Note

NOTE: Commentary is made as a private citizen and not as Regional Coordinator for Silent No More or Leader of Rachel's Hope, unless otherwise stated.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

MY FIRST MARCH FOR LIFE - WHAT AN ADVENTURE!

I wrote this back in 2016, but thought it would be worth sharing again.  Hope you enjoy my trip down memory lane!

The March for Life in Washington, D.C. is the largest pro-life rally held on or around the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing abortion in the case Roe v Wade.  After getting involved with Silent No More, I dreamed of joining my fellow SNM sisters and brothers at the event, along with thousands of others speaking out for the sanctity of life.  2016 was the year my dream came true.  Not only would I be attending, but I would also be giving my testimony … frosting on the cake.  After months of planning, I was ready to go.

A Story Within the Story

Before leaving the comforts of home, I had a decision to make.  I had designed a jacket with an “I Regret My Abortion” applique. With the current political climate, I didn’t know what kind of reaction I would get if I wore it through the airport and on the plane.  The Holy Spirit made it clear to me.  “Wear it with pride.  Sharing your regret is one of the reasons you’re going to D.C., to begin with.”  Throughout the trip (to and from) I got frowns, a few smiles but mostly raised eyebrows.  While standing in line to check my baggage on the way to D.C., the girl in front of me turned around, saw the applique and asked what it meant.  I gave her a brief introduction to Silent No More and told her where I was headed. She said, “You know, I had an abortion years ago, and I still wonder what I would have had, what he/she would have looked like.”  The look on her face said it all.  I asked her if she had ever attended healing and she didn’t know such a program existed.  Needless to say, I referred her to the Silent No More website for resources in her area (she was visiting San Diego and heading home). Had I not had my jacket on, she may have continued to struggle.


The flight to Washington was a breeze.  I was blessed to have empty seats next to me on the long flight which allowed me to stretch out, watch continuing episodes of NCIS and munch on over-priced snacks.

I landed at Dulles International Airport, gathered my bulging baggage and located the Super Shuttle kiosk.  As I walked to the assigned van that would promptly deliver me to the hotel, the white stuff was coming down - but just in spurts.  Being from San Diego, I was delighted.  After greeting my driver (I’ll call him Joe) and two other passengers, we were on our way.  Surprisingly, the traffic was not that bad when we merged on the freeway, being rush-hour and all, but about five minutes into the drive the white spurts turned into a continuous shower and traffic slowed to a crawl, vehicles began

sliding across lanes, and Joe muttered, “This isn’t good.” At that point, I began to wonder if my dream was going to end up a nightmare.  Fortunately, Joe was more concerned about our safety than making a timely delivery and took his time.  We experienced several near misses as cars, trucks, and busses spun around the now-covered interstate – my guardian angel was working overtime.

The first passenger was dropped off at his destination three hours into the normally twenty-minute drive.  We weren’t even in D.C. yet.  I made the mistake of bringing up politics and unfortunately, Joe was quite liberal-minded.  Some interesting dialog commenced for about forty-five minutes, and it started getting a little “heated.”  I knew if it continued, Joe might lose focus on the road. A rather genius idea (if I say so myself) to squelch the discussion popped into my head. I pulled out my portable DVD player and asked the remaining passenger if she would like to watch a movie to pass the time.  She smiled and said, “It would probably be a great distraction.”  Joe said it would be okay as long as we kept the volume down.  I popped in “Gravity,” even though a disaster movie like “The Day After Tomorrow” or “Avalanche” would have been more appropriate. By the time Sandra Bullock stood on the beach with her arms outstretched, we reached my hotel.

Normal travel time from airport to hotel:  39 minutes.
Patti travel time:  5 hours and 30 minutes.



After miraculously surviving the van ride, I said a prayer of thanks even though I was disappointed it was too late to meet up with some of my Silent No More sisters and brothers staying at a different hotel.  Along with being disappointed, I was a tad bit stressed and starving but figured after I checked in, I would take my luggage to the room then have dinner at the hotel’s restaurant. WRONG   Contrary to the website’s claim of dinner service, the restaurant was only open for breakfast.  The desk agent handed me a few fliers of local places that “might” deliver under the current weather conditions and sent me on my way.  I made a mental note to mention that in my review on Trip Advisor.  

