By Gail Baker Katz
What do you do when suddenly your life changes at age 70? I found myself and my old dog driving 2,400 miles from Oregon to Houston. And believe me, I love Oregon. I miss my friends, the mountains, the rugged Northern Pacific Ocean 40 miles from my house and my friends of 12 years.
My only child found her true love in her 40’s. She married a wonderful man and fellow professor here in Houston. Tragically less than 90 days later he was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. I came down to visit and cat-sit a few months later. Quickly it became obvious it was time for me to make the move to help out. They surprised me by asking me to move in with them as they bought a more accessible small ranch house in the city. From October of last year until this April I busily emptied and sold a house, finished a work project and left my beloved Oregon.
Houston is now my new home. This is a fresh place to be with family, make new friends and see new things. Hello Houston! I’m here!
While in the Oregon planning stage I discovered the website for Houston Oasis. It seemed like a good group gathering and perhaps a replacement for my Oregon local secular group. Having been a caretaker for my parents’ last years, I knew how important it is to balance outside interests and new friends with all that will be needed with my family, home and responsibilities. Additionally 24/7 with the newlyweds would drive us all a bit crazy.
I arrived in Houston early April and to date have attended ONE Oasis gathering. So of course I volunteered to write a blog post. Bear with me! First Impressions count I've always heard. Here are some thoughts on my first experience with Oasis. The primary value of “People are more important than beliefs” is absolutely how I view life.
Having zero natural sense of direction, I heavily depend on the Garmin direction software in my old car. I looked up the address. On a Friday afternoon I drove from downtown Houston to Oasis. After living in the college town of Eugene, Oregon with a population of 200,000, driving in Houston is radically different. It took a while but I finally found the community center. Mission accomplished. As a special bonus I discovered the marvelously diverse neighborhood around the center. There are so many ethnic restaurants and things to do. I then started back home on Friday during rush hour, a blood sport compared to my former Oregon city. However, I now knew where Oasis was and made it back for Sunday’s Gathering!
What a great first impression. Friendly but not the false fawning I had experienced n my pre-Agnostic church days. Quite a few folks wore name tags so I put one on too.
The greeters were greeting and fun to visit with. I sat down by myself but was joined by a woman sitting a few seats away. She was friendly yet sincere. I won’t include your name but thank you again if you are reading this!
The program featured Candace Gorham as the main speaker with Michelle Mathis discussing her experience of transitioning to secular thought. As the mother of a UH Sociology professor with a specialty in women’s Issues, I truly loved the content. The almost magical voice of song writer Maryanna Sokol fascinated me. Yay Oasis!
The only suggestion I cautiously venture are about announcements asking for Oasis volunteers for various projects and non-profits. I am now 70 years old and can’t climb a roof or even many ladders at this stage. We oldies have lots of other skills that can be helpful. So a brief description of what skill is needed would be most helpful. No big deal but just sayin’.
Absolutely I became a fan of Oasis. My impression to date is so positive. In addition to Sunday’s meetings the website and emails allow me to keep up to date on what is happening with the community. Thank you for existing. I will be back. Just come over and say “Hello” to me when you see me at a gathering.