the REAL problem

(Hint: It’s not guns.)


A post by Florida Teacher of the Year Kelly Guthrie Raley has gone viral in the last 48 hours. In it, she cites mental health, violent video games, and “horrendous lack of parental support” as being at the root of America’s gun problem.

“Until we as a country are willing to get serious and talk about mental health issues, lack of available care for mental health issues, lack of discipline in the home, horrendous lack of parental support . . . (Oh no! Not MY KID. What did YOU do to cause my kid to react that way?), lack of moral values, and yes, I’ll say it — violent video games, which take away all sensitivity to ANY compassion for others’ lives — as well as reality TV that makes it commonplace for people to constantly scream in each others’ faces and not value any other person but themselves — we will have a gun problem in school,” the sixth-grade language arts teacher wrote.

Raley herself hunts and grew up around guns. “But you know what? My parents NEVER supported any bad behavior from me,” she said. “When I began teaching twenty years ago, I never had to worry about calling a student’s parents and getting cussed out, told to go to hell, or threatened with a public shaming — all because I was calling out their child’s behavior. Something has got to change.”


The below video is an example of the disrespect many teachers in U.S. classrooms face today.

Interestingly, at the same time parental support has decreased and problems like the ones Raley mentions have risen, the use of social media has increased. People around the world can converse more easily now than ever before, and it’s telling that, rather than increase tolerance and understanding, this communication is doing quite the opposite.

Take any article posted on facebook as an example. If you check out the comments section, you’ll see complete strangers verbally attacking one another — simply for having a difference of opinion. This is true for people of all backgrounds and religious creeds, all ethnicities, and all sides of the political spectrum. And, quite frankly, I find it disgusting. And painful. Why are people so rotten?

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you’re “right” or “wrong” on an issue. What matters is how you treat others and approach the debate.

How else are you ever going to gain any real insight on an issue? How else are you going to find solutions? Or, if you’re not there to understand and fix the problem, how else are you going to convince others that you’re right? Not by calling them names, I can assure you.

And also, your children are watching.

The truth is, we’re a broken nation, and the only way to fix our problems is to take a good look at ourselves. No, stricter gun laws won’t fix America’s problems — we need a miracle for that (or a million of them). But if we made it just a little bit harder for just anyone to pick up a gun and do god-knows-what with it, it could help save us from ourselves.

the “in between”

Lights, camera, action. The theater darkens; actors appear on screen. And then, reality sweeps away. For the next few hours, we become a part of the film. We are encapsulated in the artwork of storytelling.

In those moments, we are the heroes; we are the everyday Joes; we are the young professionals trying to find our way. There’s a reason we choose the films that we do. In some form or fashion, we connect with them.

And later, when they’re all over, we long for them not to be done. We sit in the darkness, waiting—holding our breath—reliving vicariously the scenes we’ve just seen. I’ve never felt prettier than I have walking out of a movie theater . . .

That is until I get to the car and see that big zit on my nose. Ugh!

ladybI went to my first movie since moving to Knoxville last night. Ironically (or, not surprisingly?), I picked a movie about a girl who grew up in my hometown. She’s a high school senior who dreams of experiencing life outside her city. She hasn’t traveled much yet, but she wants to.

Throughout the film, I saw a few parallels to my own life. “Lady Bird” graduated in 2003 and went to a school in New York; I graduated in 2002 and went to a school in Tennessee. She and her mother both had strong personalities; I and my own mom are quite similar.

But what stood out to me most was a theme we often overlook in life: waiting. In the film, Lady Bird was eagerly anticipating the next phase of her life. She couldn’t wait for college; she couldn’t wait for the school year to be over.  But what the story was really about was what she was doing now. Often the “in-between-changes” parts of our lives are just as important as “what comes next.” I myself often worry about the future, but the movie reminded me that today—and every day—is an important opportunity to work on myself.

Shortly before seeing “Lady Bird,” I watched a video on facebook that talked about happiness. The video claimed that we often look outwards to find happiness and life’s purpose when it should be the other way around: “You are what you love, not what loves you.” This concept came to mind on my drive home last night, and I couldn’t shake it as I contemplated this newly-highlighted idea of waiting. Although I didn’t agree fully with the video’s message (my qualms are written below), I thought the narrator made some really good points. Please check it out (and read my comments, too)!

