Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Bernie or Bust? Why Hillary's A Must.

I have been thinking about it, and I think that perhaps my first blog for the New Year should be about why I am so dedicated to voting for Hillary Clinton and not Bernie Sanders. I think that there are a lot of important factors that people who are voting for Bernie are not considering.

First of all, when Bernie goes on a national stage and flat out admits that he is a socialist, this is bad. If he wins the nomination, and he is running against Donald Trump, this puts us in a very divisive place. We have a very conservative, divisive person, running against a self proclaimed socialist. When you think about our last election, where we debated firing Big Bird, this seems like this is a dangerous scenario. Especially when there are many who proclaim that if Hillary doesn't win the ticket, they won't vote at all.

I am concerned that Bernie has no real plan. When he is asked how he will push through his grand ideas, he says that he will rely on the masses to rise up and have a revolution. This doesn't make sense to me. This isn't how we get things done in America. We don't just have protests and revolt, that's not the whole process. What about what happens next? We still have to make new laws and actually change things. He is too divisive, he won't be able to work with the Republicans in congress and get anything done. He doesn't know how to do that and he has no desire to do that. I don't see anything he promises actually coming to pass.

I am also concerned that Bernie has no experience. He simply does not have the resume that Hillary does. He has not had the opportunity to meet with and develop the relationships with the overseas leaders that Hillary has, and he does not have the intricate knowledge of their relationships with each other that she does. As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton developed and maintained these relationships and has key knowledge that Bernie simply does not have. In a world teetering on the edge of possible world wars... this knowledge is too good to pass up.

In 2008, I was disappointed when Barrack Obama won the election, because I felt that too many times women like Hillary Clinton have been passed over for jobs that they were well qualified for, by men who were younger and less qualified. I was eventually won over by Barrack Obama, and happy to have him as my president... but I am just as happy right now to have Hillary as my candidate right now in 2016.

I feel that Hillary has the best resume, the most experience, the best chance of passing the most effective legislation while acting as president, and the best chance of getting reelected. When she was asked about how she felt about Bernie's stance on socialism she said that she respected it but that she believed that she supported capitalism and finding ways to support small business in America. I think that that is the right answer. That is the smart answer. That is the answer that can beat Donald Trump. That is the answer that can follow an election where they debated whether we should fire Big Bird, and win.

When Hillary is asked how she will get things done, she says she will work with both sides of the aisle to enact legislation that works. That sounds like an impossible thing to do. And in very nearly is, but I believe that if anyone can do it, she can. I also believe that this is the right answer. It is better than Donald Trump's bullying. It's better than Bernie's revolution. It's the way we get things done in America.

Hillary's experience and resume top every candidate running across the board. Nobody can beat her. She has been a First Lady, a Senator, and a Secretary of State to list a few of her many accomplishments. Her experiences have prepared her in a very unique way for the presidency. She can bring to the White House what no one else can, first hand knowledge of the White House, knowledge of the Senate, and knowledge of the Secretary of State's office and the art of diplomacy. We certainly need someone versed in the art of diplomacy right now.

When you also consider issues like women's rights, and the fact that Hillary will work tirelessly to close gun show loopholes, I cannot help but stand by my candidate. Of course, I know that not voting for Bernie, should he win the nomination, is essentially voting for the Republican nominee. So, should he win the nomination, I will vote for Bernie. I highly encourage every Democrat to seriously think about this as well. If your candidate does not win the nomination, you should still vote for the other candidate, because not voting is like choosing to vote for the Republican - and nobody wants that.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Helen Wilson - A Eulogy

