Fall is arriving at Evansridge.
My mom and I were in the cocoon of our booth at the Hilton Hotel in Altamonte Springs, having a light breakfast and taking a break from driving. We were en route to the Hard Rock Cafe and Casino in Tampa. A much deserved break and weekend for us. Our waitress knew my mom from the last couple of trips to the Senior Softball Camp my dad attended over the last couple of years. She asked if I was her daughter and we laughed and said I was. Mom told her she was taking me to the Hard Rock Casino, just the two of us. Our waitress smiled a little sad smile and told us how great it was we were going together. She then told us she missed her mom. Her mom is 83 and lives in Bosnia. She had just seen her this last March, and it was hard to leave. She began to tear up, but recovered and told us that her mom was this little tiny thing, in a small house. But, she told us that her mom told her that she was old, and all that mattered at this point in her life, was that her kids and their families were ok. ”I’ll be fine” she told her daughter. Our waitress cleared our table and walked away. Mom and I shared a look, understanding distance. Mom had moved from Texas to California as a young mom. Our’s was the family that always came to visit. I live across the country from my older children and grandchildren, and my youngest child is practically in the Gulf. It wasn’t an ocean and continents, but it was long enough. Each of us had spent countless hours in the air or on the road going back for long visit, or short and sweet visits. We knew distance.
When our waitress came back, she told us to enjoy our time together. She said to us, “I have this,” meaning she would get our breakfast. Then she turned to me and said “Enjoy your mom”, and walked away.
“We have government by the majority who participate.”
― Thomas Jefferson
Civic Duty. I never even knew what that meant. Growing up in a military family, I was the closet activist, the anti-war protester, civil rights, Chicano Pride…but I was really in a bubble. I never knew the inter-city struggle or even the civil rights struggle because my parents raised me so very much in mainstream America. I learned Spanish in school, not at home. I loved to discuss current affairs and my mom would get up in the night to find my father and I at the dinner table discussing the Vietnam War, civil disobedience, Nixon and Watergate. I could argue with the best of them and I had my facts, but it wasn’t until I was in my thirties that my mom told me I didn’t have the right to complain if I wasn’t registered to vote. So, I registered. But, it wasn’t until our President announced his candidacy did I first work on a campaign.
That was 2007/2008 and since then, I have met some amazing people in local politics. It was because of that 2008 election I decided to find out how local government works from the ground up, so I became a Precinct committee member. I am a transplant from California. I moved here in 1999 when my husband was given his disability rating from the Veteran’s Administration. His family is from Oxford, here in Granville County. What I have found, is there are a lot of transplants like me that have made Granville County home and want to make it the best home they can for their families and their community. Chairman Ed Gleason, 3rd Vice Chair Cuz Spirio, and our Treasurer Lael Pennix are transplants, as I am. I find it hard to believe that out of thousands of Granville County Democrats, we can’t get hometown folks to help the party as a member of the Executive Committee, participate in a meeting or two, volunteer on a committee, float an idea or two in an email. But, I am learning what Thomas Jefferson said, is more often true, than not…”“We have government by the majority who participate.”
This last April, at the Granville County Democratic Convention, I was elected Secretary of the Granville County Democratic Party. It’s not an election year so the participation this year has declined. When I attend meetings, I see the same people, the same concerned faces. This Board wants to change that. We don’t need every Democrat in the County to attend every meeting, but we want everyone to be engaged, to be informed about us, about the issues facing our locale, our state, our government. We suffered a set-back in the state government in 2012. We have little or no voice. Mrs. Mims said something at our first meeting on the 29th that she heard at the 13th District Convention held in Nashville, NC. The guest speaker was State Treasurer Janet Cowell, a Democrat. She said Ms. Cowell spoke on a strategy to deal with, on the NAACP Moral Mondays going on in Raleigh, and of note “We may win, we may lose, but we are not silent”.
This could very well be our mission statement: “We may win, we may lose, but we are not silent”.
I chose to participate. Please join me. Until next time…God bless.
