Monthly Archives: June 2013

The Power of the De-Friend

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Yesterday, at the grocery store, I heard someone say, “Hey, Miss Opinion.” It was someone I hadn’t seen in a couple of decades so I didn’t realize who it was at first. It was said in fun and I laughed. I mean, it’s not like it isn’t true, right?

You’d think someone who yaks as much as I do and who IS as opinionated as I am – I would have an easier time explaining myself. But there are instances when it is difficult to verbally reconcile the dichotomies wrestling in my muddy mind. But that is what I am about to attempt today.

There are two Facebook conversations that are lingering about in my thoughts this morning. And they kind of tie into one another.

The first was a post I made yesterday regarding the Paula Deen story. I should preface this by saying I do not know every detail of this case, of the deposition nor do I know what really happened or when. I do know that she is being accused of having used racially insensitive words and comments in her past. How often or how long ago, I do not know. I do know she has admitted to some things and has been on a media rampage apologizing her chicken fried head off.

She was fired from The Food Network – the company that made her famous and very, very rich. She was also dropped by Walmart. She is taking some major financial and social hits. And her world has got to feel like it is crumbling. Having been the object of accusations, I know to some extent how this feels. And when I was in the worst of it, I seriously contemplated suicide. So, it is difficult NOT to feel some sort of empathy for her.

However, that does not mean that I am certain her actions did not warrant these consequences.

I said this on Facebook yesterday:

So all of this Paula Deen coverage has me wondering some things. I wonder if she really did just make some stupid mistakes many years ago and has since recognized her errors. I wonder if her entire career should be ruined for said mistakes. I wonder if perhaps she still deep down doesn’t think she did anything wrong.

Most of this we really can’t know for sure. But I sincerely hope I am not judged now by the really dumb-ass shit I did long ago.

Here is an older piece I wrote on the topic:

My Name is Heather and I May Be a Racist

And here is the follow-up (they kind of go hand in hand):

Racism: Alive and Well in Wisconsin

There are a lot of people who are coming to Paula’s defense and are angry about the reactions to her words. They think people need to mind their own business, give her a break and stop being so politically correct.

However, I wanted to make it clear that my uncertainty about her level of guilt or about what her “punishment” should be by no means condones what she has already admitted to saying. Whether it is using the N-word or planning a plantation-themed party including “slaves” – it is wrong wrong wrong.

I do hate the sensitivity level to which we have risen when it comes to political correctness. I have said in the past that the one thing that often stands in my way of being a true “liberal” is my love of inappropriate comedy. With the right audience, the right tone, and the right intention…I think it is possible to find humor in just about anything.

But this does not mean I think it is okay to say whatever you want at the expense of a person’s dignity or spirit. Legally, yes, you can say whatever you wish. And being a writer, an over-sharer and a lover of comedy (and not to mention being insanely opinionated) – I appreciate the 1st amendment like nobody’s business. So – sure. It is a “free country” and anyone CAN say whatever they please. But there will be reaction and there will be consequence. I have paid plenty for my words and I am sure that I will again.

Do I think Paula should have her entire world destroyed? Probably not. From what I DO know about the case…these things happened a long time ago. And none of us live lives free of stupid ass mistakes. NONE of us. But that doesn’t mean it is okay or that she is completely undeserving of public reaction. I find it to be sad and I do hope she is able to do something good with this and pull herself out of it while learning AND teaching a lesson.

The other above mentioned conversation had to do with the recent DOMA ruling. A friend on Facebook posted an update because she was disappointed with how some of her anti-gay marriage acquaintances were reacting to the ruling – saying it is a sin…yada yada. She is a lesbian but also quite religious so she appears to have considerable tolerance to this type of talk. Yet, seemingly, her feelings were hurt, which anyone could understand.

My comment to her was this:

Girl I don’t know how you could allow that toxic bullshit into your life. You’re a bigger person than me because those people would be axed from my list toot sweet. That is one of the things I cannot tolerate. 

And just MHO….I don’t believe in the concept of sin. Instead of sin is a sin is a sin…I say life is life. We’re all just human trying to make our way through 🙂

A following commenter and mutual Facebook friend mentioned that he was surprised I would delete someone for their opinion…most likely because I have so many opinions of my own. I can see why the initial confusion. But it really does make sense to me.

I DO completely support anyone’s right to their own thoughts, feelings and views. I would never say that someone should not be allowed these things. I mean, that would be ridiculous. BUT on my own Facebook wall…in my own personal world…I do not live under a Constitution. I can make up my own rights and regulations. And I do.

If I see someone on Facebook spouting racial slurs – DELETE. If I see someone bashing or even regurgitating hateful ignorance – DELETE. If something really pisses me off, I see no reason to keep that bullshit in my view. And honestly, any REAL friend I would have wouldn’t say those things anyway. So why keep them around? Fuck that.

Life is very very short, people. And when I have the chance to choose who I can let into my life, I will do so. There is a reason I don’t have 1000 Facebook friends. I discriminate in my own way. There are so few chances in life where we CAN control what and who we allow in to our worlds. There are not many instances when we can choose to keep the toxicity at bay. So when I do have an opportunity to do that – you bet your ass I will.

