Fall Cleaning. Life Cleaning.

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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.

How to Retire and Keep on Working in Six Quick Steps.

Retirement planning

In November, my successor, Representative-elect Shane Stone, will take the oath and begin his new job of work as the Representative for District 89 in the Oklahoma Legislature.

Up until then, I’m still the Rep, even though session is over and I’m not doing much with it. I asked Shane to attend my committee meetings between now and when he assumes office, even though he can only sit in and is not allowed to vote. It’s a way for him to get his feet on the ground and look at the process without having to jump off into the deep while he’s doing it.

It’s a scary business, taking those first votes. Nothing prepares you for it. One day, you’re a private citizen, the next day you are making decisions, one after the other, for millions of people. The stress, the responsibility, and as time goes by, the battering, never let up.

I am glad to be out of it. In fact, I could write a book (or two) about all the reasons why I’m glad to be out of that pressure cooker.

However, with my never-give-myself-an-even-break way of living, I jumped from one competitive line of work to another without a breath between. In fact, I started this blogging thing years before I pulled up the legislative stakes. Then, within a month of casting my last vote for the people of District 89, I took on two full-blown book projects.

Somewhere in all this, I’ve lost my footing, so to speak. I’m still adjusting to the enormous change of life involved in walking away from the constant pummeling of full-contact politics, and, at the same time, I’m also trying to figure out a whole new line of work. Add to that my wandering Mama, and there are days when I feel like I’m thrashing and pawing the waves instead of swimming.

Obviously, I have a lot of learn about this “retirement” gig, including, it seems, how to retire and keep right on working without missing a beat.

Here are a few lessons I’ve learned (and a couple I need to learn) about how to make this big life change.

1. Get the money part straight.

I put this first because it’s so critical. It’s a bit like slamming into a wall, looking at those figures on the balance sheet and realizing, this is it; this is what I have to spend for now and forever.

In my case, it’s been a mostly pleasant surprise. I’m a saver from jump street. I saved my allowance when I was a kid and bought a camera, a watch and other things. Other kids spent their allowances as fast as they got them on candy and stuff. I bought my first savings bond when I was in the first grade by purchasing a savings stamp each week with my allowance.

Needless to say, I’ve been rat-holing money away for decades. That means two things: I have enough saved back so that I can eat three squares and an occasional steak dinner for the rest of my life, and my income needs are relatively low because I’ve been reducing my income to save and already gotten used to living on less than my income.

Despite all that, there have been some negatives; primarily taxes. Nobody in my family ever made enough money in retirement to pay taxes before. I guess I thought retirement was tax free. I may end up paying more in taxes now than I did when I had a regular paycheck. Go figure.

2. Inhabit your new freedom.

Not a day goes by that I don’t have to remind myself that I am free of the old deadlines and go-go-go of constantly being under the gun. There is competition in writing. Of a sort. But comparing it to holding political office is like comparing blowing soap bubbles to a tornado. One delights. The other kills.

I had no idea how much pressure I was under until it stopped. I find myself feeling antsy and pushed, like I’ve got to get busy and hit the road running, and then I have to remind myself that I am free and I can stroll, not flail, my way through my day. For the first time in decades, nobody’s out to get me. Strange as this sounds, it’s devilishly difficult to get used to the idea that I’m not in the legislative jailhouse any longer.

3. Inhabit your freedom, but don’t become a slug.

My husband pointed out to me that I was getting up every morning and sitting down to write and that I would end up in the afternoon, still wearing my nightclothes.

You need a routine. He told me.

My sons let me have it for spending too much time in the house and too many hours sitting in the recliner. You need to get up and get going. I don’t want you to sit there and die. One of them told me.

So, I’m trying new things, like get up, eat breakfast, put on some clothes and then wander into my office and sit down to write. I’ve always been a self-motivator and a self-starter. So this deal should be ez pz for me compared to someone who has spent their life waiting to be told what to do next. I’ve already hatched up a couple of things I may take on, both of them involving my faith in Christ and my political skills. We’ll see. The point here that applies to everyone is don’t veg out. Move. And live.

4. You have to let go of the past thing to fully grasp the next thing.

While I’ve been trying to figure out the how-to-retire part of this deal, I’m also trying to figure out a brand new job of work that I’ve taken on. I’m already a blogger, and it looks like I’m also gonna write books.

