Monday, April 27, 2009

Stand Up and Be Counted

Last weekend I attended my second annual BPW State Conference. It was a busy and productive time. I thought I might be expelled from BPW for standing up for my strong—perhaps pigheaded—beliefs.

I learned from the best the importance of being true to myself. Sometimes Jim exasperated me with his determination to stand up for his “principals”. I tried to get him to lighten up and admit that in a democracy, the majority ruled. No way! When he knew something was right, he defended his position. When I tried to reason with him, he merely declared, “That’s against my principals.”

My problem with BPW had nothing to do with our state or local organizations. I am proud of my local Business and Professional Women’s Club. They are great women to work with and, boy, are we ever a busy group! We hold fundraisers, activities and award scholarships. The ladies in our local are my friends and I care about them.

Even Jim with his principals, would have said, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Unfortunately, BPW/USA is broken. My Jim-like round of stubbornness began when BPW/USA came up with a plan to charge a license fee for the BPW name.

Our national organization has made some bad business decisions and is on the brink of bankruptcy. They lost nearly $200,000 on the national conference last year and then lost touch with the very women they were created to serve. After months of pleas for more money from our incredibly shrinking organization, BPW/USA finally realized the members couldn’t bail them out of their mess.

I’ll spare you the details, but now BPW members are voting on a merger between BPW/USA and BPW Foundation. This is the same foundation that recently gave BPW/USA $500,000, but suspended scholarships for 2009-2010. Needless to say, that didn’t set well with a lot of members.

The merger plan got worse. BPW/USA trademarked all their programs and the use of the BPW logo and even the letters “BPW”. This trademark was approved in January 2009. Why would they do such a thing? To protect the trademark, they said. In reality, it was to charge an annual license fee of $40 per person to any woman who wanted to remain a “BPW” member and continue the proud tradition of our foremothers.

What if we didn’t want to pay the hostage fee to use our own name? BPW/USA’s response was to advise us to check with our Secretary of State to take the necessary steps to change state and local names. The Missouri Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs, Inc. was chartered in 1938. Our legal council advised us that this is our name and we don’t have to change it.

BPW was born ninety years ago in St. Louis by a group of women who stood up for their rights and to promote equality and fairness for women in the workplace. These forward-looking women were not afraid to stand up for their sisters and themselves.

Our Missouri women have led the charge for the past ninety years. This weekend, we stood up for the organization we love and for the opportunity to revitalize and reorganize our group.

After we discussed the proposed resolution to disassociate our Missouri Federation from BPW/USA, we were asked to stand if we supported the resolution. The room was filled with my BPW sisters who stood up for what was right.

I believe BPW/USA underestimated the caliber of women who make up their membership. It wasn’t just the newer members who stood up, but long-term members who have been involved in the organization for decades. Women with integrity, courage, and principals stood up to be counted.

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For information about the BPW Merger visit http://bpwgrassroots.blogspot.com

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Memories of a Rocky Mountain Morning

My alarm awakened me Saturday morning at the unreasonable hour of 6:00 a.m. I attempted to clear the fog from my brain to figure out why the darn thing was disturbing my sleep. I shut off the alarm and settled back on my Memory Foam pillow to listen to the radio while I contemplated the rude awakening.

After a few minutes, I remembered I needed to be at work by 7:30. While I tried to convince myself to jump out of bed, the DJ played Vince Gill’s song, “Rest High on That Mountain.”

What a fitting song for the fourth anniversary of Jim’s death. The epithet on Jim’s niche at the Veteran’s Cemetery is “Rest High on That Mountain.”

The anniversary had been bearing on my mind for the entire week. I thought about it on Monday the 13th, which seemed much like a Friday the 13th. I was at home that day, but instead of relaxing, I spent the day working on various projects. Tuesday was a hectic workday with deadlines to complete before noon on Wednesday. I ran into problems, but managed to finish my reports before Brenda and I left for the accountant’s meeting in Kansas City. By the time I got back into the office Friday, I was mentally and physically exhausted.

On this gloomy Saturday morning, all I wanted to do was sleep, but the Vince Gill song brought back a flood of emotions. In my memories, I see Jim sitting on the rock ledge overlooking the Big Horn Meadows in the Rocky Mountain National Forest. Jim plays his guitar and sings a song about Colorado while I videotape him. Tourist and chipmunks watch in hushed silence. One brave chipmunk runs up Jim’s arm and perches on his shoulder.

The Rocky Mountains soothed Jim’s soul. He liked nothing better than making coffee on a camp stove in Moraine Park. He kicked back in a lawn chair, sipped coffee by the campfire and waited for the sun to peek through the mountains.

Jim didn’t need an alarm clock to wake him in the mornings. He was never a sleepyhead like me.

I remember Jim telling me “Rest High on That Mountain” was written as a tribute to Vince Gill’s brother who died too young after a lingering illness. The song spoke to Jim’s heart. Our minds play tricks on us, but I can’t help but think that Jim told me about the history of the song on one of the many Saturday mornings we sat propped up on our pillows while we drank our first cup of coffee.

One of the things I loved most about our life together were the quiet mornings when we had our “together” time to engage in contemplative conversations. At that time, Jim never suspected he would someday have a disease that would steal these moments from his memory.

As I lay in bed, I didn't think about that day four years ago, but instead remembered our ordinary lives fifteen years ago. When the song finished, I walked into the kitchen to start a pot of coffee. I opened the blinds to see a gentle rain falling. The redbuds are bloomed and tiny flowers peek through the grass. It looks like a Colorado morning.

