Froze For My Gun Rights at Lobby Day 2016

2016-01-18 08.51.17 Every year we drive to Richmond to meet with our state representatives to discuss our opinions of the upcoming legislation for the session. All types of lobby groups are there, but VCDL tends to draw the largest crowd.

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We didn’t drive down early because of an upcoming house purchase and trying to save money. I’d wanted to visit the Richmond Zoo, but with how cold the weather was, I wouldn’t have wanted to walk around in that anyways…hopefully later this year. I mean they have penguins!

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So we drove down that morning, and I immediately regretted not wearing a scarf. It was freezing out, cold and chilly! I tied my hood around my face, and shivered while waiting in line. But, I think my right to defend myself is worth it.

2016-01-18-Lobby Day_38Usually we are able to meet with many legislators or their aides, but most of our representatives seemed busy this year. We’ve met with them in previous years, so we signed their guest books and moved on.

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This year we had probably the most interesting meeting that I’ve ever had in the 6 years of our participation in this event. We managed to be able to meet with Senator Marsden. Right before Lobby Day he received a lot of VCDL member’s attention with this lovely sign:

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It reads “Welcome gun lobby day members I know you mean well. But, if it isn’t too much trouble, please stop trying to save our lives…Too many people are getting killed in the effort.”

Firstly, I will say that I appreciated Senator Marsden’s honesty and the fact that he was still willing to meet with VCDL members. In fact, I think he met with multiple groups this day likely saying much of the same thing. Many legislators who disagree with VCDL and gun rights purposely hid away in meetings or are out of the building when we visit, so I think it says a lot that he was willing to continue the conversation.

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He was upfront about his beliefs that we need “common sense gun control” etc. The room was filled with tension as he continued to say things like, “I don’t think any of you have enough training to be carrying those.” It is insulting. He didn’t know any of us, and likely several of them have more training than police officers who only have to qualify once a year.

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Disappointingly, and I think because we were in such a big group, there wasn’t a single spokesperson which wasn’t conducive to as useful as a discussion as I would have liked to have. Gun rights, or gun control and trying to save lives is an issue that both “sides” are so passionate about it makes it difficult to have the most rational conversations at times.

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My husband tried to calmly enter the discussion. While others may have seen his hand raise as a submission gesture I think it showed a level of control and discipline. He brought up a great question asking explaining his own experience, “I have all of the experience and training that you are specifying, so what do I gain as a gun owner, with this back ground check bill that you are trying to pass?” To which he did not have a good answer, and simply dodged the question.2016-01-18-Lobby Day_113

 

Then, we joined everyone outside for the rally. Because VCDL wants to showcase a greater diversity of our membership (we aren’t all older men who look like we are from Duck Dynasty) , I was asked to hold a sign. We aren’t allowed to use posts or flag poles (yet we can carry weapons?!) so I wore it across me.

 

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One of my favorite speakers of the day (I’m already so over the presidential campaigns) was from a young African American woman named, Shaneen Allen. A few years ago she was arrested in NJ as she wasn’t aware of their gun law, volunteered that information after being profiled, and had to fight tooth and nail to have the charges dropped. It was amazing to meet her and hear her story.

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We still have so much work today, but so far we seem to be making progress as the reciprocity reversal is being overturned. If you aren’t a member of VCDL you should be!

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Oh, this little cutie was my favorite, and we are pretty sure she was the youngest person there fighting for our rights.

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Seen the End of the Journey

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Once upon a time I began my counseling career after my internship. It was challenging phsyically, emotionally, in all the ways. I desperately wanted to reach these kids who were known to be some of the most aggressive and tough. I hurt because of their hurts, wondering how I could better help them. I cried in our break area so many times, only to hear from other hardened staff, “oh you just need to toughen up,” as I nursed bruises, and frustrations at being ineffective.

After a grueling summer, each supervisor wanted me on their team, I praise God for my displayed work ethic and passion. I accepted the alternative school placement.

I went on my annual beach vacation, and returned to school politics and an agency that didn’t defend me, giving the position away. I was broken hearted and betrayed professionally. I later cried to my supervisor who was going to be my team lead at the alternative school. I think that I was the most broken hearted because of how much I wanted to partner with this school. The teachers were wonderful, and had amazing structure for these behaviorally challenged children. I was going to be successful at this location. Then this dream was suddenly ripped away from me. (Ironically some of the structure at the school bent under the pressures of intense kids and more politics, so likely God was sparing me from something).

I stepped down from this agency and chilled out for awhile, scared to restart my career, not knowing if I could trust employers not to put
me in such risky positions only to be betrayed by politics.

Then, last year, in my month of living courageously and stepping out of my comfort zone, I followed up with the recommendation to apply at the local community service board. I applied for any position I was qualified for, including crisis services even though individual outpatient and daytreatment were things I’d done before.

