What is a building?

What is a Building?

Tears. Slowly building. A catch in my throat. Deep sigh. This because of a building? A building that hasn’t been part of my life for 50 years. You just never know what will matter. It started with an email announcement from my brother that the church building we grew up in has been sold and the congregation is joining with another congregation of the same denomination. I’m not really surprised. We were invited to a ceremony to celebrate the future.

About 10 years ago, I very randomly picked up a copy of the Seattle Times. It was the newspaper delivered to our home all my years growing up. On the rare occasion, I am in Seattle with time to spare (okay, kill), I might pick up the Times. That has happened perhaps 4 or 5 times at the MOST in 50 years. I don’t even remember what I was in Seattle for or why I picked up the paper.

The headline, or at least the featured article, was about University District churches who had been meeting monthly for a while. They were having potlucks and talking about shared resources. Some churches had declining memberships. Some had expensive property in high demand in the U District. I was quite impressed with the whole idea and thought it was a very progressive approach to addressing what they had in common. Our church had been the site of an afterschool Latch Key program for some years, one of the uses of the building which I endorsed. Recently, my former church had begun sharing facilities with the Baptist church using the Chapel and having administrative offices.

As a teenager, our youth groups had had various visits and shared activities with the other churches, if only for the purpose of learning what their religions were about. If I remember, there were Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, United Congregation, maybe a Catholic church, and our church, Disciples of Christ. I remember a high school dance with at least one other church. I had a few friends who attended some of these churches. We went to church Sunday mornings and then back in the evening for CYF (Christian Youth Fellowship).

My mother grew up attending a Disciples church in Seattle. Her mother was a minister of education. Her Grandfather was a minister of this denomination in Montana. (This fact was explained to me as the reason my Grandmother had so many sets of dishes – her dad’s congregation had presented them as wedding gifts. I have two of the sets, which I cherish.) My parents met at this church. They were married in this church. We were baptized in this church. My dad was an Elder and on the Board. My sister was married in this church. We had my mother’s memorial service in this church. I have attended a few other memorial services for friends of my parents in this church. I remember attending a service for an infant child of family friends.

My mother and I did not have the best of relationships (a story for another time). I was growing into adolescence seeing myself as I saw my mother seeing me. I was unhappy. It was not good. But, we had a Youth Minister who saw me. He saw my potential, he saw what I was capable of and slowly built up my confidence. In one simple comment, he changed my view of myself. One comment! We were on a retreat and volunteers were being recruited for various tasks. I was volunteering, raising my hand fast. He simply said, “You don’t have to volunteer for everything, or anything. We like you for you.” Sooo powerful. A turning point in my life. I then began to examine how I got approval and to look at what choices I made. Did I make them because they were important to me? Or was I just hoping that I would be good enough to be liked?

Although we had other activities in our family life, many activities revolved around the church, our friends from church, and longtime friendships that my parents had. When they were at the University of Washington, they attended this church in a young adult group called the 49’ers. They had bridge parties, we went camping, we had BBQ’s. We went to family camps (directed by my Grandma, known as Mommo to many) and youth summer camps at Camp Gwinwood in Lacy, WA. My parents talked about taking me camping on Camano Island my first year of age with the 49’ers. (Turns out it was Cama Beach, a camping facility that I took my school on a camping trip to. My dad came along to the delight of my 9-year-old daughter and he told her about bringing me camping as a baby.) I would have said I was 6 weeks old, but I wonder now, because I thought he didn’t come home from the Korean War until I was 6 months old. Another story for another time.

I had at least one boyfriend from church. I had several big crushes at church. And I had best friends from church. We experimented with drugs (it was the 60’s after all and we WERE in the U District). I had best friends at my high school as well and I have kept some of these friendships all these years. This church community was the center of my life for 18 years.

At 18, I moved away to go to school In Bellingham. Because the church had been so important to me, I of course thought I’d just start attending the Disciples church here. I was hungry for that connection! I went one Sunday morning to the service of the local church. Wow! Was this church part of the same denomination? It was so conservative! I was used to sermons that were thought provoking, but intellectual as well as spiritual. This church was nothing like what I was hoping for.

Fortunately, there was a Campus Christian Ministry at Western. A friend from Seattle who had also come up here suggested we check it out. Fortuitously, I formed a bond with one of the Campus Christian ministers, a Congregational minister. I was a student rep on the Board for a while and got to know more about Bellingham outside of the college community. This minister was moving his family up from California and one day he invited me to go look at a home he was considering buying. That began a friendship that had an impact on the rest of my life, including living with the family as a nanny, meeting teachers in the private school his kids attended. I eventually taught, then became owner of the school.

Our daughter attended the school. My husband joined his men’s group and the wives and the men began having couple’s dinners. One of the women invited our daughter to join a local community choir which began another series of great connections and a serious of fabulous international tours.

So, for me, it is so much more than a building. So much more.

The Death of a Sister/Sister-in-law

My husband’s baby sister died when she was just 40. Some of the great sadness about her death was that she shouldn’t have died so young. She was told she was at high risk for breast cancer and the doctor wanted her to visit again in a few months. We’ll never know the real details of what the doctor said or didn’t say, but it seems clear that she was advised to return. They didn’t have insurance. That may have been a part of the lack of follow through. She didn’t have the best up-to-date knowledge of medical care and procedures. When she next went to the doctor, the cancer was too far advanced for any treatment.

She was a very sweet, loving, generous woman who had the hardest luck. She struggled through school, but did graduate high school. She married a man who was an alcoholic. When I came into the family, her husband was in jail for 7 more years for killing someone while driving drunk. She had a little boy she was raising on her own, 4 years old.