I took the elevator to my 6th floor room, and when I opened the door, I was greeted with a blast of heat and the smell of paint.  The hotel was under renovation which was also not mentioned when I booked the room.  At first,the heat didn’t bother me … I was still chilled, but after a few minutes, sweat started to bead on my forehead.  I wanted to cool the room down so tried to lower the thermostat.  Nothing happened.  I looked for the air conditioning setting … there wasn’t one.  No problem, I’ll just open the window.  WRONG   The windows could not be opened.  All I could do was turn the system off completely.  As far as the paint fumes...I just tried not to take any deep breaths. Two more items for Trip Advisor.

My growling stomach reminded me I needed to eat.  I called a local Pizzeria and praise God, they were close enough to deliver. I placed my order, which would take an hour to deliver then started to unpack.  Glancing around the room, I realized something was missing……A COFFEE POT.  Noooooo!  I wasn’t aware of that either.  For those of you that follow me on Facebook, you know I cannot function as a stable, pleasant person without coffee.  My review on Trip Advisor was getting longer.
 
Trying to ignore the anticipated havoc that will be unleashed on the public sans coffee the next morning, I finished unpacking, put on my flannel jammies and settled in ... waiting patiently for the pizza delivery guy to knock on my door.  WRONG   The front desk called and said my delivery was in the lobby.  Lobby?  I asked the desk agent why it can’t be delivered to my room and he said it was the restaurant’s policy not to go to the rooms. My first thought was, am I in a hotel that wasn’t safe for room delivery?

I was too tired and hungry to plead my case.  Not caring about my appearance, I threw on my jacket over my jammies and picked up my pizza.  Regardless of how angry I was, I did tip the delivery driver generously … it wasn’t his fault for the lousy policy…but again, made a mental note for Trip Advisor. I don’t know if the pizza was good or not.  In fact, at that point, even if they had made the pizza wrong and added much-hated mushrooms and onions, I would have eaten it. 

Stomach full, I was able to calm down and get ready for some much-needed sleep.  By now the room temperature had dropped a little, and in time, I was sure it would reach the level of coolness I prefer for slumber. WRONG   Remember when I said I was on the 6th floor?  Well, heat rises…..enough said.  I finally fell asleep, on top of the covers, reminding myself not to breath in the paint fumes too deeply, while mentally outlining my expanding Trip Advisor review.  I convinced  myself the next day had to be better (after I find some coffee).  My friend (I call her sis) would be coming from Stafford, Virginia to join me for the March for Life exhibition and a pre-march gathering of some of the Silent No More Group.


Thankfully sleep didn’t escape me, but waking up with NO COFFEE at the ready was excruciating.  I settled for a warm Coke ordered with the prior night’s pizza, praying the caffeine would, at least, be enough to kick start the day.

Due to the exhausting events the prior evening, I had forgotten to set my Ipad alarm and slept through the morning vigil at the D.C. Planned Parenthood.   I so wanted to stand alongside Father Frank Pavone and others dedicated to exposing the barbaric and inhumane practices of this heinous organization. I rolled myself out of bed and showered, praying there would be hot water and that water would be able to rinse away the disappointment of missing the vigil.  Some good news …   the hotel room did have a blow dryer.  I was thinking maybe things were looking up.

Deciding what to wear was next on the agenda….over-packing might have prevented me from running out of something, but again, it also gave me too many options (am I ever satisfied???).   I settled on something warm (duh) and ventured down to the lobby.  Still upset about the restaurant not operating as advertised, I thought a fitting penalty would to not bless them with my presence.  Fortunately, there was a McDonald’s across the street … My favorite fast food breakfast (Bacon McGriddle) beckoned along with a strong cup of COFFEE!  Once I took a sip of that sweet nectar, I knew the world would be safe from my wrath for one more day.

A few hours later, I saw my “sis” Sharon through the hotel room window.  Tears welled in my eyes – it had been too long since our last visit.  During a long overdue hug and an apology for the substandard accommodations, we were off to the March for Life Expo and Silent No More get-together.

Upon entering the official event hotel, I mentally gave myself a “Gibbs Slap” for being so frugal … resulting in banishment to a tent when for $30 more per night I could have had the Taj Mahal.

Silent No More Friends at the Expo
 Mary Kominski,  Leslie Blackwell, Jacqui Stalnaker,  
Yohanka Reyes, Mary Eisman


The Expo was incredible.  A huge hall bearing rows and rows of exhibitor booths.  Neither of us had seen so many pro-life groups represented in one place before.  We were like kids in a candy shop … chatting it up with vendors, gathering books, brochures, and DVDs.  (Heck, I even freed a few moths from my wallet and splurged on a beautiful rosary.)  The mood of attendees can be best described as electric … sparked by the love for our pre-born and mission to protect them.