(May I stop for a moment and tell you that I love the idea of this? I feel so blessed by the opportunities God has given me in my life and this new challenge is not the least of them.)

But, figuring it out while I’m dealing with figuring out everything else is confusing. I’ve got the letting go part down intellectually. But doing it 100% takes a bit of time. And grasping the new is a reach into unseen territory.

I feel a bit like a member of a high wire act who is letting go of the bar to reach for their partner’s hand. There is a moment when that high wire artist has let go of the bar and is reaching for but hasn’t touched their partner’s hand. In that moment, they are suspended in air, between the two. I’m in that moment right now.

What it takes to keep from panicking and going into a deadly free-fall is faith; faith in yourself that I can only describe as self-confidence and faith in God that this is His design, His plan and He is there with you, guiding your hand and the one reaching out to grasp it.

You have to let go of the old thing to reach out to the next thing, and when you do, there will be a moment when you are suspended, floating, between them. In the world of high wire acts and the laws of aerodynamics, that moment is just a blink. But in the world of major life changes, you will be suspended for weeks and months of confusing time.

There’s nothing for it. You just have to go through it. The trick, if there is one, is to really, truly let go of the last thing.

5. Re-learn time management for your new reality. 

This is akin to, but different from, #2 and #3. Yes, you must inhabit your new freedom. And Yes, you must also not be a slug about it. But there’s more. If you retire but keep on working, you are also going to have to re-learn time management. The keep-on-working part demands the new time management. But it is different work and a new reality. Or, at least it is if you switch from an all-inclusive high-powered my-job-never-ends line of work like elective office to a nebulous, make-your-own-hours, never-see-your-colleagues line of work like writing.

Time management for an elected official amounts to one thing: Choosing which of the endless list of things you need to do that you actually will do. You have to have a nose for what matters and what doesn’t because you can not do everything. As in, it is not possible. That may also be true of writing. I’m too new to the profession to say.

What I will say is that writing is a lot more demanding than I knew before I started it. I thought that when I left the House I would have time and more time for every little thing I hadn’t had time for in the past. Now, I find that I am having major problems getting everything done. I am right back at making choices and setting priorities all over again. True, it’s not the screaming triage of politics. But it is confusing to me, precisely because I’ve never done it before.

After 18 years in elected office, I could do that deal with half my mind. Figuring out this new thing is taking all my brain cells and a couple of them a smoking.

6. Realize that your life span is limited. 

I don’t mean that as a downer. I mean it as a simple fact. My productive years are limited. I’ve got a lot of things I want to accomplish (If I can.) before I stand before God. Most of the big ones are things that I want to do in response to what I think He’s asked of me.

I also need to get ready to die. I don’t mean so much the practical things like write a will and tell everyone I love them. I mean that I need to learn to be, as Margaret Rose Realy OSB says, “pleasing to God.”

That’s a lot easier for someone like Margaret than it is me. She’s gifted with a naturally sweet disposition. I’m what a priest friend of mine once called “edgy.” It was a back-handed compliment that I treasure: God loves to get His hands on edgy people like you because He can do so much with you.

That pleased me so much when it was first said to me. The idea that God might actually find me, with all my edginess, useful, was a ray of light. I’ve treasured the comment ever since.

However, being pleasing to God is not a thing that comes easily to someone as strong-willed, untrusting and downright contrary as I am. But I need to work at it. Because someday not so very far in the future, I will meet Him face to face.

These are the six quick steps I’ve learned that each person must take to retire and keep on working. I think that they apply, in one form or another, to anyone who is retiring, even if they don’t take up another gainful occupation. We all face the same challenges at every major change in our lives. If memory serves, the transition from legislator to full-time, stay-at-home mom involved these same things.

Life is change, and it has many seasons. The best overall advice is to follow Margaret Rose Realy’s admonition, no matter the season of your life, and strive always to be pleasing to God.

Retirement: Cashing In Before You Cash Out

Retirement village people


I’m not so much interested in the return on my money, as I am in the return of my money. Will Rogers

I’ve spent quite a bit of time lately, trying to figure out our family finances going forward. 

I have an advanced degree in management, with graduate level courses in finance and accounting under my belt. I’ve even taught graduate level courses in management at one of our local universities.

