Thursday, November 29, 2007

My Mom Rocks

Seems like a silly title for a blog post, huh? Perhaps, but we're not talking about just any mom here, we're talking about my mom who's championing the world of financial literacy right here in Michigan.

She's featured in today's Oakland Business Review talking about the greater need for financial literacy education in our schools. If you recall from past posts, she's the president of the Michigan Jump$tart Coalition, and director of Personal Finance for the Michigan Council on Economic Education.

My mom works hard for a lot of folks in our state who don't necessarily have a very loud voice here in Lansing, and for that I'm proud of her. A lot of who I am is because of how she and my dad raised me, and for that very reason, I hope that this apple hasn't fallen far from the tree. :-)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Universal Health Care in Mid-Michigan: It's happening

Over the holiday weekend, I had the opportunity to sit with my parents and watch Michael Moore's film on the U.S. health care system (or lack thereof), 'Sicko'. It was my second time seeing it, and the first for my parents. It was a different experience watching it this time around because I got to gauge my parents reactions compared to what I felt my first time around. As the lone politico in the family, I'm always interested how I compare to them on various issues. While my entire family would definitely lay on the compassionate side of policy (read = moderate to progressive) they shy away from being "political".

My parents, like most others I've talked too, were shocked, horrified, and just plained upset after viewing the movie. They more or less said the same thing "Why don't we have universal health care?" Why indeed. The very thought of me going through the first 10 years of my life with Crohn's Disease without paying 25 different doctors and hospitals a month is hard to grasp for us, but it's a challenge we'd welcome in a heartbeat (pun intended). Thankfully, it looks like this area is making a change for the better.

I'm lucky to live in Ingham County, a place where our local government leaders clearly see the benefits of universal health care for residents as a means of cost prevention. Since instituting the Ingham Health Plan over nine years ago, Ingham has become a model for counties all over the state and country, because it works, and while it isn't quite perfect yet, it's getting there. You can be a part of the process by attending meeting coming up and providing your suggestions for improvement or just learning more about it. See this article in City Pulse for more information.

Universal health care is not something to fear, it's something to desire. It helps you, it helps me, and it helps everyone around us. The only people who have to fear getting sicko from a universal health care plan is the insurance and drug industries, and you're not really worried about their temperature rising a bit, are you?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Really Support our Troops

There are lots of way to say we support the troops. We can write it on a blog, we can paint it on a sign, we can stick a yellow ribbon on our cars, we can vote the war-mongers out of office, and we can donate money. I'm not talking about writing a check to the Department of Defense and see it go to buy another $500 paperweight, but giving something to directly to our men and women who are serving abroad, giving up their lives for us.

I am pleased to support the efforts of several fellow bloggers that I call friends as they really support the troops through an effort called Blogging for Michigan Troop Care. The money that is raised goes directly to items needed by the Michigan troops stationed overseas. These are items that they have asked for and clearly need.

I made my donation last week, and now I am asking that you help this Troop Care project raise the remaining $804 that they need to raise their goal of $5000.

Be sure to stop by Blogging for Michigan, and this time, really support the troops through their Troop Care Project.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Giving Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

I hope that today you will spend a part of it with your family or friends and that we all take time to reflect on all the things we have to give thanks for, whether it's the roof over our heads, our health, a job, our loved ones, our favorite four-legged friends, snow that's on the ground, living in a country where we are free from persecution, to our troops, and for our government, even if we don't always agree with them.

Find something to give thanks for today, and you'll have another reason to smile.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Before you judge...

There's something that's been on my mind lately, and this blog seemed to be the perfect place to get it off my chest. I know it's something I've been guilty of, others certainly have, and there's even a chance you have been too - being a little too quick to judge.

Having a chronic illness, I some how seem to find and befriend others who also deal with health challenges on a regular basis, sometimes more so and quicker than others. Call it a sixth sense if you will. I'm sure that it's a common thread that runs throughout societies, because it's human nature to bond with those in similar circumstances.

Recently I was speaking with a friend who falls in this very category. While she doesn't have Crohn's Disease or a similar digestive illness, she does have an auto immune disease, just like my Crohn's. She was feeling frustrated because people around her were giving her flack for not being her usual energetic self while she experienced some health issues. She complained that because she didn't have a visible physical disability, people just wrote her off as lazy, even though she would have given all the riches in the world to be up and at 'em like she normally is. Boy, do I know that feeling.

For the most part, you can't see all the physical scars that my 35+ surgeries have left me with, and most days I'm glad for that. Some days, when others give me grief how much I am or am not doing, I wish you could. Not because I want you to feel sorry for me, on the contrary. I don't want anyone's pity. What I and thousands and perhaps millions others like me would appreciate is a little pause before you rush into judgment on what we are or are not capable of.

