Until Alzheimers is Cured, Let’s Do This

When we prepared Wayne’s dad’s obituary, we designated Big Bend Hospice for donations. BBH definitely deserved this prominent place, and has earned any and all donations people choose to give.

However, another cause that merits attention is Alzheimers Disease. Although Dad didn’t technically have Alzheimers, his short-term memory and cognition were sufficiently impaired that he qualified for the services of our local (and awesome!) Alzheimers Project here in Tallahassee.

Our Experience

Because Dad had experienced several mini-strokes in 2012, his short-term memory was affected. (Note: This dry sentence doesn’t really begin to address what that meant in reality, as it played out in our day-to-day lives.)

This is a bit of a layperson explanation, but he had difficulty remembering events or details that had just transpired, while it was often easier to recall long-term memories. He would ask, for example, if something we were watching (that was obviously (to us anyway) a film) was occurring live. He asked my husband Wayne if he was married (sigh….).

Things changed about the way he processed the world. He didn’t care about personal hygiene. His laugh wasn’t a humorous laugh — it was a haunting expression that always unnerved me — and I could never just put it in some category of “that’s because of his condition.” I am sorry to say that almost to the very end I was sniping back “that’s not funny” and slamming doors (often over the all-too-frequent cat escapes that he facilitated).

Most importantly (and this is a mixed bag), his memory deficits prevented him (I think) from really comprehending how sick he was. Melanie, our incredible social worker, said “that’s probably a blessing” and she was right, to a degree, but I always felt it must be scary as he** for him to see all of us buzzing around, acquiring equipment, administering medication, transforming his room with a hospital bed, for reasons he couldn’t figure out.

Alzheimer’s and dementia are different for everyone, but the challenges are numerous and share common threads, both for the patient who doesn’t fully comprehend the path their life has taken and for the caregiver trying to be compassionate without losing their own mind.

The Alzheimers Project has many services (free), including support groups, respite services, counseling and more. I tell everyone to go to support groups (although (cough cough) I never made it to one. But we did get so much benefit out of the respite care, where an Americorps volunteer comes to the home to care for the patient for a few hours each week. Thanks to respite care, I was able to work, nap, and run errands (and Dad was able to interact with someone new). They were godsends. Here is Alex, who was with us almost until he passed away.

Alzheimers Advocacy

(Note, to read more about the role of Fordham Afghan pictured here in our lives, please click this link.)

Ways To Support Alzheimers Efforts

Like I said in the beginning of this post, it is important to me that the world know how much benefit we received from our local Alzheimer’s Project, and how much we want other families with Alzheimers (and similar issues) to receive support, along with our hope that research will eliminate this terrible disease. If you are a family dealing with Alzheimers, call their hotline 24/7 at 1.800.272.3900 or visit their website by clicking here

If you aren’t currently personally dealing with Alzheimers, but still want to help

Buy a Rivet Revolution Product

Rivet Revolution sells beautiful handcrafted jewelry and donates $10 from each purchase to three Alzheimers-related causes: Part the Cloud, Hilarity for Charity, and The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement. Here is mine; isn’t it beautiful?

Alzheimers Advocacy

Rivet Revolution notes these facts among the reasons why they feel so strongly about ending Alzheimers (besides the fact that each of the three founders has a personal connection to the disease).

  • One in 10 people age 65 and older (10 percent) has Alzheimer’s dementia
  • Almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women
  • Alzheimer’s Disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States
  • Every 66 seconds someone in the United States develops the disease
  • More than 44 million people worldwide suffer from Alzheimer’s

Do Charity Miles for the Alzheimers Association

Did you know you can walk, run or bike and help the Alzheimers Association earn funding just by using the Charity Miles app?

Here’s a memory from some Charity Miles I did last year (which seems like a lifetime ago for many reasons).

Alzheimers Advocacy

If You’re in Tallahassee, PARTY!

Seriously, if you’ve never been to Parrothead Phrenzy (it’s coming up on August 26!) or Purple Craze (This year’s has already happened but I imagine there will be a 2018 event), you’re missing out! These events help the Alzheimers Project and show you a great time while you’re at it!

Donate

There’s always the option of straightforward donations! To donate to the Tallahassee Alzheimers Project, click here (a donation as small as $2.50 can provide a replacement band for a Project Lifesaver bracelet). On a more national level, you can donate to the Alzheimers Association here.

Think About Your Words

Although I have my definite (and many, and very strongly held) opinions about our current president, it unnerves me to hear people diagnosing him on the basis of his tweets and behaviors. To me, it dilutes the specificity with which we need to address Alzheimers and related dementia conditions. Let’s be deliberate with the words we use; actual patients are paying a price every day for something that didn’t get diagnosed by strangers second-guessing.

Lastly, a word from Maria Shriver…

Alzheimers Advocacy

Note: I was provided a complimentary Rivet Revolution bracelet.All opinions, though are my own and I will be at the absolute front of the line to do be a part of eradicating Alzheimer’s. 

Sandwiches for Superheroes

This post is made possible by support from Reward Volunteers. All opinions are my own.

During our family’s recent journey with my father-in-law through the hospice process and his eventual passing away from terminal throat cancer, the life season demanded a focus almost exclusively on him: his medical needs and his emotional navigation of death and dying as our house started to look like a durable medical equipment supply store.

Not that I approached it from a “what about me?” perspective but I was taken aback, heartened, and SHOCKED on the rare occasions when someone would say “What about you? How are you doing?” One steadfast hospice volunteer, who came to sit with Dad weekly, always said, “You know I am here for you as much as for him” (at which point I would immediately escape to the bedroom for a nap).

Similar to the way our family members’ less immediate needs got overlooked during Dad’s illness, siblings of kids dealing with life-threatening illnesses and intensive special needs often inadvertently get pushed to the back burner of life. As a family tries to cope logistically and emotionally with keeping the ill child alive, moments small and big (a third-grade holiday play, a need to say, “Mom, Lindsey was mean to me today on the playground”) get lost in the cacophony.

These kids are as heroic as their siblings who are fighting a more visible battle.

What did approximately a thousand peanut butter and jelly sandwich squares have to do with a filling the gaps in the lives of sibling superheroes?

Reward VolunteersThe morning of February 5, 2017, dawned chilly and clear, exactly the kind of weather marathon runners crave.

But I wasn’t there to run (and technically arrived long before the sun). I was there to help fortify the runners of the Tallahassee Marathon and Half Marathon.

Reflecting on my food-prep team’s work that day, making more peanut butter and jelly quarters than we could possibly count, I am reminded that race-day volunteers may not cover 26.2 physical miles and there aren’t any medals, but it still is an accomplishment of its own kind. Like the participants in all the various projects represented over at Reward Volunteers, we are able to share in dividends like these:

We get to support others who are working toward their goals.

