150 Years And Still Enslaving

I’m sitting here at my desk, half-watching 12 Years A Slave in the background, finding myself having a physical reaction to the sheer horror in this movie. I can’t even look directly at the screen during the worst scenes.JOHN77_edited-1

I know this is the intent of the movie, and they have done a spectacular job.

What I can’t wrap my head around is that while we share a collective horror about past mistreatment of slaves, even the current racism today, we continue to judge others with the same vicious tenacity that we cringe from during the movie.

The sickness in my stomach that I feel now is the same sickness I feel when I hear people trash homosexuals, taunt the mentally ill, and call poor people a product of their own choices. We have not changed all that much in 150 years, we’ve just changed the targets – and the tactics.

What happens when we deny federal rights to people that love the same sex? We enslave them to a lifetime of second-class citizens. They can be refused visitation of a dying loved one, denied social security benefits of a partner they spent decades making a home with, and openly discriminated against in adoptions, service, and much more. It makes me ill.

What happens when we deny services to the mentally ill, and the families trying to help them, simply because they don’t have the right medical insurance card in their pocket or the funds to pay for services out-of-pocket? We enslave them to a life of illness. We watch families get torn apart, homeless veterans walk the streets, and substance abuse eat away at the ones that try to self medicate. It makes me ill.

What happens when we blame the poor for their financial situation, reducing the funding to programs intended to help them improve? We watch generations of children grow up to believe the only way to make money is through illegal operations, imprisoning them when they are caught, and enslaving the next generation to a life without a parent and starting the cycle over again. It makes me ill.

Life is complicated, but one thing that is very simple is that we are all a product of it.

I was born with a silver spoon. Two parents, enough food, good education, white, and straight. But being born privileged does not make me better; in fact it may make me worse. It separates me from the very human condition of being born none of these things. I take my status for granted – often.

As I listen to the whippings, cursing, and crying on the screen behind me, I’m not just experiencing the horror of the past, I am also realizing the horrors of the present. I still live in a world of discrimination and prejudice. I still live in a time of second-class citizens. And it makes me ill.

Not Everyone Lies On Facebook

Sigh. Where to begin?

I’ve been reading MANY posts lately about the lies people tell on social media, how we scrub our lives and portray only our most beautiful moments. It’s a social media backlash that I honestly take a little personally.Lies Kids

I post pictures of my kids doing adorable things. I only post pictures of myself when they look good. I share anecdotes of my small children saying amazing, profound things. And I am not ashamed of my life shared on social media.

Here’s how you can interpret my social media activity:

  • I post cute kid stuff maybe 3-5 times a week. Other than those moments you can assume they have been in timeout for knocking each other around like barbarians.
  • You will find pictures of me, usually with my husband, about once a month because doing my hair and makeup for anything other than work (and usually not even on those days) only happens that often.
  • I share articles and stories that inspire, inform, or make me laugh so hard I snort coffee. Since this is most of my posting, you can infer that I read a lot and care about politics, world events, the great irony of reaching middle age, and art. To name just a few.
  • I “Like” a lot of my friends’ posts because I like my friends and their kids – both human and animal. I genuinely like seeing their fondest memories, reading lists, and musings about life.

You see, I don’t lie on Facebook. In fact, it’s a pretty accurate highlight reel of what my life is like. Would it make my friends happy to see 4 pictures a day of my children crying, whining, or giving me the evil eye? Would they rather see pictures of me the moment I wake up with puffy eyes, standing over a toaster making waffles willing the coffeemaker to brew faster?

Life will always be a series of highs and lows. I have faith in my social media friends that they can read between the lines of my “perfectly Instagrammed” life and know that I am well-rounded, equally disturbed, and a majority of the time completely unraveled. I know that I believe the same about them.

If you love social media and want to continue the fun, please feel free to share this rant. Who knows, maybe it will start a counter-revolution.

Heroin is no different than sugar. They both kill.

Philip Seymour Hoffman died yesterday, apparently alone in his bathroom with a needle in his arm.  I grieve for him, his family, and his close friends that must now face a reality that has been dulled by his absence.

His death, like many other Hollywood and music superstars before him, begins a new discussion about drug addiction and the struggle to get clean. Inevitably, there will be a large portion of the population that will view his drug use as a choice and his death, therefore, a decision. It’s often not said that succinctly, but if we tease out the underlying sentiment, I think I’ve nailed it down pretty well.

sugargreenLet me be clear on one thing before we begin: I am NOT, nor have I ever been, addicted to drugs or alcohol. I am NOT married to, been in a relationship with, or lost anyone I love dearly to the disease of addiction. I DO care a great deal about humanity and I mourn the loss of anyone to disease of any kind. I DO think it’s important to recognize addiction for what it is.

