Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Politics 101: Abortion

I support a woman's right to choose, but I do not endorse abortion as a form of birth control. I believe that sex education should be taught in schools and that the curriculum should include both a promotion of abstinence and an education of contraception.

Most Democrats believe in a woman's right to choose. Most Republicans do not. In fact, Sarah Palin, wants to take away abortion as an option under any circumstance including rape and incest. Some Republicans have also made attempts to take away birth control proclaiming contraception to be abortion.* Imagine life without birth control.

Republicans claim that they believe in less government when it comes to public assistance like welfare and yet they believe in more government when it comes to personal freedoms like a woman's right to choose. Very few Republicans want to support the fetus that they fought so hard for once it's actually born.

Therefore, an unwanted fetus that is not permitted to be aborted often becomes an unwanted child, who typically ends up being raised in foster care. While the common perception is that there are long waiting lists to adopt a child, this isn’t the case for ethnic minorities who land in foster care, the vast majority of whom are statistically, unfortunately, far less likely to be adopted than Caucasian babies and children. I have personal experience with the foster care system in America, both as a volunteer who has cared for the children and as a child in that system. I feel that I can say with authority that no child wants to be born unwanted.

When these children go unadopted they often end up on the streets or in prison. The book, Freak Economics, found evidence that crime drops when abortions are legal. In 1990, the number of unwanted children in America was a little over 190,000. By 2007, after too many years of Republican reign, that number rose over half a million to roughly, 700,000.

I once did a study in which I asked 500 women the same question: "Should abortion be legal?" 50% said, "Yes." And 50% said, "No." I then asked them "Have you ever had an abortion?" 80% said, "Yes." So you see, it's just as important to keep abortion legal for those who believe in it as it is for those who don't.

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Politics 101: Sarah Palin

Politics is not a popularity contest. As long as the lowest common denominator of people are voting with the candidate that emotionally resonates with them, the lowest common denominator will be emotionally running this country.

I want a woman in the White House, but I don't think Sarah Palin should be that woman. My choice has nothing to do with Palin's personal life. My choice is based on her politics.
I support any woman with a desire for both family and career. I am one of those women. But a Vice Presidential election is not about supporting one woman's personal freedoms, it's about choosing the best person to represent the greatest number of people and all our personal freedoms.

Sure, I saw the likeability factor in Sarah Palin with her "The only difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull is lipstick" comment. Most women can relate to that kind of mama bear mentality. But when I take that into consideration with her support of killing wolves for sport* it gives me an uneasy feeling. Pair that with the pit-bull/lipstick remark and it gives a whole new meaning to a wolf in sheep's clothes. This is not the particular feminine influence I was hoping for with a woman in the White House.

When I contemplate McCain's anger issues and Palin's raw readiness to fight I see red flag danger, more war, and bad cop — bad cop. Who is the peace keeper in this duo?
I implore all women who plan to vote to make sure they are standing up for the greatest good and not just a politician they can finally emotionally relate to.

You can like Sarah Palin as a person and support her as a woman without voting her into office and jeopardizing your and others' reproductive and personal freedoms, environmental protections, health care, children's education, foreign affairs, economy, and world peace**.


Originally Published by October, 2007

Politics 101: Where Democrats and Republicans stand on the core issues of this election.

For sake of brevity, this is an oversimplified, nutshell:

The War
Democrats support our troops — they want to bring them home and end the war.

Republicans don't. It's debatable what exactly they are fighting for in this current war but it's factual that they are not fighting for our freedom and they have no plans for ending the war, other than winning it. If they want to win something, maybe they should try bingo instead; senior citizens seem to like it and John McCain is after all, a senior citizen.

Democrats, of this election, believe in a woman's right to choose.
Republicans, of this election, do not.

Democrats believe in protecting the future for our children and children's children by preserving the environment. Democrats want to become independent not just of foreign oil but of all oil and have been encouraging alternative resources for fuel and energy for decades.

For Republicans, getting rid of oil is synonymous with getting rid of many of the fat wallets lined with oil held by republican tycoons. Rather than lose their personal, temporary riches, they'd prefer the entire planet lose their natural riches. Republicans chose to chant at the RNC like children under the blissful spell of ignorance, "Drill, Baby, Drill," which is not an act of environmental protection.

