On Wednesday, my daughter and I journeyed from our home in Wilmington to the Winston-Salem/Greensboro area to tour the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and the University of North Carolina Greensboro.

We left the house without a backup printout of our route because we were late and figured we’d be fine with our cell phones. I forgot my charger and my daughter’s charger was faulty. But, we made it on time for our tour of UNCSA! This tour was conducted by an admissions counselor. He knew plenty and he showed us lots of hands-on stuff.

I took this photo behind an “apartment” built on a sound stage. This set up creates sunlight through the window. The message is that we can absolutely manufacture our own sunshine.

This is a photo of my daughter standing in front of one of the main buildings and UNCSA signs. It seems like a sign that this is her school. (We don’t know that yet, as she’s just about to begin junior year of high school. Plenty of time yet for contemplating.)

This photo is a sign that we chose the correct hotel for our stay because we have a Little Free Library, too. Plus, look how awesome this one is!

This photo is a sign that my daughter performed THE PERFECT parallel park in downtown Winston-Salem and is, according to this New York mom, ready to get her driver’s license. She would argue that this photo is really a sign that her mom is ready for her to get her driver’s license in a state which doesn’t require parallel parking in their driver’s test.

This photo is a sign that someone came up with a great idea and sells lots of product at the Old Salem gift shop.

The message in this photo is, with or without fences, goodness finds a way.

The message in this photo is that reading that how-to-take photographs book last summer paid off.

The message in this photo is that everyone who recommended eating lunch at The Tavern in Old Salem was right!

And then we drove to Greensboro and got there in plenty of time for our tour. Our guide was a student named Laura. She did a great job! Gave us plenty of information, answered all our questions, showed us a classroom, a dorm room, the library, and the cafeteria where she gave us all cups so we could get a cold drink.

While we were standing around slurping away, she complimented me on my necklace. It’s a tiny “gold” replica of the Icon Cross of San Damiano through which Jesus spoke to St. Francis of Assisi and told him to rebuild his church. She said she saw the real thing when she was in Italy with her mom. What!? What a sign! First of all, St. Francis of Assisi is my birthday patron saint and also my daughter’s birthday patron (because he died on October 3, but his feast day is October 4 due to a medieval calendar glitch). AND, we totally want to journey to Italy and do a saintly pilgrimage.

Laura ended up giving us wonderful advice about tour groups and getting to visit the saintly shrines because they are considered a part of the Best of Italy. Now I have a first step! I was soooo excited by this random data dump of exactly the information I needed but was completely unrelated to our college touring.

As we continued on, I reflected on the fact that due to the recent shootings of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the police officers in Dallas, I was wearing an orange tee-shirt with my necklace on the outside of the shirt. Normally, I try not to be all in your-face about my Christianity, so I keep my necklace on the inside of my shirt, close to my heart. But, with one shooting after the other, after the other, while I was away from home on a specific mission and unable to process any of it, I wanted to, at least, be a walking prayer for those who so recently died by gun violence.

So I was marveling about how, via a symbol of a cross that was important to my patron saint, I “randomly” received information that I can use as a first step in bringing me to the shrine of St. Francis of Assisi and perhaps even to visit the real Icon Cross of San Damiano myself! Before I could even offer up a prayer of thanksgiving, we passed this statue.


The photo is not mine. In fact, I don’t have any photos of UNCG, I think it’s because I was too engaged in the tour to think to pull out the camera. And then when Laura started telling the story of this statue, I was too enthralled to stop following her to run over to snap a photo. It’s a statue of Minerva the Roman Goddess of Wisdom. A tradition began at some point in which students leave apples with one bite taken out as an offering to Minerva in exchange for an A on an exam.

Fascinating! But all I could really think about was this is another sign! Minerva is the name we chose for a stray cat we took in a couple of months ago. Our Minerva continues to be pretty feral and is just now poking her head out from behind the water heater in the garage to eat her dinner while we our still filling up her water bowl. Now, I named her Minerva after Professor McGonagall from Harry Potter without having any idea that Minerva is the name of a goddess of wisdom! There are signs and messages galore in this coincidence! I haven’t truly figured them all out yet. I wonder if it’s a sign for me regarding the gaining of knowledge, or if it’s a sign that this is the perfect college for my daughter. We shall see.

After thanking Laura profusely, we got in the car and began our three-hour drive home on I-40.

And then, alas.

The message in this photo is UH OH! Alert, alert!

The message in this photo is CRAP! Something’s wrong with the coolant system.

