On Citizenship and Gun Reform

I know this is a departure from my usual posts about kids, parenting and domestic dramas. But this is a topic that’s been burning in my head for a long time and I have to get it out, put words to “paper”, have my say. Bear with me, please. Or don’t – as this is about to get political and if you don’t want to get into this here on my blog, then I understand.

This week marks my 14th year living in America. This still amazes me as I really only intended to stay one year. But here I am, happily married, two beautiful kids, lovely home, great job … All the goodness of life in the US of A. I do not take any of this for granted, not for a nanosecond.

It often surprises people when they discover I’m not actually a US citizen: I’m still a legal alien. I have long qualified for citizenship and, in doing so, would not have to give up my British citizenship. I’ve been advised by attorneys that I should get my citizenship, if only to make things easier on my husband, should I pop my clogs before him. It’s always been there, hanging on my life to-do list, along with other things like getting my kids their British passports, which I really must do one of these days.

But something has always stopped me from applying for US citizenship. At first it was something intangible. Like, it would seal my fate, trap me here forever. Which I know is ridiculous but I like to keep my options open. The world is a big place. I long to live again in France. Maybe elsewhere, who knows? Also, there was the reality of becoming a citizen of a country led by George W Bush. I didn’t like his politics and couldn’t bring myself to do it.

And then Obama came along full of promise. I felt optimistic. Maybe, with him running the show, I would feel more at ease with – even proud – to become a US citizen. I firmly put it on my 2013 new year’s resolutions.

But then Sandy Hook happened. And my world was forever changed. How could such a thing be allowed to happen in this civilized society? How? I watched with hope and admiration as President Obama passionately put preventing gun violence at the top of his agenda:

While no law or set of laws will end gun violence, it is clear that the American people want action. If even one child’s life can be saved, then we need to act. Now is the time to do the right thing for our children, our communities, and the country we love,” he said.

I followed closely as Senators Manchin and  Toomey spearheaded the first concrete bill to enforce criminal and mental health background checks for guns purchased at gun shows and online. This is commonsense, no? And then, my heart sunk as the bill failed in the Senate, to the cries of “shame on you”  in their chambers. This, despite that fact that almost 90% of Americans supported it.

And what has happened since? School shooting after school shooting. Mall shooting after mall shooting. Accidental deaths of children who somehow get their hands on ill-stored or illegally acquired guns. And all because of the power and money and influence of the NRA-led gun lobby? Tell me, our politicians, how can you sleep at night while all around the country, parents weep?

It’s appalling. I cannot wrap my head around this. Sadly, my faith in Obama ‘s ability to achieve even the smallest step towards gun reform during his final term is waning. Still, I actively support the groups that lobby and advocate for reform and gun sense, such as Moms Demand Action which provides great tools for contacting your local government representatives. Day in day out they use their voices to bring attention to the issues and lobby so that we don’t become desensitized as a nation to these seemingly-daily tragedies.

To those who own guns legally and responsibly, that’s cool with me, if it makes you feel safe and satisfied with your constitutional rights. Just please – please – keep them properly locked up so your kids – and their friends – don’t find and “play” with them or they find their way into the hands of those with mental health issues or criminal intentions.

I know, if I were a US citizen, that my voice, my vote would contribute. After all, they say one vote makes a difference. Oh how I wish that were true. But sadly, I think this is not the case. I love this country. This is my home. It is also the homeland of my children, their heritage, their identity. But, until the safety of all of our kids becomes a higher priority than the interests of the gun lobby, I just can’t fully adopt it as my own.

A Month of Gratitude: Part 1

November is here and with it, Thanksgiving, my very favorite US holiday. And not just because of the ample pumpkin pie to be enjoyed, but because it shines a spotlight on gratitude, a sentiment we rarely get the opportunity to dwell on, during the crazy pace of the every day. Last year, someone I know posted a daily gratitude post on her Facebook wall and she has inspired me to stop and spend some time every day during the month of November to consider how very fortunate I am and to catalog all for which I am grateful.

So here we go:

Thursday November 1: Today marks my second anniversary working with InkHouse. When I took the position, I knew I was going to be in a for a wild ride of deadlines, creativity, challenges and successes. Naturally, there are days that are better than others but overall, I am intensely grateful for 1) having a job, 2) being able to practice my passion – communicating, 3) having a job that pays well, 4) working with a group of talented, entertaining, creative and warm people.

Friday November 2: Grateful today for a job that allows me to work from home on Fridays. Grateful that, unlike the poor souls in New York and New Jersey suffering from the impact of Hurricane Sandy, I have a roof over my head, heat and power, food and gas. This could have been a very different story.

