Erin Kotecki Vest & Kids Head to the Democratic National Convention

#allhailhala and the start of her road to the white house

My Lupus ravaged body creaked getting out of bed before dawn this morning, as it does every morning these days.

And my oldest days "I can't wait to get to Charlotte!" #vestkidsDNC

I took my pills and made my usual cup of green tea, mentally going over the check list.

Sweatshirts in case it gets cold
the special bag that attaches to my wheelchair
Gum for the kids
Notebooks and pencils for homework
Those pills I switched to…no, not those, the other ones, the ones instead of the injection…

This went on in my head for a good 20 minutes before I sat here at my computer, wondering if I was crazy for attempting this trip at all.

But I know I’m not crazy. The President and First Lady keep asking if we’re ‘in’ this election.

As we pack up the car to head to the airport. Flying from Los Angeles, California to North Carolina…with two kids, two suitcases, a wheelchair, and enough medication to ensure I am comfortable for many days…we couldn’t be MORE ‘in.’

We will fight for those who fight for us. The kids know it. They understand without blinking an eye why this is so important…

Mom, the President has helped you while you are sick. Now we have to get people to help him.

That’s right baby. It’s time to help him.

Me & my tired boy #awesome80srun

See you in Charlotte.

Just Because

I touched on something in my last post I want to circle back around on, because it deserves a post of its own and a discussion of its own.

There is no happier cowgirl in the world today #allhailhala

My daughter’s reaction upon hearing we’ve never had a woman president.

I guess it just didn’t really occur to me that she had thought about it yet, or noticed. Or hadn’t noticed, as the case may be.

The questions came fast and furious and I didn’t have many answers.

Why hasn’t there been a woman president?

Why aren’t there that many women in Congress?

Why don’t people elect women?

Why did they not give women the right to vote?

Why did it take so long?

Why would they tell women no?

Why would anyone DO THAT MOM?

I did the best I could. I explained to her, as well as I possibly could, why our history was unkind and still can be very unkind to females. I tried to explain the patriarchy. I tried to explain what we face as women.

But I don’t feel I told her everything or anything close to what she needed to know.

The look on her face said it all as we talked. She was shell-shocked. I had shattered her fairy tale. I had shattered the way she thought the world worked.

I had been the one to break the news to her that because she was a girl, her life would be different. Even if every word I said tried to convey that she could do anything, be anything, go anywhere.

I also did my best to empower her. Steel her. Strengthen her and hold her close. I told her of amazing women who fought to make sure we were given equality. So that SHE could vote, run for office, become the first woman president.

Yet I feel, as I told her these stories, I stole a piece of her innocence.

As we hugged and kissed goodnight, and I scrambled for even more words to try to comfort the look of disbelief in her eyes…it was she who comforted me.

Mom, I know I told you I wanted to be a cowgirl, and maybe a Mom, and maybe own a ranch. But I think I’ll be President too. I just want to now…just because.

And I understood, perfectly…just because.

Why I’m Taking My Two Kids & Ailing Body Across the Country

There comes a time when you have to stand up for what you believe…even if that means sitting down.

Let me explain.

I’m arranging to home school my children after Labor Day so we can travel across the country to stay with family. I’ll be using my wheelchair, on doctor’s orders, sitting because the recent and triumphant trip to New York did flare my Lupus a bit. But not enough to keep me down.

We plan on arriving in North Carolina just after Labor Day, resting with family and spending time at our first visit to a military base.

I will then charge up my body as best I can and charge up their minds as best I can so we can head to Charlotte on Thursday, September 6th to attend President Obama’s nomination speech at the Democratic National Convention.

The kids understand the Affordable Health Care Act is something President Obama did that helps their Mom with her Lupus. They don’t understand HAMP 2.0 and ACA also have saved us from foreclosure, but that’s not something we want to worry them with.

The kids understand President Obama wants everyone to be equal, including friends they love of Mom and Dad’s who have spent holidays in our home. They agree it’s wrong to keep those friends from marrying who they love. They also agree it’s wrong to keep women from being paid the same as men. Everyone should be equal. Always.

The look on my daughter’s face when I told her there has never been a women President said it all.

