FIGHTING #INAUGURATION BLUES

womensmarch1It’s been a rough couple of months, but yesterday I felt hope for our country for the first time since November 8. I marched with more than 14,000 others in Florida’s capital city, Tallahassee.

I borrowed an idea from my cousin who attended the Women’s March in Washington. She wore the pink hats and attached hundreds of ribbons to the top of it, each one containing the name of a woman she was representing at the march. My great-grandmother and grandmother were there. I was there, too.

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My cousin’s hat

She inspired me to do something as well, including marching where I could in the town where I lived. I took an index card and wrote down the names of all the important women in my life, past and present, who I wanted to come along with me. I taped the card to the back of my sign, so as I marched I looked at their names. It gave me courage and a sense of purpose.

womensmarch3The weather loomed as a threat yesterday morning. Thunderstorms, lightning, hail, tornadoes–scary stuff. I drove to the location in Railroad Square, expecting only a couple of hundred people to come out. Instead, I saw thousands of all ages and colors. My husband didn’t think he’d be welcome at a “women’s march,” so he stayed home despite my cajoling and telling him that we needed men to be there. He wouldn’t have stood out–maybe a third of the crowd were men. Umbrellas clashing, signs soaking, and thunder providing the background drum beat, we began to move slowly. A group of college-aged African-Americans joined and stepped into place in front of me. Both male and female marchers, carrying signs. One of the young men’s sign said, “Stop the Rape Culture.” I smiled broadly at what was happening.

I estimated 10,000 marchers. When I was a reporter, I was trained how to count crowds in meetings halls and auditoriums, but I had no way to estimate these numbers. But I knew it had to be in thousands. The paper reported this morning that the Tallahassee police said more than 14,000 people participated.

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The Tallahassee March

 

I posted my photo on Facebook. After I came home and dried off, I looked at my feed on Facebook and saw my friends’ posts from around Florida and the country: Gainesville, St. Pete, Jacksonville, Tucson, Atlanta, Washington.

We will not be defeated on any of the issues so important to the heart of the United States and its government. Criticisms included the name of the marches. That might be valid–my husband a case in point–but when the organizers began making decisions that seemed to be the best title. I don’t think anyone knew what would happen. People were given a chance to publicly participate in democracy and voice their concerns and fears. No one knew the numbers that would attend. Or the issues it would bring out, which was another criticism I’ve heard in the last twenty-four hours. Disorganized, no core issues to work around, the pundits said. Who cares? People came out. Millions across the world. They did it peacefully. I saw no anger amongst the crowd where I marched. Only anger at what could happen and what did happen on November 8.

As I marched next to a woman perhaps two decades older than me using her cane to walk up the hill, I cried. How far we’ve come in her lifetime, only to be shot back down in the swift and fatal tweets of the man now occupying the Oval Office. I looked at the names of the women on my card and felt a lump in my throat.

I did it for you, Emilene Stephens Hooper, who had two children out of wedlock back in Cornwall in the 1890s, yet went on to marry and became a pillar of her community. She ran a boarding house with her two young sons–one of whom was my grandfather–when she met Fred Hooper, who married her and raised her sons and their other children. My grandfather emigrated to the United States in 1900. So, yes, I’m an immigrant, too, I suppose.

I did it for you, Anna Mary Sweet Camburn, who was in her forties when women gained the right to vote. I did it for you, Ethel DeFord Stephens, who had given birth to seven children by the time women could vote.

And I did it for you, Anna Christina Camburn Behnke, who I brought into this world and raised to be a feminist. You will be a fighter all your life against bigotry, prejudices, and injustice, whether through your actions, words, or paintings.

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With Anna at her art show with her spider lady painting

 

I feel hopeful this morning despite the rain still pounding outside. The heavens are crying as some of us have been doing for the past few months. Those tears will nourish and feed the ground, just as ours inspired and pushed us out the door and into the streets to voice our love of democracy and rights afforded us thus far.

We must keep up the good work.

What happened in your town? I’d love to hear about it!

Thoughts on Moving

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Pittsburgh Home

My brain struggles to keep it all straight, so a little notebook has become my friend in recent weeks. We’ve made some major decisions in the past month that will impact our lives for years. Timing seems to be a little off, but I believe there is a reason for everything. It sometimes takes years to figure it out. Sometimes, we never do.

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New Cabin in NC

We are in the process of becoming hybrid snowbirds when my husband retires. We’re not sure when that will happen, but it will be within two years, maximum. His company doesn’t want him to retire, and he still enjoys his work, so why mess with that? Except his job is in Pittsburgh, and we’ve just sold our home here and bought a new log cabin in Murphy, North Carolina. Our home in Tallahassee has tenants in it until April.

Interesting times ahead. I feel as if I’m juggling balls in the air as I make arrangements for the moves, buying a home, selling a home, and giving away as much as possible. I’m packing for the move into a condo here in Pittsburgh temporarily; I’m separating our lives into Florida and North Carolina.

As hectic and chaotic as life is right now, I’m enjoying parts of it. Once I started on the task of going through all of our stuff, I began to find a rhythm for what to throw away or recycle, what to donate to our local Vietnam Veterans group, and what to keep. I find it fascinating to discover that many things from my past no longer hold any attraction–at least not enough to want to fill yet another box. So the award trophies and copies of everything I’ve had published meet either the recycle bin or the garbage bags. I’m recycling the article I wrote about kindergartners dressing up as mice and singing “Three Blind Mice” during their end of the year program at the local elementary school. No, I don’t think I need that for my portfolio. I don’t need the feature article about the scary man who raised hairless dogs in a trailer. But maybe I’ll hang onto the series I did on drugs in the community where I lived. I won an award for that and for columns I wrote. Perhaps I should keep those, too.

I found my baby book yesterday, hidden way back on a high shelf in my office. I thought I’d lost that in my last move. But there it was with little tidbits about my early life. I was child No. 5, so Mommy didn’t write too much about little Patti, except one tidbit I treasure: “By twenty months, Patti had a very large vocabulary.” I wonder what words my not-quite-two-year-old brain processed.

I read my diary from seventh grade yesterday. I admit after reading it, that it’s a wonder I made it this far as a writer. “Today I went to school. I came home and did chores. I talked to Brent on the phone for hours.” Dull and not worth saving anymore. When I become famous, I’d hate for anyone to use that in my archives.

I found yearbooks and cards from my teaching years, also not worth keeping. “You’re my favorite English teacher ever, and I hope I make an ‘A’ in your class this semester.” Those comments made me laugh, right before I placed them in the recycle pile.

Photos from my years as a Girl Scout leader and the girls in my troop, who are now young women in their thirties in professional careers and raising their own children. Those I keep because my own daughter and her friends who were like my daughters are chronicled in those photos.

So many phases of a life, but I don’t feel old. Yet I’ve lived nine or more lives it seems.

I’m keeping just enough to remind me of those good times. The rest I’m willing to let go because I’m moving into a new phase. As I do my juggling act, I’m trying to keep things in perspective. Every day brings new tasks and challenges, but it’s now that counts so I stay present while visiting the past for a minute here and there.

It’s strange to be moving right now as the garden begins to blossom and bring us bounty. My husband couldn’t help himself. Despite selling the house, he put in a garden as a gift to the buyers. More on that later, I promise.

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