My Granny, Helen L. Wilson, born Helen Lucille Dickson, in Red Cloud Nebraska on September 12, 1930 passed away July 24th. She was 84 years old. In her time here on earth she showed herself to be a very dynamic woman, traveling the world nearly sixty times while raising a family. 
On August 5, 1949, Granny married the love of her life, Tom Wilson, whom I call Grampy. In 1951 their first child, my Aunt Marsha, was born, followed in 1958 by my Dad, Tom Lee Jr. 
In 1964 Granny and Grampy purchased a ranch outside Ft. Laramie, Wyoming. Throughout the family's world travels over the following decades this would serve as a beacon of home, though it would take many years to build their final ranch house, corral and ranch that it is today.
 In 1966 Grampy got a job for US AID that would lead them on their world travels. Their first stop was Kunduz, Afghanistan, where Granny homeschooled Dad in second grade. Dad remembers this fondly. He gives this as proof that she was a dynamic woman, "she taught me Greek mythology in Kunduz, Afghanistan when I was in the second grade, she was amazing." 
Front door of ranch house, with list of places Granny has lived, Kabul, Saigon, Taipei, Katmandu,  Vientiane, Washington DC, Columbo and Dhaka... as well as their latitude, longitude, and miles from home.
Granny went on to live in Kabul, Saigon, Taipei, Katmandu, Vientiane, Washington DC, Columbo, And Dhaka... And that's just the official list. Dad says that wherever they lived Granny always joined the local women's organizations, checked in with the local orphanages to see what they needed, and otherwise oversaw the local communities to see that she did whatever she could to help. Dad chuckles as he remembers that she always gave away his toys to the orphanages when they moved, and that he learned to pack his toys in his suitcase. 
He recalls many dinners where she was hostess to people who were in the Peace Corp in the area, those who were homesick and wanted a hot meal that reminded them of home. Granny, ever the hostess, was happy to oblige. Dad said he had many meals of hot goat and rice with these men. He remembers how she always smiled. 
Granny wasn't always a hostess. Sometimes she was a nurse. Dad recalls that one time a boy had a contusion on his head and Granny stitched him right up. Though I cannot remember the specifics of any of the stories well enough to recount them here I have heard other tales of her doctoring locals. I know that she has helped women with sick and starving babies, some who died. She has helped with all kinds of things like that, she was very kind. 
While her family traveled, it was often split up. With the kids in school in one place or another, Grampy working hard, sometimes in places Granny could not go.  This left often Granny in another place, holding down the fort. It amazes me that a small town girl from Fort Laramie, Wyoming in that time, was able to cope with the wonders and horrors of the third world. She did it while managing a family, and she often did it alone. 
In the late seventies and early eighties my aunt and dad came home to the states to go to school. The met their spouses. They got married. They graduated from college. Granny was the most traveled member of our family because she always found a way to make it to the important events in people's lives. She traveled the world to ensure she was at her children's graduations and weddings.
At Mom and Dad's wedding, Granny did not smile much. Mom though maybe she was unhappy. For decades she thought this. Thirty four years later, when my Mom got her dentures, Mom was talking about them and Granny mentioned that she did not like her teeth either. She said that that's why she did not fully smile in photographs, including the ones at Mom and Dad's wedding. This was sad because Granny had a beautiful smile. She always struck me as a woman who knew what was what, and had all the confidence in the world, so learning that she had this bit of vanity surprised me. It showed me that yes, my Granny was human just like everybody else. 
Speaking of knowing "what was what," - that was a family saying because of Granny. When Dad was in preschool he had a truck he took to school to play with. He did not want to share it. The teacher complained. Granny said, well he knew what was what. Ever since that has been a saying in our family. It has been used to encourage individuals in our family to stand up for ourselves, to never back down, to always remember that we know what is what. This is an example of how she always stood up for her kids, and her family. 