Since falling ill with Crohn's and being placed on steroid therapy, I've been on the overweight side of the scale. It's not something I'm proud of, and it's a battle I've constantly lived with since. Years and years of taking 60-120 mg of steroids a day would make even Twiggy look like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man on her best day. While I haven't been on steroids in years, thank goodness, I still live with the nasty side effects, one of them being my residual weight. I go to the gym, I workout, I swim, I watch what I eat, and slowly, I'm winning that battle. But I also have to deal with my body, one that has been riddled with a ferocious disease and aged with the residual effects, and will continue to be so until the day I die.

It's hard to understand for most people on the sidelines, and I don't blame you. I've lived with this illness for over 13 years now, and I'm still figuring it out. I'm lucky that I've been in "technical remission" since 2001, meaning that my digestive tract no longer shows physical symptoms of the ulceration caused by Crohn's. That's a wonderful thing, and I thank God everyday for it. But as far as the rest of my body goes, it will never be the same.

I always fatigue much more than normal. Because I lack a colon, I require almost twice the normal amount of fluid each day to stay hydrated. If I don't get it just right, it only adds to my fatigue. Also because I have no colon, I also struggle with nutrient absorption, which can add to my fatigue problem, and has now lead to chronic kidney pain and stones. The rheumatoid arthritis that's been here since I was 16 causes constant pain in my hands, knees, ankles and hips. Because I have an ileostomy, I have to be sure that every time I eat, the food is small enough to pass through my now-narrowed small intestine and won't cause a blockage that could send me to the hospital. My ostomy also means that I'm monitoring my skin around the site to prevent serious infection, and that my very expensive ostomy products are never too far away. Thanks to some truly nasty reactions to the chemo and other serious perscription meds I've been on, the laundry list goes on and on. Despite this, most days I don't really notice anymore, because it's my life and thanks to some accommodations I've had to make, and it's better than the alternative, not being alive. It's also just become part of my daily routine to watch out, check for, and treat accordingly all of these symptoms. But for all anyone knows to look at me, I'm just an over-weight woman who won't work out enough.

The days on which I can make it to the gym, make it through a typical work day, or not wake-up feeling like I've been run over with a semi-truck are the really good days that I'm very thankful for, because I know how few and far between they can be. There's millions more like me who may deal with different diseases like Fibromyalgia, Lupus, muscular dystrophy, diabetes, depression, arthritis, and a myriad of other illnesses, but to you, whether you're a friend, a co-worker, a neighbor, or whomever, they're just lazy.

I've done it myself, judged others without thinking, without pausing, because it's just so easy to do, and frankly, it's easier than taking the time to think about what the real cause is. But the next time, in that brief flicker before you curse them under your breath, think a terrible thought, just stop, think and consider that there maybe more than meets the eye. Perhaps, one day, they might return the favor before judging you to be too old, too fat, too slow, too skinny, or just too darn lazy.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Congrats to the Lansing-built Cadillac CTS as 'Car of the Year'

A hearty congratulations is in order to the proud workers of Lansing's GM Plant where they roll out the Cadillac CTS, which today will be named Motor Trend's 'Car of the Year'. From the LSJ -

The award, to be announced today, is significant because it shows Detroit-area automakers are back in the car business after years of focusing on sport utility vehicles and trucks, said magazine Editor-in-Chief Angus MacKenzie. The car's appearance, fit and finish, quality of materials and performance rival that of its German and Japanese competitors, MacKenzie said.

"There's really not a lot of difference at all between BMW, Mercedes and Cadillac," he said Monday.

"This is obviously a really great thing," said Kelley White, spokeswoman for the Lansing Grand River plant, which also makes the Cadillac STS sedan and SRX crossover vehicle.

"It means a lot to our team members."

Rightly so. It's a cause for Lansing, our state and our entire country to have more pride in our products, and more reason to hope that Michigan's automakers can successfully enter the Green Age of automotive production - producing more stylish, functional cars that are significantly less-harmful to the environment.

There maybe bad news all around us, and the doom and gloom from the economic forecasters seems almost inescapable, but this latest boost for both Lansing, our proud unions, and our state is one that should outshine all of that!

Monday, November 12, 2007

For Our Veterans

(Originally posted 11/10/06, but after several requests from readers, I've decided to republish today.)

I always get a lump in my throat when I stand up to sing the Star Spangled Banner, but it often seems as if I'm the only one. The daughter and granddaughter of several of America's heroes, I believe that to have given all or a part of your life to our country and what it stands for is truly one of the most self-less acts, ever.

