No Fight at MY Fridge


I’m not going to lie, this family, sometimes, has (!gasp!) fast food for dinner. We allow our children to have pop (you crazy people call it soda) while at a theme park and occasionally at home or elsewhere if the situation warrants – we love pop for belly aches, or to wake up sleepy kids who were up late gaming (another no-no) because they like the flavor or because Mom or Dad has one sitting on the table and they want a sip of something. We even, now sit down when I tell you this, feed our children junk food, sugary cereal, sports drinks filled with sugar! I could go on and on and on. Fingers would be pointed. You’re already judging me… I know you are. Here’s the thing – we don’t care. The kids are healthy, happy, and know these are treats. Heck, sometimes even their pediatrician says to give them some of these things because my kids are skinny and could use a little extra. IMG_6531.JPG Yes, I realize I’m lucky. Obesity is not a problem for my kids’, but I attribute this not just to their good metabolism, but to our reasonable food and drink expectations. Sometimes it’s really ok to say ‘Yes.’ Just like the First Lady will tell you she allows cake and candy, she pushes veggies and water. For the most part – 75% of the time – our kids eat and drink appropriately and within the guidelines you see coming from most doctors and officials. However, that other 25% we are just fine with junk food night. Just fine with those drinks, so long as it doesn’t mess up bedtime. If you say ‘No’ to all of it, they are going to see it as some taboo, rebellious act simply to eat what is advertised. No one wants that. Kids absolutely love to do all the things we as parents want them NOT to do. I’m certainly not going to make food and drink a battlefield when there are so many more important wars to be fought from drugs to sex to education. You want a Friday night of nothing but licorice, soda, & lollipops… with a side of pizza, burgers, and fries? No problem. We’ll even make a celebration of it because it can be so much fun. The next day they are back to drinking water and eating all of their broccoli with the fish Dad grilled. Kids in pjs Food and drink have become political due to the very serious problems we have as a nation finding balance and moderation. As a Mom, I hope I’m sticking that balance early and with some silly fun… because sometimes it really is only food and drink and it really only is silly fun, not a war to be won.

How do you keep your kids healthy yet not make this issue a fight at the fridge? I’d love to hear you tips and tricks… Leave a comment below and you’ll be entered for a chance to win a $100 Visa gift card!

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When You & Your Dirty Kids Are Just Another Number

It’s been awhile now since I stood before the judge in that cold courtroom on Wilshire. Since I heard the worlds “entirely disabled” and “incapable of any work in this economy.”

It was like a punch in the gut and a weight off my shoulders all at once. I would continue to collect my long-term disability benefits, as contracted to me by my employer…however this appeal meant the long-term disability benefit insurance company could now deduct what I would be receiving from Social Security and what my kids would be receiving, since their Mom was now entirely disabled.

It also meant I was given Medicare.

What I didn’t know, until a few weeks ago- when two large packets arrived in the mail, was that the kids were also eligible for MediCal.

Except we have private insurance for them. So I ignored the big packet and went about life.

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Then, about a week or so ago, two letters came in the mail demanding I choose a MediCal plan for each child or they would choose one for me. So I did what most people would do, and I called the number on the letter to let them know “thank you, but no thank you…the kids have private insurance through their father’s work.”

Except it was’t that easy.

It also wasn’t pleasant. At all. 

After a series of “Press 1 if you are calling to ask about your child’s benefits. Press 2 if you are calling to find a provider…” and so on and so forth, I finally found a real person.

Except I needed to hold.

57:18 later someone picked up.

Yes, this is Dainelle, how may I help you?

Hi, I’m sorry to bother you but I received some paperwork for my children in the mail not too long ago…and now I’m getting letter saying they will be assigned a plan…how do I…

Ma’am what is your social security number and should you not have that number handy I can give you time to find that number. 

My social security # is 123456789

and what is your date of birth?

My date of birth is 12/10/I’mgoingtobe40OMG

And ma’am what are your children’s full names?

My children’s names are Count Waffles the Terrible* & Princess Peanut Punk as Fuck*

Ma’am what is Count Waffle’s SS# 

Oh… hang on I have his card right on my desk just give me a moment … 

Now at this point I was sitting on my bed upstairs. My desk is maybe 5-7 feet from my desk. So I quickly stood up and began to walk to my desk when I heard…

Ma’am you have 1 minute to find the information, if you can not find that information in 1 minute you will have to call back

Oh I have it it right here, my desk is right next to me, let me just grab it…

Ma’am you now have 30 seconds 

Uh… that took 30 seconds? There’s no need to be rude or rush me, it’s right here

Ma’am you now have 10…9…8…

It’s RIGHT HERE.. his ss# is 123456789

Now may I have your daughter’s ss#

Yes, here’s is right here as well, just in a different drawer 

The same rules apply ma’am you now have 40 seconds to ..

Yes, yes.. you know I was on hold for nearly an hour to talk to you all, you would think you could wait more than a minute..

Ma’am I don’t appreciate your tone and should you speak to me in a manner I find threatening i can end this call at anytime

I have the card right here 

You now have 10 seconds…9…

My daughter’s card is in my hand … do you want her #?

Give me the # or I will end this call

Her ss# is 123456789

At this point, I’m FUMING. I felt humiliated. I felt trapped. I felt like she was treating me like the scum of the earth – why? Because I’m on Social Security and my kids are required by my long-term disability insurance, as was I, to file for benefits in order to collect what came out of every single paycheck of mine.

They think we are poor. They think we are just one of those families.

SO WHAT IF WE WERE?

Does this give those helping people in need the right to treat us like absolutely SHIT? To put us on hold for nearly an hour, and then once speaking to us to enact bizarre hold rules and threats of hanging up for anything from my “tone” to my inanbitly to open the drawer in my desk fast enough? It’s not as if I was rummaging through papers for 15 minutes, wasting everyone’s time. I KNEW they would need these things, so I put them in the top drawer and right on top of the pile. It took me all of 20 seconds to get them. Unless you speed count like Danielle.

But let’s think about this from another perspective. What if I had needed my cane that morning? It might have taken me longer to get that 6 feet to the desk. What if I needed my wheelchair? What if I left them on the downstairs counter thinking I was going to make the call from there, instead of upstairs?

Click. Sorry sweetheart. Call back and wait on hold another day. THAT is what would have happened.

Instead, politely as possible.. I gave the woman on the other end of the phone ALL of the info she asked for and in the manner in which she requested it- as politely as I could possibly muster I even offered additional information.

Then, she finally asked me, what was the nature of my call. I could hear her tone. I could tell she hated me, for presumably being poor and needing benefits for my kids. Or maybe, just maybe, she was having a bad day? I was about to find out.

Yes, I’m calling because my children are not in need of MediCal, we have private insurance…

Oh, you pay for private insurance? 

It was as if she didn’t believe me.

Yes…my husband and I …

…Oh well in that case Ma’am, Mrs. Vest, you need to call this other number. I’m so sorry but we don’t handle those in my department. Let me see if I can get you connected right away. I’m so sorry you had to wait, and I apologize for my shortness with you. It’s just that we get many calls per day with people trying to, you know, get things. 

Suddenly she was Miss Mary Sunshine. And I went from feeling humiliated to feeling complete RAGE…yet my jaw was hanging open. I was knocked entirely speechless.

All because…we pay.

We’re weren’t those people.

The people I was not 10 seconds earlier that had her COUNTING DOWN before threatening to hang up on me. That had her, like a nasty robot from Jerk-Planet, speaking with such a tone I was sweating and fumbling with paperwork and feeling about an INCH HIGH while trying to simply give her information.

This. This is how we treat those in need in America.

This is how we treat those who are the least fortunate – a mother with a disability/deadly disease and kids in need of insurance – as far as she knew- THIS is how we go about treating them.

As if they are a burden. As if they are a total waste of time. As if they are undeserving of any kindness, compassion or even simple curtsey in a phone conversation.

Yes, I learned a lot in the hour-plus as I waded through SSDi, MediCal for my kids this week and I was left feeling sick.

We have to do better. WE MUST do better.