I don’t believe Phillip Seymour Hoffman had any choice in his addiction nor his death. The only way I can help you understand how I feel is to explain this in terms of sugar. Before you put me on blast for comparing a drug to a food, consider this statement from a report by NPR, “recent studies have shown that sugar can produce changes in the brain and behavior that resemble addiction.

Just like heroin, not everyone who tries sugar will become addicted and those that do become addicted to sugar will most likely not be able to stop without intervention.

Have you ever had an obese friend, family member, or acquaintance that expressed how much they would love to lose weight and live a healthier lifestyle? Have you also watched that same person continuously make horrible food decisions day in and day out?  They may succeed in losing weight for periods of time on any number of fad diets, but sadly return to obesity every time.

Each doughnut, chocolate bar, or big mac they consume inches them closer to death.  From the Surgeon General’s Office: There are around 300,000 obesity related deaths each year, with risks rising as weight increases.  These friends and loved ones know the risk, if not the actual statistics, but they do it anyway.

We humans love to judge others and their decisions. For those of us not addicted to sugar, it’s utterly confusing why anyone would choose to do something that destroyed their quality of life and put them at risk of early death. Those not faced with addiction will look at each and every meal as a choice. But that is precisely the point at which addicts are separated from non-addicts.

We make choices every day by using our brains to evaluate the risk/reward, cost-to-benefit-ratio, chance of success or failure, etc. Based on our experiences in the world, we have each finely tuned our brain to assign value to all things in life – people, places, activities, and so on.  Imagine for a minute if that powerful choice machine, your brain, decided to change the value of certain things without your input. No amount of pleading, thinking, or praying will sway the brain in its decision. It has decided to do a big chemical backfire, and there is nothing you can do about it.

That is how I see addiction. I’m not a scientist, doctor, or anyone with any letters after my name, but I am someone that believes addicts do not have a choice.

It’s easy to look at a heroin, alcohol, or even sugar addict and think it is a choice. Was it a choice the first time someone tried heroin? Absolutely. But that choice was based on their experience with the world and the value their brain put on the experience of trying heroin; the risk versus reward. The choice to try heroin was the product of experience, the addiction to heroin was the product of the drug itself.

The choice to eat sugar is not as complicated since most of us get introduced to it within a few moments of birth, but addiction to sugar is a product of the food (drug) itself. When we begin to learn more about the power of sugar as an addictive substance, I hope we also gain a better understanding of the disease of addiction itself. Sugar is something that affects all of us and harder to ignore and marginalize.

If you enjoyed this, please share. It’s love and understanding that will move us forward.

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If you are looking for treatment for you or a loved one, please call or email one of the resources below. It’s not a choice, it’s a disease that needs treatment.

SAMHSA – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association

1-800-662-HELP (4357)
1-800-487-4889 (TDD)

Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous

The Day I Risked My Daughter’s Life To Save Others

Just thinking about that day makes my stomach turn and my hands go sweaty.

It was an otherwise normal day. The morning was a blur of frenzy as I tried to get ready for work while entertaining a 1-year-old in a plastic, jumpy play thingy. I’ve never liked mornings, and this one was no exception. Two cups of coffee and I knew things would look better.

Baby Hands

Image Credit: Sias van Schalkwyk http://www.seepsteen.co.za

As I buckled my daughter into her car seat, a small thought began to nag at me. Voices of friends, family, and internet strangers started to swirl in my head as I made the 10 minute drive to the building that held my daughter’s fate. By the time we checked in I was frantic, although you would have never known from the outside.  When our name was called, I scooped her up and took her into the room that would make her cry and wail. I knew my heart would break.

When it was over, I watched her carefully. She seemed the same. Over the next few months, I looked for signs of sickness. In the end, we came out the other side unscathed.

That was six years ago, less than a year after Jenny McCarthy became a vocal anti-vaccine spokesperson.

While the rational side of me KNEW that the MMR vaccine did not cause autism, I couldn’t help but be bombarded by her face telling me that I was wrong. The rational side of me did the research to the best of my non-scientific ability and I had concluded that vaccinating my children  was the right decision, but the loud roar of the anti-vaccination movement could not be avoided.

The day that I took my first born to get her MMR vaccination, I was scared. Six years later, I am mad.

I shouldn’t have been scared by a beautiful, eloquent spokesperson that refuted science and held up her beautiful son as evidence. Her son that, according to her, became autistic after receiving vaccines. The son that, according to her, recovered from autism through chelation therapy. The son with autism that, according to her, caused her divorce.  I know all of this because she was EVERYWHERE – on the news, on talk shows, online. I couldn’t escape from her if I tried.

Six years later, a report surfaced that McCarthy admitted her son was misdiagnosed with autism and suffered instead from  Landau–Kleffner syndrome, a common misdiagnosis. A week later she slammed that report refuting it’s truth, and all links to the original reports have been disabled (good job, lawyers). Regardless, it’s too late for me. Personally, I don’t believe her son had autism and was cured by an obscure therapy any more than I believe her claims that the MMR vaccine causes autism.