Marathoners train for months leading up to the race, battling self-doubt and pushing their bodies to do things they aren’t sure they can do. When you’re one of the first people they see after crossing that finish line, and you’re able to help them refill their physical tanks after using up all their inner stores, it’s an important role.

We get to meet new people.

I had a crackerjack team of fellow sandwich-makers that morning, many of whom I had never met before and wouldn’t have met had we not found ourselves elbow deep in peanut butter on a frigid Sunday morning. It was a way to establish some new bonds with fellow Tallahassee community members.

We get to be part of a community.

This one is a bit hard for me. I was already a member of the running community, because I was a runner for years. But a cardiac issue has curtailed my running; this is disappointing since most of my social network was composed of runners and Saturdays usually were kicked off by a joint run followed up with brunch. Making these sandwiches, supporting other runners, was a way to still be a part of it all.

Some details in life are critical yet unheralded. Runners who don’t have access to nutrition right after a race have a physical problem (because they desperately need to replace burned calories). If no one secured the food donations, planned out the post-race celebration area, opened the bread, spread the peanut butter and jelly, cut the sandwiches, and made them easy to access, the post-race celebration would be dampened as hangry runners tried to cope.

Proceeds from this marathon supported the Hang Tough Foundation, which has a mission of helping siblings of sick kids enjoy the freedom of childhood at a time when their parents’ attention is diverted.

With every peanut butter and jelly sandwich I made, I knew eventually a kid would be shown by Hang Tough “this is for you too.”

More About the Reward Volunteers Program

In case the Reward Volunteers Program is new to you, here are some of the basics:

  • It’s a site that allows you to log your volunteer hours and keep a record of all the good you’re putting into the world.
  • By logging your hours, you (or your organization) can win prizes.
  • Reward Volunteers also provides information about volunteering opportunities in your area.
  • Organizations also benefit when they register to be a Reward Volunteers organization and their volunteers log their hours.

For more information, click here (or let me know your questions and I’ll get you some answers!).

5 Lessons Learned While Rocking My Message

Have you gotten in on the rock painting crafts craze? It is big here in Tallahassee, as this article attests. Even the #TLHTwitterMayor created and hid a rock.

Rock Painting Crafts

I’m doing my first painting/hiding project this weekend. Bella is helping me check out my rocks.

Rock Painting Crafts

As I read through various sets of instructions about how to paint rocks, it occurred to me that rock painting, like many projects we tackle, has more steps and deeper meaning than seems obvious at first.

Planning

If you’re like me, you don’t have beach pebbles lying around. I had to plan ahead in order to have rocks to paint. I read about what other people had used, then figured out how to get my own beach pebbles even though it’s difficult to get time away from home due to caregiving demands. (Thanks, Amazon gift card + prime shipping! In other news, my UPS guy may not be speaking to me for a while.)

Although spontaneous messages are sometimes effective, thinking through your goals increases your chance to say what you mean to say. 

Priming

Many sets of instructions I read suggested to use a base coat of acrylic paint or mod podge before painting designs.

Before sharing a message important to you, touch base with your fundamental values and know the foundation supporting what you are going to share.

Painting the Designs!

While painting the designs, we have to think about what it is we want to express. If you’re like me, you have to overcome that horrible “but I’m not an artist” feeling. You may even want to practice first (rocks are bumpy canvasses).

Having a sense of adventure and courageously unleashing your creativity are key to expressing what is uniquely “you.”

Sealing Your Rocks

You need to use a clear acrylic or some other type of sealant to make sure your message stays clear.

The best messaging in the world won’t matter if friction, the elements, and opposition make it disappear. Putting a clear coat on to protect the message helps it get to as many people as possible.

Hiding Your Rocks

You have to find a place where your hiding activities will comply with the community’s rules, honor businesses’ wishes to be involved or not, stay safe, and find the balance between concealing and revealing that will lure a searcher in but still present a challenge.

Designing a great message doesn’t matter if it still sits in your hands. Take it out into the world and send it on its way. 

MY FIRST DESIGNS

I have a few organizations, people, and places on my mind, so I’m channeling those thoughts into my debut rock artwork (yes, I use the term “art” lightly!).

EQL

EQL, pronounced “equal,” is an organization I’ve recently learned about. EQL has the ambitious goal of promoting acceptance, respect and rights for all. EQL’s strategy is to make equality “a quiet march that happens every day, everywhere” by replicating what major brands do: encouraging positive emotions and enlisting brand advocates.

EQL sells gear with its logo here and donates 35% of the proceeds to causes such as the ACLU, according to their website.

Learn more here or here and look for the hashtag #WeMarchEveryDay to find fellow fans of EQL.

Honoring Savannah’s Courage

Savannah’s statement in front of her congregation moved me. She is a 12-year-old Mormon girl who proclaimed in front of her congregation, “I know I am not a horrible sinner for being who I am” (more here). She was cut off by a leader before she had finished her speech, but the rest can be read here.

Stepping Up My Support of #BlackLivesMatter

I am not sure how to approach this, but I recently agreed to do a guest post about how people can find common ground related to the topic of #BlackLivesMatter so I’d better get to thinking!

This rock will honor Alicia Garza,  Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, the three founders of #BlackLivesMatter. While of course it is technically true that “all lives matter” and it is very true that “blue lives matter” (i.e., law enforcement deserves our support), it is critical at this point in time to say this:

As a white person, I am declaring my overt support of #BlackLivesMatter. The disproportionate mistreatment of people of color, the institutional racism that influences some (not all) law enforcement agencies, the divisiveness among our nation’s citizens, won’t be resolved until we “get” why #BlackLivesMatter is a thing.

BIRTHDAYS!

One rock will honor my daughter, Tenley, on her 21st birthday (June 26) and another will honor my son, Wayne, for his 18th birthday (July 1). Two big milestones!

A GREEN PEN

Sounds easy to draw but we’ll see. I love encouraging people to #WriteOptimistically, so I’ll give it a whirl.

CATS!

I saw a cute idea for creating a cat out of two symmetrical rocks. I can’t find it now (sigh) but may give a cat rock a whirl, for no other reason than the fact that cats are fun!

Have you painted/hidden rocks before? I’d love to hear about your experience!

Rock Painting Crafts

Editor’s Note: I am still working on my painted rocks. I’ll drop a picture in when I’m done, before they are hidden!

Editor’s Note #2 (8/14/17): Well, THAT was optimistic (editor’s note #1!). The rocks I did finish, I often forgot to photograph before I hid. I’ll track down a picture or two and drop them in … eventually!

Saying Goodbye to Silvia

It is time to say goodbye to Silvia, the first person our family sponsored through Unbound. Although I knew her time in the program would end, it was still a sobering moment when I received the notification, even though her departure is due to her success.

The Farewell Notification

Humanitarian Programs

Unbound sent us a letter notifying us that Silvia had graduated, along with a farewell letter written by Silvia’s cousin (and translated by Unbound), explaining Silvia was unable to write due to her job. Here’s an excerpt:

…Silvia is in good health thanks to God along with her family. We thank you for the support you have given her since it has benefited her with healthcare, education, food supplies, shoes, clothing and much more.

