Sunday, January 22, 2017

Million Women March

So many thoughts are running through my head the day after the Million Women March. As I type, I am tired and wondering what my next step should be. I'd like to first reflect on what yesterday meant to me.

The March began because the day after the election a woman from Hawaii said she was upset and wanted to do something. She posted the day after the election she and a few of her friends were going to fly to DC to march. The idea behind the march was not to be a "protest" but to show the new President we are here and we are watching his moves. 

That one post on November 9 grew into 600 sister marches AROUND THE WORLD, with estimates ranging from 210,000 in DC (the official number released by the police department, but having been there, I feel is really low) to 500,000 on the Mall (which I did not reach) to 1.2 million if you include everyone trying to get on the Mall in DC alone. 

My friends turned out globally to be seen and to be heard. I did a FaceBook survey and made notes on FB posts, so the numbers could be much larger. I had friends marching in Washington, DC; Topeka, Kansas; Lansing Michigan; Trenton, NJ; Boston; Denver, CO; Philadelphia; New York City; Chicago; San Jose, California; Seattle; Australia; and England. That's just me and my representation of over 600 FB friends (many of whom don't post). In the words of our new President, this was YUUUGGEE!

Early numbers I have seen say 20,000 in Phoenix, 500,000 in NYC, 6,000 in Trenton, over 100,000 in Boston (planned for 25,000), and 30 in Antarctica (researchers already there, but wanted all seven continents represented). Early numbers said 2 million globally, but if 1.2 million were in DC alone, that number is probably much higher. I heard Los Angeles had 500,000 and that Chicago was the second largest march in the United States. I heard there were more people marching for rights in the USA yesterday than marched against BREXIT (read on the BBC website). 

HERE is a link to a spreadsheet a friend of a friend created to show the various counts.

Some pictures. I don't agree with all of the signs, but as I opted to carry a camera and not a sign, I won't criticize. I'll let the day unfold via photos.

Our bus of 55 people --mostly women, mostly all with pussy hats, signs, food, and encouragement.

Wishing I wore my hat into the first rest stop.
I did at the last one, and heard someone else say she wished she was wearing hers.
At the wee hours of Saturday morning, I-95 was a caravan of buses. The first rest stop was packed, so we skipped ahead to the second one (the Chesapeake House) where the women outnumbered the men by about a 1:100 ratio. We commandeered the men's room (with the permission of the rest stop employees). Everyone was polite and energized, even for such an early hour. We found out later though we tried to rush, we were there about an hour (vs. 17 minutes for the much emptier rest stop on the way home).

 From here we hit a traffic jam as we crossed the Susquehanna River. There were buses broken down, unfortunately one of the the three busloads I was with broke down on the highway due to a loose radiator cap. Kudos to Starr Tours for having a repairman only 10 minutes away from us in Maryland who could get the bus back on their way.

Our first impression of the event was that it was very well organized. Parking at RFK Stadium at 10:25 AM was easy. Heidi, our organizer, pre-reserved our parking. There were plenty of empty port-o-pots and lots of cheerful volunteers. As we walked the two miles to the march crowds were flowing. As we got closer to the mall we found out the stage from the day before was still set up (it was supposed to be down by then).
We were diverted to Independence Avenue, a move from which we were not able to recover. Barbara, my buddy for the day, was trying to meet up with her sister, Katie. Cell phone service was spotty. Turns out Katie's phone was on its last bit of battery life when we finally met up with each other. 

Pictures from the March:

Heidi and her mom Carleen. Heidi organized our Hopewell group.

Some signs referencing Hamilton quotes.


I made it! Didn't make it to the front.

Bet they walked in that order all day long.

Perhaps my favorite!