“Rest High on That Mountain” seems to be a message from Jim. He always said that death was closing one door and opening another. I believe he wants me to know that although his death is heartbreaking for his family it is not the end; it is a continuance of life for all of us.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Teddy Bear Smiles and Not So Sweet Dreams

Like many other children, my granddaughter has a favorite stuffed animal she wants to hug while she sleeps. Her bedtime companion is Finney, a Build-a-Bear puppy born in Branson. From the time she warmed his “heart” in her hands, Finney has been her nighttime companion.

Last weekend at bedtime, her question was “Where’s Finney?”

Her mom, Stacey, told her, “He’s in the car with Daddy.”

“But Daddy is at the races!” my granddaughter said. “Finney is alone in the car. I feel so bad!” She buried her face in my lap.

We spent several minutes reassuring her that Finney would be OK. My granddaughter insisted, “He’s afraid of the dark!”

Stacey handed her a big Teddy bear. “You can sleep with this bear until Daddy gets home.”

“Why don’t you hug him?” I asked her. “He hardly ever gets hugs.” The snuggly brown bear had a big sewn-on smile and an orange ribbon around his neck.

My granddaughter hugged him tight. When she held him out to look at him, she said, “Oh, Grandma Linda, his smile is bigger now. Look! He’s so happy!”

I finished a few things before going into my bedroom. She was fast asleep on my bed with the bear hugged to her heart.

With such a pleasant evening, I expected a good night’s sleep. Instead, that was the first night of a week-long series of bad dreams. Night after night, I dreamed about packing for a trip. Nothing seemed to go right in the dreams: the van showed up to take me to the airport before I had my suitcases packed, I couldn’t find my passport, my purse was missing. The scenarios changed but the disturbing dreams continued all week.

Last night, I slept restfully without any bad dreams. I awakened to discover my arms wrapped around the Teddy bear—his nose to my nose. Daylight flowed through the windows, and I could easily see his smiling face.

Not quite ready to wake up, I closed my eyes for a few seconds and thought about the weekend ahead. Easter weekend will be a celebration of Easter egg hunts and services at the Mathewson Center. But the best part of the weekend is my sons and their families plan to join me for Easter services. With our hectic lives, it seems we are seldom together.

With my eyes still closed, I thought about other Easters—the time Jim and his brother-in-law, Dennis, caught a stringer of fish; hiding Easter eggs too well and helping the kids find them; huge family meals at my mother-in-law’s house, dressing the kids up in their Easter outfits, and a rush of other memories about Easters past.

I opened my eyes and smiled at the Teddy bear I still held in my arms. He smiled back, of course, with his sewn-on happy face. Maybe my granddaughter was right—his smile seemed a bit bigger than it had been. Well, at the thought of the weekend ahead, I know mine certainly was.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Clown Noses, Laughter and Tears

I heard rumors that the speaker at our Business and Professional Women’s meeting, Vickie Weaver, had asked for clown noses for each person in attendance. My first reaction was a mental rolling of eyes and words raced through my brain that I won’t put in writing.

I’ve always enjoyed humor and having fun, but usually avoid acting silly. Clown noses sounded pretty ridiculous.

Vickie presented the first part of her program on “The Art of Laughter” touting the therapeutic benefits of laughter. We’ve all heard about life threatening diseases being cured after a person watched several days of slapstick comedy.

The dreaded moment arrived and clown noses were distributed. We opened plastic wrappers and plunked the red sponge noses over our real noses. Immediately, cell phones were removed from purses to take advantage of this photo op. I seriously hope there are not pictures of me on You Tube wearing a red sponge-Bob nose.

I’m pretty sure our honored guests for the evening—a table of men, the chicken fryers from last fall’s fundraiser—thought we had lost our minds. A couple of them tentatively put on their noses, but they didn’t jump up like the rest of us to learn a variety of laughs.

My favorite was the one that ended with throwing our hands in the air and shouting “Wheeeeeeeeeeeee!” Other favorites were the “hand shake” and the “thumbs up” laugh.

I laughed so hard my sides hurt and the muscles on the back part of my head began to ache. I’m sure the good endorphins helped us through the serious topic that dominated our business meeting. We discussed the imminent demise of the 90 year old BPW organization that we all know and love. Our group is determination to continue with our local’s good work even if it requires a name change. Our BPW local supports community programs year round and annually awards scholarships.

Vickie’s timing was perfect to remind us of the importance of not just a smile or chuckle, but a real full body laugh. It is impossible to take yourself too seriously while you wear a clown nose. Clown noses and laughter put troubles into perspective.

After a blustery, cold Thursday, Friday morning was bright with the slight chill of a Colorado summer day, the kind of morning that always makes me miss Jim. It was my day off and I had time to think about personal pressing issues. My broken dryer topped the list. My sister-in-law, Ginger, had already dried two loads of clothes for me. Now, I needed to figure out how to get the dryer repaired or replaced.

As I poured my first cup of coffee, a moment of utter sadness over life’s losses brought tears to my eyes. As I fixed my coffee, I thought about how much Jim loved a cup of coffee. He drank his coffee black. He wanted it steaming hot so he used a thick cup and drank a half-cup at a time. After his cup of coffee he would have fixed the dryer and it wouldn’t have been my problem.

I’m not usually one to weep over what “should-a-could-a” been so I brushed aside the tears to answer the phone. A friend told me he was on the way over to look at my dryer. My spirits lifted, and while I drank my first cup of coffee, I enjoyed the lovely spring day. I began to hum—life can be fun regardless of those pesky day-to-day problems.

I pulled my clown nose out of my purse. Should I just pop the nose on and practice my “Wheeeee!” laugh? Nah! No sense in being silly.