She has gotten other significant benefits such as cinder block, sheets of tin, cookware, bed and others which got better her home. I also tell you that Silvia leaves Unbound program since she graduated from high school and she got the art and sciences diploma, she has gotten a job actually and she works selling clothing, now she is able to support her family.

 

Our History With Silvia and Her Family

I don’t recall the precise date Silvia became a part of our family when my in-laws chose to sponsor her through Unbound (I think it was around 2002); they picked her partially because she was close in age to Tenley and my nieces, thinking shared gender and age would help the connection feel more “real.”

Humanitarian Programs

Over the years, I felt increasingly led to meet Silvia in person. Pictures and letters can only convey so much. I wrote about the goal here and here.

In 2011, th goal became reality! Tenley and I traveled to Guatemala as part of an Unbound Mission Awareness Trip and met Silvia and her mom (also named Silvia). I shared our experiences here and here.

What I Have Learned

Documenting what we have learned over the time we have sponsored Silvia, especially through the trip to meet her in 2011, is a challenging task which largely defies words. A few observations, though.

Sponsorship is not a one-way street. Yes, our monthly contributions provided her and her family with support they would not otherwise have had and enabled her to get an education (not something to be underestimated in Central America) and her family to have better housing. Hopefully the letters and packages (back when we were allowed to send packages) sent by my in-laws and us (technically my in-laws were Silvia’s sponsors) inspired, amused, and affirmed her and her family. But as cliche’ as I know it sounds, we got as much or more out of the experience than they did.

This experience pointed up our sheer humanity and imperfection, which is why God’s grace is so central to our lives. My fellow parishioners at Holy Comforter made a Humanitarian Programsbeautiful quilt for Silvia. Each parishioner crocheted or knitted a square, then they were sewn together and blessed at church before being taken to Silvia. It was truly a lovely gift. I have to say, though, in retrospect, Guatemala is a very hot place. I am sure Silvia and her family treasure the gift but as practical gifts go, I could possibly have made a more useful choice! I also underestimated the fact that she was (at the time of our visit) a typical teenage girl. After meeting her and seeing her sense of style, I thought of other things we could have given her that may have been a bit more to her liking!

Spending time in a developing country is far superior to reading about a developing country. I know we can’t all go to countries about which we are curious due to financial, time, or health constraints, but do it if you can. I will never, ever, ever forget visiting one family’s humble home with a homemade welcome sign on the door. The home was so primitive, and the owner apologized for the home’s small size as I entered. But the Humanitarian Programssentiment on the door and the genuine love shown by the people we visited trumped every standard-of-living consideration. That said, we have it so good here, y’all (speaking to my friends in the US, Canada, and other countries where we have everything we need even if sometimes we perceive we don’t have what we want). We need to let that ease of living fuel our generosity to help others who aren’t so fortunate have the tools they need to support themselves.

Having to wait things out is a blessing. Our first 24-48 hours in Guatemala did not go smoothly. It was an adjustment to remember to throw the toilet paper away rather than flush it, to take the Pepto Bismol every four hours to fend off gastrointestinal distress, to remember not to drink the water. I am not exaggerating one bit to say Tenley was miserable and I am pretty sure I recall her emailing her dad (when we had a moment of internet connectivity at Unbound’s center) to tell him she wanted to go home NOW. Thank goodness that wasn’t a possibility, because she had done an emotional 360 by the end of the week. We have all gotten used to instantaneous everything, including rapidly ditching situations that no longer please us. I am so grateful that wasn’t an option for us.

What We Hope For Silvia

One of the biggest challenges of the end of an Unbound sponsorship is the fact that it truly is a final “goodbye.” For a variety of reasons that make perfect sense from a practical and security standpoint, we are not allowed to share addresses or attempt to continue contact.

Tenley said to simply “tell her we love her and to never lose faith in Christ.”

Maybe it’s as basic as that. We want her to always know how loved she was (and is) and to keep up her faith. I would add, though, that as a female in her early 20s in a country like Guatemala, I pray that she use the education she received to control the reins of her life, that she is immune from being controlled by a man who does not want the best for her, from being restricted by a government that does not value her equally with males, that she is as free as possible from self-doubt.

How to Help Other “Silvias”

Unbound gave us the option to roll my father-in-law’s monthly contribution to another sponsored individual, but due to his terminal illness, we declined. (Our family still sponsors Estela in Guatemala and Stanley in El Salvador.)

If you are seeking a way to make a difference for a child, individual with special needs, or aging person, I strongly encourage you to consider sponsoring through Unbound via a $36 per month contribution.

Because it is more difficult for adults to find sponsors, I have chosen to feature Leonel Oscar:

Humanitarian Programs

According to Leonel Oscar’s profile on the Unbound website, he Leonel likes praying for the people in his community, so they can live with a better quality of life. He has a mental disability which makes it difficult for him to pronounce some words. Speech therapy would help him improve his ability to communicate with others. Leonel lives with his sister in a concrete-block dwelling. It’s far from the urban area, so they go by bus to the market. Leonel and his sister grow watercress and herbs to sell there.

Unbound’s site shares information about everyone needing sponsors on their site; you can sort by birthday, first name (I had hoped to find another “Silvia” to share with you!), and other criteria. Click here to start your sponsorship journey. (If you have an interest in Leonel Oscar specifically and can’t find him, I will be happy to try to help you.)
Humanitarian Programs

Meet the Candidates for #TLHTwitterMayor

What does being a mayor mean? It depends on who you ask and what type of mayorship you’re referring to. For example, my 2016 Swarm review revealed that I accumulated 91 mayorships!

Twitter Mayor

And except to my ego, these mayorships mean absolutely nothing. Other United States mayorships, of real places, having responsibility for real issues, are different. Whether mayor-council, commission, or council-manager, US mayors have responsibilities impacting law enforcement, housing, and a variety of other municipal issues relating to quality of life for a community.

What Does It Mean to be the #TLHTwitterMayor?

There’s a new mayorship in town here in Tallahassee. It’s *possible* it is more closely related in significance to my 91 Swarm memberships than to any of the mayors of our 19,429 municipalities, but you would never know that from the passion, drive, intensity (and trash talking) of the race’s four candidates.

I’m not exactly sure how the #TLHTwitterMayor race was born, but earlier this week, one tweet led to another and a campaign was born, leading to this story in the Tallahassee Democrat.

Now, I love Twitter (maybe my 100,000+ tweets back that  up), and really wanted to be one of the four candidates was immediately enthusiastic about supporting my four fellow Tallahassee Twitter friends, so I offered to give them each an opportunity to promote their platforms on my blog.

This is what each candidate was asked:

What is the biggest strength you bring as a candidate?

What is one thing each Tallahasseean could do to improve our community?

Where did your favorite Tallahassee memory take place?

