Friday, April 30, 2010

In which our heroine testifies in front of the RI House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare

I was invited by Barth Bracey, the executive director of RI Right to Life, to attend the RI House hearing on the Woman's Right to Know act last Wednesday. (H7377)

In a stunning show of spinelessness, the committee, before hearing any testimony at all, voted to send the bill back for further study. That means that it is left to languish in committee for year number 16.

The bill basically requires that women who are seeking abortions be given information on the nature of the procedure, the risks involved and the development of the fetus. Then she has to wait 24 hours before the actual abortion can take place.

In a state that requires a 5 day waiting period to buy a firearm, doesn't a 1 day wait for something like this seem reasonable? 30 other states have already passed laws like this. Our senate has already passed it. Our house has sat on it for 15 years.

The representatives from Planned Parenthood said that they already give women enough information for informed consent and tried to say that the 24 hour waiting period would be too much of a hardship, especially for their poorer patients.

I decided to go check out what Planned Parenthood tells women about the abortion procedure. On PPs national website, if you read the descriptions of the aspiration abortion it states:

# A tube is inserted through the cervix into the uterus.
# Either a hand-held suction device or a suction machine gently empties your uterus.
# Sometimes, an instrument called a curette is used to remove any remaining tissue that lines the uterus. It may also be used to check that the uterus is empty. When a curette is used, people often call the abortion a D&C — dilation and curettage.

For the dilation and evacuation abortion it says:

# In later second-trimester procedures, you may also need a shot through your abdomen to make sure there is fetal demise before the procedure begins.
# Your health care provider will inject a numbing medication into or near your cervix.
# Medical instruments and a suction machine gently empty your uterus.

The italics are mine.

Gently empties your uterus. The bill before the house would require that a woman seeking an abortion be told about fetal development. Most of us have been told for decades that before 12 weeks of pregnancy you are dealing with a cluster of cells. That is simply not the case. You are, in fact, dealing with an individual life that is fully distinct from his or her mother. He has his own circulation system, his own blood supply, hands, feet, brain, spinal cord, the works. At our center, even women who are only 7 weeks past their last menstrual period can see an actual human being when they get an ultrasound.

Fetal demise. That means they inject a shot into the uterus to make sure the fetus is dead.

Planned Parenthood claims that they give women enough information to make a fully informed decision about the procedure they are about to undergo.

If their website descriptions are any indication, what they offer is a sanitized version of reality that is specifically designed to deceive women. They cannot be trusted to provide accurate information.

We need this bill to pass. Please write to your state rep and demand it.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A first stab at a post-diluvian wrap up

Today marks the end of the 4th week after the flood.

Status: The shop is still not fully functioning. Most of the machines are running, but at least two are still needing repair.

We have mostly given up on the idea of a Government loan. Apparently we can reapply, but frankly are too busy with getting on with things to jump through all the SBA hoops (again) so it will have to wait until things are actually back up and running.

Personally we are doing fine. Our friends and family have been supporting us in all kinds of ways, from sending checks to cooking meals to arranging for groceries to be delivered. We are set for at least the next couple of months, which is a HUGE relief.

I am, for the most part, on the other side of the chaotic emotional roller coaster and seem to have found a sense of serenity about it all. I met with my spiritual director this morning and described what the last month has been like.

It was like I was two people experiencing everything simultaneously. One side of me was resting in God's love, aware that things were unfolding according to his plan, feeling safe in the knowledge of his love of us. There was a bedrock of peace on which I was relying and it never left.

The other side, however, went through a lot of emotional distress, grief, anger, sadness, you name it. I never knew, from day to day, what frustrations were going to emerge. I was in a maelstrom that just kept swirling around me.

Both of those things were going on at once. Looking back, I realized that the existence of one truth did not negate the existence of the other. I was experiencing them both, and could not necessarily reconcile them.

And maybe it is not our job to reconcile such things. Maybe that is God's role. I am just grateful that for today, the despair has dissipated and the resting in God's hands part remains.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A tiny breakthrough

Finally, finally, I got to speak to a real live human being at the Department of Labor and Training. And she was very kind and concerned and took care of our problem with the unemployment benefits within about 32 seconds. Boom. Done. We were able to check on the status of Nguyen's employees too.

Yesterday I was really in the pits about all of this, so this phone conversation was a huge gift. My spirits lifted immediately. Thank you, God.

