To my first love, Richard Hatch

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Richard Hatch died yesterday of pancreatic cancer. He was 71. Reading the news, I felt as if I’d lost my first, dearest love. In a way I had. I have loved Richard Hatch since I first saw him on Battlestar Galactica when I was 11 years old in 1978. From the moment I saw his smile and those hazel-green eyes I was madly in love, and I stayed in love for the rest of my life. I’m not sure why, but there was something about his voice and those cheekbones that made my heart beat wilder than anyone else on the planet, even Johnny Depp.

While other girls decorated their lockers in Middle School with pictures of Scott Baio and Leif Garrison, I plastered mine with a collage of Richard Hatch. Richard in his Battlestar costume. Richard playing the guitar. Richard looking serious with his dark hair in a center part. Richard in a scene from The Streets of San Francisco. I collected everything I could find about him and kept all the clippings in a secret scrap book. My infatuation didn’t end; even after I graduated high school and went to college, I worshipped Richard Hatch. When I was 20, a jealous boyfriend found my scrap book and burned it. That relationship died, but my love for Richard remained steadfast.

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One day when I was living in San Francisco in 1991, I saw an add for an acting workshop taught by non-other than Richard Hatch. I stole the flyer and called the number to sign up, spending the last of my grocery money that month to be in the same room with my first true love. Then I spent the next two weeks trying to decide what to wear.

At last the day came. Wearing a green sweater, a jean mini-skirt, black tights and my Doc Martin boots, I entered the room and instantly hated my outfit. There he was, Richard Hatch. He wore faded blue jeans and a light blue, button-down shirt with the cuffs rolled up, revealing his beautiful forearms. Oh god, don’t stare at his forearms! He smiled and nodded as I walked in and I quietly found a seat on one of the folding chairs at the front of the room. Why am I the first person in the room? Thankfully more people entered, but I wished I’d actually said something rather than just staring at my feet.

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There were about 20 students and the class began with a short introduction. Richard explained the class was about finding your own, inner strength and talent to make you a better actor. We all introduced ourselves and when it was my turn I thankfully remembered my own name and said I was studying drama at San Francisco State. After introductions we formed a circle for warm ups and spontaneity exercises. There were more getting-to-know-you exercises, including one that required us to say the first thing that came to mind about the person directly across from us.

Paralyzed, I mumbled responses, growing more frightened as time went by. I can’t move in front of Richard Hatch!  I might faint in front of Richard Hatch! Does he know? Does he understand how badly I want to have his children? Oh my god I want to touch him! No, don’t touch him! That would be creepy. Don’t be creepy. Don’t look at him. Oh no, he wants me to look at him. He’s asking me a question. 

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“Sorry?” I asked.

“This seems like a challenging exercise for you, Terena.”

Oh my god he said my name! Richard Hatch knows my name! “I’m just a little nervous.”

“It’s okay. Everyone feels nervous sometimes. So this is what I want you to do.” He moved into the center of the circle and gestured for me to join him. Slowly I moved and stood beside him. Putting his hands on my shoulders, he said “Close your eyes.”

Richard Hatch is touching me! I closed my eyes and he gently spun me three times. Then he let go and said, “Put out your arm and point. Keep your eyes closed.”I did what he said. I would have jumped out the window if he said to. After a moment he said, “Now, spin once on your own, stop, open your eyes and say the first thing that comes to mind about the person you’re pointing at. Don’t second guess yourself, just do it.”

Taking a deep breath, I spun around and then opened my eyes. I was pointing directly at him. Dropping my arm, I just stared at him in horror. A few people laughed and one person said, “Come on. You can do it.”

Richard smiled kindly. “What do you want to say?”

“I’ve been in love with you since I was eleven years old!” I said loudly.

There was a pause, then the entire room cheered.

Richard blushed and grinned. “Now that took guts,” he said. We both laughed and he gestured that I should rejoin the circle. The ice had broken. Finally relaxed, I enjoyed the rest of the class and learned quite a lot about improvisation and trusting my acting instincts.

However, after class I gave him one of the awful, passionate poems I wrote in high school about him. I wish I hadn’t. He probably thought I was the weirdest stalker he’d ever met. Oh well, at least he knew my name.

Goodbye Richard. You will always have my heart.

