Don’t ask me to “play nice”

A Facebook friend posted this graphic, said he thought the statements were true, but asked if anyone could verify.

The people who responded in opposition to Ryan’s policies were mostly women (I responded too), and provided links to legislation, historic perspectives, and personal experiences to back up their positions.

The poor man, Jim, (no last names here because I am feeling generous and don’t want to expose the guy’s knuckledragger politics) “dared” someone to prove that a “common form of birth control” would be banned got a firestorm of answers from both women and men which included links to the legislation Ryan sponsored, Supreme Court decisions, historic references and stories of  personal experience.

Poor Jim responded at times by primarily personally criticizing strangers who offered strong arguments in opposition to Ryan’s policies. At one point, perhaps because no one was coming to Jim’s aid, the mutual friend, a man, asked everyone to “play nice.”  And frankly, when the topic is women’s health and reproductive choices, it really pissed me off for a man to say we should “play nice.”

I am not going to “play nice” when it comes to protecting the hard won health care rights for me, my friends, my daughters, my granddaughter, and my nieces. “Playing nice” also puts the ability for families to plan when and if they have children (childless couples are families too) at risk.

Any person, be they  male, female, gay, lesbian, transgendered, pangendered, questioning, celibate, or heterosexual, who has a vested interest in the health of women, children, and families in our country, needs to do their homework. We must know the legislation Ryan and likeminded Conservatives support, and speak up with facts and information, not hot-tongued rhetoric that is no better than the factless refutations proffered by poor Jim.

I am willing to discuss and talk when someone disagrees with me. But being told to “play nice” when the conversation is vigorous, don’t even go there with me.

(You can get a jump start on the legislation and some keen analysis here with a link to the Sanctity of Life Act, analysis of Ryan’s positions and policies at The Daily Beast and Jezebel. If that doesn’t scare you senseless about the attack on women by Republicans, read Rep. Todd Akin’s stupefying comments on whatever “legitimate rape” is.)



The good fortune of knowing Naima

The Friday Photo
A weekly photo inspired by art, community, and spontaneity
July 27, 2012

I’ll never win the lottery because I don’t buy tickets. But I took home a grand prize when I applied for a retreat at the Wind River Cancer Wellness Retreats nestled in the North Carolina mountains near Asheville.

When I arrived on the appointed Thursday afternoon, Shannon, one of the retreat directors told me who I would room with, hesitated, and said, “No, I think you need to be with Naima.”

All of us soon to be good friends were sitting together early that evening, and when Naima arrive, someone whispered, “Oh, she is so beautiful.” And Naima was.

Wigs were shed by Friday morning, including Naima’s stunning page boy style. We were there to let our hair down, and that was especially important for the women who had no hair or were growing theirs back.

We drummed, we painted, we walked, we read, we slept, we shared and cried, cooked, learned Taichi, and experienced incredible healing touch therapy (I was completely amazed by it, just like those who are sure hypnotism won’t work on them).

Young women talked about balancing work, young children, and chemo. And hard decisions to come, like whether, with a seven month old baby at home, it was the right time to lose a breast to cancer.

And Naima smiled all day, so broadly. She even belly danced when we drummed on Saturday night. But her pain was so real, the uncertainty so heavy, a dark diagnosis weighing on her as her cancer had spread through her abdomen. She had a beautiful daughter who would graduate from high school in the spring. Naima wanted to be there for Jasmine, and she was.

But by late June, despite new treatments which gave her a little more time, at least enough to get to graduation, Naima’s long and painful fight came to an end.

Later today, the women who came to know Naima over a four day retreat, all of us strangers when we arrived, and all of us now friends in a way that only we may truly understand, will remember Naima for the survivor she was up to the end.

Each of us will write her name on an “In Memory Of” bib and pin it to our shirts, and we will, most likely, tearfully, ride together as survivors in a cancer event in Charlotte.

Wind River brought us together, and we are lucky to come back together today, healthier now on the most part, but without one, the one who was so beautiful one of us had to say so.

I will always owe a huge debt of gratitude to Wind River, to Shannon and Dave who open their homes to survivors in all stages of treatment and health. I got lucky when I rushed my application in, but I was even luckier when Shannon hesitated and said, “No, I think you need to be with Naima.”