I got hired to this team with amazing people and management. I met the CEO the first week, was provided the resources to do my job. We were even given a new building recently to better serve our rural community.

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But one of the coolest things was to see God tie some of the threads of my life together this week!

An assignment came up in the city, which we always enjoy. I met the client, he was familiar, and I recognized the names of the teachers. I explained that I’d worked for the previous organization. Later that day I discovered that even though the alternative program was at a different base school, it was still the same amazing program I’d longed to partner with! In an unexpected twist I was back at this school, working with these incredibly understanding teachers helping this kid stay in their school location! So many things were similar, including this map carpet that I had been all too fascinated with.

I worry much more than I ever have need to about the future. I want to know how things will end, how meaningless choices affect the outcomes. In these moments, seeing God reveal His hand it is easy to believe and to trust. I’ll revel in those gifts, but I really want to focus on the ways God has revealed Himself in the past the next time something uncertain happens.

Isaiah 26:3- You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

Counted Down to 2016 Twice

When you work with kids you take EVERY opportunity to do fun things like celebrate the holidays. This meant that my coworker and I planned to have them celebrate the New Year’s festivities with making pizza, art projects, noise makers, and counting down at noon. They really seemed to enjoy it.

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Later I went to a party with people my own age to do another count down. While at the party it was a nice chance to catch up, and people were asking me about my job, what I do, and the differences between this job and another. One new friend asked about the kinds of kids we work with, basically asking how we know if we are effective. Honestly, since I work such short term programs either 15 or 30 days, I only know the middle of their stories and don’t usually know how things work out. Because my agency is so large sometimes I’m able to get a short update from a case manager who still works with them, but there are several dear to me cases that have been closed that I have no idea how their lives are going now.

Randomly, as I was returning the borrowed work vehicle to one of our offices I saw a former client and his family. His mom bragged about how well he’d done on his 9 weeks tests, and I discovered that he was still enrolled in his public school. I was surprised by this given how fed up the teachers were during his struggle to adjust, but he was able to pull through, and even admitted that he hadn’t received in school suspension in a couple of months. In was an unanticipated short encounter with a former client whom I’d labeled resistant and hadn’t been able to progress much work with, but he was beginning to thrive. That, is why I do what I do :0)

When discussing the differences between my first attempts at starting this career at the place where the children were out of control as compared to where I work now, another friend offered an insight that reflects on this professional development for the past year. She said that she noticed how at the last job my posts were usually dealing with so many frustrations, of getting through, but that now my posts are much happier, really enjoying what I do.

I’m incredibly thankful to have this job, at this agency, in this particular country, with my awesome supervisor and coworkers. Do I grumble each and every morning and say something to the husband like, “Please, can I just quit? Can I just not work” Yes, pretty much almost every single morning, because I want more time to do fun things like blogging, but I’m incredibly blessed and so excited to see where this career and upcoming year takes me!

Cheers to 2016!

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(This may or may not be my champagne and raspberries before I manage to dump it all over myself, which is doubly ironic as it is just due to clumsiness. Maybe coordination should be a goal in the new year?)

Favorite 2015 Unblogged Moments

2015 New Year celebration with the date outlined by colourful fiery sparklers on a dark New Year's Eve night

 

There is this thing that happens, called life, and I’ve yet to master managing it. Here’s my attempt at catch up with a series called “Favorite 2015 Unblogged Moments” So enjoy these belated recaps with me while we celebrate new beginnings and fresh starts! Cheers!

Watched Otters Play at Maymont – Touring a beautiful estate in Richmond.

Joined the Dance OnStage -That time when I performed in my adult ballerina class.

Celebrated the 71st Anniversary of DDay – at the National memorial.

Marveled at a Lindsey Stirling Concert – Finally getting to see my favorite musician perform live, and this really is the only way to truly experience her talents.

Kissed an Alpaca in Amish Country – I wasn’t able to leave the country, but I was able to visit a different culture in Upstate New York.

Weathered a Hurricane in Outerbanks – Hurricane Joaquin messing up my plans to see the wild ponies for our 6th anniversary.

Experienced a Flamethrower – Our 6th anniversary happenings.

Embraced Penguins in December – I hate the fact that penguins are associated with ice, they DON’t all live in cold areas. But it does mean that penguin stuff becomes more prominent in December, the month of my birthday, so maybe I’ll allow it.

Visited the Mill Mountain Zoo – When there’s free admission the week of your birthday, you check the closest zoo out!

Visited Mill Mountain Zoo

 

 

 

 

 

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I was craving another animal experience for my birthday, even if it couldn’t involve penguins. Luckily for me, a local small zoo, Mill Mountain Zoo had a free admission day during my birthday weekend, so we were able to check something off the local bucket list!

