Warts and all Mom, warts and all

My mom died this past week.  First thought: now there’s no one between me and the abyss.  Third or fourth thought: sure there is.  Because I’m lucky enough to have a family.

Here’s the eulogy I gave at her graveside. 

If my mother was sitting here, she would be saying “for heaven’s sake Charlotte, sit down.” Our 93-year-old mother had very concise thoughts on when to speak and when to be quiet. Tough old bird she was – she mowed her lawn on the day before she died and I’m willing to bet every bird feeder was full. So while I’m willing to let her go, her 93 years on this earth deserve our recognition.

Christine i-n-e or Christene e-n-e –was a living, breathing dichotomy. We were never sure how she was going to spell her name or which way was right – something that has been very apparent lately. I suspect she would have said “it’s none of your damn business.”

Smart as a whip she was, she grew up as a farm girl. With six sisters and one brother, she worked on the farm and was as strong and capable as any man. The physical strength she developed as a kid carried her body through a lifetime of hard work and giving birth to six children of her own; and while she had to have repairs and replacement parts, she was straight and strong until the day she died.

Her life wasn’t a fairy tale by any means. Hard work was her constant companion. What was in her heart few if any ever really knew because she guarded it like a sentinel. While keeping her own counsel, however, she made a home and a garden wherever she was.

She told us stories of her life when she left the farm and married our dad, who was dispatched to Germany soon after the wedding. She and her baby, our brother Larry, lived in an apartment and she baked bread for the neighbors and took in laundry to support them. I believe this was the happiest time of her life – I know she looked back on it as a time she was independent and free and she always spoke of it gently.

After World War II, there were three more little boys in quick succession. There is no doubt that it was those four little faces that sustained her through building a life. Howard, Ricky and Robert . . . and eleven years after that me and four years later John. She had children in the house most of her adult life.

In the late 1960s she sent two of her sons to Vietnam. Every morning while they were gone, she sat at a table away from the hubbub of the house and she wrote to them. She marked the days with her letters and she did what she knew how to do – she sent cookies to them on the other side of the world.

Mother was never comfortable with crowds and things like weddings and anniversaries and parties were never her cup of tea. She was happiest in her yard, among her flowers and berries and gardens and the birds.

Summertime was always a bounty in her home. The woman could take a handful of lard and bowl of flour and make a piecrust that truly did melt in your mouth. I never saw her use a recipe – or as she would have said – a receipt. Apple pie, cherry, berry, pumpkin pie . . . and something she called “poor man’s pie.” The leftover crust was always spread with butter, cinnamon and sugar and may have been the best thing I ever ate.

Not much of a television watcher, she did tune in to Ruth Lyons 50/50 club every day as she ironed and after that As The World Turns. Every day. The only other thing I ever saw her watch on television was college basketball and “her Buckeyes.” Woe be to the hapless kid who got between her and the game.

Mother loved cars. Pretty cars, fast cars . . . whenever anyone in the family had a new car, they drove it home to show her. She watched racing on television and had her favorite drivers. One year, I took her to Mid-Ohio to see the races. To my utter astonishment, she walked right up to Mario Andretti in the pit garage. He gave her a huge smile, put his arm around her and said “well hello Sweetheart and they walked in to look at his racer, leaving me standing there utterly bemused.

Later in her life there was more time for her. As the burden of raising us eased and grandchildren came, she was able to find time to enjoy life more. Always an avid crochet and knit expert, she made baby blankets and quilts and more with precise, beautiful stitches. Even when arthritis claimed her hands, she would wash dishes to warm them up and pick up her latest project. Always a reader, she loved the work of Zane Grey and read everything she could find. I know it made her heart happy that my nephew, Terry, is a cowboy. She went on bus trips with our Aunt Mary and also with her friend Joy. She joined her grandchildren on vacations. With them she saw the mountains and the ocean for the first time. I’m sure the only reason she ever stepped on an airplane was because Toni lived in California. You’ll do just about anything for your grandchildren.

