I feel a little sad. I am not sure I am ready to go. I really like the rhythm. I have enjoyed my time here.”

Sydney’s Jacaranda Trees, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

True to our boys’ assessment,

“Mom, you love-hate everything!”

This trip has been no different. I love connecting with old friends. I hate thunderstorm asthma. I love where we are staying. I hate that it was not clean when we arrived. I am sad to leave. I am really excited to get back home. Five weeks is long. Flying from London to Melbourne is really long. Five weeks also flew  by. 

This evening Dave & I had dinner in our Darlinghurst neighborhood at an amazing place with an awesome name, #eatfuh. Yes, that is what it is called. We returned to our rental making plans for tomorrow’s flight. After stress eating 3 gluten free Hob Knobs I picked up in London, I felt a disturbance in the force. It took me another five minutes to realize my jacket was missing. Dave and I walked back to #eatfuh. As we stepped inside, our sweet waiter was holding something in his arms. It was my jacket. Thank you Sydney.

#eatfuh: dave with our waiter, the one who rescued my jacket, Darlinghurst, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

We arrived at the airport this morning. As fate, or Hollywood, would have it, I spotted another actor: Richard E. Grant.

Richard E. Grant (Wikipedia)

I was like,

“Hey Dave, it’s that actor guy. I really like him. He looks better in person.”

And now we are waiting for our flight. ❤️ Until next time Australia.

Dave wanted me to add this photo of Richard E. Grant as Loki so I did.

Contemplating Life In Our London Hotel Lobby

(Me in the Lobby)

We are currently staying at a modern, well-styled, fairly new, and well-trafficked hotel. As a result of the high traffic, I think the hotel feels older than it really is. It is located at the edge of the newish, trendy Spitalfields neighborhood. Spitalfields is a gritty, urbanized, hip area of East London. As we left our train the other night, two local London girls asked me where we were staying. “Near Aldgate East Station.” They looked concerned and as we parted ways they said, “Please be safe.” So far so good. 

(July 2022, Spitalfields, East London, United Kingdom)
(Ocotber, 2022, Spitalfields,East London, United kingdom)

We love the neighborhood. We like our hotel. Our hotel is close to Dave’s London office. We are surrounded by graffiti-covered streets, immense cultural diversity, yummy noodle restaurants, bronze elephant statues on sidewalks, and the super cool Spitalfields market. We also like that our hotel is not in London’s tourist neighborhoods such as Covent Garden or The Shard. Better, we like that we are amongst the people, the Londoners, or that is what we hope.

(October, 2022, Me & Dave, Straford-upon-Avon, England)

Here I sit in the lobby – for the second time. A few moments ago I gathered all of my work stuff, left my room, took the elevator to the wrong floor, made my way to the right floor, and found a semi-quiet place (there are no quiet spaces). I pulled out my cords, my laptop and my giant Bose noise canceling headphones. I looked for an outlet and began plugging in my 100% dead laptop when I realized there was a problem. I was in another country. I did not have my adapter. In fact, I left my US to UK adapter up in the room. I admit I actually tried charging my laptop from the very tiniest backup battery. That was a bust and I am sure someone will tell me that I was lucky I didn’t short out my laptop. I didn’t. I paused to think if there was any other way I could just stay put: “Can I work on my phone?” I knew the answer. As a result, I packed up my laptop, giant Bose headphones, cords and batteries. I walked up to the front desk and asked the dude, “Hey, do you have an adapter I can borrow?” In the self righteous tone of a pubescent teenager, this grown man said, “Um, no. There is a Tesco down the street. Maybe they will have one.” I looked at him, perplexed. Sensing my confusion, or sensing he had crossed a line, he said, “Well, we used to sell them here.” I assured him that I have an adapter in my room seven floors up (in this nine story hotel). “Well, why don’t you just go get it? Did you lose your key? I will make you another key.” I took a deep breath, looked him directly in the eyes, and responded, “It was just easier to ask you.” 

I grabbed my two backpacks, (I travel heavy), and made my way back to our room where I promptly scared the lovely housekeeping lady, who was quietly cleaning our room. I quickly pulled the adapter out of the wall, flashed it at her, apologized while thanking her and left. 

(Us, Upper Slaughter, Cotswolds, England, United Kingdom)

I am back in the lobby. My laptop is plugged in. So is my phone. I am wearing my giant Bose headphones, listening to music very loud, and trying not to get too distracted by Social Media. I cannot resist. I skim Twitter. I interact. I fall down a rabbit hole. Oh no!

My mind is back looking at my laptop. My body never left. We are in London until Saturday. First, we were supposed to take a sleeper train to Edinburgh. As a result of some last minute business plans, we switched our plans to fly to Berlin. There was trouble with our Berlin plane tickets. I often think (hope) Dave married me because I am flexible and in seconds, I am willing to change plans and then change plans again and again. Now this weekend we will head to the South Downs. I believe we are staying on a farm that has horses and llamas.