In one of those strange sets of circumstances, some years later, my brother-in-law was asked by a co-worker if he knew his sister’s husband. He was out of jail, and they had divorced by this time. When he replied yes, the man told him that the ex-husband had been killed the day before, by a drunk driver. Karma? Maybe.

Next, she married a man her mother’s age. He had 5 or 6 kids by several different women. He was a skilled mechanic who never got along with any of his bosses, so he mostly worked out of their own garage. She worked at McDonald’s. They moved around, further and further away from Washington. We wrote letters, made a few phone calls back and forth. Did not have a lot of contact. Their mother missed her so much! Circumstances were just such that they didn’t visit often. We had a couple little family reunions a couple summers in a row. One or two Thanksgivings. Mother and Daughter, the two of them talked and wrote constantly.

We got a phone call one day that my sister-in-law had inoperable breast cancer. They were living in Oregon by this time. Gerry and his brother decided to go visit her as soon as they could make arrangements. It was summer and we were on vacation. That trip was heartbreaking for my husband. He learned then, for the first time, about the earlier visit when she’d been advised to return. They were living in a shack. The floors were dirt floors. Not dirty floors. Dirt floors. We had no idea. Yes, guilt feelings.  So many woulda, coulda, shoulda’s.

The next call was in December to tell us she had died. Their mom and step-dad had driven down already. (Actually, their mom had just had heart surgery, so a friend had driven them down to Baker, Oregon.) We got on the phone with my husband’s brother and began making plans. We tried to figure out how to get there by air. We found 2 tickets on one flight, for the brothers, and three on another half a day later for myself, our daughter and our niece. That just seemed way too complicated because we could only fly into Idaho and then would have to rent a car. The guys would have to wait for us to arrive. We decided we would rent a van in Bellingham and drive, easily an 8-10 hour drive, with stops.

Nothing is ever easy in these situations. My brother-in-law’s ex-wife was refusing to let him take their daughter out of state. So, with some highly skilled negotiations, he got her to relent. So, we set off with the stress of all these arrangements. Three adults and two four year old best friend cousins. My brother-in-law was un-employed at the time; he could take off, but of course didn’t have much extra money. My husband and I were teachers. I, in a private school, was given whatever time I needed. My husband had 2 personal leave days. We drove down Saturday, expecting services to be Monday and we’d return home Tuesday.

The drive turned out to be easy enough. The girls were well supplied with new miniature doll house sets, etch-a-sketches, magna-doodles and books. Lots of giggling. For the adults, lots of story telling, childhood memories. We finally arrived in the late evening. We found a motel and got two adjoining rooms – one for the guys so they could stay up and chat, and an adjoining room for me and the girls. For the girls, it was just an adventure and a slumber party.

The next morning, we met up with their mom and step-dad. We heard the story of their sister’s death. She died at home. Her husband, rather than calling the funeral home, called 911. Of course, they tried to resuscitate her. Their mom was there and was so angry that he had called 911. She had to watch her daughter’s chest be cracked. It was, in her view, the worst way to end her daughter’s life!

We then went out to the ‘house’. The guys had described it, but I wasn’t prepared for the awfulness. When she had lived in Seattle, she had had a lovely apartment, beautifully cared for and you could tell that homemaking made her happy. This. Really no words. And then it got worse. Her husband asked the guys and me to come talk to him in a back room, without their mom. We’re thinking he’s about to tell us about the service Monday. No. First he tells us that he’s not going to have the service until Thursday or Friday because people have to have time to get there from Washington. WTF! We just stare at him. I am not taking part in the conversation, leaving it to the guys. They say, “Look! We just drove from the most northern part of Washington. We made it in one day.” Oh, but there’s more.

He then shuffles on his feet, really. Looks down at the ground. Begins to tell us there’s a bit of a problem at the funeral home. They won’t release her body until he pays them. He’s picked out the coffin. He owes the funeral home $6,000 and he doesn’t have that kind of money (no surprise) AND he’s wondering if the guys could pay for the coffin and services. They just tell him that they need to go talk about it and they’ll let him know.

We get back in the van and go back to the motel. Some swearing and fist pounding. Conversation. Seriously, one brother is unemployed. One brother is a teacher, making a teacher’s salary, which may have seemed like millions to the brother-in-law, but in reality of course it wasn’t. What were the options? What the hell? And they don’t want their mother to hear about this!

The guys go back to the house; I stay with the girls. When they tell the brother-in-law that we don’t have that kind of money, we’d have to take out a loan, he tells them, “Oh. Okay. Thanks for thinking about it. I made some calls and I’ve gotten it taken care of.” Uh huh. Of course this just adds to the horrible feelings that are going on – being scammed. Really? In an hour, you just happened to raise the money somewhere else? Okay, that’s how it is. We get it.

The service is now set for Friday. In a cemetery that is apparently where his other family members are buried. Two and half hour drive away from Baker. We settle into the motel, for the week. The girls are still having a grand slumber party. We meet up with my mother-in-law. Go shopping for flower arrangements for the church and for the coffin. Don’t talk to the brother-in-law. Tuesday evening we are all feeling fried and put upon. Decide what we need is a good ice-cream treat. I go to the only store, looking for Hagen Daz. Nope, no such thing. For some reason, this is just unbearable. OH! We had already given up on good coffee. We asked someone where there might be an espresso stand. We were told there was an Exxon station and an Esso station, but no espresso. What’s a latte? Sigh. Funny how it’s the little things that can really set you off, step on your last nerve.