This was about as close to the Mall as I got. We stood in front of the Department of Education at 6th and Independence for nearly an hour waiting for the actual March to begin. We could see the Jumbo-tron, but could only catch a few words here and there. The mood was a little tired, after all most people had traveled quite a distance to get there, yet also festive. we were near food trucks. The lines for the bathrooms were very, very long. At 1:38 a general chant of "March! March! March! March!" went out. Enough of standing, time to start moving. Unfortunately it is really hard to get up to 1.2 million people out to start walking at the exact same time.

Out of the mouths of babes (her mom encouraged us to take her picture)

After and hour of standing around we moved closer to the Mall. The first street we turned down we were told as only for medical needs, not to get to the Mall (though we could see it). The second street (where this was taken) was also blocked off. People started marching in the opposite direction just to move. We could see the buildings, but we couldn't get there. Others were telling us they heard the "march" part of the March was cancelled because there were way too many people to fit. I can believe that.

When Barbara and I started the day we knew we would need to allow at least an hour to get back to the bus by 3:50. We signed waivers saying if we were late, the bus would leave without us at 4. Kate and her husband, Kent, offered to drive her sister home because Barbara had to preach the next morning. They had room in their car for me. It was good to have a back up plan, but that would have been a huge inconvenience for Kate and Kent. By 2:30 we realized the march wasn't happening. We were in front of a building where Kent worked. He knew there was a subway station across the street. As we crossed that street I saw this band of people marching. I really wanted to join them, but I also knew it was safest for me to stick with my buddy. Barbara was ready to meditate on the day and prepare herself for preaching in the morning. We had no idea even with the subway how long would it take to return to the bus (mind you, we were told earlier taking the subway to the start would be an hour, and others had told me similar tales of woe with mass transit from that day). We timed it right, and made it to our subway stop in 15 minutes. We even had empty forward facing seats for the ride. 

Before boarding the subway, I saw this sign:

Thank you to the women of Hawaii for starting this incredible movement. I am glad I can always say I was there.

The mood was calm and peaceful. Women vastly outnumbered men 100:1 (look, it is a total guess on my part). The atmosphere reminded me of when I do women's only (or womencentric) races. Sure we bumped into each other and stepped on toes (it was very crowded) but people apologized and made sure the other person was okay. The sea of pink hats was amazing! Someone tried to equate Trump supports' red "Make America Great" hats to the pink pussy hats. The big difference is the red hats were made in China and were sold. The pink hats were lovingly made by women and distributed for free.

Back at the bus I spoke with some of the others. Many had similar experiences to ours -- as much as they tried they could not get to the Mall, and wanted to be back on time. Some did make the Mall (yes, I am so jealous!) and also made it to the bus an hour after us (still on time as we were over an hour early to the bus). They also walked back, which I wish I had felt I could do, but was afraid of not making it back in time after swimming upstream for two miles.

Heidi did an awesome job organizing the day. She prepared goody bags for us with pins from Penzey's Spice, homemade breakfast bars, hand and foot warmers (thankfully not needed), extra pussy hats (gratefully accepted and worn), and a Ghiradelli dark chocolate square that was much appreciated on the ride home.

The big question is now that we have acknowledged there is a problem, what can we do about it? I've started by signing online petitions. My next step will be to call my representatives to both tell them how I hope they will vote (they are not mind readers) and to THANK them for the times they have voted the way I want them to. I've met Bonnie Watson Coleman, so instead of calling a stranger, I'll feel as if I am calling a friend.

One final thought, one of the participants said "Today feels like the beginning and not the end."

Friday, January 20, 2017

Prayer Vigil

As the latest man was inaugurated to the highest job in our country, we attended a prayer vigil at Shiloh Baptist Church in Trenton hosted by our congresswoman, Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman and Dr. Rev. Darrell Armstrong.

I have no idea how they were able to pull it off so quickly. The church was filled. Rather than spending a lot of time researching details, I'm going to write tonight and hopefully find some good links in the next few days. I'm hoping to find a news story about the vigil, and a link to the service. Bear with me.