(Us, Beachy Head, East Sussex, England, United Kingdom)
(Kyle, Beachy Head, East Sussex, England, United Kingdom)

I have a jet lag headache and could use a little horse therapy. We also plan on driving to Beachy Head, a stunning place covered in rolling hills covered by vivid green grasses, lined with dramatic white chalk cliffs in near Eastbourne in East Sussex on the south England coast. We traveled there eight years ago with our boys and Dave’s mom. It was a rainy, magical day and I am desperate to feel some melancholic nostalgia. Consequently, there is nothing like a visual/sense memory to get you in the feels. Crossing my fingers. Time flies. I miss those days. I ache for them. [insert deep, longing breath here]

(Me on our flight: San Francisco to London Heathrow)

As you can imagine via my sentiments in the above paragraph, for me (and many), traveling as a recent, empty nester is painful and a little strange. (By the way, I also feel like I am writing a non-sequitur, letter-from-camp to the world.):

Hello World, 

Now just traveling as the two of us, Dave (my husband for those of you who don’t know) are figuring our new life out. Happily, we are making serious breakthroughs in our jet lag issues. We (both) own that we can be super crabby bitches as we adjust to new time zones. Dave admits that he did not have to be such an ass when he gave me shit about leaving my big bottle of sparkling water in at our Cotswold hotel. I quickly apologized after criticizing him for leaving his special allergy meds back in Utah. “Dude, I reminded you like seventeen times. It was on our list! How could you forget?” “Beth, I looked at the pills. They were both tiny, white and round. They looked the same.” “OH MY GOD! Didn’t you read the bottle?” “Why would I do that when I could look at the pills?” [insert my head exploding here]

(Dave, National Trust, Snowhills Manor and Garden, Broadway, England)

I know what you are thinking. I am totally justified. We all wish Dave would have read the name of the prescription on the pill bottle. Even though he will edit this before I post it, please don’t tell Dave we all know that I am right. Rest assured, Dave and I also stopped at Boots, the local UK pharmacy yesterday. And as they say here in the United Kingdom, “everything is sorted.”

(Dave, Great Coxwell Barn, Faringdon, United Kingdom)

Moving on, please also know that as I mentioned, we had a breakthrough, I mean, days of breakthroughs. We started with admitting we were really tired and irrational. “Dave, I am really mean. Wow!” We pushed forward, recognizing that we both could be more patient with one another and on to forgiveness. “Beth, I am sorry I said something about the Queen and laundry and the cost of laundry. The Queen is dead and you are really good at laundry.” Ok. That is not exactly what Dave said. He did however apologize for his mean laundry comment and yes, his comment also mentioned the Queen in reference to me doing laundry, may she rest in peace. 

(From a Memorial Poster for Queen Elizabeth, Great Coxwell Barn, Faringdon, United Kingdom)

Ultimately, I think the observations of me and my life are funny, better, they only grab a slice of reality. I am sure I do the same to others. In our case, my friends and family are always like, “Beth, you love to travel. You always travel. It’s always happy happy joy joy magical wonder.” They are correct. I love to travel. I am not sure if they understand why and I am not sure it matters if they do. 

(Dave & H’angry Me on the Tube after our first train broke down, London, United Kingdom)

In case you are curious, I love to travel because it is extremely difficult. Every day is an unexpected puzzle and all of the puzzles push me out of my comfort zone. Whether it be sorting through severe melancholy, finding the correct adapters, remembering the sparkling water, or trying not to kill your husband because he cannot read a pill bottle and then explains why not reading a pill bottle is the most logical thing one can do, well, traveling places me in a position to learn, to communicate, to figure my shit out, to work on my marriage and to see the world from someone else’s point of view. 

What a gift travel is. 

love, Beth & Dave

(The most amazing couple I saw from afar, National Trust, Snowhills Manor and Garden, Broadway, England)

I wanted to take a family picture

I sent a message in our sibling group text. I said something like, “at our dinner Friday evening I hope we can take some sibling group photos.” Of course I thought to myself: I bet mom would love it if we took a picture of all six kids together. I hope we can make this happen.  

After years of battling illness, my oldest sister, Brenda’s husband, Ted, passed away. My family was gathering in Minnesota for his funeral. We would all be in Minnesota at the same time for less than twenty-four hours. My oldest brother, Brian’s, plane landed in Minneapolis at 5:30PM on Friday and my flight departed at 5:14PM on Saturday. Friday evening was the time to make our photo op happen. 

Getting us all together in the same place has not been easy. The last time the six of us kids were together was at a very carefully orchestrated, boundary-intense family reunion we held in Minnesota eight years ago. At the time we planned pictures for a Saturday morning. I recall one of my sisters was not in the mood for family pictures and asked if we could reschedule. I was so grateful  when she showed up to the site of our photo shoot: the backyard of our childhood home. During the shoot, we managed some happy jumping photos (my personal favorites). Before our family reunion, it had been fifteen years since we all were in the same space. (I believe it was for Brenda’s and Ted’s wedding.) 

We are much older now. I am keenly aware that this may be the very last time all six of us kids will be in the same place, that is to say, alive and together. Maybe that is why my mind drifts to my best friend Marianne, and the picture she recently shared. The image is beautifully heartbreaking. In the photo, Marianne, her twin brother Michael, and oldest brother David, stand around the casket of her youngest brother, Jay. Jay had suffered a tragic accident two years earlier and had finally succumbed to his injuries. In this photo, Marianne’s brother David looks completely disheveled and grief-stricken. Michael appears earnest, eager and sweet. I may be partial. (I totally am.) Marianne, who stood between her two living brothers, looks as if she is not only holding them up; she looks like she is also holding up the world. Michael is standing next to Jay, (and appearing to act as if Jay were still alive). Instead, Jay lies peacefully in his coffin. I had not seen Jay look this good since before his accident. Then I wondered how long it had been since they had a picture together. Their mom passed away in 2006. Maybe it was then. 

I am sure there is a connection and that my plea to take a sibling photo is because in truth, I didn’t want Marianne’s sibling picture to become my own reality.

LIfe is real. Life is uncomfortable. Life is beautiful. Life is ugly. What my life is not is a carefully crafted photo of six adults standing shoulder to shoulder, smiling, while appearing to exist in perfect harmony. 