The narrator’s thoughts / My thoughts:

We’ve been conditioned to move to a place of “what loves us,” and almost every decision we make now is based on what other people think about us.
It depends on the person.
If you’re under the impression that things outside of you complete you, you will always be a victim because everything has to change to make you happy . . . You’re moving from “out to in.”
When you were a kid, you weren’t working on managing customers or fake lists, etc., you were working on you. And that same mentality exists in people who are the greatest at what they do. They weren’t looking at their lists and how many people they got; they were working on themselves and excelling at that.
The narrator’s parallel to childhood is a bit simplistic. Kids play to learn skills they will need as adults. That’s part of life. At surface level, though, his analogy makes sense.
There’s a level of effortlessness that shows up when you enjoy the process of working on yourself. That’s the goal of life, and when you do that, the results will show up when they’re supposed to.
The goal of life is more than just working on ourselves. I feel the goal is to look at what we can do to help others. In so doing, we become the best possible versions of ourselves. That said, I really like the idea of worrying less about what others think and knowing that things will happen when they’re supposed to.

who needs grammar?

Okay, I (unintentionally) started this conversation, and now that I did, I might as well finish it.

I didn’t have time for a longer Christmas-related post on Friday (I’ve been negligent, I admit), so I posted my “friday funny” instead. It was a silly image, perhaps — with the CIA stepping in to correct a person’s grammar — but there is a larger conversation here that’s been bothering me for some time.

Since moving to Knoxville I’ve spent a fair amount of time looking for furniture on online yard sales through facebook. The online yard sales are a sort-of new and improved version of Craigslist and make it easier than ever to communicate with buyers and sellers. That said, they’re also a place where people frequently “show their true colors,” so to speak, and I’m never quite sure what to expect.




In addition to online sales, there are also online “watches.” The below examples come from a stolen bike watch in the Bay Area.




Say, whaaa?? Some of the above are simple spelling mistakes — perhaps the person was rushing, no biggie — but in others the grammar is so bad I have no idea what the person is saying. In these cases, I can’t help but wonder, “Do they know how confusing this is?”

Now, of course no one is turning these ads into their English teacher — I get that. What concerns me, though, is the connection I see between these and a larger societal trend that attempts to devalue and even make fun of correct grammar. I myself feel self-conscious when posting on facebook because I like to write full sentences and use punctuation. This is not the norm in online communities where short-handing and emoticons reign. After all, who needs “you” when you’ve got “u,” or “Way to go!” when you’ve got “👍“? (And, for the record, I see people of all ages writing in short-hand like this. It’s not just a millennial thing.)

But really, it’s no big deal, right? As long as you get your point across, who cares?

You’re right. It doesn’t matter — until college graduates don’t know how to put together a resume or write a cover letter, or until the lack of an oxford comma costs a company millions.


(For the full article, click here.)

The societal trend towards — I’m not even sure what to call it: illiteracy? ignorance? obtuseness? — is complicated and points to a number of factors, no doubt. Certainly our highly flawed education system and lack of government funding play a role, but I believe it’s more personal than that. I think it’s a trend we all choose to recognize and participate in or reject on a daily basis, and that it’s consequences are far more reaching than we realize.

But then again, what do I know? I’m just a girl perusing online yard sales.

embracing my humanity

I’ll start this with a blank page. That’s where all good stories begin, isn’t it? A blank slate, a clean record. You don’t know anything about me yet . . . and maybe it’s better that way?

Better to leave some stories untold. Better to build fences and live behind walls. I’m human and you’re not – you, the great unknown, the great gods of Facebook and Strava, the ones who live behind fences of your own.

And yet here I sit, writing. Wanting to share, needing to share. Since moving to Knoxville, I’ve seen we can’t live our stories alone. We mortals are wired for connection – even us quiet ones . . . Well, this one is, anyway.

And so I sit, writing. Reaching, breathing. But what is there to say? Shall I tell you of my failures? My inability to find focus when I need it? Today I must write a critical paper on metaphor theory and Mandarin. Today all I want to do is run and wash my car, and sit here, and write. Have I chosen the right degree?


I didn’t announce my car accident on facebook. Only my good friends got to hear about that – and you, my readers. I might be a little bold sometimes and post pictures of myself or mention events I participated in or attended. But I can’t come out clean and stand bare beyond my fence. To do that would be to admit my mortality. Or worse – to appear to be seeking sympathy.