One moment you are in the midst of a beautifully lit late-winter day, doing what you usually do on your day off, running errands, getting groceries, enjoying a cafecito on the ride home on the back roads to the house, without a care or worry in the world. The next moment you are pushing your car to its mechanical limits getting your husband to the emergency ward of the VA, because he refuses to call 911 and have EMS come get him. Maybe because he was still conscious, could breathe and walk (but not deeply – the breathing part and for long periods of time – the walking part) or maybe because he is just a stubborn guy and to admit he needed an ambulance meant his life was threatened (which it was). To this day, I cannot tell you what logic (debatable) he used, all I know is I was able to get him to the VA without him losing consciousness. He wouldn’t let me drop him off at the entrance, while I parked, or get him one of the fifty wheelchairs that sat outside the mechanical doors, so he would not have to walk in what was becoming obviously an effort to do.
It wasn’t a heart attack, as he first thought. It was a blood clot in his lung. A pulmonary embolism. We knew first hand how serious this was. We had lost our friend two years before to a clot that traveled to her heart. When the young doctor told us what we were dealing with, we shared a look, thinking of Karen. We talked quietly as they made arrangements to transport him across the street to ICU at Duke Medical Center. I finally sat down after four hours of standing by his bedside and what he told me next really made me want to strangle him myself.
We had parted ways that morning, me to get my nails done and run errands, he to the golf course. I remember him saying he was tired when he got up from bed and started to get ready. I remember thinking he had been up late, after a night at judo practice, so it was reasonable he was tired. I knew he had been up late the last couple of nights, dealing with the onset of insomnia that comes with this time of year. I was not overly concerned. He tells me he was fine the first five holes. He had a birdie putt on the sixth hole and was walking back to his cart when one of the guys he was playing with him asked him if he was alright. He replied he was, but when he tried to get into the cart, he knew he was not. He grabbed onto the railing so he would not fall and tried to sit down, but actually slid down into the cart. He prayed for help to get through what was happening, telling God he was prepared to go if it be His will, but if it was not yet his time, to help him get through it. His golf buddies are Veterans. They call my husband “Guny”. So when my husband heard one ask “Guny, you want us to call 911?” He told them no. They wouldn’t get there in time. They were ten minutes out-of-town in the country on a golf course, he figured, they would get their too late to save him from a heart attack. Remember I mentioned logic in the beginning of this post, because what happens next certainly stretches the definition.
He continues to ride in the cart, but does not play. He gets out of the cart once or twice and realizes he cannot breathe well, so he gets back in the cart. He continues to watch his partners finish their games. Now, this particular golf course passes by the clubhouse and his car on the 9th hole and he tells me, as he is laying in front of me in the emergency room with oxygen to help his breathing. He remembers thinking for a moment, he should just call it a day and come home so I can take him to the VA, but because he was still “fine”, he squelched that thought and continued on the next NINE HOLES. At the end of the game, does he then decide to get in his car and drive home, which in itself, was risky, given he might lose consciousness and hurt himself or others? My Marine decides to give a few lessons to the young golfer who had joined them to play. Granted, from the cart, but still…Three hours after his first incident on the course and five hours since he started playing, he drives himself home. He tells me he never panicked that morning or later that day, with all that had happened until he pulled up in the driveway and realized I was not home. He called me as I was driving out of Raleigh and was on the back roads, oblivious to what he had been through.
I couldn’t be mad at him. Anyone who knows us, knows I love my husband madly. Knows the sun rises and sets with this man. Besides, how would that look, wife going off on husband in emergency room while he lay incapacitated by a blood clot? Seriously, though, I was thinking if he ever does this to me again, I will kill him myself. Not that it would matter, my being frustrated with how he handled himself, how he may have done his body more harm than good. I looked at him with all the ambivalence of emotions and just said “I don’t know what to say”, which was a lie. I had plenty to say and plenty of emotion to go with it, but I was silent. He knew it too, because his next words put out all the fire inside my heart over what he had put himself through, what could have or might have happened, all the uncertainty of what would happen from this point on. He said simply “Just say “thank you”".
