I Left the Legislature a Year Ago and Nothing Has Gone as Planned.

A year ago tomorrow, I cast my last vote …

Copyright Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

… and walked out of the Oklahoma legislature forever.

I can honestly say that I have not missed getting up and going out there to do the people’s business in the year since. Not once. I have no nostalgia about the place, zero desire to go back out there and make those decisions, sit through those meetings, debates, wranglings and negotiations.

I can also honestly say that, while I’m loving my new life, I’m still working to get a handle on it. I didn’t stop being a Rep until the first of December. That’s when my true life of freedom began.

During that time, my mother’s dementia went from difficult to impossible to a living nightmare. Now, thanks to powerful meds, it’s moved back to a barely livable point somewhere between difficult and impossible. Taking care of her is just possible … just. If one brick falls out of the carefully-balanced wall between getting by and utter chaos, we go back in the impossible soup again.

Taking care of her has taught me something I didn’t know about before: The physical limits of me. I have found the break point in my own physical stamina, and I hate the thing. It’s not just the work of caring for her, though that is a mountain. It’s the stress and worry, the grief and guilt. Of all these, I would say that the grief is the worst. I miss my Mama, miss her with an ache that’s like a broken tooth in my soul.

In the meanwhile of my time, I’ve been trying to put together a writing life. If caring for Mama is the meat and potatoes of my life, writing is the gravy.

I don’t mean “gravy” in the slang use of the word to mean money. I mean gravy as in the fat, the seasoning, the oh-so-good part of the tough-to-chew-and-swallow that’s underneath.

There are days when I’m too tired to write. My brain is too mushy, my anxiety and worry readings too far off the chart, for me to make my brain work. Those are days when the physical/emotional limits I was talking about earlier have kicked in.

But most of the time, writing is a gift. I feel that God has gifted me with this work at this time. I thought at one point — as my ego-saturated little brain usually does — that I was the gift, that my experiences and insider’s knowledge gave me a message worth sharing. Now I realize that the gift was given to me, not the other way around.

Productive work that God has put in your hands for His purposes is always challenging and difficult. Or, at least it has always been such for me. It is also always a blessing.

The most important and most challenging work He ever gave me was raising my children. That truly is eternity work. It is also the hardest and scariest work I’ve ever done.

Now, I have the twin blessings of writing and seeing Mama home. He has taken me to a place where my ability to trust Him is challenged in ways I never encountered before. I had to re-learn about letting Him handle things with Mama, about trusting Him even when the road is going down, down, down.

My not-so-saintly self always wants to take charge and do everything. I want to be in control. I want to figure a way out of every corner, plan a path and set out on it. I am not a follower. Followership runs against my rebellious nature.

And yet my life is built around followership. I follow Jesus Christ, and often as not, I have to follow Him like a blind woman, hanging onto a rope. He teaches me this lesson. He taught it to me when I was a legislator. He taught it to me when I was raising my kids. Now He has to teach it to me all over again.

Writer’s block, which I’ve had a bit, is nothing more than an internal editor trying to run the show out of pace with the work. Putting the work in His hands does away with that.

The anxieties I’ve felt over Mama are just another dish of the same stuff.

It’s a trick, using all my existing skills and minting new ones to help her, and at the same time, leaving everything in Jesus’ hands. It’s even more of of a trick, minting entirely new skills to live a writer’s life and giving that work, like all the others, to Him entire.

On the surface, it sounds a bit like running a race while sitting in place; an unsolvable conundrum. But it’s not. Here’s what I learned as a legislator, a work that is nothing but unsolvable conundrums heaped on one another.

Get yourself prayed up, then go out there and fight with all you’ve got. Trust that He will be there and He will take care of you. It’s a matter of stepping out on the ice, ever single day.

It also works. If you pray and you trust and you just do your best In Him, the ice holds. You never fall through. And He will guard you in your ways.

Now, I re-learning that same way of living, only in a different manner. I’m not the saint who just does these things. I have to re-learn in every new situation how to work and trust, how to be the child of God that I am.

