Clean Air: There Are No Do Overs For Little Lungs

This post is made possible by support from Clean Air Moms Action. All opinions are, of course, my own.

Before I wrote this post, I printed out a few pages of material from Clean Air Moms Action to refer to while writing the post. I laid them on my bed so they wouldn’t get lost in the sea of papers near my laptop.

Little did I know that while I was on a lengthy phone call for work, my father-in-law had left our back door open (again) and the cats had taken advantage of the opportunity for fresh air (again).

I got the cats back into the house and went about my day. It was not until later that I found my Clean Air Moms Action materials, covered with the stomach-turning, grassy results of the cat’s adventure outside (I’ll spare you a picture … it was disgusting). The irony was not lost on me. The cat’s adventure in the fresh air ended up introducing contaminants that destroyed my “clean air” materials, something that didn’t impact that cat’s feelings at all. I had to start over.

Our Children Only Get One Childhood

The principle of “you only get one opportunity” is especially true when it comes to our children’s environment. Whereas I wrote recently about a multitude of issues, such as fair wages, the fight for paid sick days, and immigration reform after I participated in the We Won’t Wait 2016 conference, there is another set of issues I want to share: that of the threat to our children’s health from harmful pollution, climate change, and toxic chemicals.

We Can’t Take Clean Air for Granted

While I wrote in a previous blog post about the frustrated tears I shed the day my child was sent home for a third day in a row because the school nurse did not deem her hair lice free yet, that was nothing compared to the challenges children with asthma (and their families) face.

Over the almost 20 years I worked for Healthy Kids, conversations with asthma were among the most frequent. There is a reason:

Approximately 1 in 10 children in Florida have current asthma. For African-American children, the risk is higher (approximately 1 in 6). 

In a Scientific American series on the interconnections between asthma, poverty, and living in the inner city, author Crystal Gammon wrote:

Incinerators, metal producers, power plants, chemical manufacturers and other industries ring the city [East St. Louis]. Exhaust from cars and trucks on nearby highways blankets the area, as well.

The Florida Asthma Coalition describes other factors necessary to create a healthier environment for children, including promotion of influenza and pneumonia vaccinations; indoor air quality improvements including smoke-free air laws and policies; healthy homes, schools and workplaces, and improvements in outdoor air quality.

I’ve heard of teachers who were resistant to the additional work involved in implementing asthma-friendly measures until they were forced to breathe through a straw to understand their students’ struggles. I’ve heard of a school which worked hard to become a Florida Asthma Friendly School after losing a classmate to asthma. Asthma can sound abstract until it’s your child.

These initiatives are anything but abstract when it is your child struggling to breathe, your income or job on the line because your employer doesn’t provide paid sick leave, your heart breaking because you can’t protect the most important person in the world to you, your child, from the pollutants in the air they have to breathe to stay alive.

At Healthy Kids, I heard the desperation in parents’ voices as they sought an affordable health care solution that would give a child with asthma access to a medical home, critical supplies and medications, and an asthma management plan.

I have heard my friends struggle to find affordable housing that has hardwood instead of rugs (to reduce allergens). I have seen them sacrifice financially to purchase allergy-free bedding and make other accommodations to help their child cope with the effects of pollution on their lungs..

Our Votes Impact The Air Our Children Breathe

Mayor Christine Berg, of Lafayette, CO, is researching candidates because as the parent of a young daughter who is preparing for the birth of her second baby, she believes, as I do, that the stakes couldn’t be higher.

When evaluating your candidates for the presidency, state offices, and local offices, please consider the candidates’ positions on issues like clean air, climate change, and toxic chemicals.

I’ve Promised to Vote and I Encourage You to do the Same

Anyone who knows me or follows my social media knows I’ve promised to vote. But I’m not just asking you to promise to vote November 8. I’m also asking you to promise to vote for the city or county commissioner who recognizes, for example, that obesity is a factor in asthma and supports playgrounds. For the gubernatorial candidate who prioritizes cleanup of waste sites and contaminated water. For the senatorial candidate who supports the Clean Air Act.

An easy way for us to be accountable to one another (and most importantly to our children) is to take the Clean Air Moms Action Pledge from Clean Air Moms, which is working to build bipartisan support to protect our children from the health impacts of air pollution. Click the graphic below to take the pledge:

Clean Air

Learn more at the Clean Air Moms Action website by clicking here.

Follow Clean Air Moms Action on Facebook by clicking here.

Follow Clean Air Moms Action on Twitter at @momsaction.

Follow Clean Air Moms Action on Instagram by clicking here.

We will all breathe easier once we make our voices heard with the candidates running for office.

Especially our kids.

Clean Air

Florida Prepaid Plans: Enrollment is Open!

This post is sponsored by the Florida Prepaid College Board, through my role as a Believer Blogger. All thoughts are my own.

I was sitting on my daughter, Tenley’s, bed last night chatting, when my eyes fell on this pillow which all the grandchildren in our family had been given for Christmas many years ago.

College Financing

I mentioned how sentimental the pillow made me, since we had just spent the evening at a co-ed shower for my niece, Jessica, who is getting married next month. Between Jessica’s birth in 1989 and my daughter’s birth in 1996, five girls were born to my sisters-in-law Mary and Ann, and I had Tenley. The result was years of girl togetherness, baby dolls, gymnastics meets, dance recitals, fashion discoveries, makeup sessions, sparkles, and smiles. As I stood in various clumps of people last night, each of the girls talked about her 2016 life. They are now a pharmacist, two nurses, a nursing student, and two juniors in college. Each one is remarkable.

Planning Ahead Matters

What is remarkable for my family is that my parents had the foresight to look at the facts when I was still “in the weeds” of the day-to-day costs of having an infant and to purchase a Florida Prepaid College plan for Tenley when she was a newborn (they did the same for my son, Wayne, when he was born in 1999).

