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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Wave of Emotion

It’s been a rough time around here lately.

I’m still grappling with the death of my Aunt and then the death of my grandfather. Two events that just won’t leave my mind for a second.

IMG_0970.JPG

Because I spent a lot of time in Michigan this past summer, I’ve even found myself calculating my disability checks and bills and wondering if Aaron could or even would quit his job and move the kids and I back there.

Of course it’s an insane thought. But it doesn’t stop me from looking at real estate on Lake Huron.

The kids and I have started back up at school again and while I crammed in treatment and they adjusted to their new classes, my husband had surgery (for the second time) getting a brand new toe, making it pretty impossible for him to get around.

Then the kids both sucked in all the new school germs and contracted pneumonia and I received terrifying news regarding another family member (but at least this time it’s not looking too bad now…thank goodness). All of this while I work to take care of my three loves, keep up with my own classes, and try and keep the house somewhat in order while trying very hard not to break down and run to the water.

It’s what I do.

From the minute I got my driver’s license I would head down Lakeshore Dr. in Grosse Pointe to just think. I would drive all the way downtown and find a spot under the Ambassador bridge, park, and just look out a the Detroit River. It brought me peace.

When I lived in Dublin I found a bus that would take me up to these coastal, Irish cities. The waves would crash into the rocks and the local would get me drunk on Guinness and everything was ok…because I could see the sea and breathe.

When I moved to Florida I would drive to the coast in-between every shift at work, and after every bad date, or bad memory, or when I just needed to work things out in my head…I even found the one topless beach where I could find a secluded area, sunbathe, and inhale the sea air while I listened to waves, lulling me into knowing everything would be ok.

And then came my home, California. Nothing compares to the relief that washes over me when we finally hit that stretch of the 101 where ocean is visible. It’s as if it puts me back together after falling apart. Somehow making me whole.

There are just so many things I can’t work out right now…from trying to do what the therapist said and concentrating on ‘my’ life to mourning for people and a past that will never be the same.

And I don’t have the freedom to just take off and stare at the Pacific what with LA traffic and all of the above. So instead I bury my head in books and try my best to smile when really I’m hiding in the bathroom daily to let the tears flow.

There are so many things I just want to put back the way they were. So many. And not a single one of them are under my control or even slightly up to me. The more time I spend on myself, as recommended, the less connected I feel to everyone I love. I don’t think that’s how it’s supposed to work.

Yes, my illness seemed to put all of this in motion. So being ME I blame myself. Which is just about as nuts as convincing Aaron to move to Michigan on my disability checks. But emotions make you do nutty things.

So in lieu of running away to the water, I move on to plan B…the other thing I do. I plan. Oh boy do I plan. In fact, I plan to the point of lists and charts and budgets and speeches.

Right now my plan has added a second major to my never-ending quest to finish my degree. Now I’m Journalism and Political Science, Pre-law. The plan being when my body can finally find its way to remission I’ll use my skills to add that extra step to my resume making me unstoppable and ready for world domination.

It will either help with those things I can’t control, or put me in a position to make the landing softer. Because of course I think it’s all my fault and if I can just pay off the house, pay off our debt, buy my parents a house…everything will be just fine.

Why does it always come down to money? Money shouldn’t matter. It really shouldn’t.

I don’t want money to matter. But it does.

I just want everyone around me to be happy. I want them fulfilled and doing what they love and to feel love and be in love and surrounded by love. But I can’t control that…no matter how much I support or give or push. I can’t fix it, I can’t fix others. I can only fix me.

Which usually means staring out into the sea, taking a deep breath, and hoping beyond hope there is light in the darkness and hope in that glorious horizon where the colors blend and bend and the water and sky touch.

Where you can hear the waves in constant motion, yet so rhythmic and soothing.

For my 40th birthday we’re going to Hawaii. I want nothing more than to just feel whole surrounded by the ocean. To put pieces of my life back together. To make things as they should be. Because I’m 40 dammit, and by 40 my life SHOULD be what I want it to be- not what anyone expects it to be or thinks it should be…but what I want.

And what I want, more than anything, if to feel love with sand in my toes and peace given to me from the only element on earth that seems to affect my mood and quiets all the voices in my head.

Maybe it’s because I’m always seemingly panicked or anxiety ridden and rushing around as if the world is on fire…and only water can douse the flames.

 

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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Whores & Studs Before They Are Teens

There’s a lot of talk about sexualizing girls way too early.

Many of us have written posts on the topic. Many of us have discussed it over Facebook and twitter. You know, when you are bra shopping for your tween and all you can find are padded, sexy bras. or how some girls are wearing make-up in the 2nd grade. Or how some parents allow their 10-year old to wear short-shorts and thigh-high boots.

Inevitably we talk and talk and blame our culture and society for exposing young girls to the idea they must appeal to men always and even, at very young ages, encourage them to have a boy crush or to smile for the nice men or, in some extreme cases, encourage them to be nothing but wives and trophies for the males of the world.

And while many of us talk to our children about these things, one headline made me realize far too many of us are forgetting the message we are constantly sending our boys:

Young Fan Plays Casanova at Fenway

Yup. That’s the headline you get if you go to share via Bleacher Report the touching story of the awesome 12-year old who gave up a foul ball that came his way during a Red Sox game to the girl behind him. The piece by Ken Chin even ends with “Slick move, kid, you’ve got a bright future.”

