For the Love of Friends

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God gave us memories so we might have roses in December – James M. Barrie

Last week I traveled a relatively short distance to visit my oldest and one of my dearest friends. From second grade, we have shared our lives even over great distances and when she met her husband at age 17 and 3 years later tied the marriage knot, he too became a part of my life. Time passed and, oh so many years ago, we kept in contact by writing letters. With the advent of email, we have stayed in touch and we have never missed the annual ritual of sending a birthday card to each other. We both have two daughters and grandchildren now and have lived out dreams and fulfilled most of our aspirations.

So many wonderful childhood memories and so many lifelong events have shaped our lives. And through those many years we have watched each other grow old and witnessed the inevitable scourges of time…the patterns of wrinkles and fading scars paint a picture of lives well lived.

Bí mật giật mình trong quả sung và nước sốt cà chua
A private message

I cried most of the way home that day because illness and age has ripped a familiar loved one from the person I once knew and twisted him into a shell of his former self. He was there inside that shell yet a light had flickered out somewhere within. My friends epitomize what true and lasting love is. Through good times and bad, fortune, fame, loss and tragedy, they have weathered every storm with grace and dignity…stood by each other and through those years they have woven the fabric of a beautiful family. They have lived what most people eternally seek…days and days filled with love in the Spring, Summer and now Winter of their lives.

Witnessing the changes in people we love brings us face to face with the reality that each of us will one day step through life into death to the unknown beauty of what we hope awaits us. Most everyone at one time or another has heard the analogy of a fetus in utero…safe, warm with all of its needs constantly and fully met and the fear that ensues when the birthing process begins. A fetus is thrust into an unknown world and this is scary, just as we are afraid to face the reality of our own eventual demise.

I am so thankful that my life has been blessed with these special friends and I hope I will have many more days/years with them. There is a peaceful comfort now in just being around old friends. They know me. My strengths, my weaknesses, my very inner self. We have history. I love them both and each time we reconnect, it is as yesterday, nary a missed beat. I think of you both each and every day.

Be well dear friends.

Oh, By The Way… Home Warranty Hell!!

For the past six weeks I have been without a refrigerator. Trust me this is NOT a pleasant experience and if you have experienced it then you know how frustrated I am right now.

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Background…I purchased a home warranty policy for the first time this year because I was worried that my ac was 20 years old and might kick the bucket. Well, so far (and I am holding my breath) the ac is still cranking but my refrigerator conked out. No worries, file a claim with the home warranty company, right? Only a $45.00 service call charge for me and it will be all fixed. In my dreams! Easier said than done.

After a couple of days the first (yes there has been more than one!) service company came out to diagnosis the problem. He determined that the compressor was bad and ordered a new one. One week passed and he came to install the new compressor. Next I received a text from him saying the new compressor blew the mother board and oh by the way it will be two-five weeks before the parts are here. After I flipped out, he said the mother board had to come from China. I yelled that I knew there were planes flying out of China each day and I was willing to pay for overnight shipping. Didn’t happen and the home warranty company said they don’t offer overnight shipping of parts.

So I waited and waited and waited.  After another two weeks, I called the first service person for an update. He told me that the new compressor was in but he was still waiting for the Mother board and oh by the way (starting to get the feeling in my gut that this is a living nightmare and something isn’t just right moment) three different supply places said this compressor is the right one but LG says it isn’t and oh by the way…the home warranty company wants to send out another company for a second opinion. And oh by the way, can first repair person come by and pull the compressor that he put it that blew the Mother board. I said it was inconvenient and no way in hell am I letting him take away what could be evidence that he installed the wrong compressor which caused the mother board to fry!! I don’t know that for a fact, but count me seriously suspicious at this point in time.

So I wait again for the second company to come and diagnosis the problem. And oh by the way, please pay this company another $45.00 service call fee.This one unscrewed the plates behind the refrigerator looked at it (no diagnostic tools) replaced cover plates and left and I haven’t heard from him since. And oh by the way…he isn’t authorized to work on LG products. Question??? Then why did said home warranty company send him out to diagnosis it??