This was a special photo because Laura was in it.  She was not in Wyoming often.
With both children she developed a special relationship. Granny was so personable that she got along with everybody. She even got along with her children's friends. In her fifties she visited Dad in his frat house and got along with all his "brothers." In her eighties she went to New Mexico and hung out with Marsha and her friends at the bar and fit right in. Granny was so pleasant that she made friends with all of Dad and Marsha's friends. 
Well, not always -  sometimes she spoke her mind and got on their nerves. The first time she ever met my mother, Mom was dating someone else. They came to visit Dad at his frat house while Granny was there and brought beer. Granny nagged them about the beer. It got on Mom's nerves and Mom said, "I don't even listen to my own mom while I am in college, why should I listen to you?" Mom remembers this moment very clearly as a moment she wishes she could take back. She wishes she had said something else as her first thing to her future mother in law... But I think it is a classic moment for them, as they butted heads for decades. That is why it was so special when nearly thirty years later Mom was crying over a fight with her step mom and Granny said that Mom would always be welcome at the ranch because she was family. Earning the status of family in Granny's eyes was a big deal. Only she, Craig and those born to the family by blood ever accomplished this feet. 
In 1983 I was born. When I was five months old, we traveled to where she was staying in Virginia for Christmas. She had a little playpen where I learned to pull myself up. Dad said I was a force of nature. He said I get that from my Granny. I don't remember the first time I met my Granny, but Dad says she has always loved me and I believe him. 
In 1985 Grampy was officially moved stateside and retired. My sister Laura was also born. I believe that they were there for Laura's birth. This was the year that Granny and Grampy moved back to the ranch and began building the ranch house. Granny put in her share of blood sweat and tears into that ranch house, digging fence post holes and working alongside everyone else. 
Laura and I have many special memories of Granny too. We remember her breaking out all the old dolls and other toys from storage for us and playing alongside us. We remember the smell of a new box of crayons that she bought special each summer for us. We remember the time that Laura got bit by a horsefly and we both sat screaming unsure of what to do and Granny came from the house with a magazine, killed it, and went back in to the house without a word. 
To me, it seemed that Granny always knew what to do like that. She was very matter of fact, very knowledgable, very quick on her feet. On matters important to her, she was well informed, carefully researched, and highly opinionated. She read two or three newspapers every day, watched the news often, and worked hard to keep herself informed. She was funny, when she would pish posh at a senator or politician she did not like. She was a devoted democrat. She donated to the party, and voted "D" down the line, religiously, but when you talked to her you would find out that she really was not very liberal. She was complicated like that. 
The pillow with the fishes on it.
Laura's memories also include waking up early on summer mornings to the smell of breakfast cooking and hearing Granny speaking softly to Rexy saying, "Well, come along now." She remembers the intimate, quiet, gentle, voice she used with Rex and all her animals. She also remembers riding in the backseat of Granny's green Lincoln, and how we used to cuddle with her green pillow with the fishes on it and dig through her purse for candy. Granny always had a tin of little fruit flavored mints or a roll of Worther's original caramels tucked away. 
One of Granny's favorite things in the world to do was shop. In Virginia, there were big department stores, and she really loved to peruse them. Here in Wyoming she seemed to really like to go to the thrift shops and seek out the best deals. All of my life Granny has sent care packages with her thrift shop deals, specially hand picked for me and Laura inside. This tradition has continued. One of the last things she ever did was buy a few snap button western cut shirts for my sons from the local thrift shop. I bawled like a baby when Mom gave them to me, knowing that these were my last care package from her, I stuck my nose in the bag smelling them, knowing exactly what they would smell like, as Granny has always used the same detergent, and everything from her house has the slight scent of mothballs. It will be hard to even take these shirts out of the bag and allow the kids to use them, as I have the urge to just keep them in the bag and smell them forever. 
Here I am with Granny and Laura, dressed in a full Tommy 

