How an invasion of ladybugs brought down this pacifist and is making her rethink her stance on guns.

See this photo of our latest snowstorm?


Look closer—see all the spots on the image when I turn on my camera’s flash?



No, no, no—don’t start saying, “Oh, how sweet!” because they aren’t. Not one bit.

They are everywhere. Hundreds, every single day, springing up in the oddest of places. Usually I find them my bedroom and in kitchen–literally IN the butter dish and in the refrigerator (under the veggie drawer, trying to get to my lime).


They don’t respect anything or care where they die. My curtains seem to be their favorite death spot. And our cat is useless against them.


Did you know that when you step on them with bare feet, they have the softest crunch? Not as bad as cockroaches, but still very unsettling when, in the middle of the night, you pad clumsily to the bathroom and feel tiny “crunch . . . crunch . . . crunch” under your feet.

This has been problematic for me because I’ve gone on the offensive, vacuuming up these creatures every day—hundreds a day–and every morning the window looks again like this:


I like to believe I’m a pacifist. I don’t destroy spiders, but back away respectfully and let them have the room until they feel like leaving. I’ve caught mice in past houses and released them into the wild. I have a “live-and-let-live” philosophy: everything deserves life, as much as I do.

Except for hornets. Just the other day I followed a disoriented one who must have come out of hibernation early in my classroom. It landed on the floor and I whacked it repeatedly with a binder, to the cheers of my students. Hornets serve no purpose except to sting me and make my hands swell up.

And ants. They can do anything they want outside, but if they invade the house, they’ll meet my can of Raid and my cries of “DIE! DIE!”

Ok, so I’m a pretty bad pacifist, with a “live-but-not-in-my-house” philosophy.

Funny how circumstances can make you rethink your philosophies, how something hitting close to home—or invading your home—can shift everything.

For example, I hate guns. Always have. I recoil when I see one nearby, and the desire to run for cover overwhelms me.

Until recently, when I realized that as a “permanent substitute teacher” I have a responsibility beyond myself.

Our school has recently been discussing ways to improve safety. New measures began this week, and as I explained them to my students, we naturally joked about how to deal with real threats. (These are teenagers—the only way to deal with heavy issues is to make them lighter.) We talked about the door, and how I might be rearranging the classroom to put me nearest the door, in to open it first whenever someone knocks.

A student said, “So that means you get to die first? Mrs. Mercer, how’s THAT supposed to help us?”

Before I could answer with, “Gee, I really don’t know. I hadn’t considered that,” another student suggested, “Seeing her get shot gives us half a second to realize what’s happening so we can hide under our non-bulletproof desks.”

“But if Mrs. Mercer had a gun,” someone said, “she could take out the shooter and save us all!”

Shockingly, I found myself smiling at that.

Wait, what?!

No. No, no, no I hate guns. I don’t even like their shapes. But suddenly, looking at all of my students who daily test and try me, but who I love far more than I ever thought I would, I wavered.

Would I try to take out their shooter? I like to think I’d rush him, like a manic mama bear, screaming and flailing and maybe doing some good before I was cut down.

But if a gun appeared in my hands at that moment—and I knew what to do with it—would I use it in a situation where I thought my students were in danger?

Shockingly, I just might.

Oh, I know all of the arguments against guns—I’ve written them all in my head. Every time I read about an accidental shooting, or another child finding a loaded gun, or someone else being careless and causing injury or death, I point it out to my husband and say, “Again, THIS is why I insist you keep the ammo and guns separate.” He does. It took him years to convince me to let him have any weapons at all.

I’ve always maintained that I would rather lay down and die in front of a gunman, instead of risking taking someone else’s life. Especially if there was the possibility of my misreading the situation and using a weapon on an innocent bystander. Judging a life-or-death situation accurately in a moment’s notice is difficult for highly trained soldiers and police. They sometimes get it wrong, despite all their experience.

But someone like me? Untrained and emotional and terrified? I wouldn’t trust myself to make the right decision. That’s why I’d prefer to lay down and let happen whatever would happen. God will sort it all in the end.

But as a teacher—even a mere permanent substitute—it’s not just my life in that classroom. I’m a pseudo parent for every child in that room, and I have to consider, “What would each of those parents expect me to do for their child?” I still hate guns. I never want to hold one, but . . .

I’m wrestling with that idea as I vacuum up yet another batch of invading ladybugs.

Only a year ago, I would have carefully rescued the stray ladybug I found in the house and escorted it outside, not unceremoniously suck them up and throw them into 22 inches of new snow.

Circumstances have changed, and I’m changing too.

And I’m still debating if that’s a good thing or not.

Mrs. Yordin chased after Mahrree. “Don’t you dare interfere with my soldiers!”

Mahrree stopped. “Your soldiers? Eltana, no one in Salem owns anything, especially soldiers! But this is what it’s about for you, isn’t it? Revenge for Gari? You don’t care one bit for these people. You never really tried to live the Salem way. You harbored resentment and anger all this time, and now you’re using these gullible people to try to, what, kill Lemuel Thorne? Is that your goal?”

“Yes!” Mrs. Yordin declared. “For me AND for all these people, and even for you, Mahrree! We kill Thorne, we change the world.”

“Change it to what? Not all change is for the best, Eltana, I promise you. The kind of place where bitter old women like you get their way and peace-loving people suddenly want to know how to bleed a man to death is not a place I’d want to live in!”