So I wait and eventually fire off another angry email to people on the other end of cyberspace and receive a notice that a third company will be coming out a week from now to diagnose the problem. And oh by the way…that will be another $45.00 please. By this time I am blowing a gasket and am at my “breaking point”. And oh by the way the name of the third company scheduled for next week is…wait for it…Breaking Point!!! Is this kharma or what???

I called and eventually get hold of a manager who only succeeded in making me angrier if that is even possible. And adding insult to an already old, tired, frustrated, angry woman, she had the audacity to offer me $389.00 to resolve the whole issue. This on a refrigerator that originally cost $3000. She must have though I was brain-dead or just maybe this is the run around scam that they pull on everyone. I have no way of knowing, but count myself wiser and more knowledgeable at this point in time after digging further on the internet into this company. Turns out that all those glowing reviews that enticed me to choose this home warranty company may have been falsely secured by them offering incentives to previous customers to write nice things. At least that is what the BBB and a judge determined when they fined this company over $800,000 in a class action lawsuit for a breach of rules that clearly state you can’t solicit new customers with lies from previous customers.

So I am waiting. Waiting for my refrigerator to be fixed, waiting for a company to do the responsible good faith thing, basically waiting for hell to freeze over in Texas on a 102 degree day. And oh by the way, I never paid a second or third service fee!  And on the plus side…I have become the refrigerator police and now know that I can manage with very little and not starve to death.

I think I’ll have a cup of tea and try to zen my way to being more tranquil. It appears I am at the mercy of powers of which I have no control, so Ommmmmm.

Addenda: Finally reached the owner of said company and we settled with them giving me $1000.00 for a new refrigerator and as Lady Luck finally returned, the one I want was on sale for $999.99! I am finally free of refrigerator hell!! I’m chilling now!!!

Keep your cool!!!

 

Rites of Passage

This past weekend I jetted my way to San Diego to witness a rite of passage for my youngest granddaughter…high school graduation. Last week I enjoyed a similar experience with my oldest grandson as he too began a new journey into college. Rites of passage are launching pads for young people. Whether they are being pitched into the work environment, academic advancement through college studies, entering the military or taking a gap year to explore the world and all its wonders, it is a new beginning.

New beginnings give us second chances. A second chance to be better, to change attitudes, to become acquainted with the “real” world and all of its problems, speed bumps, rewards and excesses requiring the use of judgement and intelligent thinking to navigate the pitfalls along the way. In their journey, they will have successes and failures and the best we can hope for is that each of these will be learning experiences that will benefit them when they arrive at the next “new beginning”.

Some of us take the long road to reach an ultimate goal and some of us are more goal oriented and driven to pursue those dreams in the shortest period of time. And then some of us make mistakes that slow our journey. Whatever our path, reaching the end of each journey is a joyous occasion and cause for celebration. Balloons, flowers, leis, graduation cards stuffed with cash and filled with encouraging expressions for the future, celebratory food and drink, elaborately decorated sugary cakes, the clicking of many cameras recording the momentous occasion are planned and implemented as a reward for a job well done and an enticement to forge onward to the next life goal.

Goals may change for that is the fluidity of life. A child’s dreams build castles in the air only to become more focused when life itself may force the adjustment of life’s dreams. Most of my dreams have passed now. Many have been realized but a host of others remain unfulfilled. I am learning to accept that many of my dreams, wants, gotta haves may never be, but that really doesn’t matter anymore. I have sweet memories of the many rites of passages of my life and feel blessed to have had the plethora of my dreams reach fruition.

Dream on !!!!

 

 

Precious Cargo

Children are precious cargo. From conception to birth through years of learning and life shaping experiences, they are a great responsibility as well as the source of much joy. A poignant memory for me was my arrival home from the hospital with my first-born daughter. Everyone has Kodak moments in their lives. I vividly remember laying her gently on my bed to change her diaper and being overwhelmed with the enormity of the responsibility of it all. At that moment the thought that raced through my mind was …what I did would determine whether she lived or died. That was a heart stopping, brain exploding moment. I was young, barely eighteen, and the weight of that thought catapulted me into dedicating my every waking moment to giving her everything she would need to grow into the beautiful person she has become.  She was my world, my everything and from the moment she was born I could not envision my life without her, separated from her in any way.