Enrollment Is Open!

The Florida Prepaid College Board has launched the 2016-17 Open Enrollment period. This is important: you can only enroll between now and February 28, 2017. After that, you will have to wait until the next enrollment period.

So Many Options!

One thing I love about Florida Prepaid plans is how they are responsive to the evolving needs of today’s families. There are more affordable options now than ever before, and more plan designs that reflect the education financing needs of today’s college-bound students. Here they are:

The 1-Year Florida University Plan (the newest offering)

With this plan, you can purchase one year, or 30 credit hours, at a time according to your budget and timeline, without feeling the pressure of having to buy all four years at once.

The 1-Year Florida University Plan also allows multiple purchasers to buy a plan for the same child (hello grandparents, aunts, uncles, and caring friends!). A child can have up to four 1-Year Florida University Plans.

The 2-Year Florida College Plan

This plan is perfect to set children up with a practical, affordable path to entering their chosen career with an associate’s degree or trade certification.

Every cent of the value of this plan can be applied at any university or college nationwide and is guaranteed by the state of Florida. Purchasers cannot lose the money they put in.

The 4-Year Florida College Plan

There are 28 Florida colleges (such as the one near my home town, Florida Gateway College, which I visited numerous times in my Union County high school career when it was still Lake City Community College) They’ve expanded their capabilities far beyond two-year programs. Most now offer four-year bachelor’s degree programs in growth industries like nursing and teaching, and continue to grow their degree programs year after year.

Since the 28 Florida colleges are typically less expensive than a university education, the 4-year college plan provides a practical, affordable path to a bachelor’s degree.

Every cent of the value of this plan is guaranteed by the state of Florida (this is true for Florida Prepaid plans).

The 2+2 Florida College Plan

By starting your child off at one of Florida’s 28 colleges, you’ll save money on lower-level courses before they transfer to a state university to finish off their degree.

Students with this plan are guaranteed admission to a state university once they’re earned their associate’s degree at a Florida college.

The 4-Year Florida University Plan

The plan starts your child off at one of Florida’s 12 state universities.

If your child decides to start at a college (typically less expensive), the unused funds from this plan can be applied to a post-secondary degree or you can get the remaining money back.

Like all Florida Prepaid plans, use isn’t restricted to Florida schools; the amount covered by your Prepaid Plan can be used at schools nationwide. (Tenley is using hers at Valdosta State University in Georgia, for example.) There are dormitory plan options also.

What Is The Investment?

Here’s some incredible news. The Florida Prepaid Board has worked extremely hard to keep prices near historic lows, and they have succeeded! That’s great for Florida families.

As you can see above, there are more plans than ever, and they are structured in a way that acknowledges the budgeting challenges families face. Plans start at less than $47 a month!

College Financing

For less than $47 a month, a parent or other caring adult can demonstrate their belief in the future by starting a Florida Prepaid Plan. Look at all the potential of the kids in this video, and the hope shared by the adults who want their children’s dreams to soar:

Don’t Let the Application Fee Stand in Your Way!

If you’re like me, you can see the smaller details of life as bigger stumbling blocks than they are. Yes, there is an application fee of $50. But with this code, BLOG1617, you can save 50% off of that fee!

College Financing

Remember the Scholarship Contest?

You read every word I publish, right? Just in case you’re in the minority who do not (wink wink) or you are a new reader, I wrote recently about the opportunity to win one of 10 2-Year Florida College Plans through the Florida Prepaid College Foundation!

There is less than one week left to enter to win! Here are the details:

When: Register between now and October 23

Where: Click here to enter (remember you can enter daily)

What You Can Win: In addition to registering to win one of the ten 2-year plans, when you click on the entry link, you can earn extra entries by answering questions, learning more about saving for college, and sharing on social media. There will also be chances to win a weekly prize.

Eligibility: Open to legal residents in the state of Florida with children or grandchildren between the ages of newborn through 8th grade.

College Financing

About Florida Prepaid

As you think through your family’s options for Florida Prepaid, visit the Florida Prepaid College Plan by clicking here for information. If you prefer to speak with someone by phone, please call 800-552-GRAD (4723).

Little Girls Grow Up

Yes, I got lost in the “overwhelm” of the responsibilities, logistical and financial, of having a newborn (but my parents saw longer term, fortunately). As you can see below, the little girls from the picture on the pillow grew up faster than their family can comprehend. Remember how quickly the time flies, and look into Florida Prepaid as an option for your child or a child you love during this open enrollment period.

College Financing

Tenley and my nieces, December 2015.


A Series for Women Like Me: The Other F Word

Midlife Women

This post is sponsored by “The Other F Word.” All opinions are my own.

It’s official. I have now watched my first Amazon Streaming series. It’s a running joke among my friends, and documented in my Spin Sucks inquisition, that I am a streaming video late adopter. Very late. But there’s hope, and in this case hope begins with an “F word.”

The Other F Word

I was recently introduced to The Other F Word, a comedic coming-of-age series about four women friends who deal with the highs and lows of mid-life as they reinvent themselves now that their kids are grown. In this case, the other F word(s) are “Forty” and “Fifty.”

Midlife Isn’t What I Thought It Would Be

One sentiment throughout this series is one I keep thinking about as I forge ahead into my 50s: this isn’t exactly what I thought life would be at this point. Not that I’m not grateful, but reality has a way of throwing curveballs at you. The women of The Other F Word get their own curveballs, including:

  • A husband who dies at his wife’s skydiving 50th birthday party
  • A husband who says “you may need to get a REAL job now, and I don’t mean Pampered Chef”
  • A husband who suddenly decides to leave his job (and his country) to do Peace Corps-type work abroad for a year

This Series is Relatable

The entertainment industry’s track record on diversity has not been stellar (click here for an example about lack of diversity in television). Creator Caytha Jentis started down the path to bringing The Other F Word to life when she asked, “why are there no tv shows about us?” She’s right! (Hear more from Caytha in this Writer/Director statement.)