We’re coming to Charlotte. We’re going to witness history. With my doctor giving me all the medication and treatment I need to get across the country, rest, and then strict orders to give some media interviews and only attend the speech…followed by MORE rest before we are allowed to fly home, we’re COMING TO CHARLOTTE.

Because it is that important. 

Because it is once-in-a-lifetime for my children to see the first African-American President speak to the American people as he seeks re-election.

Because they attend a public school charter that allows them the flexibility to learn outside the classroom. They will learn about government, media, social issues, activism, and how to form their own opinions on what they believe.

Because in this election, our family is literally the billboard for what this administration has accomplished for those who NEED help in this economy.

No one should lose their home because they get sick.

No one should be worried more about how much their treatment will cost, instead of which treatment their doctor prescribes in order for their survival.

No one should have to be forced to stay in a school that kills and drills, and only awards children based on standardized tests.

No one should be a pre-existing condition simply by being born a woman.

No one should have control over a woman’s body but the woman herself.

No one should tell anyone they can not marry the person they love.

No one should take a mother from her children too soon because she couldn’t afford her medication, her hospital bill, or that IV she gets every few weeks.

No one should be content to watch this November.

We’re getting on a plane, we’re showing the country there is nothing that will keep this family down and we will fight for those who fight for US. 

We’re headed to Charlotte, North Carolina to support President Obama and Vice President Biden because it matters too much to our family NOT to.


Thank you to family and Obama For America for making this possible. 

Education Talk With the Obama 2012 Team: Thinking Outside the Box

There has never been a moment where my family or my children have fit inside the box.

I’ve talked before as to why we have chosen to send our kids to a public charter school, as opposed to our neighborhood school. And I’ve talked a million times about our family’s quirks and progressive attitude when it comes to education.
You know your kids are in the right school when this is what greets them every morning

I am the product of a public school education. It never even occurred to me that we’d consider anything else for our children unless the public schools near our home were failing.

Of course the public schools in our very nice suburb of Los Angeles are nowhere near failing and they excel by every standard used to measure a typical American public school.

Unfortunately, that amazing, typical, American public school nearly sucked the life out of my then-5 year old son as he stood against a brick wall, watching the other children play at recess. His crime? Not sitting still during story time.

But this is how it went with 36 kindergarteners and one teacher. This is what you did in order to make sure everyone could fill in that bubble properly and sit still while doing it. Distractions, such as my son’s pencil twirling, was an offense worthy of punishment. A punishment that forced his tiny body to unnaturally hold in all that energy again, when it should be setting it free on the playground.

After one tearful parent-teacher conference my husband and I knew this was not the education we wanted for our son, or for our daughter who would be following in his footsteps in just a few short years. But what is a middle class family to do when they can’t afford private school and neither parent can home school?

We are not alone. Millions of parents have round peg kids being stuffed into square holes.

So when I had a chance to talk with Former Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council Melody Barnes for a few minutes this week I had a million questions, as any parent would. But I took to facebook and twitter and asked YOU what you wanted to hear and know from this administration.

Some highlights from the conference call (you can see the tweets with the hashtag #edu2012 here): the administration says they understand standardized tests are only ONE way to measure how well a child is learning, a teacher is teaching, and how a school is performing. They are working to measure in other ways.

That idea from Barnes made me very happy. To finally come up with ways to measure how the WHOLE student is learning, not just the bubble filling in, memorizing and then forgetting portion of the child.

Barnes said they aren’t talking about ditching tests all together, but also assessing critical thinking skills and supporting teachers in trying to make those assessments. Of course none of this is easy to do.

And I understand entirely. We get those STAR test results at our house and stomachs churn. But then our teachers remind us this is just ONE way they can tell if a student is learning. Just one.

And then of course there was discussion about the differences between what an Obama 2nd term would do (and what the first term has done) and what a Romney-Ryan administration would do. Let’s just say they are worlds apart. WORLDS.

President Obama has expanded Head Start, he has used savings from student loan reform to fund and expanded Pell grants. Romney/Ryan would roll all this back.

One of the questions I asked was about teachers in this country, and how we save their jobs. So many seem to have been laid off, when what we need are MORE in the classroom. The Obama administration has fought to SAVE  hundreds of thousands of teacher jobs across the country, while Mitt Romney has been quoted (and his surrogates have since defended) saying he would slash funding for teachers, firefighters, and police officers.

