Ashes

I’ve been swearing like a sailor lately. For no other reason than the kids are a bit older and they know not only what each cuss word means, but that they aren’t allowed to use them (unless on the family bed or to ask questions or…well, under circumstances we’ve agreed upon as a family).

I’ve also discovered how much I missed cherry blow pops and rock candy and the sugar from candy has essentially made up the bulk of my diet for the past year.

When you are feeling sorry for yourself you can come up with a million reasons why one more lollipop is entirely deserved after the crap-deck you’ve been dealt. And in the absence of a good hug or your hand held, a lollipop is better than a balanced lunch. Throw in a few swear words while your knees buckle and your body aches and well…here we are.

So I’m evoking my right as a recovering Catholic to give up swearing and candy for Lent. I figure I need to start somewhere and Lent has always been a fantastic excuse.

I didn’t get off to the best of starts. On this first day of Lent I had a grande chai tea latte with coconut milk for breakfast. Thai coconut soup for lunch. A few fat-free devil’s food cake cookies and london broil and asparagus for dinner. Oh, and about 2 ice teas and a Coke. Normally I don’t drink pop very often, so I know that won’t be an issue but tea… tea is another story. Why can’t they make a water that takes like tea?

The worst part of all of this? Cushing’s Syndrome.

It won’t make a damn bit of difference if I eat candy all day or if I eat carrots. Cushing’s.

Which leads me to evoke my recovering Catholic status yet again and fall back on old superstitions like medals from saints and rosary beads in my purse and even an Ave Maria pendent blessed by the new Pope.

Why?

Because I’m somewhere between having lost my mind and am entirely stir crazy fighting this battle.

Yes, there is hope. Yes, things are progressing. Yes, the new medication seems to be helping…we think.

But I think after 4 hospital stays in the past .. what…. 8 weeks? It isn’t too much to just ask for a little bit of peace. Of hope. Of yes, solace and safety and love.

I’m tired. So tired of all of it. I can see light at the end of the tunnel but the tunnel is so damn far away.

Yeah, I said damn. Chalk up another quarter to the swear jar. Good thing I’m just a recovering Catholic or I’d have to go to confession.

The Fairy Godmother and My Glass Slipper?

script1

This has been siting on my desk, or shelf, or wherever in our bedroom for about three or four years now. Maybe two. I’ve lost track. Let’s just say it’s been around long enough to gather a ton of dust.

script2

It’s one of my favorite Disney quotes and one of my most hated. I’m a complicated woman like that. You know, the atheist that is currently wearing an Ave Maria medal blessed by Pope Francis. That’s just how I roll when it comes to faith and miracles.

The entire quote/scene might help you a bit more:

“…Cinderella: The ball? Oh, but I’m not…

Fairy Godmother: Of course you are. But we’ll have to hurry, because even miracles take a little time.

Cinderella: Miracles?

Fairy Godmother: Watch. What in the world did I do with that magic wand? I was sure I…

Cinderella: Magic wand?

Fairy Godmother: That’s strange I always…

Cinderella: Why then, you must be… Fairy Godmother: Your Fairy Godmother?

Fairy Godmother: Of course. Where is that wand? I forgot…”

This entire scene comes as a crisis of faith for our poor Cinderella. Now mind you, Cinderella is not one of my favorite princesses. No offense. It was just never the story that stirred me much. I didn’t have sisters, let alone step-sisters to relate. My parents didn’t make me clean much more than my room.

Admittedly I would pretend my oatmeal was gruel and animals talked to me. But that was a skill a child could apply to any princess situation. Or little orphan Annie or wicked Queen has me locked up or Jabba the Hut has me locked up or … you get the idea.

But that scene, the magical one where Cinderella is transformed, THAT part was always fun. And it comes just after our scatterbrained Fairy Godmother finds that wand.

During one weak moment, ok a few hundred weak moments, when feeling like my life has been robbed from me, the snow globe and quote gave me a reminder that maybe, just maybe, a miracle would happen to me.

I don’t, particularly, deserve one in the grand scheme of things. Or need it.

Technically I’m not suffering from a terminal illness. So many others are. They need miracles.

I have a supportive family, even if they have suffered more than I have through this with their worry and fears.

I have a roof over my head, food in my stomach, and despite three hospital stays in the past however many weeks, they have been for, mostly, the luxury of making me comfortable. So while I may beg and plead with whatever entity I’m feeling aligned with that day to take away this illness, I realize how lucky I am. I do.

But all of that hasn’t stopped me from wishing. I still wished. I STILL wish.

And haven’t stopped since walking out of that stupid doctor’s office over four years ago, with my kids and my father, with the word ‘Lupus’ slipping from my tongue and being texted to my husband. I watched my Dad turn white and learned my husband did the same, as the only thing they knew of this ‘Lupus’ at that point, was that it would kill me.

