Bittersweet

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It really doesn’t feel like twelve years have passed since my Senator first ran for public office. Back in 2002, we were not political people.  I mean, I had worked in politics long before we got married, but that seemed like a lifetime ago at the point when Cliff decided to throw his hat into the political ring.

In January of 2002, I was a stay at home mom of two toddlers and Cliff was a small businessman who had been on his own for a few years.

Talk about a scary shock…leaving a big company to go at it alone. Fortunately, we were either too young or too naive to care but determined to work hard and find our own way in the world.

That would be us circa 1995. Oh my goodness, the bangs…

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After seven years as a self-employed commercial real estate broker, Cliff had grown increasingly  frustrated with all of the rules, regulations and hefty taxes on small business that were coming out of our State Capitol. Mind you, he was no stranger to hard work, but he saw so many instances that prohibited economic growth and development and were an impediment to success. Night after night I remember him complaining about how the legislators making the laws affecting small business were political professionals with no business experience. And, I would tell him time and time again to quit complaining and go do something about it. Ha, right!?

So, he did. Throw his hat in the ring, win and serve three full terms in the Oklahoma State Senate!

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However, because of a twelve year term limit for legislators, Cliff’s time as a State Senator is up today. Yep, all done and it is bittersweet.

I am extremely proud of his tenure in that office. Cliff defied lots of political odds and stereotypes and quietly worked behind the scenes for the greater good. And, if I have heard it once I have heard it time and again,  they “just don’t make politicians like him.”  Well, that is true and probably because he’s not really a “politician.” Just a good man trying to make a positive difference. Or, as he likes to say, “keeping the bad laws from happening.”

In honor of my Senator and his twelve years of public service, I thought I would write about some of the good, the bad and the ugly from his time representing the people of Senate District 40. So, here goes!

The good.  

There was a lot of good!

Man, did we get to know some seriously awesome people! There were the lovely and gracious people we met while campaigning on their door steps and in the district….The individuals and constituents who came to the Capitol throughout the years and the kids who cycled through as pages and students who are now adults. Gulp. So, so many wonderful people. Our lives have certainly been enriched by their very acquaintance and I am most grateful.

Here are a few photos I found on my computer in no particular order..

Special friends in the district.

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Friends and campaign volunteers. These two met during the 2002 campaign and are still together.  Gotta love those campaign romances!!

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Would not have survived a single campaign without my right arm, Whitney!  Love this girl. She’s now married with three kids of her own.  I am old.

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Here’s the Senator speaking Cherokee with the Heisman winner like its no big deal!

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These young men are now in college.

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For some reason, this pic with Miss Oklahoma and Miss America always makes me smile!

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Who doesn’t love a parade, right?!  Even in the rain!

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Anyone who volunteered on that 2002 campaign knew Jim…

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And, Sharon…my heart is full of happy memories thinking about the wonderful people from that first campaign. We were blessed with a little army of awesome that year!

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Cliff looks so “official” in this next one, but what makes it really special is the gentleman sitting behind him. Senator Myers and Cliff were both “Freshman” Senators together and seat mates on the floor. He passed away a few years ago. Good man, lovely wife, beautiful family. Just another example of the special people we have met on this journey.

The Senator reads...

Which leads me to the lobbyists, politicos and the savvy men and women who work for the politicos. These people are animals I tell you, but always fun to be around. I would add that you often hear the stories about back stabbing and political posturing that goes on in politics, and don’t get me wrong, I could write a book about all that. It happens. But, there are also some truly smart, savvy and super loyal people in this business as well.  I cherish our friendship with these men and women and have learned so much from them…

First friend in the Oklahoma State Senate…

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The Governor…elected in the same 2002 election cycle. He was also pledge brothers at OU with the best man in our wedding.  Small world!

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Fellow Senate Wives….

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And, Senate colleagues…..

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Love this one from our annual tradition of inviting Legislators over for dinner during session.  Clearly, this was a fun one!

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Safe to say they get along nicely…most of the time!

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And, a favorite member from the House who went on to bigger and better things. The Senator regrets not wearing a tie that night! I regret not being in that photo!  Such a sweetheart!
Election Night Coverage

Quasi serious Senate leadership pic…

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A swearing in ceremony.

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These two…

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I am at a loss for words.

Vice Chairman and Chair of the Senate Energy Committee. Good things happened for the Oklahoma Energy Industry on their watch. There are probably lots of fun captions for this photo, but none suitable for print!

Friends in the Federal delegation who were always a good source of support, advice and institutional knowledge…

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If you are from Oklahoma…this next one is just cool for historical purposes, regardless of your political party. And, it was taken at a fundraiser we held in our home.  Double cool.

Before the Shellacking

A few notable highlights along the way…

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Love the look on Cliff’s face in this one!

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Oh my goodness. Kathy.  Where to begin…

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Kathy has been Cliff’s right arm and my sister wife (Ha!) at the Capitol for a while and she is family.  I love this woman for so many reasons and always will.  She is just salt of the earth and she has Cliff’s back.  Believe me, you need someone watching your back down at that marble palace!