Those who are most in need are the ones also most in need of your smiles, your warmth, your COMPASSION.

Even if it’s a simple phone call attempting to iron out eligibility.

I feel sick to my stomach as I am typing out this story to you, because this woman made me feel not like a mother or woman while on the phone with her, but like trash. Like whatever situation I was in, requiring my children eligible for MediCal, it was most certainly my fault. I most certainly could do something to make it better, and she looked down on me worse than any of those snotty Moms at the Grosse Pointe pool when my Mom would take me along with her to meet up with friends she had who lived in that city.

As I continue to get healthy I am determined to change so much of what I have seen to get to where I am. And when I AM healthy enough to take on some of these challenges, Lord help people like Danielle…because there will be training and re-training and if you can’t get it, eventually job loss. Because you WILL treat everyone you encounter with respect, no matter their reasons for being in the situation the are in.

Our country as a WHOLE needs to learn this lesson, but…baby steps.

Those of us who are in current need have paid into the system and have every right to take it out, but we also have the right to DIGNITY while doing so.

To those of you currently in the system and doing what you have to in order to feed your family, provide them with health care, whatever it is you are doing…know that I believe you are amazing, hard-working, and I am so sorry this is the sort of treatment you encounter.

I promise you we’re going to make this better…make them SEE what it’s like to be us, to walk a mile in our shoes.

They’ll never count down, threatening to hang up on us, again. Ever.

An Attack on Valerie Jarrett is an Attack on ALL Women

You might have missed my twitter rant over the weekend. I had officially HAD IT with the attacks on Senior White House Advisor Valerie jarred and I basically LOST IT via a TweetRage:

And that is exactly what is going on here. Politico publishes a piece basically saying Jarrett should go because she’s too close to the president and despite having done nothing that any other male in her position has done with any other president in history…she shouldn’t. Or something. It’s a steaming pile of sexist crap that would never be written of any male senior advisor. Ever.

Don’t think we didn’t notice, Politico.

Apparently it’s only a bad thing to have the president confident in you, if you are a woman.

Apparently it’s only a bad thing to have earned the trust of the First Lady and your boss, the president…if you are a woman.

Apparently helping the president make the decisions that affect our nation and sometimes the entire world is your role as a senior advisor…unless you are a woman.

In fact, because you are a woman, shouldn’t you really be in the East Wing with the lady-folk, gossiping and giggling and perhaps decorating the incoming White House holiday trees? Certainly not helping to shape policy or working with powerful MEN.

I wish I were kidding about the East Wing quip, but Politico actually makes an East Wing quip.

Seriously.

I want to make it clear, before everyone begins their attack on me for supporting a woman they will have all sorts of names for, that I have personal experience with Ms. Jarrett.

I will never forget the first time I met her. It’s possible tears were shed:

Then came an intimate lunch with Ms. Jarrett at the BlogHer conference in 2009. I greeted her at the hotel doors and walked her into the conference, first making sure to say to hello to my husband and then introducing her to the room. We embarked on a conversation that would be a turning point for me and, I’m sure, a few others.

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After almost an hour of talking health care with a group hand-picked bloggers from all backgrounds who had talked about health and healthcare on their blogs, Ms. Jarrett gave her number to one of the bloggers so that this particular woman’s husband could call her and she could set him straight on a few issues.

Not only was the call made, but that blogger then went on to visit the White House, with her Right-Wing radio show host husband and kept the conversation going with Ms. Jarrett.

That is just the type of person Ms. Jarrett is and that is just how committed she is to the President’s agenda. She will call your crazy, right-wing uncle up on the phone personally and attempt to tell him just why all those email forwards he sends are not only lacking facts, but they are downright insulting. The woman knows no fear and will mix it up with the average voter and the most powerful men in Congress. They are all on equal footing in her eyes and you can bet good money THAT is why she has a bullseye on her back, NOT because it’s post-midterms and the West Wing should ‘shake things up.’

If the midterms were truly the reason, then why have they been calling for Jarrett to be fired since the moment she was on staff?

It wasn’t long after the luncheon, BlogHer Co-Founder Elisa Camahort Page and I flew from the West Coast to Washington DC to make sure the Obama Administration knew exactly how powerful women online had become. Ms. Jarrett knew and gave us the opportunity to present our findings to some very powerful people while she listened intently and nodded in affirmation every time we hammered home a point about our strength, our ability to be highly influential, and our undisputed takeover of the Internet.

THAT is the Valerie Jarrett I know. And am PROUD to know. So to see a hit piece appear afer the midterms, with not only zero substance but a healthy dose of ‘get back in the kitchen and know your place woman’ to boot…Erin MAD. Erin SMASH.

Every woman should be MAD, HULK MAD. They have never and would never say these things about Axelrod or Plouffe. The things she does are normal, typical, entirely mundane in the eyes of a male Senior Advisor. The Axelrods and Plouffes were never disrespected or even questioned should they have the ear of the president…it was THEIR JOB. Jarrett does the same and it’s some whacky new conspiracy worthy of throwing her in the Potomac to see if she sinks or floats.

Sorry, but I refuse to stand for it and so should every single one of you. You may not like Ms. Jarrett, or the President. Or maybe you DO like Ms. Jarrett and the President. Either way it’s time to put an end to the nonsense.

I’m going to leave you with one more personal story and then let you make up your mind on the character of the President’s most trusted Senior Advisor, one just a few family members know:

It was very difficult for me to be sidelined when I was first diagnosed with Lupus. From all of the surgeries to having a stroke, I was upset and depressed to not be playing a role in bringing you opportunities to connect with our elected leaders.

During a time in which I was doing absolutely no work, I watched Ms. Jarrett attacked, yet again, and I reached out to her with a very short ‘hang in there, you are doing so much good for so many of us’ note.

I didn’t expect to hear back. She’s a very busy woman and the job of a Senior Advisor to the President is extremely demanding. Even more so if you are a female constantly fending off attacks the men in your position don’t have to deal with.

I heard back almost immediately from Ms. Jarrett. And while she did thank me, she wasn’t concerned for herself…she wanted to know how I was doing and if I was ok and to know that she would be thinking and praying for me and not to worry about her.

So many of you can choose to believe all the headlines and form in your mind the caricature of a woman they want you to know. Or, you can use my examples and my real-life experience with the woman some of us DO know.

And that woman kicks ass and has forever earned my respect.

The Gray Area

It would be every easy to say politics are black and white, especially in today’s climate. R vs D! Blue vs Red! You are wrong! I am right! With our elected leaders in Washington playing this out over and over and over again while President Obama goes gray.

Because of the “Top Two” primary system in California my home district, the 25th, is without a Democrat candidate. State Senator Steve Knight or Tony Stickland appear on my ballot, both with a big, fat “R” next to their names. There is no option to write-in a candidate. Either I check a box, or I don’t.

I’ve decided to check the box for Tony Strickland.

I’m not going to lie to you and say this is a candidate I’m thrilled with, and not just because he’s a Republican. However, he’s the only candidate running who has decided to run towards local Democrats instead of run away from them. Is Strickland running towards me and those like me simply to get our votes…you betcha. And believe me, I’m not naive’. I see it clearly. But at least he’s running.

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This is pretty much how we feel about Top Two.

He has changed his positions and even flip-flopped entirely in order to become the more moderate candidate in this race. When I asked him about this, he was as honest as a politician can be. He told me not only has he evolved on some issues but he also sees the numbers in the district (showing Democrats now have more registered voters than Republicans) and the district’s diversity.

Smart man. Smart staff. Smart campaign.

In order to survive for any length of time, if he wants to be the next Congressman McKeon and serve FOREVER (which is clearly what Strickland wants) he has no choice but to take a more moderate stance on issues.

Eventually the Dems in the area will get organized, will have the national party backing, and will give whichever candidate wins on Tuesday a rough fight for office. The numbers and feet on the ground working show this is all but inevitable.

That means Tuesday’s winner needs to court 25th moderates from both sides, make good on bipartisanship in DC, and be ready to run on that record come 2016.

