How it felt to be at The Women’s March on Washington

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I’ve been trying to write something profound about how it felt to be at the Women’s March on Washington on January 21st but the best I can come up with is…

Wow….

Seriously, if the word “wow” means mind blowing and life altering.

I met my friend Jennifer, another mom of a daughter with a serious medical condition, in New Jersey. She and I then travelled by charter bus sponsored by the Unitarian Church to Washington DC. The first time I said “wow” was at a rest stop in Delaware. There were hundreds of busses packed with thousands of excited women. We were all going to Washington DC that cold, foggy morning. The weather wouldn’t keep us home.

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In Washington, the bus crept into the stadium parking lot. After parking, we joined the long line of women, men and some children in pink pussy hats, carrying signs and talking excitedly. The security person shouted that the Metro was overwhelmed, but if we wanted to catch a ride, turn left and wait about an hour. “Or walk two miles that way.” Jennifer and I chose to walk. Thousands of us walked, filling the sidewalks and roads with cheerful protest songs. The march had begun and we weren’t at the event yet.

 

When we reached the Capitol building we stood on the steps and looked across the Capitol Mall, stunned by the hundreds of thousands of people we saw. It was a milling sea of pink capped people. Slowly we walked into the crowd, unsure of what we’d find. There were so many angry, frustrated, mobilized people, but instead of rioting or breaking windows, people were holding signs, singing songs, and talking to each other. A woman stood on the edge of the reflection pool, holding up a sign and described her sign as if she was Donald Trump. “My sign is soo huuuuuge.” “This the greatest sign of all time. I promise. It’s great.” “This sign will make America great again.” Everyone laughed and cheered.

img_4682We We pushed on, trying to reach the main stage where the speakers were, determined to catch a glimpse of Angela Davis. As we got closer to 3rd and Independence, people stopped moving and we were surrounded, shoulder to shoulder, pressed forward and then back by the waves of the crowd. No more room at the stage area. The larger than expected crowd of women had maxed designated space and spilled out into the surrounding roads.

Managing to turn around, we struggled like eels fighting up stream and made it to the line for the porta-potties. Might as well stand in line for 30 minutes; by the time it’s our turn to pee we’ll need to go. People chatted and laughed at signs or discussed politics. Occasionally a cheer would rise from the stage area and then spread outward to our line, passing by in a wave of sound. A famous person would walk through a cordoned off security passage. We caught a glimpse of Drew Kerry’s neck. More cheers passed through and onward and we wondered who was speaking.

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After using the porta-potties, Jennifer and I decided to try and work around the edge of the crowd to where the march was to officially start. Only problem: there was no edge to the crowd! We thought we found it but instead of widening, the pathway narrowed and we were squeezed with a thousand others onto a sidewalk between cement barriers. The crowd stopped. No where to go. We had to wait for the crowd to move as one before we could escape. But rather than feeling anxious, I was calm. The crowd stayed calm. People were impatient, but not enough people became agitated to cause any problems. One woman and her friends forced their way through the crowd with a force so strong she spun me, which then spun Jennifer and then the woman behind us, as if we were all attached to cogs!  Instead of getting mad, we three laughed. I glanced to the other side and realized I was pressed against a movie star. She and I chatted, but I didn’t  break her cover. On this day, we were all just women.

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At last the crowd was allowed to move and the march began! Jennifer and I unfolded our banner, a pink blanket with “Respect Young Women with Disabilities” embossed on it, as well as the names of young women we were representing. My daughter’s name was next to Jennifer’s daughter’s name, and next to those names were the names of daughters of friends. So many young women who are under threat by the Trump presidency. We walked in the street and chanted with others. We stood beside a teacher in front of the Department of Education Building and held up a sign that said, “Protect Our Schools.” Three teachers fighting for education. I’m sure there were thousands of teachers there that day.

The march lasted two blocks. As the marchers rounded a corner we crashed into another crowd of people being pushed back from the stage area. Jennifer and I realized we had to get back to the other side of the crowd so we could catch our shuttle bus on time, but how? We dove in and wiggled up stream again, but were tossed back over and over by the force of people. Finally we found a way through by squeezing behind food trucks and stepping over boxes. It took 45 minutes to travel one block. We were exhausted and still had to walk two miles to the bus parking lot.

