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Saturday, October 22, 2011

These Boots Are Made for Walking

   This song came out in 1966. I was 7-years-old, but I think it was popular for quite awhile and it has even been recorded by several new artists in recent years. Around the time that this song was released, go-go boots were all the rage. I had two pairs, one in white and and one in black patent leather and I wore them up until was about aged 12. They were knee-high, tight fitting on the leg, with a club heel and a long zipper up the calf. I don't think I was the only little girl that felt the power of the go-go boots and this song! When Nancy would sing that "these boots are gonna walk all over you," I could picture myself stomping over boys that make girls cry, men who hit their wives, alcoholics who became scary when they drink, and I was going to stomp those boots all the way to college and to that high-paying job that would free me from all of the inequities that I perceived from a very young age. There was power in those boots!
   My power boots took me to technical school where I was the only girl in my electronics class. They took me to the local community college electronics program. They took me to a good-paying job as a technician and then an engineering writer. I still felt the power when I bought my own car, had credit in my own name (something women enjoy and take for granted now), and secured my own apartment. That said, I have to admit that I didn't always win the battles with men in my personal relationships. Don't get me wrong, I put up a good fight. Sometimes I won, most times I didn't, but I had the option to march away when I would grow weary in battle. The generation of women before me often times didn't have that very simple option of walking away because they were financially dependent on their husbands. Where was she going to go? How would she support herself and her children? I had determined at a very young age that I would never be that powerless. I have since learned to never say "I'll never" or "I'll always," because as soon as you say it you are probably going to be tested on whatever it was you made those assertions. I surely was.
    I know what domestic violence feels like. I know what it feels like when someone lords his income over you when you have sacrificed your own to raise your children. I know the humiliation of having a husband that lives as if he isn't married and disrespects you in the community that you are trying to live and raise children. I don't share this for sensationalism, I admit this because I wouldn't be authentic when talking about women's issues if I didn't. Getting an education and a good job changed many things, but it didn't automatically change things in the realm of relationships. The only thing it changed was that a woman didn't have to spend her entire life as a martyr or a second class citizen. When enough was enough she could leave! That was profoundly liberating but could also be very complicated, especially if a woman aspires to live a spiritual life as I have always striven to do. Most religions frown on divorce and many condemn those who divorce and remarry. In some churches it is the only unforgivable sin! It's more grievous than murder. I won't get into the theology here. I don't take divorce lightly, and whether it is your fault or the other persons it is excruciatingly painful. I have worked out my own salvation with fear and trembling and every woman contemplating divorce will have to do that for herself. My point here is that we have choices now. I have choices. My daughters have choices. Thank God we have choices!
   I feel I have laid the groundwork now so that I can continue my story of a liberal woman gone conservative, and from changing my party affiliation from Democrat to Republican,  all the way to getting involved in the TEA Party movement. In 2007 I found myself divorced and starting over (again), physically tormented by a disability from a birth defect gone awry, socially secluded, with a nest that was almost empty, and devoid of a dream or a vision for my future. It was astonishing how far backwards I had gone and how hopeless and alone that I felt. Where was the girl with the go-go boots? I didn't know where to start, so I started where I normally do with a prayer. I prayed God I don't know where to begin. I don't know how to find a friend. I don't even know if I have anything left to live a  life of substance. I had put everything I had into raising three girls and now they were all graduated or graduating from high school and didn't need me anymore (or at least not as much). I hadn't continued my education. I hadn't kept my skills updated. I was depleted. After I pray I normally have some quiet time and see if I can hear God's response. I know that sounds ludicrous to some, but that is my normal. I felt like God was telling me to just keep putting one foot in front of the other and He would open doors. I just needed to walk through them. I just needed to not doubt myself or Him and keep walking. I got out the virtual go-go boots and put them on.