Mrs. Yordin folded her arms. “You were always so self-righteous,” she announced smugly. “Always had to tell everyone else what they were doing wrong and why nothing was ever right. No wonder the world forced you from it. They were sick of listening to you. Everyone in Edge was. And now you’re breathing your sanctimonious ranting here.”

“Yes, I am.”

~Book 8, The Last Day, coming Summer 2018

I hate guns, but there’s something I hate even more (A pacifist’s confession)

I hate guns.

They terrify me. They kill, indiscriminately, even in the hands of the most skilled and trained users.

I hate their shape, their noise, and the smell of the cleaning agents.

My neighborhood is filled with gun-lovers. Hunters, cops, concealed-weapon holders—I’m surrounded by them. I wish I knew who stored loaded handguns in their houses, because I wouldn’t let my kids play there. All of that frightens me, to no end.

Many of my extended family are gun-nuts. They own arsenals. They’re gunsmiths. Bullets are stockpiled as plentifully as toilet paper is stock piled in my house.

Even my husband owns guns. I require that they remain dismantled, and stored in various parts of the house, because I hate them.

There are far too many accidental shootings and deaths. I don’t want anyone to come running to my aid, wielding a firearm, because I fear they’d shoot an innocent bystander in my behalf.

I’ve never shot a gun, but all of my kids have. My son is in the military, and two of his brothers intend to follow him. I’ve handled our family guns a couple of times, only by wrapping an old towel around them. I distrust weapons of all kinds.

You may choose to be offended by this, but I also tend to distrust gun enthusiasts. Some strike me as insecure bullies, hiding behind their weapons in a childish display of bravado and strength. Look at me! Look at the size of my caliber! There’s definitely something Freudian, and something cowardly, about those who feel their many guns give them power.

I’m a bit of a pacifist, if you hadn’t noticed. I crave peace.

I’m struck by the calm countenances I see in those who eschew violence: Ghandi, the Dalai Lama, and many others who would rather take a hit rather than deliver one. My father, who taught me to hate guns, was the most peaceful man I ever knew.

Yet, there’s something that terrifies me even more than guns: those who want to disarm my family and neighbors, while still remaining armed themselves

I prefer “The Office’s” version of a Mexican standoff: no guns.

It’s the clichéd Mexican standoff: no one dares to drop their weapon, because it’ll leave them vulnerable. I have to confess, those are the scenes in movies I hate the most. I can’t see any peaceful resolution, and you just know someone’s gonna get hit, probably when they’re walking away.

It’s that hypocrisy that makes me nervous.

It’s the same hypocrisy that I see in the elite of America: those with the money and the power and the influence. Those who make laws and entertainment and products we don’t think we can live without.

Those who are trying, at all costs, to take away from us so that they can have more.

You know who I’m talking about, so I won’t name names, but here’s a brief rundown of what they do:

  • They push for Common Core in the public schools, while sending their children to private schools which don’t follow those standards.
  • They insist on sharing the wealth, but just not theirs, because they still maintain mansions, expensive cars, and designer clothing.
  • They cry about climate change, yet pick up their conservation awards via private jets and gas-guzzling SUVs.
  • They won’t carry guns, but their bodyguards do.
  • They want to disarm America, but not those in their circles of influence.

A hypocrite is the kind of politician who would cut down a redwood tree, then mount the stump and make a speech for conservation. ~Adelai E. Stevensen

It’s the same pattern we’ve seen in history, time and time again. America may not have an aristocracy like there was in the French Revolution, but . . . No, wait. We do. They’re based in Hollywood and Washington, D.C.

How difficult it is to avoid having a special standard for oneself. ~C. S. Lewis

These are very dangerous, very powerful people. For many years I’ve tried to give them the benefit of the doubt. So often I’ve defended those who want more gun restriction and laws, not because I agree with their politics (I don’t, at all) but because I sincerely believe that peace can’t happen when so many options for violence surround us.

I thought the elite of America felt that way as well.

But they duped me.

A hypocrite despises those whom he deceives, but has no respect for himself. He would make a dupe of himself too, if he could. ~William Hazlitt

They’re not interested in peace, for everyone. They’re interested only in control, for themselves. You can’t achieve that control if those below you are afforded any power.

My very peaceful father grew up during WWII, in very violent Nazi Germany. His father, a civilian, went nowhere without his sidearm (contrary to popular memes, Hitler did not disarm all of Germany; only the Jews). My parents, both later citizens of America, frequently commented how naive Americans were, how overly trusting we are of those in power, and how little we understand of the horrors of a totalitarian regime.

“This is what politics is about, right? We help the people discover the threat to their security, then we provide them with a solution. Granted, we create the threat that sends them scurrying to us for help . . .” ~Book 4: The Falcon in the Barn

This is why, no matter how much I personally hate guns, I reluctantly, begrudgingly, miserably agree that taking away all of the guns out of the hands of the public will be more disastrous than the bouts of violence we have now.

“Politicians care only about two kinds of people: those who bring them wealth and power, and those who threaten to take it away.” ~Book 3: The Mansions of Idumea

politicians and power

To the elite of America, I promise that this lowly, inconsequential, middle-aged mother of nine who will never willingly touch a firearm will, once again, support your calls for increased gun legislation and even disarmament, on one condition:

Put down your guns first.

But we all know that’s not going to happen.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll do what I usually do during a scene of a Mexican standoff: run to my bedroom and hide in the closet until it’s all over.

I’ll likely be there for a very long time.

(~Book 5, Safety Assured Leaving East of Medicetti, is now available at Amazon and Smashwords and here)