That does not mean that I have a crystal ball about what the markets are going to do in the next decade. In fact, about all it means in real life is that I understand things like beta and r squared and other odd whatnots of data that the investment firms put out there. Truth told, my insight into politics has actually proven to be a better predictor of long term financial trends than technical financial data. 

The markets have given us quite a hayride since the turn of the century. We’ve had two big recessions that basically leveled the returns generated in the bull runs that came after each of them. Extreme volatility has been the hallmark of the markets in the first years of the 21st Century. 

I kind of knew this was going to happen way back, but not because of my master’s level coursework in finance and accounting. I knew because I understand politics and I saw what most people don’t want to admit: We are electing ideologue puppets who do not care about this country and who have put corporatists in charge of our nation. 

So, what does this mean to the retiring baby boomer generation? Just this: You’d better be careful. 

As I said, I’ve spent a bit of time lately, re-jiggering our itty bitty retirement savings. That led me to read the info on various investment web sites. One thing that struck me is the paucity of honest advice from the financial services industry for people who are actually in retirement.

Most of what’s out there is a series of useless three, four or five question risk assessment questionnaires that end in a pretty little round chart advising you to put your doh re me into set percentages of equities, bonds and maybe the side bet du jour, such as REITS or commodities. There’s usually a breakdown between percentages of international and domestic investments, but that’s about it. 

I’m not arguing that the allocations you choose between equities (read that growth and loss) and bonds (read that income) will pretty much determine how your investments ride the market. In fact, I’ll go a step further and say that almost everything you’re doing with your investments is just riding the market.

If what you are doing when you invest is riding the market, and the percentages you chose between growth (and loss) and income determine how your investment boat floats, then that makes those ridiculous questionnaires and their pie charts important. What’s scary about this is that the percentages those charts are advising are totally off for retirees. They are far too risky, and they are based on a laughably fallacious assumption. 

These savings, which are often accrued with a self discipline and self denial about money that approaches a fashion model’s discipline concerning food, may well be their owners’ best shot at all the extras and a lot of the necessities of their elder years. Without Social Security, these savings could be all they have between them and what people used to call “the poor farm.”

This pro forma advice, if taken down like the daily dose of castor oil that my grandmother’s generation once administered in the spring time, will probably yield you a reasonable-sized pot of money at the end of your working years. This outcome is nowhere near as certain as the investment websites imply, as those who had to retire in 2008 know. But that is another story.

At that point, you will find yourself looking at the numbers on your computer screen with the knowledge that this is all there is and you’d better not blow it if you don’t want to eat beans and rice for supper every day of your extreme old age. So, you turn to the “expert” advice on those websites and play copy cat with those little round charts and their color-coded percentages. 

Sadly, your actual situation and true risk aversion probably have little or nothing to do with the proportions those charts advise. The primary reasons are a fallacious premise and human nature. Let’s take the human nature part first.

The plain truth is that all people lie to themselves about themselves like they breathe. 

Those self-lies carry over into the answers you give to the three or four questions that the marketing departments of those various investment firms put out there on the internet. You will say and believe — when you are clicking answers on a questionnaire — that when the market takes a breathtaking dive for the bottom, you will not only hold your investments, you will pile more money into them. You can say that all day long when you’re answering one of those questionnaires. It won’t hurt a bit. 

But the real time pain of watching your life’s savings drop, drop, drop like a rock falling into a well is something else again. Suddenly, you’re the star of a gambling movie and you’re letting your lifetime winnings ride on the next roll of the dice. Or, you’re the driver of a car who just pulled out to pass and is staring into the headlights of an on-coming semi. 

The older you are, the more you have to lose, the less you can get back, and the harder staring into those headlights becomes. 

People duck in those circumstances, and in the parlance of the game, “lock in their losses.” 

The first rule of successful investing is “sell high.” If you can’t white-knuckle those blood-curdling dives into portfolio oblivion, you will violate that rule and sell, not only low, but historically low. You will deflate all those years of scrimping and saving and doing without with a single click of the “sell” button.

But what about the person who has no choice? What if, say, you’re actually living off those savings? What if the crumbs that are left on the table after the crash are all you’ve got? What if you have to sell to pay the bills, even if it means liquidating an unrecoverable large percentage of the fund shares you’ve labored to accumulate over the decades?