I love how the character Amy has actual laugh lines on her face. As a fellow midlifer, I see beauty in those laugh lines, not lack of attractiveness. She’s like me: imperfect but trying to figure life out.

I love how the characters’ children act like the college-age children I know. They love sentimental actions (like Amy cooking her special chicken parm for her son and his roommate). They ask for money. They have jobs we don’t understand (social solutionist anyone?). The version of their relationship truth they tell about their love lives is, um, “sanitized” for parental ears.

I’m not sure the college age children would have a clue what goes on with mom (and dad) when the chicken parm congeals and the “bills” to pay the rent that came to fast are spent. Watch Episode 8 where Amy, Orly, Trish, and Diane play “never have I ever” and you’ll see what I mean!

The Other F Word Trailer from The Other F Word on Vimeo.

This series is real …. about the emotions we feel and the consequences we face in our forties and fifties. Marry your college boyfriend and stay home with the kids? Your monogamous faithfulness and dedication may leave you lonely and unprepared for the request “well show me your CV if you need help finding a job.” Choose to get involved with a much-younger man in a relationship “with a shelf life” and you may find yourself without a suitable “plus one” at a theatre industry function. These women laugh, drink, nurture, write, create, earn, cry, take risks, have sex, and through it all manage to face their fears and have fun.

Find The Other F Word For Yourself!

You can watch all eight episodes on Amazon by clicking this link.

Visit the website of The Other F Word by clicking here:

Find The Other F Word on Facebook here.

Tweet With The Other F Word’s team on Twitter here.

What Is YOUR Midlife F Word?



Is there an “F” word you would associate with your life currently?

This series combines “fun” and “fear” (as in, overcoming it), “friendship,” and “fur” (there’s a dog, Max …. he’s really cute and plays a pivotal role!).

For me, the “F” word of my fifties may in fact be “fragmented” – as a wife, mom, friend, worker, volunteer, and caregiver for my father in law, it rarely feels like I have it all together. Thanks, The Other F Word, for four new relatable friends!

Midlife Women

Trish is mirroring her daughter’s coursework to “help” her. My kids don’t need to get any ideas from this!

Women, Don’t Wait. Change Our World Now!

I was recently participating in a thread on Facebook. It was a thread on the personal page of someone who is a co-moderator of one of the extremely fun running-based Facebook groups I’m in. I knew if he asked for honest political opinions, and requested that those of us participating in the thread be respectful, we would be deleted (or our comments would).

One person on the thread explained who he is voting for, specifically because of that candidate’s position on mandatory vaccines. He went on to explain that it may seem “laughable” to others that he is a single-issue voter, but he feels THAT strongly.

How Many Issues Do We Have to Have?

While I do not agree with the individual on the thread I referred to above about the issue that has resulted in him being a “single-issue” voter, I understand how one single issue, when it affects your family, will drive your political choices. But I have a choice to make: how to use my voice to impact multiple issues.

MomsRising is a group of more than a million moms who take on the most critical issues facing women, mothers, and families by educating the public and mobilizing massive grassroots actions to:

  • Bring the voices and real world experiences of women and mothers straight to our local, state, and nation’s leaders;
  • Amplify women’s voices and policy issues in the national dialogue & in the media across all platforms (from print, to radio, to blogs, social media, and more);
  • Accelerate grassroots impact on Capitol Hill and at state capitols across the country;
  • Hold corporations accountable for fair treatment of women and mothers & for ensuring the safety of their products.

Throughout the recent We Won’t Wait 2016 conference (read about it in the Washington Post here.), which I participated in as part of the MomsRising delegation, we were encouraged not to be single issue voters, to educate ourselves about the broad array of issues facing women, especially women of color and low-income women. Issues of emphasis included access to paid leave, the right to good jobs and fair wages, high-quality and affordable child care and elder care, care giving (yep, I could relate to that one!), immigration reform, reproductive healthcare, and racial justice.

Back when the awesome Sili Recio of My Mamihood asked me to consider being on the Moms Rising Steering Committee for Florida, I didn’t question the power of moms (as IF!), I didn’t mind adding one more thing to my plate (because the issues Moms Rising espouses matter). But I explained that some of the issues Moms Rising advocates for are ones I feel more passionate about than others. In fact, I am not always fully aligned with their position.

Her advice? “You’ll get info about all the issues but you run with what’s in your heart.”

Setting the Tone

Although Kelly Tsai, Spoken Word Poet/Filmmaker was the official first performance, the literal first performance came from the hundreds of members of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, who made an unforgettable entrance to the breakfast hall, chanting “We Won’t Wait! We Won’t Wait!” This was the first conference I’ve been to where we’ve been told “no chanting on the way from breakfast to the conference area”!

Political Advocacy

An attendee with the National Domestic Workers Alliance enters the room.


I learned more about the move to raise the minimum wage to $15.00 an hour, and the #FightFor15 movement. The minimum wage would be at least $15 an hour if the minimum wage we had back in 1968 were adjusted for inflation and for the productivity gains we achieved since then. (The previous fact and more can be found at Petitions.)

Another critical wage-related issue I learned about was the continuing challenges faced by those who work for a tipped minimum wage. The Restaurant Opportunities Centers United had a large and vocal delegation at We Won’t Wait, supporting one fair wage. On their website, they share:

…most restaurant workers earn the bulk of their income through tips. With the federal tipped minimum wage being $2.13 an hour and lower than the regular minimum wage in most states, their base pay results in $0 paychecks. Although some restaurant workers do make great money living off tips, they are the exception.