Seventeen different religious leaders spoke from a wide variety of religions -- Hindu, Baptist, Lutheran, Islamic, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, and Episcopal. Looking at the list I am surprised I do not see any Jewish names on the list. They prayed on a wide variety of topics from unity, to our leaders, for healthcare, immigration, education, and environment (and more). Their choir sang patriotic tunes. The Pledge of Allegiance was spoken. It was incredibly moving and powerful.

I tried to take a few notes, which is hard to do discretely while also praying. It is how I listen.

 Our congresswoman for the 12th district opened by by encouraging us to "leave here with hope and feel unity. Today we shall pray tomorrow we shall march!" She is planning to march in Trenton tomorrow while I am heading to DC in only six hours. She wore suffragist white and in the lobby as we entered her staff handed out purple unity ribbons for unity. Shiloh Baptist Church is her home church. She serves as a Deaconess. Her husband, William Coleman, is a retired pastor from Shiloh.

Next up was Rev. Armstrong. He spoke about building bridges not walls. He also told us their church regularly meets at noon on Fridays, and we are invited back next week, too. "There is no religious litmus test to be an American," he stated emphatically. May it always continue to be so.

The Pastor at Union Baptist Church, Rev. Simeon Spencer, was tasked with praying for our leaders. "Out of the minds of those in charge leads so much to our own feelings of being unsettled. God we believe you are able [to make changes happen? should have taken better notes] even as we are afraid."

Though the preachers did not seem to repeat scriptures cited, or  situations (which is amazing with 17 people being asked to speak at the last minute) and overarching theme was that God is in control. We can't sit back and do nothing, but ultimately he is in charge. 

When Rev. Mark Broach, the pastor at Trenton Deliverance Center, spoke about education, he said "the President may change, but our God remains the same."

Bishop Earl Jenkins from True Servant Worship and Praise Church led us in the Pledge of Allegiance before praying for justice. "Liberty and justice for all, regardless of who is in charge of the nation." The choir then sang "My Country 'tis of Thee."

Rev. J. Stanley Justice, pastor at Mount Zion AME Church, prayed for workers protection. "It is good to gather together, better to scatter where the real work" needs to be done.

Rev. Delores Watson, Pastor, First Congregational Christian United Church of Christ, prayed for healthcare. She reminded us that "health care has always been important to God the healer," then she cited situations (including Namaan the non-believer) when Jesus healed people.

Rev. Mark Johnson, from St. Michael's Episcopal Church in Trenton (where we once attended a meeting about gun violence) encouraged us to "tear down the barriers others build around us and give us the strength the strive for equality and reason." He spoke for equality, but said it was hard for him to find examples of equality as he kept thinking of situations of inequality.

Bonnie Watson Coleman's husband Rev. William Coleman led the final prayer, the prayer for our nation. He was followed by Rev. Armstrong who said a friend of his told him to pretty much get over it and stop spewing hate from the pulpit. He said he was going to report back to his friend that no hate was spewed, in fact the new President's name was only spoken a couple of times at the end, instead we gathered together to pray for everyone. "Our actions will speak louder than our words." He added "this was not an admonishment, but a prayer that God will endure.

Our congresswoman ended with "I am hoping we are leaving more uplifted than when we came." Indeed I was more uplifted, but stepping into the cold rainy day it was easy to feel down again. The past few months have been draining. Don lost his job. He had open heart surgery. Ashley seems to have lost her confidence. I feel like I spend much of my time cheerleading and encouraging others around me. It was uplifting to hear someone else be the cheerleader to me (and a huge group of people).

The enormity of tomorrow is catching up with me. I hope to blog about tomorrow's march in the next couple of days. I'm not bringing a sign. Instead I'll be armed with my camera and a pen and paper. Pray for our safety.