There aren’t a lot of photographs of mom, but the best ones are with her grand- and great-grand children. In those photos you see her smiling. She loved her grandchildren more than even they know. And she loved babies. Never cared much for dogs and cats . . . but she did love babies.

She would not have tolerated being called a feminist. She was pretty hard on women – just ask her granddaughters. One of the dearest things that I ever saw, however, was when she – in her mid 80s – was having her shoulders replaced. More than they will ever know, she relied on Keri’s expertise as a physician to guide her to a surgeon and when she struggled in recovery, it was Beth, a speech therapist, who patiently taught her what she needed to know to recover.

While she kept vigil over her own heart, however, it is a testament to what she held there that despite her shortcomings and the myriad challenges she faced and hardships endured, she brought good people into the world. Hard-working, loving, dedicated and intelligent children who grew to bring in the next and the next generation and have sustained them and cared for them. She gave each of us a measure of strength and determination that binds us together as a family despite our own faults. She loved each and every one of us – differently to be sure. My mother rarely, if ever, could say “I love you” to anyone. Not with words. But she raised people who could and who do. So now it’s time for us to say good job, mom. Love you.

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Disenfranchised – what a hoot — Updated!

Update:  woo hoo!  I’ve been miraculously “un-blocked” and can now access the public pages of delawaregop.org.  Isn’t that nice!  Maybe I should have just let someone know.  Sniff.  Feelin’ the love.  Also delighted with the number of people who read my blog overnight.  🙂

There’s been a lot of talk lately about who will appear on the Republican primary ballot in Delaware County.  Gossip is rampant that a fight is brewing between the Tea Party and their local survivalist nut Kris Jordan and the quietly-sliding-to-the-center Pat Tiberi.  Each reportedly has a candidate or two and plans to push them through.  Then there’s the undeviating nutbag county commissioner Ken O’Brien who tells people that he’s running for a different seat on the Board of Commissioners.  Well sure.

So since it’s all so interesting, ahem, I thought I would check out the local website.  Imagine my surprise when I saw that my IP address had been blocked. gop blocked  That’s right, fair reader, the Delaware County GOP Central Committee is so frightened of this soccer mom that they went to the time and trouble to block my IP address.  

Now, some of you may remember that some time ago, Brenner1 and Brenner2 blocked my email address so they wouldn’t have to see my emails pop up in their in boxes.  And Brenner2 blocked me from her Twitter feed so I couldn’t comment on her grammar.  While I have often spoken out about how stupid they appear to be, they were smart enough to know they didn’t want to hear what I had to say.  That part about being one of Brenner1’s constituency notwithstanding.  He doesn’t need any constituents — especially those who disagree with him.  He just needs the sheep-like votes of people who don’t really want to be bothered with their government.

In the last local election cycle I protested — quite nicely if I say so myself — about the candidacy of one of their own who had multiple addresses.  One of those addresses, and central to my argument, appeared only on the local GOP website.  So let this be a cautionary tale to those of you who seek information about elected officials in Delaware County, Ohio.  If the local Republicans don’t like what you have to say, those champions of free speech and government transparency will find a way to pull the curtain.  And I guess they thought that would be okay.  What it is, however, is cowardly and more than a little pathetic.

A Force to be Reckoned With

Cortesha Cowan stands out in a crowd.  She speaks with confidence and certainty.  She wears one of the brightest smiles I’ve ever seen.  I met Ms. Tesha last summer at a grant opportunity meeting for nonprofit organizations.  Direct Energy’s Reduce Your Use for Good program makes grants to nonprofits for increasing their energy efficiency.  Not surprisingly, Cortesha took it all in, applied and won a grant for the nonprofit organization she founded (one of several) for homeless teen moms.

Mothers Helping Mothers is the umbrella over the Haven of Hope Shelter.  Teenage girls come to Haven of Hope House with babies and young children.  They come empty handed and out of options.  They come with the clothes on their backs and little hope for the future.  They find shelter and security.  They find people with warm hearts and determination that life can be . . . and will be . . . different.  What they do works.  And they do a lot.  Having already helped over 250 teen moms and their children in many different circumstances, they have seen high school graduations and even a college degree and moved these young women on to independent lives.

