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.

 

 

Does Women’s Rights Equal Abortion?

Me, at ceremony presenting resolution against violence against women.

Me, at ceremony presenting resolution against violence against women.

It seems I’ve run afoul of the atheist portal here at Patheos One. More. Time.

Nobody sticks in these folks’ collective craw more than I do. They love to hate me and they love to trash me. If one of them was slowly slipping away, I think the doc could show them one of my blog posts to get their poor little heart started beating again.

I’m  not sure how I do it, and to be honest, I don’t care, but I do get under their skin. They react to me the way Tribbles react to Klingons.

I’ve studiously ignored this carrying on up to now, and I intend to go back to that same path as soon as I finish here. But I do have a small bone to pick with one of the more outlandish claims against me that has been published on that portal.

Dan Arel, who blogs at Danthropology, has a big case of outrage going over my recent blog post about the Prez. It seems that calling President Obama an idiot is a bridge too far for Mr Arel. That’s his opinion, and he’s welcome to it. Writing blog posts trying to get at me is also his call. It actually would be difficult for me to come up with a description of how little I care.

I’m not even all that exercised about the one point that I’m going to discuss here. I just think it leads into an important point that needs making.

In his outraged defense of the president, Mr Arel — as atheists seem wont to do — veers off into personal attacks against me. As often happens with personal attacks against me, he immediately goes into fantasyland and presents made-up nonsense as fact.

This paragraph is a case in point (emphasis mine):

Rebecca Hamilton is a former politician who spent her career attacking women’s rights. Now it seems in retirement, her life will be no different. She does not think women are able to make the choices that are right for them and instead wants the President to give her and her religion the privilege of making these choices for you.

Oh me. Oh my. Such a big fat lie. 

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Lil ol’ me, speaking at a rally to end domestic violence.

Here’s just a sprinkling of things I’ve done (This is just off the top of my head. I’m sure there’s more.) during my career-long “attack” on women’s rights:

1. One of 6 founders of the first rape crisis center in Oklahoma.

2. Got first funding for statewide domestic violence shelters.

3. Author of the original protective order in Oklahoma. 

4. Creator of the first statewide rape hot line in Oklahoma. 

5. Authored legislation to allow rape victims and victims of domestic violence time off work for counseling, court visits, medical care without losing their employment. 

6. Authored legislation to provide state funding for day care. 

7. Authored legislation to make human trafficking illegal in Oklahoma.

8. Passed a law to keep rape victims’ information private.

9. Host and co-creator of the Oklahoma Day of Prayer for an End to Violence Against Women.

10. Authored bill to stop doctors from paying women to allow their bodies to be harvested for eggs.

11. Authored bill to stop forced abortions.

12. Authored bill making it a felony to beat up a pregnant woman.

13. Authored bill outlawing female genital mutilation in Oklahoma.

14. Authored bill to make rape by instrumentation a crime in Oklahoma. 

Lessee now. What might I have done that could possibly be construed as “attacking women’s rights?????”

Tap, tap, tap …

Could it be the fact that I oppose abortion? 

That’s all I can think of. And it does fit. 

Because in some people’s minds, “women’s rights” is abortion. They think that if you aren’t in favor of abortion on demand, then you must be opposed to “women’s rights.” On the other hand, they think that if you favor abortion on demand, then that’s all there is to women’s rights.

Oddly enough, even in this, Mr Arel’s hateful hyperbole overreaches the facts by a few miles. I opposed abortion in the second half of my career. During the first, pre-conversion half, I was the pro choice poster girl of Oklahoma. I’ve got enough Margaret Sanger awards and other pro choice attagirls from that phase of my life to paper the walls of my house with them. I was the de facto go-to person in the Oklahoma legislature for those who wanted pro life bills killed dead. And I delivered, because I was, as one of my fellow House members told me, “one hell of a legislator.”

Before I was ever elected to office, I was the Oklahoma director for NARAL.

So puhllleeeezzzz Mr Arel, consider who you are tarring with your abortion-is-women’s-rights brush. I know more about this issue — from both sides — than you will ever learn.