Humbled, I did. I thanked God for getting him through his day without harm to anyone and further harm to himself. I thanked God for the doctors of the VA and Duke Medical Center and their staff who took such good care of my Marine. I thanked God for our family and friends who checked in with us, supported us, offered to do whatever they could to help. I thanked God for the faith that sustains us in dark and uncertain times. I thanked God for the blessing of our marriage and our life together that we both knew could have ended that beautiful sun-filled winter day.
I walked across the street from Duke after I had seen him get settled in ICU. I remember thinking how we arrived seven to eight hours before, anxious, facing the unknown, but surprisingly never panicking, never losing composure. It seemed as if in another time in our life, not just hours before. I drove up to our home and took a picture because, for some reason in the process of the moments of getting him from the house to the car and to the VA, he had remembered, or out of habit, left the porch light on. As if he had known all along he would be coming home.
Life got in the way of blogging around the holidays. I wanted to share with my readers about my adjustment in the work force again and trying to get ready for the holidays. I wanted to write about how happy I have been at my new job, learning family law, working with a great attorney and fabulous co-workers. Yes, I am writing this from the lens of “new to the job”, but it feels like a very good fit. Time will tell, but understand that recent events in my life, make me appreciate the “here and now”, because as my father is fond of saying, “tomorrow is not guaranteed”. With that in mind, I appreciate the opportunity for as long as I have it.
December came with a get -together with old friends, a couple of Christmas parties and a trip to Jacksonville to spend Christmas with my parents and my youngest daughter and her godson. Even though, I was not going to be home for the holidays, I still wanted to dress the house up in holiday decorations put the tree and lights up. Getting my husband motivated enough to do this, is always a process, since he does not “do” holidays, but our agreement, is he just has to get out the totes, I do the rest. The only thing is I forgot how much work it was to decorate the house, especially, now that I am back working. It took two weeks, but I got the house finished, enjoyed it for two weeks and then was gone to Florida.
The payoff, after we survived the parking lot nightmare that was our trip on I-95 from home to Jacksonville, was seeing how much improved my mom is doing, and how happy my dad is, now that she is doing better. My parents weren’t even home when we got there in Jacksonville, which further added to my husband’s irritation after spending almost two extra hours on the total trip because of the holiday traffic. So the payoff was not immediate, only getting there and being able to get out of the car after 10 hours on the road. The payoff came the next day. That first night, we visited with Megan and tried to get the outside lights to work. My dad had left detailed instructions, but we failed to find the reset switch to get the lights on after they had been kicked off. Now, a month later, it has become one of the things we all reminisce about when we talk about this last Christmas… how Megan and I could not figure out how to get the back yard holiday lights on and how we didn’t call my dad, because neither one of us wanted to admit we couldn’t figure it out. We just broke out a bottle of wine and toasted being together for the holidays, for the first time in years.
The bonus, was Megan’s godson, Isaia. I was trying to remember when we last had a child in the house for the holidays. Too many years . The price of being a long distance Grandmother. Which may explain why we all were touched by his anticipation. He would hang out with Chester, while he played on-line poker and watched River Monsters. He got up from a nap on Christmas Eve and asked my mom if she wanted to dance, when he heard music playing on her CD player. He invited my Dad to watch cartoons with him, moving over on the chaise lounge to give him space. He asked to help set the table for meals. Later that night, He and Megan made cookies. He helped decorate the baked cookies, then tested one to make sure they were “good”. Then helped Megan put out the plate of cookies and milk for Santa. He also helped write the note to Santa so he wouldn’t miss the treat. He also, had to make sure the fireplace was big enough for Santa to get through. All our family rituals of the holiday coming full circle with Megan’s godson. The next morning, Isaia woke up to presents Santa left under the tree. It was a treat for us, not just to see his excitement, but for me,it reinforced, what I have always felt, that Christmas is for the kids. We all watched as he opened presents, getting excited over everything, bit and small. It made our holiday memorable, sharing it with this little guy.