Here is the deal: My brothers, sisters and I are not a close, connected group. We are a bit broken and bruised. Occasionally one of us goes to therapy and sometimes others of us seem to heal. Other times, we seem excruciatingly awkward and completely weird. Then when things seem to be smoothing out and settling down, someone inevitably does or says something that rips us apart, intentionally or cluelessly. (I believe my family thinks that someone is me.) Of course, we get triggered. We retreat. We lash out. We struggle to forgive. We are determined to hold our boundaries. When boundaries fail, we disconnect, quietly relieved as we return to our own lives. These lines of hurt, regret, and misunderstanding go every direction. So do the lines of love, understanding and forgiveness,  at least, that is what I hope and want to believe. 

This time we left our lives and came from near and far to be with my sister, Brenda. As I made my way to Minnesota, I pleaded to the heavens and really to anyone who would hear me, “I hope we can set aside our differences for a five minute photo shoot.” 

It was me. I wanted to take a picture together. We are all adults. There was no mother, no father or parent insisting we show up, comb our hair, smile and show our teeth. (I had a huge gap in my teeth and never liked to show them.) It was our choice to be there.

Before making my way to Minnesota, I coordinated with my sister Brenda and brother Bill for Friday evening’s family get-together. Brenda made a few suggestions. So did I. Bill is my other brother. He has currently blocked me from seeing his Facebook posts and has actively avoided speaking to me since I flew to Minnesota for his wedding reception three years ago. I do not know why.

I care about him. I worry about him. I love him. Long ago I considered him a best friend. This same brother suggested a lovely, local park near his house. We agreed on the park. As we texted back and forth, I took deep, careful breaths, hoping I would not text something that would set him off. I did not want to blow it, and I also realize that writing my reality here may also blow it now. I knew what a big deal it was that he was exchanging texts with Brenda and me. Nevertheless, for me, my sanity is about truth. So, I tried to be true to myself.

Then the Friday evening family event planning continued. After making various food suggestions, we decided on pizza. I offered to order it and then naively realized that offering to order the pizza meant I needed to pay for the pizza. I was frustrated (with myself). I struggled with the assumption that I would pay for the pizza. As such, I believe my unresolved baggage allowed me to believe that somehow my family was taking advantage of me. As a result, I fumbled for words and fumbled on my actions. I made a suggestion that everyone pitch in and then made a joke about ordering Dominos instead of the more expensive Punch pizza.

I am sure I annoyed someone. Bill stopped responding. Soon my mom was texting me privately to ask, “who is paying for the pizza,” I also privately shared with her my gaffe. As I was responding to her in a private text, she responded in the group text that she would pay for the pizza. I know she does not have the money to pay for a pizza party. I felt selfish, ashamed and incapable. Quickly, I texted everyone regarding how sweet mom is and said, “Of course, I will pay for the pizza.” Of course mom followed with, “I will pitch in.” And finally, I took time to process all those deep and buried feelings. After downloading to Dave what we now affectionately call, “Pizza-gate,” I realized I would be ok. I took a deep breath and Friday night I ordered six Punch pizzas. We ate three.

I think it was Thursday when Bill shared that my step father would be at the pizza picnic. My step dad and my mom have been divorced for thirty years. 

Friday night arrived. My step dad and a woman who is apparently his much younger girlfriend arrived with him. She was wearing a black t-shirt with an American flag and the word, “freedom” printed across her chest. She spoke confidently in a thick New York accent and vaped her way through the evening. I brought Marianne, who also lives in Minnesota. Marianne wore a blue sundress. I was nervous and tried to talk about anything other than uncomfortable family issues, politics or religion. Naturally (not naturally) I talked about board games. Trying a little self-deprecating humor, I said and I quote, “The only area I am competitive in is board games.” My mom quickly piped in, “That is not true. You are a very competitive person.” I cringed and tried to defend myself. Then I tried to change the subject. I felt stupid for trying to defend myself. I stopped talking. I think it was Brian who interrupted and said, “Beth, what is your favorite board game?” I appreciated the redirect.

Bill was a no show. Sure, I wondered if it was because my stepdad was there. I did not want to infer. Instead, I asked why. I asked where he was. I asked if he would be at the funeral the next day. I asked if he was ok. I hope he is ok. I also made light of him not being there. Then I asked about taking a group picture. Brian assured me, “Beth, I will make sure he is in the sibling photo.”

*By the way this might be a good time (or not) to mention that Brian and I have had an incredibly rocky relationship, which includes his ex wife accusing me of tongue-kissing their daughter, and then a whole runaway train of accusations akin to the “Satanic Panic,” (*that time in the 1980’s where daycare providers, Sunday school teachers and parents were wrongly accused of performing all sorts of creepy, satanic rituals on small children, like making daycare kids travel down a toilet drain to a torture room): 

As far as the accusations made on me go, I did not tongue-kiss their daughter, nor did I do all the other stupid stuff they accused me of doing, except I did drink Diet Coke in their home & I did post a picture online with one of their daughters, her newborn daughter and my sons sitting on a couch together. And no, my family did not come out all guns-a-blazing in my defense. Better (and more confusing), by sidestepping the issues, I think they perpetuated the narrative that I am bad, manipulative and that I was guilty. Consequently, these crazy indictments left a rift in our family so wide that I am uncertain how we will ever heal. As a result, from my perspective, Brian and I are not ok.

All this to say that before traveling to Minnesota and also at our dinner family Friday night, I mentioned to Brenda, who does know most of the story, that Brian and I would be ok. “Watch us talk to each other. We both know this moment is about you, not us. We will put aside our stuff and be kind. Watch.” And true to my words, Brian and I were kind. (In fairness, we have had practice.) He maintains that he has no issue with me. I definitely still have issues with him. He was emphatic, so I decided to trust him when he insisted that he would talk to Bill and that Bill would pose for a sibling photo at the funeral the next day.  