Knight may have some bipartisan clout in his years in Sacramento, but all of his bipartisan work is very noncontroversial. Things like help for Veterans bills, money for our runaway production problems, aerospace job incentives. All very worthy causes to be sure…but nothing that shows he is truly bipartisan. I’ve poured over his record and I don’t see anything that says ‘hey, I’m willing to be YOUR guy in DC if the issue really is important to my district and even if my party thinks the other way on that issue.’

There is also a vote on Knight’s record that may be of GREAT interest to those in town looking to defeat Measure S. Yes, you are reading right…Knight voted for those paid petition blockers* edited Nov. 2, 11:42pm GATHERERS. .

Then I look at Strickland’s record and there are a lot of the same votes on things that disturb me greatly…the same votes Knight had…especially on LGBTQ issues. But here’s the difference: Strickland says he’s evolved and wouldn’t support those things again. The same with things related to health care; pre-existing conditions, contraception being covered, maternity leave, etc. Knight’s record shows several more of these types of votes that take these issues further, but you can’t compare them side-by-side as they served different years, with just a few overlapping.

Knight isn’t and hasn’t budged on these issues.

At least not that I can find. You can call that integrity, if you like. He’s sticking to his guns (and guns, ok…there IS A DIFFERENCE on this one too! Knight has the backing of the GOA, which is even more extreme than the NRA-if that’s even possible-BOTH of which are unhappy with Strickland because while he’s very pro 2nd, he actually has some limits, not many…but some) Or you can call it plan old stupidity for refusing to move on issues this district and the entire nation have moved on. We’re sending you there to represent all of us. ALL of us. He simply points out he has, and I can confirm, worked across the aisle on legislation and will continue to do so in DC. But again, all of that across the aisle legislation are things anyone would support, and did. And there is ample evidence that when he tries to step out of line and be a rebel, he’s pulled back in and when told to sit down and shut up…and he has allegedly bowed to that pressure.

Strickland, on the other hand, has gone against his party and even Knight head-to-head on controversial issues and gone Left, despite any threat of consequence from the party. You’ll find that in his votes on renewable energy and on things like siding with Dems and the Humane Society in banning the use of dogs in bear hunting and upholding a ban on the sale of shark fins. Strickland told me he’s ‘an animal guy.’ And he’s a ‘renewable energy guy.’ We’ll see. But it’s true he was pressured by his own party NOT to sue then Gov. Gray Davis, but did it anyway. He was pressured to vote against the bear hunting ban and several green initiatives on energy. Controversial issues where he made a stand, NOT bipartisan ones.

I also need to point out a stark difference between the two when it comes to abortion. While these are Republicans we are dealing with, Knight refuses to even allow for abortion in the case of rape, incest, or health of the mother. This is important because it’s going to become a national fight. 22 states have enacted 70 abortion restrictions in 2013 alone, and there is evidence if the Senate is won over by the GOP come Tuesday, abortion is high on the list of top priorities for Congress.

Say hello to my new favorite word: VETO.

@queenofspain on #CNN #KeepYourPantsOn
Yup. That’s me. Just one of my many appearances. But a favorite. #keepyourpantson

The Knight campaign is currently hitting on Strickland’s willingness to change in order to become elected as a weakness, which in a primary to see which Republican would advance, this would be great. But this isn’t a primary, and if either candidate expects to represent the ENTIRE 25th, they need to understand there are more than conservative Republicans in town. Strickland seems to get this and has changed his campaign from the moment he was running vs. another R. Knight has kept things status quo and is running as the “true” conservative on the ballot. Not exactly a wide appeal for those of us left out in the cold by top two.

There is also the matter of the people each campaign has chosen to keep around as staff, volunteers, and surrogates. While Strickland’s staff has been open to listening to myself and other Democrats, Knight’s staff (and paid surrogates, paid advocates, etc) not only rebuke any and all ‘lefty’ events, they are openly hostile to us. Paid Knight guy Joe Messina is a birther who uses his radio infomercial (he pays for it to air on our local station) to give a platform to designated hate groups like the Pacific Institute of Justice and the American Family Association. Knight has also brought on board Santa Clarita City Councilmember Dante Acosta, who’s table I sat directly next to during the Chamber debate at the Hyatt. Let’s just say I overheard things that made me want to get up out of my chair and pour my iced tea over his head as he cracked a comment everytime Strickland talked about bipartisanship. There is also Knight’s endorsement of minuteman Tim Donnelly. And we can not forget his vote to keep the confederate flag, when the entire world was telling him just how insensitive and stupid it was.

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Oh hey, me again…Hi Mr. President, why of course I have time for you…

In my quest to have both candidate address community leaders from the left side of the aisle, I cannot help but think these folks have stalled any headway I made with my impeccable resume in making sure conservatives are treated fairly in such meetings or opportunities. But you see, this good ‘ol boys club didn’t even look at my credentials or do an opposition research check on me- something a ton of campaigns much bigger and much more important than there’s have done and then easily allowed me to coordinate an event.

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Me again, just…you know, taking an economic meeting in the West Wing…

Strickland, as you know, accepted the invite because he’s been unafraid and has sought out Democrats in this district in order to explain he is now looking to be everyone’s congressman, not just the white conservative guy’s. His team also did their homework on me.

It’s not lost on me Strickland may be making us local Dems promises he won’t keep. But, at the very least, he’s the only one making them and giving us a shot. Coming from a politician it may not be much, but it’s more than I’m getting from the other side.

Which leads me to some research I did on my own. Some things no one else would know around here. I actually called or emailed all of my RNC and GOP-tied contacts in DC and asked them about both candidates. I needed to know if they were liked, if they had any power (rare for a freshman Congressperson) and if they were moderate/extreme/otherwise.

In each instance the person knew who Tony Strickland was, said he was a nice guy, but that he was your typical politician with some very powerful friends. All called him moderate.

Not a single one knew who Steve Knight was and when a few spent the time to research, on my behalf, he was categorized as ‘tea party’ and ‘the reason we’re losing in our minority and female outreach’ and ‘oh man Erin this guy must drive you nuts.’ See…they know me.

Erin & Markos
Speaking of drive me nuts…Kos and I don’t always agree…it’s fun

Strickland, I can verify, won’t be your average freshman. He has an actual chance to get some things done in his two years. He has told me he, very badly, wants to get a bipartisan basketball pick-up game with the President. We both agree this would be a great way to break bread and try to build a bipartisan relationship. I even promised I would put in a good word. Mostly because I really want an invite. And yeah, yeah, all that peace love and let’s do this together stuff too…I swear.

Bottom line? Strickland is a career politician who has morphed into a candidate hoping to appeal to everyone and who has offered me and other 25th district progressives a seat at his table. His polished campaign understands the writing is on the wall for hard core conservatives around here, and they are adjusting accordingly. Clearly they want to position themselves for 2016 when Dems WILL turn out in droves.

Knight is a far-right, NONpolitiican politician who is only bipartisan on the easy issues everyone supports and says we can all call his cell because he ‘loves to hear from voters.’
I don’t need a man who loves to just hear from voters, I need a man who takes the other side seriously and will consider and in some rare cases implement our policy issues. While I admire his consistency, it also shows he’s tone-deaf to the rest of the 25th. Couple that with his confederate flag/Donnelly endorsement and his local embracing of extremists birthers and more…I will be voting Strickland to keep Knight from taking that ideology to DC.

Strickland has already laid the groundwork in DC to walk in and be able, as a freshman, to say no to his party when needed. Knight won’t even have the option. No one in DC gives a shit if some city council member, mayor or school board member birther has his back and ‘wants things’ when he sits down in Congress. They will not know who those people are will laugh at him for thinking they matter.

Strickland is also giving Dems in his district a voice and the opportunity to educate him on LGBTQ issues and more.

It’s entirely possible this will bite me in the ass and he’s doing nothing but lying to me. And it’s entirely possible Knight will prove me wrong, and if elected embrace the diversity of the district and be more than a puppet for the more powerful in DC. I would love nothing more than to be shown I was 110% WRONG on Knight and if he goes to DC he will allow Democrats from the 25th a voice and do what the majority of his constituents want, not just what he and the local powers want. Please, by all means…show me I’m wrong. I will happily and with total glee apologize and jump into advocating our side to our new Congressman.