Do they have the right to say and think what they want? Sure as shit do. But I don’t gotta see it. The power to delete, to erase, to walk in another direction is a power that can definitely improve one’s life. And I certainly won’t apologize for using that power.

So, does that make any sense?? Words mean something. And whether if it is something Paula Deen said 30 years ago or something some dickhead says on Facebook…we are allowed our reactions just as much as they are allowed their words. And while I think Paula’s whole life being grilled to death may be a bit too much, there is still consequence for what we say and one of those consequences may be as simple as being de-friended on Facebook.

James Gandolfini: Yep, I’m Pretty Bummed

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In this picture he even LOOKS so much like my dad.

People think I am weird for all sorts of reasons. And, agreed, there are plenty from which to choose. Take your very own pick.  Anyway, one of the odd duck qualities I bring to the table? I take the death of strangers too much to heart. From reading obituaries of local residents to celebrities – depending on the case, I can truly be affected.

There are some deaths that seem to really shock people and cover the internet with a mourning blanket. Often times those deaths do not phase me much. But other times, I will cry as if I knew them. Phil Hartman has so far been the worst. And today, I feel that same sadness due to the death of James Gandolfini.

It is reported that James died in Italy from a heart attack at the age of 51. Clearly, an age much too young.

If I came across a movie starring the actor, I would typically watch it just because he was in it. I have always found him to be a remarkable performer. True Romance to Zero Dark Thirty to Sopranos – he was always a welcomed sight.

But for me it wasn’t just about his talent. For some reason, he has always reminded me of my father. Watching him and listening to him comforted me. Sometimes I would feel like my dad was in the room. I dunno, it’s weird.

Sopranos was my first outbreak of binge viewing. Not being able to afford cable, I didn’t watch it until about a year after its initial release. It was Memorial Day weekend and I borrowed my friend’s VHS recordings of the first season. I didn’t leave my apartment all weekend and by Tuesday I had a Jersey accent.

Those who know me know that I have a bit of an obsession/love affair with mob movies. At a young age, The Godfather (both 1 & 2 because I always watch them together) became my favorite film…and that has never changed. If it was about the mob – I watched it. So, obviously, when Sopranos came out…I was twitchin’ pretty hard wanting to see it. I became addicted immediately and eventually owned every season on DVD.

But even bigger than that – greater than my fascination with the mafia – James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano was the first time I had witnessed someone on television portray a panic attack. During that time in my life, anxiety and panic had a pretty tight hold on me. I felt like a total crazy person. I felt stupid. I felt weak. And most of all, I felt fear. I knew a couple of people who could somewhat relate, but people really didn’t talk about it much…not like now anyway. So to see it in this way was very meaningful to me.

Here was this big, tough mob boss having panic attacks. Just the fact that it was such a major part of his character was some kind of proof that I needed to realize I most certainly wasn’t alone in my neurosis and that maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t a complete wimpy tit for being so afraid. His character didn’t react to the attacks like I did – but it didn’t seem to matter.

So, yea. I am very saddened by the loss of this great actor – this stranger who honestly brought some relieving and comforting moments to my life. Thanks, James. You have been appreciated.

Assembly Democrats Take On GOP Budget

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I wanted to write about this piece of crap budget that the GOP is delivering to the Assembly today in Madison. I wanted to give you the main talking points and tell you about the biggest disappointments. However, that has been done. Good examples can be found at Root River Siren and, believe it or not, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

So, I have decided to share with you some of the words on Facebook from our Assembly Democrats as they waited many hours for the Tea Bagged members to emerge from their cave of secrecy and payoffs.

Today our Assembly Dems will be fighting against  that which I consider to be economic and societal rape. With the GOP in complete control, these Dems will be playing tug-of-war with a broken rope. They know what they are up against, yet they will continue to stand up and fight to the end for our best interests. I do not envy them, but I do appreciate them.

In their words….

Mandela Barnes – 

Today we heard more than a few misleading statements about the state budget when the Speaker addressed the Assembly. To add to the unfortunate rhetoric, we have not yet begun to debate the flawed document that remains in front of us. We are currently in recess, until tomorrow.

– A decent budget ensures vast public transportation.

– A decent budget has a tax plan that contributes to growing the local economy, rather than higher income luxury.

– A decent budget prioritizes strong public education.

– A decent budget expands options for non-violent offenders rather than drain taxpayers for warehousing costs.

-A decent budget creates a platform for job creation.

These are only a few things to grow Wisconsin, and put us in the right direction. Regrettably, this is an indecent budget.

 

Dianne Hesselbein – 

There are at least 30 NEW Republican amendments that are being introduced today in the budget. There was no public hearing. There wasn’t any debate in the Joint Finance Committee. This was a secret deal behind closed doors by elite members of the Republican caucus. Wisconsin deserves better.

 

Sandy Pasch – 

Wisconsin Republicans would be wise to spend less time intruding on Wisconsin women’s personal business and more time doing the people’s business. They absolutely must fix their budget, which will only hurt Wisconsin women and their families, by making changes that actually put public schools, health care coverage, and tax fairness before purely politically-based policies.