The funeral was beautiful. I sat to the right side of Brenda. I did not hold her hand. I touched her shoulder and kept telling her (during pauses in the services) what a lovely funeral this was. It was. Ted’s brother Kim and his niece Erica spoke. I teared up when I spoke to Erica and her sister, Melissa. I felt seen when Kim’s step-daughters talked to me about religion and race. (Thank you ladies.) My cousins on my mom’s side also came. Brian pointed out that they were not speaking to each other. One of them quickly left after the other arrived. 

Bill, his new wife, and one of Bill’s sons arrived right before the funeral began. I tried to speak to him. It was awkward. He did not respond. I don’t know. Maybe he did not hear me?  In the family prayer which is held right before the service, I handed him a little paper bag filled with postcards. On several occasions a few years back, Bill asked me to buy him postcards on all of my travels. “I collect them.” He said. As a result, I spent many trips searching for the right postcard and then searching for a post office so I could send them to Bill. Bill rarely, if ever, told me he received them. Dave often asked, “Does Bill like your postcards? You really worry and spend a lot of time trying to get this whole postcard thing right.” “I don’t know.” I said. “He doesn’t say anything unless I ask and then I feel weird asking.” One day after spending hours trying to find just the right postcard, Dave proclaimed, “Beth, enough! You don’t even know if he wants you sending him these postcards. I wish Bill would say something. I wish he would let you know. Please stop.” So I stopped — until last spring. I wanted to offer an olive branch so-to -speak. I wanted Bill to know I care.

Consequently, on a recent trip, I searched for postcards that I thought would make him smile. I brought those postcards to the funeral and handed them to Bill. I said, “Here are some postcards I picked out especially for you. I hope you like them.” He stared at me for a second and looked away. Maybe he said something. I am not sure. Maybe he nodded. It felt cold. Then I took a deep breath. My guess is that even if I did upset Bill that ultimately whatever is going on is not about me. It’s about what Bill is dealing with and working through.

After the funeral, Bill, his son and his new wife stood in the gymnasium, where Brenda’s local church congregation was holding a luncheon. My mom and Brian went to talk with them. I wanted to talk with them too. I tried to speak to them twice and was feeling super self conscious and defeated. I looked away. I looked back and saw them walking out. Brian and my mom followed them out of the building. To answer your question: No. We did not get our six-siblings-together picture. Today I am certain we never will. (*Maybe my feelings will change.) Seconds later, one of my sisters turned toward me, hugged me and cried, “You aren’t going to leave without saying goodbye, are you?” I assured her that is why I was standing there and hugging her now. “I came to say goodbye. I love you.” I said. Then I left.

Now thousands of miles away on a trip with Dave and Kyle, I think I have been able to process. What seems clear is that my family was upended by layers of grief. Nevertheless, they seemed to feel more pain as a result of Bill’s confusing behavior rather than the loss of Brenda’s husband, (or maybe I just felt more pain as a result of Bill’s confusing rejection). It makes sense. Brenda’s husband, Ted, was terminally ill and in so much discomfort. His death, as hard as it is and probably will be, for my sister, came as a tender mercy. My brother is still alive and we seem irrevocably broken.

At the end of this day and after reconnecting with my family, I recognize that perspectives’ and vantage points of every individual vary and will probably vary now. I hope for compassion and forgiveness. I always will. I also own and realize I could have gathered the other five of us siblings and taken a picture together. I really wish I had. 

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Guns in America: Can We Do Anything? (My Story)

Regardless of where you land on the gun debate, in America the phrase, “gun violence” is a huge trigger. Historically when I write about guns, I get hassled. Better, traditionally, if you hassle me, my go to was to shut up, run or redact.

Nevertheless, the fact that people are dying as a result of mass shootings is far more important than my own discomfort. Gun control is personal (for all of us). In my case, I have these two beautiful and amazing sons. They are (obviously) impacted by the world around them, including gun culture. In fact, neither of them has known anything other than a culture in which school shootings are the norm, gun debates are common, and their friends encourage them to buy a gun, “for safety.” Recently, one of my sons was even considering purchasing a gun “for protection,” (when he is traveling alone). Of course my mind races to all of the terrible conclusions: I am worried about him getting in over his head, unintentionally shooting someone, or in a fit of uncertainty, using a gun to kill himself.

Because my sons are under the age of twenty-five, which means their brains are not fully developed, I imagine it would not be possible for them have completely reasoned through the consequences of owning a gun. Instead, they have been forced to navigate the intense gun culture they are surrounded by. Recently, in fact, a boy my son knew was shot to death in Salt Lake City. He was sixteen. That is when we learned that “Utah has no waiting period, no magazine capacity limit, no limit on number of firearms per purchase, no restrictions on the type or features on a firearm, ie, flash hider, bayonet lug, pistol grip, detachable magazines, collapsing stocks, etc…”

In addition to growing up in a gun-loving state, as a result of the more 311,000 students who have died as a result of gun violence in schools since Columbine, my sons have also been required to learn what to do in case of a school shooting, practicing active shooter drills more than I practiced Tornado drills as a child. (*I grew up in the Midwest.)  Moreover, my sons have seen that not only can anyone, stable or not, easily purchase assault rifles (at age 18, even when they are not allowed to purchase handguns until they are 21), they have witnessed a disturbing school-shooter phenomenon (perpetuated on social media):

Considering other people (predominantly young white men) have gained infamy shooting up a school, “unhinged” (*not necessarily mentally ill, only 11% are), school shootings are contagious, and shooters have a playbook: “Here is what I do when I am upset: “I log on to a social media platform and begin live streaming the massacre or I text peers to share my plan (and after it is too late for them to do anything to stop it), then I take my gun to school and kill as many people as possible.” 