Haven of Hope House has ten bedrooms and a full back yard where children can play in safety.  Sometimes it’s the first time in their lives they can do so.  The moms find refuge, support and guidance.  They find expectations, too.  Expectations that they will grow into self-sufficiency.  They will be healthy.  They will be in charge of their lives and care for their children.  They find people committed to helping them with the basic necessities so that they can complete their educations; so they can develop interpersonal skills that will lead them to employment; so they can plan their families in the future.  They find strong role models.

Tesha is very upfront and clear about what she needs to make this happen.  When told by the City of Columbus and major nonprofit organizations that she needs “important” people on her board, she laughed right out loud.  “What I need,” she said, “is people who will work.”  When she said that, I thought, ok.  I can work.  She told me “sometimes I get tired.”  “And then one of those little ones comes up and wraps arms around my leg and looks up at me and I think yes . . . I can do this one more day.”

Tesha has stayed in casual contact with me and we have talked about her goals, her dreams and the building she is rehabbing in Mansfield, Ohio to create a shelter there.  I have asked her repeatedly what she needs and how I can help.  We both knew the time would come.

A couple of weeks ago, with the holidays looming, Tesha and her crew were working toward providing a Christmas for the teen moms and their children. She wanted the moms to have the opportunity to give gifts to their children.  To know the joy and the dignity of providing for your own.  Moms who have nothing and spend their days in basic survival mode.

As kind as people generally are, we all tend to get distracted with our own lists and families and needs, and that is how it should be.  But thinking of Cortesha and the girls and the babies, early last week I posted a message on Facebook.  I shared a link to Cortesha’s website and suggested that if anyone had an urge to help someone during the holidays, this group could use their help. I said I would be happy to deliver anything.

Over the next few days, my entryway began to pile up with gifts.  Friends called for the address so they could mail checks.  Gift cards were put under the entry mat.  Toys, food, warm clothes created piles.  A friend who owns a bookstore called me for a pickup of an enormous box of books.  Supplies for the daycare they run for the little ones mysteriously appeared.  Family members put together gift bags and left them on my porch.  By the time my own teenage daughter and I left for the Shelter, my car was packed to bursting with the generosity of my friends and family.

We stopped on the way to pick up bottles of sweet-smelling lotion for the moms.  Cortesha had told us that last year when she had her first Christmas party, they had some things for the kids but nothing for the moms.  Looking at my own teenager, warm and safe and dressed in the best the mall has to offer, it seemed a small thing to have a bottle of lotion for ones self.  Even as we drove down, my brother called and said “let me help.”

Arriving as Tesha along with her staff and her mother were setting up, Han and I helped them unload the car.  She showed us the rooms where the moms could “shop” for their kids and the bounty reaped in toy drives and community pleas. They had fallen just short of their goal — until our car was emptied into the mix.  They never stopped working with their community dinner just hours away but the laughter, the hugs and the stories created a joyful noise.  The excitement was palpable and the joy evident on their faces.  Tesha stopped for a moment so I could take a picture of her and Han.  We traded wishes for the holidays and hugs of joy for the generosity of those we love.

Han and I left them to the party, knowing that we had just been given a wonderful gift.  A couple of miles down the road, my daughter said “I feel happy.”  Me too kiddo, me too.

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Yes Fox News, this is Santa Claus

Thank you so much my friends and family for the kindness you shared with young women you don’t know and likely never will.  But you have shown them that they are not alone in the world — and reminded me that I am not alone in the world either.  I love you all.

Grandma This, Babe – Reprint from Skirt! 2010

O.M.G.  You do NOT ask a woman if she’s pregnant and you do NOT say, “Is this your grand daughter?”  I’ve had both happen to me.  In the case of the pregnancy question, I uttered “no, just fat” and ran out of the store in tears.

Not so much with the Grandma comment.

