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

13ecig web1 superJumbo

Source: Photobucket

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

GreatSeal 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.

WebJESUS Prayer

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.

Lent

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.

Religious Freedom Caucuses Form in Oklahoma and Eight Other States

I am part of a newly-formed Religious Freedom Caucus here in Oklahoma.There are caucuses in eight states, as well. This group has been in formation for several months, at the initiative of the American Religious Freedom Program of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. I first heard about it when they contacted me last spring.

I am honored to be part of this and grateful to the American Religious Freedom Program of putting it together.

A CNA article about these caucuses says in part:

Washington D.C., Oct 10, 2012 / 12:02 am (CNA).- A group of more than 120 bipartisan state legislators have created caucuses in nine states to address threats to religious liberty and learn from the experiences of other lawmakers.

“These are the first state caucuses ever to focus exclusively on religious freedom,” said Tim Schulz, state legislative policy director at the American Religious Freedom Program of the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

“There’s a renewed interest in religious freedom in the country,” he explained, “and this growing attention is bringing together people of all religious faiths and political ideologies.”

The American Religious Freedom Program organized a national teleconference on Oct. 9 to announce the nation’s first state religious freedom caucuses, formed by legislators in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Missouri, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.

The caucuses are designed to unite state lawmakers who share an interest in protecting religious liberty. They will facilitate discussion, cooperation and leadership as each group of legislators works to tailor particular laws to strengthen religious freedom amid the specific circumstances faced by their state. (Read more here.)

Prayers for the Family Research Council: My Comrades in the Culture Wars

I would guess that the person who showed up at the Family Research Council headquarters in Washington DC today with Chick-Fil-A materials, ammo, a gun and what appear to be very bad intentions is a hate-filled nut.

Does that about cover it? I hope so. Because I am not going to waste one more virtual word on this person.

I will say that I am very grateful in an almost personal way to the security guard who stepped up and stopped what might very well have been yet another tragic shooting. Bless him. I pray for his full recovery and long happy life.

I have partnered with the Family Research Council on legislation in the past, and I hope to do so again. They are great people who have zero problems crossing the Democrat-Republican divide to help a pro-life Okie pass pro-life legislation. I’m not going to mention any of their names here because I don’t think it would be a kind thing to do under these circumstances.

Another thing I am not going to do is start pointing fingers at everybody from the President of the United States to the doorman at Fox News in an attempt to blame them for something they obviously did not do. These horrible acts of violence against innocent people are tragedies. They are not opportunities for political demagoguery.

My prayers go with my friends at the Family Research Council. I’ve been thinking about you all day. I know that you are going to have trouble sleeping tonight, and that you will re-live this like a tape going in front of your eyes for a while. Just talk it out with your friends, hug your loved ones and say your prayers. It gets better in time.

Also, hug that security guard for me, will you?

He saved your lives. He also saved me and the rest of the world from losing you.

Good Morning Patheos!

I am Representative Rebecca Hamilton. I am beginning my 17th year as a member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives. That means I have much more seniority than anyone else in the Oklahoma Legislature.

I was first elected in 1980, served three terms, then left office when I had my first child. Before I was elected, I was an ardent pro abortion activist. I helped found the first abortion clinic in Oklahoma and, during the early 1970s, was the NARAL Director for Oklahoma.

I was re-elected in 2002. I had experienced a powerful religious conversion which changed me concerning issues of life. I had also converted to the Catholic Church. The same people in the same House District who had elected me as a pro-choice advocate graciously re-elected me as a pro-life Catholic.

During the years away from public office I was a full-time, stay at home Mom.

I never planned on blogging. But the HHS Mandate requiring the Catholic Church to violate its moral teachings or face crippling fines, along with the many battles I’ve fought for the sanctity of human life since I returned to office, have changed my mind. Being a Public Catholic is not easy. Its not easy for anyone who takes it seriously. I fear it’s going to become more difficult as time goes by.

I want to add my small voice to the fight and I don’t know any better place to do that than right here at Patheos.


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