And I am, frankly, getting pretty tired of Chicken Little. I have what I am calling “donor fatigue,” and I worry that it has much bigger implications than we might think.

Two days ago, the US House of Representatives passed an ban on abortions nationwide after 20 weeks of pregnancy.  While the measure didn’t pass with flying colors (228-196), and while it afforded very minor exceptions, it had seismic ripple effects that resulted in a cascade of frantic emails begging me to donate money to every pro-choice organization I’ve ever (and some I’ve never) heard of.


Starting with the last Presidential election, I have been inundated with communications from the Democratic National Committee, Emily’s List, Planned Parenthood, NARAL, etc., etc. They all have one thing in common: FEAR-MONGERING.  I am sick of it.  These emails tout our loss of freedoms, an ever-restrictive, woman-hating opposition coming to power, and aim to drain the color from my face and set my heart to pounding.  Other organizations such as Women’s Rights News post fantastical, sensational headlines on their Facebook pages designed to incite anger and raise my blood pressure.  Many of these posts are downright man-bashing, stereotypical nastiness that embody everything these organizations hate about the way women are treated and I am left wondering where our momentum has taken us.

The fact is, we live in a pretty damn good time.  While I most definitely do not agree with President Obama on every point, he has proven to be supportive of women’s rights for the most part (good thing he backed down on the Plan B availability to all women and girls) and had the most recent abortion ban passed in the Senate (which is a big What-if, because it seems highly unlikely), he would most definitely have vetoed the bill.  Women and girls are making strides in elected office, education, and our fight for equality in the United States and around the world. We are by no means enjoying absolute equality and justice, but our voices are being heard more than they ever have, thanks in major part to organizations like Moms Rising and Miss Representation who direct their efforts toward educating others and amplifying the voices and stories of individual women and girls who are suffering injustices due to the way our system is designed. I am not constantly flooded with pleas to DONATE NOW by either of these groups and yet they seem to be effective in getting their message across.

I worry that groups like NARAL and Planned Parenthood and Emily’s List risk nickel-and-diming (and annoying) their constituent base by making weekly requests for money every single time a Republican lawmaker (or group of them) does something stupid. The truth is, these occurrences are all too frequent and we need to be able to distinguish between the times when a response is required and the times when these politicians are better left to twist in the wind.  Simply reiterating that House Republicans would rather spend their energy voting on legislation that is entirely useless (repealing Obamacare, restricting abortion) than addressing the fundamental challenges most Americans face right now is probably more powerful a message than asking for money. In these cases, I am less and less sure of where my donation dollars are actually going and I am more and more likely to hit “delete” when I see any email from the offending organizations because I can’t stand one more screeching cry that “The sky is falling!”  By the time it actually is, I won’t have any money left to give.

Dear President Obama,

I was pleased when you were re-elected President of the United States last fall. I believe that throughout the campaign, you spoke with conviction and courage with regard to things that are truly important to you  and, while I didn’t agree with all of them (our nation’s energy policy being one of the most glaring examples), I happily voted for you. Happily, because I saw a common thread running through many of your positions – the acknowledgment that the easy way out is not generally the best way to do things, the acceptance of diversity, and the willingness to tread lightly and ponder solutions deeply. Those are qualities I admire in a person, especially in a leader.

But I have to admit I am very disappointed right now.  While you have expressed concern for families, both in talking about health care and education, wages and job creation, you have dropped the ball when it comes to food safety by signing HR 933 which contained what has commonly become known as the “Monsanto Protection Act.”  You have proven yourself to be unwilling to protect our farmland, the quality of our food supply, our trade with other countries around the world, and the health of our nation’s citizens by allowing Monsanto and other companies like it to act with impunity when it comes to manipulating both the food that is grown in this country and others as well as the supply chain of seeds themselves.

If we continue to be afraid to hold companies accountable for their actions by making them immune to litigation if their products prove harmful, we are simply substituting corporations for banking institutions in the “too big to fail” world and we will surely reap far worse effects than we did from the recession that began in 2008.