With the holiday trip a success (not counting the beginning) and the holidays a wrap, the end of year arrived with an invitation to an end of year party with family and one with friends. I can’t remember us being this social, but a combination of the new judo dojo Chester volunteers at, the golf tournament and my work in local politics, all raised our profile to the point, we now have a semblance of a social life. Not a bad thing, but something that required some management, since by the end of this particular year, Chester was feeling the effects of all the exposure. I have started a new blog “My PTSD Vet” to have a continuing conversation about Chester’s struggles (past and current), my observations, and his insights as he works to find a balance to stay engaged in everyday life, without compromising the gains he has made. He has worked harder than he gives himself credit for. For us to go to two parties in one night, was significant. We didn’t stay long at either party, but at the end of the second gathering, our hosts built a huge bonfire.
Of particular significance to me, the bonfire represented an end of the year as we knew it, and the beginning of the new year. The riff between the past and the future was permanent in a couple of relationships we both had. We had lost a dear friend in the first half of the year that we have still not recovered from. I drove my parents to Texas, and reunited with family I had not seen in years, renewing the ties that bind. I made memories with my kids and grand kids that I cherish more than I will could ever say. I worked behind the scenes on a local election and was amazed at the tenacity of pure will. My status as unemployed ended, and was humbled by that process. The Nation reelected the President, after a particular contentious election, reinforcing my belief in our better angels. I know without a doubt, that I love my husband more today, because of this journey we have taken on together, this journey called Life.
I had lunch with an old friend yesterday who I have known now for thirteen years. She and I worked together at my first firm when I moved here from California. She and I became grandmothers the same year and the partner she worked for affectionately coined our side of the office, “Grandmothers Row”. After a couple of years, I moved on to a new job, she and I kept in touch, meeting for lunch a couple of times a year.
Our lives have not intersected in the way that it does on a daily basis when you work with someone who you are close to; that you becomes friends with. We don’t share the day-to-day events of our lives, or the “what happened this weekend” accounts on Monday mornings when you are getting your coffee or having your leftovers from Sunday dinner in the lunch room. In this world, where nothing stays the same, jobs change, families evolve, sickness looms, “life happens!”, you manage your friendships as you can.
This last year has been particular hard on my friend, and I hugged her when we said our goodbyes, promising we would have an early New Years’ celebration, tossing out 2012 for her and bringing in 2013, in the hopes the new year will be better for her. The reality of friendship, as in most relationships, is you are stoutly reminded of your limitations to affect the circumstances of life…your own and those you are close to. I felt that reality yesterday when I listened to the emotion in my friend’s voice. It made my voice catch as I told her “I don’t even know what to say”.
Thinking of that moment, now, I am grateful I was there to listen, to share some space, without giving in the knee-jerk reaction of comforting platitudes. I listened, I comforted, and knowing, I was powerless in the face of what my friend had been through and was still going through, I was quiet, for a change.
I’m supposed to be cleaning house. To my credit, I did start a load of sheets. This is how it will be from now on. Weekends to clean, grocery shop, Zumba, catch up on recorded programs, because Monday, I turn the “unemployed/retired” page, to “full-time employed” page. I will have to change my “about” on my blog and twitter. It’s been a journey from then until now, with my projects not yet completed, and my committment no less dampened, nor altered with this recent change. I have had time with my grandchildren, my children, my parents, and my husband, I would never had otherwise had. I helped my husband put on a benefit golf tournament that was successful enough to repeat this year. I spent time on myself, still feeling a little guilty about that, just because time for yourself always seemed so extravegant…and it is, but I have learned it is a necessary extravagance!
In my life and in my work, it has never been “just a job”. It has always been about what I bring to the equation, my skills, my strengths, my life’s experience. The time away from work, after years of working, made me value my life that much more, because I realized, I had much to contriubute to those I met and reconnected with over that time period. I forged closer bonds with family and friends, I reunited with cousins I had not seen in years. My life was made much richer, as a result.