How would you describe Tallahassee in a tweet?

What local charity do you want people to know more about and/or donate to?

As part of the candidate forum, we will be collecting canned goods for America’s Second Harvest of the Big Bend.  What canned good best represents you and why?

Here is what they said in response. The two who responded are  presented in the order in which I received their answers. The other two are getting special Big Green Pen treatment!

@WakullaWriter (Rachel Sutz Pienta)

Twitter Mayor

What is the biggest strength you bring as a candidate?  My Big Bend, North Florida sensibility coupled with my willingness to subvert dominant paradigms and blur traditional lines of separation is my biggest strength of a candidate. I moved here 22 years ago from an area known as a larger metro suburban and rural region that converged on an urban center – similar to what Tallahassee is for the Big Bend area and Eastern Panhandle.

What is one thing each Tallahasseean could do to improve our community?  One thing each Tallahasseean could to improve our community is to choose one organization to give their time to for 5 hours a month for one year. Imagine what such an investment of time and talent could do for our community if every resident chose some way to give back like this!

Where did your favorite Tallahassee memory take place? My favorite Tallahassee memory took place at the American Legion Hall at Lake Ella.  My husband and I held our wedding reception for over 200 family and friends there.

How would you describe Tallahassee in a tweet?   #Tallahassee – come to learn, fall in love, stay for a lifetime!

What local charity do you want people to know more about and/or donate to?  I would like people to learn more about the United Way and support it more fully. There is no organization that helps so many people across so many different sectors across the Big Bend area as the United Way does.

As part of the candidate forum, we will be collecting canned goods for America’s Second Harvest of the Big Bend.  What canned good best represents you and why?  Canned pumpkin. Like canned pumpkin, I can be savory or sweet.  Pumpkin can be made into soup, sauce, pies, cakes, bread, and so much more – how is that for versatility?

Connect with Rachel on Twitter at @wakullawriter.

@DannyAller (Danny Aller)

Twitter MayorWhat is the biggest strength you bring as a candidate?  I once ate 50 wings from the old Buffalo Wings & Rings spot on East Tennessee Street — and then went out and played three sets of tennis (without throwing up). I’m also an excellent tennis player.

What is one thing each Tallahasseean could do to improve our community? I don’t agree with the line of thinking that we “Have To Make [Someplace] Great Again.” Tallahassee is already great.

Where did your favorite Tallahassee memory take place? I caught a 22-pound, state record large mouth bass at a private Tallahassee lake owned by a wealthy retired professional sports star. I also may not have had permission to be fishing there — but ongoing litigation prevents me from saying anything more.

How would you describe Tallahassee in a tweet? #Tallahassee is a place I always took for granted & didn’t truly understand how great it was — until I left. But Tallahassee is home.

What local charity do you want people to know more about and/or donate to? I’m not a very charitable person in general. I mostly like to take … wait, don’t print that.

As part of the candidate forum, we will be collecting canned goods for America’s Second Harvest of the Big Bend.  What canned good best represents you and why? First, to even participate in this forum, I shall require four things — per my standard celebrity rider: A bowl of peanut M&Ms — with ALL the orange and blue ones removed!; FIJI Water, chilled to 37 degrees; warm towels; and a gold scepter.

Also, America’s Second Harvest of the Big Bend is a great charity to support — they’ve received many a cans of mushroom stems from our family over the years — but, you know, there are so many charities in the world that are worthy and have so much to offer and are so wonderful … for instance, I even started my own charity called “The Human Fund” and we work tirelessly behind the scenes and do a lot of gre–

Wait, what was the question again?

Connect with Danny on Twitter at @dannyaller.

Editor’s Note: I did not receive responses from candidates Greg Tish and Jay Revell. Because I am sort of a stickler for closing loops, the best thing I can think to do is to match tweets I have seen from them with the questions. REPEAT: This is me, guessing. Take it for what it is. 

@Greg_Tish (Greg Tish)

Twitter MayorWhat is the biggest strength Greg brings as a candidate?  Having his priorities straight, as in this recent tweet: “Thank goodness for seat warmers .”

What is one thing each Tallahasseean could do to improve our community? Get out of his way, apparently. Greg has a tough commute, judging by this recent tweet. “Some days I just hate my three minute commute home. Traffic can be so awful.”

Where did Greg’s favorite Tallahassee memory take place? See? This is where I am such an inferior chooser of responses than Greg himself would be. But, because I have to soldier on, and because this tweet includes 50% of the #TLHTwitterMayor field, it’s the winner: “Boys night! .”

Twitter Mayor

How would Greg describe Tallahassee in a tweet? Again, the challenge with leaving it to me is that things can get taken out of context. Here’s my choice: “She has ash trays and a rear facing seat.” (And click here to see the tweet so you understand the context.)

What local charity does Greg want people to know more about and/or donate to? From May 1: “It’s ! Help us spread the word about the fight vs Fanconi anemia. Share w/ “Why to learn more.” I agree – Kidz1stFund is a great choice. Click here for the tweet.

As part of the candidate forum, we will be collecting canned goods for America’s Second Harvest of the Big Bend.  What canned good best represents Greg and why? Okay, this is a stretch because it wasn’t a Greg Tish tweet (although it mentioned Greg Tish) and it isn’t about a canned good (although it has the word can in it), but I am a HUGE fan of The Red Shed (who sent the tweet), so it’s in! “[I] know a great spot where yall can have an actual event.”

Connect with Greg on Twitter at @greg_tish.

***Editor’s Note*** I am not sure he complied with the 50 pages of codification dictating how one withdraws from the #TLHTwitterMayor race, but I believe this tweet means Jay has taken himself out of contention. I hope there’s a support group for this kind of occurrence; I am not sure I can process it alone. I am leaving Jay’s profile in because a) I think he’s a pretty cool guy and b) I want Making Light Productions to still be mentioned. I love editorial discretion!

@JayRevell (Jay Revell)

Twitter MayorWhat is the biggest strength Jay brings as a candidate?  This was a tough one where Jay is concerned, because he tweets about so many great things but apparently was not considering the fact that I would have to figure out a potential answer to this question when he did not respond. Going out on a limb here and choosing “faith” as in this retweet he did of Dean Inserra: “If your politics and faith collide, go with your faith.”

What is one thing each Tallahasseean could do to improve our community? Vote for him, apparently, as per this tweet: “Join the Revellution…”

Where did Jay’s favorite Tallahassee memory take place? Another tough one (work with me here, Jay!). But he looks like he had a blast at the Florida Sunshine Ball, as evidenced by: “Great times tonight at the Florida Sunshine Ball! Thanks for having us.”

Twitter Mayor

How would Jay describe Tallahassee in a tweet? Full disclosure: this one is taken totally out of context but hey, I’m flying blind here: “Welcome to the future…” (but here’s the tweet if you want to understand).

