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Birth Control and Disaster Preparedness. It’s a special skill to be able to bring these topics together in a blog entry.

Sometimes I worry that people who read my words here might not think I’m sincere or being authentic, especially when I rant about how important it is that we create useful dialog instead of increasing the political divide in this country. Maybe I’m preaching but not applying these things to my own life and conversations with my friends and/or family?

But then I spend 4 hours when I should be sleeping, researching two separate topics as a way of undoing the damage done by inflammatory language. So, you know, I PROMISE YOU I AM BEING AUTHENTIC. I sacrificed sleep to read up and think about two issues in an effort to stop this weird dichotomy we have in this country where we’re all separated by fear and hate. NOT ME! I do research to try to bridge the gap! Because I’m a dork. An authentic dork.

First Topic: Stats Given For Planned Parenthood

I spent a lot of time with numbers from Planned Parenthood last night after a friend sent me a link to an inflammatory article criticizing the 3% stat I and others use. It was hard to read the article because I abhor the language so much, but I did for the sake of research. (For the record – I’ve seen supporters of Planned Parenthood be as inflammatory with constant accusations that people care more about making sure babies don’t get aborted than taking care of them in poor families once they’re born.) If you want to see where that number comes from, look at pages 27 and 28 of the Planned Parenthood annual report. The inflammatory article I read seemed to minimize the importance of contraception and STD diagnosis and treatment services, and the author didn’t like that some pregnancy tests were considered “services” and since I can acknowledge other people might feel the same way (which is ridiculous in my opinion because pregnancy tests are part of all services when it comes to STD diagnosis and treatment) then I wanted to come back and offer that link to the complete breakdown of services. I will make sure I offer that link from here on out if anyone questions that statistic. Also FactCheck.org looked into their numbers as well and found they were legitimate. So, while I’ll be more careful throwing that 3% number around, I’ll provide other links and data and maybe stick to the FactCheck.org line “roughly 10 percent of its clients received an abortion” as it leaves less room for people to mock pregnancy tests as being an unimportant part of a woman’s health care.

Also – The Washington Post did the financial breakdown showing how defunding Planned Parenthood would not really effect the abortion rate as much as people hope it would.

SO! I just wanted to prove I practice what I preach and when someone brings attention to arguments against numbers I use I do the research to provide information explaining those numbers. I have no desire to discuss this with the author of that inflammatory article because people who write like that are not the type of people who can hold reasonable discussions, but I did want to provide data for anyone else out there who is more reasonable and maybe dislikes abortions but likes free healthcare for women and therefore would like more information on the topic. There is nothing I can do to bridge the gap between the extreme sides of our country, but if I can provide information to help people cope with inflammatory news sources then I will do my part.

Second Topic: Emergency Preparedness

We had a large cell outage in our area yesterday. And I saw several posts from people using this as an opportunity to remind everyone of the potential terror of mass cyber attacks to our power or communication grid.

And dude – that scares me too. BUT! Instead of making people scared, let’s help make people prepared. Or let’s try to remove vulnerabilities. SOMETHING. But I don’t like just trying to make people scared without giving action or aid.

And while I subjected my poor friend to my diatribe and research on their Facebook post (I have no idea why people don’t unfriend me, I’m totally THAT annoying friend that posts Snopes articles or asks for sources or provides links explaining things instead of just letting people rant. I kinda hate that about myself. BUT! Like I said! AUTHENTIC!) I figured I’d share the same information and commentary here.

FIRST: The CDC guide for emergency preparedness. This is very important in terms of what to have, and how to store it. Especially writing dates on everything you store. My family needs to be better about this, we tend to let life get in the way. HOWEVER – if anyone was reading this blog in 2011 you know that our whole city was without power for 5 days and it wasn’t disastrous. The community actually was really great and helpful and people who needed refrigeration for meds found it in businesses or neighbors who had generators. It was actually a really cool thing to experience, no one panicked or fought over resources. We all just patiently waited, and did a lot of playing outside.