If Monsanto is allowed to continue to plant genetically engineered crops such as alfalfa that are resistant to pesticides, there is absolutely no doubt that the alfalfa will find its way into the food chain in ways that we can’t undo. The genetic material from these seeds will contaminate soils, perhaps rendering it altered forever. These crops will pollinate other, non GE crops and change them forever as well.  The alfalfa can find its way into feed for even those animals that are organically grown, affecting both the livelihood of the organic farmers and the health of the consumers who buy them unknowingly.  That hurts American families.

If we continue in this vein, we will also isolate ourselves from the world economy when it comes to trade in foodstuffs.  Ireland and Japan have adopted laws against growing GMOs, Egypt has placed a ban on import/export of GMOs, the EU has strict labeling laws that have effectively stopped GMOs from being purchased for the most part.  None of these countries will be interested in buying food from the US if we cannot prove that our products are free of genetically engineered components.  That hurts American families.

In Japan, Keisuke Amagasa noted that, despite Japan’s ban on growing GMOs,

because Japan imports GM canola from Canada, GM contamination has already occurred and it is spreading to a much greater degree than one could imagine. Judging by the ominous precedent of Canada, once GM crops are cultivated, segregation between GM and non-GM will become almost impossible, and keeping pure non-GM varieties away from GM contamination will be very hard.”

I don’t know what your motivation was for signing this bill, but I do want to help you understand the wide-reaching effects that this kind of legislation will have on the American people. The people you stood up for during both of your campaigns. The people you continue to say you want to protect and support.  In signing this bill, you turned away from those individuals and chose, instead, to protect and support an enormous corporation that has no such convictions, whose only interest is continuing to make as much money as it can, no matter what the damage may one day prove to be.  There are many families in the United States who will suffer both short-term and long-term consequences of the Monsanto Protection Act and I am disappointed that this will be part of your legacy.  I don’t expect to agree with everything you say and do, but I did hope that I could count on your willingness to fight for those individuals who cannot fight for themselves.  In taking up the mantle of Monsanto, you have turned away from that principle and I hope you find the courage and conviction to turn back before it is too late.

A few things that have made me stop and wonder today:

  • The emails I get in my inbox from my state legislators asking me to chip in $3 to help pass a bill in the House. Example: my state’s Democratic Senator, Patty Murray, whom I support wholeheartedly, managed to help craft a budget proposal that was recently passed in the Senate. This morning, I got an email soliciting money so they can get it passed in the House because they’re anticipating a fight.  Where do those donations go? Am I buying the vocal support of a Senator with my $3? Would they not fight loudly and passionately for that budget anyway since they (presumably) believe in it?  Or am I paying for a a lobbyist’s time to go pester a Congressperson to pass it?  What exactly is my money doing?  I doubt there’s time to put together a media campaign with television and radio advertisements, so I’m confused here.  On top of that, I’m sick of being asked for “just $3 to show my support.” I capitulated during the Presidential campaign, but now I just want the elected officials to sit down and do their damn jobs without expecting more money for them. They get paid. Do the right thing, already, and leave my inbox alone!
  • I was one of those people on Facebook who changed my profile picture to the equal sign that stands for marriage equality for all Americans.  I was happy to do it. Hell, I even spent ten minutes fiddling with the settings on my iPhone to make it happen because I didn’t have my computer with me yesterday morning.  But I have to say, idealist that I am, I hope the multitudes of people who changed their profile pictures don’t have any bearing on the outcome of the case.  Seriously.  I want the justices of the Supreme Court to do their jobs as well and decide the case on its merits.  I want them to listen to the logical arguments (not the frantic speculation of the Christian Coalition that the moral fabric of society will be torn irreparably if we allow gays to marry), discuss the issues, and render a LEGAL decision like they are supposed to.  I don’t want them to poll Americans or look at their Facebook or Twitter feeds.  They are judges. The day we let public opinion influence their decisions is the day we might as well open the doors of the courthouse to lobbyists with their pockets stuffed full of cash.  
  • Eve and her class are attending WeDay today, a celebration of the many acts of philanthropy by school children around the world.  There are 15,000 students from all over the state of Washington attending this amazing event in an effort to learn from each other how to mobilize their own efforts to make the world a better place for us all.  There are corporate sponsors (of course) and actors and philanthropists presenting to drum up excitement and Jennifer Hudson was slated to perform. After two hours of amazing speeches by people who have made substantive change in their own way (including one man who came and told a harrowing story of his time as a child soldier in the Congo), Jennifer Hudson came on stage.  And sang “Night of Your Life.”  I don’t know about you, but I hadn’t ever heard the song and I was confused.  Here are a few of the lyrics:

…My love ain’t easy
You gon’ have to put in some work
You can’t buy me a drink, thinking I’mma fall for your flirt
You gotta make it right
If you wanna go spend some time
You gotta raise the bar tonight…

…So now love me, baby treat me rightAnd we’ll be riding it from morning til midnightIf you love me til the end of timeThen I will promise you the night of your life…

I could have ya, if I wanted toDown on one knee, in front of me where them bells ringingI could claim ya, be your saviorWrap your heart inside of these arms and you’ll never leaveI could have your hands tied, round my body all up on meBoy you’ll be stuck to me, if I wanted with no releaseI’ll have you begging, wishing now I give a piece

 So, tell me, what does that have to do with philanthropy? Giving back to your community? Changing the world?  Seriously? She sang the song, and then walked off stage. Not a word about this room full of students who had to earn tickets to this event by engaging in fundraising efforts for charitable organizations, by working for a cause. And she sings a song about hooking up with a guy in a bar.  I’m glad she asked to be treated right, but the message seems a little cloudy to me.  I can only hope that it gets drowned out by the other, more meaningful ones of the day.

Photo from

I will admit that I supported Hillary Clinton’s bid for the Democratic Presidential Nomination in 2008 tentatively. I was somewhat relieved when Obama secured the nomination and I didn’t have to support her because she would have been the first female president ever. It wasn’t that I didn’t like her or what she said she stood for, it was, I think, that I didn’t truly know enough about her. I had been watching her through the filter of the years she spent as the First Lady, through the filter of the media, through the filter of her disempowerment thanks to the painfully public mistakes of her husband.

I feel like I know her better now.  I am so pleased that she spent four years as the Secretary of State, living her ideals and making a name for herself that didn’t involve her husband.  I was impressed with her calm approach to difficult, polarizing situations and her ability to vehemently defend her actions and beliefs.

I was incredibly proud of her words as she left the job yesterday:

“And that is the final lever that I want to highlight briefly. Because the jury is in, the evidence is absolutely indisputable: If women and girls everywhere were treated as equal to men in rights, dignity, and opportunity, we would see political and economic progress everywhere. So this is not only a moral issue, which, of course, it is. It is an economic issue and a security issue, and it is the unfinished business of the 21st century. It therefore must be central to U.S. foreign policy.”

The entire article is here.

I will also admit that, while I passionately believe in equality for women and girls, social justice for all people regardless of gender, race, sexual identity or anything else, I sometimes worry that I live in a bubble.  I sometimes worry that, by pushing this agenda, I am somehow disenfranchising boys and men. I get a little defensive because I am afraid that it might seem as though I am being unfair to half the population of the world.

And then I take the dog for a walk and, as usual, things get a little less murky. Because what I am really hoping for, pushing for, advocating for, is equality and the understanding that women and girls are a vital part of communities all over the world.  I find the head space to remind myself that what I am doing is not taking away from anyone.  It is only when I buy into the notion that there is not enough to go around that I begin to feel guilty about adding resources to help women and girls around the world.

The first item on our “House Rules” list that hangs, laminated, in the kitchen is this:

No Scarcity. I agree to live by the knowledge that there is enough for all of us if we cooperate.

By advocating for women and girls, I am simply honoring their innate strengths – what they bring to the table – and hoping to build on them.  I am acknowledging that until women and girls are seen as important, valuable parts of each and every community, they will continue to be abused and degraded and not allowed to be part of the conversation.  They will be married off against their will, sexually assaulted and hidden away from society behind closed doors and restrictive clothing. They will be told to act and speak and dress in certain ways under threat of violence or humiliation or simply, being ignored.

“Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”  Buddha

In wanting a better life for girls and women throughout the world, I am not taking advantages or resources away from men and boys.  This is not a balance sheet or a seesaw where one side must suffer if the other does well.  Our world is an ever-changing, growing, moving mass of humanity that is capable of cooperation beyond our wildest dreams and when we light one another’s candles, we all end up seeing better for it.  We are all raised to higher heights when we extend a helping hand to those in need.

So I live in a state that voted overwhelmingly to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes Tuesday night. I didn’t have any notion going in to the election whether or not the measure would pass, but when I saw the election returns I was shocked. In retrospect I probably shouldn’t have been.

Last week on our local NPR station, the host interviewed a panel of five voters on a range of issues, including this one.  The voters represented the Republican party, Democrats, and the Tea Party.  There were women and men, and their ages ranged from 30s to 70s.  They had a calm, respectful discussion on issue after issue and, while I appreciated their educated perspectives, I wasn’t caught off guard until they started talking about legalizing marijuana.  All but one of the panelists was in favor of it.  I listened to their measured arguments about tax revenue and likening marijuana to alcohol use and sparing law enforcement for more important work in the community.  The lone dissenter was a young family practice physician who wasn’t necessarily viscerally opposed to the idea of legalizing marijuana, but she was reserving her judgment until she had more information about the long-term effects of marijuana use and the actual regulation and implementation of the law.

I had long-since resolved to vote against the measure and was a little taken aback at the overwhelming bipartisan support represented by the panel on NPR. I even began questioning my general feeling that it shouldn’t be legal to possess an ounce of marijuana in the state of Washington without a doctor’s prescription.  What I discovered is that I have many more questions than answers.

1.  Is it possible to get a little bit high? As someone who smoked her fair share of pot between the ages of 14 and 19, I don’t know the answer to this. During that period in my life, the entire point was to get as high as possible.  We didn’t smoke to alleviate some physical symptom or relax us a little bit, we imbibed to get obliterated.  I was lucky enough to not have a particularly addictive personality or much disposable income so I indulged only when friends were willing to share (which was plenty often) and was able to take it or leave it.  By the time I hit college, I realized that while it didn’t feel bad to get high and there was no real attendant ‘hangover,’ what I really experienced was an extreme laziness and antisocial personality and I got bored and frustrated. I had too much to do to sit around feeling like I was plastered to an armchair in a smoky room and I quit abruptly.  So I don’t know if it is possible to take a couple of hits off of a pipe or a joint and get some pleasant feeling akin to having a glass of wine without impairing one’s ability to drive or make calculated decisions.

2.  Is it possible to get a little bit high? No this is not a typo. By this, I mean psychologically.  Do people smoke moderate amounts of marijuana in order to achieve some sort of relaxation (like taking a Xanax) or is it generally the pursuit of being high that drives marijuana consumption?  I don’t honestly know.  I realize that there are a lot of comparisons being made to alcohol and, yes, there are many – in fact the vast majority of adults in the US – who drink occasionally as a social pursuit.  We have crafted legal limits in order to curb dangerous activities like drinking and driving. Will we do the same for marijuana? Is there a threshold that exists that we know of where the amount of THC in your body is measurable like blood alcohol levels?

3.  Is smoking marijuana the preferred delivery route?  Back in my youth, it certainly was, either via pipe or hand-rolled joint.  If so, do we recognize that we have made enormous strides in teaching about the dangers of smoking cigarettes and there is some hypocrisy here?  There are no filtered marijuana cigarettes that I know of, and even filtered cigarettes cause cancer.  There is no getting around the fact that the human body wasn’t designed to inhale smoke on a regular basis without consequences.  So by legalizing marijuana – if indeed people aren’t simply going to be munching MJ brownies every day – we have backslid a bit public health-wise by not recognizing the challenges with normalizing an entirely new set of unhealthy behaviors.  Yes, we may be gaining tax revenue at every step of the process here, but how much of it will end up being spent combatting lung cancer and emphysema?