Snow covered balcony
 After gathering as much information as possible from
the expo, it was time for the meet and greet in the Silent No More suite. Janet Morana (Co-founder of Silent No More and Executive Director of Priests for Life), Georgette Forney (Co-founder of Silent No More and Director of Anglicans for Life) and others from the group displayed their exemplary hosting talents by putting together a wonderful spread of snacks and beverages.  The suite itself was huge with a magnificent view and expansive, snow-covered balcony (which was quite useful --- right Leslie Blackwell?  LOL).  Seeing the accommodations resulted in another mental Gibb’s slap, for my penny-pinching ways.

Father Frank, Georgette Forney, Janet Morana
It was nice to be able to see Father Frank Pavone (National Director of Priests for Life) again as well as finally see in the flesh, some Silent No More Regional Coordinators and staff I’d connected with on Facebook as well as through our monthly conference calls and Google Groups conversations.  These people have been such an inspiration to me and a guiding force in my desire to do more not only in the Silent No More arena but also in my parish, diocese, and community.

After the gathering, Sharon and I picked up signs to carry at the March, our treasures from the expo, said our good-byes and set out to our next destination - Fogo de Chão Brazilian Steakhouse. Sharon lives in Virginia, but she had not done much driving in downtown D.C.  Although we had a navigating system, we were busy catching up on our lives and talking about the expo and get-together and missed a few turns, ending up in Southwest rather than Northwest D.C.  An hour later, a few more wrong turns (including one down a one-way street the wrong way – YIKES), we arrived.  The meal was fantabulous (I know … it’s not in Webster’s dictionary).  We enjoyed a variety of salads, sides, and meats and definitely needed the three block walk to the parking garage.

We both commented on what a great day it had been which made dealing with our substandard lodging a little easier.  At least Sharon was smart enough to bring silk pajamas….they were much cooler than my flannels.  She fared much better in the oven room.  I swear, from now on, when referring to these accommodations, I’ll be typing HOTel.


March Day had arrived.  Sharon and I didn’t need to set the alarm, we were jarred from sleep by the sound of drilling and hammering.  For some reason, construction workers doing the HOTel renovations scheduled an early start.  (Trip Advisor will have to dedicate several pages to my growing list of comments.)  We were so glad it was our last morning at the HOTel from hell. After the March we would be traveling to the comfort of her and her husband's (Jeff) home in Virginia.

We donned layers of clothing, readied our gloves, headgear, boots, and signs.  I voiced my disdain upon check-out but did so in a manner that would save me from discussing it in the confessional.  Keep in mind, I hadn't had my coffee yet ... quite an accomplishment.

In preparation for the impending storm, streets were already being blocked from parking.  The closest we could get to the Supreme Court was Union Station, a half-mile away.  Although the rally and March started on the grounds of the Washington Monument, Sharon and I both have hip and leg issues.  Instead of marching the estimated two hours, we volunteered to help others secure the area reserved at the Supreme Court for the post-march rally and Silent No More testimonies.  In previous years, pro-choice activists attempted to take over the space and remove signs, equipment, etc.
  
We were way ahead of schedule which allowed us to check out the eateries at Union Station for breakfast and of course, coffee. The station was beautiful and buzzing with activity.  We were pleased to see an abundance of others carrying pro-life signs. After a leisurely meal, we browsed the shops for a while then proceeded to the taxi stand, agreeing to take a cab to and from the Supreme Court in order to save our energy and stay warm as long as possible.

During the budgeting process for the trip, I had factored in taxi fares.  What I didn’t factor in was that because of the storm, a $15.00 each way emergency surcharge was in effect.   The calculator in my head churned out an estimated $55  for a one-mile round trip ride .... with tip.  Once again I avoided a trip to the confessional by biting my tongue.  But you know what?  In all honesty, $55 was a small price to pay, knowing we would arrive ready, willing and able to do our part for LIFE.



The theme for the March was “Pro-Life and Pro-Woman Go Hand-in-Hand.”  Contrary to the pro-abort rhetoric, abortion does not empower women at all.  To quote a blog post, I wrote a few months ago, “To be empowered, a woman needs to be comfortable in her own skin; confident and at peace. Once a woman has an abortion, empowerment slowly slips away, leaving nothing but a gaping wound in her soul, back-filled with pain, self-hatred, guilt, shame, and remorse.”
  
