A Visit to the Capitol – Past and Present

One Friday morning in July, I paid a visit to the state Capitol. There were some important bills being heard in committee that day, so my friend M F and I headed out to do our civic duty and register our opinions. 

After completing our task, we walked around a bit to reminisce. We both worked at the Capitol years ago, but not at the same time.

Portraits of all the former governors of Texas hang in the rotunda. I stopped for a photo with my favorite former governor and asked Ann to haunt the building as needed during this “special” session. 😉

Many years ago, I worked during an interim for Senator Lindon Williams (R-Houston). My father-in-law helped me obtain this much-needed job and I was thankful to have it. I’m trying to remember the exact chain of events… I think I first worked at a preschool during the year between college and graduate school. If that is correct, I must have worked for the Senator during the summer after my first year of grad school. Since it was a part-time job, it’s possible I continued to work into the fall.

Since I worked during the interim, there was not a lot of excitement. I mostly did filing and answered phones and worked on mailings. Sometimes there was nothing for me to do except be a warm body in case the phone rang or someone came by the office, so I think I even did a little crafting. I have a vague memory of two specific Christmas decorations and being in that office. Maybe I just brought in some of the Christmas crafting I was working on to show the Administrative Assistant. I no longer remember.

The walls of the lowest level of the Capitol are hung with “class” photos of former members of the legislature. Below, Senator Williams is pictured right there above my hand.

M F worked for Senator Farabee – fourth from the bottom right above Senator Williams. On his left is Senator Lloyd Doggett. When we eventually joined the church we now attend, I remember that he and his family sat up in the left side balcony of the church. Lloyd Doggett is now a U.S. Representative from Texas. He recently held a town hall meeting in our church Family Life Center. I served as a hospitality representative from the church to assist those in attendance. Getting to sit in on the town hall was a nice benefit.

The Texas Capitol has been remodeled since the time of our employment, but M F and I wandered around, looking for the familiar. M F pointed out that many original features of the building remain although functions have changed. An etched window above a door still identifies the Treasury Office, for example, even though that office is no longer in the building. Even the hinges on the doors are beautiful and detailed. M F has a framed rubbing of one.

It was nice walking around the Capitol with a friend who once worked there and is also a history buff. She didn’t mind at all that I wanted to walk around the grounds on this very hot day to see the newest monument – The Texas African American History Memorial. It traces the history of African Americans in Texas from the 1500s to the present. M F could name several of the figures without reading the plaques! Impressive! My knowledge of Texas history is limited. I didn’t arrive in Texas until I was a junior in high school, so I never studied Texas history.

The center of the monument depicts Juneteenth in Texas: June 19, 1865 – when African Americans in Texas received the news of the end of slavery.

The monument was unveiled November 19, 2016. It is really quite impressive and moving – especially recognizing that black slave labor was integral in building the Capitol building that sits behind this monument. It is unfortunate that a “White Lives Matter” protest was also scheduled on the Capitol grounds the morning of the unveiling (the group insisted it was a coincidence) and there was also a counter protest to the protest. 🙁

We were getting really hot, so I didn’t take the time for a photo of the back side. This video provides some compelling close ups and a view of the back.

It was also my first time to view the  Tejano Monument. It didn’t draw me in emotionally in the same way as the African American History Memorial, but it is well done. I especially like the setting of the statues on the native granite boulders.

I posted some of these photos from my day to Facebook and several friends chimed in. One friend said her great-grandfather’s photo also hangs in the lower level where I stood by the Senator’s photograph. Another friend worked for Lloyd Doggett. Another friend said her aunt was friends with Lindon Williams and she remembered talking to him. She thinks her aunt tried to get him to fix a speeding ticket for her, but it didn’t happen. She paid her ticket herself. I felt like we were playing a game of 7 degrees of Lindon Williams!

I haven’t spent much time at the Capitol since I worked there – just a couple of tours with out-of-town friends or a school field trip. This year, however, I have had occasion to visit several times.