One of the things I know, and that I have learned to my horror and grief, is that abortion kills a living child. I can’t tell you how devastated I was when I realized the full horror of what I had done during my anti-God years.

Not only was I shattered by my own crimes against humanity, but as a woman who cares deeply about women’s rights, I felt trapped in a conundrum. How could I work to ensure women’s rights and prevail in my life-long work to speak out for justice for womankind and still protect these unborn children’s lives? That was the question.

I found the answer in the place where we all must look: The abundant mercy and love of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Jesus is Lord of every life, whether the person acknowledges this or not. He loves Mr Arel just as much as He loves me, or you. He loves him and wants to offer him forgiveness and the free gift of eternal life just as He loves and cherishes the unborn child.

We are all His brothers and sisters, all God’s children.

Jesus loves women with a special depth of love because He is the author of life and women are the bearers of life. We are His cooperators in the life force. He chose to be born of a woman Himself.

This does not mean that God intends His daughters to be limited to that one single role. We are not walking uteri. We are human beings, made in His image with all the hungers, desires and needs for significance, achievement and the fullness of life that men have. Diminishing us to the role of childbearing as if that was all there is to us is not God’s plan. It is the devil’s curse on humankind.

Misogyny is the human race, at war with itself. And abortion, which strips women of their uniqueness, is an attack on women’s humanity at a profound level. Women should not have to chose between a murdered child and a ruined life. That, and not some nebulous “right” to murder both their own child and their own maternity is what women’s rights should be.

Pregancy and childbirth should never be used as a weapon to terrorize women or limit their lives. Rather than ending this discrimination and misogyny, abortion cooperates with it. Abortion is just the old misogynist double standard, turned sideways. It puts the whole burden of human sexuality back on the woman once again.

I don’t blame Mr Arel for being such a twerp about all this. He is, after all, both a man and an atheist, which is a combination that, based on my reading, seems to struggle with ideas of women’s rights based on women’s humanity. In fact, this group seems to struggle with ideas of intrinsic and universal human rights for any group of people. Based on things he’s said and done, I would guess that he’s also got a special hate going toward me.

All that adds up to a king-sized pair of blinders. When he puts forth the women’s rights = abortion equation, he is repeating the mindless cant he’s been taught around who knows how many intellectual campfires.

What I would like him to do is to take those blinders off, or at least peek around them, and see the love and compassion that Our Lord extends to him. Mr Arel is wrong about abortion, wrong about God and, in a far lesser question, wrong about me.

I wish him the best thing I could wish anyone, that he accepts the love of Christ and begins the journey to heaven. Whether he knows it, or wants to believe it or not, he is my brother; my lost and angry brother.

I pray for you Dan. You are a child of the living God.

Now, I’m back to ignoring the atheist portal.

Looking at 18 Years in the Rear View Mirror

Gwin Faulconer Lippert, KTOK Radio.

Gwin Faulconer Lippert, KTOK Radio.

 

Gwin Faulconer Lippert, a reporter at KTOK Radio, a local station here in Oklahoma City, did this interview with me last night. It’s a retrospective on my career in the legislature, which ends officially tomorrow.

I plan on taking my family out for Pizza at the Hideaway restaurant here in OKC. Just us. It’s about personal family memories.

I woke up this morning, thinking “this is my last day in office.” It kind of got to me. Then I sat down and prayed and God turned that bit of anxiety into peace and gratitude. I am so grateful that God gave me the chance to do two separate tours of duty in office. He let me come back in and pass important pro life legislation after I had killed pro life bills my first time around.

That is a measure of forgiveness that I do not deserve.

I am grateful and happy for the many privileges and gifts which God has given me in my life. My family, my home, the opportunity to affect events through public office, and now, the opportunity to continue working for the things I believe in another forum.

You wonderful people here at Public Catholic are among the many blessings God has given me.

I’m still on retreat for the rest of this month.