Then of course there’s explaining to an ex-wife why you can’t return your daughter for her time. Lots more detail there, but suffice it to say that he had full custody so she’s pissed that she’s missing her 8 hours. Whatever.

We get to Friday. To no mom should ever have to bury a child. To no one should have had to live like this. To driving to a small town that means nothing to us. To a service we’ve had no say in. And we’re done. We hit the road.

We have been on the road a while when my niece starts crying because her eyes hurt. We pull over, I climb into the back seat and look at her. Well, damn. I know what this is. Pink eye. And we need to get some medicine because she is going to be miserable. AND, our daughter and myself probably will get it because they’ve been sleeping with me, jumping back and forth between the beds and pillows. So, of course, the last thing I want is to be dealing with pink eye. We find a little hospital in a little town and go into the ER to confirm my diagnosis. We get prescriptions for all of us. Seems like a fitting way to end a very shitty week.

We just drive all the way back to Bellevue, taking shifts. We drop off my brother-in-law and niece and head home to turn in the rental and get back to our home. We never hear from the husband again. The situation with our nephew is another story for another time. Suffice it to say, we also only saw him for one meal where he and his girlfriend sat and played hand held video games. Next we saw him at the service. We never heard from him until my mother-in-law died and he wrote and asked if she left him money. He actually sent us a Christmas card last year with no news, just his signature. Sad family dynamics for sure. And, I just have to say, sooooo very different from my family. For that, I am eternally grateful, always, for my siblings and my husband.

A Trip to the ER

I’ll begin this post with the ending. My husband and I are home after a full day of medical events which concluded with a prescription for $1.76 and dinner at Boomer’s, a favorite, 50’s classic drive in. This is not so much about my husband’s condition as what I observed about our medical system and the many people seeking care during the day.

My husband woke up at 3am, tried to stand up, and lost his balance. He went back to sleep. When I woke him at 6:30am to get up and begin getting ready to leave the house by 8am for a cardiologist appointment for a routine check-up, he told me he felt off. He tried to stand up and couldn’t maintain his balance. He was dizzy. No fever. I went through symptoms. Realized there was no way we would get to an appointment by 8:30 and so called and cancelled it. Continued my assessment. Called at 9 to make a 10:15 appointment with our family doctor.

Our doctor wasn’t in, but we saw another doctor in the practice. He was so kind and thorough. I could tell he liked the challenge of figuring out what was going on. He did a number of tests and some lab work (we are fortunate to have a lab in the clinic, so test results were almost immediately available). There was also some possibility that it was pneumonia. Let’s get an x-ray to rule that out. Diagnoses are a series of ruling out causes and possible problems as much as they are discovery of causes and solutions.

We went to the imaging clinic for an x-ray. Wait time was about 20 minutes. I’ll note here that neither the family clinic or the imaging clinic required any form of payment. Both confirmed we had insurance. Our information was already in both their systems. The x-ray was taken and we were sent home.

We had been home about half an hour when we got a call from our doctor who said the x-ray was clear, good news, and the lab work showed the possibility of a blood clot, bad news. Go to the ER and get a cat scan of head and chest to look for blood clot. If the test is negative, there is no clot. If the test is positive, there might be a clot. Or there might not be. If one doesn’t show in the cat scan, it could be in the leg, but the leg would swell and we would know there is a clot. Having a bruise could also make the test read positive meaning there had been an injury, but no clot.

I called our daughter at some point. She knows the drill. She’ll go to the hospital ahead of us and wait at the ER entrance with a wheel chair. I’ll drop him off and go park. She’ll begin the admit. It’s a smooth, practiced plan that we’ve done before. I love that she lives nearby and is ready at the drop of a hat to support us.

So, now you know everything turned out okay. We were there for about 8 hours. And that is what led to me beginning this post. A filled ER room with a variety of people and circumstances. We give thanks for insurance and Medicare and never once questioning could we afford this. Not once. That is our privilege and we do not take it for granted.

A tall man with bushy hair, pushing a walker, passes us on his way to the admit desk. He is upset. He’s been there 5 hours and is angry with the receptionist. He’s seen people taken back who arrived after he did. He just wants to see a social worker. What does he goddamn have to do? Go to Everett?! There are three intake persons at the Admit desk. They are polite, reminding him he first has to be seen by a doctor. Yes, of course he will see a social worker. He swears and is so agitated. They are polite and calm in their responses. He mutters, swears, paces. He passes our daughter and shouts, “Move your ass!”  We see him go back and forth and question the staff two more times.

My husband is taken back to a room after about 45 minutes. The ‘rooms’ are divided by cloth curtains. Every word spoken on either side of us is audible. In the bed next to us, we hear a foreign language being spoken. Then a loud announcement, “You are the first person to sign in for this conference call.” In a few minutes, there is a conversation about the availability of an interpreter. Which language does the patient speak? They might not have someone for that language. Does he speak another closely related language? Half an hour later, they have someone who speaks his native language. We hear the conversation. The man has been diagnosed with rectal cancer. The interpreter tells the man that he has cancer. Does he know what that is? Not really. It is dangerous. It needs to be treated. Without treatment, he will die. All this from an interpreter over a speaker. The man says he is ready to die. He is told he doesn’t have to die. He is asked if he is ready to die, is he also ready to live? Back and forth. The man is afraid of surgery and doesn’t want to be in the hospital. He can go home and visit his physician and make arrangements with his own physician for the surgery. Finally, he is given a prescription and he and his wife leave. All of this spoken gently, matter of factly.

