Tomorrow is Rose Day at the Oklahoma State Capitol

Representative Gary Banz Photo Source: Oklahoma House of Representatives File Photo

Representative Gary Banz Photo Source: Oklahoma House of Representatives File Photo

Representative Gary Banz told me that when I left, he wanted my parking place.

I understood that.

My parking place was fantabulous; right next to the Gov’s parking place.

That’s what happens when a Rep has more seniority than anybody else in the building. She gets whatever parking space she wants.

Did Representative Banz get “my” parking space? I dunno. I haven’t been back to check.

I’m going to the Oklahoma State Capitol building for the first time since my son and one of his friends and I went out and loaded up my office and brought it home. That was, if memory serves, the Monday after the Friday on which we adjourned.

Oh, I’ve had phone conversations with people at the Capitol since then. Lots of them. And I’ve also had conversations with my former colleagues in the House and Senate. Lots of them, as well.

But I haven’t set foot in the actual building, or driven by it, for that matter, since I brought my stuff home to stay.

But I’m going to the Capitol tomorrow. I’m going with a couple of friends, who, because of their health problems, I will drop off on the Senate side of the building where they can get in without climbing stairs, and then I’m going to wind back south and park far from the building in one of the visitor spaces.

I will then go in, meet up with my friends and begin handing out roses to the reps and sens I know.

Because tomorrow is Rose Day at the Oklahoma State Capitol.

Photo Source: Oklahoma Rose Day Committee. Used with Permission.

Photo Source: Oklahoma Rose Day Committee. Used with Permission.

Rose Day is an annual event sponsored by pro life people, in particular the Oklahoma Southern Baptist Convention and Catholic Charities, which brings hundreds of pro life Okies to Oklahoma City to cheer on their pro life legislative heroes.

I loved Rose Day when I was in office. It was so nice to have people in the building who actually liked what I was doing by working to pass pro life legislation. The life of a pro life Democrat can be lonely, indeed. After some of the ugliness that happened to me, I drew into myself as a survival tactic. I just hunkered down and fought my way through the last half of my time in office.

Day after day, nobody asked me join them for lunch, nobody talked to me. When we stayed late in the evenings, I had friends from outside the legislature come pick me up for supper because I knew none of my colleagues would eat with me.

Rose Day was the one day that turned that on its head. For a couple of hours, I actually had friends inside that building.

That’s why I’m writing this now. If you are a pro life Okie, you need to be at the Oklahoma State Capitol Building tomorrow. You need to let pro life legislators know that you appreciate what they are doing.

You need especially to look up pro life Democrats and encourage them, because, believe me, they won’t hear another encouraging word all session long.

I’m going to Rose Day tomorrow as a spectator, rather than a participant. It will be my first time in a long, long time when I can’t just swing into my parking space next to the door and hustle up to my office.

Tomorrow, I’m walking in from the South 40, and then I’m going to have to find someone who will let me leave my coat in their office for a couple of hours.

I am so looking forward to it. I plan to drop by and encourage every single pro life Democrat I know, and to hug many of the dedicated pro life Republicans that I know. I’ll watch the inspiring program we have planned.

Then, I’m going to go back out to the South 40, get in my car, drive around and pick up my friends and we’ll go out and celebrate. Because this year I don’t have to stay. My time as an active participant in the legislative bear-and-bull-fight is over, and for that I am soooo grateful.

As for the pro life Okies reading this, be sure join me at Rose Day. Tomorrow is going to be a wonderful pro life celebration for all of us.

I Had 1001 Things I Was Going To Do. I Sorta Did One.

I had 1001 things planned for my first week after session closed down.

I was going to storm the gates of heaven and get flaming arrows of direction in reply.

I was going to clean my house from top to bottom.

I was going to move the garden statue of Our Lady that’s been languishing in my “music room” (Don’t laugh. There is a piano in there.) outside and buy an arbor thingy and plant flowers and create a prayer garden in my back yard.

I was going to get up every single morning and work out like Bette Midler in Ruthless People with the same, awe-inspiring results.

I had 1001 things I was going to do.

What I did instead was collapse into a heap. We went out after sine die and had a wonderful dinner, just me and my family. Then, after almost no sleep, I got up Saturday and putzed around, too tired to make sense of myself. I began a Novena to Our Lady. I did do that. Prayer is the one thing on my list that I sorta did.

My husband and I went to vigil mass and back out to eat again. Then, we came home and I watched tv like a zombie.

It’s always like that after session shuts down. I don’t know what I was thinking when I made all these plans. The closing days of session are intense. And I mean INTENSE.

After it’s over, I’m still jazzed for days, and at the same time, I’m all rubbery and shot through and through. It takes a while to get my mind right and my body rested. Add to that the fact that this was my last sine die, and you’ve got a recipe for crash down time.