In front of the Supreme Court Building, there was a large group of people standing around the area where Silent No More would offer their testimonies at the end of the March.  A priest led a prayer vigil while a group of approximately 50 pro-choice advocates carried signs such as “Abortion on Demand Without Apology” and “Stand With Planned Parenthood.”   Many were clad in white pants
stained with red dye while others tried to drown out the prayers by spewing the typical accusations, via megaphone, that pro-lifers hate women, don’t care if women die, want to go back to the back-alley coat hanger abortions, etc. What struck me was the contrast.  On one side was a peaceful, loving, prayerful group and on the other an aggressive one consumed with hatred and anger, hell bent on overpowering our words of faith and hope.

After the vigil, Sharon and I were standing near the podium (guarding it).  I carried an “I Regret My Abortion” sign and Sharon carried “I am a Pro-Life Feminist.” One of the pro-choice members eyed the signs and approached us.  We didn’t want an altercation, and both held our breath, waiting for a verbal attack.  Surprisingly, the woman was quite calm and told us God is not against abortion.   She started to speak again about how abortion is a right, etc., and for us to hear her out without being judgmental (that really seemed to be a huge concern for her).  We listened then Sharon smiled and said, “We are not here to judge, and I want you to know I love you.”  The woman looked puzzled and said, “How can you love me, you don’t even know me.”  I turned to her and said, “And God loves you.” She backed away with no response.  She carried a sign with a verse from the Bible:   Genesis 2:7 “And the LORD God formed man out of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul.”  In other words, a baby isn’t a baby until it takes a breath. Pretty far reaching, desperate and sad that pro-aborts think that God's creation of Adam proves a baby is not a person until it is born.

The snow was getting heavier, and marchers gathered for the closing rally. The pro-choicers were still trying (unsuccessfully) in their attempt to drown out the Silent No More testimonies, but as the weather worsened, they left.  The Marchers remained and the Silent No More testimonies continued.

Prior to giving testimonies.
Me, Laura Brown, Kelly Lang,  Leslie Blackwell,
Mary Kominsky,  Jacquie Stalnaker  

So proud of and inspired by all who spoke.
Giving My Testimony


The weather continued to deteriorate as the testimonies ended.  Sharon and I walked to the nearest large street to search out a cab.  Nary one to be found.  So – we braced ourselves for the half-mile walk to Union Station.  Here I was, a San Diegan, walking through a blizzard with snow-covered glasses (why haven’t they invented wipers yet?) and frozen feet (boots can only stay warm for so long).  My mind wandered to a movie my husband and I watched a week prior to the trip, “Everest.”  I could see Sharon, and I like two of the climbing casualties, curled up in a ball frozen stiff in a snow drift.

We finally made it to Union Station and stood in the expansive lobby for a minute or two to take in
the warmth and catch our breath.  Knowing the roads were getting more dangerous by the minute, we needed to get moving or be stranded in D.C. indefinitely.  I braced myself for another five-hour drive (normal time was forty-five minutes), but road crews were all over the place, trying to get salt put down.  It did take us longer than usual, but we only slid a few times and made it home before dark, praise God. We were greeted by Jeff and three precious furbabies – Winston, Jacob, and Reba, reminding me of how much I missed my own husband and critters. Exhausted by the day’s events and drive, it didn’t take long to retire for the night.  How nice it was to have quiet, cool room to sleep in.


Snow in Stafford, VA
The next morning I glanced out the window and was awestruck by the amount of snow on the ground.  Roads were closed, and school closures were already being announced for the coming week which gave me pause as to if I was going to be able to fly out on Tuesday.  I showered, and it was then I discovered a nasty bruise on my toe.  At first, I foolishly thought it was frostbite – mentally preparing myself for it falling off.  What actually happened was my boot creased wrong on the trek back to Union Station.


My "Sis" Sharon and "Bro" Jeff
The weather and my sore toe failed to deter us from enjoying our time together.  There were movies to watch, Wii bowling and many long discussions on a variety of topics.  By Monday, the roads improved enough for us to venture out for breakfast and a drive around the area.   Although I missed my family, I was enjoying the time with my “sis” and “bro,” secretly hoping I might be delayed a few more days.  