So, before my meeting, I read a prayer I found on email@example.com which in part said this “…Lord, help me to remember that while my circumstances change, you are the same yesterday, today, and forever.” I don’t know what this new page in my book holds. I do know I made a connection in my meeting. I do know I am beginning a new area of law I have never dealt with, except in my own personal life…family law. I do know the attorney I will be working with has a quiet passion and expertise that speaks to how she approaches her clients and her work. She really had me in the first hour of our meeting.
In February, 2007, I joined Triangle for Obama, a group in Raleigh, to get involved in the campaign. I went door to door near the NC State campus. I met folks in downtown restaurants, private homes and storefronts. I worked registering voters and phone banking. That summer, after some lackluster speeches and issues with Hillary Clinton, I felt as if Candidate Obama was hitting a plateau, he seemed less energetic, a little flat. Determined to hear the candidate in person, I went to North Carolina Central University with one of my co-workers and dear friends. Standing for three hours, one row back from the rope row, that late fall afternoon, I remember thinking; I had not been this weary in a long time. As the fourth hour began, Candidate Obama finally strode up to the platform of this outdoor stage and I listened to his speech. To this day, I could not tell you much about the speech, except that it sounded a lot like the one I had heard on TV, given in other states, to other universities or colleges. It wasn’t particularly personal, nor was it ground shaking, but I got to hear it, I got to see him, and when he finished, I got to shake his hand.
I have told anyone who asks, or who will listen, over these few years, about the reason I volunteered for the President’s campaign. He was simply the first candidate to even remotely look like me, but even as important, was that his background was similar to mine; his struggle with his ethnic identity similar to mine. I believe that his experience growing up, shaped his view of middle-class America and sharpened his focus to guide the Country forward to a stronger, educated, opportunity-rich America. Not as it “used to be”, because I knew, as a Nation, we were not going back…we were going forward. To do that, would require everyone working together, reaching across the proverbial aisle, reaching back, and pushing forward.
Well, that was my idealism and has become my conviction, even in the face of door to door rebuffs here in the small North Carolina community I live in, or curt responses by non-supporters on the phone in this state and others. Even in the face of my husband, also African-American and a Marine, who was born and raised in the city of Blood Done Sign My Name**, who sat on a ridge as a six-year-old, watching young goats jump from one car to the next, outside the nearby church. When the church members exited their church, saw this spectacle, and the boy watching; reported this incident to the farmer who employed my husband’s father. This farmer told my husband’s father that at the end of the season, he and his family would have to leave his farm.
This event and others informed my husband’s belief that once in office, President Obama would not get an opportunity to do the work he wanted or needed to do, because resistance to his Presidency was going to be full-blown and full-throated. I remember when he was elected and my husband, my friends and I watched him and his family in Chicago, and I thought; “now the fight really begins”.
A fight with Congress, with the Supreme Court, with his own party, the President is just weeks away from re-election, or the lucrative talk circuit ala Bill Clinton. The Nation has forgotten 911, the New York has forgotten 911, as former President Bush stated that Bin Laden capture was not a priority, as the world watched as Bin Laden would rattle us with his video-taped appearances, forever looking like he was not the most hunted man in modern times. Because I don’t believe he was. When President Obama announced he had ordered the Navy Seal operation to get Bin Laden, I know the Nation was grateful, you heard it, you felt it, you saw it. Which is why I don’t understand the former Seals trying to discredit this incredible accomplishment.
I have been unemployed for nineteen months. While looking for work, I renewed my efforts to get involved locally. I went to County Democratic Party meetings, got involved in some local elections, and volunteered as vice-chair of my precinct. I struggled to learn Access so I could do bulk mailings, and was successful. I no longer receive unemployment benefits, so I cannot drive to our campaign office to help with phone banking or register folks to vote as often as I did during the 2008 election. Nor can I donate to the campaign as I did when I was working. We’ve had to tighten the budget up. Thanks to technology, as I continue my job search, I am phone banking from home and participating in a letter writing campaign on the issues. It is the least I can do.
