On March 8th, 2010, I had my first day as a Programs Coordinator at the Houston Coalition for Life.
On July 9th, 2014, I had my last day.
A lot happens in four years.
At moments like this I like to fall back on “a picture’s worth a thousand words.” Because, really, who can describe four years of ministry in one blog post?
In addition, I was asked not long ago what exactly it was I did at HCL.
Now that it’s been a week since my last day, I also keep getting asked if I “miss my job.”
Well, not exactly. I still have a job (getting married without becoming cRaZy) and I like that job and it keeps me pre-tay busy. I also don’t miss trying really hard to think about work and to NOT think about wedding stuff 30 hours a week. It’s much easier to just think about wedding stuff.
However, HCL was a huge part of my life. My dad jokingly said once that for Dorothy, there were two seasons: 40 Days for Life, and 40 DAYS FOR LIFE IS COMING.
Jokingly he said this. But, also not.
So, instead of twenty-eight thousand words, I inflict upon you merely 28 pictures.
Maybe twenty-eight thousand words after all.
I started at the Coalition on the Monday of a Benefit Dinner week. If you’ve never helped with a dinner for several hundred people I can’t explain this to you. If you have, then you don’t need me to explain it to you. At that dinner, our Executive Director Christine announced we’d be putting a mobile crisis pregnancy center on the road.
Then, a few months later, they put ME on the road as part of a team to help check out a bus they thought might be a good fit for the project.
Actually, they put me in the air:
Yep, that’s a six-seater.
Yep, I loved it.
Every. Single. Second.
To this day I prefer tiny planes to big ones. Oh boy, do I prefer them. I had a great time and we bought the bus and it was an adventure and I love tiny airports and it was only the beginning.
• • •
The next trip I took was in September of that same year. This is my first picture with a famous pro-lifer, Father Frank Pavone. I wanted the picture, but I didn’t. I wouldn’t have been in it if Christine hadn’t made me. I felt ridiculous, but waay deep down I knew I was really eternally grateful that she made me be in it because, really, Father Frank. I just have this hate/love/hate relationship with me-and-a-celebrity photos…I want to believe I don’t care, but I do, but I don’t.
There are tons of not-pictures of me with the pro-life celebrities I met. There are lots of people I got to work with whose names you might know, only there are lots of pictures I didn’t get in. So…here is Father Frank and you can thank Christine because she did know best.
• • •
Christine, Suze, David Bereit, and moi.
I don’t think I ever took another picture with him. “I have one with him, I’m good. It’s recorded.”
This was a fun night. I was still getting my feet wet with public speaking and it was only beginning to dawn on me how much I would come to LOVE it. I look at this picture and I feel like I was So. Young.
Also, so inexperienced.
• • •
One of the first benefit dinners I went to…this one was for Texas Right to Life. So many dinners…ssooooo maaaaany. Don’t worry, my outfits did improve. I sense your relief.
• • •
A benefit dinner. This one for Life Advocates. Look how long my hair was…and see? Better outfit…borrowed from my sweet co-worker who couldn’t go.
• • •
You don’t see me, but I’m there. What you DO see is Eduardo Verastagui earnestly trying to pray the Rosary. Shortly after this picture was taken he was mobbed by adoring fans. This is one of the not-pictures of me and a celebrity. My co-worker and I were in charge of the “Green Room” where he was supposed to be hidden all day, except people who were supposed to be keeping people out kept bringing people in. It was awful. I’ve never actually seen women fawn over someone before, but they were doing that to him. It gave a whole new level of horror to my aversion towards photos with celebrities. I guess I’m just too stuck up.
He’s a nice guy though, that Eduardo.
• • •
A benefit dinner! Again! For Brazos Valley Coalition for Life. They always had such great speakers. This one is with our bus nurse and her husband. She’s basically a famous pro-lifer. Tons of girls in Houston know her. One famous person I never minded being in a picture with. 🙂
• • •
A dinner, but not exactly a benefit…this was when Cardinal Burke came. That was actually pretty awesome. I got to help quite a bit with this. We had this massive dinner called “A Night for Life” and then a big Mass and Rosary March to Planned Parenthood the next morning, called
“A Morning for Life.” Good times. Me and my Suze in this one.