The key to all this is prayer, and the mass and Scripture. My way of getting through the legislature was simple. I prayed the Rosary every day. Read through the Bible every 15 months or so, and went to mass as often as I could. This held me together when I was a legislator and it is where I go now that I’m a caregiver/writer. Different problems: Same God.

Writing is the same as every gift that God gives. It is a gift, wrapped in a challenge, and it makes me a gift to others.

I think that is the meaning of vocation. Vocation is God, making us a gift to others.

God has gifted me with changing vocations as my life’s seasons change. He has given me every gift imaginable; life, love, health, family, home and work. But the greatest gift of all is that He has given me Himself. He gave me the great gift of His presence, His love, His Spirit, walking through life with me.

Every time God gives me a new task, which I think of as my vocation for my present season, it is a challenge. It is a gift with thorns, a velvet cross wrapped in eternal love.

I have not missed the legislature for one moment. The reason is probably because my life has been so full, the work in front of me so immediate, that my cup runneth over with wine that is both bitter and sweet.

I am seeing Mama home, seeing my young adult children into their lives (a parent’s work is never done) loving my wonderful husband and writing, writing, writing.

Eternity work. It’s all eternity work.

I had envisioned a much more leisurely time of it. I was going to write, travel, drink pina coladas and take up new hobbies. I planned on losing weight, getting in shape, joining the local camera club, taking up golf, maybe buying a horse, going on great trips and living the good ‘ole life.

Instead, I’m changing Mama’s diapers. I’m taking care of her because she’s my new baby. I’m also involved in my kid’s lives (their choice) in fruitful, loving and anxiety-making ways that I never anticipated.

It turns out that my grown kids want me around. They want to be with me, talk to me, share their joys and pains with me on a daily basis.

It’s all a gift, and a challenge. God has gifted me with so much that I’m worn out from it.

It’s been a year since I cast my last legislative vote. I had all sorts of things planned for my next life. But, as usual God had other plans. Harder plans. More important plans.

A dear friend of mine tells me that if you want to hear God laugh, just tell Him your plans.

I gave up planning a long time ago, because I learned that it does no good. Life has its own immediacies. Then, when I left the legislature, I forgot that lesson and made a caboodle of sweet and soft plans, marshmallow pillows all of them, for my glorious life of unending vacationing.

Silly me.



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Fall Cleaning. Life Cleaning.


I cleaned out my office the Monday after session adjourned.

My son and one of his friends drove over and carried it all out.

Now, after leaving them stacked up for months, I’m figuring out what to keep and what to toss from the things I brought home. I remember Princess Diana, after her divorce, selling all her old clothes. That was a smart move.

I’m going through a decidedly low-brow version of that this week. I’m tossing out clothes, shoes, books, files and all manner of things I don’t plan to ever use again.

In the process, I’m also deep-cleaning my house. My asthma has reared its ugly head after a couple years’ grace. I usually shampoo the carpets and clean behind and under all the places I don’t ordinarily clean behind and under a couple of times a year.

But I haven’t done it since before session started last year. Too busy. Too distracted.

Now, the asthma has brought it home that the carpets are holding dirt and the places back behind where I never clean are dusty, too. So, I’m going to take this place apart and put it back together again.

In the process, I will toss the detritus of my “official” life. The Representative Suits and all the stuff that goes with them are going to Goodwill. I’ve also got to figure out where I want to hang paintings and similar things that I brought home, as well as what shelves will hold which whatnots.

Some of these things are deeply meaningful to me, and I want them where I can cherish them as my life goes forward.

At the same time, I’m considering what software I need as a writer vs what software I needed as a legislator. The difference is the difference between a Honda Fit and an 18 wheeler. I used Microsoft Publisher to create my campaign literature, Microsoft Access and then later Filemaker Pro to run my databases, Excel to track financial records, and Word to communicate with my office.