I am very glad I’ve taken this time off to pray and think. It has already given me a new outlook and a deeper understanding of where I’m going, and I’m only halfway through. I plan to come back to blogging in December. In the meantime, I’ll continue to drop an occasional link or thought here as things occur to me.

Blessings,

Rebecca

 

Rep. Rebecca Hamilton KTOK Interview

Saying Goodbye.

 

I am leaving the Oklahoma legislature. Last week was a week of formal goodbyes.

I gave a farewell speech to the House, which you can watch, if you’d like. Go here to see the video. The House Democrats held their annual Sine Die Party, and roasted me and other departing legislators. The Democratic Legislative Assistants prepared a delicious luncheon (Covered dish. All their best cooking. It was to die for.) with a cake with all our names and said another round of good-byes. I even got a small — and lovely — good-bye editorial in the Oklahoman.

We are still in the busiest time of the legislative process. We haven’t shut down. Not at all. That means I’m going to be tres busy until we actually do sine die. (Sine die is the motion we make to adjourn the legislative session.) But I am grateful beyond words to my colleagues for giving me these many avenues of good-bye.

Each of these things is a rite of passage for what has to be a huge transition in my life. Leaving the legislature is a little bit like a soldier, coming home from a war. You are leaving a combative, total environment which engages you on every level and returning to a world that now seems out of kilter by comparison.

Wherever people are for a period of time, that becomes their normal. Normal for me has long ago become the totally unreal world of elected politics.

At the same time, I am way past glad to be leaving. God gave me something like marching orders for the rest of my life a few years ago when I was sitting in the cathedral at Fatima. I’ve dithered since then, occupied and preoccupied by the legislative wars and the many needs of my constituents. If you don’t think that these things are a 24/7 occupation that devours of all your thoughts and passions, then, you my friend, have never been a legislator.

Those of us who legislate or who have legislated know that there are very few jobs that swallow you whole like legislating does. It is difficult to disengage enough to maintain your friendships and family and retain something of your personality.

As for fulfilling the call that God gave me, I found it well nigh impossible. I need more than corners of time in my days to write the things He wants me to write. I’m not going to discuss in detail what I think this is all about. I have a lot of praying to do first.

I do know that I am not going to abandon the political process. I am also not going to stop writing about the intersection of public life and Christianity on this blog. I will, if anything, be a lot more free to talk about these issues now that I’m not bound to protect the privacy of so many people.

That is not to say that I will be talking about closed door conversations with my colleagues or divulging the almost endless private things that my constituents have shared with me through 18 years of elected office.

I have represented, cared for and cared about thousands of people for a very long time. In the course of that, many of them have opened their souls to me. I have never and I will never talk about the people who trusted me to be their voice in government and who honored me by opening their lives and hearts to me in conversations that were in fact and in truth non-sacramental confessions.

All these things I take with me to my grave.

What I will talk about is the intersection of public policy and publicly stated comments, actions, etc. I’ve operated for a long time using the standard that if something is published and circulated publicly, I can talk about it. That won’t change. It will, rather, be enhanced by the fact that I know what’s behind these things. I will be a lot less guarded in my opinions in the future when I do not have the responsibility for many thousands of people on my shoulders.

Christians in America have a mountain in front of us. After more than two hundred years of having things our way, we are faced with a society in which we are beleaguered. We live in post Christian America. Our task is to re-convert our nation to Christ.  Right now, we are not up to that task. We are, in fact, confused, divided and overawed by our opposition.

That’s what I’m going to write about. Because somebody needs to do it. And because I am uniquely qualified for the job.

 

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My favorite Representative Hamilton photo. From Rose Day 2014. 

I tried to remember to thank everyone in this speech, but I somehow forgot to mention — even though I wrote their names down and they were right in front of me — two of the most important people. Louise Scoles, who fought for my election and was my sponsor when I entered the Catholic Church. And George Violette, my brother by another mother, who is family in every way except blood. I love both of you.

The “Tony” I introduce in the video is Tony Lauinger, president of Oklahomans for Life and Vice President of National Right to Life. He is my friend. I know that he will remain my friend after I leave office.

If you want to watch the speech, go here.

 


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