My youngest son and one of his friends moved my office home for me on Monday. I spent last week opening boxes and rather listlessly trying to figure out where to put everything. I need more bookshelves. And I am going to give a couple of the paintings away. I have no idea where I’m going to hang the rest of them or where everything will go. I still have a couple of boxes that are partially unpacked and two drawers that are full of things I haven’t found a place for. I also have a couple of boxes of books and posters/awards that are still at the capitol that I need to go get.

As for cleaning the house, nope.

Still needs doing.

Storming heaven? I prayed, but there were no messages wrapped around the shafts of flaming arrows coming my way. The only answer I got was when I rather lazily prayed and asked if it would be alright to skip Sunday mass yesterday (That’s how low my laziness had sunk me.) I definitely got the feeling that I should get up and go to church. So I did.

I dreamed about my constituents several times during the week. They were anxiety dreams, worrying about who is going to take care of them. That’s the hardest part, leaving my people to someone else’s care.

My friends gave me a lovely party yesterday. It was a complete surprise. I had thought they were going to do something when the session closed down, then, when it didn’t happen, I was ok with it. The date of the shut-down had been uncertain right up until the end. So I assumed it was too uncertain to plan anything.

I was totally surprised — astonished — when my husband drug me into a restaurant yesterday. I mean, I don’t do restaurants on the Sabbath. In fact, I thought he’d gone daft. He insisted I go with him back to where the restrooms were, which I thought was plenty strange. As long as I’ve known him, he’s gone to the restroom by himself. Then, he walked past the restrooms and into the kitchen. I wouldn’t follow at first, and he had to insist.

By this time, I was convinced he had lost it. We went through the kitchen and into another room and I walked into a party.

They completely surprised me. I was thrilled. And touched.

So that’s my week off. I need to pray more. In fact, I’m going to start a 54 day Novena, consecrating the rest of my life. I did the St Louis de Montfort thing of consecrating my life to Jesus through Mary a while back. This is just a sort of renewal of that.

I realized yesterday that I already know what I should do. I also realized that God has given me everything I need to do it. I was wanting direction when I already have the road map. As for my constituents, I am going to pray for them and their future as part of the 54 day Novena. I have to let go of taking care of them, and that, as I said, is the hardest part.

So, this letter to my friends, telling you what I did on my little vacation is my first post after my week off. To be honest, I’d like to take another week. I’m just now getting my head above water a bit.

But writing this disjointed post is a good palate cleanser. Telling you all about it wipes a bit of the dust off my mind.

It’s time to get this deal on the road. I think I’ll begin by doing a bit of that working out I more or less skipped last week. You see, I don’t have to get into my car and drive to work. My office is just on the other side of the living room. And my recumbent bike/elliptical/Total Gym (yes, I’ve have all that; not that it’s done me any good) is in the spare bedroom down the hall.

Wish me luck, boys and girls. I’m re-inventing myself.

Wagons, ho!

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.

 

 

 

E-Cigs Cause Poisoning

You’ve gotta hand it to big tobacco.

They’re consistent.

They never seem to come up with a product that doesn’t addict people, won’t make them sick, and that the manufacturers won’t lie about.

I encounter the lying part from my personal experiences with the debate over e-cigs in the Oklahoma legislature. We’ve had a two-year battle over attempts by big tobacco and their army of unbelievably highly-paid lobbyists to ram through a bill that would define e-cigs as a non-smoking product, thus enhancing e-cig profits.

During the course of this, I’ve been lied to repeatedly and flat-out insulted; all because I won’t give up my little vote to enhance the $$$ power of big tobacco.

This particular vote is just one among many for me. I know what I’m going to do, and I am going to do it. Then I will let it go. That’s how I deal with these things.

What made me sit up and take notice is a news story that’s making the rounds of the major news outlets under headlines like Electronic cigarettes can be dangerous, even if you don’t smoke them (Los Angeles Times), E-cigarette poisoning on the rise (CBS News), E-Cigarette Nicotine a Growing Health Threat: CDC (WebMD) and E-cigs’ liquid nicotine causing poisonings (CNN)

This particular poisoning is most dangerous when it hits children under the age of 5. Evidently, the liquid nicotine found in E-Cigs can be absorbed in a variety of ways, and not just through the lungs.

The moral? If you use them, keep them away from kids.

The other moral? Don’t use them long term. If they make kids this sick, presumably because of their smaller body size, they aren’t going to do you a lot of good, either.

As for the big tobacco folks who are pummeling Oklahoma legislators to pass this thing, they never had my vote, anyway. It will be interesting to see if this CDC report causes any of the others to take a second look at the legislation.

Lent in the Legislature

Next week and the week after, I will become less and less accessible, more and more grumpy, and if you push me, downright mean.

These next two weeks are “deadline” weeks in the Oklahoma legislature, or, as we affectionately think of them, living hell.

We have to vote on every bill that every House member managed to author, get out of the various committees and onto the House agenda. That means long days, longer nights, endless debate and mind-numbing exhaustion. I finish deadline weeks feeling like I’ve been drug by a runaway horse. So does everybody else. By the end of this two weeks we’ll hate our jobs and we’ll probably all hate each other, as well.

That’s how legislators do Lent in Oklahoma.