The majority of tipped restaurant workers live shift-to-shift. The national median wage for tipped workers (including tips) is $8.75 an hour. They are dependent on the generosity of customers for their livelihood.

More than 70% of servers are women. Unfortunately, sexual harassment is all too often undermined as being ‘just part of the job’ in the restaurant industry. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the restaurant industry is the single-largest source of sexual harassment charges. Hundreds of our members have shared stories with us about being touched or treated inappropriately by their customers, and not being able to do anything about it because they depended on those same customers for a  decent tip.

Child Care, Elder Care, and Caregiving

Women often have to choose between their paycheck and caring for their child (or their elder in my case). Four in ten private-sector workers and 80% of low-wage workers cannot earn a single paid sick day. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, women are likely to spend an average of 12 years out of the workforce raising children and caring for an older relative or friend. Learn more info about the impact of caregiving for elders on women here.

I heard Emily Uy say, “Getting sick in America is very difficult. I was a caregiver unable to get my own care,” echoing the voice in the back of my head that says, “who’s going to take care of Dad if you get ill/hospitalized?”

I learned about the Fair Care Pledge, a joint initiative of Hand in Hand, the National Domestic Workers Alliance, and The Fair Care Pledge is taken by people who employ others in their homes to provide fair pay, clear expectations, and paid time off.

Immigration Reform

Ana Cañenguez, an undocumented immigrant from El Salvador who faces deportation, accompanied by her young daughter, asked “what will she do if I leave?” Since We Won’t Wait, I’ve learned more about Ana’s story, visualized her life in El Salvador (remembering the time I spent there in 2014 and the conversations I had with people who face gang violence and corruption juxtaposed against a BEAUTIFUL country with beautiful people) and the perils of her journey to the US, and come to admire her tenacity and true grace in the face of a horrible conundrum. (More about Ana here.)


For more from MomsRising about their efforts to protect family unity, ensure our public policies address the concerns of immigrant women and children, and end human rights abuses in the name of immigration law enforcement, click here.

Voting Rights

Infused through all the passionate speakers we heard was the one action almost all of us can take to make sure we elect leaders who will advance our agenda: VOTE.

When states make it difficult for qualified voters to vote, we can advocate for change. (A review of current challenges to voting rights here.) As speakers at We Won’t Wait shared about challenges voters face now, in 2016, my mind kept going back to Edwina Stephens, who told me about black voters being forced to count soap bubbles or solve complicated mathematical equations in order to prove their suitability to be registered voters. How are we still having discussions that echo THOSE scenarios in the 21st century?

One speaker urged us to implore Walmart (among other large employers) to allow their employees three hours of leave to vote. To me, this is a no-brainer. If it’s too much of an economic burden for Wal-Mart, I’ll go to WM and be the warm body with a pulse that keeps the ship afloat for three hours. Surely they can spare that. Get involved by educating yourself and signing the petition here. I did.

Gun Safety

I have been virtually silent online about my opinions regarding gun safety, Black Lives Matter, and the plethora of policy and societal issues inherent in these topics. The one single time I posted a black friend’s commentary on Stop and Frisk, about how he was stopped on the way to church for no discernible reason, about how his 5 year old piped up from the back seat, “did he stop us because we are black?,” a loved friend who is a law enforcement spouse pushed back about her disagreement and her contention that law enforcement officers and family, having families of their own, truly want the best for everyone whose paths they cross. I feel utterly stuck in a mushy middle ground between people who are pointing out systemic issues within our law enforcement community as they relate to the treatment of black people, and my many friends in the law enforcement community, who I love and respect.

I still haven’t figured out how to navigate that divide, to be honest.

What I do know is, as I stood among the 750+ people at the “Our Families Are Worth the Fight” vigil at Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC, that the grief of the mothers who have lost their black sons in law enforcement-related situations that have gray areas at best … that grief WAS PALPABLE. In that moment, I wasn’t a policy advocate, interested party, or generic fellow American. I was a fellow mother, someone who had brought someone into the world and held big dreams for that someone. I felt their pain. I determined to learn more and form a more strongly articulated position, while trying to remain respectful to everyone in my universe. More about the vigil here.

Political Advocacy

NOTE: Her name is correctly spelled “Lucia.” My apologies!

Representative Donna Edwards, of Maryland’s 4th District, a speaker at the vigil:

There’s much work to be done. You have to be the ones to define that work, to say “here is what our priority list is.”

The greatest leverage that you have right now is the leverage and the power of your vote. As black women, we are the most powerful and consistent voting block in this country, but we need to make sure that our elected officials know that we understand the power of our vote. When we give it over on November 8, we’re gonna come knocking on November 9.

I am the proud mother of a young black man and that means something for me.. that HIS voice needs to be heard on Capitol Hill too … for the sons and the daughters that we have to have our conversation with  and we have to say to them “be careful what you do when you go outside” and sometimes it doesn’t matter how careful you are. You are still in harm’s way.

Political Advocacy Is Not Just About the Specific Issues; It’s About Your Approach

In one lengthy blog post, I have seriously only TOUCHED on the issues affecting women and the strategies for resolving them. But I need to comment on something that is not an issue; rather, it’s a way of being in the world.

At the Freedom Square vigil, one of the speakers was Monique Harris of Hand in Hand, who lives with Cerebral Palsy.  She talked about living with a disability as well as her fears for her son, a black man with autism whose behaviors can be misunderstood. Due to her Cerebral Palsy, she has difficulty communicating verbally. BUT the organizers created a scenario where she spoke, then a facilitator repeated her words in the event that we had experienced difficulty understanding Monique. That sounds minor, but it wasn’t to Monique and it wasn’t to me. I have been at many other conferences where this type of message would just have been read by the facilitator, or printed in the program. It mattered to hear Monique’s OWN VOICE.