I remember when I was perhaps, 18, Granny drove me all the way into town to Cheyenne. She took me to Dillard's and told me I could have whatever I wanted and we spent the afternoon shopping together. I remember that I picked two pairs of jeans, one with a cherry patterned belt, the other a pair of Tommy Hilfiger pants. The brand was a special one for us. It was popular at my school in middle school when Granny, who always bought the brand name of things at the thrift shop, bought me a pair of jeans when I was perhaps 13. I hopped up and down and paraded through the ranch house singing about my new Tommy Hilfiger jeans. She spent the rest of her life sending me every Tommy product she found at a thrift shop, remembering that it made me happy. 
That's how she was, she liked to make people happy. I remember that one summer she was late doing her grocery shopping when we came to visit. I went with her to Torrington as she picked up the few items she felt she needed if we were going to be there. She picked up Laura and Mom's favorite Dorothy Lynch salad dressing. She got Dad coffee. And she got me pickles and bologna. She bought these things even though she normally does not keep them on hand in her kitchen, to be sure that we each had our favorite things while we visited. She wanted us to be happy. 
Laura recalls that Granny wasn't just that way with people. When she took her table scraps out to the animals, she always remembered which scrap which animal liked best. She remembered that the llama might like the cantaloupe rinds best, while the horse likes the carrots for example. 
While Granny liked to make others happy, it wasn't often that you caught her laughing or smiling. She had a hard shell. I remember vividly the first time she laughed out loud in front of me. Dad was driving the Lincoln. He rolled down her window as we approached a sprinkler on her side of the car and made it so that she got sprayed by the water. She laughed and hollered, "Oh, Tom Lee!" It was very funny. 
While I always pictured Granny as a stoic person, she proved herself to me as someone who had many emotions. In 1998, or perhaps 1999, the corral burned down, killing many of the sheep and destroying the property. Granny, while taking this in stride, was obviously devastated. She has always been the one to take care of the lambs, to bottle feed them around the clock, to ensure they come in at dark, ect... And she secretly loved them all. I was very proud of the way Granny and Grampy rebuilt the corral and the flock. It took time and investment and heart. 
When it comes to things that take time and investment and heart, Granny was always good at that. I think this is most clearly shown in her relationship with her children who were both absolutely devoted to her. I think that it could be said that Granny was Marsha's best friend. They worked and traveled and shopped and did everything together. They spoke every day, they shared everything. They were very close, as was Dad who often spoke to Granny near daily and shared nearly everything with her. 
Granny loved getting family photographs like this taken.  At almost every family gathering, we took one.

I myself had had a strange relationship with Granny. As with all my relationships as a teenager, my relationship with Granny in my teenage years was volatile. While it was hard for me to understand and get along with her, there was always effort on her part. We still had some very special and endearing times. Still, It took years to repair my being a teenager. I feel that in the last five years or so, Granny and I have become very close. I have particularly enjoyed sharing the experience of being a mother with her. I have watched her interact with my sons, and that has been special. She has told me she loves me and is proud of me. I will always treasure and hold on to that. 
To speak of Granny in the past tense is a difficult thing. Perhaps the most difficult thing of all is imagining the head of her table empty she has always been the hostess, Mother, Granny, the head of the table. The one who set the pace for all of us. The one who put breakfast on the table, and Grampy's meds, and Dad's coffee and Daniel's syrup and of course... The fruit. How will we start our day without the fruit? It seems impossible to imagine navigating this life without Granny at the helm, at the head of the table, right there to tell me what to do. I can only hope that I have gathered enough of her with me, that I can carry her with me always, that I have the ability to serve her memory justly... That I can always remember the things she taught me and the times we had together and that I pass these things on to my children correctly. 
In Granny's adult life, there were were 7 of us, Tom, Tom Lee, Tammie, Marsha, Craig, Me, and Laura... We were her inner circle. We were the people who mattered to her. We were the people she let into her heart. 
As with all our family photos, there is always someone missing, because someone has to hold the camera, in this case, it's Mom.  but it's nice that this photo has Craig in it.
Beyond that, it was difficult for Granny to reach out to people. See, Granny was a tough old bird. Breaking through her shell was difficult. She did not love easily, she did not trust easily, she did not let people in with ease. The last moments of her life were difficult, but she is free now. Free to hug Aunt Bertha's neck, and walk with her, and be at peace. I think that Granny was seeking peace in her own way for a long time, and I am so grateful that her spirit has found that now. I believe that she is now able to love and have no fear. If there can be anything for us to aspire to, it can be that - true love. Love without fear. Absolute love. And that's where Granny is now. Wrapped in the arms of her Aunt Bertha, experiencing true, absolute love without fear and I can be at peace with that until I see her on the other side.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Wyoming GOP Sells Out Kid's Education To Big Oil Profit