SECOND: Part of our vulnerability to attacks is our crappy infrastructure. I have not done a lot of research on this topic and I tried a little but HOLY CRAP there’s a lot out there. I guess I’m looking for maybe an organization that is focusing on trying to improve our communication/electrical infrastructure either through private industry (if you’re anti-government) or legislation (if you’re pro-government). I’d love to hear discussion from either side – what is anyone proposing we do to improve our infrastructure so we’re not such a tempting target? Our electrical grid is outdated and our cell service seems to have no redundancy. Anyone have information? I found this paper and it seemed a little informative but also maybe a big biased in areas so I’d love more information.

Topic 3: This is why I don’t sleep

Now do you see why I wake up at 3am? Some random person writes an inflammatory article about PP stats and another person is (rightfully) scared of cyber attacks in our city and suddenly I’m reading annual reports and googling “WHY IS THE US INFRASTRUCTURE SO TERRIBLE?” at 1:30am.

welcomemoderates

We Do Not Naturally Separate Into A Stark Political Dichotomy.

(If you’re patient, this will eventually discuss the VA Accountability Act of 2015 which is IMPORTANT and not getting much attention so stick around if you can.)

I have a theory.

See – I have a LOT of moderate friends. I have Christian friends who vote Republican but support marriage equality and are a little fiscally liberal as they support programs like Free Lunch and WIC. I have friends who vote Democrat but are a little fiscally conservative as they’re not necessarily on board with TANF or Section 8 housing. I have staunchly Republican friends who support gun control or are Pro Choice. I have Christian friends who vote Democrat but are strongly Pro Life. Basically, 80% of my friends would fall into the “moderate” camp – EVEN IF they vote for the same party at every election.

They are not the extremes of their voting block, is what I’m saying. And people who always vote along party lines can still be moderates on a lot of issues.

But man – they don’t feel comfortable chiming in on anything political because it seems that unless you are the extreme on one side or another – there is no place for you in the conversation.

I don’t think it’s natural for ANY of us to side with one party or another 100% of the time. And that’s because – if we really look at it pragmatically – the parties are much more divided by big business and lobbyists than actual principles. So I don’t think anyone would side with their political party 100% of the time unless they were a political candidate in that party. AND EVEN THEN – many vote differently on issues because the constituents in their area may be a little different.

SO. THEREFORE…

It is my theory that if you can’t think of ONE thing President Obama has done in 7 years that you AGREED with…AND…DISAGREED with, then you need to try to vary up your sources of news. If you can’t think of one thing GOOD and one thing BAD that he’s done then your news sources are either too liberal, or too conservative.

What do you think? Don’t you think that’s a decent theory?

It’s been on my mind recently when President Obama said he’d veto the VA Accountability Act of 2015 if it crossed is desk. Y’all – the VA Accountability Act is not perfect but it is SOMETHING and if you know anything about the terrible backlog and waitlists of the VA then you know we need to do something, like, 10 years ago.

But here’s the thing – my favorite super liberal media sources? Aren’t talking about it. BUT! The IAVA is and I keep up with all of their press releases and follow Paul Reickoff on Twitter. (I’m telling you – Twitter, if curated properly, is an EXCELLENT source of news.) So – I’ve been hearing about the Democrats and Obama worried too much about protecting government unions than about actually doing something about the situation at the VA.

Here’s another good bit about an interesting provision in the VA Accountability act here:

Last week’s House action giving the government more power to fire poor performers at the Department of Veterans Affairs was poisonous for federal employee unions and Democrats. But the bill, rejected by most Democrats, contains a little-noticed change that lawmakers in both parties have clamored for, particularly after last year’s coverup of long wait times for veterans needing medical care.

Even for Lefty McLiberal me who always votes Democrat, I side with the GOP on this bill. AND I WANTED A SINGLE PAYER HEALTHCARE SYSTEM…I’m stupid liberal so siding with the conservatives is not something I do often.

What I’m saying is that if the girl with a rubbermaid container full of OBAMA memorabilia from the 2008 and 2012 election can openly disagree with the President on a piece of legislation, then everyone should be able to find one thing PRO and one thing CON since he’s been president.