That’s the point where the advice in those little circular charts with their color-coded admonitions to buy various percentages of stock/bonds//cash/side bets become something approaching criminal. Because if you’ve done like all of us do and lied to yourself about yourself and blithely answered those questions to the gunslinger side of investing, and if you’ve then slavishly followed the advice in the little chart, you are out there with an investment portfolio whose decline you cannot stomach when it dives for the dirt. 

Oh, it was great fun when said investment portfolio was soaring toward the clouds. It felt wonderful, like winning at the annual office softball game, to check your score and see the numbers ticking off in a steady climb higher. You’d check those returns and bask in your own brilliance for being such a clever investor. 

But when the bitterness of going down the other side of that mountain begins to settle on you, it’s difficult not to feel panic settle on top of that. If you are actually in retirement, rather than preparing for it, that panic is not at all misplaced. 

If you have, as I do, kids in college and an elderly mother to care for while you are also figuring out how to keep a roof over your own head, that panic is not only a realistic response, it may very well be an emotionally accurate assessment of your situation. 

You can easily find yourself prey to the marketing advice of the disconnected minds on the other side of those little charts. They  advised you to put entirely too much of your nest egg in equities for your situation and your stomach and you did it. Now you, and not they, will pay the price.

I’ve looked at the advice out there for retirees and I believe quite strongly that it is entirely too focused on growing your money instead of spending it while conserving it. 

The recommendation to keep a certain portion of your retirement portfolio invested in growth and loss is — at least in the early years of retirement — good advice. But those questionnaires and resulting charts are way off in the percentages they are advising you to take. This is where we get to the fallacious assumption part. 

Old-school opinion was to subtract your age from 100 and put that amount in stock. Or, conversely, to put your age in bonds and cash. Either way, the whole scenario was based on the assumption that the human life span ended at 100. It further assumed that people in retirement have less time to make up losses and a need to liquidate assets on a regular basis in order to live off them. 

Today’s financial gurus quarrel with that assumption. They claim — with straight faces — that, because “people are living longer than they used to,” we should change the formula and base it on 120. Subtract your age from 120, they tell you, and put that amount in bonds. Put the rest in stock. “Keep your money working for you” by being “100% invested,” which is to say, eschew cash entirely. 

All this is based on that magically altered number: 120. This new number, on which the investment industry has millions of nurses, welders, middle management types and professionals betting their retirements, is supposed to reflect the “fact” that “people are living longer” these days. 

As if. 

How many 120 year old grannies do you know?

The truth is, we’re not living longer. Fewer people are dying young. Our so-called longer life span is just an average that reflects the fact that stable government, better nutrition, vaccines, antibiotics and anesthesia which allows advances in surgery is giving more people the chance to live out their full span of years.  

Don’t let these ludicrous claims about “people living longer” persuade you to Invest like you’re in your mid 50s and have a dozen years to work, when you’re really bumping against 70 and drawing down those savings. That’s fantasy investing. It can leave you broke and sucking air at the precise time of your life that you scrimped and saved to provide for in the first place. 

In my opinion, if you need to invest percentages in growth and loss that are as high as these websites advise in order to have enough money, you are not ready to retire. You need to change something on a more fundamental level than your portfolio allocation.

Perhaps you should become a one car family, or clip the cable tv, get your books and periodicals at the library and start thinking about visits with the relatives in a nearby state instead of high dollar tours of foreign lands. Maybe it’s time to give up eating out every night and replacing automobiles, appliances and computers while they are still working perfectly well. 

In addition to telling you to invest in portfolio allocations that are too risky for your age, a lot of these web sites also advise you to keep on working ad infinitum to “let your savings grow.” They use a full-blown oxymoron to describe this: “Working retirement.”

Get a part-time job they say, or maybe even a full-time job. To which I reply once again, 

As if. 

Are you saving in order to have money to retire, or are you saving to grow money for itself?

Do you really want to be an old coot, sacking groceries in your “working retirement?” Is that your big plan that you’ve been saving for, to work until you drop? 

Whatever it takes, you need to get that growth and loss portion of your portfolio down to the point that those dives into the dirt level off and become dips in the air. You need a big chunk of your money in cash, even if it’s not earning anything, so that when the plumbing breaks or the kids need tuition or Mama has to have a hearing aid you can chin it without being forced to sell low. 

