Lobbying for the Refuge

p1020669

When Whitney Clapper invited me to attend the Patagonia and Alaska Wilderness League event celebrating the 56 years of protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Washing DC, I didn’t think I could go on such short notice.  As usual, my husband rallied scrambling together hotel points and Southwest miles, knowing it was important to me.

Our first visit to Washington DC came after my father passed away in 1998. Gary & I volunteered and attended The Environmental Defense Fund charity in Santa Barbara.  My husband, trying to cheer me up, bid on, and won, a trip to DC.  The airline miles were donated by Peter No-one (at the time VP of global retail).  Gary had the Library of Congress, among the many sites, on our itinerary.  To myself I thought, “it’s a library”.  Along with being the national archive of all things written and recorded, it turned out to be my favorite and most memorable of all the monuments we visited.

In 2006 I attended my first Patagonia Tool Conference at Fallen Leaf. One of the exercises was with Ron Hunter (Patagonia’s Environmental Activism Manager), Ron’s wife Kaitlin, along with a team leader that instructed us in a mock lobbying scenario. I was to represent a Native American.  I tried a diplomatic approach, presenting a compromise.   Kaitlin gently corrected me & said tribal people would never compromise in this way because they are a sovereign nation.    Admittedly,  intimidated by all the incredibly dedicated and young activist at Tools, I learned much, and never in my wildest dreams did I think that roll playing would one day prepare me to be comfortably sitting in a Senator’s office, and, alongside  Ron.

It was important for me to attend DC for the opportunity to learn, to celebrate the success of protecting, thus far, a place I may never visit, but that is so important to the species and people that live there.  This company, the foresight of such important campaigns, my colleagues that work incredible hours to make our stories come beautifully to fruition, and then there is Florian.  Florian Schultz and I have become good friends over the years, beginning with my first licensing negotiation for our Freedom to Roam Campaign.   He helped me to understand what goes into documenting the wildlife and region of such a remote frigid place.

http://visionsofthewild.com

Whitney, Ron, Lisa Pike, Scott Carrington and I rendezvoused at the Hart Senate Building. We met with Senator Harry Reid’s right hand gal.  The meeting room we gathered in had all its bookshelves cleaned out and any art or framed documents that once adorned the walls were also removed.

I went into the experience with the intention of being a fly on the wall.  Ron is amazing and polished.  He and Senator Reid’s staffer chatted about the Refuge, and along with Lisa, they discussed hope that the Obama administration does the right thing by designating Gold Butte and Bears Ears before POTUS leaves office.  After a few questions from myself, Whitney and Scott, about the incoming administration and how we can best be more effective, she said calling in, more than electronic petitions, were impactful.  And, to the local offices.  She also assured us, the democrats would only work with the republicans on issues that are realistic.

Reid’s office arranged for us to have a congressional private tour.  Although I had taken the tour when I first came to DC.  That was 18 years prior.  I know more now, and I recalled some of the details about our capital more clearly the second time.  I was in hog heaven

p1020671

Needing to rest, I returned to my hotel, while the rest went back to Senator’s Reid’s office where they presented him, in person, with a limited edition of Florian’s Caribou Migrating print.

senate_staff_photographer

The Monday before our full day, I had to return to the Library of Congress, what is referred to as The Temple of Knowledge.  And, like before I became emotional at the fresco painted walls with quotes of wisdom from our founding fathers. (I know, I sound just like Forest Gump.)   I kept thinking; Trump, and his family, need to spend an entire day reading every single profound quote.  I cannot imagine how one could not be inspired to be a champion of justice after doing so.