* * *
Me & Suze again. This time less glamorous…we were washing the bus. We called it “giving the baby a bath.” We also referred to cleaning the septic tank as “changing the baby’s diaper…”
Random pro-life humor.
* * *
Pretty sure this was my first time tabling, at Cafe Catholica…or maybe it was just my first time tabling alone. I forget who took the picture for me. This was the event where I met my “Booth Buddies,” the ladies from the St. Vincent de Paul Society. We set up next to each other, and I had the best time running into them at different functions throughout the year. I saw them at my last Cafe Catholica the week I finished at HCL, and it was like getting the perfect farewell.
* * *
Tabling at AYC, or the Archdiocesan Youth Conference for those of you uninitiated into this experience of youthful frenzy. This particular AYC was just a few weeks before I left for World Youth Day in Madrid…and it should have been my warning that I wouldn’t exactly be in major love with the crowds. Oh, well. It was a good experience, and I had a good time putting that backboard display together. Also I always loved their table covers better than any other event’s table covers every single year. See the cool black?
* * *
No really, that’s the right name. It stood for Students Proclaim Awesome Message About Repentance And Mercy Available.
Now they just call themselves Unique Student Ministries.
Not quite as catchy, I feel.
It was like the non-Catholics’ version of AYC, and just like AYC it was great to be there. This was actually the same week as AYC, right before I left for Madrid. Teenagers are so hungry to hear messages of chastity and defense of life…you’d be amazed.
* * *
Right after I got back from Madrid, it was 40 Days for Life tiiiiiime. Literally, right after I got back.
So here I am, speaking at the 40DFL kick-off in Montgomery County. There actually IS a picture of me with famous people from that night, since we had about ten speakers they took a picture of us all together. I don’t seem to know exactly where that one is, though. Oops.
P.S. Can you tell by my face I’d discovered I loved public speaking by this time? 😉
* * *
Sidewalk Counselor (SWC) Training Class. I did a boatload of these. This was a great picture actually because there were some really good ones in this batch. I loved my SWCs. I loved the classes. Even though I loved them and I loved training them, I used to get this weird exhausted feeling right before the classes, like I was coming down with something. Not nausea, just that worn-out pre-cold feeling. Then after the class, I always had this big adrenaline rush. I pretty much never felt nervous. Just exhausted. I guess that’s a pragmatist melancholic’s version of jiitters and a performance high.
* * *
I somehow became in charge of the invites and programs for our annual benefit dinner. The year before last, I got to put my sweet nephew’s face on them. The neat thing about this was, right as I was working on it, my parents showed me the invites and programs from a pro-life benefit dinner they had done over two decades before…and my face was on them. Close to the same age as my nephew.
After that I added it to my speaker’s bio and to several presentations that it was a reminder to me that I didn’t want my nephews putting their children’s faces on an invite for an organization that was trying to end abortion…I wanted abortion to be over well before these babies had their own babies.
* * *
Me on the first day of a 40 Days for Life campaign. I feel like this was Spring 2013. COLD. Wasn’t that cold in 2014. And I’m pretty sure I actually asked that it be taken (weird for me) and voluntarily posted it on Facebook (normally Christine had to make me post pictures if I was in them) because I wanted to impress this dude Alex I had just met. Pretty sure about that.
Also, that is my very favorite pro-life sign evah. In case you can’t read it, it says:
“I AM the Pro-Life Generation.”
Best feature? Anybody of any age can hold it. 🙂 In fact, I believe we had a series of pictures that day of several different prayer warriors holding it.
* * *
I look at this picture and can’t help smiling. This was such a fun day. Texas Right to Life (TRTL) asked me to come to their office and give a presentation to their office staff about Abortion-Vulnerable Fathers. I had the super-funnest time. The research for that talk was fascinating, and the people I got to spend the afternoon with were…well, look at us. Don’t we look like we’re having fun?