However I can not take the chance on a man who currently won’t even attend a Democratic function and will not budge on his views.

So I’m taking the chance Tony Strickland, who has promised me to my face we WILL have a voice.

The stakes are just too high.

Get out and vote on Tuesday, and instead of sitting out the two bubbles to fill in for this race, fill yours in for Strickland. You owe it to not only every woman you know simply over reproductive rights, but you owe it to your LGBTQ friends who will have a shot at educating an evolving man- not one who’s mind is made up. You also owe it the people of color in your life who clearly hear the dog-whistle of Donnelly and the confederate flag vote. You owe it to make sure the local good ‘ol boys understand they are a dying breed. And you owe it to yourself, because you deserve the chance to have a seat at a table, one the other side, has shunned you from.

Again, prove me wrong Sen. Knight. If you win on Tuesday, prove me wrong. You’ll see a blog post praising your actions.

But in the meantime I’m going with the man giving me and mine a chance, even if it means I’m taking a chance on my part…

Vote Tony Strickland and join me in holding his feet to the fire. For all of us.

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It’s a SPOOOKY Halloween: I’m VOTING REPUBLICAN

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No really. It’s going to happen. And it REALLY does not get any more scary than voting GOP.

Here in California’s 25th district we Democrats got the short end of the stick in our new ‘top two’ primary system. Yup, I have two Republicans to choose from and zero…count ‘em…zero Democrats.

There is no write-in. There is no ‘none of the above.’ There is no other choice. 

There is only vote, or don’t vote. (I’m dying to try a Yoda line here…)

And I really can not stand the idea of abstaining. I know many of you Dems think this is the way to go and that’s your choice. However I feel if I don’t use my vote, a more extreme candidate will get into Congress. I need the guy who will do the least amount of damage in two years. I need the guy who might, maybe, kinda, think about listening to me and MY issues and ideas and beliefs. I need the guy who is open to change.

Yes, I still believe in Hope and Change.

The problem? Figuring out which candidate fits this description.

So me being, well, ME, I began a quest in late August to get both candidates to sit down with women Democrats. That was the initial idea. Hey, it’s what I did before Lupus starting taking my organs so I figured I had the street cred. If I can sit down with the President, his senior staff, get his wife to blog, bring conservative bloggers to the White House, get the RNC to have THEIR  Congresswomen blog AND participate in talks with bloggers, arrange meet and greets with elected officials and bloggers…I could do this, right?

Right.

The difference? This wasn’t for ‘work.’ This is for my hometown. My household. My district. MY OBAMACARE. My Reproductive RIGHTS. My wanting to punch in the nose every politician *cough* GOP *cough* responsible for opposing every.single.thing. MY President has attempted to accomplish since day one. Yes, day one and the infamous meeting while Barack Hussein Obama was putting his hand on the Bible and taking the oath of office.

I needed these meetings to happen and I needed it bad. I need to look Tony Strickland and Sen. Steve Knight in the eyes and find out what type of men they really are.

Unfortunately, by about mid-October they still didn’t have much of a desire to meet with me and my merry band of nose punchers. (they know I kid… I didn’t even flick their arms!)

So despite being in the midst of a round of IVIG I dragged my sorry butt to a local debate between the two. I made a point of speaking to them both, reminding them I had been pestering them and their staff (and wives) via FB, email and voicemail- and then launched into my credentials again so they knew they would be in good hands, regardless.

As anyone I’ve worked with will tell you, I’m over the TOP fair to the political types…to the point of driving my bosses nuts. However, look at it from their point of view. In the case of my job, many of these elected officials see only the ‘bad’ in social media and it scares them. They can’t control the message. They certainly can’t control the comments. The Internet can be a rough place. So I always, always allow the elected officials to lead and go with what they and their staff are most comfy with. My pitch to Strickland and Knight was the same- I’d even offered to give them the questions ahead of time (something Knight totally laughed at…bonus points for him…but he still wouldn’t commit) -Anything. Because not only would these two be walking into my blogging world but also (hopefully) into a group of left leaning folk (I ended up with a few men).

Finally, I’m thrilled to say, after meeting me in person at the debate and hearing my resume, the Strickland camp accepted. I tried at the same debate with Knight, but he just wasn’t so sure yet. I can’t blame the guy. I’m just as passionate in person as I am online and I don’t think anyone from his staff was nearby to save him when I cornered, I mean, approached him. But I did follow up with both right after and had Strickland scheduled for an intimate gathering at my home. Still no reply from Knight.

With the day now here, and Knight still not responding, I gathered 8-10 Democrat or left leaning community members who are influencers … people from various backgrounds and sectors that could then take the message back, word of mouth or via their own social media, should they be so moved by the candidate. LGBTQ, Business, Moms… you get the idea.

I put out some waters next the photo of President Obama and I (what???? oh come on I HAD TO) and near one of my boxes of White House M&Ms (I had to do that too, I just had to) made sure the kids were busy with legos and we greeted Tony Strickland, Republican, as he walked in my door.
M&Ms

We kicked things off with the very influential Leah aka @bookieboo who grilled Tony (I get to call him Tony now…which is nice because Newt insisted on MR. GINGRICH and Congressman Buck McKeon – the one retiring that these guys want to replace- prefers Congressman, if he’s even listening…and don’t even get me started on Mr. Speaker…but boy was it much nicer when it was MADAME SPEAKER) on GMO labeling and farmers.

GMO LABELING, ORGANIC FARMING: To the room’s surprise Tony said he would be entirely open to a federal standard for GMO labeling and would seriously look into it- asking very sharp questions about Europe’s standards and other states and what they have done and he thought it made a lot of sense to know what is in our food. Leah then went on to explain how family farms can have a hard time, almost impossible, going from using pesticides to organic, and there is a HUGE demand for organic. So much so that we have to bring it in from other countries. Which sucks, when we could totally corner the market here and supply our own. There is a three year period where, apparently, the family farm soil has to literally just sit and the farm has zero income. Something the majority of family farms these days simply can not handle financially. So she wanted to know if Tony would consider any sort of federal funds or subsidies to help these farmers make the jump to organic farming. Turns out, Tony would consider it- but in a pilot program. Something he thought might be smarter to start with before really committing a ton of money. And again, he would absolutely look into it and thought a pilot program was a good start.

tony Headshot-2

LGBTQ: We then moved on to LGBTQ issues. Now, there was some flack around these parts because the candidates were asked during a forum to raise their hand if they would support ENDA. Everyone but Tony raised their hand. Causing a total uproar. So Tony told us, under no uncertain terms, he has ‘evolved’ just like President Obama on the issue. And the ENDA hand raising thing- he says he hadn’t read the bill, and he had been burned before on that sort of question and didn’t want to commit to something he had not read. He also, very savvily for this Dem crowd, talked about speaking with others who had told him this version of ENDA was very watered down and from what he understood many LGBTQ activists weren’t happy about it (totally true) and wanted STRONGER legislation.

Then we got to the nitty gritty. Marriage. He said he stops short of ‘marriage.’ YET believes in total equality…just not the whole ‘marriage’ word. He wants equals rights, allegedly, but not under the term ‘marriage.’ Now, we all know that many rights come along with that word under the law. Many same-sex couples can not have simply because of that word. However Tony said he wants those couples to have all those rights, he just stops short at the ‘marriage’ word. He admitted to me at the debate this was his own, personal issue and he knows he’s evolving. He said (D) Speaker Perez (gay) teases him that he will get him that last step…so of course I told him I’d be right there too…pushing. We also got into religious exemptions and how that would work. He agreed no one should ever lose their job because of their race, sexual orientation, etc. But he did say where the crux maybe is when someone is hired to say, teach Jewish theology and they have an issue doing the work because of their beliefs. He said that’s where it gets tricky and he could see, in that particular type of case, where the law would need to also help the employer. However the janitor or whomever should be protected- even in religious universities, etc. (Needless to say some in the room still want total clarification on this issue because we got very detailed)

GRIDLOCK: I then had to jump in and ask about the current climate in Washington and gridlock. Because so help me if I see another straight up and down ‘we will vote against anything the President puts out there’ from the GOP I will tear all of my hair out and SEND IT TO TONY along with  photo of my bald head and a bill for my blood pressure meds. Will he be in lockstep with his party? – Tony says no, and his record shows it. And he’s right, he has gone against his party numerous times, notably on green energy and they weren’t very happy with him when he sued Gov. Gray Davis back in the day. He could easily tell us 6-7 instances where he did, in fact, go against his party and said he would not be afraid to do the same in DC.

