Thursday, January 12, 2017

Don't Let Them Take Our Healthcare!

I lived six years without health insurance, due to a pre-existing condition. What was my pre-existing condition? I had seen a therapist for depression and anxiety after my house burned down. Every insurance company denied me, even after I appealed annually and wrote numerous letters to all of the major providers. When I found out I was pregnant with Evan at 41- I had NO INSURANCE. I was incredibly lucky to find a California program that covered pregnant, uninsured women. They paid for my high-risk pregnancy and emergency cesarean delivery. Many other women, in other, less progressive states, will not be so lucky. 

I turned to Planned Parenthood for my annual checkups and breast exams during those six long years that no one would insure me. I would have had NO health care at all if it were not for Planned Parenthood. I watched a documentary on how many homeless women and mothers there are in the US. Many of them have become homeless after being bankrupted by medical bills. If, during these 6 years, I had been hit by a car, or gotten cancer, I would have lost everything. My job, my house, all my savings. I could have been homeless.

Last night, while we slept, the Republican Senate voted 51 - 48 to:
1. To end coverage for pre-existing conditions, veterans benefits, and aid to rural hospitals. (50 miles to an ER rural voters)
2. To remove discrimination protection for women in healthcare.
3. Against the provision allowing children to remain on their parent's insurance till the age of 26.
4. To cut off funding for the Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
5. Against ACA contraceptive coverage and maternity care provision.
6. To direct committees to send budget legislation to defund and repeal the Affordable Care Act.

And by the way, they also voted to defund Planned Parenthood.
The house votes on Friday, January 13.

And for those of you who get health insurance through work, no pre-existing conditions,  and lifetime caps for coverage are back for everyone.

How can GOP representatives defend being the party of American values when they strip Americans of life-saving healthcare?  My Facebook feed today is filled with posts of friends who are cancer survivors, who have mental health struggles, who have sick children and spouses, all who will be denied healthcare for having a "pre-existing" condition. Some who will die if denied their expensive medications. CALL YOUR HOUSE REP NOW! They vote tomorrow to repeal the ACA. Tell them what this means for you!  (202)225-3121

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Sifting Through the Rubble

Lately, I've been sifting through the rubble of what was my former optimistic self, trying to figure out what to make of what I'm filled with since the election, which is mostly this: pain and suffering and despair.

Pain is real, and should be acknowledged. Pain tells me to pull my hand out of the fire. Pain tells me to do something...NOW. Pain should be acted upon.

Suffering is self-created: a choice. Suffering happens when I resist what is. Suffering isn't noble. It doesn’t help me, and it doesn’t help anyone around me. Suffering keeps me trapped in pain.
Despair is when I search outside myself for hope and, finding none, I believe that hope doesn't exist. Despair isn't real.

So here's what I make of these messy emotions: We are entering a dark era. The only way I get through this is to ditch the suffering and despair, and act on the pain. I can't look for someone else to save me. I've got to find hope inside of myself first, and let it build. I have to connect to every other flicker of hope I find, and create networks of hope. I have to appreciate every tiny beautiful moment; a cat sleeping in my lap, a kind word from a stranger, an extraordinary sunset...and let those tiny moments carry me until the rest of the world reflects light again.

The light will return. Maybe not now, maybe not soon...but it will return. That much I know.
It returns, because we create it. 


“Darkness defines the light.” That’s what my yoga/meditation teacher Kristen Eykel said, as we engaged in a deep discussion after a group meditation this morning. The darkness that is sweeping the country and the world right now is defining a message for us: RISE.

I woke up today, like every day since the election, with a feeling of dread in my stomach. I've been miserable and short-tempered, and not much fun to live with, even though i meditate and do yoga and I try, really try, to be positive. But today, I think I finally figured out why I can't shake this awful feeling; I am changing. Life is changing me and change is fucking painful -- it just is. I wrote about this in Fire Season. When a caterpillar transforms into a butterfly, it's an ugly affair. Before the butterfly can form, the caterpillar must first completely liquefy inside the chrysalis, becoming what my friend Lyena Strelkoff termed "caterpillar soup." So maybe that's where a lot of us are at right now. We are lying on the floor in a puddle, beat down by life, caterpillar soup -- and that's okay. It's a stage, a step on the ladder of metamorphosis. 

My brilliant friend Lyena had this to say on the subject, "The only way to become more than we were (plus it's the fastest way out of the soup) is to surrender to dissolving. The more we deny how we feel, the more we try to run away from it, cover it up, try to shove ourselves prematurely out of the chrysalis with inauthentic gratitude or positivity, the longer the process will take and the more likely we'll get stuck there. 'Who am I willing to become?' --that's the only question I have to ask. And then let the process of becoming take its (uncomfortable, miserable at times) course. Adversity sucks. But adversity of any kind, personal, professional, communal, global, is always presenting us with the opportunity to become more than we've ever been. The thing is, we have to say yes. And if we don't, then adversity only sucks."