Adding coolant did not help. The phone charger was also kaput at this point and both of our phones were down to single digit percent of charge. Some of us in the car were freaking out a bit. (It wasn’t my daughter.) But then, with the guidance of my husband, we purchased a new charger at a rest stop. Then, because he had called ahead and arranged the whole thing, he directed us to a Toyota dealer with a rental car counter. We arrived just before closing and they were ready for us! (Except for the service staff who leave an hour earlier.)

All’s well that ends well. Except for the part were we have to drive the rental car back tomorrow, about a seven-hour round trip. But even that’s not so bad. We’ll have good music, we’ll stop by to have lunch with my son in Raleigh, and there’s no charge for the service. It was just an air bubble in the coolant system that needed to be passed.

Meanwhile, underneath all this good college stuff, signs from above, phone and car dysfunctions, and nerve-wracking pulling off to the side of the road to assess stuff, I was devastated about the shooting deaths and unable to process or learn anything more about the situations than I had seen during breakfast at the hotel.

When we got home, safe and sound, I think I spent about two hours on Friday night then about four, maybe five hours yesterday on social media sorting through all kinds of articles, news updates, opinions, blog posts, memes, status updates, people’s feelings, thoughts, ideas, prayers  . . .

And I think finally I have reached a level of understanding of the situation and what it means for us as country and what it means to me personally.

I also realized with this process of my seemingly too-much-with-the-Facebook, that for me diving deep is absolutely necessary. I need to face it so I can understand it, so I can learn from it, so I can move on in a better way.

This procedure is exactly the same way I handled the rejection trauma that launched my spiritual journey in October, 2014. The one that changed my life from the inside out. The one that most recently showed me how significant childhood trauma is to our development. We can’t hide from it. We can set it aside for while, just so we can get through the day, so we can continue to breath in and breath out.

But at some point, when we’re ready, we need to dive deep and face those memories. To seek professional help, or read all kinds of books, articles, seemingly random stuff that pop up in the Newsfeed which we create just for ourselves with our likes and other post interactions. And then we get to a point where we realize that we are ready to face and experience the traumatic memories as they rise to the surface. Those days aren’t pretty, but they’re necessary. And then, thankfully, they are purged. I’ve already had several really bad emotional days. But I know this is all part of the process, I let it happen, and follow letting go and releasing toxic energy procedures. I also know that the sun will shine again tomorrow and if it doesn’t, I have the ability to manufacture my own sunshine.

So what did I learn about the recent shootings? I learned that there is a way to meet on that bridge. That we can come together as a united people and grasp this solution together. We all need to face it and we all need to understand that, yes, there is absolutely something we can do about it.

I began my fight for gun safety when Sandy Hook happened. Those babes were exactly where they were supposed to be doing exactly what they were supposed to be doing. No one did anything wrong here. Not the parents, the teachers, nor the administration. Those children should not have died. And yet.

And yet. So many. Every day. And when there are these highly traumatic ones that affect all of us, most recently Orlando 49, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the police officers in Dallas, at first we stand around in shock, going what the hell is happening?! But then we realize that we have to take our efforts up another notch.

For example, in the past I have actually had the thoughts, God bless you with your bathroom fight, LGBT community, I’m dealing with gun violence. And, God bless you with your blacklivesmatter fight, black community, I’m dealing with the NRA. But, it’s become glaringly obvious to the point that I’m embarrassed that I didn’t see it before, it’s all the same fight! We’re all on the same side. And my daughter’s fight to save the environment is also freaking important. We can’t wait on that one either. We really have to get it together as a country and not only do the right thing, but do the right things. Plural.

So, how am I doing that? I intend to keep showing up. Next week I’m attending a Potluck for Peace discussion at the local YWCA and later a Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense meeting. I might also attend a blacklivesmatter march for which I just received the invite while writing this post. I have to check it out with my and my daughter’s schedule.

But you know what? We don’t have to attend everything. One would do. As long as whatever we do, we’re taking it up a notch.

And then this morning’s sermon. I so wanted a sermon that would speak to us about this past week’s nationally traumatic gun violence, and I got one. The preacher went deep into the parable of the Good Samaritan. He didn’t say that we should act like the Good Samaritan and take care of those less fortunate than ourselves as I was expecting.

He said (and I’m filling in the blank to make it personal to me), imagine that you are the one who got beat up and left half dead on the side of the road. Imagine that instead of a Samaritan, it’s an Assault Rifle Open-Carrying NRA Nutjob who takes care of you while everyone else walks by. That’s your neighbor. Go and do likewise.

Holy . . . Wow.

But here’s the thing, by imagining this particular scenario, I’m actually stepping closer to the middle of that bridge.

Won’t you please join me there?

(Originally posted on 7/10/2016 to Saints and Recipes on Blogger.)

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