But it doesn’t end there. Over at Fanside, Mike Dyce writes, “There is one young Boston Red Sox fan who is showing himself to be quite the stud.” Yup, a 12-year old was just called a stud. Imagine calling a 12-year old girl the equivalent.

I’ll let that sink in… 

On NBC’s HardballTalk we get the headline “Smooth Kid ” and Craig Calcaterra’s commentary, “Everyone’s gonna say stuff like ‘this kid is going to do well with the ladies one day’ after watching this video. But he’s doing pretty well already.”  I encourage you to keep reading for the cougar reference just after. I wish I were kidding.

Sigh.

So as we are using something as simple as a kind gesture to insinuate a child is hitting on another child-not to mention totally cheering on the idea.

But of course with a “wink wink hubba bubba” thrown in because the writers all realize these are kids we’re talking about. But isn’t it just so darn cute?

And that is exactly the problem. The cutesy nudges do not excuse the underlying issues. Just like teasing preschoolers if they have a “boyfriend” or a little “girlfriend” at school encourages the idea they should be on the prowl.

While I almost don’t blame these writers and editors for going for the obvious cutesy jokes, I also wish they would stop and think about how they contribute to the problem.

I’m no prude. I’m not some uptight Mom, holding her babies tight and refusing to allow them to grow up. (ok, maybe a little but not unlike ANY mother) My son is just about that boy’s age. My daughter, just about that girl’s age. I can’t you how many times we’re with friends or relatives or whomever and the minute a boy child stands anywhere near a girl child and they actually play there is an outburst of “awwwwwwwww, maybe they will grow up and get married one day!” All while the Moms of the group start plotting out where they will register the two and which holidays they will spend with which set of in-laws.

I have been so caught up in all of the ways society has been trying to turn my little girl into a little whore, that I’ve entirely overlooked society’s role in prepping my son to step into his role – so much so that I am recalling how just the other night my husband and I were gently teasing my son over a girl (and her family) that we really like at school and how we’ve arranged their marriage.

Guilty and I didn’t even realize it. Just like all these headlines and all these wisecracks.

If we’re going to demand our daughters are allowed to remain children and NOT be sexualized at such young ages, we must demand the same for our sons.

I commend 12-year old Ryan for being a good kid. Way to go Ryan…but dude, no pressure. You were simply doing what everyone should do- be kind, share, and think of others. Way to go.

Ferguson

I, like many, have been struggling with the events in Ferguson, MO.

It’s hard to get the words out, and nothing seems right. So I’m going to first do what is most important right now: LISTEN TO PEOPLE OF COLOR and HEAR their experiences. These are women I know, love, and respect. I think their words really say it all and then some.

Sunset in Ventura

“…it is hunting season for our children and truly it always has been. The world has no love for dark people… Black people. And no matter what I say the truth shows up everyday.”- Babz Rawls Ivy

Kelly Wickham brings our attention to Fannie Lou Hamer. Why? Because Hamer said,
“Is this America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, where our lives be threatened daily, because we want to live as decent human beings?”

Jasmine Banks makes sure that everyone who is “tired” keeps talking and listening…why? Read just a snippet of her status update and then go read more,

When Isaiah came home from Pre-K at only 4 years of age and told me he hated being brown because the little boy he wanted to be friends didn’t like brown people. 

Addison crying because she hates Princess Tiana because she is a frog and not a real pretty Disney Princess.

The lady who looked shocked and asked me if Tobias was adopted because he was light and ‘you kind of look black, but why does he not look black at all?’

How about we talk about how I try to maintain normal life in my very small, very white town? How do I look some of these folks in the eye when I quietly observe their racist and hateful status updates on my newsfeed. ‘Those people are just thugs’ ‘So what if he didn’t have a gun, Black people don’t need to have guns to be dangerous, we proved that with Trayvon.’

You eat our food, listen to our music, and even laugh at the cultural references in our movies. You love the way the feel good storyline of The Help made you feel… you love our stories, as long as they don’t require you to look in the mirror too long, and face the fact that you’ve cherry-picked from our culture the comfortable beautiful parts while we still get to carry the burden of being Black. Still cultural mules to your cultural illiteracy.”

And then Briya, aka Undercovermamma had me sobbing with this,

Last night I called my baby boy just to check in on him. With everything that’s going on, I had an overwhelming urge to hear his voice and make sure that he was okay…and that he knew that I loved him. 
His response was to tell me that I was just being a mom. 
And I said yes. Yes I am. And I reserve the right to be worried because the entire world has gone crazy.

This morning he called me and because I was in meeting I missed his call.
He called Nesto to get my work number and I guess they talked about how upset I’ve been about Ferguson
And how personally I’m taking it because this could happen to him. Or to Nesto. Or to any of the black men in my family.
And then he called me back to reassure me that he was okay, and not to worry.

But I do. Because I love him. Because he matters”

I’m not going to stop talking about Ferguson because it makes many of you uncomfortable. It’s well beyond time we leave our comfort zone in this racial discussion.

 

 

 

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