 

Mandy Wright – 

After waiting all day for the Republican ‘technical’ Amendment, we are just learning about 27 amendments that are clearly back room deals we and YOU have never heard of before. One is unlimited expansion of vouchers in Racine: estimated cost is $5,273,600. That’s a big technicality.

As you learn about these drastic last minute changes to our state budget, keep in mind that Republicans have held complete control of all three branches of the legislature for the past six months. But they can’t be open about their policies? Beyond statewide voucher expansion, defunding Badgercare, income tax cuts for the wealthy that increase our structural deficit to $546, what are they trying to slide by???

 

Terese Berceau – 

Waited all day for a supposed technical amendment from the Republicans and now we’re in recess until tomorrow. Clearly it’s not technical but substantive….and they don’t have their act together despite one party control. It is clear that there’s disarray and disagreement amongst Assembly Republicans…and probably disagreements with Republican senators as well.

 

Fred Clark –

I won’t be voting for the Wisconsin State Budget this week unless we adopt major changes. This budget is terrible for our schools and our school children, it’s bad for our communities, and it would be bad for the health of thousands of our citizens. Fundamentally, this budget does not reflect Wisconsin values. We’ll begin debating the budget today in the Assembly.

 

LaTonya Johnson – 

The State Budget being debated today in the Assembly is based on faulty assumptions of economic growth and job creation. This will leave an even greater deficit than the $500 million shortfall projected by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau in 2015-17. Now is not the time to pass a fiscally irresponsible tax cut that primarily benefits the wealthy, and will permanently reduce revenue for essential public services.

 

Andy Jorgensen – 

One of the most frustrating things about this ongoing Republican delay is that the clock is ticking. Majority Leader Suder has said, firmly, that by 5:30 p.m. today, the Assembly session will be over. Every minute they spend on their backroom deal is a minute we cannot debate the plan in public.

The Republican amendment (not technical) is different from the plan we were briefed on last night. We’re all reviewing this revised proposal, because we’re expected to vote on it momentarily.

 

Rob Kahl – 

The Assembly is now in session to take up the budget. Simply put, this budget is bad for Wisconsin. It doesn’t properly fund public education, yet it expands funding for private voucher schools. It doesn’t accept federal funds for BadgerCare, which will result in 85,000 fewer insured individuals in Wisconsin. And most importantly, this bill doesn’t help all the middle-class families in Wisconsin who are struggling to find jobs with living wages. Wisconsin deserves better!

 

Fred Kessler – 

I’m against the practice of inserting policy issues into the state budget. The budget we have before us today in the Assembly is full of issues that never reached the public for discussion; including the proposal to bring commercial bail bonding back to Wisconsin. Commercial bail bonding is so unpopular that all 47 Milwaukee judges and all 10 of the state’s chief judges are against it.

 

Debra Kolste – 

Very shortly the Assembly will be called into session to debate a 30-part “technical amendment’’ that was hatched in secret by the Republican majority and handed off to the Democrats for review late yesterday. Actually, we didn’t even get all of it to review, because the Republicans hadn’t completed their backroom deal soon enough to get it drafted.
Most of the amendment isn’t technical and much of it isn’t fiscal. None of it was subject to a public hearing. No debate was ever conducted on the 30 new items, except behind closed doors by elite members of the Republican caucus.

The amendment expands the voucher program yet again. It sets a date by which much of our right to challenge a permit for a high-capacity well will disappear. It exempts the next budget bill from requirements in the statutes regarding structural deficits, which is when estimated expenditures exceed estimated revenues in the second year of a budget.

There is much more, of course. A disreputable odor clings to the budget, which, even before the latest outrage was stuffed with a record number of non-fiscal measures. Then the Finance Committee created a statewide expansion of the voucher program, an idea that was never debated publicly before being rammed into the budget.

It is embarrassing. The argument that the Democrats did it too when they had the chance has lost most of its validity. I am not a student of Wisconsin legislative history, but I am fairly certain that the process for this budget breaks new ground and sets new lows.

 

Sondy Pope-Roberts – 

The actual JFC budget amendment, that we are voting on in 25 hours, just arrived at my office…all 1,395 pages. This is not how an open and honest government should operate.

 

Jon Richards – 

Instead of debating the budget yesterday as scheduled, Assembly Republicans wasted the day cooking up another backroom deal on an amendment that makes close to 30 substantial changes to the budget. Unfortunately, nothing in their mega-amendment gets us any closer to providing adequate funding for public schools, expanding access to affordable health care or providing targeted tax relief to middle-class families. The budget needs a substantial overhaul, but the latest deal Republicans struck with themselves still ignores Wisconsin’s most pressing problems and in some cases makes a bad budget even worse.

 

Daniel Riemer – 

Wisconsin statute 20.003(4m) requires that no bill may be passed by the Legislature if the estimated general fund expenditures exceed estimated revenues in the second year of any fiscal biennium.

One of the proposed Republican amendments states that 20.003(4m) would not apply to the 2013-2015 budget, where the estimated general fund expenditures exceed estimated revenues by $296 million in 2014-2015.

If we are serious about balancing budgets and avoiding structural deficits (which we should be!) let’s not exempt the $68 billion state budget from a state statute that helps Wisconsin balance budgets and avoid structural deficits.