I can’t think of a reason why I will need any of that going forward. I have, just by my daily usage, pretty well switched over to Mars Edit for blogging, Scrivener for book writing, Numbers for spreadsheeting, a free-form document filer for the research on my books called DevonThink Office Pro (Oh, how I love typing that phrase: “my books.) and a combination of Nisus Writer Pro, Mellel and Pages for word processing. My new database is a bitsy little thing called Tap Forms, which I use to keep such things as the serial numbers of my software, and smallish personal mailing lists.

If I had to cull it down to the things I really need for work, I could get by with Scrivener, Mars Edit, Pages, Numbers, DevonThink, Tap Forms and iPhoto. All of these (with the exception of DevonThink) are lightweight and inexpensive.

My only heavy duty software is Aperture and a suite of digital darkroom software from Topaz. But that’s not work. It’s hobby.

As for hardware, I have a desktop and a laptop and I use both. I plan to keep both. No way could the laptop handle the things the desktop does, and no way could I put the desktop in my purse and go.

I’m changing my life around the edges because I’ve changed it at the work core of it. It’s a bit discombobulating, going through such a fundamental change in my life. But it’s also exciting and liberating.

It took me a while to figure out what this lightness and happiness I was feeling actually was. Along with the files and the heavy-duty software, I was tossing away responsibility for tens of thousands of people. I grieved that a bit. I worry about my constituents, about who is going to take care of them.

But I have to let go of taking care of them and move on.

Aside from that, which is a little bit like sending your 5-year-old off to his first day of school, I feel incredibly light and unencumbered. I am awash with choices and the possibilities of new beginnings.

But it’s more than that. It took a while to figure it out, and then one day, it hit me what I was feeling.

I feel free.

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If You Don’t Like Black People, You’d Better not Plan on Going to Heaven, Because There’s Going to be a Lot of Them There



Opio Toure

Opio Toure was my friend.

We knew one another before either one of us was elected to office, back when we were both young and full of ourselves. Then, for a few blessed years, we served together in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

We differed, as people always do, on a couple of issues. But our hearts walked the same path. There was a time, and it wasn’t so long ago, when being black in the Oklahoma House meant taking a lot of guff. It was subtle guff, but guff, just the same.


Opio, back when we both were young and full of ourselves. 

I remember one time when a battle of some sort of ugly guff-ism was coming down, I got overwhelmed. I turned to Opio in disgust. “You need to make me an honorary black person,” I said, “because I’m sick of these white folk.”

He looked at me and said, “Oh, you black. You black.”

That remains a treasured memory for me, and it will until I see Opio again.

When things got tough, Opio and I used to leave Bible verses on one-another’s desks. Those verses are also among my most treasured memories.

Opio was a Baptist preacher, who had Catholic relatives. One of his favorite items was a Rosary that had belonged to his aunt. He carried it around on the House floor, fingering the beads for comfort. We talked about the holiness of that Rosary, soaked with years of the prayers of his God-fearing, God-loving aunt.

It is not an exaggeration to say that I love Opio Toure, my brother in Christ.


Linda Richardson, prayed my asthma away.

Then, there’s the God-fearing, God-loving black women who grace this world.

I have asthma. A few years back, the asthma almost did me in. It got worse and worse, until every step I took felt like I was walking through knee deep mud. Then one day, my assistant, Linda Richardson, reached out with the authority of the Spirit-filled and laid her hands on me and prayed, rebuking the asthma in Jesus name.

This was totally spontaneous on her part, we were just talking when she did it. But I felt the power immediately. From that day forward, the asthma began backing off. It’s still there, but it’s quiet. I don’t need medicine for it, haven’t needed medicine for it for a long time.


Kurt David English

I remember when I was working on my Master’s degree. My fellow student, Kurt David English, and I teamed up to help each other through the degree process. Kurt is a black, Spirit-filled man. We prayed together and talked about Jesus together and supported one another through that degree process. I don’t think either one of us would have made it without the other.


Representative, soon to be Senator Anastasia Pittman, carrying a Martin Luther King sign.