Each and every one of us know the burdens of this Presidency, those that came from the former Administration, as well as, those that have developed in the last three and a half years. They are problems never faced by a President in my lifetime. They took a couple of generations to develop and our President informed us early on, that it would take more than one administration and maybe, even more than one President, to resolve them. Outsourcing. Economy. Healthcare. The Banks. Wall Street. Congress. Iraq. Afghanistan. Iran. China. Europe. Veterans. Education. All those burdens. Each of us should be asking Swidler’s question: “What can I do for you, Mr. President?”.
*The Best and The Brightest, David Halberstam
**Blood Done Sign My Name, Timothy B. Tyson
My husband and I were on a walk mid afternoon, last week. I am not a day walker, I love walking in the early morning when the temperature is a little cooler, especially in summer. Mosquitos hopefully are not awake yet, or at least, the bug spray I use is working. But, this was an impromptu trek, along with other errands we were running that day.
We noticed that the landscaping that had been put in place in the athletic park was growing and enhancing the native foliage already in place. Recent rains had made the grass of the soccer field and baseball field lush and dense. Wire fences that designated property lines between the public space and private property are barely visible, because the woods pressing past this disappearing barrier into the strategically arranged evergreens and plants. The past, ever-present.
This last year and a half is a lot like the woods that the park’s fence attempts to hold in place. It has been advancing into my present. I sense a hyper-vigilance, as if the message may impede forward progress. But something about the walk I took that day, I can’t say if it was the symbolism of the path, if it was the comfort of my husband’s presence, but I no longer felt the anxiousness for the incomplete writings, for the job search still on-going, for the “loose ends” to be tied. I am where I need to be, pressing forward.
I was working in my home office, with ESPN First Take as background noise, when I happened to catch the news alert at the bottom of the screen. ”Augusta allows first women members”. I called out to my husband in the front room, who changed the channel to see the report that followed. I watched the report and thought about my first day at work at a law firm in near Fashion Valley in San Diego, when I walked in with my pantsuit and briefcase. I went to the office I shared with my supervising paralegal and will never forget the look on her face when she saw me. ”Oh, dear!” she exclaimed in her nervous way. ”You can’t wear pants in the office! Only dresses or skirts!”
It was 1995 and I was a little taken aback, to say the least. I had just left a development and property management firm in Sorrento Valley for my first position with the law firm. The female CEO of the property management side of the partnership, wore fabulous Ann Taylor pantsuits to the office and all of the female staff took their cue from her. California legislature had just passed a law that year allowing pants in the workplace. Apparently the firm’s head partner at my new employment, was not implementing the dress code change until later in the year. I was a single mom and could not afford to dispute the finer aspects of dress code in the firm, so I wore skirts until the firm allowed the dress code changes.
I don’t begin to understand clubs that exclude in their membership. I realize exclusive clubs are an aspect of our society, not society itself. As we move farther away from the civil rights movement, society finds other ways to divide, to separate, in our neighborhoods, our schools, our shopping experiences, the play areas for our children (as well as adults), our politics. As a person of color, a working woman who still doesn’t earn the same as her male counterpart, at times a single mom, and overweight, I have, over the years experienced discrimination, both subtle and overt. I have benefited from government programs for minorities and women, I am sure, but I was always the one who would write in “human” when they asked my race or ethnicity, and as a single mom, eligible for food-stamps, I could never bring myself to apply for them. Looking back, it seems another world, having men pass laws so I could vote, so I could work, have paid leave when I had my children, so I could wear pants in the workplace. I watched the world change over the years, sometimes for the worse, most times for the better.
Today, I appreciate witnessing history in the making. I have said the two most beautiful places on earth are a California beach and a golf course. I don’t play golf, but I love to drive the cart and golf courses are some of the most peaceful places you will find. I am confident Ms. Rice and Ms. Moore will enjoy their new membership at Augusta, and appreciate the peace on the greens. Peace, perhaps best defined as “a state of tranquility or quiet as: a. freedom from civil disobedience, b. a state of security or order within a community provided for by law or custom”…