Today, the weight of that is gone and I am feeling much lighter about all of it.

Nguyen was in the shop until very late last night. He is working so hard. His employees are too. All they want is to get back to business. I pray, today, that they will soon.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

And then there is the part of me that thinks that because I am not handling this well, I am a bad Christian. Because I feel fear, anger, loss, grief, I am not trusting in God.

Forgive me, Lord, if that is so.

I need healing.

3 weeks down

and the recovery is excruciatingly slow. Just yesterday Nguyen and Don were able to get a repair technician in from Maine to look at the CNCs. He diagnosed the problems and made his recommendations. They are having motors rebuilt and circuit boards replaced. All reasonable expenses after a catastrophe like the floods 3 weeks ago. None of which will be covered by the fabled FEMA grants or elusive SBA loans. The good news is that the machines can be repaired. The bad news is that we are going to have to max out our credit, beg, borrow and steal to pay for it.

I feel such a sense of loss and I am not sure what it is, even. Grief.

My poor husband can't sleep without a tv on, so he has been on the sofa in the living room because we don't have one in our room. He had a nightmare that his building was on fire and being vandalized and no one would come to help. No fire trucks, no police. When he told me about it the next morning, I cried because it was actually true.

Every day there are articles in the paper urging businesses to apply for the SBA loans, but they never say that you are likely to get rejected. They never disclose that over 50% of the applicants have been denied. They never say anything about the fact that just getting the app in in the wake of a flood is, in itself, a herculean effort. Today I finally called a reporter from the Projo to tell him to ask the SBA how many of their loans are being denied and why aren't they printing THAT statistic every day?

The shop has been closed for 3 weeks as of today. My husband and his brothers and employees have been in there working, for no pay, every day. I go to my job and leave my problems at the door when I get there. I can't think about it. I can't talk about it. And then I come home and pick up where I left off, trying to get through to unemployment, trying to remember the name of the person who called us the first day and told us she would help, trying to get a new inventory together for the SBA so we can make another run at a loan. Trying to remember that God is in control.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

It's a process

I will admit, I have been feeling a sense of anger and frustration about the lack of government support for the flood victims. At every turn we seem to hit a brick wall. Yesterday, it all finally came to a head. I had been trying for days to get the unemployment situation straightened out. I was unable to reach a human being and could not figure out what to do with the conflicting information they had mailed me. It all culminated with a call to Senator Reed's office begging them to help me navigate it all. I also got to speak with the head of the RI SBA, who sounded just as angry as I was.

Last night my father and step mother commented that I had seemed angry for a week. Of course their comment made me angry, LOL. But then I had to admit that it was true.

I think that anger is part of a process. Kind of like Elizabeth Kuebler Ross's stages of dealing with death. And there has been a death of sorts. Maybe we should have known better after watching New Orleans, but I suppose it came as a shock to recognize that despite all the good words and concern from the FEMA people and the SBA people and the RI Dept. of Labor and Training people... at the end, there was going to be nothing. I had to process through the shock and disappointment of that.

But now I am done.

And there are lots of things for which I am very very grateful. Friends and family who have been amazing. Dinner miraculously appearing on our table for days on end. Total strangers showing up to clean the shop for hours and hours. Easter lillies and prayers.

And this trial, which I pray will bring me closer to the trials of my savior. I offer it to you, Jesus.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


That is exactly what the government is offering us to rebuild our business after the flood. Zero. We were rejected for the SBA loan because our business lost money for the last two years.

Well, duh.

RI is in the midst of the worst recession EVER. The fact that we are still open is a miracle.

I am trying to figure out it if it is someone's best interest for a little business like ours to fail. Is someone in Washington going to benefit from RI's economy collapsing? They are sure acting that way.

In the mean time, Nguyen and I are Gideon. We can be stripped down to absolutely nothing, but if it is God's will for us to succeed, we will... to his glory.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Easter breakfast with Obama

I will admit that as a pro-life Christian, it was a little hard for me to read Obama's Easter breakfast confession of faith and take it seriously. It truly puzzles me how a Christian can also be the most pro-abortion president we have ever had. He said all the right things... but for me, it sounded a little too well rehearsed. He could have been talking about an economic policy, really.

But then, in the middle of my cynicism, I got a poke from the Holy Spirit.