climate scienceLast night as I read the evening paper I found myself in a full on fit. I was waving my arms, spitting and cussing and my poor husband sat there in disbelief, wondering what on earth had set me off because I was so upset that I wasn't making any sense in my rantings. Finally, I slowed down and explained that the Wyoming Tribune Eagle had an article, "Science Standards Get Second Chance" which describes how the state GOP is working against setting science standards or even allowing them to be debated by the State Board of Education. House Bill 23, will create a Next Generation Science Standard for the state and will advance to state Senate where it will have to clear a vote in committee and three votes on the floor before it can pass the legislature. It was infuriating that Rep. Scott Clem opposed climate change and evolution as "junk science." It was absolutely disgraceful that he also said the standards are "flawed" because they state that climate change is caused by humans. But I took all that in stride. What I couldn't take came from Minority Floor Leader Rep. Mary Throne. She said, "I don't think it's a killer to our energy industry to allow a discussion to proceed, and I think it's fair to say that we can trust our state board to tweak the language that many of us find objectionable in the proposed standards." Mary hit the nail on the head. The reason that nobody wants to teach our kids science in Wyoming is because they are afraid it will threaten our energy industry. If our kids learn science, if they learn the truth, they might not bow down to the gods of oil, gas and coal. If they learn the truth they might call us out. They might choose a different path. Dear lord, don't teach them science. Don't tell them the truth. Don't give them the facts. How freakin' messed up is that? How low are the GOP's standards? They would rather keep our children in the dark, give them false information, misinformation, and let them live with a lack of information than educate them and face the consequences. They don't want our children to know that climate change exists. They don't want them to know that humans cause it. They don't want them to know that we can stop it. They don't want them to know because it would threaten the energy industry. It would threaten it's very core because kids are smart. Kids care. When kids see a wrong they want to make it right and the GOP knows it. I have an eleven year old who had to write an "I have A Dream" speech last week at school. His dream was that there would be no pollution, that there would be no animals facing extinction and that all animals would be fed and have homes. When I teach him about climate change he is concerned. He worries about the polar bears. He worries about the people who face hurricanes and other natural disasters. He asks me what he can do. Together we work to reduce our carbon footprint, and in that he feels he has made a difference and is proud. He found out about climate change, and he changed his behavior. If climate science were taught in schools, each child would have the opportunity to use his own critical thinking skills to decide how he will respond to the facts he is given. Not all of them will choose to react like my son did. Plenty will stick to drill baby drill. But some might find it in their hearts to shut off the lights when they aren't using them, walking when they can instead of driving and all the little things that add up. It's the kids' own free will as to what they do with the information. But it's our responsibility as adults to give them the information; withholding it just because we are afraid it might cut into the profit of a dirty enterprise is just shameful.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Wyoming GOP's Gay Vendetta Has Unintended Consequences