Iraq War Memorial, Santa Barbara, California

On April 19, 1999, Dave and I were in a bad car accident. At the hospital, and after totaling our brand new and very first “adult” car [an Audi A4 wagon], not knowing if my neck was broken (it was bad whiplash and nerve damage . . .), before being x-rayed and even though I was certain that I was not, the nurses insisted on giving me a pregnancy test. 

“I have been so crabby. I am sure it is PMS.” I insisted. 

They insisted more fervently. The hospital staff did not want to wait for blood test results. Alternately, they opted for a urine pregnancy test. With the nurse’s help, somehow Dave and I wiggled my panties off. Another nurse quickly pushed a hospital barf receptacle under my bottom. While being strapped to a big yellow stability board, I peed into the barf receptacle as best as I could. Less than a minute and they announced that I was ABSOLUTELY NOT PREGNANT! Dave and I felt relieved as we waited for the x-ray technician. A few minutes passed. Rather than an x-ray tech, the ER doctor, accompanied by a nurse, returned to my room. The doctor sat quietly and grabbed my hand. Gently, he said:

“Beth, actually, you are pregnant (with Kyle, our firstborn)! We just did not wait long enough to see the results.”

Our world was changing. Dave and I cried. No. We sobbed, like hyperventilating sobs.

The next day, April 20, 1999, two students entered Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, killing twelve fellow students and one teacher. Then they killed themselves. I remember being fixed to the twenty-four hour news cycle. I could not imagine how this shooting could happen, or how it could ever be worse. It is now 2022. The United States has had twenty-three years to figure out how these mass shootings can be prevented.

Things are not better, and our son, Kyle, is finishing college.

Here it is. I am not anti gun. I do not like guns. I do not own a gun. I think guns cause more harm than good. I worry about the quick and irrevocable consequences of using a gun when angry or upset. I had a close family member suicide by shotgun after their girlfriend suicided by shotgun the year before. Once I had a gun pulled on me by a car full of men. I was alone. I thought I was going to die. As a young man pointed the gun at me, I really believed he would shoot. In college, in my friend’s bedroom, I shot a 22 caliber handgun into a telephone book (remember telephone books).

As a result of living in the pro-gun state of Utah, I believe I am more understanding about people who hunt. I get it, even though I don’t want to do it myself. I know. I know. We can use guns to protect ourselves during the zombie apocalypse. Don’t worry. Dave and I have already crafted a plan with our gun-owning friends: 

“You provide the guns. We will provide the gold from the Dream Mine [wink wink].”

Dave often tells the story about his father:

“My dad was twelve. His dad took him hunting. My dad accidentally shot his dad in the leg with a shotgun. Somehow they got my grandpa into the car. Then my dad, who did not have a driver’s license, drove my grandpa over an hour and a half to the hospital. Dave’s dad never went hunting after that.”

A few years ago Kyle discovered that his high school classroom doors did not lock from the inside. Because active shooter drills and mass shootings appear to be our norm, Kyle approached the school regarding the no-locks issue and suggested,

“In case of a school shooting, we should put locks on the inside of all of our classroom doors.”

Consequently, Kyle wrote about the door locks for the school newspaper. 

Here is an excerpt from Kyle’s article:

Picture this: a typical day at Highland High School. The halls are quiet. Students and teachers are busily working in their classrooms. Suddenly a voice rings over the intercom: ‘Students and teachers, there is an armed intruder in the building. Please lock your doors and go into your rooms.’ A charged sensation washes over the school faster than a rumor spreads. At once, teachers go check to see if their doors are locked. A few moments later they comprehend that they cannot lock their doors — not from the inside anyway. Throughout the school, in horror they realize: every classroom has to send someone outside of their room to lock the door. Who would be willing to risk their life over a poorly positioned lock?”

Not long enough after Kyle’s door-lock story was published, and before his story was a faded memory, locks in his school were changed (Go, KYLE!), and a family member invited Kyle and Eli to spend the summer at their home. 

“Why don’t you and Dave send them up for the whole summer and we will put them to work?”

Part of the sales pitch for this summer adventure opportunity was,

“We have a shooting range.” I paused to reread the words. In essence: “I own a bunch of guns, so both boys can shoot. The shooting range is right on our property! So we can walk outside and shoot guns. How awesome is that?”

With much trepidation, I asked Dave if he noticed the invitation. He had. As I listened to Dave, my heart sank at the following realization: what seemed like a super cool and obvious sales pitch to one, in contrast, felt to me like a vivid warning of danger.

Why do we see the world so differently? How can we express our position and not offend them?

I wish I had been more brave and told this family that our answer was no before I ever considered a yes. I hope to this day they know the love and care we have for them. Alas, I was a chicken. Here is what I did instead: I asked the boys how they felt about visiting and left out the part about the guns. I regret my approach. Thankfully before the guns were mentioned, the boys informed me that they were both too busy with required school extracurriculars. At that, Gun Camp was a bust. I took a deep breath and felt like I dodged many bullets – like the two bullets ending our sons’ lives (Oh thank God)!

Then at lunch last week, my eighty-one year old mother blurted out, “If your kids were school age, after what happened in Uvalde, Texas, would you send your kids to school?” She followed with, “I have never liked guns.” Eli, my youngest, piped in and said something about how guns and bad tempers do not mix. To which I said, “that is why I don’t own a gun.” 