It happened yesterday in the church nave.  As I was kidding around with my 14-year-old daughter and two of her friends, a kindly looking older woman walked up and said, “are these your grand daughters?”  It was almost worth it to see the looks on the girls’ faces.

Having grown and matured since the preggie comment – and since I was in church – I said “this is my daughter and her friends.”  Knowing that she had to talk around the big old shoe in her mouth, the older woman said “Oh.  She’s lovely.”  Then hot-footed it out of there.

The girls in question took a moment to recover from their horror and then one of them said, “gee, you don’t look that bad.”  I informed them that silence was a virtue.

So I’m 40 years older than my daughter.  Through years of growing up, restlessness, college, horrendous mistakes and some ill-advised behavior, I insisted that I didn’t want to be a mother.  That was followed by more years of infertility treatments, the big “try” sex thing and wishing that I could be a mother.

At 40, it all came together with the adoption of the World’s Most Perfect Daughter.  How do I know she’s all that and a cup of soup?  When I brought up the “thing” yesterday and told her that 2011 was the year for cosmetic surgery so no one would mistake me for her grandmother, the WMPD said, “that’s silly, mom.  Everyone gets older.”

I love that kid.

A Girl and Her Bags Are Seldom Parted – Reprint from Skirt!

When The Girl was a baby, I had the super-deluxe, ultimately chic and extraordinarily heavy diaper bag.  She and I could have sustained a two-day adventure at a moment’s notice.  Thinking about it now, I realize that our chic bag (Chanel-inspired) is still hanging in the back of my closet.  Yes, it is still packed.

As an active toddler-babe, The Girl required changes – yes plural – changes of clothes.  Our Vera was sunny yellow with lots of pockets and we had not just adorable outfits, but snacks, games, cute little sunglasses, towels, bandaids with super girl-heroes, books and again we could have taken flight at the drop of the ruffled little cap – or cool tiny baseball cap with requisite sunglasses.

The search for the perfect tiny backpack for Kindergarten was legend.  It was also the beginning of a yearly search for “the” backpack.  Yes, every single solitary one of them is stashed somewhere in the house and yes, they still contain papers and supplies.  Don’t judge me, it’s a system.  One year I tried to cheap out and buy a discount backpack.  We have two from that year.

The Girl is not a “purse girl.”  She is happiest with the tiniest of designer envelopes holding a few bucks and her license and hanging from her car keys.  Handbags are tolerated only when required for an excursion or when serving as adjunct to an outfit.

This being said, however, she is most definitely a “bag girl.”  Her life and activities are accompanied by bags.  The afore-mentioned bookbag, which must weigh 50 pounds, is her mainstay.  I do not look into this bag unless by request to add or subtract a book or folder or make sure there is lunch money in that little pocket at the top. When she began driving, the book bag took it’s place in the back seat.  I should probably insist that the leviathan wear a seatbelt.

Last weekend, I began the annual spring rite of purging the other bags.  The soccer bag, stiff with dirt and sewn-on badges was emptied and shaken over the lawn.  Clumps of dirt from dozens of fields fell from the corners.  Head bands, knee braces, cold packs, about a dozen socks (none matched) outdoor cleats, indoor shoes, extra t-shirts, gum wrappers and yes – a stale water bottle – all were pulled from the depths.  “Let’s get you a new bag,” I vounteered.  That was a mistake.  Athletes get very weird about their stuff.  A new bag could change the course of soccer history, and not for the better.

Then the “cheer bag.”  Making it’s appearance only during basketball season each winter, the cheer bag is roughly the size of a Volkswagen.  It has pockets on each end.  It comes with it’s own shoes, socks, brushes, auxillery bags, pom poms, glitter lotion, make up, spare change, and it smells so much better than the soccer bag.  Seriously.  Added bonus, the cheer bag seemed to be full of loose change.

Last summer, the beach bag made it’s inaugural appearance.  Yes, it is still packed from then (I checked for water bottles and consumables) and awaits spring break.