In the bed on the other side of us, an elderly woman is brought in. There is a discussion about what may or may not have happened. She has dementia and they aren’t sure if this is a new injury or she remembers a fall from the past. She cannot walk. The care center called the ambulance, but no one saw her fall. Her daughter arrives and makes a phone call telling someone she won’t be able to make it. Work? A party? She speaks to her mom who continues to not be able to say what happened or when. She just fell. She is taken for an x-ray. The doctor comes back sometime later and tells the woman and her daughter that she has broken her hip so she will be admitted for surgery. They move her out of ER and to a room.

We watch a helicopter land on the pad in front of the window. My daughter sees that the woman brought into the next room is the woman who was taken off the helicopter. She was flown in from a hospital on one of the islands. She is tiny, but loud and in a great deal of pain. She is panting loudly through the pain as they transfer her. She is freezing cold. She tells her story. She was out hunting for her missing cat. She fell and dislocated her prosthetic hip. She says you can tell it’s dislocated because look at how that leg is longer than the other leg. She says it has been dislocated 11 other times! As they take her medical history, her list of medications is long. Does she smoke? Only a little, about 3 cigarettes a day. They finish the intake and leave her for a bit. She shouts, “Nurse! Nurse! I’m cold! Can I get a warm blanket? And where’s my jacket? It’s my favorite! I hope it isn’t lost!” A nurse returns with a blanket and finds all her clothing in a bag. She is reassured, nothing was lost.

Across the hall, we notice that everyone going into that room puts on a complete paper coverall and wears masks. We see a body bag taken out. Someone goes into clean.

There must have been 50 people in the waiting room. All with a story. Surely some of them wondering how they will pay for this. Parents with babies. A man with a bandaged head telling the receptionist he was injured at work. She talks about beginning the Labor and Industries claim. If you ever watched the TV series, ER, you know why they never ran out of stories.

It’s the day after. My husband is still dizzy. There’s a little pill he can take 3 times a day until it passes. We are back to our normal routine. Morning coffee. Breakfast.

 

A Mother’s Love or Not

I just watched a video about not taking a mother’s love for granted. Very emotional description by a man, giving examples of what his mother did for him, and his regrets for youthful acts of rebellion. These stories always trigger for me what I didn’t get.

Yes, I was raised in a two parent home, in a nice house with all of my needs met, never moved during my childhood, college paid for, opportunities provided. Family friends would surely say we were a perfect family. We went to church, my dad was an Elder, on the Board, we went hiking, had a great summer vacation cabin, mother was a Camp Fire leader, we had music lessons and were part of a circle of friends with whom we are all still connected. I can feel guilty for I had, many, many good things that I do appreciate.

What I continue to process is family life behind closed doors. I met a person as an adult who said in our first meeting, “I heard you were the black sheep of the family.” First, who told them? Who described me that way? Second, my mother must have described me that way, or at least described her frustrations with me to other family members. That one sentence shook me up. I remember excusing myself rather quickly and walking away, feeling ashamed. And – unloved. What had my mother been saying about me? Yes, it was certainly an awkward introduction to this person, but it rocked me to think of how that rumor was spread, to know that others were given information to lead them to accept this description. And I didn’t know what I had done or why this was how I was described. One friend has said my mother must have been afraid of me.

The impact on me growing up was manifested in different ways. One was to take my time in giving my trust to others. Another was to try really hard to get approval from others, to make sure I didn’t do something that would be considered ‘bad’. This had an impact on establishing relationships for years. It accounts for my inability to express preferences in deciding what restaurant to go to for dinner. What if my choice is not the right one?

But. And there is a but. It informed me as a wife and a mother. My husband and I have had an unspoken, but acknowledged, belief in never talking each other down in public. We both have been acting on the principle that we would never say anything to another person about each other or our daughter that we would want them to feel disrespected by hearing. Does that make sense? It’s a code, that I believe in. That doesn’t mean we don’t share our struggles, but we focus on ourselves.

Why would I question if my mom loved me? You can say that she did many things for me that showed her love. But, a person doing something nice for you is not an act of love if they are really doing it for themselves, to be able to say, ‘See what I did.’ So much of my childhood was about maintaining appearances.

When my daughter was born, I asked my parents to come visit, but not come stay. They lived 45 minutes away. Easy to come for a couple hours and go home. My husband had taken time off of work and we wanted to be alone, have visitors for sure to see the baby, but we wanted to cocoon. My father talked me into letting them come, bring their camper, and stay for a week. I know that it was all about my mom being able to tell her friends,’Oh, Heidi had the baby and we’re going to go help out!’ Because that’s what her friends did when grandchildren were born.

Instead, she came and cooked up the prepared frozen meals that had been left for us (which I assumed would be handy when it was just the three of us). She didn’t come prepared to cook, just commented about how easy was to have these prepared meals. Yes, easy, that was the gift. My feeling about it, petty, maybe, but… She rearranged my living room one day while I napped, putting things away in the hall closet so my ‘guests wouldn’t be distracted’ by the ‘stuff’. Criticism of my housekeeping. And then sat. My dad went to town, met friends for coffee, shopped for things they needed back at their house. My mom sat. So awkward. Contrasted with my mother-in-law who came in and cleaned, asking what was a priority and if I wanted it done. Such a difference being asked about what you want, what’s important to you!

The lingering feelings are real, though not dominant. In my life, my mother never said to me “I love you.” Never. I began saying it to her at the end of phone conversations in her last years because I wanted to hear it back. Never. Just “good-bye”.