What local charity does Jay want people to know more about and/or donate to? Okay, I’m taking a total point of personal privilege here and linking to a local non-profit I adore, that he linked to in a retweet. Here’s to you, Making Light Productions. (And here’s the tweet.)

As part of the candidate forum, we will be collecting canned goods for America’s Second Harvest of the Big Bend.  What canned good best represents Jay and why? Honestly, I’ve got nothin’ at this point and can’t find anything on Jay’s Twitter timeline to help me out. So I’ll tell you that if you bring 5 canned goods to the May 7 mayoral forum (details here), the clients of America’s Second Harvest of the Big Bend will benefit and you’ll get a pint of beer.

Twitter Mayor

Connect with Jay on Twitter at @jayrevell.

“But I Want to Hear From the Candidates Directly — How Do I Do That?”

All four candidates reportedly plan to attend the Tallahassee Twitter Mayoral Town Hall Debate May 7 at 2 p.m. Click here for details. Remember, bring 5 items to donate to America’s Second Harvest of the Big Bend and get a pint of beer from Deep Brewing Company!

How and Why is Prince Murat Involved?

I haven’t quite figured that out yet. Let me know when you do.

What About Voting?

You vote on Twitter of course! Here’s a link to the poll. I haven’t exactly figured out Twitter’s calendar magic for calculating when voting will end. I *think* the poll shuts off late in the evening of May 7. If you vote as soon as you hear the candidates at the town hall, you should be fine!

Update: The Town Hall Happened!

The Town Hall happened (thank you, Deep Brewing Co.) and I was asked to be the moderator. Here we are, in our town hall glory.

Twitter Mayor

Greg Tish, Me, Rachel Sutz Pienta, Danny Aller

Update Two: The Votes Are In!

Following an hours-long filibuster in which the options were discussed a sip of a Deep Brewing BA Octopie and one person’s suggestion, a term limit of 140 days was agreed upon.

Congratulations, Danny Aller, on your election! Start kissing those babies and cutting those twibbons.

Twitter Mayor

Twitter Mayor

We Have to Talk About White Privilege

If you have ever driven along an Interstate, searching for the hotel where you have reservations, seeing it seemingly VERY CLOSE but realizing you have to figure out how to get off the interstate, get onto a service road, and find the entrance to your hotel, you know that things are not at all as easy as they first appear. White privilege is like a service road.

I have been wanting to write about intersectionality (and, related, white privilege) ever since I heard the word (yes, it’s been less than a year), but I have hesitated for a variety of reasons. The first reasons that come to mind are:

  1. I don’t understand the topics well enough
  2. I am afraid I will lose friends
  3. I alone can change no minds
  4. I am, as all of us are, so imperfect in my attempts to live life fairly

But those barriers are just going to have to co-exist with my attempt to say my piece on this. In my own home, in conversations with my closest family members, in multiple other environments, it’s time to talk about white privilege even if the attempt is grossly imperfect, if relationships unravel, if no minds are changed.

Because, whether it is a problem for us personally or not, our inability or unwillingness to put our privilege in context and figure out how to be in community with all our fellow people hurts us all in the long run.

White Privilege

One Book That Changed My Understanding About White Privilege

I wrote earlier that it has been within the last twelve months that I have heard the term “intersectionality.” I heard it at the We Won’t Wait 2016 gathering, as presenters explained the inequities faced by women of color. When I got home, I told my husband, “I felt guilty about being white.”

Sitting around feeling guilty about something I clearly can’t change about myself is not exactly constructive, so I set about trying to figure out what those speakers meant and what I could do.

I participated in an online book club about the book Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving. Although I never ended up being able to join the group via Facebook live, the experience got me to read the book, and the comments in the Facebook group itself enlightened me.

Here are a few takeaways:

  1. The distribution of VA benefits after World War II, for example, led to inequities for African American returning soldiers. Many African American soldiers did not get access to the same educational or housing benefits that white soldiers received. (More here and here.)
  2. “Hide and seek” has a different meaning for inner city black kids than suburban white kids. Okay, this one could be vulnerable to being a HUGE generalization. But I believe Debby Irving when she says that many black kids are taught not to play hide-and-go-seek because they don’t want to associate being hidden with “fun” — because of the ramifications down the road for their interactions with law enforcement officers.
  3. “Helping” …….. isn’t always. Debby Irving talks a lot about how we as middle- and upper-class white people are brought up to help, to be optimistic (believe me, since me alter ego is the Optimism Light this one got my full attention). I get the irony of the fact that I am raising the issue, lover of causes that I am. But I have to look at myself in the mirror and ask about the lens through which I see my helping choices. Am I being a “white savior” or a “fellow human sharing my resources”? Author Nate Regier, Ph.D., writes, “Non-consensual helping is a personal violation.” Hmmm.
  4. Taking kids out of their environments to expose them to culture doesn’t always have the downstream effects we imagine it will have. One of Debby Irving’s first jobs was being the coordinator for an arts program in Boston. The program would bus children in from disadvantaged areas of the city in order to help them “get culture.” Irving writes convincingly of why that plan did not have the effects organizers hoped — these children didn’t necessarily understand the environment — the imposing buildings, the etiquette expected of them as arts consumers, the very “foreign-ness” of it all.

As a White Person, I Take Ease of Access Totally For Granted

Typically, we would think of interstate highways as helpful to reaching our destination faster. Limited exits so that no one slows down, the ability to drive at relatively higher rates of speed, uniform signage and format. The problem is, if the gas, food, shelter or other services we need are off of a service road, we have to get off.

White privilege is akin to being on the service road, doing whatever we need to do, easily. For people who do not have white privilege, they are speeding along, on a road defined for them by someone who presumed what they wanted, with limited ability to get the basics and extras they need and want in order to live a life equitable to ours because someone blocked the exits.

Things I Still Haven’t Made Peace With

  1. Reparations. Slavery was wrong. What’s a stronger word for wrong? Let’s go with reprehensible. Slavery created the foundation of the inequities toward black people that still ripple through our society today, in ways big and small. My challenge with reparations is two-fold: I don’t understand how they would work and I am not sure what positive difference they would make. The United Nations thinks they are a good idea, though, so that carries some substantial weight with me. (More about the recommendation from the United Nations’ Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent in this Washington Post article.)
  2. Decisions Like the One Bill Proctor Made. Bill Proctor is an African-American county commissioner here in Leon County. He boycotted a commission retreat last December because slaves had been used on the property in the 1800s. While I am sensitive to the issues slavery poses to him, I guess this is one of those things that, taken to an extreme, could mean none of us could meet (or live) anywhere. Taking the example further, I should surrender the deed to my house and the property I live on to the Native Americans. It never really was mine to begin with and it probably was not handed over by them willingly or without sacrifice on the part of an entire people.
  3. Statues/Historical Monuments. It is a good thing that we are all so much more sensitive to the impact of monuments glorifying people who perpetuated racism. I struggle with the fact that removing the tangible evidence that these people were once celebrated doesn’t remove the fact that these people were once celebrated or the lessons we should learn from that. One article with more on the topic here.
  4. Language Hypersensitivity. Have you looked at any house plans lately? Notice anything different? Some designers are re-naming the master bedroom the “owner’s suite” or “mastre bedroom,” believing the term “master bedroom” carries too many negative connotations from a historical and gender perspective. Words evolve. Did you know the word “bully” started out with a positive connotation, meaning “sweetheart”? The word “sarcasm” has as one of its root meanings “stripping off of flesh” (ouch …. sarcasm can feel that way sometimes). Language hypersensitivity could render us all mute.