I really think this Political Dichotomy is hurting our country more than anyone cares to admit. Two big issues are examples: Guns and Abortion. The sad thing is, people on both sides of the issues actually want the SAME THING. Less Abortions, Less Gun Violence. If we want the same thing why do we HAVE to break it down constantly to black-and-white, Us v/s Them debates? If birth control was more accessible (and didn’t require a damn annual exam which has been disputed as not being necessary) for women, we would have less abortions. PERIOD. I’m not as fluent in the gun control debate, but I’m betting there are steps we could take that both sides would agree would reduce gun violence if we didn’t pose one side to look like they hate the 2nd amendment and the other side to look like they want to give out guns in candy machines freely.

I just feel like we miss out on a lot of possible good action because we’re to busy choosing sides. And I blame this a lot on our biased media. I love MSNBC and Maddow (and she’s harder on Obama re: Veteran’s issues than some are) and Chris Hayes – LOVE THEM. But I recognize they are biased and if they were my only source of news I would probably think all Republicans were women-hating, war-loving racists. I actually stopped watching their nightly shows because I could feel it setting me up as “ANTI-REPUBLICAN” which is a stupid stance to take. That’s not even a stance! Being against a political party does NO good as a badge to wear. Being against a piece of legislation? Yes. Being pro your candidate? Yes. But hating an entire party just as a stance? Was not something I felt was productive. So, now I watch certain reports, but I don’t make them a daily source of news like they were before.

And on the other side – people who only get their news from nightly FOX NEWS exposure think Obama is the WORST PRESIDENT IN THE WORLD and they HATE EVERYTHING THE DEMOCRATS DO and I’m all like, “Dude. He signed the Veterans Suicide Prevention Bill, can we give him a little credit?

I just think if we’d all vary our news sources – or maybe try to keep up with sources that try to be un-biased and fact-based, then maybe we will stop looking at every news story has having two sides only.

This two-party, black-and-white, the-other-side-is-stupid-and-wrong mentality that seems to be ever-present is something that is counterproductive to ANYTHING that ANY side actually wants to accomplish. I’m pretty sure most of us want:

1) Less unnecessary war
2) Less poverty
3) Less violence
4) Less sickness

Right? But jeez, the second anyone on any side tries to accomplish something that might lessen one of those things, everyone immediately decides: WHICH SIDE AM I ON? And once the teams are divided, we accomplish very little.

And I think if we all started with trying to vary our news sources and being open to ideas the “other” side has, and then TELLING OUR FRIENDS about those ideas so that we create more of a safe space form moderates, then we’d have much better conversations. Without our moderate voices, we are just two groups yelling at each other and this political climate is just going to be more and more hateful. Let’s look at issues one move at a time and not fret about what “side” the solutions come from. Let’s have our favorite news sources that come from the side we prefer, but let’s recognize those sources are biased and make sure we pepper our exposure with voices from other sides. I’m not saying Republicans should watch Maddow and Democrats should watch Fox News, I’m just saying they shouldn’t ONLY watch one or the other. There are a lot other sources in the middle (might I suggest Al Jazeera – America it’s one of my favorites) that we can also use as a resource.

Let’s be okay with discussing our disagreements with those people on the side we vote on, and let’s be okay recognizing things we support from the other side. Let’s create a better atmosphere for moderates and let’s try to make the extreme voices just that – EXTREME VOICES – and let’s listen more to the ones that speak about issues and not about political party or sides.

Also? Let’s talk about gourmet popsicles. I’m totally on board with this new trend.

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It seems we all ate weird stuff as kids.

So, recycling is not necessarily an efficient way to try to combat the excessive amount of waste we produce as a planet. Driving the trucks and powering the machinery still relies heavily on fossil fuels. Hopefully one day we’ll have a more efficient fuel system, but until then we recycle to primarily keep things out of landfills. And – theoretically – cause less things to need to be produced from scratch, but we produce so much CRAP on this planet that gets thrown away, recycling is not really making a dent in that.

But we do it anyway because – again – if we improve our energy sources for our trucks and our machinery, the effects will be more positive.