Wyoming recently joined the ranks of many other states and began issuing marriage licenses for same sex couples. This didn't sit well with the bigots in our state who began inundating local newspapers with hateful letters to the editor that local heterosexual marriages were at risk and that in general our state was going to hell in a hand basket. It isn't surprising that republican lawmakers in the state have retaliated against the new law with attempts to undermine it. The most startling manifestation of the GOP's vendetta against the LGBTQ community in Wyoming is House Bill 83, also known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. This bill would essentially legalize discrimination of all types in the state of Wyoming. The bill authorizes “defenses against governmental action that burden religious freedom.” And it states that anyone will a “sincerely held religious belief" cannot be punished in any way for refusing to perform an act unless it is “essential to further a compelling government interest.” The idea is that a photographer or wedding cake baker cannot be held liable for their discriminatory behavior if they refuse to serve a gay couple if the solicit services for a wedding on the grounds that the photographer or baker is morally compelled to decline the services due to their religion. This is shameful piss poor behavior that should not be tolerated. I cannot believe that my state is considering making this law. There is the obvious issue at hand, the shameful discrimination against the LBGTQ community encoded into law, which cannot be ignored but there are also unintended consequences. What if a doctor feels morally obligated to refuse a woman's abortion? Or a man's vasectomy? Or a child's vaccinations? What if a pharmacist refuses to dispense birth control? What if a teacher refuses to teach evolution or climate science or sexual education? What if a landlord refuses a home to someone because he's Muslim? What if a Muslim land lord evicts someone because he's Christian? Where does it end? In the rural communities of Wyoming you can't always go to another doctor, or find another pharmacist or a new teacher. There may only be one and if you are denied services you may be out of luck. Discrimination is a serious issue with serious consequences. Making it legal and giving it rights is absurd and shameful. Real people will pay real really high prices for this and for what? To protect the feelings of a bigot? To make it easier for them to hate? I say no. Not in my state. Not in the equality state. Here we treat everybody decently. Here we live by the code of the west, we look everybody in the eye and say, "Hey, I know you may be different than me but I also know that where it counts we're the same and so I am going to treat you like I would treat myself." That's how cowboys do it. They don't hide behind God as an excuse to treat other human beings badly. They don't tolerate rude behavior in each other. There is a code to the west and people who want to use God as a false sword and shield are a pitiful example of what our state stands for. We are bigger and better than that. Cowboy Code

Talking About Sex - Let 'em Be Little

gender-23777_640When I was in fifth grade, my friends were talking about sex. One friend was curious about oral sex and spoke about it in pretty vulgar terms on the school bus regularly. Another friend wanted to practice sex positions on a pillow at sleepovers. Remembering this, I started to get nervous as my son's first sleepover outside our home approached. I began to think that maybe it was time for him to have "the talk." I talked to my husband who adamantly insisted that our son was too young, and tried to convince him that kids these days were talking to their parents about these things from an early age nowadays. All I could do was get his blessing to continue on my mission to educate our son myself. Slightly overwhelmed, I started asking for advice. I started with my sister who laughed with me as we remembered how our own mother had attempted this Herculean task by being as straightforward as she could; even though her own mother hadn't spoken to her at all on the subject. Next I turned to my friends online who offered a host of advice ranging from "make it a part of frequent, every day conversations" to "Cover the basics of intercourse, aka how babies are made, buy him a book that tells him all the rest." The best advice I got was to,"tell him as much as you think he needs to know at this time; this should get as far as the part about safe and protected sex. Indicate that he can ask questions any time and then call it a time for ice cream." One friend pointed me toward a video online from the eighties. That seemed like an option, if my son seemed uncomfortable talking directly with me. Armed with the proper vocabulary, with my video waiting on cue on my iPad and my speech all scripted out in my head, I called my son upstairs to talk to me. I started out just like I had been advised... "So, I wanted to talk to you about sex and I thought maybe we could start by you telling me what you know about it." "Nothing" he grunted. "Are you embarrassed?" I asked, noticing he had already shut down. "No." "Do you want me to tell you what sex is?" "No. I am not worried about it right now." Not ready for this, I stumble a little bit. "Because you don't have to talk to me about it. If you want I have a video you can watch in private." "It's okay mom." "Alright. You don't have to talk about it if you don't want to. But I would prefer if you don't learn from your friends or the internet, so when you are ready please come to me or your daddy. If you want, you can talk to your granddad. Do you understand?" "Yeah. My friends aren't talking about it." "If they were, you wouldn't be in trouble. I just want you to have the facts. Would you be more comfortable if I got a book and you could just look at it when you were ready?" "Yes." "Ok, then that's what we'll do. Go play." And that was it. It was over almost as fast as it had begun and I never had to say the word penis. My son had led the way. He wasn't ready. It was as simple as that. I had pushed my own experiences on him and refused to see what my husband had seen all along, that my son was not me. His friends were not my friends. His experiences are not mine. Just because the kids I grew up with were shockingly advanced for their age, doesn't mean that my kid is growing up in that same world. And thank goodness for that. My son is eleven and he is still worried about video games and basketball. Oh be still my beating heart. My eyes well with tears as I am filled with gratitude and I am reminded of another piece of good advice I have been given. My dad told me long ago to let my children be little. They are only that way for a little while. You blink and suddenly they are grown. Yes, it is important to educate our children. It's important to give them the right words and the facts. It's important to give them the morals that go with those facts that will keep them well in life. But it's okay to let them be little too. It's okay to follow their lead and let them tell you when they aren't ready. There's no rush here. They have plenty of time to figure these things out without the adults in their lives hurrying things along. Let them be little for as long as they'll let you, because one day you'll be wishing that all your kid was worried about was video games and basketball.

