The Senate, Role Models & Easter Eggs

Ghost Boats by Sydney Chaney Thomas oil on canvas 6×4

When I was fresh out of college I went to work for the Oregon State Senate. There I was the assistant of Senator Jane Cease.

In this fortunate circumstance I attended committee meetings, took notes, wrote letters to constituents, filed legislative articles and prepared her legislative file folders for each vote. I sat with her on the floor of the Senate. Sometimes, I would work for her husband Ron in the House of Representatives. I answered the phone, wrote more letters and scheduled appointments.

I wore navy blue suits with crisp white shirts and pleated skirts. I packed a lunch and ate at my desk on the second floor of the State Capital studying for the law school admissions test or LSAT.

The week before Easter Jane gave me a hand-blown and painted Easter egg that I still to this day have. This was the first time I had ever met a woman who was so many things at once. She was a mother, a wife, a lawmaker, a transportation expert and the President of the League of Women voters.

When she handed me the beautiful hand painted egg it was clear she was an artist as well. It was as if a door had swung open and I was able to walk through it. In that instant she gave me permission to pursue all of the things that I loved in life. No longer was my life confined to such a narrow path.

We never know the impact we will have on another’s life with a simple gesture.

When I was young I was very ambitious. After working for Jane I went on to work for a lobby firm where I managed ballot measure campaigns. It was in this role that I learned to manage marketing campaigns. I worked with advertising agencies on ads, billboards and television commercials to sway voters. I did this for the grass seed industry, tobacco and distilled spirits. Later after moving to California I used these same skills in business as a product manager and marketing director in banking, telephony and technology.

I did not follow Jane’s footsteps in politics, but like Jane I have had many roles with a common thread. Because of her I felt it was perfectly reasonable to study with well known Berkeley painter Joan Finton for five years, have my water color paintings in galleries, and then study oil painting for another three.

In the years that followed my time in the Senate I’ve been a wife, a mother, a writer, a painter and a clothing designer. Because of Janes influence I’ve lead a very rich and diverse life.

I’m interested in what my next chapter has to offer, however, I’m certain painting hand-blown eggs will be a part of it.

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