1/16 -MLK Jr. March. 1/21- Women’s March.

     

1/31- Standing as a Peaceful Observer to protect Muslim neighbors on Muslim Capitol Day.  2/25 – No Ban, No Wall rally. And there have been a couple more.

  

I am thankful to live where I have easy access to my state government and can participate in a variety of ways in the democratic process and the vibrant life of this community.

We have a beautiful Capitol filled with history. It is well worth a tour and a celebration of the diversity that makes Texas, Texas.

Election Day 2016

I felt the need to wear some inspiration on this election day, so as I hurried out the door, I grabbed a few accessories. Perhaps I am a bit mismatched, but oh well.

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1. The peace symbol necklace was a gift from my great-grandmother, who was a devout Christian and a staunch Democrat. She loved us and she liked us. I wear it for all the matriarchs and mothers who have given me an inheritance of love and strength.
2. The earrings are a gift made by an ESL student from Mexico who is now an American citizen. I wear them for the immigrant community in Austin and in the United States, for refugees in peril, and for my immigrant ancestors.
3. The bead necklace was brought back from Iran by one of my students. I wear it for those who are marginalized, ostracized, or victimized because of nationality, religion, skin color, sexual orientation, language, custom, or disability.
4. My Wendy filibuster shoes. I wear them for all the women who stand when they are too tired to stand, don’t eat until others are fed, and who work tirelessly. I wore them when I filibustered cancer and I wear them today for all who need affordable and accessible health and reproductive care.
5. To complete my outfit, I’m wearing jeans because there is a lot of work to do for justice and mercy and because there is a lot of playing to do too.
6. I’m wearing my white shirt for the suffragettes and feminists who struggled before me and who continue the work today.

Now back to that peace symbol – that is my deepest wish, intention and prayer for us today. May we seek peace, may we find peace, may we share peace.

Flying Solo

2016 Trip to Iowa

I’ve lost count of the times I’ve written, “I’m hoping to get back to blogging.” Well, here I go again. I’m just going to start writing and see what happens. No promises.

I recently took my first trip alone since my bout with cancer. I finally felt confident that my brain dysfunctions from cancer/chemo had improved enough so that I could manage on my own and I headed to Iowa for a family reunion. Here’s how my first day played out on Facebook:

8:30 am:  Yes I can

Yes I can

2:30 pm: Well I’ve already weirdly hurt my leg by simply standing up to get off a plane. Something popped mid calf. Hope the breakfast I just ordered for lunch turns my frown upside down!

8:30 pm: You have no idea how much it means to me today to have this right outside my door. Hot tea any time of day or night. And I found the perfect mug for my tea.
iowa-microiowa-peace-mug

9:32 pm:  Yes, I can. With limits. … I have wondered over the past 2 years if I have become guilty of using chemo brain as an excuse, or if I have become lazy, or if I over protect myself. While I may be guilty of any of those on a given day, I think today has answered the question for me. I have improved so much and manage in my comfortable little habitat pretty well these days. But take me out of that familiar routine and subject me to a variety of situations that I have to navigate and throw in a minor injury (which made feel fragile) – well, let’s just say that I nearly blubbered all over the car rental guy, have had several headaches, and found myself hugging a complete stranger as she opened the door and welcomed me into the B&B. So grateful to have this lovely, quiet space to give my brain a rest. And for the lessons I am learning.

And this: I can’t even tell you how many times I apologized to the car rental guy for not being able to choose a car, for changing my mind about the car he gave me, for not being able to figure out something so simple about the car, for asking him to help me with my bags because I hurt my leg, for him getting wet because he had to go outside with me and it started raining. Poor Kenny!!!

It wasn’t my best day.

But it sure wasn’t my worst.

Yes, I Could. And Yes, I Did. Even though it didn’t go off without a hitch. Even though I sat in my rental car and had a moment that included an ugly cry face while it was pouring down rain.

