Saturday, September 09, 2017

Hard Things, Three Years Later


Facebook reminded me of something I posted three years ago today.  And I wanted to share it with you along with an update.  It was a dramatic event in the life of several people:  a car accident that almost killed our almost-granddaughter’s brother. This is the part where I could tell you that everything is fine now but that would be deceptive.  It’s been a long three years.  I think everyone including his parents have lost count of how many surgeries Dylan has had.  He is still waiting for his head to heal enough to get a plate implanted to replace enough skull to protect his brain. 

It’s been a hard three years.

Here’s my original post.  It was one of those that came so easily I know the Holy Spirit wrote it for me so I figure it might be worth sharing with you again.

===========

Things have been heavy at our house the last couple of days.  Our weekend started with great promise. Emily came with the girls for no particular reason.  It wasn’t a holiday, there were no “food standards” so I didn’t cook myself into a nervous breakdown. We had tacos and nachos and ice cream.  Everybody kind of came and went as they pleased. It was a relaxing time.

Sarah has her learner's permit and Emily is letting her drive. We went to the movies and Sarah drove home in the dark and did fine.  Essie is on schedule to get braces on her teeth so the popcorn at the movies was especially savored.  It was like “goodbye” popcorn.  And I just now remembered that she doesn't go by Essie any more.  She is Elisabeth now.  At least, at school.  In public.  Someday only our family will call her Essie. 

We’re getting to the part where they grow up. And I’m not sure how I feel about that, as if my opinion could stop time if I wanted to.

Saturday morning  just when the cinnamon rolls for a late breakfast came out of the oven Sarah came running into the house straight for her mom in the back room.  Things were quiet for a time while I wondered what the rush was.  When they emerged Sarah was crying and could only show me the message on her phone that her best friend’s brother had been in a car wreck.  A bad one.  A life-threatening, head injury, brain damage, scary one. Later, when the facts came in, it sounded like a classic beginner's mistake when the inexperienced driver hits the side of the road then over-corrects and over-corrects that and ends up rolling the car. Emily and the girls packed up and left for home to get in a position where they could help Savannah however she needed them to.

Damn this learning to drive process.  Damn youth.  Damn learning the hard way.

Savannah’s family is very involved in scouts and church.  The First Christian Church, two blocks away from the Garland town square, held a prayer vigil there.  Hundreds of people came to support them.  My daughter held her own daughter while the town sang “Amazing Grace.” Emily told me she could feel Sarah shaking in her arms.  
                                                                                                                                          
Growing up isn’t easy.  We want to keep our kids in a bubble and protect them from pain.  But I don’t know a single person who has managed to pull this off.  Instead, I know people who claim that if you learn from mistakes then they should be the smartest person on earth..

Expensive weddings didn't prevent both of our daughters from divorce. The best therapy in town didn’t keep me from being an alcoholic.  Yes, I’ve gotten used to the fact that I can’t drink and it has become but a minor footnote in my life. Do I wish it was different?  Of course. But it is what it is.

Sometimes things are just hard. And you can't buy a guarantee.

If you have a kid who is learning to drive you can spend hours and hours teaching them but the learning process is a process with no guarantees.  Learning is hard.  And on top of that, you can’t control the other drivers who share a freeway with them.

Beaven and I know the secret to driving on ice and snow.  When you hit an icy patch and lose control, our technique is to just let go of the wheel for a little bit until the wheels have a bite on the road surface again. You, in effect, let go of any control you think you have.  It’s no guarantee that you can prevent an accident this way but it’s the best recommendation from all the experts. It’s always worked for me.

Some times to re-gain control of our lives we have to let go for a while before we can hold the steering wheel again.  That’s what the prayer vigil for Dylan Godwin was all about.  It’s our best weapon.  It’s our only hope.

When you walk to the edge of all the light you have
And  take the first step into the darkness of the unknown
You must believe one of two things will happen:
There will be something solid for you to stand upon
Or you will be taught to fly

Patrick Overton
The Leaning Tree, 1976


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Tuesday Ice Cream



When Beaven retired a bunch of his buddies decided they wanted to stay connected so they set up a scheme to get together every Tuesday for lunch. A few years later Sarah started kindergarten and since he was already in town Beaven started picking her up from school on Tuesdays and taking her for ice cream.  Since he was in the neighborhood and all.  Bonding time with his granddaughter.  Being the hero granddad and all.  He did this all through elementary school.  Every Tuesday. 