You can find out more about Wind River and support them in a special event today called One Vote/One Day Only-Make a Difference that could provide them with a Toyota Prius to extend their outreach to cancer patients.



“The Newsroom” reminds me why I’m In

Alan Sorkin and Jeff Daniels have nailed it with this script and performance.

We have work to do in America, and the first thing in doing that is accepting the facts for what they are and go forward together. Since 2001 too many people who say they wanted to make our country “great” instead gave up or bargained away our freedoms based on narrow-minded, Conservative, faith-driven, and dehumanizing policies and laws based on little more than what they think is right. Just look at Michele Bachmann, an attorney and former candidate for President, who thought that the authors of our country’s founding documents “worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States.”

I’m voting for President Obama. I’m proud of our President. No one is going to get it right all the time, and I have certainly had my days of absolute frustration with some of his policies and decisions. We’re a lot better off than we were at the end of 2008, and I for one am not willing to go backwards.

Now this? Enough already!

There are lots of good people in North Carolina on both sides of the voting booth and the aisles in their churches. As if North Carolina didn’t get enough national media attention with passage of Amendment One by voters earlier this month, now Pastor Charles L. Worley and his followers at Providence Road Baptist Church in Maiden have shifted the spotlight back to rural North Carolina.

Pastor Worley preached that the “solution” for lesbians, queers, AND homosexuals (reduntant? Worley doesn’t care or even know) is to build huge fenced-in areas, put the women in one and the men in the other, air drop food to them, and just wait from them to die off because they can’t reproduce.

If it sounds unbelievable, see and hear it yourself:

When Anderson Cooper asked church member Stacey Pritchard about Worley’s sermon and the intent of Worley’s message, Prichard couldn’t explain her way through it. In fact, if she had had a shovel in her hands, she couldn’t have dug the hole she put herself in any faster or deeper (and she also seems to have a problem with understanding the facts of the Holocaust and current events).

Citizens in the area are organized and have planned a peaceful demonstration against the hate speech spewed by Worley and supported by his followers. This Sunday beginning at 11:00 people from across the country will be in Maiden to peacefully demonstrate opposition to the hate-filled message preached at Providence Road Baptist Church.

Want to go? Follow the Catawba Valley Citizens Against Hate on Facebook for details. Would you like to support their grassroots work to stop hate speech in their community? You can donate to Catawba Valley Pride to help pay for flyers, office supplies, and all the other things that must be bought to make grassroots outreach successful.

You’ll be in good company if you get to Maiden because I know several of my friends (including one who is a minister) will be there. You should join them.

I can’t get to Maiden because I have to help aging parents this weekend. Unfortunately I am afraid there will be other opportunities to demonstrate against hate speech. What a shame.



Barnyard legislation lands on Gov Deal’s desk

The Georgia General Assembly stooped to a new low with HB 954. By passing this legislation, the men under the Gold Dome said that legislators know more about women’s health than women, their families, and their doctors. The bill is now on the governor’s desk. He could choose not to sign it, but that isn’t likely.

Let’s make sure the legislators and the governor own this bill as theirs when it is signed. Please share this video and remember in November (or during the July primary) that being a legislator doesn’t make anyone a health care professional. But it might qualify them as a barnyard expert.

Dark days for Georgia’s women

The chase to Crossover Day in the Georgia General Assembly (when bills must be voted out of one side of the legislature or die) allows our elected officials to be seen at their worst and their best. Women and men across the state who value the ability of women, and their doctors, to make responsible decisions about their health care, have opposed HB 954 and SB 438.

SB 438, which passed yesterday, is stunning in its interference in the decision-making process for women’s health. The bill removes any state employee insurance coverage for a legal abortion unless the mother’s health is at serious risk. The AJC reports that the lead sponsor of SB 438, Sen Mike Crane, R-Newnan, drew gasps when refusing to add exceptions for rape and incest victims.

The 33-18 vote so angered Democratic women in the Senate that they linked arms and left the floor. Valenica Seay, D-Riverdale, said,  “This is not a good day for women in Georgia. “Come on, guys. We are not your property.”