Tuesday rolled around, and my flight was on schedule and the roads to the airport clear … DRAT!  After a tearful good-bye, I entered the terminal. Before checking in, I felt the “urge” and found the restroom. Not having an internal GPS, I turned right instead of left upon exiting the facilities, walking for miles on end (well, that’s a stretch) with a sore toe before realizing I was on the wrong side of the terminal for my airline. Since I was unable to do any souvenier shopping earlier, I had wanted to grab a few things from the airport gift shop but time was slipping away.  I finally found my airline and checked in, and waited impatiently to clear security.  As I reached
the checkpoint, they had one of those glass tube x-ray machines.  I walked in, raised my arms waited to be motioned through.  WRONG  I was pulled aside for a pat-down.  My glittered shirt lit up the security screen like a Christmas tree.  Tick, tock, tick, tock.  My shopping time was diminishing.

With minutes to spare, I located the nearest gift shop.  I snagged some t-shirts and coffee cups, paid the bill and rushed to my gate.  From a distance, a voice bellowed…. “Ma’am!  Ma’am!”. I ignored it, but as it got closer, I turned around.  A woman panted, “Did you just leave the gift shop?”  I nodded.  “You left your wallet.”  I looked into my purse, and my heart sank.  She sprinted with me back to the shop, and yes, indeed, it was mine.  I thanked her and the clerk a gazillion times before sprinting back to the gate where the plane was boarding.  WHEW!

The flight to San Francisco was uneventful (thank God), and I was able to stretch out a little due to an empty seat between another passenger and me.  In fact, we gave each other a thumb’s up as the plane pulled back.  The three-hour layover in San Francisco gave me adequate time to go outside for fresh air and pick up a loaf of sourdough bread (my husband’s favorite).  I chose to sit outside (sans jacket), bask in the warm sun, read a little and enjoy an iced coffee.  All was right with the world.  Of course, going back through security resulted in another pat-down with that darned shirt.

That’s it, folks … I boarded the flight to San Diego and was met by my loving husband.  My dogs jumped all over me when I walked in the door but gave me a betrayed look after taking a few whiffs of my jeans ... bearing the scent of Winston, Jacob, and Reba.

I want to take a few moments to share a few 
thoughts on the March: 

First off, according to mainstream media, a “small” group braved the blizzard.  Below is a picture of the small group:



Secondly, I want to comment on the number of young people who participated.  Although I don’t know the percentage of youth vs. adults, it would suffice to say the term pro-life generation is right on target.

Last, but not least, many had to turn around and miss the March, and though disappointed, they should know we felt their presence.  Others were stranded in D.C. and on highways after the March including some of my friends from Silent No More.  I want to thank God for getting everyone home safely.


It was an experience of a lifetime, but I hope and pray the next time I visit D.C. it will not be to bring attention to the devastation of abortion but to celebrate the end of it with the reversal of Roe v Wade.


Monday, January 8, 2018

SPEAKING OUT FOR LIFE


January is Respect Life Month.  Why?  Because it was in January 1973 that Roe v Wade passed and legalized abortion.  

To put the devastation of this law into perspective:


This month, I am honored to be speaking at the Walk for Life in Hemet, CA (January 20th) and the West Coast Walk for Life in San Francisco (January 27th).  Preparing for these events always reminds me of something that happened while attending the West Coast Walk for Life a few years ago.  After giving our testimonies at the pre-walk rally, my friend Leslie and I were asked if we would be willing to join in a panel discussion on Immaculate Heart Radio and talk about life before, but most importantly, after our abortions.  After the segment finished, a priest on the panel thanked us for having the courage to tell our stories in front of so many people let alone to a national radio audience.  Others have made similar comments, and some have even asked me if I get embarrassed because my past is consumed by so many ugly excesses.  

I'm not courageous by any means.  I'm a nervous wreck when speaking.  I've considered backing out on several occasions, but God is quite persuasive. He has called me to share because, unfortunately, there are many women out there just like me.  It's an opportunity to reach out to them and give them comfort knowing they are not alone and no matter how bad they think they are ... nothing is unforgivable in God's eyes.  
As far as being ashamed or embarrassed … Yes I was - but found the more I shared my past, I realized it was a blessing.  As a caterpillar morphs into a beautiful butterfly, evil miraculously emerges as good.  

God saved me from total self-destruction for a reason. He's using me, as well as all my Silent No More sisters and brothers, to not only speak out for life but also be beacons of hope for those who have had or encouraged abortions - guiding them towards healing.

“So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord, nor of me, a prisoner for his sake; but bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.”
2 Timothy 1:8

January might be the month to bring attention 
to the sanctity of life -- but every month, week, day and minute should be dedicated to protecting it.

MARCHES AND WALKS, BIG AND SMALL, 
WILL BE HELD ALL OVER THE COUNTRY.  
PLEASE JOIN US AT ONE NEAR YOU!