I also saw the inauguration scaffolding being erected, and saying to myself “this is really happening”. I polled every cab driver, a global microcosm, that included men from Senegal, Ethiopia, India, and a Sikh, to name a few.  I would start the conversation with “Do you like President Obama?  Then, “how about the president-elect”.  Obama got high ratings with “he has Grace”,  “a good heart”,  “he is kind and cares about our country”. A few polled preferred President Clinton more than Obama.  All were not happy with the incoming president stating “he’s not a statesman”.  Trump doesn’t attend his security briefings, but he’ll watch Saturday Night Live and spend his time complaining in Tweets”.  Another said, “every republican president has gotten us in a war”, naming them off, and ending with “Trump will take us to war”. Then there was the security guard at The Liaison Hotel, who said to me “I don’t know how you voted, but this new one, he doesn’t care about our environment”

Tuesday night we gathered at the most beautiful venue; The National Museum of the American Indian, where we celebrated together, beginning with a blessing from a Gwich’in Mother, along with Bernadette, featured in our Refuge film, AWL, activists from Care2, some DC store employees, and dignitaries.

It was magical, in that this many just, good people, working this hard for this long, I standing alongside them, with millions more in the world having this same selfless intention.

Then I remembered this quote “All great changes are preceded by chaos”  ~ Deepak Chopra

Life Change; Saved by a Career of a Lifetime

When I decided to make a life change I looked in the paper as to what jobs were getting posted. It seemed Word Processing came up a lot and offered a decent wage. Enrolling myself into Sawyer Business College, and choosing legal word processing (realizing later the school chose this direction as it garnered the most government funding), I quite both my waitressing jobs. My manager at the time gave me a look of judgement and a snicker assuming I was going to rest on my laurels and take advantage of the state. As a single parent I always had food stamp or WIC assistance. Making poverty level wages, in spite of working two jobs at the same time gave me little choice. I was going back to school, but that is not how his subjective eyes saw it.

The day after I graduated from Sawyer, as promised, they had a job placement for me. No matter what the position, I felt I should take it. Walking into what would soon be my new office, the gal I was replacing was right there packing up her things. This told me the owner of this business waited until the last minute to find her replacement. The owner/manager rented out office space to various people & businesses, and their rent included the receptionist’s time-that was me. My office was a 12X12′, windowless cell. The only art in my office was a photo of a deep water oil platform, and the view included the entire drill to the ocean floor. The men from the other offices felt coming to my office to smoke was the norm. I had to request twice to NOT smoke, in this space…I could feel the eyes rolling as they would exit the room. Although it was the 80′s, it felt more like 60′s “Mad Men”.

My first day I had several tapes to transcribe, which were extremely difficult for me because of the dictator’s heavy Louisiana accent. It turned out he was, indeed, a dictator-condescending, dismissive, abusive. In less than a month, I had had enough. I went to the owner, broken. Preempting my declaration, he said there was clearly a problem, however the Louisiana oil fellow said he could work with me. Emotional, I stated that I could not work with him. “I had worked really hard to get my self esteem where is today, and I’m not going allow someone to chip away at it. I will stay as late as it takes to finish everything on my desk, but today is my last day.” Although my spirit was still fragile, choosing not to take this abuse was a huge step for me. I didn’t feel I needed to give the usual two weeks notice, because he didn’t use the previous notice for diligent reviews or employment searches. I knew when I left that job, that the good employment I would end up securing was the one I found myself. And it wasn’t going to be just any job. I was ready to find my career.

I Love cloths. No really, I L-O-V-E cloths. Our town isn’t exactly L.A. (thankfully), but it did have a small outdoor clothing business. The stickers on the parking lot cars said “SoftWear”. I had just had foot surgery, a result of waitressing, being on my feet, that required inappropriate shoes for such a demanding job. A friend, Mary, had worked at this company, and she was cool with me using her as a reference. I applied, and when I got a tour of this beautiful campus, with a daycare, on site cafe’ and within walking distance to the beach, I knew I had found my home. Now to get hired… I followed up with calls often, careful not to be a nuisance. At one of those calls where I got through I said I’ll take anything. I’ll work as a temp, but I can not do that for too long as I’m a single mother and need to secure a job soon. I was told to come in and I soon started in the company’s R&D (Research & Development) Dept. cutting and tracing patterns.