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I quickly learned that it is difficult to take pictures of creatures as they are behind fences, but was able to get creative with this limitation.

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Some of the staff walked around with some of the ambassador animals. This little ferret was soft and reminded me of ferrets we had growing up: Sissy and Sassy.

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It wasn’t as cold as it could be for December, but this little animal still had the idea, sitting under its heat vent.

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Husband being a goober in front of the cage trying to see if he could merit a response from an animal.

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My favorite animal of the zoo, and probably the most exotic was the Snow Leopard. I was entranced, just watching it lounge about. I watched it for so long that husband actually walked away and didn’t realized I’d stayed in the same spot. Obviously, this leopard’s life is so hard.

 

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Watching it, I remembered my love for big cats when I was younger. I identified with them, because you were able to watch their mannerisms and see the same mannerisms in house cats. In this moment the leopard decided to scratch his cheek against the top of his enclosure. I also couldn’t get over how thick his its tail was!

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Husband, as always, enjoyed the petting zoo animals, easily making friends.

IMG_5633 This, is a Zebu, basically a cow from South Asia. They are used to provide milk and meat. Husband created a bond by scratching its giant nose. It quickly showed its affection by tasting him.IMG_5616 IMG_5608Hopefully we’ll be able to visit again when more of the animals are active, out and about, instead of hiding from the cold.

Embraced Penguins in December

Last year I received a penguin necklace from my day for my birthday, I attempted to wear it while telling friends, I REALLY don’t like penguins that much…its not like I’m obsessed. I gave it a couple of months, and officially recognized my penguin love in 2015.

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However, I’m picky. I don’t just love any penguins, and actually the Penguins of Madagascar movies frustrate me because they only represent one type of penguin, those found in Antarctica. In my opinion it seems like the cold weather penguins seem to get the most representation in penguin depictions, leading everyone to believe that ALL penguins live in the cold. Well, not MY favorite penguins, they live on the beach!

Then, in December penguin imaged items were everywhere…at first I wanted to fight against the incorrect stigma, but this means that penguin stuff is every where! Plus, it gives me something to look forward to about my birthday being in December. I’ve long resented that my birthday competes with all sorts of Christmas events and parades, and there’s really nothing fun to do outside because of the cold.

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Then, I saw the penguins, and decided to embrace the penguins.

This made it easier for people who love me to send me all of the penguin things for my 28th birthday. Though I didn’t get to see a penguin this year for my birthday I was showered with lots of fun things.

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One of my very favorites is a painting by a penguin. Some of the zoos and aquariums that offer this, do enrichment projects with the penguins where they teach them to lift their feet to check them for diseases, and then apply paint and let them waddle across a canvas. I’m delighted to have this painting that I can put up every December to celebrate the penguins!

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Kissed an Alpaca in Amish Country

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This was another year where I did not have the chance to leave the country, but I was able to visit an Amish community and appreciate their culture. Husband and I drove to his hometown area to watch friends be wedded, so my mother in law, and sister in law decided to visit Amish country.

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Of course, you aren’t allowed to take their pictures, so I made sure to bring my pancake lens. The children all scurried away from me anyways whenever the camera would point in their direction (when I wasn’t paying attention).

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One of the first places we visited was a toy shop. We were some of the only customers. After exploring and making our purchases the shop owner decided to have fun with us. He had made these contraptions meant to play tricks/gags on people. I didn’t play along, I struggle with being made to look silly, but my sister in law was nice enough to try to figure the puzzles out.

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The area was absolutely beautiful. There were houses on hills, around dirt roads. It was a quiet area, and it felt like we were in another country.

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We also made sure to visited a quilt shop. We spoke with the shop owner at length while we browsed the items. The handmade items were gorgeous and made with intricate detail. While browsing I kept thinking about how my best friends would be moving to a different state soon taking their 2 year old (now 3 year old) with them. I was heart broken, so I kept picking out presents for her. I mentioned this to the shop owner, and she shared about how her children were moving to a different house further in the area, and she was also sad that she would not see her grand children as often. Sure, my friend was moving states away, and her family was only moving a few miles away, but due to their limited technology the distance would feel the same. It was neat to share that despite our cultural differences.

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In the area, not owned by the Amish was an Alpaca farm. We toured the pens, learning everything that we could ever think to ask about Alpaca’s. The owner teased us into kissing them, and of course my sister in law and I couldn’t resist the photo opportunity!

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I’d never been up close to an Alpaca before, and I was struck by how laid back their personalities were. There were some young ones, cousins, and if the babies went to the other mothers they’d spit at them, so that was entertaining to watch.

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And of course, we couldn’t leave without getting some yummy handmade fudge!

I hope 2016 also has some fun travels :0)