We have also had some really great opportunities during this time that I cherish. Cliff attended a handful of legislative conferences and the kids and I tagged along. For me, as a mom, this was probably one of the highlights.

Williamsburg and Charlottsville, Virginia

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Chicago

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Puerto Rico

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Hawaii

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Memphis

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Pretty neat stuff. I hope they learned something!

The Bad
Campaigns and opponents. Yep, we had a few of those.

2002  A six way primary election, a run off election and a general election. I’m exhausted simply remembering that inaugural foray into politics.

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2006  A general election with a self funded and fairly well known opponent.

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2010  The best kind of opponent. She dropped out before her name went on the ballot re-electing my senator before the primary. Couldn’t have dreamed that one up any better!

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All of that is just the nature of the beast and I will write a book about it some day.

The Ugly

There wasn’t a whole lot of ugly…but what there was …well, it is still fairly raw and I think I will just save it for my book.  Lets just say it involves some slashed tires, cut cable, punctured radiators and threats against our family.  Sounds like a scary movie, right?

So, there you have it. Twelve awesome years in a nutshell!

I think our son (pictured below in 2002) summed it up best yesterday when he sent a sweet text to his dad knowing that today would be bittersweet. He said, “ For the last 12 years I’ve been proud to say to people that my dad was a state senator and a successful and loved one at that…You actually did work for the community and made a change.  Now, it’s on to the next job.  Whatever you do dad, you’ll excel at it because you do great things and people love you.  Just remember that whatever you do, make sure you are doing what you love.”

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Out of the mouths of babes.

Needless to say, nostalgia is hovering over our house today.  I am eternally thankful for countless opportunities, lessons and friendships that Cliff’s public service has provided.  We have all learned so much from so many.  But, most of all, today, I am simply proud of my man and excited for what the future holds.

Bringing it up to speed

Can’t believe it’s been almost six months to the day since I have posted here but it certainly wasn’t for lack of something to say.  Quite the opposite actually.  So much has happened since March that I thought I would do a brief re-cap to catch myself up to speed. Ha.

Our daughter wrapped up her first season playing club volleyball.  What a great experience and so many new friendships made along the way. I have to admit, Volleyball moms are cool.

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The Senator finished serving his third and final term in the Oklahoma State Senate. So much to say about that.

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Somewhere amidst the chaos, I managed to attend a Conference in Colorado celebrating moms.

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Some dear friends in this group!
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I agreed to chair a fundraiser with my best friend because I didn’t have enough going on…

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Our son graduated from high school in May.

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And, our daughter picked up a few awards at her 8th grade graduation.

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The Senator ran for a state wide office and lost.  Much more to say about that too.

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Then, we went to the beach.

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And Belize.

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Our son went off to college.

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Our daughter is now in high school.

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It has been a wild and crazy six months but the dog survived, so that’s something!

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Family

Today was my Mother-in-Law’s 88th Birthday, and to think I nearly missed it because I have been in Dallas all weekend for a Volleyball tournament is just…well, completely and totally unacceptable! Seriously, she is THE best and I am grateful.  Not only because she birthed the love of my life, but also because she has been the most loving, generous and doting mother, grandmother and mother-in-law to our little family.  And, we just love her to pieces!

One of my favorite photos of these two.

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I think it was taken in 2010…but honestly, they both look the same so lets just pretend it was taken today, on her birthday!  I wrote a post about her a few years ago. Nothing has changed except I am so very grateful for every day she is a part of our lives.  Happiest of Birthdays LaLa! We love you to the moon and back!

Let the Games Begin!

Today marks the first day of the Legislative Session, but, last night a handful of my Senator’s colleagues got together to watch the Super Bowl.

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It was really fun to be a fly on their wall and hear about the various political races taking shape and some of the legislation in front of them.

If these guys are any indication, it is safe to conclude that Central Oklahoma and Owasso are very well represented!

Let the Games Begin!

The Speaker’s Ball, a Re-Cap

Last night was the Speaker’s Ball and the unofficial kick off to the legislative session! Man, was it fun!

I seem to write about this event every year because it has the feel of a back to school night.  Okay, maybe not a back to school night, but possibly that high school reunion where you have lost twenty pounds and are feeling good about it! But, what would I know about that!  Seriously though, the mood in the room really is full of anticipation and excitement for the upcoming session, everyone is dressed up and happy to be there!

The very first time my Senator and I attended this event,  I think he was one of two Republicans in the room. I was the other one, but only because the other side had been in control of both legislative bodies and the Governor’s mansion for decades. No surprise, considering this was before term limits had kicked in and prior to the Republican revolution in our state!  Technically, we weren’t very red.  All of the members present had been serving with each other for a very long time and knew each other very well.  Talk about being the new kids on the block! Even though many of my Senator’s colleagues were shocked we wanted to attend, and the other side thought we were nuts, it really was fun!  Fun as in there were no speeches, no political rhetoric, just a good band, bar and enough food and fellowship to go around. Plus, we made some new friends too.