So I find myself quite distraught, heartbroken and tearful imagining the suffering and pain that the parents must feel when they are separated from their children not knowing where they are, who might be comforting them or even if their basic needs are being met. What has America become when we are engaging in practices such as this, practices employed by Nazi Germany when families were torn apart and endured unspeakable atrocities and millions were gassed and burned in ovens, disposed of as trash. This didn’t happen over night. The steps to death, destruction, loss of freedoms are small ones. But cumulatively, they are earth shattering, life altering cataclysmic events.

Germany to give Holocaust victims pensions

Photographs taken by British troops on their arrival at Belsen concentration camp Photo: The Holocaust Centre
History will not be kind to the people who support this diabolical plan. Just as there were no excuses for following orders in Nazi Germany, if one doesn’t protest this inhumane practice, then you are part of the problem and as such will bear the same guilt when history comes calling. Silence is complicity! And there is a special place in Hell for the creators and enforcers of this horrible tRump policy.

What is Faith?

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Science or God’s palette?

Faith is a difficult entity to define. According to Webster, faith is “a belief and trust in and loyalty to God” or “a firm belief even in the absence of proof” or “complete confidence”. But how do we believe in something we can’t see? I have heard and thought that we can’t see the wind yet it exists as evidenced by the trees that sway as it passes or the feel of it on my face or skin. There are many things that I can’t see yet accept their existence. I have faith that the bridges I cross with my automobile will stand firm and erect without collapsing. I have faith when I board an airplane that it will get me to my destination. I had faith with every seed I ever sowed that it would spring forth from the earth and grow into a beautiful larkspur, zinnia or poppy.

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I want to have faith that the political nightmare America has been enduring will eventually come to an end. I want to have faith that laws apply equally to everyone and that the guilty will be punished for their transgressions. I want to have faith that America will survive this assault on our democracy, our Constitution and the Rule of Law. But as each day passes I find it more difficult. Perhaps I am just weary from worry.

Evidence of faith may be in the birth of a baby which in my entire nursing career never failed to move me to tears. Every single nanosecond of cell development has to go exactly right for a baby to be born with all working parts.  I have seen the miraculous disappearance of a cancerous tumor accepted as a result of fervent prayer when the actual scientific explanation may be misdiagnosis or an immune system that simply won a territorial battle.

A newborn baby wrapped in a hospital blanket crying in MiddletownPhoto by Tim Bish on Unsplash

Each of us may have experienced diminished faith at some point in our lives. I know I have had moments when I have questioned the presence of a higher power yet revert to prayer when I am seeking solace or help from an entity that many times seems capricious in his or her governance of our lives. I call these times a “crisis in faith”. I don’t want to think it, feel it, and I truly want to believe, but the pragmatist in me jumps up and down screaming the impossibility of a higher power. Yet I still cling to a hope that there is more than this.

But my brain will not comprehend nor accept a world where there are people who would deny healthcare or food to the poor, the elderly or children. A world where the color of your skin defines you. A world where men and women who give their all to protect and defend our country end up living homeless on the streets of what is supposed to be the greatest nation on our planet. A world where the top one percent own ninety-nine percent of the wealth and through that wealth, lobby elected officials to do their bidding rather than the will of the people they have sworn to protect, defend and serve. A world where bigotry and racism are allowed to flourish. A world where our children are no longer safe in their schools. A world where owning an assault rifle has more value than a human life. A world where children are ripped from their parents and placed in warehouses or in cages in processing centers.

But faith  leaps up in the form of high school students who refuse to accept that things can’t change and be better. With a small voice that has become a shout that will not be silenced, they have begun a movement that makes me believe that there may be hope for the return of sanity and decency to our world. And only history and time will tell us if America survives. Their road to change begins with one small step.

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Believe or not. The choice is yours.

 

 

 

Finding Peace and Comfort in What We Have

I recently visited Half-Price Books in search of some tomes on silk screening. In my younger years, one of my projects with the young girls in my girl scout troop, was silk screening and/or printmaking. Nearing my nursing retirement, I have turned to exploring ways to supplement my income doing some of the things I have loved and pursued my entire life…art is one of those many things. In my search for books on silk screening, I ran across a delightful, gotta-have-it book written by Australian Sibella Court and entitled “Etcetera etc, creating beautiful interiors with the things you love.” Her book was a reinforcement that it is time for me to let go of 40 years of a nursing career and reinvent myself in a different persona.