Then there’s my seat-mate, office mate and best legislative bud Representative, soon to be Senator Anastasia Pittman and our assistant, the incomparable Miss Trena Byas, as well as Gracie Monson. These praying women have gotten me through a lot of deep water. During tough times in the legislature, they formed a kind of retreat around me, a safe place. They made a home for me when being a pro life Democrat left me otherwise homeless.


Representative Anastasia Pittman and Miss Trena Byas, my legislative homies. 


The powerful praying woman of God, Gracie Monson

This is just the tip of it. I could write a book on the powerful praying black people who have blessed my life. In this world of politically-correct weak-and-worthless Christianity that tries to make itself small enough not to be a target of those who hate Christ, black Christians are the unafraid and anointed.


Democratic Floor Leader, Representative Opio Toure

I once asked Opio (I was pretty mad when I asked it) why it was OK for a black Democrat to be an outspoken Christian but a white Democrat Christian who talked about Jesus got slapped around by the party.

He laughed and shook his head. “I don’t know,” he said. Even though he didn’t have an answer, the acknowledgement of what I was facing helped me enormously.

Back when Democratic activists were putting out flyers in the district I represented denouncing me directly for my Catholic faith in the most bigoted manner possible, it was Opio who said “This is outrageous.” No one else would stand with me.

This post is more reminiscence than anything else. But it does have a message: If you don’t like black people, you’d better not plan on going to heaven, because there’s going to be a lot of them there.


Saint Josephine Bakhita, captured by slavers, freed in Christ. 

Another message I’d like to pass along is that if you’re a white Christian and you haven’t found yourself a few Spirit-filled, black, praying friends, you need to get out more, because you are missing your blessing.

Black spirituality, including Black Catholic spirituality, is different from white spirituality in the precise ways that we white folks need to improve ourselves. Black spirituality is unashamed of the name of Jesus. Black Christians don’t mess around trying to hide their Jesus so that no one will accuse them of all the things that Christians get accused of in this post Christian America. They aren’t afraid of being harassed and criticized for Christ. They step right out there and proclaim the Lord and His power, and they mean it. Nobody talks their Jesus down to them. They won’t allow it.

Black Christian power was shaped in the crucible of hundreds of years of slavery and second-class citizenship. It was black faith and that powerful black praying that allowed them to walk right out of those ghettos, to march through the fire-hoses and police dogs and cops with truncheons and lead this whole nation to a rebirth of equality.


Mother Mary Lange, founder of the Oblate Sisters of Providence

Faith alone explains the power of the Civil Rights Movement that fought and won a war without bullets or guns against an opponent who had and used both those things.

We don’t make enough of what black people have accomplished for themselves and for this country by enduring and winning the Civil Rights fight. We emphasize the wrong things. The evil of their persecutors was true evil. But the focus should be on the nobility and power of the fight that black Americans made against that evil.

The Civil Rights Movement was faith with legs. It was truth spoken to power. It was, in a way that we don’t acknowledge, our finest hour as a nation.

And it was Spirit-filled from bottom to top. It was an expression of black Christianity and the power of a praying people.

White Christians need black Christians. We need to learn from them.

Try spending time in a black church once in a while. I promise you, you will be blessed.


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Last Vote

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

It’s a done deal.

I’ve finished my last day of my last legislative session.

I had a lovely evening after we adjourned with the people I love. When I came home, it felt so good. I just looked around and thought how much I love being here.

Then, when I went to bed, I couldn’t sleep. I got up, got dressed, got in my car and drove around. I even drove back to the capitol building and did a loop around it.

In the course of that drive, I went over the personal things about this job. I said good-bye, one by one, to the few things I will miss. I said good riddance to the many other things I am glad to be rid of. I said a lot of thank-yous to Jesus.

After all that, I came back home, went back to bed and slept the sleep of peace.

Today, I’m going to take my mother out for the ice cream and the drive that she’s been missing (and complaining about missing) for the past few weeks. I’m also going to go get paint samples to paint a room in my house.