And you need to pare your expenses so that these sensibly invested savings, plus Social Security and whatever pension you might have, will keep you going. 

Someone should put a big red Stop! sign in front of those questionnaires and their little pie charts. Because they ask the wrong questions and they are based on fallacious premises. They give dangerous advice to vulnerable people. 

They should really be asking you things like how much money will you get from other sources besides this little pot of gold you’ve saved? Do you, or will you by the time your retire, own your home? Are you saddled with short-term debt such as credit card debt and department store loans? How many miles do you put on your car each year? How healthy are you? Is your house energy efficient? What are your human liabilities: Do you have aged parents to care for, kids to educate, a disabled spouse or child? 

And oh yes, what will you do when the markets tank? What is your contingency plan for the days, months, weeks and years when the whole thing craters and you are left holding a couple of quarters on the dollar of what you had before? Because it will. The only thing uncertain is when. 

Sure. It has historically always come back. 

In time. 

But how are you gonna live while the tide is out?  

The real questions, as far as risk is concerned, are (1) how much (and how long) of a dive can you take without cutting and running, and (2) how will you fare while your savings are bottom feeding? Remember: It took 10 years for the markets to come back after the crash of 1929. That’s scary stuff. But it is also a fact. 

The difference now is the leveling influence of Social Security and unemployment compensation on the economy. No matter what happens, Social Security keeps pumping money into the economy. People tend to forget that, but the “earnings” of Social Security and unemployment compensation act much the same way on the economy that dividends act on stocks. They level out the troughs. 

Your questions of personal survival in the choppy waters of macro trends are only partially based on the psychology that says that you and everyone else gives wonky answers on those little questionnaires. There is a bottom line here and it’s hard as concrete. How do you plan to survive and keep your obligations during those down times?

There are answers to these questions, but you won’t find them in the boring and simplistic advice being churned out by investment firms’ marketing pages. Even in retirement, investment firms are advising you to swing for the fences.

That’s bad advice. Get that growth and loss portion (stocks) down to manageable levels. Raise the income-producing portion (bonds) and non-productive but safe cash portion up accordingly.

If you’re in need of a formula, the traditional advice to keep your age in bonds and cash and put the rest in stocks is time-tested and simple.You don’t need an advanced degree to figure it out, and, unlike the advice coming from those little charts, it’s based on your reality.

Don’t worry about what-ifs like whether or not interest rates will rise. If you have cash, that’s more money for you, and if your bonds fall, they’ll keep paying themselves interest and buying more shares of themselves in the bond fund and, well, you and compounding will win out in the longer while. The trick is, don’t sell them while they’re low.

Which goes back to cash. I can’t emphasize enough that you need to keep a chunk in cash so you can live, no matter what. Assess your real-life responsibilities. Put yourself on both a short-term and a long-range budget. Ignore those questionnaires and their cutesy little pie charts. Make sure your Congressperson knows that anybody or any political party that messes up Social Security is going out the door, feet first. 

Then fold up the investment planning for a year and get back to living.

All will be well. 

Last Vote

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. 



Last Day

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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.

Pope Emeritus: What Does He Do?

I found this on the fine blog, iCatholicSalmon. Check them out.

Pope Benedict XVI Will Resign

The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, announced that he will resign, effective February 28.

A conclave to elect a new pope will convene in March. According to the Associated Press, this is the first papal resignation in 600 years.

My prayers go with His Holiness as he moves into retirement. My mother is two years older than he is. I have often thought about the Holy Father as I have cared for her. To be honest, I did not see how he — or anyone his age — could handle the tumultuous affairs of state that must be necessary for a pope to administer.

I am grateful to him for the years of faithful service to Our Lord that he has given us. He has remained true to the Gospels and 2,000 years of Christian teaching in the face of criticism and what must have been painful attacks.

I hope that this retirement comes in time for him to have at least a few years of quiet and happiness on this earth before he goes to heaven.

Deacon Greg Kandra has written an excellent news roundup of this announcement. I encourage you to go here to read it. 

The announcement from Vatican radio is below. 

From the Vatican Radio website:

Pope Benedict XVI on Monday said he plans on resigning the papal office on February 28th. Below please find his announcement.

Full text of Pope’s declaration

Dear Brothers,
I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me. For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.

Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.

From the Vatican, 10 February 2013


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