Ban Those Books but Assault Rifles Are A-OK?

Yesterday’s tragic school shooting in Nashville yesterday have brought my ire, disgust and sadness back in full force.

For the last several months, I’ve been angry about all the school libraries having to empty their shelves so they can be reviewed for “appropriateness.” And then, another school shooting.

Jodi Picoult, who has written over 28 novels said of these banned books (books pulled from shelves) ““What children are actually being exposed to are lives different from their own, and mindsets different from their own — which creates compassion and empathy. In other cases, children are being exposed to ideas and mindsets exactly like their own, which provides representation and validity and a sense of belonging. We know categorically that kids who feel marginalized and who read books with characters like themselves wind up feeling less marginalized.”

A year ago, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a Parental Rights in Education bill which has since resulted in books banned from public schools. A press release from his office said, “Legislation aims to ‘preserve the rights of parents to make decisions about what materials their children are exposed to in school.'”

Does that mean that, as a parent, I can chose which kind of assault weapon can and CANNOT be brought into my child’s classroom?

Governor DeSantis, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, Texas Governor Gregg Abbot, et al. those who think it’s perfectly fine for a non-military citizen to own an assault weapon – Get your priorities straight.

Yes, parents want to, need to keep their children safe. But from what exactly? Let them read about the real world. The real world exists. Let them read about challenges and differences. But let’s keep them from experiencing the worst of it first hand.

Photo credit

Lungs Filled with Heart

I image you, like me, struggle to leave your favorite getaways.

I love my house in town, the familiarity of my routines. But when I have the chance to visit our family homestead in the Texas Hill Country, my inhales and exhales are deeper, stronger.

Unless it’s morning and the birds are in chorus, sometimes the wind is the only sound I hear. And at night, depending on the moon, the darkness nestles around me like a secure, weighted blanket.

It is not only the surrounding nature that soothes me, it is the space, the vastness of the farm fields in front of, and behind the house. We do not own the farmland. We do not have to worry about when it rains, when to plant, what to grow. But we can watch the process unfold and bear witness to life sprouting.

In this place, where my great-great-grandparents immigrated and settled in the 1840’s, the soil is rich, the air is clean. Each time the 350 year old Oak sways with the wind, I hear the whispers of my ancestors saying “das ist gut.” Yes, it is good.

Here, movement comes from wind, visible by swaying grasses and tree branches, or flames in the fire pit,

or the old windmill.

There is no traffic, only a tractor that drives down the path toward its duty.

Instead of the wailing of sirens, the sandhill cranes bugle their calls.

Here, the sunsets are not obstructed by buildings.

Here, time moves slowly and self-reflection is possible in the silence.

Until next time.

Do you have a favorite place that is difficult to leave behind?

When they return to tell you it’s okay …

Some of you may remember that I lost my best friend last year on September 25th. My four-pawed baby lived to be 16. I’m grateful for that.

The grief and sorrow have lessened but I still miss him as much now as the day he died.

With each passing day, the house became larger in its emptiness. Sometimes I would hear Cole sigh or shift positions on his bed. Phantom sounds.

Dogs have been a constant in my life except for, you know, those in-between times.

I came into this world with a dog already in place. Mitzy lived to be 18. In elementary school, a friend gave me Buffy. She was barely an adult when I experienced the horror of her being run over. (But that’s another story. See Righting Disturbing Childhood Incidents in Our Novels here.)

Buffy would not have died if, at the age of ten, I would have known she could have lived with only three legs. I corrected that scenario by adding a three-legged dog in my up-coming novel, Distilling Lies.

Then there was “Bozo Barney Dee,” who I stole from the human society where I volunteered. She became my parents’ dog when I was of age to move out of the house.

Bozo was followed by Jesse, Lizzy and Luther, all who lived long, happy lives.

Lastly, there was my Cole “Pister.”

For the past seven months, my house has been still and quiet. So I began thinking about getting another dog. And felt guilty. Why? Would welcoming another dog in my house be a betrayal to Cole? I decided to ask him.

It had been a long time since I pulled out my pastels, but I did. The paper ready, the photo in place, I was ready for him to appear. And he did.

But here is what’s so divinely relevant. Immediately after I had placed the finished art on the kitchen counter and shown it to my husband, the photo I had used to paint him appeared on our Nixplay screen. Out of over one-hundred random circulating photos, there he was, a wink and a smile of “it’s okay.”

I’ve decided to get a puppy. Her name will be Frankie and I get to pick her up in two weeks from this writing.

Frankie will not replace Cole. But she will fill my house with joy and love and remind me that hearts can, and do, expand to let others in.

Wait! What? No More Middle Finger?

Apparently, the middle finger expression of anger is being replaced. How could that be? It’s been around since, well, I was born.

Not only have I used that tallest digit, I have been the recipient of it.

I didn’t believe what I’d heard on the radio so I looked it up.

Yep. Now, in this age of emoji’s, the middle finger is being replaced by the thumbs down sign. Generation Z is coming out in full force.

One person described it like this:  It’s the equivalent of telling someone, “I’m not mad, I’m DISAPPOINTED.


So I had to look up Generation Z-ers.

They were born between 1997 and 2012.

In general:

Gen Zs are driven by digital – 95% own Smart phones, 64% use Instagram at least once a day.

According to a Deloitte survey, they are stressed or anxious most of the time. Are those two related? However, they are also more likely to receive therapy or mental health treatment than any other generation.