This book filled every one of my bibliomania quirks…earthy tones, crinkly paper, different types and weights of papers and packed full of beautiful photographs depicting the author’s design style using the many things she has loved and collected from childhood to adulthood. Things like shells, beads, paper, ribbons…using objects in new and different ways so when a new friend walks into her abode, they instantly have a sense of who she is, what she loves, interests she has pursued.

I have no “need” for additional things in the winter of my life. I have been drawn to certain objects throughout my entire existence and arranging and rearranging those things in new and different ways throughout my home, gives me a fresh perspective and renewed love of all of my treasures. Bird feathers, an abandoned bird nest, sand dollars, shells, carved birds, books galore, various papers, paint tubes, palettes, brushes, plants, walls covered with paintings, a mermaid vase, candles, empty clay pots, easels. A stroll throughout my living space gives insight into who I am as a person.

Just by adding a few empty two dollar Goodwill wooden frames to the three paintings already hanging on my living room wall, had me falling in love again with a portion of my living space. Walking through my front door became a fresh exciting experience. Using what I have in new and different ways is pleasurable and gives new appreciation for why those found objects were cherished in the first place.

I ponder the emotions that drive me to surround myself with things that appeal to me both visually and emotionally. I derive peace and feelings of well-being from having loved objects around me. My bed is often piled high with several books or other reading materials. Books close by, permitting me to reach for one, open it and enjoy reading excerpts as day by day I weave my way through their contents. Each cherished object brings with it a flood of memories…the bird nest discovered on a sidewalk outside Alamo Drafthouse when a girlfriend and I were going in for a movie; the giant brain coral I literally stumbled across when walking the rack line on a Matagorda beach; a funky vase purchased at a restaurant in Fredericksburg  where my daughter and I shared a sumptuous lunch; a giant pair of scissors that belonged to my Mother and each and every time I use them my memory takes me to the beauty of her hands; a baking stone thrust upon me by a sister so every loaf of bread that bakes itself on its hot surface carries a thought of her; a beautiful shell encased memory box filled with sweet memories from another sister and another wooden box filled with loving thoughts from a daughter; a Barack Obama coffee mug, a gift from a daughter who shared my passion for #44; postcards lounging in a woven basket on a coffee table, and birding and junk journals that sweep me into the past when I flip through their pages, overwhelming me with emotional memories of exciting times shared with people I dearly love.

Life is short. What a oxymoranic statement that is. I recently completed my 72nd trip around the sun and it has been a great ride! A long ride. I find myself being more nostalgic with each trip now. My memories of a life well spent are important. There is little doubt that my children will wonder why “Mom kept that silly fossil” or why some of my journals have pages missing leaving blanks in my story that they will never know which brings to mind one of my favorite movies of all time…The Bridges of Madison County… A story of a full life, unrequited love, regrets, successes and a myriad of moments turned into memories of a beautiful existence.

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Rent the movie, watch it if you haven’t, and live your life to the fullest!!!

 

Which Cup is Your Favorite?

 Vector coffee cup and coffee beans, Mug, Vector Coffee Cup, Cartoon Mug PNG and Vector

Recently while lunching with a family member, he remarked on the size of his coffee cup. As usual, my mind took off exploring the many preferences that various people have for certain types of mugs, cups or other vessels that hold their precious morning java.

One of my sisters refuses to drink coffee from any cup that has a dark interior. A good friend prefers cups that are round and stout and her cup of joe must be incredibly hot. Another of my sisters always has a china cup for me when I visit her home. And in my own coffee cup kitchen cupboard I have an assortment of mugs and cups, each of which carries memories of places visited or adventures with friends or family. There are thick, chunky “black dog” mugs that are reminiscent of happy summers spent with my sisters at Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. A close friend gave me a white china cup with a plump Santa that I enjoy year round with my evening red zinger tea. And my day off or weekend favorite is a tall white Starbucks mug that holds ample amounts of brewed coffee that accompanies me to a cushion of pillows on my bed where, with newspaper in hand, I lounge through the enjoyment of early morning pleasures. Another favorite is my Obama mug reminiscent of a happier political climate. A grandson gifted me one with his incredible art work on it. The thing about coffee cups is that each time you reach into a cupboard a memory accompanies that container and for a split second the warmth inside that mug isn’t from the coffee but from the loved ones who surround us throughout our lives.

