Freeman, Past and Present


Some of you may have heard about the most recent school shooting, this one at Freeman High School in Rockford, WA (near Spokane). What most of you don’t know is that I grew up there, know those people, and attended Freeman Elementary and Middle Schools before transferring to a high school out of district.

Freeman is, as I’ve always half-joked, conveniently located between two wheat fields (just take a right at Bessie the Cow); more accurately, it’s a small school district with about 80 students per grade level, and many of those students come from farming or working class families. The great thing about small communities like that is they’re tight knit, and people take care of each other, as many families have known each other for generations: their fathers were friends, their daughters played soccer together, her brother married his sister, they opened up a store together, etc etc. It’s a really beautiful thing because it feels like everyone is a family. Except when you feel like the very distant cousin from Mars.

I transferred to a high school in downtown Spokane after 8th grade because I was often isolated, friendless and miserable while at Freeman. I was that Martian cousin, ostracized by my peers and occasionally their parents. I was always different — being outspoken, liberal, AND feisty isn’t the best combo if you want to avoid conflict at a conservative school. Sometimes I sought conflict because I didn’t know what else to do; I lashed out verbally at times, because I never fit in with the cliques that formed as early as first grade. Truly, I felt uncomfortable, out of place, and desperately unhappy for most of my time at Freeman. Children are horrible to each other no matter where you live. Teachers and parents, too.

The world changes so quickly. All three of the schools were remodeled shortly after I left. Students come and go, and a lot of my old teachers have retired. Perhaps a lot stayed the same. Perhaps it’s still a home full of family for some students, and a place of isolation and despair for others.

As I write, I can only think, “I don’t really know how to do this.” I don’t know how to convey both my sympathy and my memories all at once. I don’t know how say that my heart is broken for the community I grew up in and that I look back at my time there and feel ill and vulnerable, just as I did when I was 8. I can’t explain how uncomfortable I am with my conflicting feelings. I can’t cry over the beautiful memories I had there, because none really come to mind. But I can cry for the fact that there is something very, very wrong in our society when these events keep happening in different settings all over this country. Barely anyone knew where Freeman was, even in my neighboring town of Spokane, because it was quiet and small. Now, CNN is reporting on it.

I will never sympathize with someone who hurts others. But I can, perhaps unfortunately, empathize. I don’t want to make Freeman out as a horrible place…it is no more deserving of tragedy than any other place on this earth. But I see this combination all too often: a child obsessed with revenge — obsessed with school shootings — attacking the place they’re supposed to call home.

They released the boy’s name within the past day or so. He looks a little familiar, but his name doesn’t. I probably don’t know him at all. Maybe I just know the look on his face, as it reflects that of so many school shooters before him. He’s a child. He’s a child with the strength of an adult, weapon in hand. It’s no one’s fault. It’s everyone’s fault. I don’t know where to place blame, so I let it float out in the air hoping it’ll eventually land on something.

I was bullied in school, but I never did something like this. I wasn’t obsessed with school shootings. I wasn’t allowed to be obsessed with guns. Guns aren’t exactly uncommon in rural communities like this, and I remember children joking about using them when I was little, too. Everyone grew up much too comfortable with weapons. I was terrified of them, but my peers didn’t always seem to be. We can’t just say this boy was a wacko, because that ignores the real problems we need to face in this country. We can’t blame this solely on mental health problems. He was suicidal, but most suicidal people don’t try to bring others down with them. He took liking guns to another, more dangerous, level. Perhaps the fact that he had access to a gun is less important than his desire to use one to hurt others at such a young age, or perhaps that access to guns is what caused that desire in the first place. These problems are widespread across our society, and we need to find ways to teach our children that violence of any kind is just not the way to go. And we need to teach our children to stop treating each other so badly. Children, as I’ve said, are horrible to each other. But they don’t have to be. Not if we teach them how to love just a little harder.

I don’t know how to convey my feelings. But perhaps if we were a little more honest with ourselves about the complexities of these situations, we’d find more complex and effective ways to prevent them.

Advertisements

Sup, Y’all


Story of my life.

Story of my life.

Welcome, newly baked muffins! (Before you think that was a drug reference, it wasn’t! It was a food reference, which is much more my style!) I’m so glad to have you all here, mostly because you’re my only friends and I’ve gained 200 more of you.

I’m kidding. I think…

Anyway, hi, and thank you for liking my nonsense! I would like to initiate you into my cult welcome you by telling you a few things about myself.

1. I accidentally put shampoo on my face in the shower about once a week. I know it sounds ridiculous, but showers are distracting, y’all! There is water shooting toward my head at all times, and that just feels dangerous.

2. When I was 12, I wanted to be Harriet the Spy, so I would get dressed up in my brown corduroys and green jacket (for maximum camouflage effect) and hide in the bushes and spy on my neighbors. Keep in mind that I lived on 8.5 acres of field, so my neighbors weren’t too easy to spy on. Once, I’m pretty sure someone drove by and saw me hiding in the bushes, so that’s awkward. I wasn’t a very good spy.

3. Speaking of, I wrote a love note to my neighbor friend (he was a year older than me) when I was six and stuck it in his mailbox. I think it said, “Thank you for being nice to me. I love you. Don’t tell anyone.” It’s very possible that I didn’t even sign it. It was on a little yellow post-it.
On the plus side, I don’t think he ever told anyone.