I said I was learning lessons in that Facebook post. I added that line to convince myself that something positive was happening. And there are a few lessons I hope to remember the next time I try traveling solo with chemo brain.

Make as many decisions ahead of time as possible.
Thank goodness I did this – even the kind of car I preferred. Yeah … that didn’t work out. I couldn’t get gate information for my plane change, but I already knew where I could eat lunch close to the Des Moines airport and even where I could get a Starbucks chai latte if I felt the need before heading off on my 90 minute drive to Ottumwa. Yay Me! Do this. Always.

Ask for help. Tell people exactly what you need and why you need it.
I wish I had been more clear with the car rental guy as soon as he told me they didn’t have the car I had preselected. I don’t know cars, so when he started flinging makes and models at me it was like a foreign language. It would have been better to say, “I’m dealing with chemo brain, I’ve hurt my leg, and I’m feeling overwhelmed. I need something small and simple. Four doors. I need to be able to see out of the back window.”

Give yourself time.
Things feel so rushed in an airport. Verbal directions don’t stick in my brain these days. If something doesn’t look familiar, I may not know how to use it at first glance. Sometimes I forget where something is that I need. Often the problem is that my brain simply processes some kinds of information more slowly than it used to. This causes me to panic. So take a minute to breathe and take that extra few seconds for your brain to process.

If something doesn’t work for you, make a change.
The GPS with the rental car died before I got to my destination, so I had to go the the rental company the next day to replace it. I wasn’t pleased with the two-door hatchback I drove away from the airport, so my husband told me to ask if I could exchange it. I did, and got a car I felt comfortable with.

Plan for what gives you peace and comfort and time to replenish.
I didn’t have many options for lodging. I don’t usually think about staying at a B&B, but a little angel must have whispered the idea in my ear. Oh my gosh! This saved my sanity! What a relief after my stressful day of travel. What a joy to go down stairs to this every morning!
iowa-bb-breakfast

This place was perfection for me. Having a quiet place to retreat to and rest was essential. Also a place that was clean and where I felt very safe. And access to things that comfort me – like hot tea, wifi, and television. A grocery store nearby where I could get chocolate in an emergency. I’m pretty sure I would have been a wreck by the end of my trip if I had stayed somewhere else. And it was cheaper than the cheap hotels!

You may not always find such a perfect haven, but look anyway. If you can’t find the perfect setting, do the best you can and then provide yourself with what will help you feel comfortable. It’s ok to spend a few bucks to have hot tea all day if that’s what you need.

And separate yourself from the crowd if you need to. Go back to your room. Go for a drive by yourself. Find a quiet place to sit.

Accept your emotions.
If you need a cleansing cry, go for it. If you feel that wave of panic, accept it, breathe, think for a moment about what is making you anxious and what might help. If that means finding a friendly face and saying out loud that you are falling apart, do it. Embarrassment be damned.

Acknowledge how well you have done so far. Remind yourself that you will handle it – whatever the next “it” is.
Hurting my leg before even getting off my first plane really started to throw me for a loop. After that, each step of the way I had to tell myself, “you did ____, now you can do the next thing.”

Keep it simple.
Once I started planning my trip, I kept adding more days and more people to see and more things to do. I started to feel anxious. Bless my dear friend who set me straight and told me to keep it short and simple.

If you don’t want to, then don’t.
‘Nuff said.

Don’t pack so much stuff!
I’m pretty sure one of the reasons I hurt my leg as I stood up to get off the plane is because I was also swinging my too-heavy backpack onto my shoulder as I stood. I am always guilty of over packing and I made things harder on myself because of it. On my return trip, my checked bag was heavier, but my backpack was lighter and easier on my body.

Use your support group.
Daily (or more) phone calls to my husband, as well as texts, helped keep me grounded. And my fabulous Facebook friends encouraged me throughout the day.

Accept yourself as you are today. Trust your self-knowledge and your instinct. It’s okay to protect yourself while also taking on a challenge.