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Early Morning Pleasures

At work, in an effort to reduce the use of styrofoam cups, employees were encouraged to submit a photo of themselves with their ugliest coffee mug and participants were rewarded with a free “ugly mug”. What is your favorite drink vessel? What emotions cause it to be your favorite? What memories does it evoke? Why is it so difficult to part with coffee mugs? I think it is emotionally difficult because, with the trashing of a cup, in essence we are tossing memories and memories are what keep us moving forward in our lives when we are old. One of my favorite embroidered samplers reads…”God gave us memories so we could have roses in December”.

The family member that spurred my brain to ask questions about coffee mugs is on his 86th trip around the sun this year. I don’t know how many more cups of coffee we will share together, but his simple statement inspired this blog post and will forever be a memory of his presence on our planet and in my life.

Making memories is important! Go out and make some!

 

 

 

 

 

Erosion

Erosion. A “bigly” negative word, a word of destruction. As defined by Webster…”the process of eroding or being worn down by wind, water, or other natural agents; the gradual destruction or diminution of something”.

Erosion throughout the millennium is a formidable force. It may take eons but eventually erosion wins. Time doesn’t matter to erosion. It continues to work using wind and water as a battering ram, slowly but surely eroding the foundation of rock, soil, and mountains turn into dust. A hurricane is a prime example of an eroding force that leaves death and destruction in its wake. For many years my BFF Linda had access to a beachfront home in Pirate’s Beach and we have wonderful memories of fun times spent there. Then one hot end-of-summer day,  one of those pesky hurricanes ripped through that home. The ocean charged in to undermine the foundation piers and reclaimed that piece of sand as its own.

Back in the 70’s, the erosion of soil treated with pesticides led to a serious reduction in the number of pelicans in our world. DDT was an effective pesticide for ridding crops of unwanted insects. Unfortunately when the rains came and the residue from this chemical washed into our streams, then into rivers, and ultimately into our oceans, and pelicans ate the fish that had ingested some of those pesticides, then and only then did the end result become known. Each Spring the pelicans laid their eggs but DDT caused a defect in the shell-making ability of the pelican. They laid their eggs but when the incubation period began, the weight of the parent bird caused the egg-shell to break. With the banning of DDT in the United States back in 1972,  pelicans rebounded and can once again be seen patrolling the beach shoreline.

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Mr. Brown Pelican waiting for a handout at the fish market

We have a very descriptive word for the erosion of buildings or infrastructure. It is called entropy. Defined as “a lack of order or predictability; a gradual decline into disorder or the degree of disorder or randomness in the system”. In other words…the tendency of something to return to its natural state if nothing is done to prevent it from crumbling. Examples of this would be interstate highways left without maintenance will eventually develop potholes and breaks in the concrete integrity, roofs left unrepaired allow water to seep in causing even more damage to a home’s interior and even an abandoned home starts to sag and has a clear unmistakable facade of despair. Weeds sprout up, paint begins to peel, a capricious wind rips a gutter or roof tile away.

Erosion has consequences. The erosion of norms may mean the ultimate demise of democracy and perhaps serious damage to our planet. The unrelenting attack on the media by tRump and now the spread of Sinclair Broadcast Group in gobbling up small media outlets throughout America is disturbing. This company has pre-written propaganda promoting their extreme right conservative agenda attacking legitimate news media outlets and over this past weekend we were witness to a prime example of this at this link: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/sinclair-broadcast-group-slammed-video-montage-local-anchors-reading-anti-media-script-1098838.

The telling of lies and yelling “fake news” has led to an erosion of trust within our nation. The rapidity of these falsehoods is staggering and tracking down their veracity is exhausting and may result in resigned acceptance through sheer lack of energy to ferret out the truth.

If you aren’t alarmed at what is swirling in the political atmosphere encompassing America right now, then you just aren’t paying attention. Now is the time to throw away the labels of Republican, Democrat or Independent and stand up as Americans to defend, protect and ensure that our democracy and the Rule of Law will remain intact for future generations. Americans first, country before party.