DC POWER: Which lead us to what sort of pull he might have as a Freshman Congressman in DC. Turns out, Tony’s got some pull. He says he’s wanted on several committees already (including the coveted Armed Service committee) and he has friends in DC on both sides of the aisle. In other words, he won’t be your typical Freshman with zero contacts and zero pull. He compared himself to his challenger and said while it’s important to be close to your local elected leaders to take their concerns to DC, the powers in DC really are not going to care what the mayor of Santa Clarita thinks while they vote on federal issues.

EDUCATION: We moved on to education. He said he believes California has failed the kids around here and we must do better. He also agreed that kids will only learn if they feel safe, and talked very personally about bullying and supporting anti-bullying measures. We heard a very touching story about his daughter and how it made him realize how important it was that children LIKE going to school and not FEAR or have worries when trying to learn.

LOCAL YOUTH: This lead to a question about the youth in our area. With the comment being made it seems all they do is ‘heroin and screw up on social media.’ Tony talked about how as a Congressman it was up to locals to support nonprofits and things like the Boys and Girls Club- but said as the Congressman for the area he would be active in making sure these places are supported and committing himself to helping out. He mentioned he helped out with ‘gamers’ (hey, that’s my family) and setting up some gaming spots in our district, along with his various sports projects. The guy is like 6’5” so…lots of basketball people. In fact, one of his goals if elected is to play basketball with the President. He wants this pick up game, bad. From one basketball player to another… I can tell. And I have to admit, a bipartisan pick up game with the President sounds like a good way to break bread. I just really want an invite too. (hint, hint)

GUNS: We then got into the 2nd amendment. This got interesting. Tony said he’s very pro-2nd, as one would expect, but he has been in trouble with local NRA groups for not going far enough. But he doesn’t think you need a tank or grenades. He said he really wants to explore the mental health issue tied to this- because he believes if we can get a hold of that, we can solve a lot of these violence problems. The room then, of course, got very detailed- where does he draw the line on weapons. He wasn’t entirely sure, having been told by experts (he does not own a gun, but supports those who do) that many of these weapons you can simply change out one part and they are legal again. He does know that military style tank and crazy over the top stuff doesn’t need to be in your arsenal. Something local NRA groups are taking exception too.

CONTRACEPTION & ABORTION: And then came some of the biggies.. contraception, abortion… the ones that usually divide a room in two in seconds. Turns out Tony told us he’s fine with ALL forms of contraception- even the ones cited in the Hobby Lobby case and their availability. He says he’s pro-life, and has also evolved on this issue, as he believes in terminating a pregnancy if it occurs by rape, incest, or could endanger the health of the mother. He also agreed with the room when it was stated we can’t imagine anyone making that decision for our daughters but our FAMILY should the worst happen and a rape occurred. Tony said he would want that for HIS daughter, that option, and for it to not be in the hands of the government.

EQUAL PAY: Tony also told the crowd he is FOR equal pay for equal work for women and supports it entirely.

ACA: Because Tony started his campaign on a ‘repeal Obamacare’ effort, I then had to ask the million dollar question…will he vote to repeal Obamacare? Because he has said he would when this primary began, changing his tune and taking it off his website once he began running against Knight and NOT a Democrat. I should mention other things were removed as well and his stances on issues that we discussed like this and others have changed since this campaign started. He acknowledged he’s changed and now wants to ‘fix’ health care in America, not repeal ACA…but said it’s doomed to fail if it’s not fixed. He talked about his work with a health care program for children in CA. He thinks we should all be able to take our health care with us, job to job… wherever…and it be ours, not your employer’s, etc. I said…well that’s what ACA does when you buy through the exchange, I also told him of my family’s savings and how this whole premiums going up thing is crazy because they’ve been going up since well before I had my first child in 2003. Tony said he understood and that what he sees is ACA crashing if it’s not fixed because of the high number of sick people enrolled and the lack of young people enrolled. And we talked about how to get the young enrolled and he discussed how we didn’t need someone appointed to ‘track down’ those not paying and how that system isn’t even in place. I told him well, the IRS is where you get hit so if you file taxes it’s totally in place.. I didn’t really get a response to that one. But he did say he was committed to fixing, along with the President, the bumps that come up.

I then, dead seriously, told him if he was one of those 45th or 50-whatever votes to repeal Obamacare by the House he’d have to answer to me, because so help me if I see that I would lose my every loving mind. The room giggled but anyone who knows me and I could tell Tony & his staffer knew -I was NOT joking. And you really do not want a pissed off Erin in your office and you can’t hide in DC because I will show up there too, just ask the White House.

BIPARTISANSHIP: Which leads me to our conclusion and him promising Democrats and the left a seat at the table and a voice if he’s elected. In fact, he encouraged it and seemed to be counting on us to teach him more about the LGBTQ community, which he admittedly didn’t even know what it stood for. He wants to learn. He told us we are not always going to agree, and he may not go along with what we want (he is a republican, after all) but we are invited to lobby him to see our point of view or scream at him  until we’re blue in the face over a vote he may have cast. He said he has a track record of being bipartisan and finding common ground and will work hard to make sure he represents the entire district, not just the Republicans- and everyone in the room was welcomed to be part of that process should he make it to DC.

Hands were then shook, cards exchanged, the kids even popped in but suddenly they were all too shy to ask questions even though my 11-year old REALLY wanted to grill him on equality.

Now I remain sitting on pins and needles to hear from the other man in this race, State Senator Steve Knight. Should that happen at any point I will do the same and blog the entire event or his written or spoken answers to the same questions asked of Tony Strickland. And it will be posted in the same manner.

Regardless I will be making up my own mind very soon and writing a post on that specifically, and why I think one Republican deserves my vote over the other. Should the Knight answers come in AFTER my endorsement, I will STILL post them for all to see. Since I could go either way, and many others could go either way, I will post what I get no matter what. In the meantime you can visit Sen. Knight’s website and Tony Strickland’s for more details.

Now to celebrate Halloween with all the gore and upset stomach from too much candy and the added bonus of election signs on all my neighbor’s lawns. We live in scary, scary times, as I cast a ballot for a Republican. 

 

Crossposted on MOMOcrats.com and BlogHer.com

Hey Mom, What Does “Die Feminist Gamer” Mean?

My 9-year old daughter can jump in and out of a first person shooter game and then quickly morph back into a bunny to go to someone’s “den” for a bunny dance party.

She’s a gamer. A girl gamer. And right now, that is a dangerous thing.

So dangerous, in fact, some women have received death threats, their public info blasted all over communities so they can be harassed, and if that weren’t enough we hear about Anita Sarkeesian. Sarkeesian was slated to speak at Utah State University until they got an email threatening a mass shooting if she dared open her girl mouth on stage. Sarkeesian, refusing to cave to their threats,  said she would STILL get on stage and give her lecture, provided there were some security checks.

Seems totally reasonable to me.

BUT (there’s always a ‘but’) school officials weren’t all that into being TSA at the doors. I’m not sure why, considering the Salt Lake Tribune reported the emailed threat claimed it would be “the deadliest school shooting in American history.”

WOW. Ok then.

According to the LA Times, “During the discussion, Sarkeesian asked if weapons will be permitted at the speaking venue. Sarkeesian was informed that, in accordance with the State of Utah law regarding the carrying of firearms, if a person has a valid concealed firearm permit and is carrying a weapon, they are permitted to have it at the venue.”

Yeah, I think I’d go ahead and sit this one out too.