When it came time for her to move to middle school he wondered if things would change.  He wasn’t sure if Sarah would still be cool with going for ice cream with her grandfather after school when she was in a higher grade now.  Would she be too old now?  So, he asked her.
“Sarah, do you still want to go out for ice cream on Tuesdays this year?”  And the answer was a resounding and indignant “yes!” 
By this time her sister was in school, too, a couple of grades behind her.  The only problem with picking up kids from two different schools was that they got out at different times.  He spent the next couple of years in a convoluted weekly routine of picking up Essie at the elementary school then killing time until Sarah got out at 4 o’clock at the middle school. 
I still wonder what a 70- year old grandfather does with a pre-teen girl to kill an hour.  What do they have in common?  What do they talk about?  It’s not like he’s a connoisseur of Barbies or the cast of High School Musical. 
But I do know that when Sarah went into high school a few years later we were sure that his magical time with them would now be over.  Grandfather couldn’t possibly be cool any more.  Ice cream couldn’t be that valuable of an enticement for their time.  Yet, once again, the response was an enthusiastic, “Yes!” when he asked if they wanted to continue weekly ice cream.
The schedule only got worse that year.  Sarah now got out at 2:30 but they had to wait for Essie at 4pm.  His whole day was spent in parking lots waiting for somebody to get out of school.
Then the fall of her junior year came and she had a drivers’ license.  There was no need for anyone to pick her up after school.  She had wheels and could get herself home.  She could drive her sister.  Indeed, she could drive the whole damned school if she wanted to.  She didn’t need her grandfather for anything.  We were sure the days of Tuesday ice cream were over.
But a couple of days before school started she called Beaven and said, “So, we’ll meet you at Braum’s after school on Tuesday, right?”
And that’s when it sunk in.  It never was about the ride home.  It never even was about the ice cream. 
Over the last 13 years Beaven has had a weekly appointment to spend time with his granddaughters.  One on one.  At a table across from each other at the Braum’s Ice Cream store next door to the KinderCare where their mother works.  They can talk about anything they want to. It’s just them; I’ve only gone a couple of times when I happened to be with him for some reason.  It’s their special magical time together.  Sometimes Emily joins them but not usually.  It’s a totally relaxing, unstructured time with their grandfather.  It doesn’t cost a lot of money.  He didn’t set out to do this for 13 years—it just happened.  But it has been one of the greatest traditions of our family. 
Yesterday was Sarah’s last ice cream day. Her graduation on Saturday will only be a footnote compared to the last ice cream Tuesday.
They let me crash the party yesterday and join them.  I expected a sad farewell, one moment of finality where it all ended but that didn’t happen.  Because it’s not ending.  They reminded me he will still come into town every Tuesday for lunch with his buddies during the summer and stop by for ice cream—he just won’t have to wait until school is out for the day.  Beaven has carved out a relationship with these two girls that makes its own rules and is comfortable with itself. 

He will keep taking Essie for ice cream next year and until she graduates—as long as she wants him to. They may expand on their own special gig: a visit to Barnes & Noble bookstore. Grandpa is always good for a trip to the bookstore in addition to ice cream.

It never was about the ice cream.  It was always about the relationship between a grandfather and his granddaughters.

We have already found an ice cream parlor in Denton near the UNT campus. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Truth


“Some of you may wonder why I have taken a stand regarding our President’s battle against journalism.  As a preacher of the Gospel, I consider myself to be a journalist.  To the best of my ability I report the truth as I have witnessed it.  I report on God’s on-going activity.  And like all journalists with integrity, I care deeply about the truth.  An attack on any truth whether it be of a political nature, scientific nature or spiritual nature, is an attack on all truth.  By calling honest reporting “fake news” our President, whether he intends it or not, is undermining truth itself.  I encourage you to take a stand for truth.  Demand truth.  Support truth.  Live for truth.  And if need be, die for truth.”

--Paul Burns

That was a facebook post from the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Garland where I still hold an affiliate membership after almost 40 years. I couldn’t be prouder of Paul than if I were his own sister.  Because he has put my own thoughts into words better than I could have done myself.

I studied journalism in high school and in college.  In high school they took us on a field trip to visit the Dallas Morning News.  After seeing the newsroom and presses they took us outside and stood us in front of their iconic fa├žade:

In case you don’t have your glasses here’s what is carved in stone on the front of the building of the newspaper I was raised reading every morning:

Build the news upon the rock of truth and righteousness.  Conduct it always upon the lines of fairness and integrity.  Acknowledge the right of the people to get from the newspaper both sides of every important question.
And just in case you didn't get the part about "both sides of every important question" right there on the curb in front of their building there is a line of newspaper boxes holding their competitors' papers so you can read them, too.
I grew up reading a newspaper that operated on those principles but I also was taught those principles.  In every journalism class I ever took two things were drilled into my head:  (1)  Get the facts right and (2) make sure you spell people’s names correctly.  Each one of those principles were sacred and breaking either rule was a violation of the highest degree.  In one case competence and in the other ethical. 