Happy Birthday Daddy!!!!

 

 

Saggy, Baggy Starfish

This past weekend I headed back to the Round Top Antique Festival which is a semi-annual event in my world. My friend Kathleen drives up from Houston and we invade my sister’s house as our home base before we venture out to begin trekking through miles of antiques, treasured vintage items and eclectic art objects.

I am at a point in my life when I really don’t “need” anything but this year I was in search of a butter dish that was wide and tall enough to house a large block of butter rather than just one stick. The Kerry Gold butter needed a house!

On my treasure-seeking journey, the artist in me is drawn to the expertise exhibited by so many vendors in their marketing skills. I am entranced with the vignettes they create and they inspire me to want to cleanse the entire palette of my condo and begin again anew.

Plein Air Paint Box
Unusual art objects
An enlightening moment! Very creative, one-of-a-kind lamps

So I found my butter dish…check! But there is always one something that I believe I can’t live without and for me this trip it was the saggy, baggy starfish. It was love at first sight and the beach bum in me could envision him ensconced with my huge basket of scavenged sea shells surrounded by sponges, feathers and other nature objects de arte that I have collected over  decades of beach trips.

The Butter Dish

No trip to Burton is complete without visiting one of my favorite stores called Leftovers. The store owners are nothing short of genius in their merchandising artistry and no trip can end without strolling through and absorbing all the beauty created with old, new and found objects. My every visit purchase here is their goat’s milk soap that comes embedded in a soft sea sponge and both my daughter and I are addicted to this soap. A visit to their store is similar to taking a designing course from a world-renowned interior decorator.

So here are some Leftover displays that caught my eye on Saturday.

The Antique Weekend runs through April 7th. I highly recommend a visit if you like a good treasure hunt!

Happy Hunting!!!

Mr. Lock

CD Shelter

Who is Mr. Lock? Mr. Lock is a term used by school personnel to warn and set into motion defensive measures to thwart a shooter coming into a school. A simple name designed to start a drill without frightening young children. How sad that our society has dissolved to such depths that school children are being taught life skills for survival.

When I was a young child in grade school it was the height of the cold war and there were two types of “drills” that we learned in school. The first was the innocuous standard regularly scheduled fire drill  and viewed as a lucky diversion from our ordinary school routines. The other “drill” was much more ominous. We each had to take a defensive position under our desks putting one hand behind our neck and hiding our eyes into the other folded arm. How silly these doomsday drills were for how could this position under a wooden desk possible protect us from a nuclear blast or radiation fallout. But we were required to practice these on a regular basis. We were too young to understand the ineptitude of this drill and too uninterested to question the why of it all.

1950s duck and cover - Like this would really help.
Duck and cover in the 1950’s

Unfortunately for todays’ children, they are all too aware, and experience on a regular basis, all kinds of survival drills. They go by different names though…intruder drills, lock down drills or for the very young children…hide and seek or the silent game. Other survivalist ideas are to shelter in place and the video I recently had to watch at work was titled Run, Hide, Fight.  The running part is obvious as is the hiding part but fight? What am I suppose to use to fight? A stethoscope, a syringe? What is a second grader to use…pencils, crayons, erasers? No innocent schoolhouse tool can stop an intruder armed with a semi-automatic AR15 from mowing through humans like a threshing machine through a field of wheat. Carnage is certain.

It is time to stop the killing. Time to pass  reasonable gun laws that allow the gun people to have their handguns and rifles but removes killing machines from the hands of would be assassins. No one’s second amendment rights outweigh the life of one human being. No way, no how, on any planet is that right.  On Saturday, March 24th hundreds of thousands of like-minded Americans will be marching. Marching for life. Fueled by young adults whose lives have forever been changed when they ran, hid and died trying to escape a flurry of gunfire that killed seventeen of their fellow classmates and forever traumatized and changed the course of their young lives. They have harnessed their grief and anger launching it into a nation wide movement seeking to turn the tide on senseless loss of human life. If you are moved by their fervor, walk with them. It will make you feel so whole, so hopeful, so “right”. Just walk.

Never Again!!!