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50

Today is my 50th birthday.

Last night I tried staying up past midnight to watch my 40’s disappear, as if being awake for the event would make it more believable.  But I fell asleep and when I awoke a whole new decade of my life had begun. 50. Half way, or maybe more than half. Do I really want to live to see 100?

My daughter has been sick with pneumonia and had to be hospitalized. Rather than getting  a massage and a manicure as I’d planned this past week, I spent several days by her hospital bed. Nothing mattered to me outside that room. On Tuesday I forced myself to go to work because I had a deadline, but I left early and rushed back to sit with her in that little room. When she was well enough to go home, I began round the clock home care, which included waking up at 3 AM to administer a dose of antibiotics. I didn’t care about sleep; I just wanted my daughter well again.

And then came my birthday.

I hadn’t wanted a party; going to the March on Washington was my party. But sleep was necessary. So on this first night of my 50’s, I am in a hotel room just a mile from my house (just in case…) so I can sleep and write and sleep some more. I used to be able to manage on 4 hours of sleep a night for months. Now, I can’t get through a day on less than 6. I must be 50.

My 40’s kicked my butt! I feel beat up and worn out and then left in the sun too long. I feel year after year of stress in my bones. Will my 50’s be more of the same?

The odd thing is I feel excited about a new decade. It feels like a new book in a series. The old book is done and now I start a new adventure. I’ve never been this age before. And I feel such freedom and relief, because I don’t care so much what other’s think. I’m not worried about making people happy or wondering if I’m doing something wrong. Other people’s opinions matter less than ever, which makes me feel strong. I know what is right for me. I still struggle and have a lot to learn to be myself, but at least I finally know who that person is.

Plus, it’s raining on my birthday. It hasn’t rained on my birthday in many years. When I was a child it rained every year and then sometime in my 20’s I realized my birthday wasn’t in Winter anymore. But today, it is cold and gray and damp, just the way I like it.

Rain is a good sign, and my daughter is getting stronger. Now to sleep and dream and regain some strength. It’s a whole new decade to explore.

Good night.

 

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.

Why I March

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I am packing for my trip to Washington DC.  I have warm clothes, a good coat, comfortable boots, and a sign that says “Respect Young Women with Disabilities.” I’m meeting another mom of a special needs child and together we will join The Women’s March on Washington on January 21st.

Why am I marching?

Because our daughters, and thousands of other children and adults with disabilities, need health care.

Because all daughters deserve respect, especially from our elected officials, and no one has the right to grab or molest them.

Because Betsy DeVos, the nominee for Education Secretary, doesn’t know what IDEA is or why it is important.

Because Jeff Sessions is a known racist but will be the Attorney General.

Because we are all immigrants and the children of immigrants. Immigrants and slaves built this country and immigrants sustain it. The only people who aren’t immigrants are Native Americans.

Because religious intolerance is anti-American.

Because people I love are Gay, Lesbian and Transgender.

Because climate change is real and if something isn’t done to stop the damage to our planet our grandchildren will suffer.

Because I am a rape survivor.

Because Mr. Trump has repeatedly shown his disdain of women and people with disabilities.

I walk for those who can’t, or who are unable to travel to Washington DC. It is my duty as a patriot to stand against injustice and fight for those unable to fight for themselves.

I am marching against hate.

How to be Kind.

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(image from http://madison.citymomsblog.com/kindness/)

 

Someone said, “You’re a better person than I am,” when I told him about my 100 days of kindness challenge. He said he couldn’t imagine just ignoring all the hatred going around. But that’s not what the challenge is about. Staying silent when you see injustice is not being kind. Speak up. Speak out. Protest. Fight. But do it in a way that shows your strength and integrity.The challenge is to not feed the anger and hatred.

How?

No name calling. If someone says something you disagree with, or you find offensive, tell them. But don’t stoop to calling them stupid or idiot or something worse. If they say something bad about you, tell them to stop. If they don’t, ignore them. People who have no better argument than calling you a “libtard” aren’t worth your energy.

Practice empathy. Take two minutes while you’re waiting in line to imagine what it must feel like to be the girl bagging up your groceries. Or how hard it must be for the person using a wheel chair to get all her shopping done. Instead of zoning out on your phone, look at the people around you. Everyone is struggling, not just you.

Hold the door for someone who’s hands are full.

Give up your seat on the bus if someone needs it.

Buy a cup of coffee for a homeless person on a cold morning.

When someone cuts you off in traffic or shoves past you in line, take a deep breath and count to ten before reacting. Take that pause to deescalate the anger and keep a clear head. Then decide how to react. Will you let it go, or confront the person? Either way you’ll be in better control of yourself.

Being kind is simple. Just remember all the lessons we were taught in elementary school about respect and bullying and follow them as an adult. It’s no mystery. Stand up for what is right. Refuse to spread hate. Be polite. Be considerate. But take no shit.

 

 

 

100 days of kindness

The first 100 days of a presidency are meaningful. The president elect announces, “In my first 100 days…” and everyone watches to see if he follows through. The first 100 days can set the tone for the rest of his term. That’s why I want to challenge everyone to 100 days of kindness.

President-elect Trump has spoken proudly about his dislike of foreigners and Muslims. He has denigrated women and mocked people with disabilities. His tone has made it okay for white supremacists and misogynists to harass people of color and women. Even people who don’t think of themselves as racist now believe it’s fine to tell racists jokes in public. Lashing out at your neighbor is allowed.

But I believe we can set a new tone simply by being as vocal about kindness as Trump is about hate. Trump has embraced social media as his platform of intolerance. We need to take it away and turn it into a platform of kindness.All you have to do is report kindness on social media with the hash tag #100daysofkindness. Share a kind word with the world. Take a picture of an act of kindness and post it. Not to show off how “good” you are, but to drown out some of the hate speech filling the internet. This isn’t about making you look better to your friends, it’s about spreading generosity and compassion.

You don’t have to share anything on social media, though. Just commit to being especially kind to others for the first 100 days of the Trump presidency. If thousands of people did that, imagine what could be achieved. While Trump continues to insult and denigrate, we could completely ignore him simply by being kind to a stranger. Go ahead and bellow, Mr. Trump. No one is listening.

#100daysofkindness. Imagine the possibilities

2016 – Where is the happiness?

It feels as if 2016 kicked everyone in the gut. Every person I know has faced hardship and strife. Too many people died, from the famous like David Bowie and Prince, to the not so famous but dearly loved, like my friend Randen. Tragedy hit hard and across the world war has escalated. I don’t know anyone who feels safe. And now with President Trump looming, most of my friends feel like they are one step away from disaster. I work in a town devastated by a wildfire. I see how many more homeless people there are crowding the park because there’s no where else to go. It’s so easy to get pulled in to the fear and darkness.

By focusing so much on the news and the dark stories I hear from others, I almost forgot there were many blessings for my family this year. I am teaching again. My husband’s cancer is gone. Our daughter is happy and has many friends. My new book is about half way written. Our garden is thriving. We are financially stable, at least in the short run. The roof doesn’t leak. Both cars run. We have enough to eat.

2011 through 2015 were filled with one health crisis after another. First my daughter almost died, then I was injured and lost my job, then my husband got cancer. We almost lost our home when his small-business ended. I have no idea how we got through those years.

But 2016 in contrast was a wonderful year for my hubby and kid. No one was sick. No one injured. The bills were paid. Seems sad to compare 2016 to those prior four years, as if I’m saying it was a good year because we didn’t die. But sometimes it feels that way…

The future scares the hell out of me. My daughter’s health is declining and I’m afraid of the budget cuts a Republican government will force. How will that affect her and the support she needs to survive?

We are all worn out, fearful and tired. 2016 kicked everyone in the gut. But what I learned from so much fear and loss is that the only way to get back up is to remember the small miracles hidden in the fear.

My daughter’s smile.

Those moments with my special needs students when they suddenly understand something we’ve been working on for weeks.

Every time my beat-up 2003 Honda Odyssey starts on a frozen morning.

The amazing Chinese food my husband cooks from scratch.

Paying all the bills and still having money in the bank.

The tiny plants in my green house waiting for Spring.

Singing with friends on a bright Christmas afternoon.

There is still good in the world. Some years you have to look a little harder to find it, but it’s never gone. It’s worth fighting for. I heard that in a movie somewhere…

Happy New Year. Don’t give up.

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