I’ve been in a fog since last Friday. You don’t have to be a parent to be horrified by the killing of innocent children, but when several seven-year olds are gunned down in their sweet little elementary school and you yourself have a seven-year old, it gets real personal, real fast. I hope I never take my baby for granted again, and I don’t know if I’ll ever look at her teachers, her principals or the school staff quite the same way. I wonder when going to school will feel normal again.

Like many parents, I struggled with the desire to go get my child out of school Friday and just spend some time (hours, let’s be real) squeezing her tight. I couldn’t bring myself to do it because I wanted her to remain blissfully ignorant that such an event could ever take place. I couldn’t think of a plausible excuse to relay to her as to why I would pick her up early from school. So I waited until 3:00.

When I walked into the building, I felt so uneasy. Everyone was suspect. I looked at all of the parents crowded in the school lobby. Are you mentally stable? I wondered as I looked at each one of them in the eyes. Do you need some help or are you hiding something under your jacket?

The school sent a note home with Phoebe Friday, detailing the security measures all of the schools in the district had in place. They mentioned “lockdown drills,” so Jeb asked Phoebe what that entailed. Although I appreciate that the kids are prepared and have a procedure in place, it is chilling to hear your baby tell you step-by-step what these kids will do if a “burglar” comes to school. Jeb and I just looked at each other and winced. What a freakin’ nightmare.

Monday, I dropped Phoebe off at school, came back home and lost it in the shower. Taking your child to school ought to be the least scary thing in the world, but all I could think about was, please let her be safe. I baked cookies for my kiddo that day, just yearning for something idyllic. I attended a holiday music presentation at the school later on and still felt on high alert sitting in the cafeteria. Can you imagine being a teacher or administrator and feeling that anxiety all day? The country’s school staff deserves hazard pay for reporting in on Monday.

What I’m feeling is a piss-ant drop in the bucket, comparatively, and I know I’m not alone in these feelings. I just couldn’t bring myself to blog about furniture or decorating as if nothing had happened.

Some of the stuff being passed around on Facebook is just awful. I don’t think now is the time to be defending semi-automatic weapons, as one former Design Star contestant has done. Another Design Star alum has advocated taking away the social security benefits of the gunman’s grandmother because she somehow should have prevented this from happening. WTF? 

What has been uplifting are the links being shared about the extraordinary acts of kindness that have appeared in the media over the past year. It really restores your faith in humanity to read about the NYC policeman who gave all-weather boots to a homeless man and personally put them (and dry socks) on the man’s feet. A stranger who noticed someone’s car window down in the rain and taped plastic around the gap so the car interior wouldn’t get soaked. The people with electricity who strung extension cords out their front doors so strangers could recharge after Hurricane Sandy. The Plano cop who pulled a guy over and gave him $100 because he’d had to choose between feeding his kids and updating his car registration. And this morning, one of my Facebook friends discovered that the person ahead of her in the Starbucks drive-thru had paid for her coffee. These stories are so inspiring, and don’t they make you want to do something extraordinary for someone else? Especially at a time like this, I just want to DO SOMETHING. I feel compelled to do something grand, but the truth is, it’s these simple gestures that make such a difference. My mom was buying ice cream at Braum’s once and the woman in front of her just declared to the cashier, “I’m also getting this lady’s ice cream.” My mom protested, but the woman was in a good mood and she wouldn’t take no for an answer. My mom was on a high for days after that–and it wasn’t a sugar rush. Five or six dollars seems so insignificant, and yet this woman’s gesture gave my mom days of wonder.

Thank you, lady at Braum’s. Thank you, dude in the Starbucks line. Thank you, generous policemen. Thank you, plastic-wielding strangers. Thank you, electricity sharers. Thank you, selfless foster parents. Thank you, caring clergy. Thank you, teachers, principals and school counselors. Thank you, tireless volunteers. Thank you, charity donors. It is your kindness and generosity that keeps everyone going.