The snowboard “boot bag” has a place of honor in the room of The Girl.  Not used as heavily as the others, but serving as the steward of the goggles, helmet, boots, gloves, etc. that contribute to the right look and attitude of a ski bunny, the boot bag is big time.  Also, it weighs a ton but looks pretty snappy hanging from her shoulder.

The Girl is not a purse girl.  The stuff of her life can’t be contained in a little shoulder bag.  May it always be so, my darling.  Live large.

Never Tell Me To Shush . . . Reprint from Skirt! 2012

Last night I turned into one of those mothers.  Maybe a little more over-the-top, but that’s just me.  First, let me apologize to the parents and others near the soccer field who were treated to my profanity-laced diatribe, directed solely at the middle-aged man with the pot belly and the flag.  It was inappropriate.  While not an excuse, and certainly not a justification, it had its origins in the early 1970s – it was a long-time coming.  Perhaps everyone will remember my daughter’s grace and sportsmanship in the situation and know that while I did not do better, I did teach better.

For women who are today on the wise side of 50, we were, in high school, often on the sidelines.  In those pre-Title IX days, organized sports programs for girls were few and far between.  The few girls who wanted to participate in organized sports either played with the boys’ teams or rode along in a little group, hoping there would be girls at the other end of the bus ride.  In high school, girls could play basketball, but were encouraged to go out for gymnastics.  They could be on the track team, if they didn’t care about competing against other girls and most of us thought the rarified ranks of cheerleading were beyond us.

Club sports for girls just didn’t exist.

Fast forward 40 years and watch the blur of the Equal Rights Amendment that never passed and the glass ceilings that still prove to be impenetrable.  The recent spurt of legislation across the country and draconian laws that determine what happens to a woman’s body, even in the sanctity of her doctor’s office.  Women continue to fight for a place on the front lines and the further they get, the more we learn about the scandal, the abuse and the heartbreak that accompanies their ascent.

A male friend told me not long ago that the young women who work for him have derided him for being a “feminist.”  Like that’s a bad thing.  My own daughter has said to me, “I’m not a feminist like you, mom.”  This in a world where web sites tout the ranks women cannot join.  I was a member (for a short time) of a small-town Rotary Club that still had a “men’s table” during their weekly lunches.  And yes, I did take the devil’s own delight into sitting with that group on occasion.

But I digress.

My daughter is an athlete.  She is strong, determined and talented.  Her prowess is beyond anything I could imagine and there are hundreds of thousands of girls just like her who have grown up running and kicking and throwing and hitting.  They take that hard-won freedom for granted – and well they should.

Women, however, still are often on the sidelines and not actively coaching or refereeing the contests waged by these girls.  Frankly, we just have not stepped up.  Which brings us full circle to my daughter’s soccer game last night.

A group of supportive dads for the other team raucously cheered, encouraged, criticized and directed their daughters.  The sideline judge ran past them over and over.  They were, frankly, loud and obnoxious and he never turned his head.  I sat down the line among the parents for my daughter’s team.  We’ve been together a long time now.  We know each other’s kids and we know each other’s foibles.  We share coffee and umbrellas and at any given road trip have each other’s girls in our cars.

Soccer is a rough and tumble sport.  The girls who are playing as teenagers have learned to take the bumps and bruises and truth-to-tell give as good as they get.  My kid is tough.  She is honor-bound to stay on her feet, she never cries in public and she won’t dignify trash talk on the field with any sort of reply other than to play harder.  She has never been seriously hurt while playing and for that I am grateful.

Last night, the game was rougher than most.  As I said, the other team’s parents were louder than some.  Going at a dead run for the ball, my daughter caught an elbow to her cheekbone and dropped face-first to her knees.  She was down only momentarily, but any parent who has seen their kid go down knows the abject terror that flows through your heart.