But Paul Burns takes journalism to an even higher calling when he reminds us how important truth is.  There’s even a scripture where Jesus tells us that He is the Truth.  John 14:6

The scriptures also tell us God is love.  I John 4:16

And Jesus tells us  that we should love each other.  John 13:34-35

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Truth and Love are two things that are in particular danger now and I worry about them a lot.  One of the pastors I had before Paul Burns introduced me to a phrase that has served me well, “Speak the truth in love.”  We are going to need a lot of that in the days to come and we’re going to have to reach down deep within ourselves to be able to speak that truth to power and to do it with love. 

This is going to be hard and people have already lost friends over the issue.  But the thing about truth—the very definition of truth—is that it doesn’t change.  The truth will be waiting.  When all the dust settles the truth will still be sitting there unsullied.  Unbowed.  Unchanged. True.
Like Jesus.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Annie


Her full name was really Little Orphan Annie because she came to us as an orphan. 

About 12 years ago Beaven and I were taking our walk on the back roads around our house when we passed a recently dead dog in a pasture.  She was a beautiful golden retriever but there wasn't anything we could do for her and on these roads there was no way to know who she belonged to, if anyone. The following day we took the same route and found the dog's puppy had joined her body and was guarding her.  And the puppy wouldn't leave her mother's side.

It was also Easter weekend. And the whole family was gathering.  And it was starting to rain.

So the rest of the next day was spent trying to entice the orphan puppy to trust us enough to leave her mother's body and come home with us.  Emily set out food for her.  Beaven bought a trap. Our entire Saturday was consumed with trying to get the puppy to come home with us.  By Saturday afternoon Emily and the girls had to go home and we gave up for the day.  Sunday morning, Easter, I gave it another try.  I crawled through the barbed wire fence to the pasture and sat by the mother's body.  Petting the mother's long-dead body to gain the puppy's trust. I sat in the soft rain and talked a little about Easter and resurrection and how that wasn't going to happen here and her best option was to come with me.  She would come only so close but no closer. Finally, I hit upon a solution.  We had Girlfriend, a dog who had come to us as a "dumped" dog who we could tell had recently nursed a litter of pups.  She was a puppy-less mother.  And here we had a motherless puppy.  They were a perfect match.  I went home, got Girlfriend on a leash and took her down the road to  meet our Little Orphan Annie.

It was Girlfriend who quietly took over the situation. With a few gentle wags of her tail and nuzzles of her nose she reassured Annie that we could be trusted.  I led them both home, Annie following Girlfriend.

Annie eventually became Emily's dog. She was part Chow and strong and stout and fiercely protective.  She lay outside Emily's bedroom door every night to guard her and her two girls.

Time passes the way it does and the inevitable happened.  And tonight for the first time in a long time she won't be there outside Emily's door.  She will be with her mother. And with Girlfriend. And there will be some sad folks here missing her.

I got word of Annie's passing this morning while I was out of town at a retreat and about to go to worship. A few minutes later we gathered in a large room in a circle for communion. The worship leader introduced the service and said that this might be a picture of what eternity might look like.  As I looked around the circle I could picture some of my departed friends sitting there in the room with me sharing communion with us.  Then I found myself picturing everyone with their departed pets--cats on their laps and dogs at their feet. A few birds perched on their shoulders.  It was a busy scene.  Busy and happy.

And it was such a natural thought.  Sure!  If I'm going to get to go to heaven --the kind of heaven I want to go to will have all my pets there.  Otherwise, it won't be heaven.  And Annie will be there. And she won't be an orphan anymore.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Chaos Doesn't Give Up. Neither Does Hope

I had a great lunch today with an old college friend.  After she left I went out to my labyrinth field to begin laying out this year's new and improved labyrinth.  The day was gorgeous with clear blue skies and the air was still.  It wasn't too hot or too cool or too windy.  Actually, it was perfect. 

