Merck for Mothers Will Help Me KEEP HUGGING YOU at Every BlogHer

One of my favorite things about the annual BlogHer conference is being able to physically wrap my arms around women I love. The rooms are filled with blogger after blogger, all of whom I want to just tackle and hold tight when I see them. What can I say? This is what happens when you grow close in a community of women.
Now imagine if in the next 10 years, nearly 3 MILLION of those wonderful women we love- mothers- will lose their lives if we don’t do something about preventing maternal mortality.
That is exactly what the Merck for Mothers campaign set out to do at BlogHer ’14 by bringing a rock star line-up of speakers to discuss just how dangerous it can be to simply give birth in this day and age. Jennifer Albert told her story and it sounded a lot like MANY of our stories… including the one I told you all about before we even left for San Jose. Except hers was even more like the story of one of my best friends and a blogger I LOVE hugging every BlogHer Con… Sarah, from Sarah and the Goon Squad. Many of you may not know that Sarah, like Albert, lost a ridiculous amount of blood after giving birth to our favorite internet twins and we nearly lost her. She could have been a statistic. She could have been one of the many deaths Merck for Mothers is working to prevent.
Imagine not hugging Sarah at BlogHer.
And as we learned, even our wonderful United States is not immune to maternal mortality. You might want to be sitting when you hear what they told us but… the US ranks #64 in the world for maternal mortality. “We’re #64!!!!” doesn’t exactly have a nice ring to it, does it?
In fact, every 10 minutes a woman in the United States nearly dies from complications from pregnancy and childbirth. The three leading causes? Preeclampsia, embolism, or, like Sarah and Albert, Post-Partum hemorrhage. Put them all together and you get Merck’s PEP talk. At the event women in the room told their stories and honestly, I’d love to hear YOURS.
A virtual roundtable for those who couldn’t make it to San Jose.
One of the things that seems to stand out most is we women feel totally off-guard with pregnancy and delivery complications. Many of us agreeing we just don’t have enough info. I also think WE think it’s something that just happens in 3rd world countries. Places far, far away that can’t possibly be as industrial as we are.
Let’s change that.
If you have a birth story to share or not, you DO have information to share that can help save women’s lives.
Take the pledge just like I did and tell me who you will now have a PEP talk with… it might be your sister or your co-worker or your niece. I chose my daughter, because the more she knows now and the earlier she knows it, the better.
I look forward to your stories and who you would choose to “have the PEP talk with” because I want to hug all of you for many, many more BlogHer conferences to come.
My huggin girls
Learn more about Merck for Mothers and follow them on Twitter and Facebook!

Summer Boredom Hits….

My daughter hasn’t gotten out of her owl PJ’s since Monday.

My son hasn’t brushed his hair since Tuesday.

My Goddaughter has binge watched three shows on Netflix.

Yup, we’ve hit that part of summer where it’s not quite time to go back to school, but everyone is a bit bored. I’m in treatment, leaving them at home and me hooked to an IV.

So I’m devising a plan to get everyone OUT of the house and active lest the first day of school arrives and everyone begins to whine that we did nothing and went nowhere.

First of all, if they say we did nothing and went nowhere…they are big ‘ol liars. We were in Michigan for the start of the summer, where the kids took a side trip to West Virginia. The girls and I went up north to San Jose…and…ummm…we’ve done a ton of swimming in the pool.

Ok so the cross country trips were family oriented because of illnesses and very sad goodbyes, not exactly ‘vacations’… in fact the Michigan trip was such a blur to me and filled with so much emotion I don’t remember a lot of it unless reminded. It was hard. Certainly not a vacation, even if the kids were mostly shielded from it all and had some fun.

The San Jose trip was fun, but there were several incidents along the way (allergic reactions, car sickness, and my grandfather passing away) that pretty much shot that as a ‘real’ vacation as well.

So I’m putting in media requests for Disneyland and Universal Studios – and we’re looking at a trip to the Santa Barbara Zoo. ANYTHING to make it seem like we’ve had a ‘vacation’ this summer. I have some points I might be able to use for a hotel. Maybe we can find a suite, bring the dog, and hit the beach and everything. Who knows.

Kids in pjs

And these kids really need to get the heck out of their PJs.