If there’s any silver lining behind these shitstorm clouds, it’s that people are beginning to wake up and answer the call of their higher selves. Human rights, equality, and basic goodness are not granted to us. We are the ones who work to make these things a reality. So how do we do it while the bad news is pummeling us, daily? There is so much: the environment, women's health, defending the marginalized, protecting journalism and the truth. Each of has to decide what our personal activism will be, and then take action. Some of us are warriors who will march, some of us are surgeons who will actively cut the cancer out of this country through legislation, some of us are seamstresses who will stitch the fabric of our society back together, some of us are wordsmiths who will renew the troops with hope and direction, some of us are healers who will hold up the wounded. We all have a role. 

And when we finally pull ourselves out of the soup, when we finally rise, we have to become more than we ever knew we could be. We have to look ourselves in the mirror and say, "I am willing to step into my full potential and own my power."  We have to shine brighter, be bigger, be more than we were before. What other choice is there?

 One thing is certain: the time for hand-wringing is over. All hands on deck. 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Don't Tell Me To Get Over It

Not since George Wallace has a Presidential candidate run on a platform of hate and divisiveness. (The difference? Wallace didn’t win. We must have been a more tolerant nation in the sixties.) If you voted for Trump, regardless of your reasons, you put the stamp of approval on his hate, bigotry, xenophobia and misogyny. You sent a message around the world that this is our American value system.

I will be ashamed when I travel next month, when people in other countries eye me with suspicion and fear. As I walked into my son’s school yesterday, I looked at the other parents and wondered, are you one of the people who outwardly smiled and feigned tolerance, but privately endorsed this candidate of hate? And then dread gripped my stomach when I realized that people of color are probably looking at me because I am white, and wondering the same thing. I want to tattoo my forehead “I DIDN’T VOTE FOR HIM! I LOVE YOU!” Trump politics have set up a horrific scenario where we can no longer trust one another. So no, I can’t get over it. And neither can you. It’s going to take a long, long time before our country can repair the damage he has done.

Protest is an American right, protected by our Constitution.
I am sickened by the posts on social media calling the protesters “idiots,” calling their marches “pointless.” I suppose they’d have said the same about the march on Selma, or the march against the Vietnam war. This country was founded by protest. Ever heard of the Boston Tea Party? Or the American Revolution? Before you start calling protesters “idiots,” go back and study American history and the Constitution you claim to love so much, and then tell me who’s the idiot.

Webster’s defines Democracy as “control of an organization or group by the majority of its members.” The majority of Americans voted for Hillary Clinton. She, like Gore in 2000, won the popular vote but lost the election. In any other Democracy around the world, Clinton would be our nation’s leader. It’s time to overturn the Electoral College and let our country be a true democracy where the majority of Americans decide who will lead them.

There is no bright side to bigotry and hate. There is no upside to misogyny. There is no “making the best of” xenophobia. I may not be the silver lining person you’ve come to know, not for a while anyway. My faith in America has been shattered and I am grieving. I may not cheer up for a long, long time. Maybe four years. But as each day passes, I am gathering my resolve, and my strength, and my voice. You’ll probably be hearing a lot from me over the next few years. It may not be cheerful, but it will be loud.

I didn’t vote for him. He is unqualified, undignified, unhinged, and represents the antithesis of American values.
He is #NotMyPresident.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

What's happened to political decency?

I'm horrified by what I'm seeing in this Presidential election season. We have lost all decency and decorum. I remember back when America was appalled that Dan Quayle misspelled the word potato. People couldn't believe that a man who couldn't spell was Vice President of the United States. But now, America holds ignorance up like it's a virtue.

During the debate, I watched Donald Trump spew unintelligible rants about Russia and Syria, proving he knows nothing about the world or foreign policy. And yet his followers cheer for him and the talking heads say he did well in the debate. 

I remember when it was unconscionable to call someone a liar, back when the most shocking thing said during a debate was "Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy." Donald Trump has dragged our political system into the gutter, pointing his finger in Secretary Clinton's face and calling her a liar, calling her the Devil, saying she has a heart filled with hate, saying he will throw her in jail while his supporters jeer and holler. And the talking heads praised him for ending the debate by saying she was a fighter, as if that somehow made him a gentleman. Trump has turned this campaign season into a dystopian reality show. Jerry Springer even tweeted that he'd like to have Trump on his show. What an embarrassment we are, in front of the entire world. I am so concerned for our young citizens watching this, worried that they will become calloused and immune to how wrong this is. I hope to God we can find our way back from this dark era. I hope we can return to a two-party system in which our elected officials may not have agreed but they worked together and respected one another. The objective of a two-party system was to discuss our differing ideas and come up with bi-partisan compromises that best serve the people. It was never intended to be a death match.