After a month, I was moved to the retail store basement to receive & stock goods. This was extremely difficult for me in the beginning. I’m claustrophobic, (trauma induced) and I had anxiety about being in such tightly-packed enclosed quarters. I used “Bradley” labor/birth breathing and “The Serenity Prayer” daily to get through it, and in time, I had no problem being in what became a familiar place. Within a month I was hired as GPIW retail store cashier at a starting salary of just under $9k a year, even less than the $14K annual income I made waitressing. Coincidentally, I was hired around the same time as a girl climber who would become my best friend at Patagonia, touch-stone, confidante, eventual manager/work wife. For years it was just the two of us in the Photo Department; “Felix & Oscar”, “Lucy & Ethel”.

Prior to Jane picking up the torch as managing Photo Editor, there was Jennifer. Jennifer interviewed and hired me; yet another taking a chance on this young, business novice, socially unpolished, with little decorum, terrified single mom. Patagonia’s own Jackie O, taught me the Love of words, among many other things, as her vocabulary is vast. As well as helping me navigate through the valley of frogs to find my prince.

Most of my life, I felt I was a misfit. The business world seemed unattainable to me, so if I couldn’t make it work here, I wouldn’t be able to make it in the real world. And, if I failed, I was certain I would be pushing a shopping cart. After a couple of years I started to feel somewhat confident. One day, after stepping out of the ladies’ room, I remember thinking to myself “I’m doing it! I have a good job!” “I’m supporting my daughter!” In my mind, I’m blowing kisses as I confidently strutted down the halls of the corporate headquarters. At the time, Jane was working in another department, but our desks faced each other. As I walked past her, getting ready to sit at my chair, she stopped me and said “what’s that?”. I made 2-3 circles trying to look behind me to find out what she was referring to. The toilet seat protector paper had gotten caught in my pants waistband!!! I had walked the ENTIRE hallway with it attached to my backside! Any false feelings of awesomeness were quickly diminished, humbled, once again. Jane and I had a great laugh out of that faux pas.

There would be nearly 30 years together; laughs till we cried, secrets, marriages, birth of her daughter, divorces, many family and friends, professional and personal, passings, (including the deaths of both our precious parents), and, later, an unforgettable trip to Italy together to attend a wedding at a thousand year old castle. I have often said I’ve been with this company longer than all my husbands put together. (By the way, my wonderful husband accompanied us on our 2011 Rome vacation)

In less than a year after my hire date, my second husband, what I like to refer as the “Speed-Bump” in my life journey, was acting out with extreme immature selfishness – imploding into a fight – whether or not “women who get raped deserve it, or are “lucky” because they wouldn’t get laid otherwise?” That was just too much… I told him to leave. He must of been planning it himself, or maybe even picked the fight, as he had already drained my savings of my $10,000. Before he left he also took a hoist to rip-out the engine out of my car – leaving hoses, tubes & electrical cords dangling. Additonaly, he stole my valuable jewelry. With the help of my neighbor I was able to keep my sewing machine, otherwise he would have taken that too as he chased after me when I was caring it across the street to give to Dennis. Dennis stopped him and said “you’re kinda being an asshole. Why don’t you just leave?”

After Charles left, I spent my lunches taking his cloths or whatever was left by him, to consignment stores. At the same time, my first husband, Grant, hadn’t paid child support in seven years. I was privy that Grant’s sweet grandmother had paid up all his back child support. So, along with trying to sell my second husband’s possessions, I was also trying to reach my first husband’s probation officer for due child support. Grant’s probation officer wasn’t any help – convinced I was just trying to get Grant thrown in jail. Why on God’s earth would I want to do such a thing to the father of my child? Beside, Grandma Dale’s generosity prevented that from happening. Today, because of homeland security, I would never be able to walk past the probation officer’s offices and go directly to their supervisor, which I did with no problem. Their I found a empathic ear. He said to me, “it would be nice for you and your daughter to get your due child support for Christmas” and assured me the paperwork would be fast tracked.