Another of the speakers was Aber Kawas of the Arab American Association of New York. As she spoke eloquently about facing anti-Muslim prejudice in America, someone with a mental disturbance tried to disrupt her speech. She kept speaking, completely nonplussed. The organizers of the vigil took the man aside and tried to de-escalate him. Simultaneously, a group of women lined up between Aber and the disruptor, a solid line of sisterhood, giving her space to share her message safely while demonstrating, visually, SOLIDARITY.

Women, Succeeding Together

I was blown away by Labor Secretary Tom Perez’s speech.  While there were many quotable sound bites, this one sums up the point of We Won’t Wait.

Political Advocacy

How to Get Involved

There are so many ways to get involved! As Feminista Jones explained, there’s a role for everyone: from the foot soldiers who make a difference by showing up, through the guides who support, the visionaries who write/document/photograph, the funders, through the change agents, who affect direct change.

Whether you’re a foot soldier or a change agent, or any of the roles in between, take that first step today. Do it for your daughter, your friend, your sister, your aunt, any woman (or man) in your life who needs your voice to be heard on any or all of the issues mentioned here.

Take that first step by going to and adding your email address:

Political Advocacy

(If you prefer Spanish, Moms Rising is available as MamasConPoder here. Si tu prefieres español, haga click aquí.)

In one of these week’s prompts, Mama Kat encouraged us to write a blog post inspired by the word “change.” I’m so grateful to MomsRising and We Won’t Wait 2016 for the opportunity to be inspired by continue learning, supporting, and advocating for my fellow women and moms. Because, indeed, every mother does count.

Political Advocacy

Political Advocacy

Banned Books Week 2016

Banned Books Week gets me fired up every year, and that passion has only grown since last year’s Curious Incident Incident.

Since 2014, I have participated in the Banned Books Week Virtual Readout (which, by the way, can be done anytime — not just during BBW). In 2014, I read from Captain Underpants; in 2015 I read from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, and this year I read from Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out.

I am a bit of a newbie when it comes to “clipping” passages via Audible, and I found the passages I had intended to share in my readout, after the readout. I want to expand on those a bit (the read-out is limited to 3 minutes) before I pass the paper version of the book along to a friend.

Other Important Passages

The three passages I shared were from:

Jessy, who was born as a girl and now identifies as a male. Jessy spoke about how he enjoys life “from a different perspective.”

I can see the world simultaneously from a male and a female perspective. ~ Jessy

Wanda, mom of Jonathan, who is gay and Christina, who is transsexual. As a parent, Wanda’s statements really resonated with me.

Hug your children. Hug them. ~ Wanda

Luke, who was born as a girl and now identifies as a male, and whose poem inspired the title of the book. Luke said coming out trans is “very exposing. It opens you up to a lot of mockery.” It was important to Luke to come out via a poem.

Said, ‘What are you?’ said, ‘you gotta choose’

said, ‘Pink or blue?’

and I said I’m a real nice color of magenta.

The passages I couldn’t find due to my Audible clip-finding incompetence and the ones I did not have space for are:

Wanda, Jonathan’s and Christina’s mom (again). [in response to a man who had physically attacked Christina]: “You’re not from here, right? In America people are used to this. There are gays, there are lesbians, there’s transgender. There are all kinds.”

Wanda continues, “…when I’m in the train with her, I still hear little kids say, ‘Mom, is that a man or a woman?’ I don’t want to hear that. I sometimes have to remind her not to show her Adam’ apple, and that’s so sad. I don’t want to have to remind her to keep her chin down.”

These passages about Wanda’s response to the man who had attacked Christina, and about the interactions she and Christina have with strangers on the train, resonated with me. I think it was because Wanda had an opportunity to educate the man who had attacked Christina (obviously it’s horrible that an attack is what led to that educational moment). Secondly, talking about the train made me think of how we can jump to assumptions about one another and the absolutely moronic (and hurtful) things people can say to one another when silence would be a better choice (but I understand that kids ask filter-less questions…).

Mariah, who was born as a boy but is transitioning to female: “A lot of transgender girls feel that they look like a boy and they try to fix it. The thing is, real beauty comes from the inside. You could be the most passable trans woman ever. Real beauty from the inside!”

The thing is, real beauty comes from the inside. ~ Mariah

I just loved this because …. it’s so very true.

Cameron, who was born as a girl and, at this point, requests to be referred to with pronouns such as “they, them, and their” talked about being treated with male privilege: Because I’m perceived as a male, I get male privileges. Male privilege means I don’t have to prove myself for my opinion to have weight. People assume that I’m intelligent. People assume that I have something to say. I get a fair amount of respect.

Cameron continues, “By being male, I’m automatically given some kind of validity that is weird. ‘Wait, guys, I haven’t said anything yet. And besides, you shouldn’t be giving me male privilege because I’m not really a guy — at least not by your standards, I’m definitely not.”

Why did this section intrigue me? Honestly it’s because there have been a few times in my life when I wouldn’t have minded just a few moments of “male privilege” when I was treated condescendingly.

A Few Closing Thoughts About This Book and This Topic

This book gave me insights into being transgender that I have not had previously. At the same time, as a parent, I found myself mentally sorting out some dynamics that were specific to teenagerhood and family dysfunction. It must make teenagerhood, which is already fraught with its share of difficulties, even harder to be so misunderstood.

In all honesty, though, I struggled with pieces of the book. Maybe it’s because my journey of understanding what it is to transition and to be transgender is fairly new. I do see why teens who want to supplement their transition with hormones and/or surgery have to go through intensive counseling. I heard their impatience to “just move things along” and worried that they had not developed the critical thinking skills and self awareness necessary to make such life-changing decisions.