    Things started to happen quickly. I was still using a cane at times, very overweight from inactivity due to a chronic back problem, and like I said before, without hope or a vision for my future. The city where I live was starting a program in my area called Neighborhoods 1st where the city is divided into smaller neighborhoods, a citizen group is formed, and the group and city staff work together on issues specific to their neighborhood. I was at the first meeting even though I had lived a reclusive life for almost ten years except for involvement with my children, their school, their activities, and their friends. When it came time to choose officers, a woman I didn't even know nominated me for vice president. I served as VP for one year and as president for almost three years. Through this experience I met many friends and made many contacts. I needed to use skills that I thought were long gone such as organizing, planning, writing, and using social networking and the computer for the maintenance and growth of the group. Imagine that.
    I kept on walking through every door. An opportunity to serve as a victim advocate for the police department was brought to my attention. The loss of my sister to a murder-suicide gave me the compassion and the desire to serve on this team. I kept on walking.
   Meanwhile, the country has elected the most liberal senator with the least experience of any president in the country's history. My radar was picking up on dangerous vibes. The blind adulation was eerie. The refusal of the liberal media to take an honest look at this man, his belief system, his history, his dubious friends and connections, and his lack of experience was frustrating and frightening. Anyone who dared to bring up any of these issues was immediately branded a racist. It was like a nightmare when you can't wake up. I worried. I watched the news being hyper vigilant. I felt powerless as I watched not only Obama win the presidency but also the House and the Senate become dominated by progressive liberals who want to "fundamentally change America." After seeing the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) passed at the end of the Bush administration and watching the passing of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in February of 2009, bank and Wall Street bailouts, and the government takeover of private corporations by the new Obama administration I felt with all my heart that something needed to be done quickly or this country would soon become something that I no longer recognized and that my children would be robbed of their American heritage. I saw this country rolling downhill fast toward bankruptcy only to be "saved" by those who wish to change us into a European style socialist country. Then I heard about the now famous Rick Santelli rant about the need for a modern-day tea party and the Glenn Beck 912 Project. I liked the 912 Project message that "we are not alone" and "they [progressive liberals] don't surround us, we surround them." A spark of hope ignited. Then I heard that there was going to be a Taxed Enough Already (TEA) Party all across America on tax day, which was April 15, 2009.  Are ya ready boots...
    I was still very much a loner even though I had begun to come out of my shell through Neighborhoods 1st. While I had always followed politics I had never been active in any way except for voting. I was still dealing with chronic pain daily and used a cane. Yet, the more I heard about this upcoming TEA Party the more compelled I felt to be a part of it. I heard of a website where you could register in your hometown as someone interested in participating. I had never done anything like that before, but I signed on and registered. I thought I was registering to participate, but when I received a message thanking me for volunteering to organize the TEA Party in my area I panicked. I couldn't figure out how to undo it, and a couple of days later I received a call from a young man named Neil Parrott asking me if I was organizing a rally in Hagerstown. I blabbered on about how it was a mistake and that I only wanted to participate in the rally not organize it. He said that he was going to organize it and would keep me updated. I was so relieved.
   It then occurred to me that I was going to need signs for the rally. I found some on-line, saved them to my thumb drive, and took them to Staples to be printed on card stock and laminated. I then went to the hardware store and bought garden stakes to mount the signs onto and use as handles. I had never done anything like this before! No one told me to do this. I was compelled.
  When April 15th arrived it was a cold and rainy day and that makes my pain issues worse. I didn't care. I was going. I started to fear what and who I might see at the rally. What if they were skin heads? What if they were violent? I didn't care. I was going. Cane, umbrella, and protest signs in hand I walked downtown ready for anything. Right away I saw a woman that I knew from Neighborhoods 1st who lived on my street and I was a little relieved. I saw Neil Parrott and he didn't appear to be a skin head. I was more relieved. People slowly began to arrive until there were about 300 people there in the pouring rain, lining both sides of the main street through town. The protesters were normal, everyday people who were enthusiastically protesting in a lawful, non-violent, considerate manner. It was amazing! Most of the cars passing us on the street honked their horns in solidarity with our message. No more bailouts! No new taxes! Protect our Constitution! It grew colder and rained hard at times and my back was killing me. I refused to leave until it was over. I stood there for three hours. There was one man with an oxygen tank. I figured that if he could do it, then I could do it too. When it was over I was in so much pain that I didn't think I could make it  home. The neighbor that I saw there put me on a bus and made sure I made it home. I was spent, but I was full of hope for the first time in a very long while. I was ready to commit to this movement in any way that I could for as long is it took to turn things around in this country.
    Just a little over two years later, that young man who organized the event is now our state delegate. He turned the Hagerstown TEA Party over to a seven-member board and I am the vice president. Who knew? This is exciting because it is proof that you are never too old, too sick, too lost, too depleted, or too anything to decide to live a life that matters. This is real hope! Just figure out what is important to you and pull yourself up by your bootstraps.
    Are ya ready boots? START WALKING!!!