Inauguration Night

It is 10 PM and I have pre-race jitters, only I am not running in a race tomorrow. Instead I am joining 200,000 or more people in Washington, DC to show Donald Trump what we look like. We who did not vote for him (or maybe some who did, but now regret it). We who took offense when he insulted everyone from a disabled reporter to all women to anyone who does not agree 100% with him. How did we get to this point? When did it become okay to insult people. More than okay, but encouraged by the new leader of our country. Why did it become okay? Why was it okay for senators to say for over a year they would not consider anyone President Obama put up as a Supreme Court Justice, but they found it okay to work until 1:30 AM to dismantle healthcare for most of the people in the country (not them, though, they have the best health care in the land)? 

Despite hating crowds, and probably needing a gazillion deep breaths tomorrow, and being fearful that though I intend to be peaceful and worry about some of the other people, I am going. I'm hoping on a bus at 4:30 AM led Heidi and going to Washington, DC with 166 of her friends (new and old). 

I doubt I will sleep much tonight. I'll probably wake up every half an hour afraid I overslept. I've made a list for tomorrow. I've made breakfast, lunch, and dinner to take with me, along with four Kind bars. I remind myself I am not going to a Third World country (er, Developing Nation) as I pack. I have my Cousin Sara's phone number in case something happens.

Pray for my safety. Pray for the safety of those of us with peaceful intentions. We just want to show (peacefully) that when you try to take away our rights, we will unite.

"Snowflake" has become a term to show how "fragile" those of us who are not ready to accept him as president. Tomorrow we show what us "snowflakes" can do when we band together. Just as real snowflakes can shut down cities when they band together, us metaphorically speaking ones can also make government shut down.

I recently heard 370 of these marches are planned all around the globe. That is a lot of snowflakes.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Countries Visited

Because this comes up in conversation every so often, thought I would create an official list of countries I have been to so far. Since crossing the International Date Line I've wanted to cross the equator (open for suggestions). I'd also like to go to Africa.

  1. Canada
  2. Iceland
  3. England
  4. France
  5. Belgium
  6. Luxembourg
  7. Switzerland
  8. West Germany (visited while separated)
  9. Germany (visited post unification)
  10. Holland/Netherlands
  11. Portugal
  12. Italy
  13. Vatican City
  14. Japan
  15. Cuba
  16. Mexico
Dream new places (no particular order):
Spain -- in particular Barcelona
Somewhere south of the equator -- someone suggested Bali
Somewhere in Africa

2016 Bonfire

2016 started off as a pretty good year, but in mid-October it tanked. On the 18th Don learned he was being laid off from Comcast. On the 19th he officially scheduled his open heart surgery. The mood around the house soured. Ashley didn't get into the first two plays. For the first time she had to really study, and even that wasn't a guarantee of straight As. She had her first Bs since 3rd grade when she adjusted to traditional school after being homeschooled for two years. My freelance work all but dried up. 

As much as we tried to focus on the positive (everyone was still alive, and Don has been recovering nicely post-surgery), we still struggle with why hasn't he gotten any nibbles on his job search? How can I focus on building a business when much of my energy is going to building up Don and Ashley? Why did Hillary Clinton win the popular vote, yet still lose to Donald Trump? What will having the Republicans in charge of EVERYTHING do to our country?

It is with the backdrop of these feelings of frustration that the annual Hogamany bonfire took place. Let me back up, first we went to the one taking place during Patriot's Week. It looked like this:

See the bonfire on the far right?

The roaring bonfire I was expecting was barely had a flame in the backyard BBQ.

This is what we are used to seeing:

Even this seemed smaller than we are used to seeing. We arrived as it was being lit. We found out due to the heavy winds they wanted us to stay away further and requested we hand our notes to the firemen before it was lit. Fortunately once things settled down we were allowed to add them to the fire. On the positive, we were encouraged to add our WISHES for 2017, and not just our GRIPES about 2016.

Ashley went to Maia's house. We met up with Nancy and Nate. Also saw Angela and her family, Melissa, and Michael and Rachel. It seemed to be a quieter crowd than usual. It also seemed to burn down faster than usual, fortunately it did not burn into the adjacent woods.

Here are a few pictures: