Can we talk?

My son is dying. That’s a simple, unhappy, unwelcome fact. Sometimes he has good days, visits a friend or his brother and family; more and more often, though, he has a string of bad days. We’re in the middle of one of those strings. He’s nauseated. He aches all over, like the flu, he tells me. He’s listless. He hurts. He’s unsteady on his feet, holding onto me while he makes his way to the bathroom or his bedroom. He’s fallen twice in the past week. And when he called me to his room at 3:30 a.m. Sunday, he thought he was dying.

We talk about his funeral and what he wants, all the time knowing that a proper, in-the-church funeral won’t happen until there’s some resolution with the pandemic. We talk about what we think happens after death. Is there nothing? Is there something? If there’s something, what do you think it looks like, mom? Will I see my grandmothers? My aunt? Will I know them?

What once might have been philosophical conversations have suddenly, too soon, out of order, become real. Become imminent. I search for words of reassurance, comforting him as well as I can, helping us both come to terms with the inevitable.

Then, today, a phone call from an old friend of his. A man he’s known for years, a former neighbor, a man older even than I. Martin was sleeping in the recliner next to me. I told him, when he stirred at the ringing of his phone, “It’s Art.” He didn’t want to talk. It quit ringing, and immediately started up again. When it began for the third time, I answered his phone.

Art loves Martin like a son. I know that. Martin was there when Art’s son Mike died about 30 years ago. Martin and Mike had been good friends, and his death was prolonged and sad. Another young person dying out of time. Art and Martin bonded and have remained close over the years, although they don’t talk often – Art’s still in Miami, we’re in Portland.

Over the weekend, Martin’s dad had told Art how ill Martin is, that he’s dying. Art was calling to insistently, stridently, tell him that he knew how to cure Martin’s liver cancer. He’s cured himself of MRSA and a cancer on his face. His friend lived several years after a terminal cancer diagnosis by using this miracle method. It seems that Art knows what the finest doctors in the best cancer hospitals in the PNW don’t: the cure for cancer is baking soda. Just mix it in water and drink it three times a day. And – hey! what’ve you got to lose? Well, peace of mind for a start.

I – according to Art – have been brainwashed by the medical community. The CT scans, the MRIs, the blood work? The liver eaten away by cirrhosis? The metastases? Pah! For some undefined reason, the doctors don’t want to listen to Art and his baking soda cure.

I listened. I was polite, as my mother taught me to be. Told him that I would convey his message to Martin and let him know that Art wants him to call back. I did all of those things. And Martin said he’s not going to call him. I feel kind of sad about that, but Martin’s an adult and gets to make his own choices. But, frankly, we’ve been on such a roller coaster around here that I completely understand my son’s reaction.

So, here’s what I want to talk about: If you know someone is dying, from cancer or anything else, offer your good wishes, your prayers, a memory, a bit of levity. If you believe in miracles – I do – keep believing. But keep those beliefs to yourself, keep your miracle cures, that x number of your friends have had success with, to yourself.

This dying business is hard work. A lot goes into making peace with it, especially when you’re in what should be the prime of life. And when you do that hard work, when you begin to reach a place where you can face the unknown with even a little more courage than when you started on this path – well, it’s not a kindness to say, “I know how you can be cured,” or “I know God is going to heal you; God told me.” Because no matter how well-meant those words are, no matter how much you believe what you’re saying, it unravels some of that hard work. And you have to start all over again to reach that place of beginning to accept. You may think it’s a kindness, a ray of hope, but it isn’t. It’s actually hurtful. And it not only hurts the person who, in the midst of illness, has done that hard work, it hurts the ones who have sat with him, listened to the fears, cried lonely tears, and been quietly thankful to have seen the beginnings of peace and acceptance on the face of a beloved child.

Then and Now

Twelve years ago, I sat in the living room of our next-door neighbors’ home, surrounded by friends, and openly wept as the United States elected its first Black President. That I, a woman bred, born, and raised in the segregated South, should have lived to see such a wondrous day, was almost too much to take in.

I had donated money, made phone calls, and pounded pavement in support of Barack Obama’s campaign, something I hadn’t done since 1960. As a 13-year-old, I had proudly stood on busy street corners with my mom entreating those passing by to vote for John F. Kennedy. Then, as in 2008, my imagination had been captured by what could be, what was possible, with a young, charismatic President in the White House. Then, as in 2008, my candidate won. But then, in 1960, I don’t recall shedding tears, but being happy and thankful. In 2008, my tears were of joy, of hope, of relief – and a smidgen of fear for what might happen to this young man. A Black family in the White House was sure to bring out the worst in some people, so I prayed continually for his safety and for a successful administration.

As we all know, Obama was re-elected to a second term in 2012, and, as with most presidents, his administration was a mix of successes and failures. Never, however, did I feel that he was working in bad faith. He was a man who cared about our country and worked – often against blatant obstructionists – to move us forward.

In 2016, I was originally a big supporter of Bernie Sanders. Deep down, I didn’t really think he could win, but I liked most of his ideas and felt that, even though a lot of them would never make it through Congress, he would move us in the right direction. I was disappointed and angry when the DNC put the full force of their money and power behind Hillary Clinton; however, she would be the one I would support. I couldn’t imagine in my wildest dreams that my country would elect Donald Trump. He was an obvious opportunist, racist, misogynist, and xenophobe. Surely we would continue to move forward and not revert to our shameful past. We’d come so far and we were so much better than that, weren’t we? Obviously not.

As the returns came in and it became obvious that I share this nation with people who were still living in the mid-20th Century, people who cared nothing for progress, or their neighbors, even people in their families, I was too stunned to cry. I was numb. I was angry. I was disbelieving. Surely there was an error somewhere.  It wasn’t until two days later, as I lay on a bed at my chiropractor, that the bottled up feelings were finally freed. Once again – though for a far different reason this time – I cried openly. After that welcome release, a righteous anger overtook me and I vowed that I would protest this misbegotten administration at every turn. My first act was to join The Women’s March in Washington DC – you can read about it here.  I took to Twitter and Facebook with a vengeance. I wrote emails and letters to Congress. I spoke out against him at every opportunity. I even joined the Portland Raging Grannies when Trump refused to condemn white supremacists in the wake of the murders of BIPOC by police officers, and in support of Black Lives Matter.

And as we entered the 2020 presidential campaign, I supported Elizabeth Warren. I still liked Bernie, but felt more drawn to Warren’s ideas and her passion. Besides, it’s past time for this country to elect a woman, and Liz was my choice. But once again, my candidate appeared to be too far out of the mainstream and the DNC selected Joe Biden. I’ve never been a big fan of Biden, frankly. Oh, he’s fine as a person, and is certainly the antithesis of Trump, but he just didn’t seem like he’d be as progressive as I’d like.

As we moved through the campaign, I worried.

As election day approached, I worried.

As returns started coming in, I worried.

When it started looking like a repeat of 2016, I went to bed, too stressed to even watch. When I woke up Wednesday morning, things were looking up. And as I stayed glued to CNN over the next several days, it started looking better and better, though still a nail-biter.

Finally – Finally! – Biden was declared President-elect, and I began to breathe more easily. Deep, cleansing, healing breaths. No tears this time, and no joy, either; just relief. Peace.

Last night, though. Saturday evening, as I sat prepared to hear Biden’s acceptance speech, Sen. Kamala Harris spoke first. Vice-president-elect Kamala Harris. And as she spoke, as she invoked the memory of her mother, of all the women who had gone before, preparing the way, as she spoke of the little girls watching, knowing that they could aspire to be anything, anything at all…

Well, I began to cry.

Happy unBirthday, dear granddaughter!

It’s been one of my life’s greatest joys to live near my youngest son, Ben, his wife, Briana, and their children, Grandson Addison and Granddaughter Drew.

From shortly after the kiddos were born until they reached the age when they could go to preschool – about two years old – I was privileged to be their “Granny Nanny.” I have not only had the pleasure of watching them grow and learn, but have established a closeness with them that fills my heart. We’ve established traditions that I’ve worked to maintain. One of those traditions is that each year for each child’s birthday, their gift from me is a day of shopping followed by an overnight at Gran’s house. It’s always been great fun for me and, I think, for them.

Since Addison’s birthday falls just before Christmas, we usually have our birthday outing sometime during the week after Christmas, although it’s sometimes been as late as mid-January. Drew, however, was born in June, shortly before my own birthday. That has always meant we could plan her birthday treat some time during our shared birthday week.

Until this year: The Year of COVID-19. Which was closely followed by my son’s diagnosis of liver cancer. Needless to say, there have been no overnights due to my current lack of sleeping space, and COVID has been preventing me from wanting to go into a mall for shopping or a restaurant for lunch.

Drew has been extraordinarily patient – not at all the way I was at age 11 – and we decided several weeks ago that part of her belated celebration would be to watch “Hamilton” together – her choice. Last week we planned to celebrate in two parts, since we couldn’t have an overnight, and that we would start this weekend. So this morning, her dad brought her to my house for Drew’s unBirthday, Part I.

First, we made and decorated cupcakes – because what’s a party without cake? Besides, her uncle had wanted white cake and I had bought a mix and some icing. After deciding what colors we wanted for the frosting, Drew and I went to work.

While the cupcakes baked, we shopped online for her very late birthday presents. She already knew what she wanted – books – so we cranked up for the first one, then over to for three more. She’ll be getting books for the next four days, and she kept her purchases within her birthday budget. As an added bonus, our Amazon purchases resulted in a donation to my church.

After the cupcakes had cooled, we created some vibrantly-colored deliciousness – a few for us to have here and the rest for her to take home and share with her family. Of course Uncle Martin will have his share, too!

After all our hard work, we fixed lunch and plopped down in the family room to start watching “Hamilton.” We only made it about halfway through. before it was time to take my girl home to get ready for her cousin’s fourth birthday party. Neither of us minded too much because it just means that we’ll have another day together to finish watching the show!

When we got to her house, she told her parents that she had gotten four books and made cupcakes for her unBirthday – and that she’d gotten a “birthday President.”

Funny. Smart. Creative. Curious. Loving. Compassionate. That’s my girl. I’m blessed in so many ways.



July 6, 2001

It’s been a long time since I’ve watched him sleep – not since he was a very small boy. I’ve seen him sleeping – in bed, on the sofa, in the car, even on the floor – but I haven’t really watched him sleep for years.

You know the kind of watching I mean: watching the play of dreamland across his face, mouth twitching into a smile or frown, foot jerking in some unknown race or in time to unheard music, fingers waving in greeting or farewell. That kind of watching.

Parents do it all the time when their children are small, wondering which of life’s momentous experiences are playing out on the theater screen of baby’s sleep. Our minds are as curious about their world as their minds are about ours. With a kind of awe we watch them sleep, trying to memorize and hold fast to those things that we know are transient and destined to live only in our memories.

As they grow and chisel out their places in the world, we become less awestruck and more impatient. Go to bed. Go to sleep. It’s time to wake up. You’re going to be late. I want to take a nap, play quietly or lie down with me.

They grow, we grow. We stop watching so closely, accustomed now to their presence. The newness is gone, the baby is a person – still loved, still lovable, but not so mysterious. This person has a world that intersects with ours, but we are no longer their universe, nor are they ours. There are events, perhaps, that are captured in the photo albums of our hearts – first steps, the first day of school, losing the first tooth, first love, first big disappointment, first important achievement. But soon, too soon, the baby is the adult and the film of his life is as choppy and scratchy as the old home movies we used to watch when he was small. Not quite in focus, some parts in black and white, cut off where the projector stalled and burnt a hole in the fragile film. Memories stored, to be recalled in quiet times, in lonely times, in happy times – whenever some event or place tickles and a faded memory bubbles to the surface of the mind. They’re there, these memories, waiting to be bid to rise.

Today they came flooding back as I watched him sleep. When the corner of his mouth curled into a fleeting smile and his chin twitched in response, I didn’t see the day-old growth of beard, now flecked with gray, but a sweet bow-mouth and fat rosy cheek. When his foot flexed and briefly jerked, it wasn’t the foot that had been cut on a piece of glass on the day of his senior prom, but the foot that I kissed and tickled while peals of laughter rang throughout my world. The dark lashes that lay softly curled on his cheeks were as wondrous to me as the day he was born. And the tousled hair that barely covers his head was, in my mind’s eye, the baby-soft hair of a newborn.

And as I sat next to him while he slept, I remembered and I cried. As we waited – he in his world of dreams, I in my world of pain – for the test that would tell us how badly damaged his liver is, I watched him sleep. And I was so grateful.


Discovering purpose

In 1983 when my youngest child was three years old, I decided it was time to go back to work. I had interviewed with a private school for a position that I particularly wanted, paid what I believed I was worth, and wasn’t too far from my home in Miami. I felt certain that I’d be hired, and waited for the phone call saying so.

I waited for what I felt was a reasonable time. Anxious for an answer, I called the decision-maker, only to be told she was on vacation and wouldn’t return till the following week. In the meantime, a church friend heard I was job-hunting, told me she needed a clerical person right away, and if I wanted it, the job was mine. Although I wasn’t at all familiar with her organization, I eagerly accepted and agreed to start the following Monday.

Over that weekend, I received a call from the school – and a job offer. I told her that I had already accepted another position, and despite her plea to come work for her instead – along with an apology for not calling sooner – I told her that I couldn’t go back on a promise.

And so I began to work for – and learn about – hospice. As is often the case in life, I hadn’t an inkling how important my decision to take one path instead of another would turn out to be.

I had taken a first step on a Path.

At this time, I lived in a small S. Florida town – a largely conservative farming and military community – attended a church where the membership was mostly conservative, and had abandoned the more liberal political and social views with which I was raised. I had left the Democratic Party and embraced the “family values” of Ronald Reagan and the Republican Party. After all, how could I, a married church-going woman and mother of three sons, be against family values? Wasn’t that what it was all about?

One of the central tenets of these “values” was a rejection of homosexuality, and a belief that it was a choice rather than an inborn trait. Because of my faith, I adopted a hate-the-sin-love-the-sinner attitude, including the belief that it was an abhorrent lifestyle that, with love and mental health treatment, could be changed. I was sure that I had struck the right balance.

Soon after I took the job with hospice – which at the time was primarily medical transcription and light office duties – filing, answering phones, learning about end-of-life treatment for cancer patients – we began to see our first patients who were infected with something called HTLV-III, or the “gay virus.” At first it was just a trickle of people – always men – one or two every few weeks, but soon we were seeing more and more of them. At the time, transmission was incompletely understood, but it soon became apparent that “gay sex” was the culprit – although our medical staff carefully avoided all bodily fluids, including urine and tears, just in case.

Over time, I was promoted and given new areas of responsibility, first as office manager, and later as the lead secretary and trainer for the patient care team. Our hospice was growing and our patient census was being filled more and more with those with the “gay virus” – now known as AIDS. Part of my job was now “intake” – taking calls from physicians and families who were referring men with this disease. I heard stories that reduced me to tears. Parents who refused to care for their sons with the disease because of the stigma attached to having a gay child; families refusing to allow long-time partners to visit a child who was dying; or kicking that partner out of a house or apartment that he had shared with their child; young men being left to die alone; fathers refusing to pay for medication that would postpone the inevitable – one even saying, “You aren’t going to live long enough to pay me back.” Even when some tiny part of me kind of understood, the larger, more compassionate me couldn’t fathom how a parent could treat his or her child like this. I was deeply conflicted.

Another step on a Path that was filled with curves,
hairpin turns and boulders

It was during this time that I was approached by the principals of this hospice and asked to take the position of Program Manager for their newly formed foundation. Since it would mean not only a generous raise and more responsibility, but an opportunity to provide resources otherwise unavailable to those who were dying, I eagerly accepted.

As the onsite manager, I had a small staff and several volunteers under my supervision. Much to my chagrin, almost our entire focus was on people with AIDS, and all of my volunteers were gay men. Although I kept my beliefs about homosexuality to myself, I silently, internally, judged them. Over time, as I came to know them better – especially Jon, Ed, and Gregg, who were a committed threesome – I tried to determine from their stories why each of them had “chosen” to be gay. I was never completely satisfied with these internally constructed rationales, and soon gave them up. They were fun and funny young men, and we enjoyed our time together. We attended fundraising events together, planned and executed community activities and parties, and they invited me to their beautiful home for a delicious dinner. It was during this dinner that Ed showed me two antique dolls that his grandmother had left to him. He told me that he didn’t know what to do with them, nor did he know why she had given them to him. I admired them, and told him of my love for dolls and that his might have some monetary value. Several weeks later, he confided that he needed money for his medication and had taken the dolls to a dealer to see what they were worth. Sadly, they had no real value, but Ed was able to find resources through a friend. Two days before Christmas, I found a beautifully wrapped gift on my desk, and the three of them standing in my office eagerly waiting for me to open it. Inside were the dolls. A gift beyond measure, and more than 30 years later, Edwina and Jonelle still hold a place of honor in my home.

My Path was growing straighter,
the hairpin turns fewer.

This is all preamble. This was all preparation. My heart was being changed and I didn’t fully recognize it until, in 1988, my oldest son – who was then 18 years old – tearfully, agonizingly, painfully, told me that he’s gay. To say I was stunned is an understatement. This beautiful young man who was sought after by nearly every girl who saw him – how could he be gay? Our family went to church every Sunday and some days during the week. He was involved in the youth group. His friends were primarily boys and girls in our faith community and in his church-sponsored school. He knew – dammit, he knew – that homosexuality was wrong! But I held him and cried with him and offered what comfort I could.

And then came the guilt. What had I done to cause this? There was a popular belief at the time that an overbearing mother was a strong factor in the “choice” to be gay. Yes, I’m strong-willed and come from a matriarchal family. Was I too strong? Was I really overbearing? Domineering? All questions for my psychologist, who rushed to assure me that I bore no “fault,” that medicine was beginning to accept that homosexuality is inborn, that it’s the way the brain is wired, that it’s not an aberration but a normal behavior, probably determined at conception. Prayer, spiritual direction, and counseling did their work. Instead of rejecting my son as I had heard so many parents do in my work with hospice, I embraced acceptance. Nothing about him had changed; he was exactly the same person he’d always been. The only thing different was that I had a new piece of information about my child. Yes, it was an important piece of information, but that’s really all it was. I began to find peace in my heart and in my mind. I felt sad for the times that he’d heard me speak out against homosexuality; how painful that must have been for him! How many times had he wanted to tell me about a crush – as his brothers had felt free to do – but held it back. Had his heart been broken and he was afraid to seek the comfort of his mother? It was a hard time of soul-searching.

I began to recognize my Path. I believed I saw where it was taking me, that it had clarity.

Then I began to be afraid. AIDS was still a real danger, and I cautioned him over and over again about its dangers and how to be safe. At one point I even told him, “Don’t you dare ever tell me you have AIDS! You know how to be safe; you know what to do. Do it.”

In 2006, after I’d moved to Oregon, he called me from Miami to tell me that his partner, a man he trusted, had infected him. He had full-blown AIDS. I cried. I asked how he could have let this happen when he knew to be safe. He apologized. He told me that he thought his partner was clean. He assured me that he was on medication, that it was no longer an automatic death sentence. He told me that he’d been afraid to make the phone call because I’d told him not to ever tell me he had it. I felt that I’d failed him once again. I told him I was sorry, and that I love him. I would always love him.

This Path of mine had hit a rockslide.
I couldn’t tell where it was leading me.

A year ago, in the fall of 2019, Martin was diagnosed with liver cancer. It’s unrelated to his AIDS diagnosis, and has resulted from “cryptogenic cirrhosis,” which means they don’t know why he has it. Initial treatment appeared successful, but this past July a CT scan and an MRI revealed that it’s back with a vengeance. In the space of only eight weeks, it’s grown to the outside of his liver, metastasized to the lining of his abdominal cavity, and there’s no treatment possible. Anything medicine can do would only cause more damage to his fragile liver. He’s in pain all the time – sometimes bearable, but often not. He sleeps about 20 hours a day. The cancer is pressing against his other organs, causing difficulty breathing, and extreme discomfort eating. His food intake has dropped to about one-fourth of what it was even a month ago because of the feeling of fullness after small meals. Despite this, he’s gained about 30 pounds since his diagnosis. Fluid is filling all of his body tissue rather than pooling in his abdominal cavity where it could be drained. His official prognosis is less than six months. Privately I’ve been told he may not make it till Christmas.

Three days ago, Martin signed on with hospice.

A simple decision made nearly forty years ago set me on a Path that now has a clear destination. I learned. I grew. I accepted. I can look back now and see it clearly from where I started. The hairpin turns, the curves, the boulders and rockslides – all are gone. I don’t look forward to see where it will end. Instead, I live each day, I welcome each day. I treasure each day.

This has been, is, will be, my Path.
Unknown, unexpected but filled with growth and lessons.

I call my Path “Love.”

Everything old is new again

With some prompting from my son, Jason, I’ve decided to publish some of the things I’ve written across the years. This is the first of… I don’t know how many.


March 17, 1992

Cheryle Jones Cerezo

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1

Who cannot understand the magic of his or her own name? And how the speaking, or calling, of your name attracts your immediate attention – even if the name being called actually “belongs” to someone else? What parent in a crowded store hasn’t heard a plaintive “Mommy!” or “Daddy!” and responded in some way – a quick look around, a more attentive ear – even if your child is at home?

Our name is our most personal possession. Those who named us chose our name with care: perhaps a family name was chosen, or the name of a special friend or Godparent, or maybe your parents just liked it. No matter what the reasoning, no matter how much we may like or dislike our name, it had special meaning to the one or ones who bestowed it.

The bestowing of a name also creates a relationship between the named and that person. Ask any parent whose child has named a particular puppy or kitten in a litter. That’s the one you usually end up keeping. If you’re fortunate, only one was given a name!

My name is special – and somewhat different. My given name is Cheryle Ann. When people remark on the original spelling of my first name – and many do – I tell them that my mother did it to me; she put the “e” on the wrong name. Now that’s not entirely true. She put the “e” just where she wanted it, and depending on the circumstances, the sound of my mother calling my name was either the most comforting or the most feared sound in my life! She chose it for me. And no one has ever made it sound just exactly like she did, because she truly “called me by name.” I am hers.

Many of us have more common names. There are lots of Joes and Nancys and Jennifers and Jasons – a virtual plethora of Jasons, one of them belonging to me. Regardless, though, of how common or uncommon your name is, it has a different sound when it is spoken by the one who chose it.

So it is with God. He calls us by name, and in His voice our name is uniquely our own. We share it with no one else, as God speaks it. He speaks it with the love and longing He has for us, with the voice of the One Who knows us best and loves us anyway. When God calls our name, it may not even have the same number of syllables or the same sounds in it. He speaks to us in our spirit, where He resides, and the spiritual nature speaks and hears differently than the human nature. But we know it’s Him, and we know He’s speaking. When God calls us by name, He does so with all the knowledge of who we really are, and He says “Fear not.”

As Psalm 139:15 so beautifully says, “Your eyes beheld my limbs, yet unfinished in the womb; all of them were written in your book; they were fashioned day by day, when as yet there was none of them.”

Who could know us more intimately than God? Who but He could speak our name so profoundly that each syllable, each inflection, calls the totality of our being to attentiveness?

Listen when God calls your name. Hear how special you are. Know that He calls the entirety of you to Him.

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1

Nuclear War, Nazis, Racists, and Grandchildren

This post has been a week in coming. It’s taken so long because every time I thought it couldn’t get worse, it got worse. And just as I had something composed in my head, a new atrocity rose up to overshadow the previous one.

A week ago, my grandson spent the night with me. He’s a smart, precocious rising fifth-grader who enjoys babies and small children, Jeopardy, CNN, most of the shows on HGTV, and is a walking encyclopedia of baseball statistics. He reads the Farmers’ Almanac, trivia (or did-you-know) books with the same intensity I used to read Nancy Drew. He’s also a lot of fun to spend time with, and we talk about almost everything.

Last week we discussed Trump’s words and actions relative to North Korea, and any fears he might have or what he thought might happen. I told him about growing up in during the Cold War, and living just a mile from the base headquarters of the Strategic Air Command in Tampa. I explained how scary that could feel, and how we had “bomb drills” in the same way he has fire drills or lock-down drills. Although we obviously came to no resolution, I tried to assure him that it was unlikely we would actually have war, since, pragmatically, our threat to North Korea was much greater in terms of lives and damage than their threat to us. We agreed that war is bad, that any loss of life would be horrible, and I think it helped him to talk about it.

That conversation was on Friday, and I thought it was probably the most serious conversation we would have for a while. Then came Saturday in Charlottesville.

This grandson wrote a paper on WWII last year for class, so he has some knowledge of who Hitler was and about the Nazis. And, like the rest of us, he likely thought it was an evil that had been put to rest. Oh, he knows about racism and discrimination. He has a virtual rainbow of friends, both at school and in his neighborhood. He has a gay uncle and great-uncle, and a couple of gay cousins, knows people who are in same-sex marriages and committed relationships, and his parents don’t put any questions – from him or his sister – off-bounds. So he’s aware, but it’s not a big deal. His greatest concern following the November election was for his friends who are Mexican and those whose religion is Islam. It probably isn’t necessary to mention that he’s no fan of Donald Trump, and takes every opportunity to mention it!

So, how do we talk about Trump’s recent remarks about the events in Charlottesville? How do I explain that there are people who would hate him because he’s one-quarter Puerto Rican? And how does that work with the fact that he’s descended on my side of the family from people who owned human beings and who fought to dissolve this union of states, so that they might continue to profit from slavery? How do I explain that the word “n***er” was used freely within my extended family when I was growing up. What will he think when he’s old enough to be interested in my grandfather’s memoirs, which are filled with epithets against people of color, Jewish people, and a host of others who weren’t White, Southern, and Episcopalian?

What do I say about the people who voted for Trump? Do I say they aren’t bad people? Or that they aren’t all racist or bigoted? Do I say that somehow they were able to ignore Trump’s words and vote for him anyway? Do I fall back on my mother’s old saw that politics makes strange bedfellows? Do I tell him that there are people who are genuinely concerned about the economy and hoped Trump would make it better, and that they were angry enough to vote for him? How, then, do I explain that a race of people who have suffered from a depressed economy for generations don’t have the same right, according to some, to be angry?

What words do I use to tell him that Donald Trump has a son-in-law and two grandchildren who are descended from Holocaust survivors, yet he defended Nazis, surely knowing, and just as surely not caring, about the pain that must cause them? My grandchildren – all of them – think of grandparents as protecters and defenders, as people who love them and would never choose to hurt them in word or deed. How can he understand that there are grandparents who put their own selfishness above the emotional well-being of their grandchildren?

How do I explain that the person who occupies the highest elected office in this land has defended and provided excuses for Nazis and white supremacists, and those who would divide us by race and religion? How can this even be a current events discussion in the 21st Century?

And how will Donald Trump explain his angry words and his support for Nazis and bigots to Arabella, Joseph, and Theodore?


In late summer of 2015, my sister, niece, and I made our second genealogical Southern tour. This time it was precipitated by the news that one of our forebears, John Justus Grovenstein, was to be honored by the DAR at Oak Grove Cemetery in St. Marys, GA.

St. Marys is a lovely little seaside town just across the Florida/Georgia state line, and is where my grandfather was born and grew up, and where many of his family (including his mother) are buried. While there, we also planned to visit some other family gravesites, as well as the town of Ebenezer where our ancestors first settled in the mid- to late-18th Century. We also planned to finally meet up with a long-time Facebook friend and attend services at his church, have dinner with a cousin, and – one of the highlights – actually have a tour of the house that my great-great-grandfather lived in after the Civil War.

We were able to do all of these things and more, and had a wonderful time. One thing I had hoped to do, but didn’t know if we could, was to visit Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston. This was just a few months after nine people were murdered by a White Supremacist as they met for prayer and Bible study. Since my great-great-grandfather’s old home was also in Charleston, I had high hopes.

In fact, we did visit Mother Emanuel, and as we gathered, there were a large number of other people arriving as well. The gates were locked and we weren’t able to go inside, and there were obvious signs of construction and repair following that hateful and horrendous act. There was a man there who had created great signs with sheets of plywood, and he invited each of us to sign our name, leave a few words, to honor the memory of the victims. I can’t remember how many hundreds of thousands of signatures he told us were there, but it was impressive.

As we stood there on a hot southern summer day, I began to weep. Looking back, it was similar to the spontaneous and uncontrollable weeping I had experienced at the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC several years before. A weeping not just for the awful loss of life, but for a society that allows such things to occur, that at times seems to foster the very hatred that is represented. An African-American woman who was there saw me and opened her arms to me. We embraced, and through my tears all I could say was, “I’m sorry. I’m so very sorry.” But I felt her consolation even though I should have been consoling her. It was a sacred moment in a sacred space.

This week I am watching “O.J.: Made in America,” a documentary film that won an Academy Award this year. It’s long – five episodes, each about an hour-and-a-half long. I’ve just finished the second episode, and it’s gut-wrenching. You see, it isn’t just about O.J. Simpson. It’s about the Watts Riots and Eulia May Love and Rodney King. It’s about all the things I was too busy to pay close attention to when they were happening, but that were telling people of color over and over and over and over again, “You’re not important to us. Your lives aren’t as valuable as ours. You are disposable.”

It’s about Mark Fuhrman (remember him?) saying, “What do they think they’re proving by burning their own businesses? I don’t understand it.” It’s about Police Chief Daryl Gates defending the indefensible, and blaming King for the excessive force that was used against him. It’s about all the ways we as a nation have failed the most vulnerable among us. Perhaps if Mark Fuhrman had read history, had seen that generations of our fellow citizens had tried every method available to them to achieve parity, only to be spurned at every turn, perhaps then he could have understood the anger and frustration that leads people to set fire to their own neighborhoods, to break and destroy, to loot and to crush. Perhaps he would have understood that when the wall of injustice is falling on you, you do whatever it takes to get someone’s attention, even if it seems unreasonable and counterproductive to passers-by.

I can see that. I don’t like it and I don’t condone it, but I can understand it. I’m just sorry it took me so long.

And now we are living in a time when people are being banned because they’re Muslim or Mexican, when cemeteries are being vandalized because they hold the mortal remains of Jews, when a White Supremacist sits in the highest halls of power in this country. I may have been busy working and raising children in the ’70s and ’80s and ’90s and not paying close attention, but I’m paying attention now. And I’m using my voice in whatever way I can – postcards and rallies and marches and town halls. Tweets and emails and Facebook posts. Learning how to be not just an advocate, but an ally. Learning to put aside my natural inclination to speak in favor of listening and learning – and then speaking the truth of what I’ve learned. That’s why I #RESIST.

And I think often of that kind, embracing woman in whose arms I wept on a hot summer southern day. And I wonder if she ever thinks of me.

Dinner with a friend

Last Friday, I went out to dinner with an old friend. Patty and I first met when we both worked for Portland Parks in the late ’90s, lost touch after I left in ’01, and reconnected on Facebook a year or so ago. I always enjoy her company and look forward to our occasional dinners.

As is common these days, our conversation soon turned to politics. Patty voiced her concern that those of us on the left are fragmented in our approach to what’s going on right now, and that it would be better to be cohesive if we hope to have electoral successes in 2018 and 2020. The question is: How do we do that?

Right now, we do have a lot of fires that we’re trying to put out. The Trump administration has mounted assaults on LGBTQIA rights, Women’t rights, immigration and human rights, our national lands, our ecology, education, and with the “get tough on crime” stance, a certain assault against people of color. And, really, that’s only part of the things we’re fighting against. The lack of qualifications and sheer incompetence of Trump’s cabinet is frightening and threatens the very foundations of our nation.

I don’t think anyone has all the answers, but I agree that we do need to work together. The most important thing we can do for now is continue to voice our objections, to attend marches and protests, to participate in Town Halls, call our representatives, and as we are able to provide financial support to those politicians whose positions most closely match our own. We also need to continue to support our representatives who are taking a stand against the current administration’s appointments and policies. There is an abundance of resources available on the internet, and most anyone can find a cause to support.

I believe the great danger is stretching ourselves too thin, or exhausting ourselves with outrage. For me, the decision of the 9th Circuit Court last week caused me to breathe such a huge sigh of relief that I became fully aware of just how wound up I’ve been. When I realized that the action of a court on just one issue seemed so monumental, I knew that I need to find a way to pace myself. I can’t do everything, so I’ve had to make hard decisions about just what to do. My choices are going to focus on particular human rights, even though that decision necessarily means I can’t focus on the environment, education, egregious cabinet choices, or even the Supreme Court. Of course, I can still make phone calls on those issues – and I will – but my volunteer time will go toward protecting vulnerable people.

Other people – those with more experience and more knowledge – might find that focusing on DAPL, NAFTA, SCOTUS, or any of our alphabet of issues fits more comfortably into their lives. The important thing to remember is to not burn out. Take some time away from Facebook and the news, even if it’s just a few hours or even a day or two. Treat yourself to a massage or a nice dinner out. Pet your cat. Walk your dog. Appreciate the view out your window. Whatever it is that brings you joy and peace, do that thing – even if it’s just for a few minutes.

This week I’m going to a campaign kick-off for a woman I know only through Facebook. She’s running for the school board, and although she isn’t in my district, I’m supporting her with my presence even though I can’t support her with my vote. We need new blood in politics and those who are willing to put themselves out there deserve more than just an attaboy – they deserve our presence and where possible, our dollars. If you’re thinking about running for office, good for you! Let me know and I’ll publicize your campaign.

Each time I blog I will try to post new links to information that will help you find your place. If these links are useful, please let me know. If you know of other opportunities, put them in the comments and I’ll highlight them in my next post.

And to respond to Patty’s concern: Yes, we are fragmented to some degree, but the bottom line is that human rights covers everyone’s rights. Concern for the environment covers pipelines, fracking, drilling, loss of Federal lands, and animal protections. So really, we aren’t that divided. We just need to hold the umbrella a little higher and let more people into the shelter of our concerns. I’m optimistic that before the mid-terms roll around we’ll have identified a more cohesive message. And in the meantime you can still make those phone calls, send postcards, and show up when you can.

And still we persist!

How to Get Out of the Cycle of Outrage in a Trump World

Your Guide to the Sprawling New Anti-Trump Resistance Movement

Elect a Brand New Congress That Works for All Americans

Indivisible – A Practical Guide For Resisting the Trump Agenda

A Call to Action

There were a lot of reasons I didn’t participate in the protest movements of the ’60s and ’70s. In retrospect, most of them still seem legitimate (although boy-chasing might not make the cut), but I do remember being somewhat disdainful of those who did. I was a much more establishment person than my younger sister, but not quite as rigid as my older brother. That’s been the story of my life: Too old for this, too young for that. Middle child, middle path.

I first put my toes gently into the waters of protest and civil disobedience in the late ’70s when I protested the actions of the mayor of the small Florida town where I lived. We marched. We gave television interviews. We wrote letters to the editor. We hanged the mayor in effigy. Our efforts were largely unsuccessful, but at least we hadn’t sat home doing nothing.

So last month when I dragged my somewhat-reluctant daughter-in-law off to D.C. to the Women’s March, I was nearly as new to protest at almost-70 as she was at 40-something. But we did it. We both moved out of our comfort zones (I hate crowds, she hates crowds), and went off to an unfamiliar place to participate in an unfamiliar activity. And even though it very nearly broke my body, I look forward to participating in more actions.

So, how do we find those places where marches and/or protests are taking place? Last weekend after Trump signed and announced his overreaching Executive Order banning people from entering the U.S., demonstrations seemed to happen almost spontaneously at airports across the nation. Since they went on all weekend, it was almost guaranteed that you could show up at an airport and be part of a group protesting no matter when you went. But what about the not-so-obvious protests – how do you find those?

Google is your friend. Type “protest” and the name of your city (or nearby big city) into the search bar. You can also check out the American Civil Liberties Union  and get on their mailing list. Better yet, ask if you can volunteer; they need more help than just attorneys. This Mashable site also has a lot of good suggestions for getting involved. has a list of activities by issue as well as several other good resources. You can also search groups on Facebook (some of the Women’s March groups have resources), and send out requests to your local friends on FB who might have information. The more connected you are, the better your chances of finding out what’s going on.

For those who can’t get out, there are postcard and phone call campaigns going on all the time. You can sign up to have a weekly action checklist emailed to you here, or you can just go to the website at your leisure.

If you can’t do rallies or marches, offer to watch someone’s child so s/he can go. You might also offer rides to those who need them. There are many ways to help and all of them are vital.

Trump’s Alt-Facts

I’ve begun keeping a list of information to use to debunk the lies that flow from the Trump White House. I’m starting it here, but will also create a document that will be updated as necessary. Please feel free to disseminate this blog or any other information as you find helpful.

Alt-Fact: The addition of Steve Bannon to the National Security Council is in keeping with the actions of Presidents G.W. Bush and Obama


Alt-Fact: Trump’s immigration policies are no more restrictive than Obama’s


Alt-Fact: Syrian Christians weren’t able to enter US under previous policy


Alt-Fact: “Millions of people” voted illegally in 2016


For Further Information

I highly recommend Politifact and Snopes for checking what you read online – and especially before you post something that seems too far-out to be true. Unfortunately, we are in a situation where the unbelievable has become all too easy to believe, but by perpetuating questionable information we leave ourselves open to criticism and disbelief. Better not to post that questionable item than to be unable to defend it.


It’s critically important to take care of yourself. Activism is exhausting and outrage can only be sustained for so long. You may find it easier to throw up your hands and say “fuck it” than to continue on your course. Don’t do that, please! We need every voice, every postcard, every body! Here are some tips to help you de-stress, and if those don’t suit you, find someone to talk to or – as always – Google is your friend!

This collection is by no means exhaustive, so please feel free to add to it in the Comments!

Welcome to The Resistance!