I guess no book about such a heavy topic SHOULD be neatly tied up with a perfect bow. That’s why I feel so strongly about access to all kinds of books, and am such a staunch advocate for the freedom to read.

AND … I have to commend author Susan Kuklin for her photography skills as well. Perhaps Audible has that stuff in “the files” (those things I never look at after reading an audiobook) but it was a special pleasure to hold the pages (and images) in my hands, especially the ones at my beloved NYC High Line!

A Great Banned Books Week Video

I thought this video from Phillips Academy Andover (which mentions Beyond Magenta, I might add!), was creative!

Their summary statement echoes my position pretty well:

In honor of #BannedBooksWeek, the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library and Phillips Academy encourage students to read and obtain knowledge from all sources. At Andover we believe in the First Amendment and that we should not censor what is available to our students.

Literature Challenges

Ten Florida Families to Win College Scholarships

Prepaid College TuitionNever will another Florida State University student spend their freshman year where I did: coping with the thrills, disappointments and sheer journey into the unknown brought on by spending the year in Kellum Hall. Kellum Hall has been razed. A patch of gravel (pictured above) is all that is left on the footprint of a place where many of my friends and I experienced that critical freshman year.

The ten winners of the Florida Prepaid Scholarship Giveaway will have to start freshman year somewhere rather than Kellum, but the good news is they will start freshman year knowing they have the financial jump-start of a 2-year Florida College Plan, valued at more than $8,000, courtesy of the Florida Prepaid College Board.

Prepaid College Tuition

I’ll share the details of how to enter (it’s simple!), but if the idea of the Florida Prepaid Program is new to you, a brief comment about why it’s so incredible.

About Saving for College and Why College Matters

According to the How America Saves for College 2016 report, only 2 out of 5 families have a plan to pay for college — even though a postsecondary degree is more necessary than ever for career success. According to state projections, 59 percent of all jobs in Florida will require postsecondary education by 2018.

If you are not as prepared to fund your child’s education as you hoped to be, this does not reflect a lack of love for your child or children. Instead, it puts you in the majority, among the 3 out of 5 families without a plan to pay for college.

Prepaid College Tuition

To celebrate National College Savings Month, why not enter this contest for a chance to give your child a powerful head start?

It worked out well for this family, who won a scholarship from last year’s contest:

How to Enter

When: Register between now and October 23

Where: Click here to enter (remember you can enter daily)

What You Can Win: In addition to registering to win one of the ten 2-year plans, when you click on the entry link, you can earn extra entries by answering questions, learning more about saving for college, and sharing on social media. There will also be chances to win a total of 50 weekly prizes.

Eligibility: Open to legal residents in the state of Florida with children or grandchildren between the ages of newborn through 8th grade.

Beyond the contest period, prepaid plans will be available for purchase throughout open enrollment, which begins October 15, 2016, and ends February 28, 2017.

Prepaid College Tuition

This post is sponsored by the Florida Prepaid College Board, through my role as a Believer Blogger. All thoughts are my own.

Aging and HIV: Why One More Test Matters

“Are you HAVING sex?”

My gynecologist asked me this question at a routine checkup to monitor my use of hormones to deal with the symptoms of early menopause.

In my head, my answer was, “well I’m married so why do you need to ask?” But his question indicated that he was making no assumptions. Me saying the medicine was working in the absence of being sexually active would be misleading. His question was a good one.

National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day

HIV PreventionAlthough assumptions are dangerous any time a medical professional rules out the need for HIV testing based on how a patient looks or acts, they are especially dangerous when the patient is 50 or older. Today, National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day, is a day to make sure Americans ages 50 and above have full and complete access to HIV education, testing, and treatment.

Cynthia’s Mom

Cynthia shared her experience with me of having to insist her mother’s physician test her mom for HIV back in 1986. Her mom had been ill with pneumonia for a long time, and had had every other possible test.HIV Prevention

RUN THAT HIV TEST, demanded Cynthia.

It turns out her mom, who was in her mid-50s at the time, was HIV positive.

Her doctor had not thought Cynthia’s mom was the type of patient who was likely to be at risk for HIV.

There’s no “type of patient” likely to be at risk for HIV.

Consider this:

  • People aged 55 and older accounted for 26% of all Americans living with diagnosed or undiagnosed HIV infection in 2013.
  • People aged 50 and older have the same HIV risk factors as younger people, but may be less aware of their HIV risk factors.
  • Older Americans are more likely to be diagnosed with HIV infection later in the course of their disease.

More from Cynthia in her own words:

We need to replace “MAY BE” with “ARE”

When I asked Cynthia, who works frequently with people ages 50 and above to educate them about HIV and encourage them to get tested, I asked about the main message I needed to communicate.

I said, “what I need to do is remind my 50-ish year old peers that their parents may still be sexually active, right?”

Her response?

“Not MAY BE sexually active, ARE sexually active.”

She is right. This is not the time to hesitate; it is the time to be specific, concrete, and to the point.

According to the CDC, many older people are sexually active, including those living with HIV, and may have the same HIV risk factors as younger people, including a lack of knowledge about HIV and how to prevent getting it, as well as having multiple sex partners. Older people also face unique issues:

  • Many widowed and divorced people are dating again. They may be less aware of their risks for HIV than younger people, believing HIV is not an issue for older people. Thus, they may be less likely to protect themselves.
  • Women who no longer worry about becoming pregnant may be less likely to use a condom and to practice safer sex. Age-related thinning and dryness of vaginal tissue may raise older women’s risk for HIV infection.
  • Although they visit their doctors more frequently, older people are less likely than younger people to discuss their sexual habits or drug use with their doctors. In addition, doctors are less likely to ask their older patients about these issues.