The Senator and I continued to attend this event, and as the political demographics changed so did the party’s theme and venue.  There have been some festive years…

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and some different variations on festive….one Ball held a charity auction which was a nice twist, another had the feel of a high school prom which was different but interesting!

Then, there was a weird year, before my iPhone was handy to snag a photo darn it!  At that notable Ball, the Speaker gave a political speech at great length on a stage surrounded by GO GO dancers.  I kid you not!

One might think he had had too much to drink when he started talking about being frugal and stealing towels and soap from hotel rooms, except it was a dry event.  In fact, he spoke for so long that most of the crowd sauntered upstairs during his speech to “party” with the fire fighters who were in town for a convention!

Another year had a Las Vegas feel with moving statues that spewed water into a fountain, theater lighting and a buffet, combined with political speeches, long lines and no where to sit. But, who needs to sit when you’re in Vegas!

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I remember hearing comments from political veterans of this event on how the times, they were a changing!

And, that was certainly true last year!  What an about face! Aside from this being the most beautiful party I may have ever been to in terms of decorations…

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and flowers…

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oh, and the fun friends…

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The crowd was even treated to a mini concert by Diana Ross!  I wrote about that lovely event over here.

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What a once in a life time to be up close and personal with an American icon!

This year was no different!  Same Speaker, same incredible flowers…

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And, lots of fun friends…

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Oh, there was also a ton of networking taking place and a lot of dialogue about legislation and the upcoming session and, I imagine there was lots of talk about the 2014 election cycle…especially since the Speaker is running for the US Senate!

And, it wouldn’t have been complete without a celebrity – this year it was Gulianna Rancic, a breast cancer survivor who spoke as a tribute to the Speaker’s wife, also a breast cancer survivor. Oh, almost forgot to mention the Las Vegas style entertainment with Cirque Inversion.  No photos or video to share due to the fact my jaw was on the floor watching them do their “thing!”

One “thing” does remain consistent for me about this Oklahoma tradition and that’s the festive atmosphere! Regardless of who the Speaker is or the political party in charge, you are seeing friends from across the state who you haven’t seen in a long time and people you share a special bond of public service with. And, for that,  I feel truly blessed.

Throwing it back to 1974!

Because it’s “Throwback Thursday” and because this is one of my all-time favorite photos with one of my all-time favorite people…

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A remnant of the first political campaign I ever worked on, this was taken when I was seven. I rode a bicycle. I put campaign signs in every yard on our street, whether my neighbors had asked for one or not.

I carried a broom with a Boren sign attached and swept the capitol steps of corruption.

He called me his tricycle campaigner….nevermind I had shed the training wheels by then! I just enjoyed biking and brooming for a candidate I believed in.

I even brought my 4th grade class to the State Capitol and we took a photo with him in the Blue Room.  My mother remembers my teacher, Mrs. Nelson, was shocked I volunteered this as an option when the field trip to the local fire department was cancelled at the last minute. Pays to have friends in high places!

As for the photo…it was taken while he was moving into the Governor’s office at the State Capitol.  I am pretty sure that desk has never been as clean…or, the walls of his office that empty…or, that Oklahoma has ever had a public official leave such a positive and lasting impact on our state…or, that I will ever, ever wear a snoopy outfit again… ever!

House of Cards

I have always said good people hardly ever run for public office, and why would they, considering all of the scrutiny, partisan politics and personal attacks that are endured by a candidate or office holder on a daily basis? Well, unless you are Barack Obama and immune to any form of criticism!

That said, even though politics is a blood sport, when an elected official resigns from office prematurely, it unleashes another type of beast! A recent example is currently unfolding in my state with the resignation of one of our US Senators…

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We were so fortunate to have a citizen legislator, well a medical doctor, representing us in Washington for the past ten years. (Pictured above, third from the left.) If you have no idea who he is, just google Dr. No! You might however, be familiar with his annual book of waste called the Wastebook! It contains pages and pages explaining some of the really stupid stuff your tax dollars are funding! I am going to miss this and hope he continues to publish it from the sidelines. Such an honorable man whose service to our state and nation will be terribly missed!

But, that was not really my point.  My point being, that a really good guy, a citizen legislator, is leaving his elected position early and the deck is shuffling for the Oklahoma delegation.  The politicos are either lining up to run for the vacated seat or calculating who will run for it, and the one which would open up as a result of that one, and the next one and so on. Just crazy! Meanwhile, the campaign consultants are working 24/7 trying to solidify their next client(s) and the lobbyists are surveying the playing field.  House of Cards, Season Three…so not kidding! 

Maybe someone new will surface and really shuffle the deck…. a teacher, a preacher, another doctor, or better yet, a small businessman…sure would shake it up and keep it interesting!

We’ll see. Jury’s still out on that one, but it sure is fun to watch from the sidelines!