I was permanently put on steroids, oral and a very high dose on that day and haven’t been off of them since. In fact you can now add Cushing’s Disease to my very long list of disorders and ailments thanks to long term steroid use.

But yesterday, I got in the car after seeing the neurologist I met during my most recent hospital stay, with a new medication in my hand and hope. Hope for the first time in a really long time.

We have this goofy thing in my family. If Bob Seger’s song ‘Old Time Rock and Roll‘ comes on…well, you have no choice but to dance. It’s the family’s dance. It came from one of those weekends when we were bored and little, stuck at one of my Dad’s hockey tournaments somewhere in Canada and they would always have these parties afterwards.

Somewhere, upstairs in every hockey rink, there was a room where they sold beer, hot chocolate, hot dogs, and cleared away the tables after the games were over to play some music and let everyone dance.

My brother would always run away screaming if it came on, knowing my Mom was coming for him to drag him out onto the dance floor. I would go willingly, knowing after a few beers my Dad would twirl me around and the four of us would laugh and dance and sing at the top of our lungs.

It was a rule. You had to do it. So if I brought a friend, or my brother did, or if a cousin tagged along…beware the Kotecki rule!

As I started the car, new medication slip in my hand…”…that kind of music just soothes my soul. I reminisce about the days of old…with that old time rock and roll…”

And I danced and hopped around in the car. I didn’t change the station, or call my husband, or text my parents. I sat in a parking lot in Encino, California and danced and sang like a lunatic until the next song came on. I actually worked up a sweat.

Part of these auto-immune disorders for me is vasculitis. This medication is going to calm my blood vessels. My rheumatologist thinks it’s the missing piece to the puzzle and the neurologist told me the journey ends here. She’s sure it will work to change my quality of life. It should keep the TIAs at bay, while simultaneously bringing me some relief all over my body as my blood vessels swell and contract causing me widespread pain.

By this time next year, I may be on this and my Rituxan infusion, which comes every four months. The doctors are working together and believe should all go well, this is a real goal-Attainable and not false hope.

We’re also looking at gastric bypass in Cushing’s patients to speed up the process of my potato like frame. Losing weight will only help reach the goal faster, but it has been all but impossible for me while I’m still on oral steroids daily and occasionally have to get them via IV or shot. My body refuses to let go of the fat while on a steroid.

Understand I wanted to tell everyone the minute I left the office, but also needed a moment to myself. This is the first honest glimmer of hope I have had to find my way back to my LIFE in a very long time. I’m still not sure it’s real. I’m afraid to celebrate but want to, desperately. I’m afraid to tell you out loud, fearing I will be told by someone I’m crazy to think this will make that big of a difference and or they too were told by their doctor this might help and it didn’t or … well, you get the idea.

I don’t want to excite the kids that I may get to my goal of walking a Disney park and not needing a scooter.

I don’t want to excite my husband and prime caretaker that he may have a wife again, not a shell of a woman who looks somewhat like his wife but is really just an ill person in need of constant care.

I don’t want to excite my parents & brother, who have supported me through this ordeal and the rest of our family, including inlaws, all having seen the life-changing affects in one way or another. Helping in one way or another for so very many years now.

I just want to keep dancing in the car, having received what I  believe to be my miracle. So much so I sprinkled glitter on it last night.

script1

It may not be a glass slipper, but it sure feels like one.

40

pic1

I’ve been wanting to write and write and write and write and write…

I turned 40. 

I don’t feel much different. Or older. Minus my body continuing its march to disintegration. But mentally 40 feels much better than 20. Even 30. I actually like getting older.

We went to Hawai’i as planned and it was amazing, as planned. And, as if as planned, I landed in the hospital upon our return.

I have a really bad habit of going and doing something awesome and then having to spend a few days in the hospital because of said awesomeness. This time I can honestly blame a combination of the shingles and travel. Had it just been one or the other I would have been fine. But… no. That would be too easy.

But back to my awesome birthday in Hawai’i. I fell in love with shaved ice. I finally got myself a Disney Dole Whip (they have them at Aulani… no line… swear to God) And I loved nothing more than sitting on the balcony in the morning and watching the ocean waves. Admittedly I didn’t want to leave.

 

pic1

I even asked a friend to just bring the dog. I told the kids we could make shell necklaces and sell them to tourists. They usually look at me like I have 4 heads so…no worries. I even got into a rather cold ocean at 9am and swam with some dolphin pods and saw some sea turtles. I couldn’t believe how many were just zooming by right under us. To watch the kids go from afraid and tentative to nearly screaming through their snorkels was pretty fun too.

In fact, the entire trip I think I delighted in just about everything the kids enjoyed. Simply because they were enjoying it.