My father was very loving. His love for our family was obvious. We knew we meant the world to him. Weird to have two parents, neither of  whom could say ‘I love you’ and yet not hearing it from my dad was not painful because I felt it. Not hearing it from my mom was painful because it confirmed what I felt. Three little words that can be taken for granted, mean everything, or mean nothing.

The thing is, I know I was and am loved by my family and friends. I know it. I feel it. And I love my family and friends. And I let them know it. I have been able to analyze my upbringing, take the good memories and make memories with my own family. I have been able to make my life the one I want. I have chosen a partner who is loving. My mother-in-law was the ultimate person to give unconditional love. I never questioned her love. I was very lucky to have her in my life.With her, I could do no wrong. I certainly didn’t walk on eggshells.

The most important take away in all this is that I know we never know what a person’s full story is. If we are lucky, we may be honored with hearing it. As you might guess, this is my story. Not all of it by any means, but part of it. The part I’m comfortable sharing.

 

 

 

 

When I Am Older

Writing for me when I was younger was hard. I had a difficult time with essays in school. Research papers in college were painful. I felt as if my own words were just not enough. I used a lot of quotes, thinking that other people’s words were better. I searched for words that fit me, but were written by others. I’ve been exploring this for a while now.

The turning point came for me some years ago. My husband is a brilliant writer. When he was  working on his PhD, he had to do a lot of writing. I remember a specific assignment that he told me about one week-end and it was due the following Friday. When I left the apartment Monday morning, he was sitting in his favorite chair. When I came home in the afternoon, he was still sitting there. Nothing on paper. Tuesday came and went and I still saw no progress. Wednesday I asked him how it was going, because I knew that I would have to have it soon in order to get it typed for him to turn it in. Thursday afternoon, he sat down and wrote the entire paper. He had written it in his head and edited it all without once putting it on paper. I was in awe.

I live with a brilliant man. Fast forward twenty years. He was on the Board at our church. It was his turn to write the monthly Board report for the church newsletter. He sat and had no idea what to write. Days passed. One evening I sat down at the computer (note the transition in our life – typewriter to computer). I wrote a column and handed it to him and said maybe this will prompt you. He read it and said,  “This is great! You are a really good writer!” It blew me away. But I believed him. I realized that it had been easy because it was something that I knew about. It really was a turning point for me and built my confidence up tremendously.

In addition to my husband’s encouraging words, as I turned 50 years old, I remember thinking as a teenager that when I was old, I would be able to speak my mind. When I was young, I was in awe of my maternal grandmother because she was outspoken. I was intimidated, sure. I remember thinking that when I was as old as she was, I could be more outspoken. So now, I’m older than she was then. I realize that what I observed in her was self-confidence. She was not afraid of what people would think.

The confidence I’ve achieved is not so much overcoming whether or not I worry about what people will think, but that I don’t fear the consequences of honestly expressing myself. As a child, I worried about pleasing my parents. My mother was extremely critical. She could do anything better than I could, whether it was making my bed, drawing a picture, sewing clothes, she could always do it better. As an adult, I worried about failing someone else’s expectations of me. It has taken a lot of encouragement, reflection, studying to grow into the person I am who can (mostly) say, “I just don’t care if you agree with me. This is my opinion.”

Starting a blog was a declaration for me. It’s personal. It’s mine. Maybe you the reader will connect with something I’ve said. I know that I love reading other’s blogs and being inspired to look at something differently. Today I was commenting on my friend Dawn’s post (https://thehuntingtonschronicles.wordpress.com/2017/03/04/huntingtons-disease-i-flinch/?c=75#comment-75) and as I was writing, I realized I was thinking of something that was more appropriate to put in my blog than in a long comment on her blog. Thanks Dawn!

Journey Across the Country and into a New Era

The Beginning

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Last month, I traveled across the country to march with thousands of others in Washington DC. My daughter, my daughter-in-love and three granddaughters went together, driven to stand with others not just in protest to the 45th President, but to protest his racism, misogynism, and every other stand against humanity. I went with the attitude of supporting what I believe our country stands for – civil rights, equal rights, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion. It has taken me several weeks to process my week on the East Coast, from DC, to New York, to Richmond, VA and back home to the West Coast. I’ve experienced highs and lows and am coming out of it, ready to tell my story.

We flew out of the Vancouver, BC airport. It’s closer to us than Seattle, so less time to get there, providing there’s no hold up at the border. I already wonder if that will change in the future. We had a layover in Ottawa. While sitting at the gate, we met a young woman traveling with her mother. It appeared that they too were headed for DC. As we made conversation with them, asking where they were from (Washington) and then what city (Bellingham, but really Orcas Island!) we enjoyed talking and learning that the young woman knits small animals for sale to raise money for an animal shelter. Talking with strangers when traveling is always fascinating!

On the plane from Ottawa to DC, I sat next to a young man who was born in Mexico. He and his family immigrated to Canada when he was seven. He was going to the Inauguration because it was an historical event. Just going out of curiosity. He had a week off from work and planned to see the sites, including going up to New York.

We were met by an old friend of my DIL’s, from college days when she lived and worked in DC. She dropped my daughter and I off at a friend’s after we made plans to all meet at the Metro station in the morning. My friend was a student of my husband’s back in 1980/81 and had graciously invited us to stay with her and her husband.