That’s when I yelled at the center referee.  Told him to settle the girls down and not let them hurt each other.  Even as I yelled, I knew that what can look intentional from the sidelines usually isn’t.  That would have been the end of it.  Except that the sideline judge jogged toward my chair, past the noisy dads and calling “hey!” to get my attention he put his finger to his lips and told me to “shush.”  He told me to “shush.”  Should I repeat that again?  This overweight, huffing and puffing man told me to “shush” and that “he would not let them hurt each other.”

Forty years of fury and frustration turned immediately into explicit instructions to this sideline judge.  While the game went on and my daughter continued to play (with several moderate injuries it turned out) my disdain for men who tell women what to do and my despair knowing that a perfect stranger – a perfect male stranger – felt superior enough to tell me to “shush” boiled over.

I raised a tough daughter because I am, indeed, a tough broad.  I’ve been through career fire and personal grief.  I’ve stood against bullies and been crushed under tyrants.  I work in a highly competitive field and face daily challenges.  I don’t know that man’s story – but I do know this.  You do not “shush” adult women.  Because I didn’t curtail my temper, I’m sure he now adds “crazy” to his internal lexicon about women.  Any man who thinks he can do that, clearly has no respect for the gender in general.  And sadly, I didn’t teach him a thing.

So as moms it’s not enough that we teach them to play.  That we encourage strength and competition, that we look for teaching moments for sportsmanship and skill.  Apparently, we also need to return to the field ourselves as coaches and referees.  We need to go back out and play ourselves because the road isn’t yet clear.  There is more to be done.

Some people are just mean

Living in Delaware County Ohio, I’ve grown used to petty politics and attempts at personal destruction.  Through the years, I’ve seen some of the ugliest small-town politics you can imagine — and fallen victim to rumors, gossip and attempts at intimidation.  Even writing a letter to the editor of the local newspaper can result in anonymous letters at my home and personal attacks as the local GOP attempts to hold on to power.

However, the nastiness is often perpetrated by people who are frankly intelligent enough to know better.  They themselves are victims of a culture and a heritage of ugliness and I don’t necessarily hold them accountable becaused I believe they are “true believers.”  The intent doesn’s seem to be more than trying to hold on to the government jobs they have.  Ironic, since they all seem to cry out for smaller government — as long as the government includes them.

Not taking them seriously works for me — until they actually begin to do damage.  The most strident of the group is Powell City Councilwoman Sara Marie Brenner.  Now Mrs. Brenner is the wife of Ohio House of Representatives Andrew Brenner.  My travails with the Representative are well documented on this blog.  Mrs. Brenner even invited me to coffee once to ask “why I don’t like Andy.”  As you can imagine, that didn’t really go well.  Because I don’t like Andy — I think he’s an idiot.

She, however, is the current voice (self-appointed) of the Republican party in Delaware County.  Strident and clamorous.  And although I’m happy to ignore her rants and leave her to her constituency, it was recently brought to my attention that she has now turned her hatred toward “liberal women.”  That I cannot leave alone.  Women in this country – in this time – have enough problems without Mrs. Brenner’s public statements such as “liberal women who want the right to choose to abort a baby in the ninth month, but who don’t want us to be able to choose what size slurpy we order from a food vendor.”  It’s fairly  clear that no one is limiting her slurpy orders.

Her false and ugly attacks published on her blog certainly fall in the realm of freedom of speech.  I’d love to take up with her the argument about the current state of women in this country – but she and her public-sector-paid husband do not return my calls and have blocked my emails (see earlier posts) and indeed, won’t engage me in public.

So here you go — Sara Marie you are out of control.  Your strident and ugly rants aimed at women in this country do no one any good.  Entering the public realm and promoting your beliefs is your right — a right ensured by people who put their lives on the line — even for the likes of you.  However, when you fling accusations such as the one above you risk having another woman — in this case me — throw it back in your face and tell you to calm down the rhetoric.  Your profanity, your mean-spirit and your persistence have no place in civil discourse.  Grow up, shut up and learn to fight for your point of view with a modicum of grace.