Wish me luck. BTW I wish beaches rented scooters and they were all lined with cabanas. Adding my illness to the mix makes all of these things even more challenging but if there’s a will…there’s a way.

My Grandpa

Sigh.

To say it’s been the ‘summer of change’ could be the largest understatement ever around here. So much has happened in EVERY corner of our lives that I feel an upheaval like never before in my life.

As we drove to San Jose, a week ago today, I learned my beloved grandfather passed away.

It was one of those moments I knew had been coming for the past decade, it seems…yet I was almost unable to process it as I stared at the open road ahead.

I don’t have many words yet to describe how all of this is making me feel. I can say, in all honesty, my Grandfather has only wanted to be with my Grandmother since the second she passed away when I was a little girl. So I’m taking comfort in knowing he is now with my Grandmother. At least I like to pretend that’s where they are, regardless of my beliefs.

So I’m going to just pretend for awhile longer, because all of the reality heaped on us this summer is too much. Good or bad news, it’s all just too much.

Grandpa & Me

BlogHer 2014: San Jose

It’s the first year for my daughter, a brand new blogger. It’s also a first for my Goddaughter, visiting for the summer.

I’d say we started off our first BlogHer with the right attitudes, don’t you think?

first BlogHer with the girls

The Beauty of Survival: Merck for Mothers, BlogHer, My Daughter & Me

HalaMerck

It’s funny how life works out, and I mean the word life in every way possible… in every breathing, heart-filled sense. About a decade ago I was bedridden and pregnant with my daughter. We weren’t sure she, or I, would make it through. She was my second baby. I also had complications with my son, who came two years before. Neither pregnancy was easy, and back then we didn’t know why. We know now many of my issues were caused by Lupus. Regardless, bed-rest was the best we could do. I would bemoan to my husband that despite advances in modern technology every time something was going wrong while pregnant, the best my OBGYN could do for me was to tell me to rest and put my feet up. With my daughter it was no different. It was on and off rest and putting my feet up. Again getting to the point of only being allowed to get up to shower and use the bathroom. This second pregnancy was a bit more difficult though, as my little girl decided to scare us all a few days before her scheduled arrival. After heading to the hospital with consistent labor pains, the doctor ordered an emergency C-section as her heart rate dangerously dipped and I frantically panicked. Our story, however, had a happy ending. With a crying baby and a safe, if not shaken, mother. And instead of what could have been the anniversary of a tragedy, we’ll be celebrating a decade of BlogHer in San Jose with thousands of other women. Mother and daughter, together. HalaMerck A decade of blogging, a decade of strong women, a decade of survival for my daughter and I despite the reality that women around the world die from complications related to pregnancy every day.  So while in San Jose, Hala and I will be honored to attend the Merck for Mothers event at BlogHer ’14. We know we are the lucky ones, because no woman should die giving life, not when it’s preventable. Yet, as Merck for Mothers tells us, every day some 800 women around the world die from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. Some 800 women die every. single. day. Think about that for a minute. And we’re not just talking about third world countries that don’t have state of the art medical care. According to Merck for Mothers, the number of deaths from complications of pregnancy and childbirth has more than doubled in the past 20 years in the United States. Hala and I could have easily been statistics. Instead, my spunky 9-year-old will be learning about the amazing things women can accomplish when we join forces. She will be empowered by the many amazing speakers, encouraging her to become the best version of herself and she will have the opportunity to learn more about how she, along with many other babies that had a hard time getting into this world, can help make sure all women have proper prenatal care and healthy pregnancies. Merck for Mothers is a 10-year, $500 million initiative – to help tackle this tragic issue. If you are headed to BlogHer ’14 in San Jose check out the Merck booth (411) in the Expo Hall.

Motherhood, in a word, to me… means survival. Every day I celebrate the survival of both of my children and myself. And the survival of having simply made it through another day of this amazing journey… teaching them about life, cleaning up after their spills, making sure they eat right and behave properly and learn all of the things necessary so they can eventually leave our home and become productive members of society. Of course my kids leaving will mean another type of survival for this Mom ;). In one word, what does motherhood mean to you? Now that you know not everyone has the easiest of times even safely carrying and giving birth to a child, does motherhood mean the same as it did? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Tell me your story in the comments below and explain to me what word you would choose to express what motherhood means to you. You can also learn more about Merck for Mothers on their website and follow them via Facebook and Twitter.