What Can One Person Do?

I ask that question multiple times every day. I think Farther Tim Holeda’s Awareness-Understanding-Action model may be a good guide.

To increase your awareness, start with an open mind then read things and talk to people who will help you expand your perspective. Here are some recommendations.

Book: Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving

Site: Being Black at School (personal note: this site and its mission are the brainchild of my friend Kelly. Feel free to fast forward past the other 1700 words in this post and donate to BBAS. It’s that relevant and necessary.)

Site: I’m Not the Nanny (especially the Multicultural Resources page)

Site: Black Girl in Maine and Blog Post: ‘BLACK LIVES MATTER’ IS MORE THAN A MERE SLOGAN

Article: Black Americans are Killed at 12 Times the Rate of People in Other Developed Countries

Article: What White Children Need to Know About Race

Article: White kids are bullying minority students using Trump’s words

Article: Why “All Lives Matter” is Such a Perilous Phrase

Article: Why Is It So Difficult for White People to Let Serena Williams Be Great?

Blog Post: 5 Truths About White Privilege for White People

Blog Post: 10 Ways to Practice Institutional Racism at Your Non-Profit Organization

Blog Post: All right, “color-blind” colleagues, we need to have a talk

Blog Post: Beware of Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing: The Tale of A Progressive Professor Who Forgot To Hide Her Racism And Got Her Ass Fired

Blog Post: I Don’t Discuss Racism With White People

Blog Post: Nebraska high school A.D. writes column about the racism his students face

Blog Post: Othering

Blog Post: One Life at a Time: A Different Angle on #BlackLivesMatter

Blog Post: Please stop requiring anti-racism and diversity trainings for POC in the workplace

Blog Post: Police officer’s daughter asked to remove ‘Blue Lives Matter’ flag

Blog Post: Taboo Sex, Racism, and Gay Men: A Chat in Black and White

Blog Post: This is What White People Can Do to Support #BlackLivesMatter

Blog Post: Welcome to the Anti-Racism Movement — Here’s What You’ve Missed

Blog Post: Why I’m Absolutely an Angry Black Woman

Book Review: A Powerful, Disturbing History of Residential Segregation in America

Reality: Really watch what is going on in your family, your office, your community, our nation. Sometime there is book, blog post, or article more informative than real life

To increase your understanding, all I can say is that understanding often follows from awareness. Try step one, and I’m pretty sure you’ll make progress.

Regarding action, most of the links under “awareness” also have suggested actions. For me, much of the past year has been about opening my mouth when it would be easier to be silent. I was being shuttled from home to Enterprise Rental Car a few months ago by a driver who decided to pontificate on “Muslims lying in roads” and why white people will never get along with “them” (black people). I think his words to me, I suppose born out of the fact that I was younger than him, were “just wait and see.” UMMMMM. Short of jumping out of the moving car, I wasn’t sure what to say to indicate that absolutely nothing he was saying was appropriate, EVER. I managed something like “everyone has the right to express their opinion” (about the Muslims) and “that hasn’t been my experience” (about black/white relations). I am sure I didn’t change his mind, but I had to speak up.(I also shared the conversation’s content in my feedback email to Enterprise. I never received a response.)

I love a line in Korbett Mosesly’s piece (linked to above).

I realize that institutional racism may not be your goal or intention. You may not even be aware of the complexities of racism at your organization. I hope this post moves you from unintentional racism to intentional allyship.

 

I, for one, intend not to intentionally block any more of the “interstate exits” and do my part to help everyone have access to the things they need, especially, and the things they want, as an intentional ally.

White Privilege

(This post is a response to two Mama’s Losin It Prompts: “book review” and “share a quote you love.”)

Help #ProjectReadathon Generate Children’s Books!

I have been a Charity Miles ambassador for many years now, and it is astounding to see how the app and its impact on deserving causes have both evolved (big props to creator Gene Gurkoff for that). I am excited that Charity Miles is partnering with Penguin Random House to conduct a campaign around children’s books.

Charity Miles Expands Beyond Feet on Pavement (Or Pedals)

As a proponent of Charity Miles, one of my goals over the years has been to encourage people to use the app, to dispel misunderstandings, and in general to talk it up in order to help as many causes as possible.

For example, you don’t have to be a “serious athlete” doing “serious mileage” to make a difference. Walking from your parking spot into the grocery store, for example, can help. Anything over a tenth of a mile counts toward benefiting a favorite charity.

I know, I know — everything I have said so far involves physical exertion.

Now, however, Charity Miles has added READING to the ways you can help a cause.

READING, people! And you know how I feel about that!

Helping Save the Children Earn Children’s Books Through the Charity Miles Readathon

Though April 23, Charity Miles is partnering with Penguin Random House for  the #ProjectReadathon campaign. During the campaign, Charity Miles members will be invited to contribute minutes to the Million Minutes goal by visiting the Charity Miles Impact Hub!

Side note: Even as a veteran Charity Miles user, it took me a little searching to find the Impact Hub. Here’s a screen shot of what it looks like (assuming you have installed the Charity Miles app). Just follow the red arrow.

Children's Books

Today, for example, I read “Hardwiring Happiness” which generated a 3-book donation.

Children's Books

Reading inside the Impact Hub triggers book donations from Penguin Random House to kids in need in the US, Canada, and Mexico through Save the Children. The more you read, the bigger impact you have: read a 20-minute excerpt and you could unlock a 5-book donation, or read an hour and unlock 20. The excerpts expire in 24 hours so keep up your reading streak and read every day.

But Moving Is Always Good Too!

You can also unlock books by walking, running, or cycling and logging Charity Miles. Charity Miles has set a goal to log 10,000 Charity Miles for Save the Children. Each mile will translate to one minute read, for every 20 mins a book will be donated. Reaching the goals means moving 2,500 books to children in North America!

Why This Lights My Fire

So many of us have books peeking out of multiple little corners of our homes. Stacks of books our children discarded long ago. Books we grabbed on impulse at the bookstore and haven’t gotten to. Books we read, loved, and just can’t part with.

For many kids, that is not the case. Let this infographic from Reading is Fundamental sink in:

Children's Books

RIF says it well:

A productive, contributing nation is dependent on a literate society.  Every child deserves an opportunity to own books, learn how to read, and obtain the fundamental building blocks to achieve their highest potential.