Friday, October 7, 2016

Loving and Losing Stitch

I'm shattered. This morning, our beloved Stitch didn't greet me when I woke. He didn't come when he heard the can opener, and I thought that was odd. I called, and he didn't come. Evan and I found him lying still on the rug in the living room. As long as I live I will never be able to erase the heartbreaking image of Evan shaking Stitchy's lifeless body and shouting, "Stitchy! Wake up, wake up!"

Stitch was only nine years old. He wasn't sick. This was a complete shock.

Yesterday was a really good day. I was home all day. We took several walks in the field and he was happy and spry. I gave him a few treats. He ate all his dinner last night. And then, somehow, he passed away in his sleep. 

I always called Stitch my little gentleman. When we were walking through a door he'd always stop and look up at me, wait for me to pass through first. He was a gentle and considerate soul. He loved everybody. He never wanted to fight with other dogs or cats, he just wanted to be friends. I am still in disbelief that this has happened. I can't stop crying. This house doesn't feel like a home without him.
Many of you supported us when we fought for years in court to keep Stitch away from his former owner who had abused and abandoned him. You know the long journey and the struggle, how very hard we fought for him and how very very much we loved him. Stitch was no ordinary dog. He came to our lives to teach us courage, and how to stand up for something you believe in. I know that for the rest of my life I will carry the lessons I learned through loving this dog. Because of Stitch, we started the #SaveStitch campaign fighting for animal rights. After the L.A. Times, NPR and Fox News picked up the story, this case became a national conversation. In the courts we fought for pets to have the right to live in the home that is safest for them, rather than being treated as property to be returned to the owner, regardless of inhumane treatment. We lost our case and our appeal and weren't able to change the laws, but we held on to Stitch. After all that drama and 3 years of court battles, I don't know if we made a difference or not, but I do know that Stitch was able to live his life with us, in a home where he was loved beyond measure.

The short years we had him weren't nearly enough, and yet, I feel so fortunate to have had him at all. He blessed my life, and touched many others. He was my little gentleman. A piece of my heart goes with him...
(For those of you who don't know the story of Stitch, it's here. If you think I fight hard against gun violence, it's only because I learned how to stand up to bullies when I fought for Stitch;

Monday, October 3, 2016

We Gave Our Son a Stranger Things Birthday Party (and it was awesome!)

Evan, 10 years old,  just started middle school. It's been tough for him because he's amongst the youngest and smallest in the school, and since most of his friends went to other schools, he doesn't know many people. He's been miserable since school began mid-August. But the one thing that has made him happy is watching the whole season of Stranger Things - twice. He became obsessed with the show, watching countless videos and vines, reading insider blogs watching all the interviews. He said he even liked it more than Star Wars.

So this September, since he was turning ELEVEN, my husband and I decided to give him a birthday party he'd never forget.


Our front door.
We built the theme around finding Barb. These were posted outside the house.
Pizza and Eggo waffles and Twinkies for dinner? You bet!
The goodie bags had to be authentic.

I made his birthday cake out of Twinkies, Ding Dongs and candy
We played STRANGER THINGS trivia.

We set up an Eggo bar for the kids
We painted the alphabet on a tablecloth and hung it on our wall.
We used Stranger Things text generator to make his invitations
We got into character!
Our best friends got into character, too!
We downloaded the whole Stranger Things soundtrack and had it playing the whole night. After Stranger Things trivia and Demogorgon tag, we played a hot potato game to "Should I Stay Or Should I Go." And after dark, we surprised the kids by taking them on a Barb hunt. We had turned our basement into The Upside Down, dark with vines and webs and everything covered in black and a bubble blower going under blacklights to give it that weird snowfall effect.  We brought the kids down there two at a time, while the scary "LIGHTS OUT" Demogorgon theme blasted. After walking through massive webs and putting their hands through Demogorgon goo (warm, mushy, overcooked spaghetti) they would eventually find a corpse covered in slugs and bugs, with oversized Barb glasses. Suddenly, Sheriff Hopper would jump out of the shadows with a flashlight under his face, warning them to never tell ANYONE what they'd seen, and the kids all went screaming up the stairwell. 

All in all, it was a fantastic birthday party that Evan will never forget, but the part that made Evan the happiest? When Shannon Purser (Barb) tweeted it!