And of course I had to ask if there was anyway Congress might be provided basic biology and sex ed courses, given the idiotic and entirely uneducated statements by Rep. Todd Akin on rape and the female reproductive system. I was glad to have gotten a chuckle from the Obama team, but also a very serious answer, reminding those of us on the call that the choice for women and families could not be more clear come November.

If you want more information on the Obama/Biden education plan you can find plenty over at – and if you have any questions for the Obama/Biden team, I have been given the ok to send over a few more questions so please, ask away in the comments below and I will do my best to get you answers.


Disrespect Shown for First Lady Michelle Obama by GOP in Florida

There is just no way this would happen to Laura Bush or Hillary Clinton.

First Lady Michelle Obama is not welcome at a local high school in Miami by its Republican school board members.

The campaign stop went on as planned at Barbara Goleman Senior High in Miami Lakes despite “Miami-Dade School Board member Renier Diaz de la Portilla has called for the event to be cancelled and board member Carlos Curbelo has asked the board attorney to reconsider his opinion that the event meets legal muster.”

As it so happens, REPUBLICAN Diaz de la Portilla is running for state House and Curbelo has worked as a political strategist for the REPUBLICANS. Shocking, I know.

Curbelo wrote in a letter to the school board attorney:

“Allowing the first lady of the United States to use one of our schools explicitly to benefit the president’s reelection campaign is inappropriate and sends the wrong message to our students, employees, and to taxpayers – even if the president’s campaign is willing to pay for all costs resulting from the event.”

I’m wondering what wrong message that is, exactly…considering Republican candidate Mitt Romney held a town hall meeting right around the same time at Central High School in Grand Junction, Colorado. Apparently their school board members didn’t freak out that his campaign rented the school for the event.

That’s how these things work…the campaigns rent out the schools or halls or wherever for their speeches (the kids are on summer break) and it is all paid for by the campaigns, NOT taxpayers or the schools.

Funny how this never seemed to be an issue before if then First Lady Laura Bush attended a rally for her husband. Or if then First Lady and now Secretary of State Hillary Clinton fired up a crowd to re-elect her husband.

Dare we even ask why First Lady Michelle Obama is met with such disrespect when doing something other First Ladies and surrogates have done for campaigns for decades?

I want badly to play the race card here. But it’s almost too easy. And over done. At this point it’s so obvious it almost no longer needs to be brought up. What is equally as important, I’m afraid, is the total lack of respect shown to this Administration – be it East or West Wing – from the other side of the aisle on inauguration day and the meeting and handshakes held binding the GOP to make sure the black man does not get another term and leaves their White House.

Disrespect. A party that tolerates outbursts of ‘YOU LIE’ during our country’s most honored traditions. A party that tolerates actual questioning of just how ‘American’ this sitting President really is…and if he truly loves his country. A party that encourages the First Lady not be allowed to speak on behalf of her husband…as EVERY FIRST LADY HAS DONE, simply because the other side…well, why is it then…because the other side didn’t want her to speak? Because they were afraid of what a strong, black woman would have to say to hundreds of supporters?

Or because they couldn’t stand the thought of this happening in ‘their’ school? In ‘their’ district? Heaven forbid the Obamas campaign, legally, on ‘their’ turf?

This is the woman who intimidates them simply by eating right and wearing a sleeveless shirt, obviously they can’t handle her on stage in their territory.

I guess we should expect nothing less from the party that wants women back in the kitchen and out of the board room. Who wants to legislate us from controlling our own reproductive fate. Who have spent the past several years waging war against our gender on everything from equal pay to access to health care.

They certainly can not handle this First Lady, who stands for everything they can not comprehend and wish to destroy- an educated, accomplished, strong, mother who can kick ass and take names while she and her husband proudly call themselves feminists.

Add in that she is a woman of color and most of the old guard faints…and hits the floor for lack of their ‘man’ being their to catch them. You see this President, and his amazing First Lady, have provided programs and opportunities for that ‘man’ so he no longer need wait on Mr. GOP Greed White Male.