4.  Given that only a few states are legalizing marijuana, how much impact will it have on the drug trade overall?  If one of the goals is to reduce drug trafficking and violence, how does taking away the market from the drug cartels soothe things?  My first instinct is that they will step up their efforts in other states to maintain their market share, or they will end up selling their drugs cheaper than the public market, or they will begin pushing alternative drugs that may be more dangerous.  Are there better ways to combat drug violence that get at the root of the issue?

These are honest, I-don’t-know-the-answer questions. If anyone out there has some answers, I’d love to hear them.  I am genuinely curious, although I suspect that it will be years of crafting rules and facing court challenges before corner marijuana stores begin popping up.  We have already outlawed smoking in public buildings (and within certain boundaries outside of them), so at least I won’t have to sit in a smoky bar when I want to go have a drink with someone.  I seriously doubt that the Feds will be lying in wait outside on the sidewalks to bust the folks who go out to smoke a marijuana cigarette in the cold, but I am interested in seeing how they mount a challenge to these states who have sent the message that they want marijuana legalized.

I want Bill Clinton to talk about me at the Democratic National Convention.

Say what you will, but the man is a masterful public speaker.  He has an absolutely incredible way of talking to an entire convention center (or an entire nation) and making it seem as though he’s right in your living room, sitting at the edge of your most comfortable chair.

He is articulate, passionate, and funny.  And I truly, honestly believe that he means every word he is saying when he says it.

I got a lot of flack for my opinion on BC in years past.  You see, although some of my dearest friends are Democrats and championed President Clinton for his work in the White House, many of them will not forgive him for his marital indiscretions.  Okay, affairs.  Crappy judgment. Inability to keep it in his pants.

I get it.  If you have ever been in a relationship with someone who cheated on you, there is a knee-jerk reaction when you hear about someone cheating.  And when that someone is outed for cheating publicly and they happen to be a public figure (like, say, the President of the United States), it is hard to think about trusting that person again.

I understand on an entirely different level, too.  You see, my father, while he spent most of his life identifying as a Republican, was a lot like Bill Clinton.  Charismatic, persuasive, logical.  Passionate, gregarious, funny.  People really liked my father -or they hated him, there weren’t many who were lukewarm – and most saw him as a strong leader.  He was also a cheater. And even though he was my father and not my husband, I vilified him for a long time because of that, unable to see the other parts of him.

With Clinton, I have the luxury of being able to see beyond his sexual indiscretions and hoping that he has learned a great deal from them.  I am not a friend or family member, not someone who was directly affected by those errors in judgment.  I am able to look to his record of service, his work done on behalf of social justice and continued efforts as a retired President, and see the bulk of his message.  I listened to his speech at the DNC last night and was mesmerized by his ability to switch from levity to sincerity, all the while feeling as though he was speaking to a much more intimate group than the billions of people likely watching on television.  I was struck by his passion and clarity and proud to know that he represents many of the ideals that are important to me.  I know that he has probably spent many thousands of hours being coached on public speaking and that he didn’t likely write the speech he delivered.  None of that dampened my enthusiasm for his message, though, and here’s why.  Because I think that the “X-factor” in his speech that kept it from being flat or cynical is that he truly believes what he is saying. That he honestly puts his faith in Barack Obama to do the things he says he will.  That the choice to stand up and throw his hat in the ring with the President is not one of loyalty to the Democratic party, but a sincere belief in him as a person and his ability to affect the lives of those who need it most.  Perhaps my favorite moments in his speech came when he talked about community and cooperation.

“President Obama’s approach embodies the values, the ideas, and the direction America has to take to build a 21st-century version of the American dream, a nation of shared opportunities, shared responsibilities, shared prosperity, a shared sense of community.”

“…if you want a country of shared opportunities and shared responsibility, a we’re-all-in-this-together society, you should vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden.”