I plan to take a week away from blogging to rededicate my life and to seek God’s guidance for what’s ahead.  I also need rest and healing time. I plan to be back here and at it on June 2.

Several readers have expressed concern that I will stop blogging. That is not going to happen. I know that this blog and writing are a big part of my future. If the way things have worked in the past are a predictor of the future, I’ll come back from this prayer time ready to roll.

In the meantime, thank you for all the wonderful things you’ve said to me the past few days. It’s been a gift, walking this path with you.

Here are a few iPhone snap shots from my last day:

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Legislator’s eye view of the House floor in session.

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Looking across the chamber from my desk. 

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Saying good-bye to the staff. 

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My seat mate, office mate, best bud, Representative Anastasia Pittman.

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Last vote. I don’t remember what the bill was. I do remember that this was a vote on the emergency clause of the bill. 

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View from the podium just before we made the Sine Die motion. The top glassed in gallery is the press booth. 

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Last Day


Unless we manage to tie ourselves in knots, this is the last day of session.

I will still be the representative for House District 89 until November 16 of this year. People will be able to call me “Representative” all the rest of my days. Unless I sign up as a lobbyist (don’t hold your breath) I have privileges of the floor of the Oklahoma House of Representative so long as I live.

We’re a small club, and parts of that clubbiness never go away.

But, barring breakdowns and special sessions, today is the last day that I will drive to the capitol, park my car and walk into the building to go to the House floor to vote on the people’s business. Today is the last day that I will walk on that floor as an active voting member of the House with the privilege and the weight of speaking for tens of thousands of people resting on my shoulders.

At some point today, I will push the button to make my last vote.

I may have already made my last speech. Probably so. But then again, I may find something today that I want to debate. I don’t plan these things, so I don’t know for sure.

There is an energy on the House floor when it is in session that is hard to describe. You walk through those doors and there’s a hum of people working, talking. It has an urgency, even when they’re joking around, that you don’t find anywhere else. Their nerved up emotions hit you almost like a charge of electricity.

I’m so accustomed to this that I don’t feel it anymore. I remember it from when I was new.

On busy days, the rotunda outside the House is so full of lobbyists that it’s difficult to get out of the House to the rest of the building. It’s like weaving through a crowd at Wal Mart on Black Friday. If you’re a House member, lobbyists will interrupt your progress repeatedly to say “Hello Representative,” or some such. People who want to talk to you about this bill or that will stop you as you walk out.

Sitting on the House floor is a bit like being a fish in the proverbial barrel. We’re at the bottom of a huge room, with galleries surrounding us on all four sides. The press is in their own gallery at the top of all the others where they can look down onto us and peer into our laps. They can see what we’re reading and what we’re doing.

That’s why I sit at the back of the room. With my seniority, I can sit where I want. I chose the last seat, the one right next to the door, because the press has to turn their cameras downward in a deliberate fashion to get me. I don’t like being on camera for hours at a time.

I’m extremely tired today. It’s been a long week. I am also unsettled and sad about a vote that I had to cast last night. I wanted to end my time in the House on an up note with the people I work with. Instead, this divisive vote has created acrimony and angst. I am, as so often happens, the odd one out. Now, after sleeping on it, I’m thinking that I should have gone in-your-face with them and helped kill this evil bill. That is the hell of this job in a few sentences.

I’m going to write about the issues surrounding that particular vote in much greater detail later because it goes to the core responsibilities of representative government. It is a case study in how government which is dominated and run by special interests — in this case corporatist interests — fails its citizens, even in the most obvious areas of public safety. It is also a case study in how weak legislators who won’t fight their own party for what’s right end up failing the people and endangering their constituents’ lives.

Now that I think about it, this is a good way to end my 18-year legislative career. It is a highly appropriate way.

I have rules about what I do in office. Two of the most important are: I don’t kill people, and if I can do something that will save lives, I will do it. The cost to me doesn’t count in this equation.