But when I got in the house I found out on Facebook that there had been tornadoes in New Orleans while we were enjoying our lunch.  And, worst of all, it had hit somewhere near and dear to my heart--my home for several months--the very building I had lived in while I served there during the recovery from Hurricane Katrina.  Facebook friends from my days at the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance posted a video of the Volunteer Village where I served as Village Manager in New Orleans in 2008.  One of the tornadoes that hit the town today pretty much destroyed the building.  An AmeriCorps team member sent out a video and it looks bad. The second floor is gone.


https://dmnsmycmdpaix.cloudfront.net/uploads/campaigns/main_image/1525/normal_far_away_shot.jpg

There's great sadness at its loss because Olive Tree was everyone's favorite.  It was the nicest of all the volunteer villages.  While the other villages were basically vinyl tents this camp was a compound of two brick buildings; the former church sanctuary that we used for a dining hall and offices and the education building with individual classrooms that we used for dorm rooms.  It was clean and easy to keep clean, warm and dry. As someone who battled mildew in Mississippi I can tell you this was a major deal.  There is also irony here because of all the villages it was the sturdiest.  No one ever worried about the wind blowing it away the way we did the other camps.

I haven't figured out how to post a Facebook video here on my blog and if you know how, please let me know.  I do have this one photo I can show you of the shower trailer that breaks my heart because I watched a Presbyterian church from Kilmarnock, Virginia put the finishing touches on installing it.  I remember it brand new.



I'm still kind of in shock at seeing this building torn to pieces because it brings back so many memories. 

My favorite memory is of the party Project Homecoming had in our dining hall on the night of the third anniversary of Katrina.  We had all heard that there was another hurricane on its way to NOLA.  It was predicted to be Katrina's twin.  It was named Gustav and we were under a mandatory evacuation order.  Everybody needed to get home to pack up and leave town.  But for this evening, for this 3-year celebration at least, we were going to party. We ate each other's home cooking like there was no tomorrow because for all we knew there wasn't.  We had a jazz band play the Second Line and we danced. We waved our napkins and shrugged around the room, daring anything to ruin our good mood.  We hugged and told each other we loved them.  Our guests went home to pack up their homes.  Then we packed up the camp--copiers, computers, refrigerators, freezers, files and phones.  I tied down the port-a-potties, locked the shower trailer and turned off the gas.  And drove north not knowing if I would ever see the building again.

We would return in three weeks to find the building untouched.

Today the building's luck ran out.  Judging from the video I saw it looks pretty much destroyed.  The second floor looks gone.  The picture window of the lounge where I watched TV for news of Hurricane Gustav is broken.  The courtyard with signs of everyone's hometown is littered with debris.  I couldn't see the shower trailer in the video but I don't have much hope for it judging from the debris I could see coming from the storage building.  I saw the camp gate mangled into a pretzel and remembered locking it every night. I still remember the combination.  I guess it doesn't matter now.  I looked at the lawn and remembered mowing it, knowing all the potholes to avoid in the turf. 

I knew that camp.  It had been my home.  And now it was ruined.

The building was still being used to house volunteers when the tornado hit today.  I stayed there last year when I went back for the tenth anniversary of Katrina.  I slept in the bunk beds they provided for the volunteers Project Homecoming hosts who continue to go into the community to rebuild New Orleans.

After Presbyterian Disaster Assistance transferred their work over to Project Homecoming they partnered with AmeriCorps and both agencies used the building to house volunteers who would come from all over the United States to work on houses. 

Yes, we are still rebuilding New Orleans from the damage Hurricane Katrina caused.  The storm was that bad.  The volunteers are that good.

The motto of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is "Out of Chaos, Hope."  I know that Hope never gives up.  And apparently, neither does Chaos. 

I also know the volunteers.  I was a volunteer before I was a village manager.  The volunteers will be there as soon as they get the approval to help clean up the camp.  They will stay in hotels when the camp isn't available.  And they will continue to come to New Orleans. They love the city.  The volunteers rebuilding New Orleans won't stop just because a disaster recovery camp is damaged. 

Especially now.  Because now there is even more work ahead.  Ours wasn't the only building damaged.

Chaos doesn't give up.  Neither does Hope.

Here's the link to volunteer.   PDA  You might need to give them a while to get organized before they are able to accommodate volunteers.  And if you can't go in person, please consider a financial gift.  This stuff ain't cheap.

In the meantime, here's a picture that Sue La Rue sent me last summer.  She loves her New Orleans flowers and I thought of her today.  A white flower of Hope.



Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Slinking Towards Sabbath

I have tried, God knows I have tried.  I've started this week's blog about three times on paper and in my head about ten times but it's just not a pretty sight.  I'm angry.  You are angry.  We are all angry.   My friend Traci has one dear friend from the opposite side that she insists can discuss politics with her and they remain civil.  But they were college roommates and have always disagreed and always will; that's kind of the bedrock of their relationship.  The rest of us are not so lucky and some of us have even had to abandon precious relationships at seeing the other with new eyes.  Nobody actually changed we just found out new information about the other, more than we knew before. "I didn't know you were a scum sucking liberal commie, I thought you just liked cats and rock music and stuff the way I do. Golly, get out of my sight." The best route is probably going to be just avoiding the conversation completely like any decent dysfunctional family would do.


So, I give up.  I'm not going to talk about politics today.  I'm too tired, mentally and spiritually.  I am re-reading my friend/mentor Clay Brantley's doctoral paper he wrote on the topic of "The Other" because it might help me understand our hesitance to acceptance immigrants.  If I glean words I think might help us I will share them here next week.  For now, I think we both need a break.


I have to get ready for the biggest month of the year:  Retreat Month.  February holds more retreats than any other month.  I guess somebody looked at the calendar and the weather and decided we couldn't do anything else so we might as well go off somewhere and think about stuff.  I'll be at a retreat every weekend this month and tomorrow I need to be ready to help fifty women make birdhouses.  I'm moving into room 4 at Camp Gilmont and you can find me there.


We're going to be talking about Sabbath this weekend.

I had lunch yesterday with my old friend Nancy Greenfield, who is an observant Jew.  I've known Nancy over 20 years now--I  knew her back when her kids were little and their Sabbaths were spent lounging around all day in their pajamas playing board games and just enjoying each other.  They didn't watch TV or play with their phones or electronics.  But they did play.  Play was a big part of Sabbath.  Relaxing and play are kind of what we are supposed to do on the Sabbath.  Reading books, too.  Nancy's emphasis that I've never heard anywhere else was that one of the big things on Sabbath was to refrain from creating anything.  This is where she gets the rules against cooking and working.  But it makes sense to me since that was what God was resting from on the 7th day. 

Now that her kids are grown-- one is in college out of state and one has graduated and lives in Israel--I asked her how Sabbath has changed.  She says some of the basics are the same:  they still begin Sabbath with blessing their children except they do this with phone calls now.  And lighting the candles--always the candles.  But now that the kids are grown and gone she says she and her husband "get out more" for dinner.  However, like most observant Jews, they still don't drive a car on the Sabbath.  They walk to neighbors' homes or to restaurants in the neighborhood. She doesn't cook that day because she has already prepared the food the day before. She plans ahead in order to make sure Sabbath will be a relaxing day.

I watched my friend order lunch like I have done many times before as she carefully navigates eating Kosher in a public restaurant.  It's mostly just making sure she doesn't mix dairy and meat but it does require some planning and an attentive restaurant staff. In this Greek restaurant she had to eliminate having a yogurt-based sauce served on the plate with her lamb.

Life can get complicated when you take your life and your relationship with God seriously.  This is why I like retreats.  This is why I like to take time to go off and unplug and change my pace.  The next four weekends will not be business as usual and I can't wait to see what God has in store for me.


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Marching in Austin




It was bigger than anybody expected.  The march organizers told us they were expecting 33,000.  They ended up with twice that amount.  The final tally worldwide will be around 3.9 million people.  It was the largest protest in American history.  I’ve had several friends who are mystified and have sincerely asked me to explain.  So here goes.

I had one previous experience with a protest march.  People think I was a hippie/rebel in my younger days when I was actually pretty tame in college.  I wore a lot of pleated skirts and I didn’t smoke pot or sleep around or do anything wild. I did, however, go to Austin for Gov. Ann Richards’ funeral in 2006, mostly because I heard Willie Nelson was going to sing. I will do just about anything for free music.  As it turned out Willie got busted in Louisiana for smoking dope and couldn’t come and all we got was a speech from Hillary Clinton but it was a great road trip for Elizabeth and myself.  And she and I noticed something interesting: just being around the folks who attended the funeral was something special. Everyone was of one mind and had come for one reason: to honor a special woman. There was something else very special that day--an atmosphere of love and honor.

The minute I heard about this march I had a hunch it would be similar to what Elizabeth and I had experienced at Ann Richard’s funeral so I called her up and suggested that all the ETC women go.  That’s what we call ourselves:  The ElsThomasCarrell Family.  This included both of my daughters and granddaughters. 

