This is a great sign

I Am Worthy sign with ERA YES sticker

My “I Am Worthy” sign from the Women’s March on Washington

When I got home from the Women’s March on Washington, I hung this sign over my bed as a reminder that the moment I’ve been waiting for since my 20’s has arrived: The Women’s Movement has finally been reawakened.

You know that saying, “What goes around comes around?” The ERA sticker was gifted to me by a stranger in front of our nation’s Capitol. It is the exact same design as the 40-year-old button I inherited from my mother, who raised me to believe in equal rights.

But it’s not the sticker or the phrase, “I Am Worthy” that made me hang it up. There is something even more special, and it’s for you as well as me.

The bus ride from Washington D.C. back to Melbourne, Florida took about 17 hours, and we were all completely exhausted. A few hours before we reached home, I stood up and called for my fellow passengers’ attention. I held up the sign, to which I’d tied a pen, and asked everyone to sign it with a message of hope for the days ahead.

It took a couple of hours for the sign to come back to me. When it did, I was blown away by the sentiment, a wide range of powerful, inspiring messages. This is the real reason the sign hangs over my bed.

These messages are not just for me, they are for all who believe in equality and are willing to stand up for what is right. I’ve done my best to transcribe them below, in hopes that these powerful words, written on a cardboard sign, will travel far and wide to bring hope and encouragement to all.


Sign with dozens of handwritten messages.

The messages of hope on my Women’s March sign.

“Remember the story of the snowflake; no two are alike, they are all beautiful, and while one by itself doesn’t seem like much, together, they are a force of nature. Surround yourself with snowflakes.” Debra

“When you feel discouraged, remember your aches and sore muscles from today. Remember the march you did with us. Remember you are a part of HISTORY now! We forge a path for our young women. THIS IS YOUR LEGACY.” Roseanne

“We were heard across the world, and we will continue to be heard, using our kind, loving, yet strong voices.” MB&Zzzz

“You were on the right side of history on this day! And you are not alone. We stand with you.” Jill

“At the core of you is all peace & freedom, ready and eager to be unleashed upon the world. Reach deep, see it in your sisters, give your gift. TY!” Elizabeth

“Don’t ever forget, we are all with you in solidarity. We will stand together, One Love.” Anne

“We are strong together. Girl power!” Isabelle

“Remember on your journey, whatever it may be, my hope for you is that you laugh until it hurts, love like there’s no tomorrow, live every day like there’s a million tomorrows, dance until you can’t…”

“Never forget what a group of women can do when we unite our voices!” Koreena

“Always remember why we march – for those who cannot! Stay strong, stay proud!” Tina

“Our children & grandchildren need us to fight.”

“Stay strong. As women united we stand.” Betty

“Be true to yourself.” Lauren

“We’ve just experienced a phenomenal reawakening of the power of women. You’re part of a sisterhood, and we can change the wrongs as a group together – and we are – you are NOT ALONE!” Cynthia

“May all your aspirations be blessed and fulfilled to benefit all beings and our planet.” Janice

“Hope will always keep you going.”

“There are a lot of us! Hang in there.”

“We are stronger together and I’ll keep in touch with you!” Christine

“Stronger together.” Cheri

“Hillary said, ‘Please never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it.’ We just marched with thousands who agree –remember that!” S

“We were glad to be part of this history-making day, Women’s March 2017. We can happily say that HOPE is still alive. Seeing young families with their children, seeing the elderly in their wheelchairs, kept this hope alive.” Leigh

“Stay strong. Stay fierce! Fight the good fight! We are all in this together.” Elizabeth

“Stay strong and march on!” Carol

“Nasty women never stop fighting.”

“Keep the strength alive. #Women’s March.” Alicia

“Never let anyone try to convince you that you are not powerful.” Karen

“The world heard us yesterday! XO’s!” Susan

“Girl power! Stay in the fight! T

“I “We have seen an awakening, and we will be there to support each other. God bless.” Jenny

“Just never give up.” Gabe

“The future belongs to the young. They know it, and they will never let this happen to them again.” Frank

“You have a voice. Let it speak always.” Trish

“Remember the community of women (and men) that have come together this special weekend. We are not alone, we just have to find each other. ” Barbara

“When you feel frustrated with how people are treated badly, remember the March and the hope and empowerment you experienced with the awesome ladies from Brevard.” L

“I have your back. Remember this weekend and the memories will get you through. We stand together forever, Women of Brevard!”

