Are we at the threshold of a new kind of women's movement? I was just in San Antonio, giving a talk for the Public Library Foundation. Two-hundred and fifty amazing women gathered at Pearl Brewery--and by the way, what a fantastic place; a meticulous renovation, with every detail tended to, from floor tiles to brickwork. I love the whimsy of the beer bottle chandeliers. (I'm terrible at taking pictures of people, so we'll have a disconnect here, while I talk about people and show you windows....)
The Brewery complex, complete with condos, made me want to pack up and move to the neighborhood. So, I talked about Slow Love, and I talked about my new passion, Moms Clean Air Force. I talked about how I want to try to make the world a better place for my children, while I have the energy to fight against seemingly intractable problems. And how this is giving me hope.
The energy in the room was so intense, so passionate, so focused, that I felt like I was being refueled. The woman who introduced me, Katy Chadwick, married to the wonderful architect Ted Flato, worked with me at Texas Monthly and went on to be the editor of a beautiful design magazine for them. I hadn't seen her for decades, since those days when I had hired her as a twenty-two year old college graduate, and yet I could still see that intense focus in her face that had so impressed me years earlier. Jan Jarboe Russell, a terrific writer, whose first piece for Texas Monthly was an essay I assigned and edited about adopting a child, was my "questioner". Jan is a gifted writer and reporter whose biography of Lady Bird Johnson is a classic; she writes a column for the San Antonio Express News.
Afterward, Ann Ash, who organized my Texas trip, said to me, "I can get you 500 women for Moms Clean Air Force, easy." She's on! How about 1,000 Texas moms? Many of the women I met were annoyed that Governor Rick Perry has come to represent the Texas attitude about clean air; they said it was all wrong. Pundits on the east coast tend to think Texas is "hopeless"--that the polluters "own" the government and won't budge on pollution control. And yet, after New York, the highest number of moms to sign up for Moms Clean Air Force comes from....DALLAS!
I refuse to "give up" on Texas. I have so many happy memories of living and working there; it is an intense, dynamic, fascinating state. My older son was born there.
But so many of the children of my Texas friends have suffered from asthma and other respiratory problems. Asthma in Houston is skyrocketing. Texan Jane Dale Owen, whose grandfather was one of the founders of Humble Oil, (parent of ExxonMobil) just published an impassioned article in the Houston Chronicle about Texas' pollution problem. I highly recommend you read it, especially now that we are hearing Governor Perry talk about how he has done so much to clear up pollution (he hasn't, but the EPA, which he wants to abolish, has done a lot for clean air, across the country). Perry says pollution is not a problem in Texas. It is.
We all know Texas women rock. When they put their passions to work, they change the world. Just look at what Nancy Brinker, founder and CEO of Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation has done--in honor of her sister, who died of breast cancer at the age of 36. She is a terrific role model.
Hints from Heloise. I almost fell over with excitement when she came up to say hello. I adore Hints from Heloise--I had forgotten all about her San Antonio connection. I grew up reading it in my local paper; the column was started by her mother and is syndicated nationally.
The current Heloise--who is the perfect Big Sister, instantly generous with great advice about how to survive a book tour and how to thrive in airport purgatory--took over the column when her mother died. Sure, she writes about keeping house, raising children, minding love and managing life. But even as a teenager--and a rabid feminist at that--I knew it was about more than that. And Heloise confirmed it. "My mother wasn't just talking about cleaning," she told me. "My mother wanted women to know that they were running something important. They were CEOs of their households. They were doing important jobs, and they needed to think of themselves as important people. My mother was all about empowering women."
I Texas Two-Stepped my way through a swirl of inspiring meetings, in a day and a half. Meeting Ann Ash, who invited me to San Antonio...meeting Ann's lovely daughters, one of whom has a creative boutique, Aquarius (I bought a great coat there too) where we had a lovely book signing party, courtesy of the excellent Twig Book Shop...meeting Nancy Scott Jones, a force of nature, and a powerhouse in public relations...meeting the mother-daughter design team, Jeannie Beal Marini and her daughter Paige Holland, who have created a clever design workbook they've already used with 4000 clients, guiding them through the complicated process of figuring out their personal style...meeting Kaye Lennox, the President of the San Antonio Public Library Foundation, who told me about their fabulous project to combat illiteracy by giving every single baby born in San Antonio a book bag containing a book about the alphabet...Meeting all these dynamic women made me realize that we are on the verge of an energetic new women's movement. We can all learn from one another--and be inspired by each other.
So many of us are at the stage in life where we are thinking about a profound issue--the world we are leaving behind. How can we make the world a better place for our children? How can we live out the rest of our days feeling that we are doing meaningful work, whether paid or volunteer? How can we use that work energy to feed ourselves, spiritually? I'm finding that doing something about big problems makes me feel hopeful.
I left San Antonio feeling deeply inspired and uplifted. Laughing, too. Nancy Jones came to the signing with evidence that even her dog enjoyed Slow Love, and had chewed over its message thoughtfully, and enthusiastically.
Sure, we have a tough road ahead--whether we're dealing with such thorny problems as 25% illiteracy rates or polluters politicizing our right to clean air. Sometimes I'm overwhelmed with how much there is to do, and how small we are compared to the enormity of the problem. But the Texas women I met reminded me of how intense and powerful we can be. Moms really are a force of nature. Mother love is stronger than the money of polluters and the power of politicians. We just have to join our voices together.
And how do you like my new favorite tagline?
Time to tell Washington: Listen to Your Mothers!