It is his ability to rouse a crowd to passion, empathize with them and tell a damn good story that makes Bill Clinton such a dynamic speaker.  And while all of those things are important, it is ultimately my honest assessment that he means what he says that is the tipping point for me.

 *photo from

Pleasantly surprised.

That is how I feel today. As I drove around town, dropping kids at carpools and school, picking up a 45 pound bag of dog food, heading to the library, I caught bits and pieces of the morning show on my local NPR station. Generally, it bothers me to just catch snippets of the show, my brain hating the swiss-cheese holes of missing information, not knowing how to complete the picture. But today the guest in the second hour referred back to something I had heard the guest in the first hour say and I felt the synapses connect, the dots turn to a solid line and the line work its way into the shape of an upturned mouth. The light bulb went on.

The first guest was a social media expert who has taken time off of his job with Google to galvanize the pro-democracy movement in Egypt. He talked about using his skills to take advantage of the free, real-time exchange of information on the Internet in order to promote peace and equality in this part of the Middle East.

The second guest was on to talk about how the Susan G. Komen foundation can begin to rebuild its reputation with its supporters as well as those who deplore their acts of the past few weeks. At one point he said (and I’ll paraphrase here because I was driving, after all and wasn’t able to write down his words) something like the mistake that companies like Komen are making is to think that we are in a technology revolution. We are in a revolution, for sure, just like the Industrial Revolution, for example. But this revolution is not technology, it is information. Technology is simply the oxygen that enables the information to flow.

He went on to say that if any organization, governmental, for-profit, non-profit, whatever, fails to recognize this and engage with their supporters and their detractors in dialogue, they are missing the boat. People want information. They want to give it and get it. They want to feel heard and respected. And those companies that are truly listening to their constituents and incorporating their feedback are more successful and engender loyalty.
I was thinking about this concept as I turned on my laptop and logged in to the web. My home page is set to NPR and the headline that jumped out at me was this one. Speaking of feedback.
And when I realized how many significant changes have come about in American society as a result of the free exchange of information in real time, I felt
Pleasantly surprised.

I had planned another blog post for today – one I’ve been ruminating about for the last couple of days. Often, ideas for posts come to me as I walk or read or find quiet moments throughout my day, and this one was no exception. But I was derailed by the issue that has screamed its way in to my email inbox and plastered itself across my Facebook page every day this week – HR 358.

[H.R.358 would allow hospitals to refuse to provide a woman emergency, lifesaving abortion care, even if she will die without it.]

Anyone who reads my blog can easily peg me as someone who ardently supports a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions – proudly “pro-choice.” And despite having grown up with that right in place (I won’t say firmly), I have never considered myself as someone who takes abortion rights for granted. That said, I didn’t truly believe it was possible for the House of Representatives to pass this bill today. I live in an area where my state representative shares my conviction on this issue, relieving me from any email efforts to remind him where I stand. He voted against the bill just like I knew he would. But that didn’t mitigate my complete and utter shock at the news that the bill passed anyway.
I’m not sure what I find more perplexing about this.
1. That politicians would presume to tell physicians – professionals who have undergone years of specialized training in healthcare issues – how to do their jobs. Physicians do take an oath to “first do no harm” upon passing the bar and beginning their practice. It seems to me that letting a woman die when there is a life-saving procedure available to her violates that oath. Egregiously.

2. That despite the much more pressing issues facing our country (recession, wars, a broken healthcare system), and the certain knowledge that should this bill find its way on to President Obama’s desk, he will veto it, they insisted on spending time and energy and money putting it to a vote. For what? To send a message? Believe me, the public is clear about Boehner’s intentions to end legalized abortion in the United States. We don’t need the message in any other terms. We get it. This is the seventh time a bill attempting to restrict abortions in the U.S. has been up for a vote this year.

I must say, I’m past being disgusted and fully immersed in confusion at this point. Are politicians so completely out of touch with what is going on in the country that they think this is pressing work? Have they become such automatons in their belief that it is important for them to wield their power to make laws and push specific agendas that they have lost the ability to be flexible and respond to what the people of our country are dealing with on a daily basis?