 

I applaud Penguin Random House for helping kids become readers and, therefore, lifelong learners via #ProjectReadathon.

Getting Started Personally

Since starting yesterday, I have read two excerpts, resulting in donations of six books, and walked 0.28 miles. That part was a pretty tiny start, but hey, that means there are only 9,999.72 more to go? 

Children's Books

I would love your help in getting there. More importantly, so would kids in need of children’s books.

Children's Books

 

Empowering Women: It Takes a Tribe

There is a mountain in Mexico I want to climb. I don’t mean in a “carabiners and ropes” kind of way, but in a “take a vehicle as far as you can and then walk the rest of the way” kind of sense. The goal? To help my friend Felisa Hilbert, one of my favorite examples of women empowering women, with the clinic she has established in a remote Mexican community that has no running water.

Felisa is a fellow Shot at Life champion. Although as Shot at Life champions, she and I have attended multiple conferences and trainings about helping children around the world have access to life-saving vaccines to prevent diseases like measles, pneumonia, polio, and infections that cause diarrhea, she has taken the next step: actually built a clinic from the ground up to help children in Tetzilquila, Veracruz, Mexico.

Empowering Women

The clinic is “up” a mountain but you have to walk “down” to get to it!

Empowering Women

Empowering Women Requires a Variety of Strengths

Felisa is the first person who came to mind when I learned of Heifer International’s new women’s empowerment initiative, which encourages us to think about four types of women in our lives: allies, entrepreneurs, artists, and den mothers. Read about her dedication to her clinic in this article (highlight below):

Hilbert has taken that philosophy to a rural community in Tex Tiquila, Mexico, where she is working to build a medical clinic. The community, made up of 40 families who speak Nahuatl, a native Aztec language, in place of Spanish, is completely isolated and lacks basic services, she said.

Although most people know Heifer International for their animal gifting program, they also do critical, impactful work to support and empower women. They believe that women have limitless potential, but limited opportunity and equip and empower marginalized women with resources and training as a means to sustainable livelihoods and community leadership positions.

Identifying Our Tribes

Heifer International developed a fun quiz to help us figure out our own tribe personas. Not surprisingly, I found out I am an “ally.” For Felisa, I would say she straddles two of the categories, “entrepreneur” (seriously, building a clinic on a remote Mexican mountain is not for the faint of heart or timid) and artist (check out the jewelry she makes then sells to support the clinic at the Jewelry for a Purpose Facebook page (pix of a few example below)).

Empowering Women

I’m also lucky to have great “den mothers” in my life. These are the people who don’t get sucked down by details BUT always seem capable of making sure no one gets left out and ensure there are snacks, drinks, and whatever other provisions we need at any get-together!

Honoring Felisa

Felisa, thank you for being you. Thank you for tirelessly supporting others. You inspire me to be better and today I am paying it forward to other women via a Heifer International Women’s Empowerment donation in your honor! This donation will fund a Heifer Women’s Self-Help Group that will teach women to read and write (empowering them to take control), give them livestock and training to increase their sense of self-reliance, and enable women to jointly better their communities through group savings and activities. SO INCREDIBLE.

Empowering Women

Celebrating the Sustainable Development Goals, especially HEALTH, with Felisa at the Social Good Summit in 2015.

Other Ways to Help Women Through Heifer International

To learn more about Heifer’s women’s empowerment efforts, check out heifer.org/joinhertribe. I would love all of my women readers to share about an incredible woman today!

There are several ways to be involved. While donations do, of course, rock, here are some additional social media actions you can take via Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter between now and April 15 to be a part of this effort to amplify the #JoinHerTribe initiative and support women worldwide.

  • A photo of you + a woman who has inspired you (to grow your business, prioritize self-care, pursue creativity, help others, etc.)
  • A compilation graphic — 4 faces to fit the tribe roles of The Ally, The Den Mother, The Entrepreneur, and The Artist
  • A dedication to a mom or friend who has helped you through challenging parenting times
  • Public personalities you aren’t connected with personally but who inspire you to do great things (Oprah, Maya Angelou, etc.)
  • A video dedication to someone who inspired you to vlog

Who has made a difference by being part of your tribe? Give them a shout-out today!

Empowering Women

The Difference Only Planned Parenthood Can Make

***UPDATE — APRIL 14, 2017*** 

As referenced in this New York Times article, Trump Signs Law Taking Aim at Planned Parenthood Funding, President Trump “signed legislation on Thursday [April 13] aimed at cutting off federal funding to Planned Parenthood.”

***END OF UPDATE, NOT THE END OF MY ADVOCACY”***

Here is my original April 2, 2017 post:

I have received services from Planned Parenthood precisely once, but that one visit places me among the “one in five” women in America who have visited Planned Parenthood at least once. As I alluded to in this post when I disclosed my experience of being tested for HIV, I tended in my early 20s to be fanatically cautious. Just like my it was probably scientifically impossible for the activities I was engaging in to expose me to HIV, neither did I technically need the diaphragm I was fitted for at Planned Parenthood.

Fast forward to 2017. At 52, I am a member of a demographic that does technically need services such as testing and treatment for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Opponents of Planned Parenthood try to paint a picture of an organization which zealously lures women into having abortions (fact: abortions account for less than five percent of Planned Parenthood’s services). These opponents support the rollback of Title X program funding, which in turn allows states to withhold certain funds to women’s health clinics.

We all need to understand the difference Planned Parenthood actually makes.

Planned Parenthood Advocacy

Middle-Aged and Elderly People Need STD Testing and Treatment

According to the CDC, nearly 1 in 4 persons living with HIV/AIDS in the United States is 50 or older.

Our issues around STDs are not limited to HIV risk, however, and they incorporate our emotions as well as our bodies.

Medscape breaks down the psychosocial factors behind our new middle-aged realities:

  • Divorce rates are increasing; in addition, the rate of people who remain unmarried is rising.
  • Midlife “repartnering” is increasing
  • As we stay healthier longer, our potential for engagement in sexual activity increases.

Medscape also lists the possibility, even though the research base is more shallow, that middle-aged women place a higher priority on intimacy over sexual health, leaving them more open to risk. In addition, older people may associate sexual risk-taking with their adolescent years and may ignore facts and dangers that they face.

Planned Parenthood Advocacy

Planned Parenthood Is An Asset for Women’s Health

Although you can learn the basics of the high-quality, affordable health care Planned Parenthood provides to women, men, and young people here, let’s focus for a minute on our middle aged and aging people facing a new sexual behavior reality:

Every year, Planned Parenthood provides more than 4.2 million tests and treatments for sexually transmitted infections, including more than 650,000 HIV tests.

 

Why Planned Parenthood Needs Our Support

Fifty-four percent of Planned Parenthood health centers are in health professional shortage areas, rural or medically underserved areas. Planned Parenthood health centers provide primary and preventive health care to many who otherwise would have nowhere to turn for care.