The Angel Tree

As a mother who struggles to get by month to month, I always dread Christmas because I know that I cannot provide the gifts my children want and expect. Every year, I have to find a way to put presents under the tree with little or no resources to do so. I have successfully met the needs and wants of my children each year by utilizing the Salvation Army Angel Tree program.
This year I have tried to encourage my Facebook friends to adopt people like me from the Angel Tree program, and I was surprised to learn that many of them had an issue with the Salvation Army. There is a pervasive rumor that the Salvation Army is cruel and prejudiced in its dealings with the LGBTQ community.
When I asked Leslee Rodgers of the Las Vegas Salvation Army about that, she was outraged. She said that no matter what, their office served every need that they possibly could, without asking about sexual orientation. She was very upset that this rumor was still circulating, and said that it was just that, a rumor. The Salvation Army works to meet the needs of all people, including the LGBTQ community, with love and devotion. “We don’t ask about sexual orientation, we just ask what your needs are and work to meet those needs.”
Leslee’s office was one of the first in the nation to disperse the Angel Tree gifts this year, and they did it in a unique way. Instead of giving each family a plastic garbage bag full of gifts that may or may not be what they need and want, Leslee set up a store like setting where the parents could each come in and pick out the toys that their child would like for Christmas. She still gave away enough toys for 1,600 families (or 5,000 children), but this way each child got exactly what they wanted.
I spoke to other Angel Tree programs in Laramie Wyoming, where they will be helping 400 families, and in Denver where one of 36 Salvation Army offices will be serving 800 families, (one can only imagine how many children that multiplies out to in the city of Denver.) It is clear that there is a need for this program, and that the people who need this program are tiny people, innocent people, people who have been taught that if they wake up on Christmas morning and the tree is bare – it’s because they’ve been bad.
Yesterday, I made my annual pilgrimage to the Salvation Army to pick up my bags of gifts. With hope in my heart, I prayed that my childrens’ needs and wants were met. When I arrived I gave my name to a woman behind a desk who asked for my ID. She checked the list, and sure enough, there I was next to two boys, one 8, one 11. She ferried me through the masses of bags till she found two with our numbers on them, and I was pleased that they were nice and plump. She offered to help me carry them out and I was happy that I indeed needed help with my treasure.
Waiting on the curb for my mother, I explained that the Explorer that pulled up in front of us was not mine. I did not want her to think we were too well off. Knowingly she assured me that it was ok as she helped me load my bags in the back.
When I arrived home I carefully went through the bags. There were clothes, shoes, gloves, a winter coat, snow pants, two toys each… Yes! This will make a nice Christmas. All I have left to provide is stocking stuffers and perhaps, if I can afford it, another pair of gloves.
But wait… a little card. I opened it carefully. Inside was a hundred dollars and a note. The note was to my son. It said that he should use the money to Christmas shop for his family because the true gift of Christmas is in giving.
I waited patiently for school to let out. The hundred dollars and note burning a hole in my pocket. I could not wait for Daniel to come home from school. All the efforts of the Angel Tree program had built up to this moment. It did not matter what rumors swelled about the Salvation Army, nor whether they were true or untrue. It did not matter what politics surround the poverty-stricken people of America at Christmastime. What mattered was that my son’s true Christmas wish was about to come true.
Daniel walked through the door all bundled up and noisy. He presented me with his daily homework and papers. Finally, the moment came and I explained that I had something for him and where it came from. He took the note from me, and the money fell out. His eyebrows shot up. “For me?” he asked. “Kind of.” I said. “Read the note.” And he did. “Wow.” He said after a long pause. “I know exactly what I’m gonna get you Mom.”