So go ahead and continue these weak attempts to block our First Lady from speaking across this great nation of ours, and you, sad, sad Republicans, will continue to fail. And our First Lady will continue to bring the roof down as she gets people FIRED UP and READY TO GO for FOUR MORE YEARS.

And if you must, continue to show your true colors by disrespecting our President and First Lady. We have watched it go well beyond politics and we all now know what this is about, and it’s time for the old guard to change. As we know, change is hard. Change takes hard work. But change is here.

Get used to it. 

Of Romney and His Gang and the Gang Who Held ME Down

In high school I was held down by a group of boys against my will.

Much like the story being told about Mitt Romney, my high school days included an incident where a group of young men ‘played a prank’ ‘had some fun’ ‘joked around’ ‘acted like boys’ ‘bullied someone different’ ‘tackled’ ‘pinned to the ground’ ‘forcibly restrained me.’

Much like the story being told about Romney and his group of friends, I lived in a suburb of Detroit, near the prestigious Cranbrook school Romney attended. While he and his buddies held down another student and cut off the hair they decided they didn’t like, I was held down by a group of boys who pulled down my top, exposing my breasts.

I’d say that roughly the same number of boys were involved. I’d say 75% of them have, over the years, apologized. Except the ring leader- who to this day remains a total asshole.

I do not think any of us are who we were in high school. We grow. We change. We evolve into adults that are hopefully more mature and wise and educated. However we do have certain traits that remain, even if we’ve tried to shake them. Sure we’re a hell of a lot different, but we certainly have a core that has stayed consistent.

In Dreams From My Father President Obama writes of a bullying incident he too was involved in where he was teased along with the only other student of color at his school. He denied to the other students she was his girlfriend:

I was haunted by the look on Coretta’s face just before she had started to run: her disappointment, and the accusation. I wanted to explain to her somehow that it had been nothing personal; I’d just never had a girlfriend before and saw no particular need to have one now. But I didn’t even know if that was true. I knew only that it was too late for explanations, that somehow I’d been tested and found wanting; and whenever I snuck a glance at Coretta’s desk, I would see her with her head bent over her work, appearing as if nothing had happened, pulled into herself and asking no favors.

My act of betrayal bought me some room from the other children, and like Coretta, I was mostly left alone.

Romney, on the other hand, claims to not even remember the incident of cutting another student’s hair after his gang of friends allegedly held the boy down.

Now the point here isn’t to compare the character of each candidate (or anyone for that matter) solely on how they behaved in their youth. That would be absurd. But there is a certain wondering one must do when one man can write so eloquently about an incident in which you can feel his pain for having ‘betrayed’ (the President’s word) another student and another man who can’t even seem to recall what, by all accounts, seemed to be one really dickish move by a spoiled rich kid ala some John Hughes movie in which I fully expect Molly Ringwald to report Romney (played by James Spader, of course) to the principal.

I’m disturbed that Romney does not remember. I really am. Either he did things like this so often they didn’t even register in his memory or he found it to be such a ‘non’ issue he had no reason to remember. Or he does remember and can’t bring himself to discuss it and actually tell the world this sort of behavior has no place in our society. Or…or…. I don’t know. I just know his reaction to this has been bizarre, at the least.

I certainly remember being held down by that group of boys. All them, to this day, remember holding me down. It seems all of Romney’s gang remembers holding down their victim as well. All except Mitt.

Again, this isn’t something that defines a presidential campaign, should be brought up in debates (unless, of course they discuss the issue of bullying and suicide and teens- then please, by all means) or should overshadow the economy, jobs, foreign policy, wars, etc. But it sure does seem to paint a picture for me.

It paints a picture for me as a girl who was held down by a group of asshole boys who thought they could do what they wanted and get away with whatever they wanted. Just like in the alleged Romney incident, I was told I was asking for it. Or that I liked it. Or that somehow in the warped minds of those trying to justify their actions it was my fault for wearing that bikini top, just like it was John Lauber’s fault for wearing his hair different than the rest of the kids.

Bullies do that. They victim blame.

I certainly hope Romney has changed since his youth and doesn’t find what the Washington Post calls ‘pranks’ as funny anymore. As the President wrote in his book, he had been tested and found wanting…if only Romney seemed to show the public he too failed. Not just apologized for youthful indiscretions, but found wanting.