“Persistence – with a strong voice – can accomplish anything and everything. Love & light.” Kristie

“We have been and will continue to be a positive change in history! That gives us all the hope in the world.” Lindsay

“You are not alone! Stronger Together! We can make a difference – and we are!” Crystal

“Remember to always follow your heart…do what you know is right, even if it is hard.” Pamela

“Women who stand together can create miracles.” Robin

“Stronger together forever!” Mary

The children’s march

Marching on the Mall

I lived in Seattle in 1999, when activists and protesters turned the meeting of the World Trade Organization into “the Battle in Seattle.” I’d seen firsthand the broken windows and burnt-out bus shelters. I lay in bed listening to concussion grenades going off a short distance from my home. Estimates say that about 40,000 protesters were responsible for that chaos.

In the days before the Women’s March on Washington, I wondered if I was going into a situation like the Battle in Seattle. Even though the organizers were telling us to keep it positive, emails were circulating that warned us how to deal with things like being arrested or pepper-sprayed. While I traveled on a overnight bus to the capitol, the media reported that several hundred protesters at the inauguration were arrested for vandalism, setting fires, and damaging vehicles.

When we arrived at first daylight, we found no evidence of that violent anger. Our group was bubbly and excited, pressing our noses to the bus windows as we passed the Pentagon and the Lincoln Monument and crossed the Potomac River. Once we left the bus and joined the throngs, there were pink hats, clever and creative signs, and a hugely diverse group of people.

Everywhere, I saw strangers being kind to each other.

Some offered me free stickers and signs. In the potty lines, people shared their tissues and hand sanitizer. A woman on the street handed me a bottle of water, right when I needed it the most — I had gotten a headache from dehydration. I passed out Happy Spots and York Peppermint Patties.

Free Hugs

Free Hugs

There were over a half million people at the Women’s March on Washington, including thousands of children. They rode on their parents’ shoulders, carried their own signs, and even led chants with megaphones to amplify their high-pitched voices.

I overhead one father tell his son that on this day, he was allowed to say any bad word he wanted, as long as it was about the president. The little boy whispered something in his father’s ear, and the man’s eyebrows shot up. Then he nodded, and said “Yes, you can even say that.”

There was not a single arrest at the Women’s March, even though there were three times as many people there as at the inauguration. What a wonderful example we have set for our children and young people, showing them that peaceful resistance is possible.

 

Awesome old bear on a bike

pen and ink drawing of teddy bear picnic

The scene at Gasworks Park in Seattle on Sunday

I was setting up my first Teddy Bear Picnic in Seattle when along came a tandem bicycle with a teddy bear sitting on the rear seat. That’s definitely not something you see every day, even in a crazy place like Gasworks Park.

It was my friend Bret, whom I worked with in a previous life at Expeditors. He’d ridden his brand-new tandem across Seattle with Pandy, a 68-year-old teddy bear, taking the spot where his wife usually rides. “She didn’t help much,” he said of the bear. “She’s pretty old.”

Given that Bret and his bear are probably close in age, I suspect that’s not the real reason. Nor was it laziness, because teddy bears are never lazy. The real reason Pandy wasn’t pedaling? The seat was not adjusted properly for her short legs!

Here are a few photos of the Teddy Bear Picnic, which featured homemade cookies and lots of sunshine. Frank Lloyd Bear and I can’t wait to do it again…how about in a park near you?

The Joyful Bear in Seattle

Last week, I presented The Joyful Bear and “Ten Things I Learned from my Teddy Bear” at University Bookstore in Seattle. The audience got to meet Frank LLoyd Bear, and we took some charming photos of him with his fans.

If you would like a photo with Frank Lloyd Bear, stop by Gasworks Park this Sunday, July 24 between 4 and 6 pm. We’ll have cookies, teddy bear philosophy, photos, and most importantly, hugs!

Frankie makes new friends

Frankie, the Joyful Bear, has been traveling and meeting new people all across the U.S. Here are some of his new friends and fans, beginning with old and new friends who came to our presentation at The Book Loft of German Village. If you’ve never been to The Book Loft, it has 32 rooms and is one of the most unusual (and non-ADA-compliant) bookstores in the world. The books are neat and tidy, but the architecture is downright higglety-pigglety!