Those little rules of mine got me into what people here in Oklahoma call “a Wewoka switch” last night. They forced me to vote for a horrifically evil piece of legislation that came about because of the dominance of money interests in our state government, money interests who will kill kids to squeeze the last dime out of government for themselves.

In the process, I ended up at odds with people I care about on this last day of my time on that floor as a voting member. And now, I’m thinking I was wrong, that my vote will be used to empower the corporatism that is bankrupting our state and impoverishing its people and leaving our children’s lives forfeit.

How could anything be more appropriate than that? If there is a better way to describe the hell of this job, I don’t know of it.

It’s been my meat and bread for years. Why shouldn’t it be my last legislative supper as well?

I am feeling nostalgic as I write this. But I do not have one shred of desire to come back to that House floor next year and do it again. There is not one atom in my body, not one thought in my head, not one lingering bit of longing to be on the hot seat and make any more of these gut wrenching, wrong and wronger/who-do-we-hurt/rob-from-the-poor-to-give-to-the-rich decisions.

There’s a hum when you walk onto the House floor. The charge of emotions hits you like electricity. Nothing I’ve ever encountered anywhere else comes close to the experience of legislating.

I am feeling nostalgic. This is a big passage for me. A huge change in my life. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I end up crying at some point, simply from the weight of emotions and weakness that comes from being so tired.

I am not looking forward to walking out of those doors for the last time as a legislator. That will be a wrench.

But I am looking forward to the life beyond those doors. I need to pray this through, but the broad strokes of what I’m going to do are already in front of me.

I am so ready for this change.

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Go Day. Come Day. Lord Bring Friday.


I gave my farewell speech. I’ve been feted and roasted.

But the legislative session is still droning on. We are working long hours, trying to drag this baby across the finish line.

I won’t be a free woman until we make the motion to “sine die.”

We were in legislative session until … I’m not sure, but I think it was around 10:30 pm last night.

When I got home, I couldn’t sleep.

My husband had followed the session for most of the day, texting me a hilarious running commentary. We’ve done that for years. He listens to us and our squabbles and texts me comments about what’s going on that keep me both entertained and sane.

We spent quite a while re-hashing the day’s events after I got home. Then, I stayed up alone, saying my prayers and unwinding. I was so tired that I kept falling asleep while I was praying.

Mama got me up several times during the night because she was afraid that she’d be late for her “job” at the adult day care center. She usually starts this around 4 am. I gave up about 4:30 and got up.

We had several hard votes yesterday. We passed legislation that will harm the people of Oklahoma for generations to come.

There will be more of the same today. And tomorrow. And the day after.

With any luck, we will adjourn this wagon train on Friday. That is not certain. Not by a long shot. I have seen legislative sessions go right down to the day we planned to adjourn, right down to the last piece of legislation, and then get hung up and have to go on for another couple of weeks.

Nothing in legislating is certain until it’s done, and sometimes not even then.

Yesterday was a hard day, and the next three days will be hard, as well. One upcoming vote in particular has me questioning what is the least wrong thing to do.

If things go reasonably close to predictions, it will be a matter of getting through today, then tomorrow and then Friday. We may be in session until quite late Friday, but there is hope that we’ll adjourn.

I got a ripping headache yesterday during the discussion on one bill. My left temple is still tender to the touch because of that headache, so I guess it was a migraine.

I disagree with the legislation in question. But the thing that triggered the headache — and it was one of those ka-pow! type headaches that hit like a hammer falling — was the bald-faced lying by one legislator. Back in the day, if a legislator deliberately lied to the body on the floor of the House, that legislator would never pass another bill.

In today’s world, this legislator has lied repeatedly about big issues on the floor of the House and no one cares. The legislator in question isn’t even embarrassed that everyone listening knows that they are lying. I’m talking about lies as obvious as someone standing in a tub of water and looking you right in the eye and saying, “So far as I know, my feet aren’t wet.”

These weren’t lies about catching a really big fish or how popular you were in high school. They weren’t braggadocio or a weak moment of trying to hide a private humiliation from public view.