Now’s Normal

Caregiving isn’t easy.

I watched my parents take in my Grandfather years ago. Things changed dramatically.

I watched my Mom care for my father. Things changed dramatically.

I watched my cousins and uncle care for my aunt. Things changed dramatically.

I watch my husband care for me. Things continue to change dramatically.

Chronic illness has many different side effects. But I swear the very worst may be what it does to everyone around the person who is chronically ill. It’s not just the sick person who’s life changes. It is everyone in their family. It is everyone they know. And it’s not a ripple effect…it’s a tidal wave. The kind that pulls everyone put to sea and everyone has to work hard to paddle back to shore.

Sadly, not all make it to the sand.

Of course this adds to the stress of illness.I worry less about my own health and worry more about my family. You don’t want to be a burden and you don’t want their lives to changes, however everyone’s lives change dramatically.

My therapist calls it the ‘new’ normal. I loathe the term. Mainly because I don’t want a ‘new’ normal. I want my old normal back. I want everything the way it was before. Of course that’s impossible, however my goal is to at least get as close as I can to what life used to be like. Becoming healthy enough to return to work, to walk a theme park, to be able to take the kids wherever they need to go and actually participate in any activity a normal parent could engage in- from a walking field trip to just helping in a classroom, filled with all those kid germs.

I want to meet my husband for drinks after work, go out on the town. Attend a concert.

So many things that I could go ahead and do now but would require a ton of planning and accommodations for the ‘just in case’ scenarios that come with chronic illness.

In fact, later this week I’ll be attending BlogHer ’14 in San Jose- but I will have to very carefully plan my days and evenings. The drive alone will be tiring, and I won’t be able to medicate myself until we arrive. Then I will be attending an event at 3pm- which means I will most likely be exhausted and absolutely need rest- rendering any evening actives null and void. Then depending on how tired I am when I awake, we’ll see what we can do. But odds are it won’t be much.

When I think about this ‘new’ normal I do get a bit upset for all those times I never considered how lucky I truly was to not have to be able to worry about a thing- to travel at a moment’s notice and not have to worry about making sure I was rested, making sure all of my medications were packed and ready…making sure I hadn’t just been released from the hospital for the 4th time this year. However I’ve learned over the years to not get angry.

I’m not in control of this disease, all I can control are my habits. So my new normal has meant pool exercise. Eating well. And making sure I’m on top of all my medication.

Of course just when I can see a difference and FEEL a difference, I get thrown a curve by ball an urgent care doctor who is adamant I be sent to the hospital for migraine symptoms that could be a mini stroke. It’s times like these I feel like I’ve failed my family and myself. What did I do wrong? What should I have done after getting a classic migraine, like I’ve been getting since puberty…especially headed to treatment where I knew I might get a little queasy?

Apparently spend the night in the hospital just to be sure all was well.

Sigh

Every test came back fine…minus my cholesterol which is now high, apparently. Oh, and my potassium which was low, apparently. But the MRI, the CT, the PT, OT, Speech Therapist…all fine fine fine.

So with nothing you can do, you sit in a hospital bed and try not to worry or be upset and accept the ‘new’ normal that disrupts everyone’s lives. The husband that once again has to take off time from work to help you. The kids who will once again act out in some way because Mom was back in the hospital.

If I could make a deal with the devil to rid my life of this…I would. But not for me, all I did was lay in a bed and injected with good drugs. I would, however, take this away from all those around me.

Now I know full well I would go to the ends of the earth for my husband and kids. For my entire family. I’d let them disrupt every day if they had a ‘new’ normal we couldn’t control. It is a no brainer. I just want to acknowledge everything they go through for me…I love them beyond words.

And I hope we settle into this NOW normal and eventually just think of it as normal, with or without Satan.

My Daughter’s Digital Duel, I Vote DISLIKE

Digital parenting can #suckit.

As many of you know, both of my kids are rather plugged in. I mean…PLUGGED IN. They game, they blog, they game, they do their homework online, they game, they watch tv online, they do EVERYTHING on their iPads or computers. So it should come as zero surprise that any discipline in this house tends to be a direct ‘take away’ of said plugged-in-ed-ness.