We got there early and there was plenty of room to wander around on the grounds of the Capitol.  It was going to be a glorious day.  It reminded me of going to the State Fair except they didn’t have any food for sale or souvenirs.  The weather was perfect.  Our state capitol is roomy with lots of grassy areas to move around and trees to sit under when we got tired.  We picked out a meeting spot and felt like we could come and go in comfort and confidence that we would be able to find each other again.

The main walk to the front of the Capitol had tables set up with different organizations giving out information. You could sign a petition or get on a mailing list or just find out more about an organization. Most were the predictable:  ACLU, Planned Parenthood, Gay Rights, various local, state and national political organizations were all there.  This was one of the things I had been looking forward to, believe it or not, this was one of the places I wanted to get on mailing lists. Because that’s the kind of extrovert I am.


It was Extrovert Heaven; a Convention for Extroverts.  One of the most popular signs that was repeated in other cities because it was such a BASIC TRUTH was “This is so bad even the Introverts are here.”  Both of my introverted daughters appreciated that sign.  In fact, my supremely introverted granddaughter, Sarah, had remained behind at home because she knew she wouldn’t be able to take the crowd.  She had the self-awareness to know her personal limit and I was proud of her for that.




Once we had all our pamphlets and stickers and had made the rounds of what was where we still had over an hour before anything started.  I headed out for the porta-potties.  If I have learned anything in my long life it is that you want to use the porta-potties early in the day. 

Before we start let me salute one of the most important groups of people in the march and you probably won’t read much, if anything, about them in the newspapers:  the drum corps.  They can’t be overestimated for their contribution.  First of all, they gave a rhythmic undercurrent, a primal musical score to our movement.  There had been an appeal go out ahead of time on Facebook for drummers and there had been an organizational meeting and all the while I’m thinking, “huh?” but now I know. Now I know. The drum corps for our march was made of two or three different groups of men and women with big rawhide drums and an equal number of folks with smaller percussion instruments.  Their contribution was invaluable.  It gave a cadence and a life to our “being there” and I’m not talking about while we walked—it lifted us up while we sat on the curb waiting or in the grass afterwards resting in victory. They varied the cadences: some were the standard ones you heard at football games and some I had never heard before. Because it wasn’t the kind of drums you have in a high school marching band the sound was different—deeper, richer. These drummers also possess some of the finest sets of biceps on earth:  playing basically non-stop for about three hours.  The sound was a constant but non-intrusive backdrop to the day.




and here's a youtube of what they sounded like from the front of the march.  You could hear them from blocks away.
https://youtu.be/gqTsqEHuJU0

The posters were the stars of the show.  There was such a variety of posters it made you realize this march was about everything.  When people asked me what we were marching for it was hard to come up with an answer.  And it sounded strange to say “Everything,” but that was really kind of true. And I think that’s why this march was so widespread—there are so many things the incoming Trump administration has said they intend to do that have worried so many people—so MANY things that the word “everything” isn’t too much of an exaggeration. 

Let me use photos and pictures of posters to take us through the various issues and I’ll start with the most popular:  the pussy hats. And, of course, now that I want to show you a photo I can't find one. I can't believe I don't have a single photo in my camera of one because they were everywhere.  Not so much in Austin, I guess, as in the colder states where they needed the knit hats to keep their heads warm.  We were marching in 80 degrees, mind you. (But if my sisters who marched in D.C. or Tennesee, like Kat or Susan would send me a snap I can add it here. Or maybe Colleen?)

What was the deal with the pussy hats?  To start with, they were cute.  And they must have been easy for women to knit because they were all over the place.  And if you didn’t knit one, you could sew one out of fleece.  They weren’t much more than a pink square that could go over your head with two corners sewed off to make a tab into a kind of ear.  I’ve seen enough now to think that I could probably make one myself. 

The kitty cat/pussy hats were a reference to Donald Trump’s comment about grabbing women’s genitals without their permission.  By far, this was the biggest issue at the march.  And my own sign came under that category.  I got the phrase from Meryl Streep’s speech at the Golden Globes awards ceremony and I found another woman who thought the same thing: 



























I have had presidents I didn’t agree with before.  About half of them, I would say.  I didn’t like most of what George W. Bush said or did but I never, never questioned whether he respected women or minorities.  My argument with past leaders was an honest disagreement based on mutual respect.  With Trump, I do not feel any respect reciprocated towards me or anyone else.  And, like Meryl Streep says, “Disrespect Invites Disrespect.”