4. In Fall 2011 I lived in a co-ed apartment-style dorm, so I had two guys as neighbors. We entered our rooms from the outside, and by October it got pretty cold and rainy, so I would run from class to my room and didn’t particularly like to hang out in the cold. Anyway, my neighbor Thomas would talk on the phone for at least 2 hours daily and stand right outside my window, occasionally looking in and staring like I couldn’t see him. We called him Telephone Thomas because alliteration is awesome, and I thank baby Jesus every day that I don’t live there anymore. Also, who was he even talking to?

5. My suitemate in that same dorm used to wear vampire fangs and cat eye contacts. To class.
Her boyfriend’s name was Christof, and he used to stay with her all the time and use our bathroom and not flush the toilet and hang out in our changing area and talk to me when I’d get out of the shower with my towel on and stuff. So that wasn’t creepy at all.
While we’re talking about that dorm, there was a thong hanging off a tree branch right outside my window for that entire quarter. I hope whoever lost their underwear that way at least had a good time doing it.

6. One time a homeless man slapped his butt at me in Seattle. Cool, huh?

7. In middle school, I was talking to the principal and ran into a wall. Not head on…no, I was just walking along and since I can’t walk like a normal person, I sort of just veered into the wall and hit my head.

I think that’s all you need to know for now. So what have we learned? I’m clumsy, creepy, and have lived with a lot of weirdos.

Cheers!

I Was Destined for Politics


Some of you might not know that I was Vice President of the Associated Student Body in middle school. Well, I was. And I was awesome. So to prove how awesome I was back in 8th grade, here is the speech I gave to get elected. On the internet. Published. Immortalized forever. Can’t be taken back.
Hold on tight.

My name is Cappy and I am running for Vice President.
Stop. Close your eyes and imagine that you are going to the perfect school. We’ll call it Perfect Elementary; Perfect Middle School (please note the probably correct use of the semicolon…I was a genius). All the lockers and drinking fountains work. All the locks on the bathroom stalls work; none are broken or missing (again, notice the semicolon, my favorite form of punctuation). Imagine that the food tastes great and is healthy. All of the sports equipment is in perfect shape. No one is mean to you, or pushes you around in the hallways. Now open your eyes. Look around. We are NOT in the perfect school. Not that we will ever be, but things can be improved. I mean, think about it. REALLY think about it. (Don’t just pretend think about it.) When you can bend a hotdog from the lunchroom around from tip to tip without it breaking, there are some serious problems! (Pretty sure that wasn’t an exaggeration.)

I’m not going to tell you a whole bunch of stuff about me. That’s everybody else’s speech. And you guys really don’t want to hear everyone’s speech all over again, do you? But I will tell you this. If I am elected, I’m not going to be the principal, or superintendent. I won’t have that control. I will be the vice president. And I won’t be able to change everything that I want to. But I will be able to try. If you vote for me, I will do whatever I can to make this school better for you. It’s what we all want, right? Being in the ASB, especially being vice president, is a huge responsibility. But it’s a responsibility that I can handle. So when you leave this gym and get your ballots, vote for Cappy for vice president. Thank you.

And that is why I’m running for president this year. Move over Ron Paul, it’s Cappy 2012. 

I’m So Smooth


The one time I met a famous author, I got my arm stuck in a vending machine.

Rewind.

I was in 7th grade. Let’s also remember that I was fantastically awkward, had braces, and probably a horrible haircut. I also LOVED books. That part hasn’t changed, though I like to think the awkwardness and bad haircut parts have.

I hadn’t even read this guy’s book, and really, I barely remember him because before I wrote this post I had to ask a friend what his name was, but I was really excited because he was coming to our school to speak about writing, the environment (it pertained to his latest novel) and books etc. The first time I heard about Fyodor Dostoevsky was when this author held up a copy of Crime and Punishment in my little middle school gym. I feel like that’s kinda significant.

The librarian asked me to go buy Mr. Author a bottle of water from the vending machine so I could give it to him when he arrived. I was, in the words of Rebecca Black, so excited. I inserted the money, as one is supposed to do when buying water from a vending machine, and stood back to watch the machine do its work. Okay, I probably totally didn’t pay attention, because really, who would, but I’m trying to do a nice job of describing the scene for you… Anyway, point is, the bottle of water ended up getting stuck behind the little flap it was supposed to come out from.

I knelt on the ground, put my arm into the machine, and tried to pry the bottle loose. I didn’t. Instead, I managed to get my arm completely stuck inside the vending machine right as Mr. Author walked up.

He looked at me with distain and said, “Who the hell are you and where the hell is my water, you stupid cow?” I began to cry as he told me I was obviously incompetent and would never become an author if I couldn’t even pull a bottle from a vending machine. Oh, and he also kicked me.

Just kidding! He was probably really nice about it and laughed goodnaturedly or something as I finally pried myself and the water out of the machine. I honestly barely remember meeting him, just that I handed the water over and blushed a whole bunch. It’s funny, because you’d think I’d be excited to meet someone pretty famous, given that he was an author and I was obsessed with books. But it’s so much easier to remember the bad parts of situations sometimes. It’s sad how much bad stuff we remember. There probably ends up not being room for the good stuff in our memories, since all we do is remember when our arms got stuck in vending machines.

Maybe I’ll count that as a good memory instead.