My 9-year old plays Animal Jam. She chats. She makes videos. She trades. All of these things are done under my watchful eye-I check her chats, I watch her videos, she tells me about her trades. I hear all the drama when someone makes a bad trade. I hear all the drama when someone wants to make a video and records her and her friends. Up until now we haven’t had a single issue.

Notice I said… until now.

The other day said 9-year old came down the stairs in tears and hysterical. She made a friend on Animal Jam she thought she could trust. He asked if he could borrow her rare spike collar to make a video. She agreed. He took the spike and bolted. She reported him, drama ensued. She asked if I could ask for help from Animal Jam support.

No problem.

H and abucka

I dutifully sent my Motherly email and asked them to check out her story and his and hopefully get her item back. If not, lesson learned. In the meantime he was blocked from her den and her chats so he couldn’t bother her any longer.

Or so I thought.

She unblocked him without me knowing and attempted to retrieve her spike herself. Continuing the drama with him calling names and her demanding her item. Yup. This is what goes on in the digital 9-year old world. HIGH DRAMA.

I found out by accident, as she casually mentioned in a Skype chat with her girlfriend that he was calling her names. Busted. So I wrote another email to Animal Jam support apologizing for my daughter having unblocked the alleged thief and taking matters into her own hands, when we had clearly handed it over to their authority. And then grounded her from the game for a week.

You’d think I’d have killed a gazillion kittens and bunnies. There was door slamming and tears. There was moping. There is currently, next to me, many sighs of boredom.

We’ve been very careful about allowing the kids their own digital spaces without invading their privacy, but also making sure they are in safe places online and are only exposed to what we feel they can handle. But I have to admit, the kids are both playing in worlds that are essentially Second Life or online playdates. With that comes real life disputes and real life hurt feelings and real life everything.

Of course we had a very long talk about her online habits. Trusting someone she had only met the day before (believe me, I worked the Frozen angle on that one into the ground) and making videos about other players, respecting privacy, and informing parents of any activity that isn’t right.

I suppose something like this could just as easily happen in the bike-riding, come home when the street lights turn on, childhoods of our past. The boy down the street might have asked to borrow her shiny, rare, Garbage Pail Kid card to make a video and promise to give it back after. Then runs off into his house and shuts the doors and pulls the window shades. I mean…I suppose that could happen. And I suppose this Mom would have then gotten on the phone with his Mom where she needed to investigate if he committed the accusations. Then I suppose my daughter could have snuck out to go see said boy and fight with him again to get her card back. That’s all very childhood and kid-like….right? Right?

Ugh. All I know is I’m exhausted from having moderated her first digital feud and our first digital foul. And her first digital grounding.

Who knew grounding a kid from an online world could be just as devastating as grounding them from real life?

 

The 4th & Murrieta, California’s Hate for New Americans

As you ready your house flags, don your sunscreen and set up your BBQ’s, I would love if we all reflected a bit on what it means to be an American.

For a long awhile, I admit to having never given much thought to what it means to be an American. I’ve always been one and have enjoyed all of it’s privileges and rights. After all, we are the envy of many other countries. So much so, that people will risk their lives to come here.

Think about that for a minute. How bad would it have to be for you, in your own life, to risk everything in order to get yourself to another country?

I don’t live far from Murrieta, California. For those not following the news, there are refugees from places like El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, most of them children and young mothers with babies, who have risked their lives and their children’s lives because it is so very bad where they come from they seek a better life in the United States.

They’ve walked miles with only as much as they could carry. They’ve dangerously jumped on trains to hitch a ride some of the way. They’ve crossed hot and barren deserts, climbed mountains, and many have died.

Jack and Hala at the Capitol rocking it for Lupus
My children in front of the Capitol in Washington, DC.

One of these mothers was interviewed on our local news. She said her two children had no future in her village. It was nothing but poverty and crime with no way out. So she made the heart wrenching decision to attempt to make it to the United State’s border. She said she heard if they made it, they might be allowed to stay, or they might be sent back. She understood the odds. She also didn’t feel as though she was doing anything illegal as she knew, if her plan worked, she would at some point meet up with American Border Patrol.

Despite what she did know, she had no idea some Americans would be so very unwelcoming once she arrived. Screaming at her and her children as their bus approached the Murrieta processing center. Causing such havoc, the bus turned away due to security concerns.