As many of you know I’ve given lectures and sat on panels regarding the death threats my family and I received via online trolls. Threats that garnered zero attention until the trolls went after my kids and their school. Then, suddenly, the cops & Twitter cared. Well, that’s not entirely true. Twitter didn’t cooperate with law enforcement until an emergency order was issued by the judge. Then they cared. The detective assigned to the case, the first “cyber” case for him…he cared. He cared because he understood, at the time, this was only going to get worse and these cases would become much more frequent in my town and in yours.

My point? Each time I’ve had a speaking engagement post-threat, the venue and organizers have been more than willing to offer security. Sarkeesian can only stand up for herself so much, showing the world she won’t back down, without downright being stupid and taking a huge risk on her life and the lives of everyone in that auditorium.

Currently the online scene is as I would expect. People are picking sides, blaming each other, and women online and in tech (yes, that includes gaming) continue to endure what can be career ending torture by a minority of douchecanoes who seem to think themselves superior. These trolls are threatened by anyone with a vagina that dare tell them or even ask politely they consider some games have a female character and maybe, just possibly a female character that doesn’t resemble a whore. Apparently that’s waaaaaaay too much to ask of *some* of this demo without causing an uproar. There is also the fight over this being about journalism (I’m using a lower case j on purpose…because please don’t get this traditional news reporter started on citizen journalism, real Journalism and reviews, pay-for-play,  and blah blah blah …see, I said don’t get me started) and not being about feminism. THAT has *some* in this demo screaming at the top of their lungs to be heard over the rustle of headlines simply stating a feminist received death threats.  As with everything there is a long backstory. As with many backstories it is filled with truth, lies, and lots in the middle.

What I have seen, personally, by simply tweeting about the issue (and using the all important #) is ugly. And the word FEMINISM really pisses off a lot of people. Let’s not kid ourselves there are idiots on both sides.  In fact, I was told repeatedly via social media last night my “agenda” needs to stay the fuck out of “their” games.

I love how they think these are “their” games…so cute.

I was also told I was a horrible mother, saw some really nasty rape memes…you get the idea. All I asked for was an end to the escalation. You see, these movements have become the next game for many of these men and women. Their next quest.

There is even a self-proclaimed Democrat woman who calls herself the ‘Factual Feminist,’ lending her credibility to a movement aimed partially at challenging journalists & Journalists (of which I have been both) and partially ( I THINK?) to poo-pooing the idea that …wait for it… women and girls play games and can be hard core gamers and…no really, wait for it…..wait for it….. wait for it………..there is NO PATRIARCHAL PROBLEM in gaming.

Imagine my spit-take on that one. If it helps, I have tea. 

I swear to CHEEBUS that’s what she said. Yes, Dr. Factual Feminist spent a few weeks (weeks people! WHOLE WEEKS!) checking out the gamers and she’s concluded there’s no issue here, you silly little girls. It’s all in your head, which is where she virtually pats us, tells us to calm our shit down, and ignores what has been decades of a certain “culture” she can’t seem to find with any male gamers online.

Deadspin has a great rundown of everything that includes the video of this so-called feminist. My absolute favorite part is where she says “They want the male video game culture to die

WOW. I totally missed the memo on this one.  Did you all have a meeting without me? Hilariously and somewhat dangerously, she then strokes their egos and talks about what a smart little subculture they are.

ooooh what a smart widdle subculture you are….do you do twicks you cootie patatootie widdddle subculture… now roll over, roll over… goooood boy!

Well, yes. We did have an inkling of THIS side of gaming too!

Our life- caught perfectly by @undomesticdiva

Feel free to steady yourselves before you get the vapors and need to sit a spell on the fainting couch.

Did you all think we women just randomly hung out with neanderthals all day and let our daughters do the same while we game? I don’t think the argument here is “all male gamers suck and want to hurt me”…unless my son and husband are secretly plotting. The argument, Professor, is within that smart subculture is a STUPID, NASTY subculture (and I’m being generous by calling it a subculture, it can at times BE THE CULTURE) with some bad apples. Every subculture, culture and otherwise has this issue- and to “stand down” as you suggest is to accept this behavior. In the words of my daughter, “Mom can I say a bad word? … That’s really stupid.”

Back to the kids…since I mentioned my gamer daughter. I briefly and somewhat vaguely told the kids what had gone down on the internet all night, while they slept all snuggled and cuddly,  and then proceeded to bust out the phone while they reacted…and we packed for school:

Yeah, you heard me right…my son knows a whole lot more about gamer culture than his sister due to their ages, what we allow, and my husband’s constant vigil gaming WITH my son so when things come up they can discuss the matter. Same thing with my daughter, just two years younger- and it’s reflected in the video above. I mean, did anyone tell the good Professor about tea bagging as she did her research?

Now, there are some serious accusations levied in this war of #GamerGate vs #StopGamerGate2014- even to go so far as deciding if women count as gamers, you know, the real kind…not the kind that play Angry Birds or Bejeweled. Because heaven forbid we add in THOSE numbers. If we do that *some* male gamers get really upset. Like, stomp their feet and whine and moan like toddlers upset. Like…hurl death threats at women upset.

Now, why did I say “if we add in those numbers,” you ask? Because it seems all of this only becomes a problem when there is a threat to their special hold on their special place in their special world where only they are allowed to be king of their gaming castle.

Sort of like what we’re watching the GOP do right now: trying really hard to stay relevant to the LGBTQ community and women and people of color, yet instead looking like total asses and eventually saying or doing something so very stupid no one in their right mind would want to play in their sandbox. Like I said, death threats. Or when people post about these threats, answering with those super triggering (thnx ever so much!) gifs about raping girl gamers all while complaining and mansplaining we can’t take a joke.

I honestly hope we can move forward in this mess with a coalition of feminists (men gamers, that includes you…in fact it DEMANDS you) standing UP to the systemic and overt creeps in the culture TOGETHER and without hesitation. I could give a rat’s ass which hashtag they fall under or what their criteria for “hard core gaming community” entails. Both sides need leaders that are loud, bold, strong, and the hero they attempt to play daily on their screens. Except without the legendary weapon.

If this fails, and these ridiculous and entirely unacceptable threats and violations continue, at least I know that my home is not oddity or behavioral study.

We have digital kids. You may have heard of them. They are growing up a bit different than we did. iPads before they can walk kinda thing. They read their books for school on these devices and they have their playdates on their consoles. My son was up Friday night, or Saturday (or was it both?) with his best friend who lives several states away, dropping in on public events in Destiny. All while my daughter made a video jamming out to Lorde with her Animal Jam friends.

As you see above, they aren’t buying any of your excuses. I have full faith they will fix the misogyny and insecurity and yes, patriarchy, prevalent in gaming…because let’s face it, they already care more than most of you and are willing to stand up while others are patting them on the head, insisting they stand down.

 

 

(photo credit: Megan Hook Photography)

*you all might be interested in this ESA study, claiming “women age 18 or older represent a significantly greater portion of the game-playing population (36%) than boys age 18 or younger (17%)” FYI it’s a pdf. (update added Oct. 16, 2014)

I’m Over Being Ashamed & Voting NO on Prop 46

I landed myself in the hospital against this week. Despite feeling relatively well. Ok, that’s a lie. I’ve been doing much better lately.

I just hate to jinx anything.

But as we all have learned with this jerk of a disorder, just when you are lulled into feeling hopeful and happy and excited there is light at the end of this jerk tunnel…your get a dull ache in your lower back and then you start bleeding profusely out of your butt.

What? You thought I’d spare you the fun….oh no, you must be at the wrong blog for that my dear. I have never pulled any punches with my sweet pea readers and don’t intend to tone it down for you all now.

Now remember, I am on some heavy, duty drugs for pain…just my EVERY DAY PAIN. So to have a dull ache in my back makes me a bit concerned. And when it ramps up and becomes doubled over in pain, pain….I get SUPER concerned.

So I had to break down and do what I absolutely HATE to do, and avoid at ALL COSTS…I had to head to the Emergency Room. It’s a Sunday night, my rheumatologist was in Europe and my pain doc was only going to be able to help me feel better if I were in a bed hooked to an IV. My regular doctor would just defer to my rheumy and well, I just had no choice.