A friend recently expressed her concern for me. “You’re so hard on yourself,” she said. “You’ve done so many amazing things and have so much to be proud of. I hope you see that.” And I knew – she was right.

I have done a lot of amazing things, and hell yes, I am proud. Not everyone from the States can say they spent three years in Asia, bumbling around in a culture and in a language they did not know or understand. Not everyone went across the country for college, or has risked everything for a relationship that didn’t work out, or has left everything yet again to pursue an advanced degree in the name of personal fulfillment. img_1639-1Life for me is more than just a paycheck, or a fancy home, or boasting about what I’ve done from my comfort zone. But sometimes I wonder, at what cost? Wouldn’t it just be easier to go with the flow?

Yes, perhaps it would. But I can’t live my life that way. In the same way we mortals seek connection, we also seek meaning. Even the most stalwart at the end of their lives look back and wonder, “What have I done?”

For me, I hope I’ll be able to look back at my life and say, “I strove for perfection when perfection was none. I took risks rather than staying ‘safe.’ I dug in when times were tough. I found meaning through connection. I loved no matter the cost. I made a difference because I lived. I am human, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

for all that we’ve gained

social-impact-of-technology-social-isolation-3-638“Duh-uh!” The facebook notification ding! goes off at my computer. I’m standing at the kitchen sink. Oh boy. I roll my eyes . . . Oh boy? My curiosity is piqued. Who’s contacting me now?

I’m checking facebook on my cell phone. I see I’ve got a new message. I click on the 💬 button but am greeted, no, not by my message, but by a black screen: “Please turn on notifications,” it says starkly at the top. Below it, as if to soften the blow, the screen explains, “The app works best when you and your friends can see new messages right away.” It then gives me step-by-step directions explaining how to turn on instant message notifications on my phone.

I’m feeling alone. The work day is slow: I don’t yet have a lot to do, being new. But, oh wait! According to my phone I have ten new messages in my email inbox . . .  Never mind that they’re all from credit card companies or people I don’t know. Maybe I’m not so alone after all.

“Did you look at Yahoo this morning?” “No. Why?” “Just go look at it. Tell me what you think.” “Think about what?” “Just look!” “Uhh . . . Okay, okay.”


When I was a kid, the only way to look up the news was to read a newspaper or watch the evening news. The only way to get in touch with a friend was to call them up (on a landline) or to pass notes in class or write a letter — and send it via snail mail. I didn’t get a cell phone until I was in high school, and I didn’t have a texting plan until long after that. And I distinctly remember the first time I ever heard of MySpace (at an evening service in college) and Facebook (a friend convinced me to sign up so we could stay in touch over the summer). I remember that the very idea of a social network site seemed strange to me. Why would I want to use something like that?

How times have changed.

But have they changed for the better?

These days, even when I try to decrease my online time, I’ve got applications telling me I’m better off not. “I’m here! I’m here!” the Internet calls. “You’re better off because I’m here!”

Am I really?

Yes, I can now buy groceries, go clothes shopping, read the news, look for jobs, “follow” my friends’ lives, look up words, track races, watch games, and so much more — all on my computer — thanks to the Internet. But . . . Did you read the conversation about Yahoo above? For all that we’ve gained, how much have we lost?

my thai lullaby

I was trying to write a blog post tonight — I have so many on my mind — but, to be honest, it’s been a long day. I write best in the morning. I should know better.

And so I decided I would log out of “Shift,” check facebook, log out of that, and head to bed . . . And then on facebook I saw this. And I just had to share.

This, my friends, is what life is — or at least should be — all about.

The news clips call this a tear jerker. Why? Why is that? Should it be? Should tears form when, universally, we recognize what we all should have been doing in the first place? Interesting how emotions know no cultural lines.

the importance of “this”

IMG_0112edOne hour and eleven minutes. That’s how much time I have to get this post written before midnight. That’s how much time separates me from posting once every three days and once every four.

What’s the big deal? some people might say. Blogging just seems like a lot of work.

Well, yes . . . Yes, it is . . . and yet it’s not. It is because there’s pressure to post regularly and to write well. As a writer, I hope to continue building my blog and that, someday, writing Shift will lead me to bigger and better things . . . It’s not, on the other hand, because writing is what I LOVE and interacting with readers makes all the effort I put into my blog worthwhile. (You, dear readers, mean everything to me.) Continue reading