Advocacy Day 2012: Vignettes, Voices and Images

It was a longer trek than I thought from the Senate building to the Metro station and I was thankful that the weather had held up so beautifully. The sun was shining, the breeze tempering just the right amount of chill to dry the tiny beads of sweat forming along my eyebrows as we walked.

“What was the most powerful part of the day for you?” I asked my mom. I hit the crosswalk button as we came to an intersection just past the Botanical Gardens.

My mom thought for a moment and offered this as we began to cross:

“I had this moment, right after the training in the morning and as I stood in the lobby just before our group walked into our Senator’s office: it hit me all at once. It hit me that I was taking part in something every American should be doing – talking to their elected officials about the issue that matter to them. Who would’ve thought a skinny little barefoot blonde from the South would be here on Capitol Hill talking to her representatives?”

I turned to look at my mom, smiling.

“I suddenly got very emotional in that moment. But I had to keep it together because the next thing I knew, we were sitting down in his office.”

Me and Mom

My mom is pretty friggin' amazing.

. . .

It was an incredibly early morning. RESOLVE had a shuttle for us at our hotel in Crystal City, Virginia, to take us to the Hyatt Capitol Hill. Morning rush hour traffic can be dicey in DC, so we got picked up at 6:15am in order to make the 7:30am breakfast and start to Advocacy Day. I don’t know what Traffic Gods our driver must have prayed to, but we hit the rush hour sweet spot and got to our destination in just 20 minutes. RESOLVE hadn’t even finished setting up yet when we arrived.

Which was fine. I got to mill around and talk with folks as they arrived. I got to snag one of the first cups of (much needed) coffee as soon as it was brought out. I had time to settle, to get myself in the zone for the day.

The room filled up quickly with advocates from all over the country. And just as I was swigging down my last sip of coffee, the morning training program began.

. . .

Senate Bean Soup. My mom would not stop talking about this Senate Bean Soup in the days leading up to Advocacy Day.

I knew it was going to be a busy Advocacy Day and I’d be grateful to find lunch wherever we could. Last year I remember literally climbing over someone in a Senate Building cafeteria to get a seat. It was a madhouse. I tried to explain my mom we’d be lucky to eat where and when we could and that hopefully, we’d get her this blessed Senate Bean Soup.

We found the little tiny cafeteria in the basement of the Dirksen building. I scoured the menu boards behind the counter and thank G-d, Senate Bean Soup was on the menu.

“Want to try some?” my mom asked, offering a warm spoonful in my direction.

“Sure,” I said, humoring her. It was rich, salty, and sooooo good. “Damn mom, that Senate Bean Soup is really good!” I went for a couple more bite of that salty, porky goodness.

Senate Bean Soup

Senate Bean Soup is no joke. It's just delicious.

I inhaled my Caesar wrap and soon my mom and I parted ways, she off to her Representative and me to my Senator, the ever-charming Scott Brown. The post-lunch food coma began to sink in. With only one appointment down so far that day, I needed to refresh myself.

Did I find a little secluded park behind the Senate building? Perhaps. Did I sit on a park bench and take a nap in that gloriously warm sun for 15 minutes?

I plead the fifth.

. . .

“I’ll be honest with you. Individual tax credits aren’t really up the Senator’s alley right now because of the Tax Reform Bill they’re hoping to push through after elections.”

This was Senator Kerry’s staffer. A common uphill claim we faced on Advocacy Day.

“The Family Act has been unofficially scored,” another advocate at the table offered. “It’s been written and scored to be as cost effective as possible to tax payers.”

Still nothing on the face of the staffer sitting across from us.

“Look, I know Massachusetts is a wonky state when it comes to infertility coverage. Sure, we get coverage because it’s mandated. But did you know that even with coverage, I’m still paying close to fifteen grand out of pocket?” My eyes shot nervously around the table, worried about the plain language I found myself suddenly using.

The staffer’s face lit up, “Really? Why do you have to pay so much?”

So I told him my story. It’s the story I told to Senator Brown’s staffer, to Representative Tierney’s staffer that day too. I told them how I’m just a small business owner who just wants to be a mom, who just wants to make her husband a dad. I told them I was a taxpayer who saw incredible value in the Family Act. I told them how much I loved my state, how proud I was to say that I lived in Massachusetts, and how proud I would be to be a Massachusetts Mom one day.

I think it clicked. It felt good to say it to my elected officials – well, at least their staffers. But to know that my message, my story – is on record in Washington.

. . .

I always knew she was tall, but in person and in those kickass heels, Whitney’s height blew me away. We met at the Reception the night before Advocacy Day. I sipped my wine, moving on to a Heineken once I started feeling more brazen.

She’s a force, I tell ya. Whether it’s takin’ down personhood in Virginia or just fightin’ to build her family, Whitney Anderson is a force to be reckoned with. Advocacy Day was another opportunity to finally meet some amazing trailblazers in person. Like Stephanie, who writes for Attain Fertility’s blog. Such an incredibly genuine and warm person – a fab writer who I felt so lucky to meet in person.

I got to meet so many other folks, too. Like the woman from NJ who I learned was diagnosed with POF at sixteen. Sixteen. (I didn’t handle it well at 26, I can’t imagine had I been diagnosed 10 years prior.) There was Fran from Connecticut and author of The Truth Behind the Secret “Infertility” and Krissi, author of the new book, Ordinary Miracles.

There’s incredible power sitting in a room of advocates from around the country, all focused on talking to their legislators about what matters to this group. Even if I didn’t get to meet every single person there, just sitting in that room and sharing that energy – it’s incredible.

Advocacy Day 2012 Training

RESOLVE Executive Director Barb Collura addresses the advocates.

To know that I got to sit in that amazing room and have my mom by my side?

There almost are no words to describe how proud, humbled, and just awestruck I felt.

. . .

The grandeur of our nation’s capitol never ceases to amaze me. I lived in the DC area for three years and yet, to walk up and down Capitol Hill and marvel at these massive buildings – it gets me every time.

Supreme Court

Supreme Court Building, with protesters outside as it was the last day of oral arguments.

I’m not a flag-waving, apple pie-eating American. I am only mildly interested in baseball. But hot damn if walking around Capitol Hill doesn’t make me realize I live in the greatest country in the world.

. . .

If there’s one thing my legislators should know, it’s don’t eff with the Suwa girls. We mean business.

Don't Eff With the Suwa Girls

Serious business. (In the Senate Ways & Means Committee Briefing Room)

. . .

I’m really hopeful about The Family Act. I’m really hopeful that legislators won’t let the Adoption Tax Credit sunset at the end of this year. That’s what I walked away with from Advocacy Day this year, just as I did last year:

Hope.

I’ve got follow up emails and letters to send. I’ve still got my part to do here, on my own. And I’ll do it because it’s important to me and because I know it benefits this whole community.

And I remain hopeful.

And I have RESOLVE to thank for that.

Senator Help Me Build My Family

Hey Congress: Help us all build our families.

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Comments

  1. says

    Thanks for the mention! What a great wrap-up of the day! On the NY side, it was pretty incredible too! Hope. It’s what we all must have on this journey. I whole-heartedly agree.

  2. says

    Keiko, this post gave me goosebumps. Thank you for taking your RAD self on the road and sharing your story with our lawmakers. I can’t tell you how cool it is your mom came too!

    Thank you for fighting for us, not just on Advocacy Day, but every day.

    You are amazeballs.

  3. says

    Honey, you’re the force to be reckoned with! But thank you for the kind words. What a fantastic post to really explain the day — you are such a great writer! And, I’m so happy that the IF community has YOU in our camp.