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!

Coke, Dr Pepper and Pepsi understand that getting a balanced mix of foods, drinks and physical activities for your family isn’t always easy. That’s why they’re coming together for the first time ever to talk to teens about balancing what they eat and drink with what they do. With tools to help teens get active and information to help them think about when they’ve had too much, or maybe when it’s time for a treat—America’s beverage companies are supporting our efforts to find a balanced mix that works for our families.”

Visit www.DeliveringChoices.org to learn more about Mixify and finding balance for your family. MyMixify is also on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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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.

RLB_2490.JPG

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.

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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Moving Forward…When All You Want is to Move AWAY

Sometimes you don’t realize you are in the thick of it, until you come out the other side. That’s pretty much how I feel about the very worst parts of my life with lupus, thus far. In fact, I should capitalize that and call it as though it’s a book title or a very important chapter in my (almost) 40 years on this earth: My Life With Lupus, by Erin Kotecki Vest. Heh.

It’s also why I agreed to be part of what turned out to be an amazing conversation sponsored by Stayfree® pads during BlogHer ’14 in San Jose.  

I was asked to participate in a ’roundtable’ (and the table actually was round, as you will see below) discussion with Zakary from Raising Colorado, Natalia from Ma Nouvelle Mode, and BlogHer editor-in-chief Stacy Morrison.

As it turns out the four of us know a little something about moving forward, or what I like to call the ‘just keep swimming’ effect. All of us have had to power through some tough times, or at least some rather uncomfortable times, in which we are coming out the other end changed, yet still ourselves, battered but not bruised, and oddly grateful for some of life’s more mundane moments.

I hope you will watch and walk away knowing first and foremost you are not alone, sometimes powering through is your only option, and that everyone handles life’s more difficult times in their own way.

And because I really am a true believer in the power of community to foster true friendships and to give that ‘I am not alone’ feeling, it bears repeating your blogging (or microblogging) tribe will always contain exactly the people you need to help you though, from those who pick you up with a good kitty meme or send you a giant, stuffed unicorn (no really, I have one that came to my front door) or holding fundraisers to help save your home, pay your medical bills or simply make sure you are fed. Because that is just how we do…enjoy.

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Stayfree.® Keep Moving.™
To get $0.50 off any Stayfree® product, including Stayfree® Ultra Thin® pads, visit www.stayfree.com/special Enter for a chance to win a $100 Drugstore.com gift card!
Leave a comment below letting me how you pamper yourself for a chance to win a $100 Drugstore.com gift card! Sweepstakes Condensed Rules:
No duplicate comments. Your household may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods: 1. Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post 2. Tweet (public message) about this promotion; including exactly the following unique term in your tweet message: #SweepstakesEntry; and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post 3. Blog about this promotion, including a disclosure that you are receiving a sweepstakes entry in exchange for writing the blog post, and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post 4. For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry. No Purchase Necessary. This Sweepstakes is open to legal residents of the 50 U.S./D.C. age 18 or older (19+ in AL & NE). Void elsewhere & where prohibited. Winners will be selected via random drawing, and will be notified by e-mail. The notification email will come directly from BlogHer via the sweeps@blogher email address. You will have 72 hours to respond; otherwise a new winner will be selected.

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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!

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.

A New Generation: From Breastfeeding at BlogHer to Blogging at BlogHer ’14

I’m always proud of our kids. Always. But I think that is typical of most parents.

I mean, we’re the type of people who jump up and down clapping when they pee in a toilet.

So imagine my pride when my son thought he might start a blog. I immediately began to give him ideas for posts, got him started on wordpress, asked him if he wanted to make a custom design… you know, the usual.

Flash forward about 24 hours and he was already bored with his blog.

It was then I heard ‘Hey Mom, can I start a blog?’

It was my daughter. The one who would rather not sit and read the hilarious blog post I had found just for her. The one who would rather get a shot at the pediatrician than write.

But flash forward another 24 hours and not only was she blogging, but she was loving every second of it.

Begging me to check and see if she had any new comments to approve while she was at school-  you know that darn school, always getting in the way of her blogging ‘No Mom, I don’t need any ideas for a post, I have like….a million’ she would say, typing furiously. ‘And can you make sure to tweet this to everyone, oh and show Facebook?’

I did my best to show her the basics, but she is a bit like her mother and rather determined to learn all on her very own.

During one of her lectures to me about how important it was she learn how to blog without my help, I remembered her on my hip at the BlogHer conference in 2006 in San Jose.

It seems like yesterday, but not.

Now she has her own blog. Now she has her ow ideas about what a nine-year old should talk about. And now she has her own pass to BlogHer.

Yes, Princess Peanut has a student pass for BlogHer ’14 in San Jose and her and I are going to have a girls weekend writing, learning about all the wonderful things and issues that come with being part of a community, and with me re-introducing her to all the women who met her so many years ago.

#AllHailHala indeed. See you all in San Jose.