 

Melissa Sargent – 

Today as the WI Assembly begins to debate the state budget I will remember each of the people I met as I ran for office – I will remember the very intimate conversations and life stories that we shared –

Healthcare for all

Quality public education at all levels

Protecting our environment and natural resources

Fair and balanced taxes

If we do this the jobs will come!

 

 

A bit of GOOD news!

 

Cory Mason – 

GOP removes controversial expansion of vouchers in Racine from their omnibus amendment.

 

Melissa Sargent – 

Changes to the Republican backroom budget amendment from last night into this morning:

The amendment no longer includes the Racine voucher provision, and additional efforts to expand and fund more vouchers, as well as the managed forest provision (meant to keep the public away from the mining site).

 

 

Keep watching, Wisconsinites. And remember this sneaky bullshit in 2014. Never forget.

 

 

Wisconsin Assembly Democrats Rock

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Today I spent hours and hours watching or listening to the Wisconsin Assembly floor session. They are working on the ‘budget’. Yet the entire day was made up of abortion legislation; bills mandating ultrasounds (and yes, transvaginal ones) for any woman opting for an abortion. I have never been so anxious watching Wiseye. Never.  However, as upsetting as this circus has been, there has also been something wonderful to witness.

On February 21, 2011, I was sitting in Senator Wirch’s office as everyone began to wonder where the Democratic Senators were. They were not in session and therefore quorum was not met as the infamous anti-labor bill was about to be passed. When I finally heard that they “left”, my heart swelled with pride. That was the first time I ever really felt a sense of pride for a group of politicians.

Today, I felt that pride once again and even to a heightened degree. Our Wisconsin Assembly Democrats have represented the citizens of Wisconsin in thee most eloquent, insightful, compassionate way I have ever witnessed.

Representatives shared extremely personal stories and exhumed painful memories for the sake of their constituents. They told stories of miscarriages, rape and pregnancy complications. With tears in their eyes and a fight in their soul, they fought a losing battle in the best possible way.

The courage of Representative Mandy Wright left anyone who was watching breathless with her traumatic recount of rape. She spoke so strongly through such emotion. Quite inspiring.

Representative Sondy Pope described the choice that was made when her husband began hospice and a DNR was chosen. Life is filled with difficult decisions most of us never consider or plan.

“Women don’t want to grow up and have abortions,” she stated firmly.

Representative Hesselbein. Just wow. She explained what it is like to lose a child and how an ultrasound during that time would have been even more devastating. Just heartbreaking and so meaningful.

“Children don’t stop being children when they’re born. Children don’t stop being children when they’re poor,” a statement made by Representative Johnson really stuck with me.

And Representative Shankland said it too well, “Instead of having women at the table, you have us on the menu!”

I wish I could give a shout out to each and every Rep. who spoke today. Taylor, Danou, Mason, Barca, Hintz…each and every one of them presented brilliantly and thoughtfully. They all fought for what they know to be right. And they do this…they expend this energy and emotion all the while knowing that breaking today’s party lines is nothing short of impossible.

I said earlier that this was a losing battle. And yea, right now, it is. But 2014 will be here before I will get a chance to paint my bathroom. Okay, bad example because I am lazy. But it will be here before we know it and we need to build our arsenals now because while were losing battles, we will win the war. And it ain’t gonna be pretty.

Thank you, Assembly Democrats – you gave a glimpse of hope on a pretty jacked up day.

 

Abortion: My Story

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I made a very scary decision in the wee hours of the morning. I decided I needed to speak out about a personal experience that very few people know about my life. A very sensitive and controversial issue. A blogger friend of mine offered to publish it on his site and after some thought, I agreed. I realize there will be blow back. There will likely be consequences to some degree. But I believe I have made the right choice. Again.

This piece was originally posted on Cognitive Dissidence and then on Blue Cheddar. Both excellent blog sites – please check them out.

 