A Physician Knows

Dr. Cyneetha Strong, a family practice physician in Tallahassee, FL, shared:

If you are in a demographic that “doesn’t seem to be at risk for contracting HIV” you could have a delay in testing and diagnosis. The elderly is a growing demographic of new cases of HIV. Because of our hang ups about sexuality, it is difficult to think of the elderly engaging in high-risk sexual behaviors.

The advent of Viagra has played a significant role in increasing the spread of STIs [sexually transmitted infections]. Some retirement communities have been hotbeds (no pun intended) of disease. I will admit that I even have trouble broaching the topic with some “little old ladies.” I have also been shocked at some folks activities. So, that’s the problem.

One solution that has been proposed has been a recommendation of universal testing. Every adult, regardless of age or situation should be tested at least once. Also, it has been proposed to remove the requirement of a separate consent form for HIV testing, so providers could routinely test for HIV like we do for so many other things. Just like you might get tested for cholesterol, diabetes, or chlamydia as part of routine care, HIV could be done as well. The stigma that still goes along with the diagnosis makes testing without separate consent unlikely in the near future.

Why Are There Additional Challenges for Those 50 and Older?

Through Cynthia’s story as the daughter of an HIV positive aging woman (and as an HIV positive person herself), and Dr. Strong’s comments about her experience providing care to aging people at risk of HIV infection, several of the specific issues faced by aging Americans repeat themselves. The issues fall into two main categories: age-related risk factors and barriers to prevention.

Age-related risk factors:

  • Lack of knowledge
  • Biological risk factors
  • Risky sexual behavior
  • Accessibility of erectile dysfunction medications

Barriers to prevention:

  • Aging stereotypes
  • Low HIV testing rates
  • Underdiagnosis of HIV/AIDS
  • Late diagnosis of HIV infection
  • Discrimination
  • Internalized stigma

For details on each of these risks, visit this link.

Support, Don’t Stigmatize

If you watched the video above with Cynthia and Walter, you heard Walter explain what he told the participants in the treatment center where he worked when an opportunity arose to be tested for HIV:

I’m not like y’all; I don’t do what you do.

Stigma crops up in so many different ways. For Walter, he did not think his behaviors, as compared to those of the people in recovery from drug addiction, made him likely to be HIV positive.

It turns out he was more like them than he thought; he tested positive.

When it comes to your aging friends and relatives, cast aside stigma, assume they ARE sexually active (and therefore at risk) rather than that they MAY be sexually active, and you may save their life.

Being HIV positive is no longer a death sentence at all, but the longer someone waits to be tested the less options they have to get on treatment and thrive.

Here’s how you can help:

Be clear yet respectful when discussing HIV risk factors with aging adults. If you’re at a loss for words, there are some great conversation starters in How to Talk to Grandma and Grandpa About HIV.

It’s a longer-term action, but support efforts to have HIV Testing integrated into the standard laboratory tests that are conducted as part of annual physician exams such as blood glucose and cholesterol. Learn more in Routine HIV Testing in Older Adults.

I love the way the Diverse Elders Coalition expresses their wish for the outcome of this year’s National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day: we envision a present where no elder has to face HIV without support, and a future where no elder has to face HIV at all.

HIV Prevention

Cynthia told me her mom often feels that aging people who are HIV positive do not have their “own” support or attention. None of us can solve that problem overnight. What we can do, however, is give each aging adult who is at risk for HIV their own chance at maintaining their health.

We can help them get their own “one more test,” an HIV test.

This post is made possible by support from the Let’s Stop HIV Together campaign. All opinions are my own.

Many thanks to Cynthia A., Dr. Strong, and Kaitlin Sovich for their assistance with this post.


Suffer the Little Children

I am pleased to share a guest post from my friend Mandi about her experience of the time she and her family spent at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum.

Process Tragedy

I watched my 10-year-old and held my breath. We were standing in front of Ground Zero, the memorial for all those lost lives, where the names were engraved around that beautiful dark fountain. Above us, buildings rose up, construction was a constant sound, along with the not-too-distant traffic.

But inside the memorial park, it was like being in the eye of a hurricane. There was stillness and reverence.

And I had brought my ten-year-old son and seven-year-old daughter who seem to be fueled, most of the time, by equal parts adrenaline and chaos.

Process Tragedy

I had prepped them, of course. Ineptly, but I had prepped them. I talked about “bad guys” and airplanes and immense, nationwide sadness and fear.

Their questions were pointed:

“Did the bad guys get punished, Mama?”

“Of course, definitely,” I answered. But so did everyone else, I kept to myself.

“Did any kids die, Mama?”

“Yes, but they are in heaven now,” I said. And their families lived through hell, said the dark part of my soul.

There were so many things I didn’t tell them. I didn’t describe things that are etched into my brain, like how I came out of the shower that unforgettable morning, sat down on the edge of my bed in front of the TV news and didn’t move – other than to desperately dial friends’ numbers – the entire day. At 6 PM, I realized I was still wrapped in a towel.

I remember candles lining the sidewalks of the Los Angeles street where I lived, silent streets where stunned, lost people walked. Even the walking was strange – people don’t walk in L.A. But they did that day. Restaurants were quiet. Except in one, a man began singing “God Bless America” and people around the room joined in, in almost whispered tones.

You have your story, I’m sure. Full of strange disjointed details that don’t mean that much – and at the same time, mean everything.

I tried to distill things down for my kids in language that wouldn’t scare them, but would impart the seriousness of the day and the importance of the place. And as we approached the park, I was a little afraid, I’ll admit, that they would be silly, that they would come across as disrespectful, that they would be too loud or offend someone.

They approached the stone around the fountain where the names were engraved. They ran their fingers across the letters. They touched the water. My daughter began to loudly sound out the names. She was disappointed that I didn’t know any of those people.

Her brother turned to her. “Shhh!” he said. Then he laid his head down on the warm stone.

“What are you doing?” I asked him.