The House has also been hard at work reducing health care options for women. HB 954 shortened the window of time for a legal abortion from 26 weeks to 20. Again, the question bears asking: Do state legislators in Georgia think their wives, daughters, aunts, nieces, granddaughters, friends, and doctors, are really incapable of making good decisions about abortions (which are still legal despite Conservative efforts).

Well, Rep Terry England, R-Auburn, seems to think that the women in our state can fairly be compared to cows, pigs, and chickens. England thinks that stillborn pigs and calves make for good comparisons when talking about the difficult decisions involving abortion. I don’t think I can give his comments from the House floor their due, but fortunately Bryan Long at Better Georgia posted video footage of England explaining his thoughts before voting on HB 945.

What is next Rep. England? Giving farm animals the right to vote? Or stripping away a woman’s right to do that too?

This is no time to sit on the sidelines

To my two adult daughters in their 20s-

I hope you know what is a stake with all this shouting about birth control and access to safe and legal abortion. It hasn’t really been that long since the pill was introduced in 1960 as a safe and effective means not only of planning for/avoiding pregnancy, but as a prescription treatment for certain cancers, endometriosis, acne, and cysts involving the ovaries.

Before 1965, married couples didn’t have legal and private access to birth control. Can you imagine anyone telling you, responsible adults, that? Listen to the Conservatives now. They aren’t just telling you, they are it.

The Comstock Act, a holdover from 1873, made it illegal to even mail information about birth control because it was “obscene, lewd, and/or lascivious.” Ditto for actual birth control devices. Comstock hasn’t been wiped from the books, but the definition of obscene has changed (can you imagine television without Sex and the City or movies that even hint at sex?)

And please be aware that while your may think your parents are older than Methuselah, some of my friends remember when Roe v Wade made abortion safe and legal (1973 isn’t that long ago, really. We even had color television then.)

Which brings me to the tirades which have exploded over women’s reproductive rights since Susan G. Komen pulled its support of Planned Parenthood. That opened the door for more of us to see how threatened those rights are now. Access to safe and reliable birth control isn’t just for women. It is for their male partners/husbands/one night stand guys/boyfriends. It is for you, your sister, your nieces and nephews, your friends, and the children you have now or may want to have later.

Last Thursday Rep Darrell Issa (R-California) convened at panel of “experts” to discuss the mandated coverage of birth control. You may notice that all of the “experts” are men.







This expert was shut out making comments before the panel.

Sandra Fluke is young, healthy, bright (a third year law student at Georgetown) and like you, has plans, dreams and ambitions for her career and personal life. She made her way to Congress last week to comment, but was shut out so that five men, five “experts,” none of whom will ever be pregnant, could tell Rep Issa’s panel what needs to be done about requiring access to birth control for all women.

Sandra Fluke left the Congressional hearing room with Democratic leaders last Thursday when they learned who Rep Issa deemed worthy of testifying. Yesterday she returned to testify to a room filled with people who value what women have to say about their health and access to care.

Rep Issa insists that his hearing was about health care reform and religious freedom. His hearing was certainly about freedom: it was about the freedom of women to choose the type of birth control they want so they can plan when and if they want to have children.

You don’t have to testify before a Congressional panel to make your thoughts known. But you have to speak up and you need to do it now. Call or email your Congressional Representative. Tell both of your Senators too. Stand side by side with the people who worked tooth and nail for birth control to be legal and available today. Too much is at stake to sit on the sidelines.


What is missing from all the noise about breast cancer funding?

Last week when the country erupted over Susan G. Komen’s decision to yank funding for Planned Parenthood, one key element was missing from all the shouting: how many cancer organizations are talking about the very real dangers and causes of cancer resulting from how our food is produced, and what is in the air and water we rely on?

Genes play a part in one’s proclivity for disease in many cases, but what we eat, the air we breathe, and the water we drink play a large part in our health. Exercise does too, but if you have asthma or respiratory problems, being outside on a bad air quality day isn’t an option.

Why aren’t more health and disease focused groups insisting that these contributors to poor health status be addressed? Before quitting my job as the Executive Director of the Georgia Rural Health Associaction (GRHA), I made mention of my volunteer work, more than once, with the Fall-line Alliance for a Clean Environment (FACE). My “hobby” fighting coal was just that, a volunteer thing I did on my own time and dime.