What we’ve been trying to do more in our family the last two years is simply to create less waste. We started with something easy – we try to avoid buying individually wrapped items as much as possible. We’re not 100% clear of that yet but we’ve at least rid ourselves of it in our lunch boxes 90% of the time. We do this with an assortment of storage all found at Target last year and we kept with this habit for the entire school year. We went shopping for school supplies this weekend (school starts TOMORROW here) and it seems that this is a trend because there are a lot more of those types of storage options now. Another way we know it’s a trend? There are a LOT more options for LARGE lunch boxes this year.

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This pictures shows all of our storage with last year’s lunch boxes. It was a tight squeeze and mostly the kids had to carry their water bottles separately and if I wanted to use slightly bigger containers for anything I had to remove a different container. There wasn’t much flexibility. But when we hit up the lunch box section there were LOADS of huge lunch boxes now! And tons of cute storage containers! So maybe this is catching on which means we are finally in the lead of a trend instead of jumping on right as everyone else is getting off the bandwagon.

SO! We are buying a lot of items in bigger bags and cans and just making our OWN single servings. Yesterday Wes decided he wanted to try some fruit cocktail in his lunch, so I bought a few cans and was joking with the kids on the way home about how I hadn’t thought of fruit cocktail in years and how we used to eat it all the time growing up. And then the flashback came and I started laughing.

Oh. I just remember how we ate it. And I think it’s probably pretty gross.
How?
ON SLICED BREAD.
That sounds disgusting.

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But to me it sounded HEAVENLY because I remember it so fondly and it being such a delicious treat so I immediately came home and made some AND IT WAS AS HEAVENLY AS I REMEMBER.

I posted the pictures on instagram and Facebook to see if this was a weird Zoot House thing or if anyone else did it and it seems it was unique to us. One other person did it and then one person mentioned eating Dinty Moore Beef Stew that way and we did that as well, so I’m thinking maybe my Dad just put EVERYTHING on white bread. But – in the survey process it seems everyone ate SOMETHING weird related to canned fruit and/or bread and/or mayo. So! I thought I’d survey you guys. Did anyone else eat this? If not – what was your weird thing you at growing up because it seems we ALL had something!

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I’m Pro-Choice and I Support Planned Parenthood…Can We Still Be Friends?

A good friend of mine posted this on Facebook today:

I do think it is important we let folks know our position on an issue. That doesn’t have to include efforts to bring them around to our way of thinking or countering every point they try to make to support theirs. Sometimes the best thing is to let them, and more importantly, others, know that we differ and we believe, and will act differently. Breaking one’s silence is sometimes hard but very powerful.

And while I discuss a lot of political views openly around these parts, I’ve never really discussed my support of reproductive rights. I usually jokingly add “baby killer”on my Lefty McLiberal list after “tree hugger” and “gay lover” so I make it known, but I’ve never really discussed it. I know some will just blatantly disagree and hate me no matter what follows in this entry, but if you’d like to know more about why I hold these stances, please read on. I think 95% of my friends and family disagree with me so I’ve never really wanted to throw this in anyone’s face, but I need to own my stance so I thought I’d share the “Why” in case you were wondering.

Let’s start with the more generally palatable side of my support.

Why I Prefer The Term “Reproductive Rights”

During the years where I was struggling with Endometriosis, Uterine Fibroids, and Ovarian Cysts, I had several miscarriages. Some were very early and were just heavy periods. One, however, was later and was very painful and had me basically delivering a fetus on the floor of my bathroom. This experience still haunts my nightmares so that when they discovered a lack of a heartbeat during after my last miscarriage I could not say: “PLEASE GIVE ME A D&C!” fast enough. I had no desire to take a pill to suffer through that again.

BUT…for their own reasons, some women opt to get what many call the “abortion pill” to have the process occur at home, without surgery. And because of this term “abortion pill” – some Pharmacists refuse to fill the prescription and women dealing with the trauma of having a dead fetus inside of them have to suffer even more by trying to find a Pharmacist who will trust her doctor who gave her the prescription enough to just give her the pills.