It has been eight days. Are we still troubled by the Uvalde, Texas school and Buffalo, New, York grocery store shootings? Or has the twenty-four hour news cycle gotten the best of us? I imagine that most of us are not okay living in a country that makes it easy for citizens to walk into a grocery store, a church, a music venue or a school and slaughter innocent people. I also think we are at a crossroads regarding solutions to gun violence in America. Some want to melt all the guns. Others believe that arming teachers will save the day. Many of us want common sense gun reform. It is my impression that those of us who hope for safer gun legislation are worn down and feeling hopeless.

This is our American cycle: A shooting happens. We cry. People offer thoughts and prayers. We speak up. We demand, “Enough is enough!” The cycle continues. Then, as soon as gun right’s people hear triggering phrases such as, “background checks,” or, “gun control,” they, armed with prepackaged answers, become laser focused, and with expert-sniper precision, they hit back and they are good. They use high impact words, such as God and freedom. In fact, I am certain we have heard or have personally made the arguments:

“We need more guns to protect ourselves,” “We need to arm teachers,” or, “if we regulate guns, you are taking away our Second Amendment rights, and only the criminals will have the guns.”

We try to reason and talk about other countries and how they handle their guns. These interactions usually lead to vitriolic arguments, unproductive impasses, and eventually toward our own silence.

I definitely fall into this pattern.

Consider this: In Uvalde, Texas, trained police, who were literally “armed with guns” and were onsite, did not protect the twenty-one people who lost their lives. During the Buffalo, New York shooting, Aaron Salter Jr., a retired police officer and the store’s security guard, fired multiple shots at the gunman, and was then shot and killed. Good people armed with guns didn’t stop people from being killed.

If the argument with good people and guns really holds up, then why are these good people armed with guns killed? First and foremost, the gunmen were using AR-15 assault rifles. How on earth can one quickly defend themselves from a gun that shoots three times faster and with twice the force? Secondly, I would assert that someone going about their day is not mentally prepared to be shot. On the other hand, I would offer that just as the gun rights’ people are prepared with their argument-blunting answers, a mass shooter is prepared. A person caught off guard is no match for a prepared person. Regarding school shooters, for instance, Professor Jillian Petersen suggests

“I don’t think most people realize that these are suicides, in addition to homicides. Mass shooters design these to be their final acts. When you realize this, it completely flips the idea that someone with a gun on the scene is going to deter this. If anything, that’s an incentive for these individuals. They are going in to be killed.”

(If my words have not already chased you away), thank you. I am spelling things out in an attempt to be prepared myself and to be part of the solution.

Yet, at the end of the day all I have are my words, my actions my choice. Often the right choice is not always comfortable or convenient. In fact, after the Gun Camp failure, even though I know the right choice was keeping our boys home, unfortunately, our relationship with these family members deteriorated. Interestingly enough, what would have made a difference is if I had faced that awkward moment immediately and head-on. Perhaps what I can do is learn to be more uncomfortable. If I need to say, “no,” when no is the right thing to say then I should be less afraid of you rejecting me because I do not feel safe with your guns, or whatever else puts me in harm’s way.

I will end with this: If you are also feeling lost, numb or helpless, like the United States Gun Control issue is a Sisyphean task that resides in a bottomless pit of sorrow, may I offer a sparkle of hope (a gentle shove out of your comfort zone). I culled the internet and found a lot of useful resources, which I have included below. Feel free to copy, paste and share this information liberally.

Of course, please also demand our legislators, lobbyists and business people push to enact common sense gun laws. Tell them how you feel about gun control, background checks and assault rifle bans (AR 15s). Thank you!


  • PBS News Hour: PBS Newshour every current US senator was asked what action should be taken on guns.
  • Here is a Letter to Senator template, source, Please feel free to copy & paste.

Dear Senator,

As your constituent, I am urging you to vote yes on strong gun safety legislation and to confirm Steve Dettelbach as Director of ATF.

The mass shooting at Robb Elementary School, in which 19 children and two adults were murdered, is another instance of the tragic gun violence we witness in America all too often.

As an elected official, it is your job to take action to prevent these senseless tragedies from happening. It is past time that the Senate take bold action to protect our communities. That starts with urgently passing common-sense gun safety legislation and confirming Steve Dettelbach as director of ATF to ensure the agency has the leadership needed to fully enforce our country’s gun laws.

We cannot wait for more lives to be lost to take action. Please do the right thing and pass gun safety legislation.

Sign off with name & contact information

  1. Introduction.
    ○ My name is _____ and I live in _____.
  2. A statement expressing your concern.
    ○ I am very concerned about gun violence in our country.
    ○ We are the only developed nation to suffer from staggering numbers of gun deaths every year.
    ○ I am alarmed by how common gun violence has become in the US and Michigan.
  3. A personal statement.
    ○ I do not want my children to be raised in such violence.
    ○ I want to feel safe in my city/workplace.
    ○ Gun violence has touched my life personally. (Explain.)
    ○ My family should feel free to go to work and school and to the movies without worrying that someone will shoot us on purpose or by accident.
  4. What you see as the solution.
    ○ We should be working to strengthen gun laws, not loosen them.
    ○ We need to keep guns out of the hands of irresponsible and troubled people.
    ○ We can maintain the right to own guns while implementing laws to protect public safety.
  5. What you are asking your legislator to do.
    ○ I would like you to vote for public safety and against gun extremism.
    ○ I would like you to work for strong gun laws that will protect my family and me.
    ○ We do not need more guns in under-trained hands, and I would like you to stand up for common sense gun laws.
  6. Sign off with name and contact info.
    About Wear Orange
  • Save the date! This year’s WEAR ORANGE is June 3-5, 2022, During National Gun Violence Awareness Day and Wear Orange Weekend, join us as we honor survivors of gun violence.