After his visit to central Ohio, Frankie boarded an Amtrak train (watch the video!) in Cincinnati and rode for four days to Eugene, Oregon, enjoying the scenery and capturing hearts along the way. He was extremely impressed with fellow author Tamara Boyens, whom we met in the observation car of the Coast Starlight. A Ph.D. student in Tucson, she publishes dystopian novels in her spare time.

Showering at 70 mph

I was riding the California Zephyr, an Amtrak train that goes from Chicago to Emeryville, California, when I got a song stuck in my head:

“I bet there’s rich folks eatin’ in a fancy dining car,
They’re probably drinking coffee, and smoking big cigars.”

That’s from Folsom Prison, Johnny Cash’s song about a man in prison watching a train go by. When it got stuck in my head, I hadn’t noticed that I was only a few miles from Folsom Prison, in central California.

Anyway, after three days on the train, I’d like to set the record straight about those two lines.

Donner Lake

Frankie looks out at Donner Lake

Trains are full of hundreds of people (and teddy bears) with nothing to do but look out the window. You might keep that in mind the next time you think about peeing beside the railroad tracks. I’ve seen seven deer, three hawks, one sandhill crane, and two men peeing.

On the other side of the equation, people notice passenger trains, and sometimes, they wave. I saw kids waving from the front porch of their house, as well as fishermen and rafters waving from the Colorado river. “What, nobody mooned you?” asked a woman I met in the dining car. Evidently, mooning is not unheard of.

For the first leg of my trip, from Cincinnati to Chicago, I sat in the section called “Coach.” Every seat was full, and people lurched up and down the aisle all night long, back and forth the bathrooms. I dozed, but I didn’t sleep well.

In Chicago, I discovered the Metropolitan Lounge, a sparkling, brand-new facility just for first-class passengers. I was eligible, because I had booked a sleeper car for the middle portion of my trip. Suddenly, I had access to free sandwiches, wine, coffee, and deep, comfortable seats.

I had arrived in “First Class.”

When it was time to board the train, the first class passengers were whisked onto the last three cars, the ones behind the dining and observation cars. Sleeper cars are always very quiet, compared to coach. People speak in hushed voices, and the loudest sound is the flushing of the vaccuum toilets. The sound of the whistle is very faint, and even the tracks are super-quiet, unless we are going across a switch, which makes the wheels clatter, or around a bend, which makes them squeal.

Meps in the bathroom

I didn’t take photos in the shower. But here’s one from the bathroom.

One of the first things I did when the California Zephyr departed from Chicago was take a shower. There is absolutely nothing special about a shower on Amtrak; it’s a standard little stall with a stack of bath towels and soaps. But I was traveling at 70 mph while I did it.

Then I got cozy in my private “roomette,” which I only had to share with two teddy bears. I hung up a couple of jackets, set my books and notebooks on the shelves (which are also the steps to the upper bunk), and plugged in my laptop. At 7:00, I went to dinner in the dining car, sharing a booth with three strangers. We all ordered the exact same steak.

Fortunately for my dining companions, there were no tunnels during any of my meals. Whenever we went through a tunnel, I was in my private room, and I kissed my teddy bear. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, go read Strangers Have the Best Candy.

To return to the Johnny Cash song, the folks in the dining car were not rich folks. We were just average people from all over the world — librarians, retired postal workers, families on summer vacation. Some of us drank coffee, like the song, and some drank tea, wine, juice, or soda. We had our choice of steak, chicken, seafood, or vegetarian entrees. For desert, chocolate mousse was the favorite, but there was strawberry cheesecake, ice cream, and sugar-free vanilla pudding.

Charleen

Best service ever!

Unlike the dining cars of old, we did not have custom china, only plastic dishes. But some of the flatware had an Amtrak logo stamped into the handle. Most importantly, my meals featured a fantastic server named Charleen, an efficient woman with a twinkle in her eye and an encyclopedic memory of everyone’s beverage preferences.

Absolutely no one on the entire train was smoking a big cigar, because we’d been warned that if anyone was caught smoking, they would be thrown off the train. Furthermore, we were told over the loudspeaker, if anyone tried to smoke in the bathroom, all the bathrooms would be locked for the duration of the trip.