During that same time we also found ourselves looking into IVF as a way to have babies. That brought us to information about embryos and how we might end up with some frozen embryos we wouldn’t use. The question always arises, “What do we do with them?” Well…we would have destroyed them and we would have struggled to do that if the Pro Life contingent who thought life begins at fertilization had their way. So, that shed some light on the issue for me. I would want to choose what to do with those few cells in a freezer somewhere, and it would upset me if I would be unable to do with them as I chose.

Finally, I also made many friends online who were also infertile during that time of my life. Some with various other issues to fight against. One who had preeclampsia and one who had fetal distress and both ended up needing abortions after 20 weeks. One was able to have it down by her own doctor in her own city/state, and the other had to travel out of state because it was illegal where she lived. Seeing both of those women come to this tough decision to terminate their pregnancies, that really cemented my stance if I wasn’t there already. It was none of my business, it was between them, their spouses, and their doctors – and if they had not had a choice, I’m not sure what would have happened.

So, these experiences are what shaped my view regarding Reproductive Rights because that’s what it is in those cases, the right to make a decision with a doctor regarding your own reproductive situation and have that decision be legal everywhere in this country.

Why I Support Planned Parenthood

I got pregnant unexpectedly at 18, had the baby at 19, eventually graduated college and became a contributing member of society where my son is now a Junior in college and the single person responsible for me not becoming a drug addict living in poverty god knows where doing god knows what.

THAT SAID…

My story took several turns before and after that decision and those turns led me need the types of services Planned Parenthood provides. Now, only 3% of their services are related to abortion, the other 97% are things like cancer screenings and birth control. But, here’s the thing, there was no Planned Parenthood near me when I was young, sexually active, and often under the influence of some sort of drugs. I didn’t get to enjoy their free birth control or gynecological exams with the ease that I needed them.

However, I did need their various services at different times in my young life. ALL of their services. And while I won’t go into the details of when or how I needed what services, just know that all of their services allowed me to eventually become a contributing member of society. I was only a single Mom to one kid, and my Dad helped with rent while I was in college, so I didn’t need government assistance for long. But if places like Planned Parenthood didn’t exist? I might not have ever graduated college, or become someone who could pay taxes back to the system that helped her when she was down. I might have stayed a “burden” on society, someone living in government housing and on welfare indefinitely.

I have absolutely no regrets for the decisions I made, my only wish is that Planned Parenthood had been more easily accessible to me when I needed it most. So that I could have maybe taken advantage of the health care and birth control they offered instead of needing any of the more controversial services they provided.

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And while I’m fairly certain the only people who read this far don’t need this link, here is a story of why/home a woman decides to donate fetal tissue after an abortion, since that’s the hot topic that prompted this entry from me.

Fallout

I come from a long line of Catholics. I married into an even longer line of Catholics. I live in conservative Alabama where most of my near and dear friends are Pro Life. Even my friends who are pro Marriage Equality, are Pro Life. And the reason I’ve never completely audibly supported Planned Parenthood is because I’m scared of losing all of those people.

But, my daughter has been asking about sex lately. Questions that come up based on things big kids say at school. Part of the blame of my unprotected sex in my youth falls on my inability to talk to anyone openly about sex or birth control. I was raised Catholic by a single Dad who I loved dearly, but was not good at uncomfortable dialog. I want to openly talk about these things with my daughter, so she can come to me with any and all questions and needs that arise. But I also want to know that someone is there for her if she can’t come to me. If she needs birth control from Planned Parenthood, I want them to be there for her and I don’t want her to be so ashamed of walking through the doors, that she just opts to risk her health and chance of pregnancy instead.

So I’m speaking out. I’m adding my voice to the millions so that you’ll know where I stand.

I stand with Planned Parenthood.