I wonder what my ancestors thought as they made the voyage over the Atlantic to get here. They knew, once they reached the process center at the other end, they was also a chance they would be sent back. Illnesses from a sniffle to lice, could mean the difference between life and death for the family. It could also mean children separated from their parents.

My Polish ancestors were called stupid and given menial jobs upon their immigration. My Romanian ancestors had an even tougher time, called gypsies and not even trusted enough to be employed. Yet, through hard work and that ever present American dream that made them roll the dice, my Polish great-grandparents found themselves a Polish speaking area in Detroit and set up a corner store. Never learning English. My Romanian ancestors doing just as well, with my grandfather owning his own travel and insurance company after starting off, shall we say, a bit less ‘legal’ in order to make ends meet. Before his death he told us all stories of his first job…running alcohol between Windsor, Canada and Detroit, MI for none other than Al Capone.

Both were discriminated against, but I don’t remember my history class teaching us of throngs of anti-immigrant Americans attempting to block the ships and send them all back. Though it wouldn’t surprise me if they had, in fact, tried.

So as I watch these children look out the windows of federal buses, seeing screaming (predominately) white folk waving the Red, White, and Blue…I wonder what they must be thinking. How scared they must be. How very, very scared their parents must be…willing to, perhaps, change their last names to sound more American or even deny their homeland in the hopes it will help them get through the processing center. Desperately willing their families be allowed to stay together, and desperately hoping what they have heard is true…that this truly is the land of opportunity.

I have yet to hear one of them say, when interviewed, they ‘heard’ they could get ‘free stuff’ if they made it. All of them talk of hoping to find work, any kind of work, immediately.

Hear that? They want to work. They aren’t asking for hand outs.

This morning I’m listening to another of these mothers…this one from Honduras, speak of how she nearly lost her children as they crossed a river trying to get to our land of liberty. She was in tears speaking of their journey, the entire time saying if only they could get to America, everything would be ok. She would find work and no matter what, it couldn’t possibly be as bad as the dirt floor of their shanty that was left behind.

I am sickened these refugees were ‘welcomed’ by residents (and non-residents) of Murrieta demanding they ‘go back to Mexico’ and ‘get their diseases out of our city.’

Sound familiar? It should. It wasn’t long ago Americans of a certain kind believed Black Americans should use different toilets for fear their imagined diseases. As if scabies (the disease most often seen by border agents) was some odd, untreatable malady and only brown people carried it.

So this 4th of July I find myself wondering what it truly means to be American. For the majority of us, it means to be an immigrant. Unless you are of Native American decent. There are tales of Native American blood in my family tree, although none confirmed. So really, just like most of us, my family risked a great deal to journey to a foreign land that held nothing but promises. That they heard offered opportunities where if you worked hard, you could become anything you wanted to be. I don’t ever remember that promise being ‘if you did nothing, you got free stuff…so come on over!’

No, just like my ancestors and just like these scared mothers I’m watching on the news, the tale remains the same. They heard if you came to America and worked hard you could be anything. And your children, your precious children, had a chance at a better life.

I want to take this 4th to thank my ancestors for believing in that dream and I want to tell those refugees those of us who are Americans still believe in that dream and I hope they still can too. We don’t all hate you or want you to be turned away.

This 4th of July I hope this new wave of immigration is welcomed-regardless of how they got here. I hope they are processed and given a chance. The same chance my ancestors were given. Some choosing to walk the straight and narrow to make ends meet and others bending the rules a bit, but all believing in hard work.

This 4th of July I also hope those of us citizens think hard about what it means to be an American, because I now think that definition includes offering that same chance to those who journey here under horrifying and harrowing circumstances we can’t even imagine and give some chance to these families. Not to mention respect, not hate and anger.

Shame on you, Murrieta.

*Update 8:24am July 3rd, 2014 – this is a link to the fliers they are passing out in Murrieta, CA. I ask you: How healthy are these families that have walked thousands of miles, hiking over mountains, and crossing rivers? Give me a break. Perhaps if we all VACCINATE and treat these families (if they do have any of these diseases, as I said before scabies has been the only reported one thus far) during processing (that’s what happens when the buses arrive, they are PROCESSED AND TREATED) we really won’t have any sort of health criss on our hands here, now will we? Unless you mean to tell me these people are different somehow? Cue scene from The Help where new bathrooms are build just for those diseased black folk….