“Hugging them,” he said. And he rested his face against the names of the lost and closed his beautiful eyes.

Process Tragedy

Mandi Broadfoot is the homeschooling mom of two: a 10-year-old son with autism named Billy and a seven-year-old daughter named Willow.  She is also the Creative Director of Making Light Productions, a nonprofit dedicated to making the arts accessible to kids of all abilities, and you can find her blog posts here.


Introducing the Modern Blogging Masterclass With a #Giveaway!

Blogging Education

Do you sometimes feel like this guy when trying to achieve your social media goals? Your vision is obscured and you aren’t even sure where to aim.

I know I do!

I have been blogging since 2009, and still have so much to learn.

It was one thing when it was just me, blogging to flex my writing muscle, but now blogging is one of my major responsibilities at the Lead Change Group (LCG). Other people are depending on me to handle their content.

Weaving Influence, which owns LCG, is counting on me to maximize the ability of each post to reach a broad audience, to achieve SEO goals, and to expand our digital footprint.

More importantly than a large audience is the fact that these posts reach the right audience, people who will remain part of our community for longer than the five minutes they took to peruse one post.

Last year, I participated in a piloted online course that changed the way I approach blogging. The course equipped me to improve the LCG blog from a search perspective, and it’s positioning me to prove the work I’m doing is driving real results.

That course was The Modern Blogging MasterclassI’m excited to be among the first to tell you that it’s now available to the public (but the cart closes on September 15).

I’ll let the experts at Spin Sucks give you all of the information about it, but I can tell you this: You don’t want to miss it. It will give you a huge advantage over your competitors and it will help you plan your entire communications program for 2017.

Click here to check it out…you won’t regret it!

With the Modern Blogging Masterclass, your blindfold will be HISTORY and you will be much more likely to hit your target!

Blogging Education

To encourage people to learn more about the Modern Blogging Masterclass, I gave away an Amazon Giftcard to one of the people who helped me spread the word! Congratulations to that Phase One winner, Jenny S.


To be entered into a drawing for a $10 Amazon gift card, please visit this link, then leave a comment below telling me something you learned about the Modern Blogging Masterclass.

Please also feel free to tweet by clicking here. Leave the url of your tweet in the comments for an additional entry.

Update: Congrats to Sara L. for winning the gift card!

NOTE: I am a Modern Blogging Masterclass affiliate. Because I am a former student, I have the opportunity to win a prize if you sign up.

Photo Credit for Blindfolded Archer: Sira Anamwong,

Photo Credit for Dartboard: Pixabay

Hope for Jose

As I write this, we have had power back on for almost 8 hours. Yes, we did do a happy dance of celebration at 3 am when the whole house lit up after a hurricane-induced outage of more than 48 hours.

Our outage was a “hardship.” Our home was really hot; we had to cook our eggs in a cast iron pot on the grill before they spoiled. My son mastered backgammon by flashlight. I was the first to volunteer for ANY outing that would take me out of the house and into blessed air conditioning. It was sad and frustrating to deal with my father-in-law’s constant requests for TV (he has short term memory issues).

In the scheme of things, however, we had it good. Our home is solid. Legions of utility personnel flowed into town and worked day and night to get us back up and running.

For families served by Unbound in Guatemala, the set of challenges is different. Because homes are often constructed of less-than-solid materials and methods. Because families rely upon day-to-day agricultural or other “get it as you can” work, a natural disaster poses daunting problems.

As this 2010 blog documenting the Unbound response to natural disasters in Guatemala documents, issues can include perilous roads, mudslides, volcanoes, and theft of personal property because homes are not secured.

For children like Jose, sponsorship can make a difference through providing food, health care, education, and support of his family’s efforts to make a living for themselves (via owning animals like chickens that produce eggs or by instructing a mom in a skill like sewing). In addition, Unbound holds two quetzales per child specifically to be able to respond immediately in case of disaster.

Child Sponsorship

A home we visited in Guatemala — it always humbled me that the family put so much work into creating the welcome sign and the dad said “I am sorry my home is so small.” It was very large in hospitality.

Unbound does an incredible job of balancing its imperative to help families learn how to help themselves, with providing support at times when survival is at stake. That’s one of the many reasons we love Unbound and sponsor three children (a young adult woman in Guatemala, a young girl in Guatemala, and a little boy in El Salvador).

Meet Jose, age 7, from Guatemala, who is seeking sponsorship now:

Child Sponsorship

Unbound shares the following about Jose:

Jose has fun singing and playing with toy cars, alongside his two brothers. He’s diligent in his studies and loves physical education.

At home, Jose helps his grandmother feed the pigs and he helps make the beds.

He and his family have lived with his grandparents for some time now. Their block home has a sheet metal roof and cement floor. His mother tends to the household chores.

Jose’s father is a mason’s assistant, but the work is unsteady. To augment his income, he also has a part-time job at a local store.

To help Jose:

If you are interested in sponsoring Jose, please outreach (at) or call Clair, the Outreach Coordinator, at 800.875.6564 ext. 7309. I would also be happy to facilitate putting you in touch with Unbound.

Sponsorship is $36 a month. In the scheme of things, it’s a small investment which yields enormous results both for Jose and his family, for the good of humankind in general, and in the relationship you’ll develop with Jose and his family via letters (and, when fate really smiles upon you, VISITS).

You can also learn more about Unbound at their website, on Facebook, on Twitter, and on Instagram.

I am part of an Unbound effort to help secure sponsors for 100 children by Christmas. Since Jose turns 8 on December 10, I’m shooting for about 15 days earlier than that for him to hear those happy words “you have a new friend.”

Child Sponsorship

A neighborhood we visited in Guatemala. The families are VERY grateful to the sponsors and humbled us with such a grand welcome.

Child Sponsorship