I do, however, blame her for my fear of vaccines. I also blame the media that gave her airtime.

A few weeks after my son was born in 2010, a newborn died of whooping cough at my hospital during a horrific outbreak in our state. The outbreaks were concentrated in areas that had low vaccination rates. Once again, I was scared. Not of Jenny McCarthy’s dire warnings, but of the thousands of children that were not vaccinated because their parents were afraid; a fear that may have been triggered by Jenny McCarthy.

This fear continues to be propagated by the anti-vaccination community that will sell you thousands of dollars in supplements and call the government and Big Pharma evil money-mongers despite contributing $32 billion of revenue to the US economy in 2012 alone.

That day, six years ago, I was told that I was risking my daughter’s life by vaccinating her but I chose to do it anyway because the evidence told me that these vaccines were more likely to save other children than hurt my own.

Please share this so other parents know that they are not alone in their fear. I applaud the families that vaccinate and thank them from the bottom of my heart for saving the lives of others with their decision.

If you are concerned about vaccinating your children, here are just a few excellent resources to consider. 

**A Population-Based Study of Measles, Mumps, and Rubella Vaccinations & Autism** please read this if nothing else

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia – Vaccine Education Center

The History of Vaccines

HealthyChildren.org

At The End Of the Day…

End of the Day Blurb

Interpretation vs. Intention – Which is more important?

I was listening the the BBC’s “World Have Your Say” earlier this year, and they were discussing  a new ad campaign by Australian makeup company, Illamasqua. This image landed with the tagline, “I am not dreaming of a White Christmas.”

“I’m Not Dreaming of a White Christmas”

A company representative on the program insisted that their concept was one of juxtaposition, yin and yang. They make high pigment makeup and they wanted to showcase the intensity of their colors.

Others have taken offense to, what is to them, a blatant reference to the horrendous Blackface practice which began in the  minstrel era of 1830-1890, and mimicked degrading stereotypes of black people at the time.

“Blackface is more than just burnt cork applied as makeup. It is a style of entertainment based on racist Black stereotypes that began in minstrel shows and continues to this day.” – black-face.com

Based on this definition, the ad could be seen as not representing Blackface since the racist, stereotyped entertainment is not present. Others again disagree, saying the large, red lips are a direct reference to the blackface style.

Throughout the program it became clear that no one wanted to agree to disagree. They wanted admission of guilt, and wanted to be right.

So what is more important, Intention or Interpretation?

According to Illamasqua, the idea that this ad could be viewed as racist never even crossed their mind. They were trying to creatively show the deep pigmentation of their make-up which ranges from deep black to shocking white. They went on to say they have a long history of supporting and promoting all types of women, young, old, black, white and everything in between. They stand by their history of promoting the beauty of all women, and don’t think their ad should be viewed as racist at all.

But some do view it as racist.

If they have a long history of supporting all skin colors, is it possible that the interpretation of racism is simply wrong? Or does interpretation trump intention – making this ad a hideous representation of racism and one that should be pulled and apologized for?

And around and around and around we go.

Yes, I called the police when you said you were going to kill yourself on Facebook.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And I would do it again.

You see, we are Facebook friends, which means on some level you have invited me to participate in your life. We knew each other as children, more moons ago than I am going to count. We haven’t had a direct message conversation, and the last time we spoke it was probably about our math homework or boys. My memories of that time are fuzzy, but I remember your face. I remember that I genuinely thought you were a nice person. When I accepted your friend request – or maybe I sent one to you – I invited you into my life, and me into yours.

Last night, at 1:30am you posted that you were going to kill yourself.

I found myself staring at the line, paralyzed. Surely a good friend or family member is going to respond on Facebook and tell you that they were on their way.

A few minutes went by, and the only response was a plea to not go through with it. The poster was thousands of miles away. As was I.

I called the police in the city where the post originated with my wealth of information. First Name. Last Name. City. Nothing else. The dispatcher said she would attempt a wellness check if she could find an address. I hung up.

That’s when I started to doubt what I had just done. I hardly knew you, had no idea if this was a serious threat,  What if it wasn’t a serious threat and you found out that I was the one that called? What if you get pissed at me, or what if I got you in some kind of trouble? What had I just done?

After my call, there was Facebook silence, and uneasy sleep.

When I woke up I searched for any news about your well being. Your “real” friends had since seen the post and were posting frantic messages of love and strength. I learned that someone else had called the police, and they had already done a wellness check because of an earlier caller. No information was received on how the check went. 24 hours later, and I’m still not certain of the outcome.

The only thing I know is that I made the right call, and I would do it again.

I can live with you hating me, un-friending me, even casting an evil curse on me.

What I couldn’t live with was doing nothing and finding out you meant it.

~~~

If you are thinking about suicide, or faced with a similar situation, here are some resources:

National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Reporting a Suicide Threat on Facebook

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