I would go to meetings with state partners fighting three proposed coal plants in Georgia and folks would ask why, if GRHA was working on behalf of better health for rural Georgians, wasn’t the organization speaking up to protect the air and water sheds in the threatened communities? That remains a mystery to this day.

Standing up to new coal, AND talking about the problems already plaguing rural communities from existing coal plants, would have been appropriate and right. I couldn’t make my personal agenda GRHA’s, but it still begs the question: why aren’t more health care advocacy organizations speaking up for what lies at the root of so many health problems? The silence from the Department of Community Health in Georgia is stunning.

While so many of us focus on how Komen let politics get in the way of delivering preventive      health screenings to undeserved women, we shouldn’t forget that our environment and access to healthy foods play a part in good health too. When you consider where to donate, think about what isn’t being said publicly. Better yet, ask them why before you sign the check.


(Read a 2011 post asking if any state agency in Georgia is protecting citizen health here:

Breast cancer survivors for Planned Parenthood

Last year in January while I was recovering from a lumpectomy and waiting to start radiation (because early detection saves lives and contributes to better outcomes), a group of friends wanted to make a donation in honor of a young friend (32 at the time) who had just lost both breasts to cancer (she has the BRCA gene). We got the comfort food and flowers to her, but wanted to really do our homework on which organization to donate to in her honor.

Several of us checked Charity Navigator and Charity Watch (Guide Star is also good) to learn what percentage of funds are used for admin costs, research, providing screenings and other preventive care, and education (we agreed on the National Breast Cancer Foundation).

At the same time, Steven Colbert gave a Tip of the Hat to Susan G. Komen and their use of at least $1M of donor dollars a year to sue mom and pop groups working to support cancer research and cancer patients. That’s a lot of money spent to essentially bully small efforts to help sick people be healthy.

Fast forward almost 13 months later, and Komen has caved to pressure from anti-choice advocates and Rep. Cliff Stearns of Florida. Yesterday the GOP primary candidates were competing with coverage of Komen’s decision to defund Planned Parenthood.

Komen’s funding has been used to provide breast exams to women who rely on Planned Parenthood for healthcare services. These women are often poor, underinsured or uninsured, and do not have access to a family doctor or gynecologist for regular care.

Now Komen, an organization established to honor a breast cancer victim, has said it won’t help fund preventive care services like breast exams (and cervical cancer screenings, which is one of the most difficult cancers to identify because the cancer is usually advanced before the patient suspects a problem).

There is no evidence that Planned Parenthood misappropriated the funds for abortion or other services.  What is known is that Komen Vice-President Karen Handel, who served as the Secretary of State for Georgia before resigning to launch a failed bid for the GOP nomination for governor here, campaigned long and hard against state funding for breast and cervical cancer screenings which went to Planned Parenthood. Unfortunately what she couldn’t accomplish in Georgia she has now managed on a national level.

And, because it bears repeating by women who grew up while the battle was waged for safe and legal access to abortions, or came to adulthood not long after the dust began to settle, the issue isn’t whether abortion is good, moral, a form of birth control, etc. Really desperate women who want to end a pregnancy will find a way to do that regardless of whether it is safe or legal. We endanger lives without access to safe and legal abortion.

This defunding is a result of politics driven by such socially, politically, and religiously conservative officials that they will strip away access to preventive health care for poor women. If the lost funds aren’t made up to Planned Parenthood, how many women will not find the cancer soon enough? How many young children will suffer, and perhaps be left without a mother who makes pancakes from scratch on Sunday morning before going to church?

I donated to Planned Parenthood last night. I am remiss in not giving them even a small donation in the past.

Later today I am stuffing all my Komen Race for the Cure t-shirts and the return address labels they have sent me into an envelope and sending them back to:

Nancy Brinker
CEO, Susan G. Komen
5005 LBJ Freeeway
Suite 250
Dallas, TX 75244

I support access to preventive health care and good health information for all Americans. Especially for the mothers, daughters, wives, sisters, aunts, and godmothers, now more than ever.

Moving from one site to another

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Got ideas on how this can be a really great site? Let me know.


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