* * *
Suze and I trekking to Austin in June of 2013. Some Democrat chick named Wendy Davis was supposedly gonna try and filibuster a great pro-life bill, and we heard they wanted pro-lifers in the State Capitol wearing blue. Christine let us take off for the hill(ish) country, and it was a fascinating experience. I remember saying something to the effect of, “Gosh, I wish I could have stayed longer.”
Famous last words.
* * *
Many moons later…just kidding. I think my longest stretch in Austin was a week, but there was a lot of back and forth over the end of June and beginning of July. This has to be one of my all-time favorite experiences during my time at HCL. This picture is of my amazin’ friend V (Veronica to the regular peeps) and I during the last mad week of getting that sucker passed. She was there because she’s TRTL staff and she’d been working away on their legislative team in Austin for the whole session. Behind us you see a tiny part of the line that was snaking up and down several halls and stairways…people waiting to testify for the Senate committee hearing. I had already testified in the House committee hearing (there was actually a whole blog post about that) so I was happy to be let off the hook and be a free roamer covering the doings of the day.
An amusing (to me) side story about V, TRTL, and me:
once right at the beginning of my HCL career, I had followed the example of my more experienced co-workers and written down an event with Texas Right to Life as “TRTL event”.
On reviewing my calendar later, I spent a moment wondering why in the world I had a Turtle Event on my calendar, and what the heck a Turtle Event was. When I realized what I had done I had a good laugh and eventually ended up telling V. It became an inside joke for us, and when we’d correspond about 40 Days for Life we both referred to the time being covered by Texas Right to Life as “Turtle Day.”
More random pro-life humor.
* * *
More TRTL staff and I. Same week, different day, more blue. I didn’t want to wear blue for a while after that. And I could hardly wear orange, could I? But, after so much time surrounded by orange and blue, EVERYTHING began to look like a shade of either blue or orange. Green? Shade of blue. Red? Shade of orange. Purple? Mmmm…probably blue. Yellow? Most likely orange.
Eventually I recovered. Which is good, since I have an orange dress I love, and I don’t mind admitting it however shallow it sounds.
* * *
Another year tabling at Cafe Catholica, and I was fresh out of my Austin experience. I found out that evening how many Facebook peer creepers I had. Flattering in a weird way is how I decided to think of that.
The same evening at Cafe, with Theresa (who worked in another amazing pro-life group at the time, and since then became the perfect replacement for me at HCL) and V, about who you have already been told. We took a picture together because
1. We’re cute, so why not? And
2. Because a friend of ours was writing an article about how three little homeschooled girls from Houston turned out to all become employees at three of Houston’s biggest pro-life groups. We needed a picture to go with the article. Fun. 🙂
* * *
The Great Update.
No really, that was its name. It was a veddy fun event in which I re-trained and updated several sidewalk counselors. It was extra-special for me because my Daddy and some siblings went – the first time they’d ever been able to come to one of my big work presentations.
* * *
Alex took this picture, I believe. I’d helped plan our first HCL Walk for Life the year I was hired and every one since then. This was my last one – which I didn’t know, and Alex did. So, I’m glad he took the picture. 🙂
* * *
There was one other moment that stood at to me as I was thinking about this, and I don’t have a picture of it. There was a girl whose baby was saved because she came on the bus and talked to our Director and our Nurse instead of keeping her abortion appointment. I remembered seeing her, but I didn’t feel like I had necessarily been part of her choosing life. After she had her baby, she came to our Benefit Dinner one year to speak to everybody about how she’d been helped, and she brought her baby.
I got to hold her baby.
I got to hold a baby who had been scheduled to die.
I realized many times over the past four years: whether or not I personally felt like I was part of something, it was more rewarding to me to make other people feel that they were a part of it. I’m not a super emotional or sentimental person about things like this, but one of the best things about my time at HCL was not just being part of “saving babies,” although of course that was incredible.
No, one of the best things was being given the opportunity to give other people the opportunity to know that they could be part of saving babies, saving mothers, saving fathers, saving families.
Not just making a difference myself, but convincing other people they could too.
Will I miss that?