Saturday November 3: I’m grateful today for music and dancing. On Saturdays, I try and get to a Zumba class and, once I drag myself there, I emerge energized and invigorated. Today I’m also in awe of, and thankful for, the amazing people and organizations that have come together to help Sandy’s victims. Everyone talks, these people actually do. I should do more.

Sunday November 4: Today, I’m grateful for a day to spend with my family. A walk in the park where the colors are still breathtaking, watching my kids skip and play, my dog delirious with the thrill of running free. My husband at my side. I’m also grateful for great screenwriting, random I know, but have been enjoying watching Homeland and tonight, concluded season 1, complete with nail-biting and racing adrenalin.

Monday November 5: For almost 13 years, I’ve been living in the US but have not yet taken the steps to become a citizen so that I can vote. Today I realized that’s it’s time. I’m grateful that I live in a country where democracy  is the norm and aware that, compared to the  many frightful situations in so many other parts of the world, this is not something I should take for granted. Also, I’m grateful for leftover Halloween candy. And pumpkin cheesecake. Both of which I have consumed today! I’m also grateful for hot water because I am cold at night now and sleep better clutching my hot water bottle. Yes I am an old lady already.

Tuesday November 6: My day started with my almost 8-year old climbing into bed for a snuggle. I cherish every single  snuggle and hug with my kids, the chance to both physically and emotional connect, if only for a few minutes. Today I’m also thankful for Twitter. Strange though it make seem, Twitter augments my world, connecting with me valuable new resources and some of the cleverest, nicest people.

Wednesday November 7: So grateful to be waking up to the news that Obama remains President for another four years. For many, many reasons but, mostly, to quote his acceptance speech:  “… if you’re willing to work hard, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or where you love. It doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, able, disabled, gay or straight, you can make it here in America if you’re willing to try.”

Check back next week for another week of gratitude.

A Bucket List of People I’d Like to Meet

I’ve never really met anyone famous. But, thanks to someone I briefly dated decades ago, my aunt and a neighbor, I am actually remarkably well-connected. (In fact, I am less than six degrees from Kevin Bacon – for real, just ask me.) Being connected is not however the same as actually meeting someone you admire or respect in-person. Someone whose voice, words or acts have made an indelible impression on your life.

These are the people whose hands I’d like to shake. Sit down with over a nice cup of tea and have a chat. Say thank you for their talent, vision, writing, actions. Or maybe just have my photo taken with them, for souvenir’s sake. In any case, I’ve kept this list to people who are actually real (i.e. not TV characters who I believe/wish were real, like Jack Bauer, Don Draper and CJ Cregg.) And I’ve excluded my list of hotties (after all, I have a Pinterest board for them!)

Without further ado, here’s my bucket list of people I’d love to meet, in no particular order:

  • Paulo Coelho (@paulocoelho) – a truly inspirational author. His books “The Alchemist” and “By the River Piedra, I Lay Down and Wept” meant the world to me.
  • Beata Klarsfeld - together with her husband Serge, they dedicated their lives to tracking down and bringing Nazis to justice, mostly notably Klaus Barbie. I had the good fortunate to listen to a presentation she gave several years ago and was humbled by her selflessness and determination.
  • Andy Carvin (@acarvin) – the Arab Spring changed history and, in the process, Andy’s role altered the landscape of journalism. He made social media reporting visceral and important, communicating in 140 characters the often-graphic reality of the revolutions in the streets as they unravelled, minute by minute, story by story.
  • Stevie Wonder – the man, the legend. His music is like the best-day-ever. Seeing him play live was one of the best nights of my life.
  • Barack Obama – Say what you will about the economy, liberalism, healthcare, taxes. I was riveted by his inauguration speech back in 2008 and, particularly, the line: “To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”
  • Clint & Stacey of “What Not to Wear” – they have given me the rules and I shall abide. I’d love them to come shop with me for a day. Shut the front door.
  • Ellen Degeneres – Few people make me laugh like Ellen can. She’s generous, beautiful, human, real. And have you seen her read from Fifty Shades of Grey? Hilarious.
  • Elie Wiesel – Holocaust survivor, writer, activist. Nobel Peace Prize winner. My respect for him is profound.
  • Francis Cabrel – his music was the soundtrack of my three wonderful years living in France. I was and still am bewitched by his lyrics, melody and soulfulness. Seeing him play live was an honor that I shan’t forget.
  • Bill Bryson – a combination of laugh-out-loud funny, erudite and educational all wrapped into one man’s great writing. I’ve read and re-read his books about his travels through England, Europe, America, Australia over and over again, and never tire of them. Check out some of his best quotes here.

Who’s on your bucket list of people you admire and would like to meet?

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