In 2014, Planned Parenthood health centers saw 2.5 million patients and provided more than 4 million sexually transmitted tests and treatment, more than 360,000 breast exams, more than 270,000 Pap tests, and birth control for 2 million people. Of Planned Parenthood patients in 2014, 15 percent were Black and 23 percent were Latino.

Although current efforts to defund Planned Parenthood cite Community Health Centers (CHCs) as a viable alternative health care provider for contraceptive and sexual health education needs, CHCs, while doing their own critical work for the health of our fellow Americans, are not equipped to replace Planned Parenthood.

Stepping Back and Taking the Long View

Right now, in April 2017, the dialogue around the future of Planned Parenthood is bookended on one side by supporters who strongly believe there is empirical evidence that blocking patients from accessing care at Planned Parenthood comes at too high a cost.

On the other end, opponents believe sentiments like these expressed by Senator Ted Cruz and Dr. Alveda King: “millions of abortions make Planned Parenthood a business that the federal government does not need to be funding with our tax dollars.”

Without Planned Parenthood, women would be less healthy, especially women in medically underserved areas. Planned Parenthood makes a difference.

That difference is what Katharine Hepburn’s republican mother sought when she helped found the Connecticut Birth Control League in 1920.

That difference is what Republican Barry Goldwater’s wife, Peggy, sought when she helped organize Phoenix’s first family planning clinic in 1937.

That difference is ostensibly what Prescott Bush (George H.W.’s father and George W.’s/Jeb’s grandfather) sought when he served as treasurer of a nationwide Planned Parenthood campaign in 1947.

That difference is possibly what then-Congressman George H.W. Bush sought in a 1968 address to Congress in which he advocated for government support of family planning programs, referring to the “tragedy of unwanted children and of parents whose productivity is impaired by children they never desired.”

That difference is what President Nixon and then-Congressman George H.W. bush sought when they supported Title X upon its introduction (and subsequent passage) in 1970.

That difference is what republican Barry Goldwater intended when he supported upholding Roe vs. Wade in 1983.

“That Difference” Changed Lives

It’s one thing to cite surprising moments in history that demonstrate “that difference” made by Planned Parenthood. It’s yet another to know that, for countless individual, real life flesh and blood women, Planned Parenthood impacted their lives for the better:

People like Bethany, who said, “Their clinics enabled me to maintain my reproductive health, and control over my body at a time when I could never have afforded to have a child.”

People like the woman whose breast lump was diagnosed and treated by Planned Parenthood, who shared, “Thank-you, Planned Parenthood, for understanding that nothing is more important than your health, no matter what your socioeconomic status is.”

(The source for the above two quotes is this Huffington Post article.)

People like Cassandra, who wrote for Grounded Parents that Planned Parenthood’s early diagnosis and treatment of her Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) saved her life. She writes:

When I hear politicians talk about defunding Planned Parenthood what I hear is that they don’t understand the services that Planned Parenthood provides for both men and women. What I hear is that they don’t care if both men and women have access to low-cost reproductive health care.

How You Can Make “That Difference” For Yourself and Others

Please tell your legislator why “that difference” is so much broader than many opponents would have them believe. Call them (it’s easy!) and tell them not to defund care at Planned Parenthood Centers. There are several resources here.

Planned Parenthood Advocacy

Here are some more resources:

Birth Control Coverage Should Always Be Guaranteed

There’s a Long History of Republicans Supporting Planned Parenthood—Why Is No One Talking About It?

Why I’m a Christian Who (Still) Supports Planned Parenthood

A Voice in an Unlikely Chorus

When I attend the Requiem of Resistance performance here in Tallahassee on March 25, I will be thinking especially of Edgar Krasa, a member of the chorus directed by Rafael Schächter, who conducted 15 performances of Verdi’s Requiem at the Terezin Concentration Camp.

Edgar died on February 7. He was a friend and mentor to my friend Corie Walsh, who shared this remembrance:

Edgar was 96 years old and a Holocaust survivor. I met Edgar when I was in high school and he was a spectacular influence on my career and my personal life. He was one of those people who held such light and joy that you couldn’t help but smile when you met him.

Edgar Krasa Tribute

A portrait of Edgar drawn by Leo Haas in Terezin, 1943. Photo Credit: The Terezin Music Foundation

Edgar was originally sent to Terezin, the show camp for the Red Cross, in 1941, where he survived as cook. He was on the very first transport there. Edgar lived in Terezin until 1944 when he was transported to Auschwitz. He then participated (and survived) the infamous Death March from Auschwitz by pretending to be dead. If you asked Edgar how he survived the Holocaust he wouldn’t say through perseverance, strength, or faith. Instead he would tell you that an onion saved his life.

At one point, when he was struggling and quite ill, he was out on work detail and he found a whole onion. He planned on stashing it in his uniform and sneaking it back to the barracks to feed two younger boys who he had been looking after. However at the end of his work detail, the guards called for a random search. Edgar knew he had to eat the onion before he was searched. So he ate the entire thing in a matter of minutes. Raw, like an apple. Then the next day, his illness and sores started to heal. Edgar credited that onion with saving his life and he continued to make onions a focal point through the rest of his cooking throughout his career.

This story tells three things about Edgar: his humor, his selflessness, and his strength.  Edgar wasn’t spectacular because he was a Holocaust survivor. He was spectacular because he was kind and because he dedicated his life to making the world a little bit more like him.

After surviving the Holocaust and emigrating to the US, Edgar ran a restaurant in Brookline MA and spent his free time and retirement speaking at schools and colleges.  The first time Edgar had me over to his house for dinner he made a huge spread for dinner including his signature baba ganoush and hummus. The meal concluded with Turkish coffee, which was not optional. According to Edgar, it would “put hair on your chest.” He would wink as he said this, recognizing that a hairy chest was not exactly a desirable quality for a woman.

As I grew older and busier, Edgar and I saw one another more infrequently. We would see each other annually at the gatherings for the Terezin Music Foundation, but I believe we remained friends. He spoke with the sincerity and conviction to make me believe that I was the only person in the room and perhaps the only person on the planet. He would grasp my hand and say “Corie my dear, how are you?” And he meant it. We would get on about my dating life, gossip, cooking, and our respective forays into activism.

Edgar was the unique sort of character that brushes into one’s life and has the capacity to change it. He taught me that there is no beauty in martyrdom, no humanity without equality, no life without humor, and no good cooking without onions. I will miss him dearly, but I will carry his spirit and his story forward. I hope you do the same.

***

For information about the Tallahassee performance jointly presented by the Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra, FAMU Concert Choir, Temple Israel, and Holocaust Education Resource Council, please click here. Proceeds from the concert benefit the Holocaust Education Resource Council.

To support the continuance of the music of Terezin, please consider donating to the Terezin Music Foundation.

Editor’s Note: In this piece by Steve Uhlfelder, he shares about his grandparents, who both died at Terezin, and his trip there.