Dis-invited from the Public Process

Today, I recieved an email from my elected State Representative:

Dear Ms. Joseph:
 
I have received your public records request dated May 16, 2011. You had requested:
  •  A list of the names of all constituents invited to the Business Roundtable on May 20, 2011.
The Business Roundtable on May 20, 2011 is an event organized by my campaign committee using campaign committee resources. No resources from my state office have been used in organizing this event. 
To be sure that I am accurate, I consulted with the Ohio House Republican Caucus’ legal counsel. They confirmed for me that you have made a request for a non-public record. Under Ohio Revised Code Section 149.011(G), which defines a record for purposes of the public records law, a record is “any document, device, or item, regardless of physical form or characteristic, including an electronic record as defined in section 1306.01 of the Revised Code, created or received by or coming under the jurisdiction of any public office of the state or its political subdivisions, which serves to document the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities of the office.”
 
The list of the names of all constituents invited to the Business Roundtable on May 20, 2011 is not a record for purposes of the public records law as it does not document the functions of my public office. Your request is hereby denied.
 
Furthermore, I have been made aware that the emails you sent after my wife stated you were not to do so anymore could lead to a your being prosecuted for a misdemeanor harassment charge. All communication following my wife’s stating to you to cease communication with her, and any future communication to any of our private or campaign email accounts, phone numbers, addresses or other methods of communication, will be considered harassment. I reiterate – you are not to contact my wife or me through this email account or any other campaign or private account, or through any private phone, fax, address or other method. Should this continue, we will consider all avenues of our legal system.
Sincerely,

Andrew O. Brenner
State Representative (R-Delaware)
Brenner for Ohio

Campaign Office:
46 Village Pointe Drive, Powell, OH 43065
tel | 740.203.9273 * fax | 614.448.4486
www.Brenner4Ohio.com
follow me on Twitter @andrewbrenner
find me on Facebook at /BrennerForOhio

 
It’s a long story – and quite convoluted.  Early this week, I registered electronically for an event that State Representative Brenner advertised as “free for members of the business community.”  His wife, Sarah Marie Brenner, informed me via email that I was “dis-invited.
 
I asked her via email for a reasonable explanation, I asked him for a time to meet, and they responded that I was not invited.  Indeed, her final email to me said, in part,
 
These are private email accounts, and we are blocking you now from all of ours. Your future emails will go straight to the trash folder. Email Andy on his public email account where all of your emails are public record, if you wish. Even then, he doesn’t have to accept being harassed by someone with a track record of doing it to us and others. 
Someone who has done what you have done should not expect to be invited to or welcomed at a private event of Andy’s or mine. If you show up Friday, we’ll call the police. You will be made to leave, and we’ll consider it a personal threat to Andy’s and my safety.   You need to get some help, Charlotte. As hard as it will be, I will pray for you. “
 
Wow.  My meeting requests have been denied.  Funny thing – I never did attempt to communicate with the spouse of this politician.  Indeed, she was the one who reached out to me.  To dis-invite me.
 
In the grown-up world, liking or not liking someone is just a part of our everyday existence.  Not everyone is likeable.  Not everyone agrees with us.
 
Part of being in a civil society, however, is the ability to communicate with each other.  To engage in civil discourse.  Another cherished right of all Americans is to disagree – and to agree to disagree.  We have freedom of speech.  Even when we don’t like what’s being said — we are honor-bound to allow it to be said.
 
On Representative Brenner’s Ohio House website, it says, “A State Representative is an elected official whose job is to serve as a direct link between those Ohioans he or she was elected to represent and state government. In order to best fulfill this role, a representative responds to constituent concerns and works to provide solutions through legislative action. In order to best serve their constituents, a state representative attends meetings of their local civic, social and business groups in addition to responding to mail, email and telephone correspondence from constituents in their district.”
So now I have been barred.  State Representative Brenner does not, by his choice, represent me.  Under State Representative Brenner’s rules, it is politics of the GOP, by the GOP and for the GOP.

Who Speaks for the Girls?