First, who am I to decide who is and isn't a Christian? Did God offer me the right hand seat? Nope. I am just another goofball trying to do my best. My planks, and Obama's may not be of the same wood, but we have in common the fact that there are, in fact, logs in our eyes. Perhaps I should try not to be too quick to point out the splinter in yours.

And second... it occurred to me that for the average secular liberal, hearing that Obama is a man of faith might just open a door for them that had been shut tight in the past. I pray that is so. I pray that through him, God will draw people to himself.


If you offer to bring me dinner, I am going to say yes.

If you offer me some help cleaning the shop, yes.

If you ask me what you can do to help, I am going to tell you.

This is new for us.

Nguyen and I are used to being the ones who do the helping. We are the ones who cook dinners, rake leaves, shovel snow for the elderly neighbor.

We are the ones to send money to an orphaned child in Mali, or a family member in Vietnam.

I don't say this to toot our own horn. It is just the truth.

But in this crisis, we are learning that if we pray to God for help, he may send it through our friends. And we better be willing to say yes, right?

Jesus was gracious when people gave him gifts. He didn't say 'Oh, I don't deserve that nard... there are people much more deserving, who need it more.'

He just said yes.

So, yes.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Now I know

why it has taken YEARS for New Orleans to get back on her feet.

Because there is nothing.

No federal funding.

No help for businesses.


A homeowner can get a grant up to $30,000 to fix their kitchen, bathroom, bedroom. A homeowner can get a low interest loan at 2.9%.

But a business, the ones who rebuild the houses, the economy, the jobs, the health coverage,

are offered not one single dime to rebuild. Not one dime to put their employees back to work. Not one red cent to start taking orders, or clean the sludge out of their shop, or rebuild their equipment.

Even the paltry $30,000 that a homeowner gets would go a long way towards getting us back on our feet. For that we could buy replacement motors for our machines. We could lease a new space and pay for riggers to move our equipment. We could rent a power washer to clean the crud off our floor.

But congress has allocated exactly nothing except the offer of debt. We can get a 4 or 6% loan that will weigh us down for the next 30 years. We will be in our 70s by then.

Now I know why it has taken YEARS for Louisiana to rebuild. Because her businesses were left high and dry.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

After the flood

I really couldn't believe what I was seeing as I walked through my husband's shop yesterday, a day after the water from the Pawtuxet River receded. The water mark on his CNC milling machine was at 38 inches.

Outside, a HAZMAT team was trying to determine if chemicals from a neighbors chemical processing operation had leaked. We had to wait to find out if the whole site was going to be shut down and condemned. It seems that is not the case, though, as the HAZMAT team finally left.

It was dark in the shop, of course. The lights are still off. Everywhere, dark silty mud that smelled of diesel and motor oil and just a hint of sewage waste.

Because the road to get to the shop is still underwater, the only access is through a neighbor's back yard. A sweet elderly woman who has a gate that opens onto the steep embankment across from the building has graciously allowed us to duck through her yard. Yesterday a photographer from the Providence Journal made her way down the embankment with a camera slung over her shoulder to take pictures of the damage.

Strangely, Nguyen and I are not gripped in fear. We are just patiently waiting to see how things unfold. I think that is probably a result of the many people who are holding us in prayer right now. The first calls I made when I finally realized that our business was destroyed were not to FEMA. They were to my spiritual director and my parish priest.

And it is Holy Week, a time when maybe it is right that we get stripped down to our barest essentials. We come face to face with the limits of our faith. Where does it end? Where does the dark pit of unbelief start? Last year, at a friends diagnosis with a pancreatic tumor, I got there very quickly. I wrestled with God for a week until finally, my friend's tumor was diagnosed as benign. And maybe that was God telling me he'd won the match. And I called 'Uncle' and felt the edge of my faith grow more distant. I have longer to go before I careen into the dark.

This year, too, has pushed it back yet farther. Working in a crisis pregnancy center means that my faith is tested every day. Being in the center of a spiritual battle, day after day, requires a rigorous faith. I can't wimp out. I can't fall into despair. And the only way of avoiding it is to offer myself to God everyday. Seek his will. Run to him for protection.

The edge of my faith grows more distant... at least for now. For today. Because really, what is that edge except the point where you let fear take over? That is the blackness on the other side.

For today, in the ruins of our livelihood, in the muck and oil and shit that fills our shop, in the post diluvian black mire,

It is Easter.