In Defense Of Selective Outrage

Whenever there’s a big news story that makes people feel ALL OF THE ANGER! there are always people dismissing this type of tidal wave of social media outrage. And then those dismissive people wonder why that news story made you feel anger and not this one. I’ve done this myself and I see it a lot on Facebook because I have a selection of friends and family ranging all across political spectrums. I actually saw that argument used several times this week in the following forms:

How can you be outraged by Cecil’s murder but…

  • …not be outraged by Samuel Dubose’s murder?
  • …not be angry at the factory farming that tortures animals for their entire lives before killing them for our consumption? (This was my stance, and thinking about that is what motivated this post.)
  • …not be worried about the Veterans Accountability Act? (SIDENOTE: This is one of the examples of times this liberal does not side with Obama. I don’t think this bill is perfect, but it’s a start and if we wait for “perfect” we will never improve anything associated with the VA.) (SIDENOTE #2 – I have said time and time again, if you can not think of something you disagree with on your side of politics, or something you agree with on the other side, then you might be watching too much biased media. All officials from all sides of our government sometimes do stuff we like or dislike because they are all funded by lobbying and big corporations, and if you don’t see that, then you’re not getting your news from a wide enough variety of sources, in my humble opinion. You need to sometimes be angry with politicians on your side of the aisle or your being shielded too much by your selection of news sources.) (Sorry for all the parentheticals.)

And I get that…I do. Like I said, I was shocked at how many people were angry about it and really wanted just as many people to be angry about how our factory farmed animals are treated. BUT! I also know we all have our causes that are important to us and when we see people using their voices and their emotions to promote ideas that we don’t think are important, then it’s frustrating. I think about it all the time during Football Season here in the South. People have SO MUCH PASSION for football and since I don’t (I did in a previous life) I often wonder how the world would be different if that passion and money was directed elsewhere. Just like I’m sure people wonder how different life would be if those of us obsessed with Harry Potter would donate that $2,500 to charity instead of tickets and lodging to Harry Potter World.

But here’s the thing…these bursts of what people call “Selective Outrage” are usually not fruitless. People are usually driven to some sort of action. Maybe they stop eating at restaurants where CEOs frequently take their own Trophy/Canned Hunting safari trips. Maybe they donate to the Oxford program that was responsible for monitoring Cecil the Lion. Maybe they start thinking about how the animals they eat on their plates don’t even get the 13 years of free living that Cecil got before he was tortured and killed and they rethink their next egg sandwich? Usually that outrage eats at us until we do SOMETHING and to me, as long as it produces some kind of action towards a greater good then I’m not going to fret about it.

You also see this same kind of frustration from people every October when Susan B Komen colors everything pink. There will be articles and pleas all over the place from people to spread their money and their activism to other fund raisers and DUDE…I GET IT. No one has heard of the cancer that killed me Dad. (Until Tom Brokaw got it, I think more people know of it now.) And yes, Susan B Komen has had some issues lately with accusations of mismanaging funds etc but let’s look at the trend, if your passion or your anger pushes you to make changes or donations or promote causes or learn more about issues that trends us as humans towards better? Then I’m okay.

What I don’t like is when people get REALLY outraged but then do nothing. If someone posts angry Facebook posts but then reads nothing about canned hunting and how a lot of Americans hunt lions, or if they don’t make donations or changes in their own lifestyles, if the outrage doesn’t pan out to educating ourselves or changing habits or donating to causes…then I don’t like it. Then it’s just a piece of flair on our vest at TGiFridays.

But I think most of us read about horrible things…Sam Dubose, Cecil the Lion, Veteran wait lists, and we do something. Maybe we learn more about the popularity of exotic game hunting and make sure everyone in our circle of influences knows we hate it – even if it’s not a protected Lion. (Some hunt GIRAFFES…SLOW HERBIVORES…WHAT IS THE POINT?) Maybe we read about the Veterans Accountability Act and find our stance for or against, maybe we decide to pick up a book we wouldn’t normally read.

Hearing about something awful and then educating ourselves, is never a bad thing. Especially if it leads to action – whether it’s a call to a congressman, or a donation to a charitable organization – then the outrage is not wasted.

But…if you just share an article on Facebook and are just angry with no action, then it’s pointless. Read about how we actually allow the shipping of lions back home after trophy hunting adventures and learn about how listing the lion as an endangered species could help ban the imports after these hunts. Social media anger is a great thing and drives a lot of people to action and/or education, I refuse to dismiss it or roll my eyes at it. I love seeing people fired up about SOMETHING, I love when I am motivated to read up about an issue, that’s how I became an herbivore in the first place. Learning about issues and getting angry about them is never bad if it promotes education or change in any way.