Sitting on a curb to rest, we watched four young women take turns snapping pictures of each other. Jennifer got up and asked if they wanted a group photo. The women smiled and said thank you, then posed with their signs pronouncing, “Black Lives Matter.” I wasn’t tired any more. Their excitement and energy filled me with joy. These young women were probably in their early twenties and were thrilled to be a part of history. They believed down to their bones change could happen. My 50 year old jaded self wanted to cry, because in that moment, I knew how they felt.

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We rested again in Lincoln park after walking a mile and watched thousands of protestors walk by, heading back to their shuttle bus just as we were. Everyone was so happy. Tired, but inspired! The police were still smiling at the end of a long day and I realized they had been kind and respectful all day. I never felt threatened. The locals watched us walk by their homes and waved and cheered, as thrilled by our protest as we were.

On the bus, everyone slept, worn out from such an epic day. I now know what that word means too. Epic. A part of history. Something that has changed me. Reframed my way of looking at the world. And all I can say is…

Wow.

Dear Trump supporters, I understand why you voted for him, but can you understand why I’m angry?

Dear Trump supporters,

I understand why you voted for Trump. I live in a rural area and work in one of the poorest counties in California, a county with no jobs, substandard housing and dirt roads. This is the kind of place Obama’s promises never reached. The people here are angry, and wanted to send a clear, loud message to Washington DC.

I understand, but can you try to understand why I’m angry?

My daughter has severe disabilities and is one of those people Trump mocked while campaigning. She is a woman who depends on government services for her survival. She lives with me and I depend on services to take care of her. Without the support of Social Security, MediCare and In Home Support Services, I would be forced to put my child in an institution. I thank my government every day for the help my family receives. Trump wants to take that help away.

My husband is a cancer survivor. “Obamacare” saved him and our family. Without subsidized health care and the changes in health care law, he probably would have died and I know our family would be bankrupt. So again, thank you government. I know it is not a perfect plan, but it saved my family. Trump wants to take that away too.

I am a rape survivor. Many women have accused Trump of sexual assault and rape. He brags about it, and now, a sexual predator will be president. What message does that send to women in our country? Our voices and our bodies don’t matter. Men can abuse us and we are powerless to stop it.

Trump is racist. He openly hates Mexicans and Muslims. He thinks black people should shut up about racist cops. And his win of the presidency sends a message to other racists that it’s okay to write swastikas on walls and beat up immigrants.

Many of the people I love are gay, lesbian and transgender. Will they now be denied legal protection to work and live peacefully? Will families be destroyed?

Again, I understand why you voted for Trump, and I know a lot of you aren’t racist or misogynist. But in voting for him, you told people who are racist and misogynist that it’s okay.

You can be the biggest bigot in town and  people will still respect you. Hell, they might even elect you president.

Rare Disease Day 2016 


What is it like to live with a rare disease? This is what my daughter says:

“Doctors try to help but no one does.”

“I don’t know why I have ataxia and I don’t know why I can’t hear no more. No body does.”

“I have to go to the doctor a lot. That’s boring.”

“Everybody wants to poke me and give me a blood shot (blood draw)!”

“I used to be able to walk and not have to use a walker all the time but now I can’t and nobody know’s why.”

“Why is there no medicine to make me feel better?”

As her mom, I struggle to answer her questions. But what can I say? She is now 20 and has lived with an undiagnosed mystery disease her entire life. The closest label her illness has is Mitochondrial Disease. But which one? What type? How degenerative is it? How long does she have?

We don’t know.

One special needs family reaching out to another

There are a thousand sleepless nights to get through when your child is medically fragile. Waiting for answers. Waiting for change. I pick up a book I’m too tired to read. Turn on the TV but it’s too loud. So I grab your laptop and start surfing. See what my friends are doing. What trips are they taking this summer? What did they eat? How many selfies did they take? But after a while all those smiling faces make me feel more alone.

I turn to your tribe, the other parents who are up at 3 AM surfing the internet while battling anxiety. Because no one understands dread more than the parent of a special needs child.

We parents would be lost and more confused than we already are without the internet. With chat rooms to swap war stories and blogs to share our ideas we see that we are not the only family in the world held hostage by illness. Instead, we know MediCare and Social Security screws with every family. Paperwork really does get more complicated. Marriages collapse and rebuild. Children thrive despite what experts say. And occasionally we get to laugh.

Reach out. Write it all down. Maybe someone will read it and for a tiny moment I won’t be so alone. Maybe my struggle will help someone else. And maybe, if I take the time to read other stories, I’ll find the answer I’ve needed to hear.