I have been writing for many years now. And I have never been one to really hold back. I have written about anxiety, depression, legal issues, drug use – plenty of personal matters most would hide away and not speak about publicly. Those who read my stuff probably think they know pretty much everything about me. And while they know a lot – there are certain things I have left reticent. With much fear and hesitation, I am about to disclose one of them.
This week, our state lawmakers are furthering their draconian agenda by taking on the issue of abortion while voting on budget items. How whether or not a woman decides to proceed with a pregnancy is budget related is beyond me. And I just wish they would come out and say it: “Hey! The “people” who donate to our campaigns, help keep us elected and may be our future employers do not approve of abortion. So, we are going to dismantle these rights one quiet, sneaky step at a time so the general public doesn’t even notice.” These actions by our legislators have prompted me to speak out. SOMEone needs to be honest here.
I wasn’t raped nor was I a victim of incest. My life was not in danger, not any more than the average woman anyway. And I was not merely a child. But I did have an abortion.
I knew I was pregnant right away. I had the same sick feeling and constant vomiting that I had with each new birth control pill I had tried. Pack after pack – literally right down the toilet. I was petrified and uninsured. I went to Planned Parenthood for a pregnancy test. A fear I never before experienced suddenly became a reality. The test was positive.  I walked home in the dead heat of summer, throwing up on the way, in a complete haze.
I was in a very unhealthy place. No money, a dysfunctional relationship and a number of bad habits all helped make up the pile of shit I called life. Even though I attempted to imagine adding a child to my world and as much as I had delusions that a baby could fix everything – I was ultimately smart enough to know better.
My boyfriend didn’t seem to have much difficulty coming to his conclusion. “We can NOT have a baby right now,” were the exact words. Even though I knew he was right, it was still a jagged knife cloaked in rejection and horror. He hated me, I just knew it. And he was afraid. I had the power to ruin the carefree life he so enjoyed. But believe me, it was not a power I would wish on anyone.
I found out that I was only 4 weeks along and had to wait another week before scheduling the procedure. It may as well have been an eternity.  I was disgusted with myself. I was a smart, young woman and my irresponsibility was embarrassing. I was careless, period. It was my body and I could lay the blame on nobody else. The week was filled with sickness, shame and fear.
Typically, when a woman considers the option of abortion, she does not do so with a grain of salt. Even when there is complete certainty, what-ifs and doubts can weave in like a cancer. This is not a choice made lightly. And it is not a life moment simply forgotten.
Senator Mary Lazich stated that in the 60’s, having an abortion was thee thing to do; that you almost HAD to have one to be a woman. Not only is this insulting but it is a flat out fairy tale. She couldn’t appear more disconnected if she tried.
I had been warned about protesters but never expected the mob that was there to greet me. Brochures, banners and signs with pictures of fetuses lined the sidewalk. Men, women and children were shouting and dramatically “praying”.
“Murderer! Murderer! Murderer!”  Was screamed into my face over and over until the clinic staff was able to safely help me inside.
Once I had been extensively counseled and had everything explained to me, I went back to the waiting room for what seemed like an additional week. I couldn’t believe it was happening. I couldn’t believe I was there. Me. The last person I knew to even have sex. I waited until I was almost 19. I was by no means a “slut”.  And I was with that boyfriend for 3 years. A couple of years later and there I was – a loser, a whore, a murderer.
My legs were in the stirrups and I was offered headphones to wear so that I didn’t have to hear what was happening – as if that would be enough to throw me into denial. A nurse stood behind me and held my hand while I went through an intensely uncomfortable and heartbreaking procedure.
On the drive home I felt as though I had just had a lobotomy. I stared out of the window and did not speak. I hated him for letting me go through with it. I hated myself for even being in that position. But that hate faded the more I realized that I had made the best decision possible at the time. You see, a person can have feelings of regret with even the best of decisions.
I had always been pro-choice. I wasn’t raised religiously so I didn’t have that brand of stigma. But I thought I was better than that. I was smarter. I wasn’t like those other chics. Except…I was.
I have read that about 40% of women have an abortion at some point in their lives. Even if it is only half of that – that is still a shit load of people who are told to hate themselves.
It is certainly not something of which to be proud. It is not a topic for the dinner table or drinks with friends. It is a personal, sensitive issue. But it does exist. It is indeed prevalent. And I do not want to perpetuate this punishment of shame by keeping silent and pretending it only happens to other women.
Those who devote their lives to condemning people like me feel the need to punish and demean. And this new legislation mandating ultrasounds for abortion patients is yet one more lash on the back of the already wounded. And what is worse, it is being done under the pathetic guise of patient interest.
You see, you cannot punish a woman for this decision. If a woman cares enough to feel guilt, she already does. If punishment would mean anything, you can bet she is already punishing herself. And if she is one of those women to whom it really doesn’t bother all that much – signs, blow-horns and ultrasounds will certainly not make an changing impression.
These anti-choice legislators want women in this position to see the fetus before going through with a termination. They want the technician to describe what is on the screen. They want to make sure that she will be disciplined with mental images for the rest of her life. At best, this is mean-spirited. At worst, this is evil.
Senator Lazich says that women do not fully understand what they are doing without an ultrasound and full description of the “baby” in her womb. Boy she sure thinks we are idiots, doesn’t she? While this choice may come with subsequent guilt and sadness – I can assure you it does not come with confusion. Any woman going in for that procedure knows EXACTLY what the outcome will be.
The clinic did perform an ultrasound on me. However, the screen was turned away and not a word was spoken. I assume that was out of compassion and respect. I did not have to see any images. Yet, all of these years later, I still have moments of guilt and fear and shame. Had I seen the image, I cannot be sure it wouldn’t have sent me into a complete downward spiral. Either way, the decision would have remained the same and I am absolutely positive it was the right thing to do, for me.
I am now a wife, a mother, a daughter, a friend, an aunt, a volunteer, an animal lover, a writer. I help whenever I can help. I love with all of my heart. Hell, I don’t even kill spiders. I am just like your neighbor, your friend, your sister, your mother. Abortion is not reserved for the invisible or the criminal or the oddities of society. When you call a woman a murderer for having made this decision, you are likely also referring to someone you care about.
Abortions are not to be celebrated. No one is PRO abortion. No woman wants to have one and no woman treats it like a trip to the mall. It is one of the most difficult decisions a person can make; a decision that should have NOTHING to do with government, policy or legality. It is one made with tears, difficulty and dare I say, bravery.
I had an abortion and I am no monster. And regardless of my choices in life, no one – NO ONE – has the right or reason to make any sort of mandate on my body.
There are many arguments as to why these anti-abortion bills are perverse. And there are plenty of smart people publishing stories, articles and blogs outlining those arguments. I am simply telling my story so that others know they do not deserve to be shamed for a choice they have made and that they have a voice just as loud as any other.
Having an abortion didn’t take away our dignity or our humanity. And I will be damned if I will sit by quietly while the government tries to do just that.