I honestly worry and wonder about women who can excuse his behavior.  How can they overlook this?  They say he did these things in the past but then in the debates he reverted to old behavior and called Hillary Clinton “a nasty woman,” mocked a disabled reporter and made fun of women for their appearance on the Apprentice show.  And this isn’t just rumors, he did this on national television, we saw it with our own eyes.   No other politician has ever done anything like this.  Or allowed his followers to chant “Lock her up!”  This goes beyond campaigning and speaks to the core of who a person is in their character. 
That is why my poster said “Disrespect Invites Disrespect.” 

I never much cared for George W. Bush’s policies but I never felt he disrespected me.  And, more than one person has told me lately that they miss the guy. Yes.  And we all agreed that we never thought the words would leave our lips, either.


Yet here we are:  I miss George W. Bush.  And The Introverts are Marching.


OK, now I want to say, we were not marching for the right to kill our babies.  Nobody in this crowd wanted to kill babies. It was the opposite. The Capitol grounds were full of women with children and babies in strollers, good mothers who were very attentive to their children.  Please, if you say you want to understand then understand this because it’s really no more complicated than this:  all we want is for each woman to have the right to make her own decision. Each pregnancy is unique.  And it’s nobody else’s business. 
Planned Parenthood gets no government funding for abortions and it performs so many important health services to the poor (like PAP smears and mammograms) that it would be a national health disgrace to lose them. 
On Monday morning one of Trump’s first acts in office was to reinstate the Global Gag Rule to cut off abortion funding abroad.  This made a lot of people happy and they voted for him for just this reason.  But I’m not sure they really understood the full extent of what this would mean because in one of life’s ironies we will end up with more, not less abortions out of the deal. In fact, according to a London based aid organization called Marie Stopes International, the estimate is that there will be an additional 2.2 million additional abortions worldwide because of this move.   Let me say that again in case it didn’t sink in:  this move is going to cause MORE abortions, not end them. MORE. Here’s how:  One of the many things cut in the executive order was plain old family planning like education and contraceptives.  And when you have better family planning you have less unplanned pregnancies.  Trump’s executive order to reinstate the Global Gag Rule cuts out family planning resources in other countries. The honest truth—let’s be real here, folks, -- is that without contraceptives and educations you will have pregnancies.  That is the way the world works.  God created us to have sex.  We are hard-wired to do this.  And when you have unplanned pregnancies you will have abortions; the best you can hope for is to have safe ones.  Also, now that we can expect to have unsafe abortions we will also have mothers who will die, also. The measure Trump signed on Monday also closes clinics around the world that has cut childbirth mortality by 2/3 in the last eight years. So, we can expect those deaths to go back up again. Shutting down these programs also shuts down HIV/AIDS clinics.  Also, it shuts down clinics treating the Zika virus.

If anyone thinks we are doing the morally correct thing with this move you might want to re-read that last paragraph and remind yourself that the developing countries and people affected by this move have nowhere else to turn.  Nowhere.

There were a lot of rainbow flags and logos in the crowd but not as many as you might have thought. Or maybe rainbows just don’t draw a lot of attention anymore.  It was almost an afterthought of rainbows.  Kind of like, “Oh, yeah, rainbows.”  A few women held hands but it seemed so natural that it didn’t stand out. 
There is a worry about what might become of Marriage Equality in a Republican Administration.  Trump has given no indication that he intends to change anything legally but there was a move in the Texas courts Tuesday morning to revisit the issue so the LGBT community is a bit nervous. I have had two young lesbian friends express deep concerns that they won’t be able to marry once they find their soulmate.  I have a transgender friend who can’t go to the bathroom in public because he is so afraid of being outed.  These are my friends.  They are worrying about things that I never had to worry about.  They are worried about things that nobody should have to worry about—normal things.  It’s not too much to ask to get to go to the bathroom or get married. 

By the way, trans people do not molest kids.  Child molesters do that and there are laws against it.  There always have been.  My trans friend just wants to pee.  Thank you.

A couple of people had huge inflatable world globes and signs about global warming.  This is one of the things that folks worry about Trump.  He had said that he thinks global warming is a hoax and refuses to acknowledge the scientific evidence on climate change.  When I was in the depths of despair and worrying about all the things Trump could do to screw up in the world I realized I would go nuts if I tried to worry about everything so I listed the top three things I worried about the most and tried to limit myself to only those three things.  Climate Change was on the top of my personal list.  I am reading Thomas Friedman’s new book “Thank You for Being Late.”  I’ve gotten past the first third of the book where he is citing all the scientific evidence for how everything is accelerating.  The science is there.  The facts don’t lie.  The earth is warming and it’s not stopping until we make some dramatic changes.  And things are about to enter a dangerous phase where we won’t be able to stop the process.  We’re not quite there, folks, but it’s getting scary.  We are on the verge of killing our planet, the one thing that feeds us.  I am dead serious.  This is the one area the President of the US could do to screw up things bad enough to destroy the future of humanity. Seriously. If Trump pulls the US out of the Paris Climate Agreement other countries will follow us and there is no predicting what will happen.  The world is on the brink right now and just a few things could change everything.