Of the 38% of Gen Zs who have entered the workforce, 40% say they plan on leaving their job within the next two years because 1, they are concerned with work-life balance and, 2, they are not satisfied with their organizations’ impact on society. Three in four say they prefer remote work. And, they want to be financially independent by age 30. Maybe that’s one of the reasons Gen Z influencers command the highest fees for sponsored content?

Gen Zs are the most educated, and the most ethnically diverse generation ever. They are concerned with the environment, embrace diversity and Social Justice. And for this, I will give them three big thumbs up.


Those Roaring Women

One-hundred years ago, a sexual revolution took hold and, oh, how those flappers deviated from the norm with their immorality!

After the passage of the 19th Amendment, voting was a powerful incentive to freeing the young woman’s spirit. After they threw away their tight corsets and picked up a voting ballot, they lifted up their skirts to show their rouged knees, and dangled cigarettes from their ruby-red lips. After all, if the Suffragettes could accomplish great deeds by being rebellious and outspoken, so could they.

And, thanks to the African American culture and the Harlem Renaissance, the Jazz Age was born and the music stormed the country with expressive heart-felt tunes. Flappers shimmied with wild abandon.

Flappers could move freely around the dance floor in loose-fit clothing swinging to the Charleston, Fox Trot and Jitterbug while drinking illegal gin.

Young women not only drank and smoked, they drove motorcars, attended petting parties and dated more than one man at a time. They began to believe they had control over their own bodies. Birth control, at least for the more privileged, was becoming more widely available. This allowed women the freedom to explore their sexuality without the worry of pregnancy. Sadly, the less fortunate women suffered from illegal hack-job abortions or unwanted babies.

Conservatives were outraged at the new immorality. To them, this indecency was more dangerous than the Spanish Flu pandemic.They blamed the entertainment industry for promoting books, magazines and motion pictures that reinforced this decadent behavior.

Louise Brooks in “Pandora’s Box” – 1929

Women in general yearned for higher education that would prepare them for a career and make them informed citizens. Although they faced gender and wage inequality, women joined the workforce in droves. They now had the ability to make their own money, and become more independent. They delayed marriage and when they did find a worthy suitor, marriage became more about companionship than financial necessity.

Across the country, women of African American descent, as well as their families, continued to face severe discrimination. Unfortunately, the 19 Amendment did not mean black women had the right to vote. With the exception of California, New York, and Illinois, state laws continued to keep African Americans from the polls through poll taxes and literacy tests. Most black women would wait four decades to gain the right to vote – the Voting Rights Act was signed into law in 1965.

Regardless of a flapper’s ethnicity, traditional and conservative society shook their heads at the disgrace.

The Great Depression took away power, not just for women but for everyone. While the flappers may have faded into the background, women in general did not stop their forward momentum towards change. Freedom had been tasted, savored, and remembered.

Fast forward to today, one-hundred years later. Although women have collectively come a long way, they still earn 82 cents for every dollar a man earns.

What other comparisons can you draw between the two centuries?

It is Women’s History Month. Let’s celebrate!

Carolyn Dennis-Willingham is the author of three novels including Distilling Lies, a novel set in the 1920’s, available in May 2023.

Shameless, Underhanded Self-Promotion

Case in point – As a teenager, I got my first job as a telephone solicitor. I sat at a table with a phone and a script of what to say to random strangers. The script included a section for “what to say if they resist your sales pitch and could care less about buying a subscription of the Austin Citizen Newspaper. ” I never got that far. If they said “no,” that was that. I had bothered them enough and wanted no part in wasting their time any further. Needless to say, I was fired after three days. As the saying goes, I couldn’t sell a Bible to a Baptist preacher. And now, many, many year later, still can’t.

So, I have a new book coming out this May. “They” say I need to promote it. Ha! And, oh no.

Now, to change the subject without changing the subject.

Who doesn’t like cute animals? So, without further ado, here are a few to ooh and ahh over.

Aren’t they adorable?

What Makes a Christmas Tree Beautiful?

Is it the shape of its branches?

The color of its twinkling lights?

The sparkle of the ornaments?

The number of presents beneath it?

My tree, although large, has seen many Christmas seasons come and go. Each year, when we pull it out of the garage and remove its storage coat, the branches become a little more weak, a little limper, and more transparent. This season, our old reliable tree stands a little less erect and prefers a slight lean to the right. (Kinda like me) But it is a proud tree, one that continues to carry the weight of its ornaments. (Again, kinda like me.)

My ornaments sparkle, but not from the lights. They sparkle withs the reflection of times past.

Some remind me of activities I once did.

Or that I still do.

Others remind me of places I have been.

Some memorialize my parents.

I see my children when they were young,

and the ornaments they made long before they became parents.

I see my four-legged friends that I have lost years before.

And the one I have recently lost.

I see faces of my friends when I hang their gifted ornaments.

And some ornaments I chose simply because I thought them beautiful.

Thank you, old reliable Christmas tree for holding my memories.

If you have a Christmas tree, what do you like about it?

Original Christmas Song for Your Little One

I wrote this many years ago when I was the director of a Child Development Center.

The tune is to “I’m a Little Teapot.” Happy singing!

I’m a little Christmas tree short and stout

see my branches sticking out

Decorate with tinsel and colored lights

my star on top is shining bright (speak: blink, blink, blink, blink)

See the presents under the tree

One is for you and one is for me

tear off the paper

pull off the bow

Santa’s been here, HO HO HO!

Lyrics by Carolyn Dennis-Willingham