I think that is what 40 is all about. Watching those you love enjoy the wonder of the world around them. Having them burst into the room talking so fast about paddle boarding with Dad you can’t even keep up or hearing about the fish swimming around their feet and the crabs that were snapping their claws just inches from their faces and oh by the way here’s another shaved ice.

pic2

Yeah. 40 is much like today. Christmas. Where I love seeing everyone’s face as they open their presents. I love seeing the kids peek around the corner of the landing and then around to the stairs…and watching their eyes grow wider and wider as they realize and recognize familiar sights under the tree.

40 also means the three days in the hospital were painful and upsetting. 40 also means I recovered in enough time to see the kids perform in their school winter program, attend their end of school parties, and then catch a stomach bug that knocked me out for 24 hours.

40 is making it harder to fight. Its not that I don’t want to fight. My age is just making it harder. The recover is a bit slower. The punches I’m throwing back aren’t landing as often. I’m still landing them though, don’t worry. In fact, I’m doing well but no one believes me. I guess it’s hard to believe a woman in the hospital or fighting a stomach bug.

The truth of the matter is despite its hardships, 40 is my favorite so far. I know who I am. I know what I enjoy. I know what I need to do.

If there is one gift I wish I could give everyone this Christmas, it would be the gift of knowing who you are, what you enjoy and what you need to do. If you are younger than 40 I hope you don’t have to wait this long to figure it out and if you are over 40 I hope you’re looking at me laughing because you know how much better it gets from here on out.

Now if you will excuse me, I have a new plan to concoct… something about shells, necklaces…and shaved ice. Lots and lots of shaved ice.

Black Lives Matter

I was going to write a post about being entirely disgusted to find myself cited by the infamous Ann Coulter in her 2009 book Guilty: the blah blah I hate liberals they are ruining the world book to make me money crap fest.

She wrote and released this book when I was in the worst of the throws of my Lupus diagnosis. You know, having strokes, losing organs, being hospitalized and having multiple surgeries. So she’ll have to excuse me that it didn’t come to my attention until now that I’m in her piece of trash.

Apparently she’s trying to make the case liberals were freaking out over a Barack Obama presidency and if he’d be killed. She thought we were blaming the right-wing nut jobs for targeting him (to be clear, I blame some of them for stirring the pot) and she attempts, rather poorly, to point out that it’s been nothing but liberals shooting up the country and killing people.

Let me make something very clear here…it’s been white males engaging in mass shootings for various reasons that everyone likes to call ‘mental illness.’ I will agree if you want to shoot up or have shot up anyone or anywhere you have mental issues. Something we need to tackle. But to be perfectly clear to Ms. Coulter and everyone else…Black males have a target on their back and it’s simply for being who they are. Black CHILDREN have targets on their backs for walking, driving, talking, BREATHING while BLACK. And when they sell cigarettes illegally or they allegedly steal a pack of cigars they are vilified that they deserved what they got. I had no idea these allegations brought about the death penalty without charges or a judge or a jury.

But, here is where the facts comes in. And I want you to USE these facts: Black males are 21 more times likely than their white counter parts to be KILLED by police. Just for being darker than a ‘mentally ill’ white boy.

They don’t get the benefit of the doubt of being ‘mentally ill.’ No. They are killed. Murdered. Snuffed out. Because, apparently, Black males can’t be mentally ill or be taken into custody with a baton, a taser, pepper spray, with back up help…no. No. Instead they are perceived as dangerous and a threat and shot and killed or choked until they could no longer breathe. Or simply walking around with a toy.

So my column, of which Coulter pilfered and called me insane for writing, stands even more true today than it did in 2007. Our President, just by his Blackness, has brought out the racists in this country and he has lead phenomenally under circumstances that are beyond insane.

12-year old African-American boys aren’t even given more than TWO SECONDS to react when they play with their toy guns in a park before being gunned down by cops. That is how much we are taught to believe everyone with skin darker than ours is a threat that must be eliminated and given zero benefit of the doubt. EVEN THE CHILDREN.

I will tell you right now, my son could play with every nerf gun, fake AK-47, and real looking toy gun with the orange tip scraped off on EARTH in our nearby park and no one would bat an eyelash. But you give that to a Black child and the cops don’t even HESITATE to shoot him on sight. They didn’t even HESITATE. Two seconds. TWO SECONDS.

The lack of indictment in the cases of Eric Garner and Michael Brown are further proof of my original assessment…that it would take a sacrifice of the First Family to stand strong in the WHITE House as the scum from under the rocks of America came and continue to come crawling out to finally proclaim in broad daylight they have issues with race. They have issues with an ‘other’ leading our country. They can’t even manage to leave the First daughters out of their sheer hatred and contempt for our President and call them classless and bar sluts. When these girls have been nothing but the epitome of amazing, good, classy tweens and teens.