The unreliable AMC Pacer my girlfriend Gigi gave me (noted one of “The 50 Worst Cars of All Time”) to get around had stalled, yet again, in front of the work parking lot as I was leaving to go pick up my daughter from day care. It was all too much and I lost it. It had nothing to do with the car and everything to do with everything that wasn’t working. The first, and founding CEO at the time,  Kris, stopped, listened and comforted me. Soon, I was called into the retail office, and I was certain I was getting fired. My eyes welled as my manager and his assistant proceeded to tell me “You’re just too sad…, and it’s Christmas”. That did it, I was full blown weeping and agreeing with them. Then Mr. J said, “we’re not firing you. We are moving you to the back of the store”, and he handed me an envelope. I was bewildered. Then opened it. It was a card of a cartoon-sketched women-half “Super Women”, half “domestic mother”. The hand written inscription said, “in a year this will all be a bad dream”, signed the steering committee, which I knew was the co-owner, then found out later, along with our retail VP, Peter. Also, there inside, was my rent, $400 cash – making it possible to go to my parents for Christmas, as I’d never missed one with them yet. Although my Mom & Dad owned the house I lived in, I just couldn’t face asking them to pick us up, still no reliable car, at Christmas, AND with no funds for rent. My daughter and I were able to spend the holidays with my family, which is what I needed most.

I also had to come to grips that I couldn’t afford the company day care that we were lucky enough for Marguex to be accepted into. I went to the daycare administrator to tell her that I couldn’t afford to keep my daughter in the daycare and would find an other option. But, before I could speak, she told me not to worry about it. I didn’t understand completely, nevertheless, Anita assured me that my daughter was welcome, and anything could be worked out. I was stunned.

Well that did it! I’m loyal to this good, kind women and company she and her husband founded. I never forget an act of kindness, and I have this philosophy/part religion, that “the greatest sin of all, is NOT appreciating one another.” Whenever possible I make an effort to repay, or honor each heartfelt kindness. It took quite awhile before my wages as Patagonia Art Buyer increased up from the original $8,643 retail annual salary, but after some years I was supporting my daughter and myself. Once, I got a bonus that exceeded paying off my credit card. I took that $400 first given to me as a vote of confidence, assurance and support, and donated it to our company’s daycare. Additionally, every year since around Christmas, or sometimes New Year’s, I make a humble donation to our daycare.

I am forever grateful for the kindness that came at such a difficult time when I was trying so hard to turn our life around. The owners of Patagonia are the real deal. I am just one of a hundred(+) personal stories of generosity, not to mention all the global good they do through their company, in addition to the 1% for the Planet program. Patagonia’s corporate policies are an enormous economic boost to our local economy, be it; events, venues for meetings, catering, English lessons to some of our Spanish speaking employees, high quality daycare, daycare provider training to satellite child care facilities, free yoga class and film events through our retail stores, the list goes on and on. They are a pillar of positive change, both socially and environmentally.

There are many employees who I’m honored to call my friends. This tribe can be more supportive than some churches I’ve attended, and more than just a job. For me personally, no one inspires me more to be an environmental and political activist than this very humble, somewhat shy, passionate, small in stature, powerhouse. She is the “women behind her man”, giving credit to everyone else, who cares as deep as the ocean and as wide as the sky that she so earnestly is trying to save. I am forever grateful for Malinda giving me a chance, and more than once lifting me just enough.

And then, there is Jane. Through it all, I just couldn’t imagine working the day-in and day-out without kind, compassionate, Loving Jane. “There’s an old African proverb that says “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

On our 20yr. anniversary  PHOTOGRAPHER:  Tim Davis

On our 20yr. anniversary
PHOTOGRAPHER: Tim Davis