For those of us held down. For those of us on the floor with the faces of young men looking down on us with laughter and evil in their eyes, we not only expect you remember, but that you felt tested and now and forever found wanting.






Good, Evil, and North Carolina

Even the seven-year old knows where to stand on gay marriage. Note Bo’s hair color:

Why yes,this is how we color in this house #obama2012

Profoundly sad that North Carolina voters felt the need to discriminate against those not like them. But know this…we will continue to fight. We will achieve equality for all Americans. Even my children know what is right and good and they will carry the torch for me and others long after we’re gone. This is far from over.


The Haunting Facebook Photo

I’m haunted by an image I saw this week when I opened my Facebook feed.



I was introduced to Inger Knudson-Judd and Philippa Knudson-Judd through my friend Lucretia several months ago as they fought to stay together.

Think about that for just a second and let it sink in.

As they fought to stay together. 

You see, our country, being very Christian-based and puritanical in its views on many things, has an issue with same-sex marriage.

Despite Inger and Philippa being legally married in Iowa, the Defence of Marriage Act, aka DOMA, means the Federal Government does not have to recognize their marriage because Philippa is not a US citizen. So in Iowa they are married, sort of…cross a state line and they aren’t, sort of- heck, even in Iowa it’s unclear thanks to DOMA. United States, my ass.

So what you see above is a family, again, being torn apart as they are forced to leave each other. They have had to leave each other over and over again as immigration separates them time and time again.

And it’s not just the two of them who feel the heartache and pain. Their 12-year old daughter suffers.

I dare you to try to ignore the pain on their faces. They had spent five weeks together and were saying goodbye, again, painfully again, as this photo was taken. No one wants to leave for the airport, but imagine leaving your spouse and not knowing when you’d get to hold her again.

It is times like this I am ASHAMED of my country. Maybe now some of you will understand a bit about what the First Lady meant. But then again, if you didn’t understand what she meant you are probably not in a minority group, or had your family torn into shreds because white, Christian, men in DC deemed it so.

So you will have to forgive me as I get very angry when the likes of Republican candidates speak of DOMA and DADT…all these strange lettered words that seem inhuman yet are nothing more than inhumane. As I remain proud of our President that has stood up to HALF of this country, of whom he desperately needs votes from, and told them he has come a long way on this issue and will continue to fight for what is RIGHT, not what his religion, or any other tells him. He’s had to search his own heart, as so many of a certain time, a certain generation, or of certain backgrounds must.

Because this photo is just one of millions that should haunt you as it haunts me.

There isn’t a day that goes by where I wonder what I would do if I did not have my loving partner in life near. Even now, as we have gone through our own hell, I’m glad to have had him by my side to go through it with…not thousands of miles away, torn from my side when I needed him most.

Yet, in this country, some people hide behind the ‘love’ of their ‘God’ to inflict this unspeakable pain on families. They hide behind their definition of family, not caring what that means for their neighbors, their friends, even members of their own family.

I don’t want to open my Facebook feed and be haunted again by a family being torn apart by politics or religion or bigotry or evil. There is no excuse for what your belief has done here. None. I say that with a clear conscience because my beliefs take away NOTHING from you- they CERTAINLY do not rip you from the arms of your spouse or your CHILD.

There are now legal battles to be fought, some against the current administration. Luckily they are working their best to get through this election and out the other side so they can continue their good faith efforts (like DADT) in making GOOD on the President’s journey on this issue. I want to see it in action, and given some major steps in his first term, I have every confidence we will see more in his second. Understandably, others want it faster. I can not fault them for this at all. And I lend my voice to theirs in demanding promises be kept.

But the thought of a Republican in the Oval office makes me weep for families like Inger and Phillipa. While my family would suffer as well, I can’t imagine what others would go through. At the very least, I would still have my spouse by my side.

Spare me your opposition to same-sex marriage and why you think you are right. Because all I need is this one photo to show you just how horribly, horribly wrong you are. I can not think of a single justification for tearing a family apart and causing this much hurt, this much pain, this much suffering…ever. And so help me if you really do, still, believe same-sex marriage is wrong…may this photo haunt you a thousand fold what it has haunted me, and may it remind you every single day what your beliefs have done to innocent Americans.