Recall: Delight with a Side of Worry (Patch 2011)

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One million. Well. Even I was surprised. I thought maybe closer to 750k would be the final recall total…but ONE MILLION??!! Wow.

There are, no doubt, a lot of ecstatic people in Wisconsin right now. Thousands of them are in Madison as I type. Ed Schultz is reporting from there this afternoon and tonight. And a march to the GAB office is about to begin. Quite a celebration indeed.

Regardless, I am not doing flips and cartwheels quite yet. And not just because that would probably land me in the hospital. I cannot find it in me to rejoice in this monumental number because I know the rocky road ahead of us. I want to cheer and bust open some champagne like my friends at the Capitol. But I still harbor a great deal of apprehension and fear.

Walker’s administration is gathering up millions of dollars – much of it from Texas & other states – to fight this recall. And as we all know, sometimes money speaks louder than voices.

Walker’s administration is going to tie up the proceedings for as long as they can, hoping the movement will lose its momentum. Lawsuits and complaints are sure to be in abundance.

Walker’s administration implemented a Voter ID Law which has basically amounted to a poll tax in the state of Wisconsin. There are countless stories of people who have been denied cards due to the inability to retrieve original birth certificates. Also, while the cards themselves might be free, the hoops to jump through in order to get them are not. Many counties do not have DMVs with reasonable service hours. They will do everything they can to keep the people from voting.

Walker’s administration is initiating rumors that petitions signers will have their names and info plastered on public websites in order to punish them with threats of privacy invasions.

Walker’s administration has tried to push for an early start to the redistricting maps so the numbers will favor them prior to the recall elections.

Walker’s administration can afford to invade our living rooms with constant television ads full of his own chest thumping and over blown lies.

They will do anything and everything they can to impede this process and right now, like it or not, they have the reins and the cash. So, no, I cannot bring myself to get overly excited here. I know what these people are capable of and nothing will shock me anymore.

There is one more thing which worries me and that is the same thing that got us here in the first place. Lazy, head in the sand, apathetic lumps who do not bother to get off their butts and VOTE!! Signing a petition at the grocery store is much easier than taking 15 minutes out of your day to cast a ballot. So, yes, I do worry there will be an aire of complacency and we will be right back where we started.

Keep in mind I am glass half empty kind of gal…hell, in my experience the glass is often bone dry. So you will have to forgive my poo-poo attitude. There are plenty of great people who are quite confident this endeavor will see a favorable conclusion. And I hate to stomp on their joyous day. So I will leave them with a raised glass, a big ole “atta boy!” and a wholehearted “CHEERS”!! But I will still worry.

Recall: An End in Sight Part Two (Patch 2011)

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Wednesday was my last day as a Recall Walker volunteer. Though I am proud to have been a part of this endeavor, I do have guilt about not doing enough. A few hours a week at the office and gathering signatures is so pale in comparison to what some have done – it’s almost invisible.

 

There are people like Kelly Gallagher who has worked tirelessly, 7 days a week since the recall began. And Randy Bryce, who has eaten, slept and lived this movement since day one. And then there’s Mark Balwinski who has probably put more miles on his car than most of us do in a year. When I ask them where they found their motivations, the answers didn’t surprise me.

 

“The papers reporting thousands of jobs leaving every month; education getting slashed while property taxes go up; the constant lies. Lawmakers breaking their own laws and then making up new ones for those that they can’t find a way to get around. I promised the Ironworker Union that I belong to –  wherever there was an attack on Working Families, I’d be there,” says Ironworker, Randy Bryce.

 

And Mark Balwinski shares, “I worked so hard on this for a multitude of reasons. Largely because derailing the train robs future generations of opportunities. His (Walker) arrogant ineptitude cost Wisconsin taxpayers over $100 MILLION DOLLARS, and removed opportunities for business growth and development that would have provided thousands of good-paying, family-supporting jobs at a time when we could really use them.”

 

Compared to these truly dedicated, hard working people, I am a slacker at best. I am not sure how many signatures I have collected. Not tons. But people like Kelly, Mark and Randy are probably responsible for thousands.

 

Kelly organized the first mobile unit for signature gathering. You could often see her and her loyal team on public sidewalks all over Racine. She also started a Facebook page devoted to organizing Racine recall volunteers. And she could even be spotted driving around in her PJs scouting out bridges for the Overpass Light Brigade. Hundreds of volunteers braved cruddy weather and violent opposition because they knew that every signature mattered.