Friday morning we were up at 7 to Metro into DC. We had a variety of plans for the day. My daughter and the grands had decided that they wanted to be at the Inauguration. The crowds were huge, the lines were long, and the security was tight! My DIL and I decided to sit it out so we split up with plans to meet up later in the day, having no idea what time that would be! We found a Starbucks in a lobby at a Holiday Inn and found comfy, warm couches and settled in for the duration. There was a big screen TV, broadcasting CNN to a group of about 20 of us.

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As we sat there, a voice behind me said, “I’m better on a horse than these modern conveyances.” Quote of the day! I turned around to see a man dressed as a Patriot from the 1700’s. I asked if I could take his picture and he said sure. He put his cell phone down and I said he had to be holding his cell phone up. I loved the contrast.img_6500

 

Roads were blocked off, museums closed and the crowds were thick. The security was tight, but the officials were all very friendly, happy to provide directions, quite calm, but obviously alert, on guard.

My friend’s husband had worked for Homeland Security and was “in the know” about security for the weekend. He had advised us to be on the lookout for people who might pull on black masks, etc. and told us to turn around and walk in a different direction. In reality, DC was probably the safest place in the country that weekend with all the security in force! The only disruptors we saw were in a line on Independence Avenue, carrying giant signs, broadcasting with megaphones about how we were all sinners, homosexuals were damned, etc. etc. We see these same kinds of protests at home at our public market and in front of Planned Parenthood offices. So, 15 or so disruptors out of thousands of people.

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Although cell service was sketchy at times, we managed to make a plan to meet up at the flagpole in front of the L’Enfant Metro station and it worked. We all found each other! We then Metro’d to Foggy Bottom and had lunch at a wonderful restaurant named Roti.

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My daughter went home with her family for the night and I returned to my friend’s home. She and her husband supported Trump and I did not. One of my biggest take aways from this whole experience is that I think people who live and work in the DC area have a much better understanding, probably from their circumstances of being in the thick of it, of how to have differences of opinion, to find commonality, to treat one another with respect. My friends and I talked about the day, watched some coverage in the news, and I felt like I gained a new perspective from their descriptions of what they thought our new President would bring about. I admit I come from the bubble of liberal politics in the Pacific Northwest and I really appreciated having congenial conversations.

The Middle

The next morning, my friend’s husband (this trip was the first time I had met him though he grew up in the Northwest also) drove me to the Metro station. I asked him if he would have ever imagined several months ago that he would be driving a feminist to a Women’s March and he honestly replied, with a smile, a long drawn out “Nooooooo”. He continued on to say that he supported my right to protest and stand up for what I thought was right and that of course how he voted was only known to him. Truly, staying with my friends for this weekend brought things into a different perspective, one I am very grateful to have had.

As we approached the Metro Station, my daughter texted that the lines just to fill Metro Cards were about 30 minutes in wait time. It was packed! Solid! Quite different from the day before. And a sea of PINK! The atmosphere was joyous and so positive – just looking around and knowing we were in a crowd of like-minded folks. WowIMG_6490.JPG! The train was packed and at several stops no one else could board.

 

There was some confusion as to where we should head, but it was easy to just follow the crowd. There were two streets that converged in a V and we headed to that point. There were large speakers along the street and several large screens. We chose to stand where there were speakers, thinking we would be heading out to march soon. In reality, we stood there for about 5 hours listening to one amazing speaker after the next!

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As we walked to where the beginning of the march was to be staged, we encountered lots of interesting people. Here is a shot of a guy from Texas, and an artist who invited my 16 year old grand to join in painting – a collaborative piece he assured her. My daughter bought his collage painting of Obama.

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I’m sure you can Google and YouTube videos of many of the speakers. These are my highlights only.

America Ferrera: We learned in Berlin that walls don’t work.

Gloria Steinem: This is an outpouring of true democracy like I’ve never seen… The Constitution begins with We the People. We are united for bodily integrity…to control our lives without government interference. God is in the details and Goddess is in the connections. This is a day that will change us forever. We stand together. We are never turning back. (Personal note: yes, we are changed forever! Our world has changed!)

Some quotes are just quotes because I didn’t hear the introduction so can’t properly attribute. And some are just phrases I heard that grabbed my attention.

The power of being in truly righteous community.

Radical love is a step past the easy path to the path of greatest reward.

This is not one off, this is an uprising of love. Choose it everyday

Michael Moore: End Trump carnage. If you just look that way, (assuming he’s pointing to the crowds) we accomplished it! What do YOU hope to accomplish? His 5-point plan:

  1. New daily routine, call Congress everyday and tell them what to do.
  2. Join the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, NARAL
  3. Form rapid response teams of 5-10 people
  4. Sorry, I couldn’t hear this one over the crowd
  5. Take over the Democratic Party. The Old Guard has to go. We need Young People. Women. Go to 100daysofresistance.org

Ashley Judd read a poem

Janet Mock spoke, “I am my sister’s keeper. I must be. Approach intersectionality with inclusion. A movement is more than a march. It is the space between our reality and vision.

Sister Simone! (I saw her speak at our Unitarian General Assembly in Providence, RI. She’s amazing. Wrote the book Nuns On the Bus.) “We’re not alone! We’re together regardless of whom we define as our neighbors. We are all neighbors. We can bridge the gap in division. We share the one story. Exercise joy. Claim passion. Know your neighbors. Share. We the people make a difference.

Cecil Richards from Planned Parenthood. “We’re not gonna take this lying down. We’re not the problem, we’re the solution. Now is time to link arms. As HRC said, ‘Reproductive rights are human rights.’ We will not go back. We’re a movement that is unstoppable.”

Sierra Johnson, Director of Reproductive Rights spoke of gender equality for all.