The immigrant community was there.  A lot of signs said build bridges, not walls.  One of the most widespread feelings in the whole group was that of friendliness.  Everybody was so friendly:  taking pictures of each other, holding each other’s babies, complimenting each other’s signs, asking where are you from, meeting and greeting, just having conversations with total strangers like they were your best friends.  Everyone was instant friends.  It was like a gigantic group dating site where we had all been pre-selected as a match. 

There were signs for Gun Control but I’m not sure I got pictures of them. This is Texas, after all, we gave up long ago. Back when we were allowed to have gun racks in our pickups it kind of cut down on road rage so we have our own perspective about those things around here.

All of these posters and the march hadn’t even started yet.


We picked a good spot on the curb near the front gate and waited for about an hour.  This gave us plenty of time for people watching and poster critiquing, some posters were quite elaborate.  People wanted their pictures taken with the more popular ones.  Gradually I realized the Capitol grounds had filled up and we still had thirty minutes to go yet women were still walking in.  Then the grounds became so full nobody could walk around anymore.  Then, at the stroke of noon, as promised, things started moving.  Women began holding their signs in the air and walking.  Just a little at first.  The first major challenge was getting out the gate and onto the street.  That took almost half an hour just to get there.  Once out onto the street we had to straighten out and get oriented into an actual direction.  It was a long time before somebody said, “Hey, we’re actually walking!”  After a while, we left the drum cadence behind us.  They may have stayed behind on the Capitol grounds.  We walked about a mile away from the Capitol taking up both sides of Congress Ave.  A couple of times we passed people on balconies cheering us on, then folks on the street gathered and cheered.  Some buildings had banners overhead with signs.  Then we turned onto another street and marched for a few blocks and turned again and I realized we were headed back to the Capitol. 

All in all we walked for an hour or two.  It wasn't hard.  It wasn't too hot.  When we got back to the Capitol we could hear the drummers once again and saw the flags that had been leading the march:  the US flag, the Texas flag and the Rainbow flag plus a standard with some feathers or something attached that looked like maybe they might have been American Indian.  That was emotional for me.  I hadn’t seen them before, I had no idea they had been leading us the whole way.  Everybody needs to be led by something they believe in and those were good things to lead me.

We found a spot of grass with a tree and collapsed under it for a while to rest.  Then we went over to listen to the drummer’s circle for a bit.  Finally, a couple of us were thirsty and wanted to go back to the hotel for water so we headed back in that direction.  It started getting really crowded at the south gate to the Capitol grounds and we realized there were still marchers who hadn’t even marched yet, they were still pouring out to begin their march. 

There were that many women.

The girls all took naps but I got restless back at the hotel and eventually went back to the Capitol just in time to hear the last of the speakers and the music wrapped it up.  The march organizer thanked everyone and then told us all to pick up our trash before we went home.  I looked around for litter to help pick up and didn’t find any.  We had been a pretty tidy bunch. 
One thing the women had done with their posters, though, was to line them up on the ground in front of the Capitol making a blanket. Nobody was quite ready to pick that up.  I’m not sure who picked it up but it had become sacred ground of sorts and I wasn’t going to touch it with a ten-foot pole. 



I saw some Facebook posts about how trashy the marchers were in other cities but I can say with authority that the Austin ladies were not.  I was content to leave the tidy array of posters there at the front door of my government.  I consider it a large letter to them to read without needing their bifocals. However, my girls and I took our posters home as a souvenir.
Seriously. The crowd resembled a bunch of Sunday School teachers.  There were no arrests at any of the marches that I know of   in any of the cities. The whole city of Austin was in Love Fest mode.  As we walked to dinner after the march there were still a few police monitoring some blocked off streets and I heard one woman go up to an officer and thank him for all his work that day.  He was smiling and relaxed and told her that she was welcome.  I went up to him and asked if everyone had been minding their manners.  “Yes ma’am! Everybody has been just great!” was his reply.  He sounded like he had had a good day.  We all had.