 

“I couldn’t tell you how many hours I’ve put in. I barely can tell you what day it is,” Randy laughs, “I’m at it by 4:30 every morning – going through e-mails and getting info on what’s going on. After work, there’s always something to do whether it’s a labor meeting, getting signatures or treasurer duties.”

But it is all worth it to Randy because as he stated, “Every autograph is like finding a pearl.”

 

And though the end is closer than it was 90 days ago, there is still some road to tow.

 

“We’ve got a long way to go, but I will enjoy the moment on Tuesday when we turn in the petitions and celebrate that part of the journey in Madison at Monona Terrace. But the real celebrating will come when the effort is complete and we have won the election,” says Mark.

 

Randy is looking forward to celebrating by shutting down his phone and email for a full 24 hours and he admits, “I’m sure some quiet tears will be involved.”

 

Yes, I do wish I had given more of my time and energy. I do wish I would have pressed harder to collect signatures. But fact is, I did something. And that is more than I have done in the past. Involvement is a good thing and this was a lesson I needed. So I suppose I can thank Scott Walker & pals for that.

 

But most of all I am grateful for these fabulous volunteers who really rocked it, pounded the pavement and made this happen. They have jobs, kids and many other responsibilities. But they sacrificed sleep, relaxation, entertainment, even showers all to help our state regain democracy and decency. My hat is off, my friends…now get some rest!!

 

Recall: An End in Sight (Patch 2011)

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Well, what a Wisconsin winter it has been so far. Blizzards of blustering threats, insults and accusations; frigid hostility hitting below the mercury; and endless snowball fights complete with ice shards have all been more than prevalent in the past months. While the weather may be unseasonably warm and the streets free from snow; our communities have been cold as ice (and neither side is free from fault).

In mere days, we will learn the number of total signatures gathered to recall Governor Walker, Lt. Governor Kleefisch and Senator Wanggaard. 540,208 valid signatures are needed to allow for a Gubernatorial recall election in which basically a “do-over” will take place. Once the petitions (which have already been double checked by recall officials) have been turned in to the GAB (Government Accountability Board), the board will then have approximately 30 days (with a possible extension) to check and validate each and every signature.

I have recently learned that of the 50 temp agency workers hired to check petitions, not one can be residents whom have signed a petition. Having signed a petition or having had made financial contributions to any candidate in the past 12 months renders an employee ineligible. Needless to say, I have a serious issue with this. Regardless, I feel that the recall effort will succeed despite these perpetual obstacles, so I won’t have a hissy fit about it.

Anyway, after the GAB has completed their task, Walker/Kleefisch/Wanggaard staff get to inspect the petitions as well. Once all the fine tooth combing is finished, it will be time for an election. We may first have a primary for those running against Walker. Once a candidate is selected, there will be the final election and we will then find out how Wisconsin truly feels about this administration and their actions.

I have said it before and I will say it again…for me, this recall has very little to do with anything union. It has nothing to do with partisan politics. I am not a union hack, a welfare mom, a receiver of entitlements, a tree hugging hippie, a disgruntled Democrat or an ungrateful public employee.   I am not working to recall these politicians simply due to philosophical differences.

And it is not about eliminating Republicans.  I do not even view these particular legislators as Republicans. They are radicals who have taken over and will not use compromise or consideration when dealing with their Democrat counterparts. I have seen this behavior for myself through WisEye and other means. These are not regurgitated talking points.

What I am is a citizen who sees the difference between right and wrong. We didn’t vote for a dictator. We didn’t vote for a draconian administration. And I refuse to sit by while our state and country are dismantled by a group of extremists.

What you have witnessed, ladies and gentlemen, is not a whiney tantrum due to an election loss. What you have witnessed during these past months is an uprising of people who refuse to remain silent and stick their heads in the sand as the fabric of everything that is good about America is cut into pieces and sold to the highest bidder.

We have many obstacles ahead. Fear, religion & ego are some of the “tools” this administration will use to hold onto their power. Luckily, the strength of our voices and our votes will be what ultimately overrides that which has been used to stand in the way of Democracy. We have the heart. We have the virtue. And we have the signatures.

Free Trade is Pretty Fucking Expensive (Patch – unedited 2011)

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They say that self deprecation can sometimes be worn as a shield. That being said, I will fully admit that I can be economically ignorant. There. I said it first, so it will sting less when someone types it out later, right?

But it’s true. I hated Econ. I often dozed off and my brain just never seemed to work in that mathematical way. I like words, not numbers.  So, while I take this time to scribble my contemplations, please keep this disclaimer in mind.

In the past few years, my husband and I have been increasingly cognizant of the products we purchase and where they are made. I would love to say we only buy American – but we do not. We will usually take it into consideration when deciding on a purchase – just as we consider price, color, durability, reviews, etc.  And, there have been many times when we have chosen a product soley based on it being made in the USA.  But sometimes, the price difference does end up making our decision for us.

Most of the time, the American produced items do indeed cost more. From sneakers to bikes – finding American made choices that aren’t far more expensive is, most if the time, impossible.

Free Trade = (Almost) Free Labor

Of course it is cheaper to have products manufactured, assembled and produced overseas.  When a CEO has the ability to choose between employing a 13 year old at $1.75 an hour or a 23 year old at $10.75 an hour – usually, they’ll chose the cheaper route. Insurance is not an issue, workplace safety is not an issue and labor laws are not an issue. So let’s face it, the exploitation of foreign workers substantially increases the bottom line for companies who chose to this path.