Once, years ago, I tried to give up swearing for Lent. If Lent happened when the legislature wasn’t in session I would have had a fighting chance. But after the third or fourth time I had to go to confession because I’d broken my penance, my pastor got exasperated and told me, “I want you to forget this and pick something you can do.”

I jokingly said, “Well, I haven’t killed anybody. Can I count that as giving up something for Lent?”

He was not amused.

Ever since then, I’ve tried to come up with Lenten practices that fit into my job. You know; things I can do while driving my car to work or when I’m standing in an elevator. That sort of idle time activity. I literally do not have time to pray during deadline week. When I try to pray before I go to bed, I fall asleep. When I try to pray in the mornings, I’m late for work. If I try to pray while I’m driving … well, I’m already tired and distracted, so that’s not the best plan.

 

One prayer I’ve found that I can actually do is called the Jesus Prayer. It goes: Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, have mercy on me a sinner. 

That’s an excellent prayer for deadline week. If you reflect on it, it’s sort of a mini Gospel in a few words. Anytime you’re in a pinch for time, or at a loss for words, I recommend the Jesus Prayer. It says everything you have to say in one profound sentence.

Another one sentence prayer I pray a lot during deadline week comes from Scripture: May the words of my lips and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, my God and my Redeemer.

I pray that a lot before debate.

Then, there’s the Hail Mary: Hail Mary, full of grace. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for me, a sinner, now and at the hour of my death.

The Hail Mary is a cry for help and an act of worship, both at once. It, like the other short prayers I use during deadline week, covers all the ground you have to cover to talk to God.

These quick prayers save my soul (literally) during times like deadline week. But there is another prayer that I’ve learned through the years. This one doesn’t have words, and yet it is perhaps the most eloquent. There are many days when my work is my prayer. I know that sounds odd, but I’ve learned that this can be the most profound prayer and act of worship any of us can do.

What I mean by that is that I am convinced that the most profound act of worship is simply doing what God tells you to do. If I can do my work in a manner that follows what God wants, then I am giving Him obedience, which is profound worship and prayer with feet.

I learned this during a time when I was getting blasted and battered in an ugly and personal way for passing pro life bills. (This was the time when I tried to convince my pastor that the simple fact that I hadn’t killed anybody should count as giving up something for Lent.) It was tough for me as a person and as a woman. But with God’s grace I was able to persevere, and in the persevering I experienced the Lord’s presence in a way that taught me an enormous amount about what prayer and worship truly are.

The best worship is doing what God tells you to do. The most profound prayer is obedience to God from the heart. 

All the other worship we do — the retreats, meditations, hymn-singing, scripture reading, long reflective silences — are simply exercises to get us to that state where we can do what He tells us to do with willing obedience from the heart.

I am looking forward to a real Lent one day. I think it would be most edifying to have time for prayer, reflection and long hours in front of the Blessed Sacrament.

But this week is deadline week, and my Lenten practice may very well be once again, not killing any of my colleagues. I think that’s a fine goal for a pro life legislator.

Rose Day: Pro Life Rally at the Oklahoma State Capitol

Yesterday was Rose Day at the Oklahoma State Capitol. 

This annual event goes back decades — all the way back to the years when I was a pro choice legislator. I remember how shy the pro life people were when they tip-toed into offices back then. They would hand the legislator a rose and then tip-toe back out.

No one brought me a rose back in those days. I imagine they were afraid of me, even though I was never the sort of pro choice person who argued with pro life people. I was in reality quite gentle about my beliefs, at least outwardly.

But underneath, I was tempered steel.

By the time I got to the legislature, I was a veteran of the abortion wars. I had been the Oklahoma Director for NARAL. I had helped open the first abortion clinic in Oklahoma. I had referred women for abortions. I had made speeches, lobbied United States Senators and Congressmen. All for legal abortion.

However, I can’t ever remember raising my voice to a pro life person. Not once. I can’t remember one time that I ever accosted them or even argued with them that they didn’t force the argument on me.

So, the pro life people who came to Rose Day back in the beginning days of Rose Day would have been quite safe if they had ventured into my office. I would have accepted their rose and been very gentle with them.

I say all this so you’ll know what it means to me today when I stand up with the pro life legislators. I tell you this because I really don’t have words to describe what it means, so I tell you stories from my past in hopes you’ll somehow or other surmise how the words “born again” apply to me and my life.

Yesterday I had the honor of speaking for a brief moment to the assembled crowd in the House chamber. Before that, several pro life women — all of whom have worked for life for decades — asked to have their photo taken with me. Pro life people who have been stalwarts in the fight for life kept coming up to me all morning and thanking me for “what you’ve done.”

Them.

Thanking me.

In truth, I can never thank them enough for accepting me among their ranks, for overlooking all I did in the past and choosing to look only at what I’m trying to do now.

I love Rose Day.

It feels like home.

I took this photo of the Rose Day participants from the podium with my cell phone. I asked them to say “pro life” instead of “cheese.” Every single one of these people is a hero to me.


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