Monday, November 19, 2012

Wyoming's State Director Writes Her State Representative

Dear Cynthia Lummis,

I am a domestic violence survivor. I am a Wyoming citizen. I am a wife a mother, a sister, and a daughter.

I am concerned with your choice in the vote for the HouseViolence Against Women Act. The House's version of this bill is watered down from the Senate's. The House version does not protect many women in Wyoming that are just as worthy of safety as I am as a straight, white, citizen. It does not protect lesbians, it does not protect Native American Women, nor does it protect illegal immigrants. The Senate version protects everyone and I cannot fathom why you would not vote for it.

I think of a dear friend, Jackie. She is also a mother, daughter, sister and grandmother who lives here in your state and deserves the same protections from the law that I get. Should it matter that she is a lesbian? I don't understand. Why do you vote for laws that imply that it is ok to rape or beat her?

I live in Laramie. I pass the site of Matthew Shepard's death weekly. I think about him and others like him and I tell myself that Laramie and Wyoming both learned a lesson from his loss that we promised to never forget.

Then, you make a vote like this, and I wonder if you have forgotten.

Let me remind you. We are done with hate here. We no longer choose to participate in the most vile aspect of hatred - the tolerance of injustice.  You may not be aware of it, having spent so much time in Washington, but we do not tolerate violence against anyone in Wyoming. Not even against people who love others of the same gender. Not even illegal immigrants. Not even Native Americans.

As a former victim of domestic violence, rape, sexual harassment and abuse I can tell you that the common thread in these crimes is Power. When a woman believes that no one can or will help her, she is trapped not by her abuser but the society that implicitly condones his behavior.

The reason that I must stand up, and speak out against your vote here is simple. Choosing a law that gives power to abusers over their victims is always wrong, no matter what. To seperate any group, for any reason, as unworthy of the protection of the law is offensive to a nation that knows that all of us are created equal. It is beneath the creed of our Equality State. It is a betrayal of women. It is an assault on justice.

Miss Lummis, I understand that your party pressures you to make absurd votes like this. I understand that our system doesn't always make it easy to do the right thing. The fact is that you have to stop and ask yourself what motivation you have to vote against the Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act. Are you afraid of stepping away from the party line?

You should be afraid of the rapist who finds that he can rape as often as he wants so long as he picks victims not protected by law. You should be afraid of the husband who beats his wife and tells her she has to take it because no one will protect her. You should be afraid of seeing my name beside yours on the next ballot. You should be afraid of Saint Peter and that moment, as you stare longingly at pearly white gates, when he asks you to explain why you didn't protect the women you were responsible for.

The validity of a woman's rape, or broken nose, or terrifying abuse has nothing to do with what gender she loves, what country she was born in, or what color her skin is. Next time you get a chance to vote on an issue that protects women, please make sure that you choose to protect all of us.

Sarah Zacharias
Wyoming State Director