We often hear conservatives rail against regulation. And while I agree that there are likely some laws and rules which need to be revised or even dumped, regulations are a part of what sets us above the countries who allow their citizens to be abused. So sure, American companies can turn a higher profit if they rid the playing field of child labor laws, safely regulations and the EPA. But at what cost? Is our economic reputation and status the only factor in whether the U.S. can claim superiority?

While I may be lacking when it comes to calculations and figures, I still have a fairly intact barometer of right and wrong. And making money at the cost of human degradation, suffering and exploitation is simply not worth it in my book.

So, I get why American made products cost more. Because they are made by people who make a living wage in tolerable conditions while protected by laws which ensure their safety.

Free Trade is Flawed

If China had to pay more to send their trinkets to American stores, the costs would no doubt be placed onto the consumers. And I get that making consumers pay more is usually NOT a good thing when trying to beef up an economy. But perhaps balancing out prices, tariffs and taxes would bring business back to the states and some real U.S. competition could take place, thus eventually lowering the costs. Simply put, perhaps if Chinese coffee cups cost the same as American coffee cups, more people would begin choosing the American products which would in turn create more American jobs.

Instead of trying to keep companies here by lowering our standards, why not encourage the rest of the world to heighten theirs? Instead of giving tax breaks to those who ship jobs away, couldn’t we give tax incentives to corporations who keep them here?

Free trade agreements have cost our country millions of jobs and have helped create an enormous trade deficit. While foreign workers are exploited, American workers are unemployed. It allows for the greediest to seek out the weakest labor pools in countries with little to no human rights.

Yes, consumers would pay more initially, but maybe we would have more to spend in the long run. I think repealing these trade agreements would not only bring back American jobs and boost our economy; but also, it is just the right thing to do.

I don’t know. Like I said, my brain is mathematically challenged. Just something I was thinking about…

 

Original story HERE

Heather the Waitress (Patch 2012)

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I started writing for Patch in April of 2011. But prior to that, I embarked on a short lived career endeavor which was odd and disheartening.

Late 2010, I was home paying bills and balancing the checking account. I had been a stay at home mom for about 8 years, but now both girls were in school full time. I still wanted to be available when the kids were not in school or were sick. But I also felt I needed to contribute what I could financially.

I do not have a college degree and my employability was diminished for several reasons. Because of this, I developed the hair brained idea to go back to serving after about 15 years of any service industry employment. I was terrified and honestly, to this day, I can’t believe I filled out that application.

I could only work weekday afternoons so I knew the money wouldn’t be overflowing. But, I figure the extra cash might be helpful. And how hard could it be, right? Sure.

Many days were incredibly slow and I often went home with maybe 5 bucks tops. And the wage was $2.33 an hour before deductions. Of course those days were easy, but often were not worth the makeup on my face or the gas in my car. Other days were slammed, especially around the holidays. Those days were sweat makers and really tested my abilities. It was certainly not easy work. But neither of those aspects were what prompted me to declare my strong desire to NEVER work in that industry again.

The way the management spoke to and treated the employees was infuriating. Some of the servers were young kids. But many were adults with many years of history behind them. Certain member of the management and even positions higher acted as though the servers and kitchen staff were completely disposable and worthless.

Scolding notes were left all over the restaurant by management staff berating and demeaning the serving staff. They were talked to as children and insulted often. This was probably the case 15 years ago, but somehow, it looked very different through the eyes of a middle aged woman than a young 20 year old. I was appalled. I started taking pictures of these “notes” and often wondered how I would react if the time came for me to the be the target of these misspelled verbal berating. Turns out, I didn’t have to wait long.

As soon as it happened I stood up for myself and was asked to leave. The relief was palpable. I didn’t want to work there and though I did the best job I could 100% of the time, this was not the place for me. But I didn’t want to “give up”. Well, this 50-something crabby man made the decision for me and I drove home with a smile.

I took the apron and name tag (which I was made to pay for) and throw them in the outdoor fire pit and watched the flames flicker in the afternoon sun. I so knew I would not be back.

A few days later I applied to be a Patch contributor and started getting assignments immediately. I couldn’t have been more thrilled. I went from working a kind of job I never thought I would to another I never thought I’d get.

At first I was amazed that so many of those restaurant employees would put up with what they do for as little as they do. I wanted to fight for them and tell them to stand up for themselves. But then I realized how egocentric I was being.

Maybe they are young and happy and don’t put much value on what some old guy says to them. Maybe the inappropriate comments don’t really phase the people who are just trying to pay their bills. Maybe how they were being treated simply didn’t bother them. And who am I to say it should?

If you take nothing else away from this commentary, please know this – that person who is serving you when your family goes out to eat probably makes a little over 2 bucks an hour with no benefits. That person, in most cases, does not control what your food tastes like or how much is on your plate. That person often has to clean up every French fry that you let your kid throw onto the floor and every booger they wipe on the seat. Please keep these things in mind when you are figuring out your tips.