TEA Party, W. Washington Street, Hagerstown, MD

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Liberated Conservative Woman: Real Women Don't Pump Gas:They Can Afford to Pay for Full Service

The Liberated Conservative Woman: Real Women Don't Pump Gas:They Can Afford to Pay for Full Service

Real Women Don't Pump Gas:They Can Afford to Pay for Full Service

     This was one of my ideas about what defined  a "real woman" in the 80s. Real women were not only financially independent but could afford to pamper themselves. We didn't need a man to provide for us or wait for him to give us nice things or take us nice places. I still like that idea and desire it for my daughters, although I let go of it when I finally had a child at age 30. I should say that I chose to give it up to be a stay-at-home, full-time mom. The key point is that I chose it.
    The political progression from changing my voter registration to Republican in 1984 to joining the Tea Party movement in 2009 not only tells a story of a liberal becoming a conservative. It is also the story of a woman very much a part of the women's liberation movement growing in her understanding of women's issues,  and significantly redefining what "a real woman" is, should be, and could be in her own mind, heart, and how she lives her life. It probably goes without saying that I grew to love Ronald Reagan after finally voting for him in when he ran for a second term. I remember feeling very proud to be an American during those years and also feeling safe. We had a strong president who stood up for us on the world stage. We were treated with respect and the world had a healthy fear of the consequences of  provoking America as long as he was in office. I even grew to admire the relationship between him and Nancy, and today believe that every woman should experience being cherished by their husband as she was. Why did I ever look on that with contempt? I was told that liberated women should and I got in line. I was wrong.
   I have always been interested in current events, but my frustration with the liberal news media and love-hate relationship with the TV kept me from being the news junky that I am today. When I stumbled across FOX News only 6 years ago I knew that I had found a home. But in 1991 when Anita Hill  accused Supreme Court Judge Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment during his confirmation hearings I was in a very different place than I was in the 80s. I was married, I had moved to rural Western Maryland and was doing freelance editing at home, I had joined the Mennonite Church in 1989 (a relatively modern congregation), I had a miracle baby in 1990,  and I was stuck with CNN with a very unreliable satellite connection. I found the willingness of the left and the liberal media to publicly drag this man through the mud based on the accusation and flimsy evidence of one woman deplorable. He was accused of "making sexually provocative statements" to her in the workplace environment. The left habitually accuses the right of racism, but when they get behind a black conservative they try to destroy the black individual who dares to be conservative. He wasn't accused of touching her or of any lewd or unwanted acts. He was accused of inappropriate conversation. What I knew from working in a male dominated work environment is this: inappropriate conversation from men is directly proportionate to the woman's tolerance of and participation in this kind of conversation. Even in the 70s when I was the only woman electronic technician in the lab it was up to me to set the tone. I would not tolerate any personal comments about my sexuality or their thoughts or desires concerning me. Not even a hint. Not even joking. On the other hand, when they talked sometimes inappropriately about women, their sexcapades (real or imagined), their girlfriends or wives, I chose to ignore it, walk away from it, and sometimes even laugh at it. I didn' t think it was my mission in life to make these men into saints or make any demands on them to change their culture of which I was a new member. My only expectation was for them to treat me personally with respect. I also knew women and still do that could make Bill Clinton blush with their "colorful" conversation inside and outside of the workplace. This was an obvious attempt to block a conservative from appointment to the Supreme Court and they were willing to destroy a man's reputation and career in order to achieve that goal. This ordeal opened my eyes to the hypocracy of the left and for the first time I had no doubts about being a Republican and I regretted that I was ever aligned with the women's movement. They used Anita Hill. They used a real-life women's issue  in a twisted attempt to destroy a man for political purposes. Compare this to what Bill Clinton later did (took advantage of his position to get oral sex from a younger inexperienced woman who admired him, the acts of sexual harassment of Paula Jones and others, and numerous affairs), Hillary's complete acceptance, and NOW's silence and the hypocracy becomes undeniable. That was a defining moment in my journey into Conservative politics.
   Back to real women don't pump gas because they can afford full service. I mentioned that I gave up that mindset after giving birth to my daughter. When her father and I were dating, I was insulted when he praised a woman that worked in the inner-city mission that we had started because she made curtains out of used sheets and lavish meals out of next to nothing. I was still in the mindset that if she was a real woman, like me (the arrogance!), she would be able to buy new curtains and take the family out to dinner! They were poor and went without basics and yet she wouldn't get a job. I didn't understand that she wanted to raise her daughter herself and was willing to sacrifice material things and even a little of her own dignity to be able to stay at home and be a full-time mother. I didn't say that out loud and I pretended not to judge her, but I had those thoughts. I later experienced the degrading looks and comments of "successful" women when I made that same decision in 1990. Liberal women talk about choice but judge you harshly when you dare to choose something outside of the liberal box labeled womanhood. You suddenly lose your status as a woman of value and are demoted to a weak-willed disgrace to the female race. I was a part of it and then I experienced it for myself and I think it's a shame.
   It took me six years of endless tests and surgeries (and many tearful nights in prayer) before I became pregnant with my daughter. This was after the god of John Hopkins University Hospital declared that I would never conceive and that it was physically impossible. They also said that if by some miracle that I did conceive that I would never carry it to full-term and would not even discuss in-vitro fertilization. I was the saddest woman that you'd ever want to meet. My sister had two children and wanted my life and all I wanted to be was a mother. I gave up and accepted that I would be childless, but I had lost my joy in the process. That was until I came upon this scripture Psalm 113:9~
He maketh the barren woman to keep house,
and to be a joyful mother of children.
Praise ye the Lord.              