(I am including Gun Rights Advocacy Organizations to help you know what we are up against & to better understand their position to help inform your own counter position.)
Gun Rights Advocacy Organizations

  • National Rifle Association (NRA): The National Rifle Association seeks to educate the public about firearms, defend US citizens’ second amendment rights, and lobbies for gun rights legislation.
  • Gun Owners of America: Gun Owners of America (GOA) is a non-profit lobbying organization formed in 1975 to preserve and defend the Second Amendment rights of gun owners.
  • Second Amendment Foundation :The Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) is dedicated to promoting the right of U.S. citizens to privately own and possess firearms. They carry on many educational and legal action programs designed to inform the public about the gun control debate.

Gun Control Advocacy Organizations (*sourced from Shippensburg University)

  • Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence: The Brady Campaign works to pass and enforce federal and state gun laws, regulations, and public policies through grassroots activism, electing public officials who support gun control legislation, and increasing public awareness of gun violence.
  • Coalition to Stop Gun Violence: The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV) seeks to secure freedom from gun violence through research, strategic engagement and effective policy advocacy. CSGV comprises 47 national organizations working to reduce gun violence. Its coalition members include religious organizations, child welfare advocates, public health professionals, and social justice organizations.
  • Everytown for Gun Safety: An umbrella organization coordinating the activities of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Mayors against Illegal Guns.
  • Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America:  Link to Moms Demand Action Chapters in Every State: Important grassroots activist organization formed by stay-at-home mom Shannon Watts following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012.
  • Mayors Against Illegal GunsMayors Against Illegal Guns is a coalition of over 1000 current and former mayors across the country who have joined together to prevent criminals from possessing guns illegally.

Additional Gun Control Advocacy Groups

  • Giffords: Giffords is an organization dedicated to saving lives from gun violence.
  • Gun Owners For Gun Safety
  • Sandy Hook Promise:  Protecting Children From Gun Violence. Sandy Hook Promise envisions a future where children are free from shootings and acts of violence in their schools, homes, and communities.

(*Please feel free to contact me with any additional advice, corrections or information. ❤️ )

Notes from a Plane: Melbourne to Sydney, Australia

Dave & I are on a one hour Qantas Airlines flight from Melbourne to Sydney. This is our first time flying Qantas. Minutes into our journey, the flight attendants serve us a beverage and meat pies. I promptly give Dave my meat pie.

“Oh wow! They are warm.” Dave happily exclaims.

Sydney, New South Whales, Australia

Now mid-flight, Dave & I begin planning our next Melbourne/Sydney trip. He tells me that he needs to return before the end of the year. Knowing I want to be better prepared the next time I visit, I start scheming a plan. I start talking with my hands, which bump into the armrests and the seat in front of me, as I eagerly suggest that next time I will load a duffle filled with my favorite gluten free food. As soon as I am done explaining how I will smuggle all the gluten free goodness into Australia, I look at Dave with enthusiasm and express the following non sequitur: “Dave, I am hopeful I can talk to our hotel into putting a microwave into our room. Then I can cook my oatmeal each day!”  My mind bounces and I imagine myself traveling Australia’s Great Ocean Road. 

Phillip Island, Victoria, Australia

As I type I am rocked by the turbulence. I am nauseous. (Turbulence usually doesn’t make me nauseous.) I am also listening to Michigan-born Sufjan Stevens’ song “The Seer’s Tower.” Achingly hypnotic, this song tugs at all my feelings. My son, Kyle, introduced me to Sufjan Stevens. Now I miss Kyle – of course. The songs I am listening to are playing faster than my thumbs can hit my tiny iPhone screen. Now I am listening to Johnny Cash’s cover of “I’ll Fly Away.” Johnny Cash’s deep, twangy and familiar voice is comforting. Before I finish writing my Johnny Cash sentence, I hear the lyrics, “you better be home soon,” by one of Dave’s favorite bands, “Crowded House.”

Phillip Island, Victoria, Australia

Keyed up from a slew of mournful melodies, I feel desperately homesick. I want to be home right this second. I imagine myself sitting at my kitchen counter, eating my oatmeal and drinking my green tea. I picture Dave and myself, enveloped in a sea of Southwestern spring blossoms and smells as we walk around our neighborhood. I hear Eli walk into the front door, yelling his familiar, “Hello! Hello! I am home.” Suddenly I am snapped out of my melancholy with the realization that I will be home soon. I recognize that homesickness really means I am having a hard time and that eventually it will be ok. As such, I decide to remain present in this moment. I (actually) want to be here and here with Dave.

Craig’s Hut, Clear Hills Track, Mount Buller, Victoria, Australia

Suddenly, I am distracted. First, I noticed the light. Then the man. He is in the seat in front of me. He is shining his phone light around his seat. He appears desperate. I wonder what he dropped? I hear the flight attendant announce that the plane is preparing to land and that we can find our baggage at carousel three.

Sydney Harbor Bridge, Sydney, New South Whales, Australia

In the last few minutes I think about our last few days: Dave and I have four days left of our (just over a) month-long adventure. I love to travel. I loved our time in London. I have mixed feelings regarding both Melbourne and Sydney. I am sincerely surprised by those feelings. (See, I adored Australia the last time we were here. I wonder if it was because I was safe in our little family bubble and did not really have to interact with the world around me? Perhaps.)

Dave at our friend’s farm, Gembrook, Victoria, Australia

As a result, I also imagine it would be fair to attribute my mixed feelings regarding Australia to the following: After flying eleven hours from London to San Francisco (13 hours on the plane), then waiting six hours in San Francisco, Dave and I hopped on our San Francisco to Sydney flight. (Yes. We really hopped.) I celebrated my birthday for 16 hours on the San Francisco to Sydney flight; a flight we took while crossing the international date line, (hilarious – nope, but a good story). We left San Francisco on April 23 and landed in Sydney, Australia on April 25. My birthday is April 24. My guess is my jet lag was more noticeable as a result of my feeling a wee bit neglected. (Thanks a heap, international date line!) In the interest of full disclosure, Dave did wake me up at midnight and sweetly wished me a happy birthday. He also brought along two gifts, until he realized he left one of them at home. (True story: Dave still does not remember what the second gift was.)

Cake made by my friend Michelle, Gembrook, Victoria, Australia

My extended blue mood was immediately followed by intense PMS, which come on, aren’t I too old for intense mood swings and menstrual cramps? Wait. Don’t answer that. So of course my PMS contributed to my inability, or I should say, my slow-ability to connect with Australia and its  culture.

Me under the Sydney Harbor Bridge, Sydney, New South Whales, Australia

Perhaps the following observation is the reason for my disconnect 🤣: Australians don’t much care for Americans (people from the United States, to you and me  😉). I can’t say that I blame them. I mean, when Americans are brave enough to actually leave our exceptional country, we are loud, we like ice in our water, and then we send said glass of water back until it has enough ice. To prove my point, while traveling through Australia, (and other countries), if I had a dollar for every time a non-American proclaimed, “You are an American. You must need ice in your water,” I could buy a small, lukewarm lake. As we sit in their countries, they are equally incredulous when I say, “I prefer my water room temperature.” “Really? I mean, we have ice. We keep it for the Americans.” “Nope. Just water.”

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

In truth, on week four of our adventure, I admit (and as an American) I became tired (weary/sad/oddly protective) as a result of the onslaught of put downs: our coffee sucks, said a woman who has only been to one Hawaiian island. Our pizza is gross, said another who had a slice in Sacramento. Our stores are too big and so are our serving sizes, said someone else. I will give the Australians the benefit of the doubt. I imagine they usually can slam on America without an American present.

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Nevertheless, I must admit that beyond my Tall Poppy Syndrome bewilderment, I gained a greater and more positive understanding of Australia geographically and its culture. As Dave and I reflect, we recognize that because we spent a significant amount of time in each place, we became quite acquainted with each city. In Melbourne, for instance, I was delighted to find that the larger Collins Street was parallel to the smaller, Little Collins Street, and that similarly the major Burke Street was parallel to the minor, Little Burke Street. Naturally I assumed that Flinders Street, which was near our hotel, would obviously have a parallel Little Flinders Street. On our last day my mind was blown when I realized that what I thought was Flinders Street was actually Flinders Lane, (which should be Little Flinders Street, if you ask me).

Sydney Opera House from the ferry, Sydney, New South Whales, Australia

 In each city, we actually talked to Australians, meaning we socialized. Socializing with Australians was amazing. We learned about cultural pride and not just pride in Australia itself, but pride in each region. I heard strongly phrased sentences such as, “Melbourne is better because it has more culture. And Sydney sucks, except for the harbor!” I also heard, “Melbourne is cold! Sydney has beauty! I hate Melbourne.” I admit I felt a little pressured to pick a side. That is why when I am pushed against the wall I will take the advice regarding the Tall Poppies and proclaim, “I love them both – equally!

Dave, Surry Hills, Sydney, New South Whales, Australia

By the way, travel is never bad. In fact, Australia was pretty great! For starters, they say, “Brekkies,” for breakfast and “Maccas” for McDonalds. (Ok. The McDonald’s abbreviation was a little weird.) I connected with two long lost college friends and their beautiful families. One of them called us, “Beth-O,” and “Dave-O,” because they say that’s what Australians call their friends. (Pretty cool.)

Even at the grocery store, they call it Brekkies. Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
McDonalds, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

On a lovely Mothers Day drive, visiting Phillip Island, Dave and I saw a penguin hiding in its little penguin hole. We also have seen so many kangaroos and wallabies. We saw a lyrebird twice, one near my girlfriend’s farm in Gembrook in Melbourne’s Yarra Valley & Dandenong Ranges, and then again near Mansfield, in Melbourne’s high country, at my other friend’s cabin. Both of my friends declared, “do you know how rare it is to see this bird? Most Australians never see one.” Dave and I saw it twice.  We also drove up a crazy mountain road to see “Craig’s Hut,” where the movie, “The Man from Snowy River,” was filmed. It was stunning to see the undulating mountains fade into the rosy purple sunset.

A wallaby at Phillip Island, Victoria, Australia

In the end, travel is always ok (better than ok, really). It is, however, challenging, (and probably why I was so homesick just a few minutes ago). Nevertheless, the hard part is ultimately why I love leaving home. I love problem solving after problem solving after deep breath after mispronouncing a word for the fourth, fifth and tenth time, cultural nuances, unexpected delight and deep, soul crushing sorrow.

Phillip Island, Victoria, Australia

Travel is doing laundry on a Sunday night at a crowded laundromat. It’s packing and repacking, bringing the wrong shoes and remembering the right adapters. It’s meeting people, seeing how they live, how they love and learning that lamb is consistently fresher and better in Australia and apparently beef is better in the USA. It’s talking about Australian history with Bernard, the kind cheese vendor, at the local grocer. Then as you exit the local grocer, deep in conversation regarding self love and self acceptance, you look across the street and the heavens open up and you see a gluten free bakery. “Let’s go show ourselves some love.” my friend and I gleefully said as we jay-walked ourselves across the street. (Australians are cool with jay-walking, by the way). Traveling is magical. It really does help me appreciate what I have and who is holding my hand when I have anxiety on a Tuesday evening flight, halfway around the world ❤️.

Us riding the ferries, Sydney, New South Whales, Australia
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