My dad is a Vietnam Veteran, and I will never know exactly what he suffered, or how wet a monsoon really is, or how terrifying the jungles appeared at night. I couldn't tell you what it's like to spend months and years knowing that it could all be over in a flash, sometimes only because you fly a different flag than the guy at the other end of the gun. I don't know what it's like to return to a country only a year or two older than when you left but be aged beyond words. But our heroes can - and those who serve even now, will return with their own age spots, both emotional and physical.

On this Veterans Day, I am sad to see how little respect our veterans have been given by the press, by our government, and by the people in general. Just with those who have lost their lives in the last 6 years, it seems as if we've swept our heroes under the rug of our daily lives. Now grown men and women have to be told to take their hat off while our anthem plays, and too many still don't know all the words to the Pledge of Allegiance. I'm tired of patriotism being played as a campaign card when it's fashionable, and forgotten when it matters most. Our vets are our heroes, those who stand among us with scars that will always linger, and too often, those who are left behind us as we go forward. These men and women deserve so much more than the societal breadcrumbs we throw them when the media spotlight needs a new poster boy or girl.

So how do we honor our veterans and fallen heroes? I think of my dad, and my grandfathers, and I know that the greatest form of respect we can give them is to never, ever forget - what they've given, what they endure to this day, and the battle that they face even now, on our own soil, through finances, education, and health care. Perhaps we all need to stand as a state and a country, remove our hats, and swallow the collective lump that should form in all of our throats. Wipe the tear that forms in the corner of our eye, and turn to salute our veterans, our heroes. Contrary to what many may think, they are what keeps us great, not the other way around.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Fantastic photos from Maine and my new job

Happy Election Day!

This is just a teaser from the two photo albums you can view from my trip to Maine. The first has the bulk of the photos.

I was lucky to stand atop Cadillac Mountain twice, once to watch the sunset and another to see it rise. The clouds that were present for the sun's setting, were gone for the magnificent sunrise. Talk about a view I'll never forget! You can view the photo album of the sunrise.

While I was in Maine, I had some delicious seafood, saw some beautiful sights, breathed in the wonderful Atlantic air, stayed clear of politics and the Internet, and most importantly got rested up.

Part of my timing has to do with a small announcement that I'm pleased to share with you today. I have hung up my consulting hat and now am the Online Campaign Coordinator for Progress Michigan, a non-profit communications team that serves the entire progressive community. My first order of business is to put together an incredible website that I look forward to sharing with you and the rest of the state soon. You can visit our sister organization in Colorado, Progress Now and Progress Now Action, to get a bit of a preview.

I know you'll all be voting today, so I won't bother reminding you, but feel free to stop by MichLib and throw in your support for your favorite candidate or ballot issue at our special Election Day Coffee Talk. Have a happy Election Day!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Seen and heard from the most progressive part of the country...

I kid you not. This shirt was for sale in one of the stores in Bar Harbor, ME. I saw it and just had to take a picture! The interesting part? While they had lots of t-shirts and magnets and the usual anti-Bush paraphenelia mixed with the usual tourist-y goodies, there wasn't an anti-Democrat, non-progressive item to be found. Ah, it seems as if this liberal has found a perfect vacation spot!! :-)

Loving Maine, hurricanes and all....

It's beautiful! Well my trip to Maine has been a wonderful time, and what an experience it has been!

Acadia National Park is everything I thought it would be, I have about a hundred pictures to prove it! Leave it to Mother Nature to have fun switching up my travel plans though!

While I couch-surf here in Bath, Maine, we're hunkering down for Hurricane Noel. Bath is right on the coast, half-way between Portland and Camden in the Mid-Coast area. It's a gorgeous historic ship-building town and the beautiful house I'm on is right on the water.

Tonight, after the worst of the storm has passed, my couchsurfing friend and I will be attending the local Democratic Party Harvest Dinner, and I will be dining in style with local Democrats. Even better, my couchsurfing host works in state politics and there are many other very cool things we share in common. Who'da thunk it? :-)

The Hurricane is supposed to sweep up this afternoon and as it hits the colder weather, turn into a Nor'Easter, something which I've never experienced. I've been told to expect 6-8 inches of rain and winds from 60-80 mph. While it sounds scary, I just need it clear up by tomorrow so I can fly back without any major issues!

So while I hunker down, think of me and enjoy this picture taken with my cell phone from the top of Cadillac Mountain, at 6 a.m. yesterday as the sun rose. If you think this is good, wait till you see what I got with the camera!