Yes, our country has become divided – they can’t even handle the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. They have to protest .. but…but … #ALLLivesMatter.

No shit. But you don’t hijack a hashtag where people are bearing their souls and jump in with this ‘ALL’ bull crap. We know ALL lives matter but this IS NOT ABOUT YOU. This is, specifically, about Black Lives. As I saw on twitter…would you hijack a cancer hashtag and say ‘but..but.. LUPUS matters too!’ No, you wouldn’t.

So sit down and shut up and finally LISTEN to these amazing members of our community who are SCREAMING for you to hear them. SCREAMING for you to walk a mile.

Once you have taken your time to sit and listen, then you need to take the time to stand up to the subtle and not so subtle racism you’ve been around your entire life. And you know exactly what I am talking about, so don’t even act like you don’t.

That uncle of yours that calls our President a ‘coon’ or a ‘porch monkey’ or the n-word if he’s just a total dickhead. That cousin who discusses how great cops are (which, many many are) and how they have to deal with these ‘savages‘ and ‘animals‘ – when their white ‘savages’ and ‘animals’ seem to get away with the same behavior when their favorite sports team wins a championship. Really? REALLY? You are telling me your sports team is more important and this behavior is ok so long as you win a game? But NOT when people DIE?

CALL THEM OUT. The time is now.

Do you hear me? Silence = agreement. People are DYING. Children are DYING. The time for you to sit on your hands and say nothing of the ‘sake of the family’ or to keep the ‘peace at church’ or ‘I don’t want to upset my grandpa’ is OVER.

The civil rights era has begun, again. Not that it ever really ended. I think we just swept it under the rug for awhile, despite our friends of color telling us otherwise.

Stand up. Be counted. Do NOT be afraid and do NOT allow ANYONE to get away with the usual crap that goes on over the holidays.

Give them facts. Give them stats. Let them know we will NOT tolerate this another second. Another minute. NOT another day and NOT another life.

We’ve watched schools be shot up, neighborhoods be war zones, and those in authority waltzing in like they own the place and forcing people of color to keep their heads down and say ‘no sir’ and ‘yes sir.’ Might as well be ‘no masser’ and ‘yes masser’ – because that is what it amounts to.
Go ahead and let your Mom blame you for ruining Christmas dinner. It’s that or let another Black person die.

Your choice. 

I Believe

bshirt

I don’t want to talk about Michael Brown.

I don’t want to talk about Trayvon Martin.

I don’t want to talk about Tamir Rice.

I don’t want to talk about Jordan Davis.

I don’t want to talk about Timothy Stansbury Jr.

I don’t want to talk about John Crawford.

bshirt

I could go on…but I don’t want to.

We can argue all day and night. We will not get anywhere. Jury’s. Indictments, non-indictments. Trials, no trials. Armed, unarmed. Fearing for lives, just living their lives.

No one believes all cops are bad. There are members of law enforcement I respect and love with all my heart. I appreciate their work.

No one believes all white people are racist. There are allies who are working hard and listening.

No one believes all protestors are looters and out to destroy. We watched for 109 days your civil disobedience where little to nothing was damaged and non-violent marches and vigils took place.

With all of the things we all know no one believes…I have one question:

Why does no one believe Black America?

It doesn’t seem to matter if there are statistics to back up their pain.

It doesn’t seem to matter if there are facts and studies and numbers to give the rest of us something solid to hold on to instead of just emotions.

It doesn’t seem to matter if they ask nicely or scream loudly or speak from the highest office in the land. As the President of the United States said, “But what is also true is that there are still problems and communities of color aren’t just making these problems up.”

Why? Why does no one believe Black America? The PRESIDENT has to remind us communities of color aren’t just making these problems up. Why on earth do we think they are? Why would we QUESTION their life experiences??? Who are we to say what they live every day is somehow, not true? Why.don’t.you.believe.them?

If there is any hope for any of us, if there is any chance to heal decades of pain, to right wrongs, to have the slightest bit of empathy for our fellow man…we need to believe.

We need to believe when they tell us they hurt.

We need to believe when they tell us their truths.

We need to believe when they tell us their lives are not like ours.

We need to believe when they ask us to listen and learn.

We need to believe in our friends, our neighbors, our family, our community as they write, speak, sing, scream, march, and plead for us to HEAR THEM.

I hear them. I believe them.

Do you?

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.

Sweepstakes Rules:

No duplicate comments.

You 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.

This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winners will be selected via random draw, 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.

The Official Rules are available here.

This sweepstakes runs from 11/12/14 – 12/24/14.

Be sure to visit the American Beverage Association brand page on BlogHer.com where you can read other bloggers’ posts!

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.

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.

IMG_6553.JPG
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.

IMG_6400.JPG
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.

Progressive bloggers meet at the White House
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.

IMG_6399.PNG