Now I'm not saying that every barren woman should latch onto this scripture and they will have a baby. I only know that when I saw it I knew without a doubt in my spirit that it was for me and maybe two months later I was pregnant. I had joy coming out of every pore!
    I continued to work as an editor in Frederick and then the company moved to Bethesda (I had quit my writing job in D.C. making more money in an attempt to decrease my stress in hopes of getting pregnant). I dragged my fat self to the Marc train and the subway to get to the new office in Bethesda and had every intention of continuing to do so after the baby was born. Afterall , that's what real women do, right? After nearly dying giving birth I returned to work after 6 weeks of maternity leave. It lasted about two weeks. I would sit at my desk and gaze at my daughter's picture and yearn to be with her even though she was with her father while I was working. After about two weeks I decided that I would live on hot dogs and beans everyday and wear potato sacks if I had to in order to stay home with her. I didn't know how we were going to make it, but I gave my boss two weeks notice. Later that day he called me into his office and he had a proposition. He asked me if I would consider working at home, at the same pay and benefits, and come in every two weeks to drop off and pick up work along with my paycheck. This was about as huge a miracle as me giving birth! Of course I said yes. I worked at home for about a year until the recession worsened and people were being laid off everywhere. The company gave me a choice to work at the office or be laid off. I was still willing to risk everything financially to be a stay-at-home, full-time mother and I made that choice. I have never regretted it. It was precious time with my daughter. It was also a time of tremendous growth for me. That experience and my time with the Mennonite women as mentors taught me so much about the strength of a woman and I hope to share more about that later.
   I guess to sum it up, this story is about choices. It's about looking at issues straight on and objectively and not just towing the line of your peers. It's about having the nerve to do what is right for you and not letting others define you or determine your value. If my daughters are able to do that I will be so proud no matter if they are a stay-at-home mom or the CEO of a company. I would have one suggestion for the stay-at-home mom: keep your skills current so that when your children are grown you will still be able to afford full-service gas again. That takes me to my empty nest and the Tea Party....

Me (far left) and my baby daughter Stella
 Me and my daughter Lizzi at birth (my sister's biological child whom I raised from age 4 and now she is all mine).