A friend – female – wrote to me this weekend that she didn’t understand the current craze of “shop hauling.”  I had posted a story about hauling with the comment that I loved the idea – and the trend.  It was a story from NPR so I was feeling like the “brainy” media had finally caught up with a popular craze I’ve been talking about for months.  Cool.

My friend and I exchanged comments that were slightly snippy.  She told me (this former cocktail waitress) that she had always been into “headier” things and was either too old or too nerdy to understand the consumerism of today’s young women.  I was trying hard to not take offense and to figure out why I was reacting so strongly.  I think I have it now.

It’s this:  who speaks for the girls?  We raise them, nurture and teach them.  For many of us our models were along the lines of Germaine Greer and the writers of Amazon Poetry.  When I was at Ohio State, the emerging Womens Studies department was the prize in a battle royale between the feminists in the English Department (the “lipstick lesbians”) and the ultra-left (political fems who may or may not have been gay but certainly didn’t consort with men.)  We followed the exploits of women around the country and were really happy about that not having to wear a bra thing.

I walked the line carefully, studying and reading voraciously during the day, wearing a bunny costume and serving up drinks in a nightclub by night.  Crossing the feminist picket line to wear four-inch heels and sitting beside the girls in class the next day.  Probably the beginning of leading a carefully cultivated double life.

So my generation, the ones who came after the leaders, have daughters who may only be dimly aware of what a feminist is.  They take for granted that daddy does the cooking.  They expect to compete for the best jobs.  God love their hearts – they want to wear pretty bras.  These are the girls who have it all.  They live in the age of technology.  Of immediate gratification.  Of sexual freedom and common-sense restraint.  They are mysteries to us as much as our mothers were to their mothers. 

So who speaks for these tiny consumers?  Who defends these creations of our hearts and our minds?  Why would any woman deride what will surely become the best and the brightest amongst us because they simply expect to be?  Feminism isn’t dead – it’s just taken a turn for the better.

Why I Can’t Hold Hands With My Mother

I found her yesterday in a hospital bed.  Pale and aghast at the pain, she couldn’t speak.  She could hear.  Sometimes.  Some voices.  Could she hear mine?  “Mother.”

What did she need?  The nurse fetched the pillow, together we tucked it under her head.  Balding, white hair.  I remember the glorious red of her hair and the brilliant red of her lipstick.  She stopped wearing lipstick when I was a little girl.  But I remember.

She didn’t have her “teeth” in.  Family code for dentures.  They put them away when they operated and her face fell back into an old, old woman’s face.  Trying to sleep through the pain and the drugs.  More drugs through the I.V.  Then she could sleep.

I, never still, stood for two hours watching, watching.  As she slept, pained even in her sleep.  Trussed up from the surgery.  I watched her and saw her open her eyes, sometimes in confusion, sometimes in fear.  She looked around, saw me, slept. 

But her left hand, shoulder fixed years ago, would rise and reach into the air.  I watched.  Her hand would drop.  Then rise, fingers seeking and not finding.  It never occured to me why.  As I watched.  The lovely young nurse came in, smiled quietly, reached for the reaching hand and said “you’re okay, Sweetheart.”  She’s not, I thought.  She’s in pain.

When the social worker came in, she said it reminded her so of her mother.  The teeth, the hair.  She took her hand and said, “you’re beautiful, Sweetie.”  I watched.

She worked, always, she worked.  She raised baby sisters; she worked on the farm.  She sewed, she baked, she ironed her way through young motherhood.  She raised boys.  Boys are hell.  But these boys, she raised and she ironed their shirts and she lifted weights with them.  She loved them.  She cleaned other women’s homes and she called them houses.  She carried water, cared for animals, planted, harvested and canned.  Never idle, she created things I only now know are beautiful.  Tying simple string with a hook into beautiful, intricate patterns I could never learn.

I saw her skin, torn by the doctors, deeply wrinkled by the sun.  I have those same frown lines, or would if I didn’t smooth my forehead.  I looked at her face as her hand reached, reached.  Sun ruined and worry lined.  All those years and no laugh lines.  I miss the slash, the devil may care slash of red lipstick.