For two nights, I had my choice between the top and bottom bunks, and I divided my time between them. Last night, the Big Dipper was hanging over my window, as big as I’ve ever seen it, so I moved to the lower bunk to enjoy the view. There was nothing else to see outside my window until first light, when we left the Bonneville salt flats, crossed the Nevada state line, and passed Winnemucca. The riotous lights of the casinos left after-images on my retinas.

If you see an Amtrak train going by, be sure to wave. Even though it seems like another world aboard the train, we do see you. Some of us are waving back, or else we are mooning you. With the tinted windows, you’ll never know which.

 

How long does it take?

The cab driver asked. The waitress asked. The shuttle driver asked. All my friends asked. When people hear that I am taking Amtrak from Cincinnati to Eugene, Oregon, the first question they ask is, “How long does it take?”

Theoretically, it will take about three and a half days, assuming the train ever gets here — the Cardinal is already scheduled to be 1-1/2 hours late!

I’ll travel up to Chicago first and then transfer to the California Zephyr, with a sleeper car. That means two good nights of rest, showers, and all my meals in the dining car, sharing tables with strangers. The toughest decision will be whether to sleep on the top bunk or the bottom one. Finally, after another transfer in Sacramento, I’ll get to ride the most beautiful train route in the country, the Coast Starlight through northern California and Oregon.

Union Terminal

Union Terminal

The first part of the adventure, simply arriving at Union Terminal in Cincinnati, was awe-inspiring. I loved the exterior of the 1933 Art Deco building, and I took a bunch of photos. But inside, there was simply no way a camera could capture the interior. At 106 feet high and 180 feet wide, it’s the largest half-dome in the Western hemisphere, and it’s jaw-dropping. Here’s an application that lets you pan around it, so you can get a sense of the scale.

Frank Lloyd Bear is excited about our Amtrak adventure. He likes trains much more than airplanes, because trains have whistles.

 

Memory Lane

Memory Lane marker

The marker for Memory Lane on East North Broadway in Columbus, Ohio

Last week, I expected to take a trip down Memory Lane when I attended my 35th high school reunion. Much to my surprise, it was an event two days later that took me down the literal Memory Lane and taught me a bit of Columbus history.

I arranged to meet one of my oldest friends from college, Vicki, in Clintonville. She lives a few blocks from my home in the 1980’s, and she’d told me about a guided art walk being held in the neighborhood. I was eager to take a stroll down Memory Lane with her, because I had walked, driven, and bicycled every street in that area.

Halfway through the tour, I got a real surprise. It turns out that East North Broadway, a street I have traversed thousands of times, actually is Memory Lane!

In the 1930’s, when the city was planning to build a new bridge across the Olentangy River at Broadway, the newly-formed Clintonville Women’s Club proposed that the bridge approach have flowering trees along it, planted for young men of the neighborhood who died in the service.

Little did they know what was to come — the project was underway when World War II broke out. Memory Lane would be lined with trees, each one bearing a marker for one of the boys who died in the war.

Many years later, the city widened the street and removed the trees, which may be why I never realized I was driving on a historic street every day. But a Boy Scout project saved the markers and had them preserved in a nearby cemetery.

Today, there are markers along East North Broadway, like the one above, for those who died in many wars, and homeowners maintain beautiful memory gardens with blooming trees in the strip between the sidewalk and the busy road.

And for those who attended the Friday night event of the high school reunion, I’m posting a few photos for you as well — our own little trip down “Memory Lane.”

The Joyful Bear: A Furry Philosophy for Overcoming Adversity and Finding Happiness

make-you-happy

Get a book to make you happy!

Today marks the official launch day for The Joyful Bear!

This is a landmark moment in teddy bear literacy. If a 10-inch tall teddy bear can publish a thought-provoking book of inspiration for adults, what kind of dreams and goals can you achieve?

I have a dream for this little illustrated book about happiness. I dream that it will make people smile and appreciate their lives a little bit more. I dream that Frank Lloyd Bear will become a 10-inch tall celebrity. I dream that the message of The Joyful Bear will spread far and wide, and will make the world a happier place.

You can order a copy of Frank Lloyd Bear’s book from Amazon or directly from the two of us, autographed. It’s available in both paperback and Kindle formats.