Sunday, October 9, 2011

I Voted Republican and Could Still Bring Home the Bacon

   This is what comes to mind when I think of myself in the 80s. I had a great job as a senior engineering writer, a new Ford EXP, my own apartment (no roommates for me!), all new furniture, and an up-to-the-minute wardrobe. I dated who I wanted and everything was on my own terms. It took me awhile and I had gone through hell to get there, but I was on my way!
   I have a terrible confession to make though. I voted for Jimmy Carter in the 1980 election. It was the first time that I could vote for president. I didn't know the difference between a Republican and a Democrat, so, when I registered to vote I thought it sounded so "Ms.", so  "liberated" to be an Independent, and that is how I registered.  I can't remember what in God's green earth I was thinking, but by the time the election came around I was working hard and partying harder. The one thing I did know was that this Ronald Reagan was against the Equal Rights Amendment (E.R.A.) for women. What the hell did he have against women? I would see him and Nancy out campaigning and she seemed to be fawning all over and around him. It sent hell-fire through me to be honest. I subscribed to New Woman and Ms. magazines and other feminist publications and they added fuel to the fire. They didn't explain why we needed the amendment, just cursed Reagan for being against it. I didn't think to ask why we needed it. I figured it was about getting equal pay for equal work, and I knew first hand how frustrating and unfair that was.
   When I was still working as a tech in the lab I had proven myself that I could actually test and repair printed circuit (PC) boards. It wasn't as it became later where you throw out the PC board and get a new one, and we didn't have simulators either. I would take the board and connect it to the equipment that would simulate its function in the equipment that it came from. I would then use test equipment to follow the signal through the circuit and narrow it down to which component was bad and replace it. I was in the digital side of the lab, so it was all about 1s and 0s being at the right place and at the right time. I would create truth tables to make test procedures so that the next time this particular PC board would come into the lab, a tech would just have to look up the test procedure and not start from scratch again.
   It didn't take long for me to start wondering when I would get promoted from a junior tech to the next position. I would ask my supervisor and his eyes would glaze over as if he was having an out of body experience. His body was there, but he had left the office. He would blow me off with rules that didn't exist and always a budget that couldn't spare a dime. But the guys would talk and I knew when one had been promoted or given a raise. I had started training others and helping men who had been there longer than I had. When I realized how much help one man was asking of me, I went to my supervisor. I told my boss that I am helping this man, he's been here longer, and I know he makes more than me. My boss looked me straight in the eyes and said, "He has a family to support. You don't." I was still so young and naive that I wasn't sure that my thoughts about what he had said were right or not! I thought about it for a couple of days and in the interim heard woman on TV talking about this very situation and they were pissed off. Then I realized that I was right to be pissed off too. I stayed in that lab for two and a half years and I did get a few raises, but I fought hard daily and it was wearing me down. The move to the Engineering Writing Department was the best thing that could have happened to me.
    I was the first female writer, and in the back of my mind I thought that I was probably  given the junior writing position because of quotas. I hated that, but I knew from experience now that I could prove myself worthy in time. There was one man who resented my very existence and treated me with contempt. After about two weeks of his nonsense, I told him that I knew that he didn't like the fact that I was there, but he was going to have to get over it. I told him that he could act like an ass and look like an ass, or he could behave decently and time would tell if I could handle this job or not. Another one stunned into behaving like a gentleman. After that it was smooth sailing. I proved myself and I received recognition in the form of raises and promotions. But I never forgot the demeaning treatment that I received as a tech. Not to mention that a close male relative told me to my face that I was a token c*nt at Bendix.  So, back to the E.R.A. and Ronald Reagan. I just couldn't vote for him because of it and I voted for Jimmy Carter.
    Four years later, it is time for another election, and I am a different woman. All of the partying had caught up to me, so in May of 1982 I had come to the realization that I had to stop drinking. By May of 1983 I was feeling good about the change I had made a year earlier, but I was missing something. I was missing the relationship that I had with God my creator and Father, my savior Jesus Christ, and my teacher the Holy Spirit. I know that a statement like that makes liberal women roll their eyes and want to write me off as a weakling or an idiot. All I can say is that they must have never experienced God's presence, God's grace, or the comfort of His Holy Spirit. I know that if they ever had they would never roll those eyes again. Enough said about that for now. The point is I had changed. I was 25-years-old, sober, and more mature. I had returned to my faith. I was asking questions. Why do we need the E.R.A.? I came to the conclusion that we didn't need it because there were already laws in place that would ensure that women are treated equally. They just hadn't been enforced! We didn't need our own amendment giving us special rights and I think time has proven that to be true. Yes, there is still a glass ceiling and there is still work to be done, but we don't need an amendment to the Constitution to finish the work. I voted for Ronald Wilson Reagan and changed my affiliation to Republican! And guess what, I was still as liberated and independent and strong-willed as I ever was.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Can a Woman be Both Liberated and Conservative?