There are several reasons I HATE going to the ER or urgent care, not the least of which is the toll it takes on my family, but next would have to be how difficult it can be to get help and pain relief.

You see, being chronically ill means I am on a lot of medication. Like… A LOT OF MEDICATION. More than I am comfortable with and to the point where I have to take medication to help with the side effects of the other medication. Yup. That much.

But understand something, because this is really important: I am treated like a criminal every time I see a new doctor and by just about every government agency around, simply because I am chronically ill and in constant pain.

I jump through so many hoops on a monthly basis to “prove” I am in need of narcotics, that it makes me feel ashamed when they don’t work and I need to change them or I need a higher dose.

SHAME. THEY MAKE ME FEEL SHAME TO TALK TO MY DOCTOR. 

And there is a Proposition in California on the November ballot that would add yet ANOTHER hoop to jump through in order to get the medication every single doctor agrees I need, and it SCARES THE HELL OUT OF ME.

On it’s face, Proposition 46 seems like a good idea. And I agree, it was born of a good idea- to raise the cap on one of the medical malpractice limits. All of the other limits are … well, unlimited. If something were to happen to you or yours, you could sue for unlimited amounts. Except in the “pain and suffering” category. That one has been stuck at $250k for a long time and has not been bumped up for inflation. So yeah, it seems reasonable to responsibly raise that limit, at the very least, to keep up with inflation. It seems reasonable to do it in a manner that won’t screw over the small clinics or orgs that, for the most part, help women and children.

Except Prop 46 didn’t go this route.

Instead of putting forth a simple bill that would raise the cap, the powers-that-be put forth a bill that raises the cap immediately and without any clauses or delays built-in for those clinics who will need to absorb the costs  (or people or doctors or whomever) AND it tags on TWO MORE huge health care issues-random drug tests for doctors (whaaaaa?) AND a mandate forcing doctors and pharmacists to check the “CURES” database before handing out any hard core drugs for the first time. (Again…whaaaaaaa?)

Of course this dealing with health care, and my condition, I immediately have to check this out and find out how these things will affect my life. What can I say, politics is personal.

Turns out, as happens with MANY of these elections, one of my friends is working on the No on 46 campaign. Odds are if it’s happening in the world of politics, I will know someone working for the candidate or the campaign or the grass roots org or something. This was no exception.

So we chatted and quickly I was sitting down at my kitchen table with Teri Holoman, who is consulting for No on 46. The more I learned, the more frightened I became. And it’s also why I told you the ER story to start this post…because I need to walk you through exactly how all this will go down the NEXT time I go into the ER if 46 passes (please no please no please) and what I ALREADY go through in California as as safeguard for those who are “doctor shopping” or “drug seeking.”

You know, the way I’m treated already every single time I see a doctor who is unfamiliar with me or my case. Which, when you have nights and weekends in the world and a chronic condition, happens way more than you’d think.

Ok so now you are thinking…what could be so bad Erin? It’s to protect people, and kids, and small fluffy kittens….so it can not, possibly be bad. You’ll still get your meds if you really do need them, after all if you had nothing to hide it won’t be an issue for you..plus some big name Democrats are on board and you are a Democrat so what gives?

I’ll tell you what gives. The next time I’m doubled over in pain and I end up exactly where I was, I may end up admitted (without it being entirely necessary) just to get the pain relief I need or I may not leave with the medication I need to get me through the pain until I can see my regular doctors. OR I may get the script and then the pharmacist may deny me the meds I need to get me through the pain until I can see my regular doctors. All of these probably landed me admitted to the hospital to keep those bills coming to my mailbox.

All of these are real possibilities. Because despite what the other side says, or how this may have all started out as a really good idea from a very honest place, the language of the proposition is very clear. It says doctors must “ACCESS AND CONSULT” or be “HELD NEGLIGENT” and get this, the damn CURES database doesn’t even FRIGGING WORK ALL THE TIME and the guy running it says it will basically crumble under the weight of Prop 46 and all these new docs and pharmacists using it rendering it useless and rendering me STILL IN PAIN and with a doc or pharmacist stuck between a rock and a hard place…give me the meds or “be HELD NEGLIGENT…” for not checking the database because it was down or not working and giving me the meds anyway. Let me calm down and be more technical…the state staffer in charge of running the database has called CURES “not sufficient.” Testifying before the California Medical Board, he said that he himself gets kicked out of the database when trying to run inquiries. What’s more, he testified that inquiries into the system can take “anywhere from moments to never.”

Now listen…I GET that this is supposed to protect people from all those folks addicted to prescription meds. I GET IT. But do you have any idea how many OTHER laws are in place to “protect” people from us horrible pill poppers?

Let me tell you exactly how I get my usual meds, maybe that will shed some light on things.

First of all, my regular doctor and my rheumatologist won’t give me anything stronger than my Xanax (which actually falls into this category…) or Toradol injections. If they were to give me the narcotics I need over a prolonged period of time they would have to register me and a bunch of other stuff that goes with me (like, all the proof I need these drugs, etc) with the DEA. Mind you, the DEA gets all of this ANYWAY and even if they do it short term…but regardless, we have me going to a “Pain Management Specialist” who takes care of all these things. It means my other doctors don’t have to deal with all the red-tape and potential lawsuits, and I am in the hands of a professional who can help me as I go on and off being physically dependent on these drugs.

Fast forward to my every 2-3 week (depending on how I’m doing) appointment with my Pain Management Specialist, Dr. Kumar.

It started, long ago, with all of my lab results, hospital records, rheumatology records and general practitioner records being sent over to Dr. Kumar. On top of all of that, and despite all of the very clear diagnosis he was given, he sent me for his own tests that included several very costly MRIs.

Once it was determined I really was sick and had some very severe health conditions, he agreed to be my pain doc…and I his patient.

Now, back to my usual appointment…it starts with this:

Because if he sees I’m on anything other than what is prescribed, or the DEA sees it, I get cut off. Or sent to some treatment program. Actually, he would know we have issues.

When I decided to try medical marijuana to see if it would help, the office manager had to scan in my certificate stating I was legally able to have medical marijuana and it was noted in their records and the DEA’s (again) too…along with the State.

Because my rheumatologist prescribes my Xanax (1mg 3 x per day to counter act the prednisone) this too must be noted and shown in each record, because my pee will show it.

Then he goes over all my recent labs from all the other doctors and we talk about my pain. Currently, because of a recent flare, I’m on a higher dose of the narcotics (methadone, precoset) than I had been on. We had been slowly pulling me down.

After our chat I leave with a hand written script:

…which is copied and noted by the DEA, the State, and each of my doctors. I have to take the script to the SAME pharmacy each time, or else it sets of red flags in all the systems and I get nasty letters saying I might be an evil drug seeking, doctor shopping, pharmacy shopper and the insurance may not pay any longer and big mean government guys may come check me out to make sure I’m ok and don’t need help, or throw me in jail…whichever. I’m paraphrasing but you get the idea.

Now…should I lose any pills, drop any down the sink, have my purse stolen…doesn’t matter. I don’t get any more. I also can not go in a day early, or two days early for my next appointment. I can not be seen by the doctor until the very day that script runs out…if I’m going on vacation, I have to show him my airline tickets and he will post date a script for the exact date I will run out.

So you can imagine when I land in the ER the first thing my husband or I (if capable) always do is hand over the cards of Dr. Kumar and Dr. Caro, my rheumatologist. We ask they be called IMMEDIATELY by the ER doc so they can be told of the extreme circumstances of my illness and my PAIN and know right off the bat I’m not a drug seeker and I’m not doctor shopping.

Some ER docs call my doctors. Some ER docs do not. Some urgent care docs call my doctors. Some urgent care docs will not. They want to see test results first or they believe they know best and will give me “a little something for the pain” to help while we wait for said results.