They were lies based on other lies that were broken promises given to the entire House as well as the people of Oklahoma that have to do with legislation that will impact many people for generations to come. They were arrogant, on-the-mike, in-public, I-don’t-care-if-everybody-knows-I’m-lying-lies that were told to a trusting public as well as legislative colleagues.

This same legislator had already broken their word on this very piece of legislation with a so-what? attitude. The whole point to them seemed to be that anyone stupid enough to believe them was a fool and deserved what they got. In the course of the discussion, this same person gave other assurances as to what would happen in the future.

And the security and hopes of many thousands of people hang on this. On these lies. On the word of this legislator who evidently just says things so that people will believe them so that they can do something else.

I’m old-school about this sort of thing. I believe that a person’s word is their bond. In my book (to use a phrase from my Daddy) if a person’s word doesn’t mean anything, then the person isn’t worth listening to. I grew up in a world where cattlemen at the Oklahoma National Stockyards would close million-dollar deals on a handshake and that deal was done.

It’s difficult for me to accept that people entrusted with the governance of millions of their fellow Oklahomans would take their word so lightly. That is dishonorable. Reprehensible.

So, I got a headache. And I had to leave the floor for a while to keep from picking up a mike and saying things that I would regret. And the headache stayed with me all day and left me with an achy head that could fire off into another Ka-pow! at any time.

And now I have to go to confession, just like I always have to go to confession after one of these shut-down weeks.

Because of my temper.

Because of my bad language.

Because of my lack of charity.

Because of the unkind things I’ve said and because of my grudges over the unkind things that were said to me.

Because of the votes that I have no idea if I did the mostly right thing or the mostly wrong thing, but I’m pretty sure that no matter what I did, it was the mostly wrong thing because there wasn’t a mostly right thing I could have done.

Because I feel like I’ve been slimed from head to foot.

I got up this morning and had a talk with myself. I am the shortest of short timers in this outfit. My story as a legislator is all but told. All I need to do — all I should do at this point — is what I always do. I should vote my conscience. The only other thing — and this is different — is put my foot down and slide.

Adjournment is coming.

And serious work in a new arena awaits me on the other side of it.

Go day. Come day. Lord bring Friday.




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One Year Ago Today: Until the Sirens Went Off

We were in legislative session when the sirens went off.

For the first time that day, the room fell silent. It was the kind of bottom-dropping-out, free-fall silence that occurs when people face their omnipresent dread.

Tornadoes are an omnipresent dread in Oklahoma. Their unpredictability, coupled with their potential for absolute deadliness are the source of our nightmares.

I don’t personally know a single native-born Oklahoman who does not have tornado nightmares. Fear of these things is drilled into us from birth.

That the room fell silent when the sirens went off was predictable, especially in the Oklahoma House. We know that no matter where one of these things comes down, it will hit people that we are responsible for.

The silence was especially loud, coming as it did in the middle of an exceptionally noisy day. I learned as a child that horses run and pitch when a storm is coming. Any mother can tell you that children are unmanageable when weather is brewing. If yesterday means anything, the same thing must apply to middle-aged adults.

The Speaker gaveled us down repeatedly. He admonished us again and again to take our seats and maintain order so that the legislators who were explaining bills could be heard. Nothing he did affected the behavior on the floor at all.

Until the sirens went off.

That silenced us. One of us was on the mike, introducing a bill. After a moment’s plunging silence, he said, “Get under your desks.”

That broke the quiet as we all laughed.

Not too long after that, we had to evacuate the House Chamber and go to the Capitol basement. Several Indian dancers had been performing in the rotunda when the storm hit. They trooped down and waited with us, amidst comments about rain dances that were too effective.

I watched the tornado form on the screen of the tiny tv in the capital snack bar with everyone else. It dropped at a town called Newcastle. These storms follow tracks, almost as if they actually were on rails. I knew that if this thing stayed together that South Oklahoma City (where I live) and Moore were in for it.

Straight and Wide. Evidence of a killer tornado.