  I'm well into my fifth decade and I've crammed a lot into each of them, so I'm not sure where to start. I know there are many skeptics that a woman can be both liberated and conservative. I set out to be liberated before I had any concept of the liberal-conservative divide in this country. I was only 18 years old in 1977 when I started my first job as an electronic technician in a male saturated lab at Bendix Field Engineering Corporation. There were two other young women hired at the same time and we were the first females to work there. They sat us in a corner with wire wrap guns, wirewrapping empty chassis that would never be used. Busy work. The other two left in a week or two. I battled it out in that lab for about two and a half years before applying for a job posting as a jr. engineering writer.
   It was a maintenance and repair lab that was divided into two sections: digital and analog. After a couple of days of mindless wirewrapping I asked my supervisor when he intended to put me to work. I could see in his body language and dismissive answers that he had no intention of  letting me do anything but fill a quota. I found this to be terribly demeaning. I had been the only girl in my vocational technical school in the electronics program and I had been treated as an equal. It had not even occurred to me that I would be treated so poorly. The men were slobbering flirts and that was offensive, but the worst insult was to be deemed useless and not to be given the chance to earn my salary. I put down the wirewrap gun and demanded a real work assignment.
   As luck would have it I was given a workbench in the digital section of the lab. Digital was relatively new and I had no idea at the time how valuable this experience woud be. At first all of the techs had their test equipment that had been fought for or won upon the departure of another tech and no one wanted to let me use it, not even for a couple of hours.  I kept patrolling the lab asking each person if they were finsished with that power supply or this oscilloscope, but everyone claimed that they were still using the equipment and would be indefinitely. I remember asking one of the guys if I was supposed to shit a power supply. He was shocked, but it was definitely an ice-breaker. After about a half a day of this, equipment suddenly started to show up on my bench.
   That was the beginning of my battle to become liberated. Actually it started much younger as I had other situations from which I needed to be liberated, but that's another topic and another story. My first real conflict of being a conservative woman (even though I didn't know it yet) while fighting for equal rights in the workplace came in the form of a pro-choice march about a year after I took the job as a jr. writer at Bendix. I worked with my first real-life lesbian and became fast friends with her and her partner. They were all fired up about taking part in this march and they assumed that I would be too. I had never given much thought to the abortion issue to know where I stood on it. I need to know where I stand before I fight for or against something, but once I do I am all in!
   I stalled giving them an answer as to if I would be going with them to the march. I remembered several girls in middle school and high school who had an abortion and even multiple abortions. I had become a Christian (joined a commune) at age 14 (another story for later), and although I had begun to significantly stray from my faith I still had it down at my core. I came to the decision that I could not support it or go to that march. My girlfriends told me that I was confused and that I should go and be a part of it until I figured it all out, but I knew that I couldn't do it. So I am a young woman in a man's career field, a card carrying member of NOW, living life according to my own rules, but I could not tow the line for abortion rights. My girlfriends and I handled it with respect for one another. It wasn't as uncivil between women back then. They didn't call me names or say that I was bad for the women's movement. We were friends with different ideas on one issue. Women deal harshly with one another now when you don't fit in their box.
   I can see how this blogging thing could become addictive. I've always been told that I should write a book. That seemed too daunting a task to do while living a jam packed life. Maybe these little snip its will add up and give me the discipline to write more. After all, I am in the decade of my life where I am feeling like anything is possible!

Bendix badge 1977