In California emergency room docs can only give 1ml IV of dilaudid total no matter how long you are in the ER or the equivalent dose of morphine. Because of the amount of medication I take, my tolerance is very high. Morphine doesn’t do anything for my pain and Dr. Kumar, when I’m admitted for pain management, orders me 2-2.5ml of dilaudid every TWO HOURS to get me back under control. That’s on top of my methadone, my lyrica, and percoset for breakthrough pain. That basically means it takes a lot to make me comfy – you know, the dose your average elephant would get- yet the ER doc usually comes in with .5, 2xs, before he finally sees a test result or TALKS to one of my doctors, realizes I’m not kidding, and finds an admitting doctor to give me the correct dose. Notice I said “admitting” doctor, which means I can’t go home. Now you know why I avoid the ER unless it’s truly so horrible I’m worried about my life and my organs and things that are super serious.

Should I end up in the exact same position as I was this week, where it was concluded inflammation (surprise, surprise, this is what LUPUS DOES) was making my lower back hurt and pushing on my also inflamed semi-colon (that’s what we loving call my colon, because Lupus took half of it in 2010 along with a bunch of other organs riddled with inflammation) thus causing the blood to come out of my ass. It was then the doc in the ER realizes he would either have to admit me in order to get the right amount of pain meds to help me NOT CRY, or he might give me what he can in the ER, then take a look at the CURES database he’s now forced to check, if it works, and SEE what I am on and conclude that IV meds plus a script for home (remember Dr. Kumar had been lowering my dosage because I was doing well) will do the trick…but now he’s seen the database (maybe) and doesn’t want to be liable for letting me leave with more narcotics via a script…OR he might check the database, talk with my docs, and realize it’s entirely the right thing to do and hand me the script and let me go home, where I’m much more comfortable and subject to less germs with my compromised immune system. (The last scenario is what happened on Sunday/Monday morning because I begged to not have to be admitted, knowing my immune system is low and he had disclosed he had several cases of MRSA in the ICU and it was a bad time for infectious disease at the hospital…he agreed the hospital was a horrible place for me right now, and if we could make me comfortable at home, that was the goal)

But it doesn’t end there.

I left the ER at 3am Monday morning. The only place open by us at that time is a 24-hour CVS, where the pharmacist would be forced to check the database as well…which may or may not be working…and then he/she gets to either give me the meds as prescribed OR deny me because that’s not my normal pharmacy and holy crap the database says I’m on a TON already…because what pharmacist would want to be liable?

See…that’s when Erin finds out this proposition that started off with good intentions is actually a huge scam by trial lawyers to make more money. They make money by raising the cap, they make money by suing the hell out of the ER doc and the pharmacist and anyone else who gave me a script. They make more money by drug testing doctors, hoping to catch the one bad apple. And they didn’t even get the drug testing part right! They claim to have modeled it after how they drug test pilots…but, um…no. Not exactly. They left out some huge things, that, of course, benefit the lawyers. The idea is to protect people from doctors who are drunk or high, but the prop calls for them to test AFTER an incident has occurred. Uh, how does that protect the patient? AFTER the patient has been screwed? As for those doctors, they screw up just as much as the rest of us, getting hooked on drugs or having a drink too many. The same lawyers fighting for this proposition have allowed themselves health insurance that includes addiction help that remains anonymous, but refuse to allow the same for the doctors. You know, so they can sue them.

Oh as for those big name Dems who have endorsed the proposition? I personally think they should recuse themselves from endorsing either side due to spouses & other family members who are medical malpractice attorneys or just plain old trial lawyers.

This proposition is actually so bad, it’s got political foes agreeing NO is the only way to vote. I’m talking the ACLU and the California Chamber of Commerce AGREEING. Maybe this is the beginning of a new, bi-partisans era in California? With all of us rallying together? Hell bent on defeating this proposition?

I will be 100% honest with you, had this just been a prop about the cap I probably would have voted “yes.” But instead they got greedy. They got greedy and they got sloppy. This thing appears to have been drafted by children. The wording is that convoluted and it’s meaning lost within the addition of drug testing and mandatory CURES checks.

I will PERSONALLY OFFER to help draft NEW legislation that will raise the cap in a responsible manner, which is what the grassroots of this Prop want. I will reach across the aisle and I will make sure this coalition of strange bedfellows remain bedfellows for the sake of those who deserve all they can get if their family or loved ones have been wronged by a medical malpractice. I want this done responsibly, for the right reasons, not by trial lawyers who took this over to make money. That’s not the spirit of this prop and it has become the spirit, thus taking what was a good idea and turning it into a big mess that hurts more people than it helps.

But I will not stand by and wither in the corner, in pain, looked down upon like a junkie by every new doctor I meet simply because they looked in a broken database. I will not give up constitutional rights, even if I’m not a doctor, because my doctor went home on a Friday night and had a drink, or took his legally prescribed Xanax or pain pill after a day of work, and THEN gets a call he must submit to a drug test or be ASSUMED negligent.

But most of all, I will not continue to suffer because I feel shame asking my doctor to HELP ME out of the pain I feel.

No. No. No.

No on 46.

Control YOUR Fate: WTFP?!


There has been a lot of talk about birth control in the news here in the US lately. From the recent Supreme Court decision over Hobby Lobby and the Affordable Care Act, to activist-turned-candidate Sandra Fluke’s testimony in front of Democratic members of Congress. Birth control is a hot button issue. However, when you hear about birth control in the US, you rarely hear of those who have no access at all to birth control, or those who have never even been given the option to plan their families. Of course, you may know that some types of contraception are nearly impossible to afford if you don’t have insurance, or you may hear how some are so prevalent you can get them at any walk-in clinic or convenience store. What you don’t usually hear is how millions of women don’t even know they have a choice as to when they have children, let along the many ways available to prevent pregnancy. Imagine not even knowing you can control your own reproductive fate, thus your future.

I’m working with EngenderHealth, a leading global women’s health organization, to raise awareness of issues related to family planning around the world. More than 220 million women in developing countries who want to decide for themselves whether and when to have children do NOT HAVE ACCESS TO CONTRACEPTION, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health think tank. They simply do not have access. While you or I may have to ask our doctor, pay a co-pay, or at the very least go to the corner drug store…these MILLIONS of women do not have the information they need or the ability to get contraception. So what’s the big deal you might think? Something we may take for granted. When women can PLAN whether or when to have children they are more likely to survive childbirth and have healthy newborns. They are also able to stay in school longer and earn more…thus helping their families. That’s right, many of these women are not surviving childbirth- and those that do are sometimes struggling with a newborn who may or may not survive. Unacceptable in 2014. EngenderHealth says “We are passionate about putting the power of family planning into women’s hands worldwide, because we know that when a woman can have the number of children she wants, not what her circumstances dictate, the possibilities for her future are infinite. We are transforming that passion into action so that every pregnancy is planned, every child is wanted, and every mother has the best chance at survival.” Kids My two children. I was able to further my education and my career because I could plan when I became pregnant.

Dr. Yetnayet Demi Asfaw, Vice President of Programs for EngenderHealth, explained to me on a conference call just how important it can be for entire regions to be convinced this is a must for the women of their community. Not an easy task when you are dealing with decades upon decades of culture differences and distrust of what can be perceived as “Western” medicine. While you and I may be lobbying our lawmakers to demand certain contraception be covered by health insurance, Dr. Yet, as she is known,  is convincing males in developing countries that women even deserve these options. It’s not just convincing men that women deserve these options, either…it’s about engaging men in actively promoting gender equity with regard to reproductive health, increasing men’s support for women’s reproductive health and children’s well-being, and advancing the reproductive health of both men and women. But she says, once they learn it’s good for EVERYONE, and they tend to come around.

What is good for the women of the area is good for ALL in the area. A universal truth no matter where you may find yourself.

EngenderHealth is asking “WTFP?!” or Where’s the Family Planning?! in its Fall 2014 campaign, which will engage American women in the global movement to expand access to contraceptives and family planning in developing countries. In the United States, widespread access to contraception revolutionized women’s roles in the workplace and society. Today, 89% of U.S. adults believe that women everywhere should have access to contraception.

 

Find out more by clicking here and be sure to follow EngenderHealth on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn and YouTube.

 

What does easy access to contraception mean to you? Leave your answer in the comments section below for a chance to win a Social Good Goodies bag.

 

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