There are tornadoes. And then there are tornadoes.The ones that kill and destroy on a large scale stay down, move slowly and get bigger as they go. That’s what I watched this tornado do. I’m not a meteorologist, but I’ve watched a lot of these things and I knew that this one was a killer.

There was absolutely nothing to do. The phones went dead. I sat down in a corner and waited. I knew people were being killed. I had no idea if my house or the houses of my friends were going up. The reports that were coming in over the tv were too confusing to tell. I did know that people I knew, had known all my life, were in grave danger.

I stayed in the basement until it passed. Then, I loaded up and left. It was raining, hailing. I ended up taking shelter at a Sonic drive-in for about 30 minutes. The traffic lights were out and the interstates had been closed, which resulted in traffic gridlock. I snaked around through back ways to get South. It took me an hour and a half to do what would normally be a 15-minute drive. A friend of mine who lived on the far side of the damage told me it took him almost seven hours to get home.

I was out of touch with the larger world for about 12 hours. No power. No water. But nobody hurt, either.

My district didn’t get hit. My family is all ok, although some of them are without power and water. I have several friends who lost their homes, but they all got out of the way before it hit.

After the May 3 tornado in 1999 went through the same general area, we had a lot of orphaned pets — cats and dogs — who showed up. It was impossible to find their owners, so people adopted them and took care of them. I’ve already decided that our home will be open if a battered-up pet wants to come there.

I want to thank everyone who has texted or posted, asking me if I’m alright. Yes, I am.

Sooo Oklahoma: tornadoes, Native-American dancers, all of us sheltering together against the storm.

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Oklahoma Lawmaker Files Bill to Ban Marriage

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You gotta admit. I do have an interesting job. 

One of my colleagues in the Oklahoma House of Representatives has filed a bill that would make marriage illegal in Oklahoma. He says this is a way to keep gay marriage out of the state and satisfy the Constitution. 

I’m not going to comment about this right now. I may have to vote on it. And I definitely will be hearing about it in more detail in the next few days. 

In the meantime, I’m going to toss it out there for Public Catholic readers to chew on. Remember: No name-calling or verbal fisticuffs. 


From Oklahoma’s Own News 9:


State lawmakers are considering throwing out marriage in Oklahoma.

The idea stems from a bill filed by Rep. Mike Turner (R-Edmond). Turner says it’s an attempt to keep same-sex marriage illegal in Oklahoma while satisfying the U.S. Constitution. Critics are calling it a political stunt while supporters say it’s what Oklahomans want.

“[My constituents are] willing to have that discussion about whether marriage needs to be regulated by the state at all,” Turner said.

Other conservative lawmakers feel the same way, according to Turner.

“Would it be realistic for the State of Oklahoma to say, ‘We’re not going to do marriage period,’” asked News 9′s Michael Konopasek.

“That would definitely be a realistic opportunity, and it’s something that would be part of the discussion,” Turner answered.

Such a discussion will be made possible by a current shell bill — something that can be changed at almost any time to react to upcoming rulings on Oklahoma’s same-sex marriage ban.

“I think that, especially with issues like this, [these lawmakers are] out of touch with most Oklahomans,” said Ryan Kiesel, ACLU Oklahoma executive detector.

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Name that Video: What Does this Exemplify in YOUR Life?

Deacon Greg Kandra found this and I like it so much I’m putting it here.

It’s exemplifies my feelings about much of the legislation that the Oklahoma House of Representatives has passed this year.

What does it exemplify in your life?

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Busy Week Ahead.

I am going to be busier than anyone who has not been an elected official can imagine this next week.

I’m talking about long days that run into night of hearing bills counter-balanced with arguments, fights, anger, jostling, jangling over-stimulation that does not stop.

What that means to the readers of this blog is that I won’t be able to respond to you as quickly as some of you would like. I may very well get snappy in some of my infrequent replies, and more than likely I will make some really dunderheaded mistake.

So I apologize in advance.

And ask your forebearance.

In the meantime, let’s pray for the next pope. We need a great man to lead us through these contentious times.

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