Donna Oakley, a former political prisoner. “I am you. You are me.” She was 27 years in prison and was let out 5 years ago. She still recites her prison number. She calls into this moment all women who are marginalized.

Emily’s List spokesperson. “Run for office or support a sister running. “

The Senator from California is newly elected. “We are a great country. We are a nation founded on certain ideals in 1776. We are all equal and guaranteed certain rights. … You have the power. It is right to prioritize women’s rights and women’s issues. Good pay. Immigration reform. Crushing student debt. Black lives. We deserve equal pay for equal work, access to health care. This is not a particular demograph or constituency. This is we the people. We will rise to the challenge.

Alicia from NARAL. We will not be punished for owning our bodies.

Some man: Because of our women, I am a man.

Poem for daughters of a new day: My Mother Was A Freedom Fighter.

Sophie Cruz: Immigrant Rights. We are the chain of love to protect our families. We need love, faith, courage. Tell our children, “Do not be afraid. We are not alone.” Let’s keep together and fight together.

At this point, one observation I made, Sophie’s speech was the first speech not in English. It was in Spanish. I also saw a sign language interpreter at one of the big screens. There were efforts to make this March accessible, but really, in the crowds, pushing wheel chairs was quite difficult and the fact that it was all in English seemed sad to me. I know there were people with other first languages. People were polite about moving for those who had difficulty walking, but still…

Miriam Ali spoke! Her father was one of my husband’s and daughter’s heroes! Her comments were short and to the point: Don’t complain! Organize!

There were musical performances by MCLyte, Alicia Keys, Janet Manet (dedicated to LGBTQ community and Immigrants’ rights.) She also spoke, “Continue to be and embrace what makes you unique, even if makes others uncomfortable. This is ground zero of the movement.”

Angela Davis: We are collective agents of history and can’t be deleted like web pages. We are on indigenous land, people who haven’t relinquished their land and are peacefully, without violence with Standing Rock.

Max Love sang This Woman’s Love

Madonna spoke: To those who said this march wouldn’t amount to anything – Fuck You. We must love one another or die. She quoted a poet, “We choose love.” And then sang Holla Girls.

Here’s my family, with the Capitol in the background.IMG_6642.JPG

At the end of the march, we walked past the Trump Hotel. There were a number of protest signs propped against the fence. The police vans were there all day and we watched them ‘changing the guard’ at the end of the day. This was their staging point, not just to protect the hotel.

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There were signs abandoned at the entrance to the Metro station.

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This was an amazing day. Powerful. Inspirational. Full of insight. I had listened to Gloria Steinem on NPR just recently and have spent time reflecting on my history, the world I grew up in and the world I grew into. We have fought hard for so much just in the past 75 years. We cannot go back. We must not go back. As one line in one of my favorite hymns says, “For the children of our children!” My granddaughters are 21, 19, 16, and 14. This is for them!

 

We rode the train back, with thousands of exhausted but exhilarated companions! Across from us, was a mother with three children, who I am sure were still jumping around at midnight! IMG_6723.JPG

My friends had invited us, with my DIL’s host family too, back for a feast. And a feast it was! BBQ chicken

img_6738that my DIL said rivaled anything in Oklahoma, her roots. Pasta salads, homemade dinner rolls
IMG_6740.JPG that were enormous and a fabulous carrot cake! They spent all day cooking for us. Food is certainly an equalizer! The dinner conversation was stimulating as we had a lengthy discussion about the future of energy. My friend’s husband works in this field and the two younger grands threw questions at him about the future of energy in our country. Why don’t we use more solar, more wind? He gave great, comprehensible explanations and identified these two as the future of engineering! We all retired, exhausted!

The End

Sunday morning, my friend and I headed up to New York. We went to see Wicked! On Broadway!!!   It was so much fun to see places that are every day scenes in movies and in the news: Grand Central Station, the Empire State Building, Times Square. Her son is in school there and we had lunch with him and his ‘squad’ of theater buddies. We returned to their home Monday night.

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Tuesday morning, we drove to Richmond, VA to see their oldest son inducted into the Navy. Her husband is retired from the Navy (my father also served in the Navy, WWII and Korean War). A family friend, a Navy Officer, conducted the ceremony. It was really touching and I was honored to be included and to witness this event.

On the way home from there, we went to Arlington National Park and spent about 3 hours walking through the cemetery, seeing the Robert E. Lee House. I was especially moved, seeing the Eternal Flame

IMG_6860.JPGand Kennedy family graves. Thinking of when JFK was President during my childhood, the impact of the assassinations was actually very sobering. Just thinking if only…

 

The next day, I flew home. From Toronto to Vancouver, I sat with a young woman who was from Dublin, Ireland. She and her best friend were moving to Vancouver to live for two years, work, and travel. We talked about politics, of course. And she has an invitation to call me anytime and I’ll meet her downtown at our favorite bar, Boundary Bay Brewery. Perhaps someday, I’ll visit her in Ireland.

 

The New Beginning

So, life has been busy, the same, different. I’ve been a bit depressed, a bit let down. I’ve been trying to keep up with the news, make phone calls, get back into my regular life, cardiac rehab with my husband, FB time with friends, more rallies and marches. Went to a lovely concert Saturday night with jazz and classical music by a local community choir. Finding it a bit of a struggle to re-engage actually. We’ve been a bit snow bound the past few days and that has actually allowed me to really process the past few weeks and begin to feel like I’m ready to take on the world again.

If you’ve read all this, good for you! I had to write to process it all. I hope you have found some entertainment value as well as inspiration and maybe even motivation to keep active and be a strong part of your community, this country and the world, for it is growing smaller and we are all connected, one way or another.

 

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Books, Reading and Lessons in Life

My thoughts for this post began with a conversation with one of my granddaughters on a drive home from town. She was coming to spend the night and I was explaining that I would be reading most of the evening so she’d be on her own for entertainment. She was coming out for a break, but I was enforcing one rule that had been set at home earlier in the day – she was not allowed to be on any devices. I was trying to finish a book for my book club meeting the following evening and was just letting her know that of course she could read, or draw by herself. When she asked what we were reading, I asked if she had ever heard of Agatha Christie. We had chosen an Agatha Christie mystery actually written by another author.I found it amazing actually that another author could so clearly write in the same style as the famous Christie!

This launched me into telling her of  my discovery of Agatha Christie mysteries when I was about 10. My father commuted to work for a while with a co-worker who was an avid reader. She would send boxes of paperbacks to me as she completed them. She, like me, loved to read. I’ve often said my motto, or one of my mottoes in life, is “A book a day, or why get up at all.”

My mind then went in several directions, not necessarily chronologically, so just bear with me. Books were an escape, a way to connect, a way to find things out, a way to teach myself. What I read also shaped my thinking about events that happened to me. More about that later.

The first book I remember reading was titled Ebony. I remember the cover perfectly – yellow with a little black cocker spaniel reaching up. I think I actually have it in storage somewhere. My maternal Grandmother gave it to me when I was four and in the hospital after having my tonsils out. Interestingly, both my Grandmothers were avid readers, but I have no memories of being read to by my mother. I know she could read; she graduated from college, but lately I’ve wondered if she might have been dyslexic. Another story. My father read quite a bit – books, magazines, newspapers, but not to us. He did read to the grandkids. I’ll come back to this.

The next book that stands out for me is Brownie, a story about a brown bear that was a pet. My Grandmother was in a book club that met monthly and it was her turn to give a book talk. She was reporting on a book about a boy who had a brown bear for a pet. She practiced the talk in front of me and then gave me the book. I loved it! Not so much the story, but the owning of my own book. I was also entranced by the idea of these grown women having lunch and giving book talks to one another. I could not imagine my mother doing anything like that.

I became a library assistant in fourth grade in our elementary school. I remember thinking that I was going to try to read every book in the library! No, I didn’t accomplish that, but I sure read many of them. I loved being an assistant because I got to take home the newest books, first. I also got to request books that I heard about. I was a frequent user of our public library, especially in the summer when the school library was closed.

Getting back to the Agatha Christie books. My dad’s co-worker also sent Harlequin romance books home. I was not picky about what I read. I read mysteries, romance, biographies. Really, I read whatever came my way. In hindsight, I realize that what I learned from the Harlequin romances was a very skewed view on relationships. Wow! I now realize that of course I couldn’t make sense of them because they didn’t reflect what I saw around me. On the other hand, being young and naive, I thought maybe that was the way some people behaved.

The very negative thing that I learned from the romance books was such a skewed idea of romance. Even the very word romance seems odd to me now. So misguided, that even when I was raped in college, I didn’t understand that what had happened was rape.There weren’t rape hotlines, rape clinics or rape prevention classes. At least, I didn’t know about them if they existed. I did know for myself that there was a power dynamic that had occurred. And it had involved fear and shame. I couldn’t understand how what had happened to me was somehow considered romantic, to be taken by force. Yet, all the books I had read when I was younger described these sex scenes as somehow leading to love and marriage. Fortunately for me, this happened at the beginning of the women’s movement and though I didn’t get help at the time, resources for my own empowerment began to creep into my awareness. It was probably ten years before I told anyone about it. Working in a mental health clinic exposed me to a lot of resources that helped me work though much of the trauma on my own.

Having a child and being a teacher were so intertwined in filling myself up with books, books and more books. One interesting event in our family happened at a big family dinner with my parents, my siblings and the nieces and nephews. We were all sitting at the table and my dad observed that we sure did read a lot to our kids. We brought book bags with us for the kids when were there for the week-end and the kids would bring books to Dad to read to them. He asked us why, why did we do this? I was actually shocked that he asked. My sister-in-law is as avid a reader as I am and we both talked about early learning, etc. My dad just sort of nodded and said something like, “I see.” It is still one of those moments when I just shake my head. So, he didn’t read to us, but boy did he read aloud to the grandkids.

I love how one thing sparks a memory and that writing about the one thing leads to more memories. The next book that made a big impression on me was a book about heroes. There were probably 10 or more chapters and each one about someone who had overcome adversity. I particularly remember a story about  a golf champion who had overcome a handicap. I think I was drawn to that story because we lived a few blocks from a golf club and the neighborhood kids got to play golf for free. I was also drawn to stories about Helen Keller and Anne Frank. Somehow these stories have given me courage to stick with things that were hard and to not give up.

Last little tale to wrap this one up. When our daughter was born, I was in bed with her one day, probably day 5 of her life! and was reading a little chubby book to her. My husband came in and was laughing and asked if I thought she knew what I was reading. I just told him that I wasn’t sure on what day she would know what I was reading, but she would always know that I loved reading to her. He too loves to read and then read a book to her. Years later when we would go camping, both my daughter and I had fun picking out books we wanted him to read to us. It is wonderful to be read to. I love to hear him read (that was his favorite part of the day when he was a teacher) and I love to listen to audiobooks as well!

What role in your life have books played?