Health Care/ Taxes
Democrats want every person regardless of their socioeconomic status to have health care, which like any important investment in one's country, may require a raise in taxes.

Republicans fear that taking care of others will take away from them. Republicans are dyslexic Robin Hoods. They'd rather steal from the poor to give to the rich by keeping taxes low for the wealthy, thereby jeopardizing government assisted programs for the poor.

Celebrity supporters
Republicans: Hillary Duff, Jessica Simpson, Kidd Rock, Tony Danza.
Democrats: Stephen Spielberg, Leonardo DiCaprio, Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Aniston

Which celebrities do you most relate to politically?

word count: 319

How To Be A Psychic Mama

I was born with psychic abilities, just as my mother and her mother were and going as far back as I know. It seems that some families are genetically predisposed to inherit psychic ability. However, just because you weren't necessarily born with it, doesn't mean you can't develop it. If you ever had an intuition, a "gut feeling" about something, you were using your own inherent psychic ability. Here are three tips to tap into your psychic mama.

1. TRUST your intuition when you have it. If you think your child is getting into something they shouldn't, or is in danger, or even having a moment of bliss that you'd like to share in, trust it. Intuition is like a muscle — the more you use it the stronger it becomes.

Each time you listen to it and you are right, you will feel validated; and that validation will increase your confidence, and your confidence will open you up energetically to receive more intuitive hits that will decrease your likelihood of being wrong. The key to trusting the unknown is a willingness to be wrong. If you have a fear of being wrong, remember that the only way to conquer fear is with faith; and faith comes from trust.

2. LISTEN more than you speak, especially to your children. Each person vibrates at a different frequency, like radio and TV stations. Your children have their own frequencies, and when you tune your receptors to them and listen to them speak about anything they have an interest or passion in, it can awaken their heart centers and create a way for you to link up to them psychically.

When I do readings for people on subjects that I know nothing about, I simply listen to them speak about something they have a great deal of emotional investment in. I let their words wash over me like a gentle breeze, and in doing so I begin to receive psychic hits on other aspects of their life and answers to their specific questions.

Some people create so much chatter and noise in their lives that they can't hear their own intuition even if it's yelling at them. Be quiet and become centered. Pay attention to what is going on around you. Find a healthy balance between engaging with life and simply observing. It's the difference between doing and being. Psychic abilities awaken when doingness goes to sleep.

3. CREATE a practice of energy work. This can be anything from breathing meditations, certain types of yoga, or my personal favorite — daily chakra aligning and cleansing while surrounding myself with white light and asking for guidance from my antecedents. This provides you with a conscious awareness of what types of energy you’re projecting and attracting.

Everything is energy, and usually either positive or negative. If you allow yourself or your children to be surrounded by negative energy while opening yourself up to psychic abilities, you run the dangerous risk of inviting the wrong types of energies into your lives.

Bring forth positive energy by being in your joy. For me it is music, writing, walking on the beach, etc. Try to do at least one of your joy triggers each day. This will attract positive energy and help awaken psychic ability.

Lastly, live your life with integrity, love, and gratitude, and it will be easier to reach an intuitive place and experience the psychic mama within.

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Originally published by July, 2007

Psychic Mama

From as early as I can remember people have always asked me, "How did you know that?" To which I would honestly respond, "I'm psychic."

It's been said that all mediums are psychic, but not all psychics are mediums. Mediums are the psychics who can see and talk to dead people, empaths can feel what others feel, clairvoyants see the future, and telepaths can hear the thoughts of others. I was born into a family of psychics going all the way back to my Native American ancestors, and each person had a specialty. My specialty is that I am primarily an empath with medium abilities.

I tend to converse with people as if I've known them my entire life and know most things about them through years of shared experiences, even if we've only just met. Many times I cannot decipher what I know based on actual knowledge and what I know from simple intuition. My daily life feels like what the majority of people describe as déjà vu. Most everything in the world feels familiar to me.

Sometimes I use my other five senses to perceive information psychically, like hearing a voice or seeing a picture in addition to smelling, tasting and feeling the information but none of it comes through that literally. The best way for me to describe how I receive information is to use the word sense. I simply get a knowing sense about something, and names, words, colors, numbers, faces, pictures and impressions fill that space between my ears with what I like to call validation markers.

These are bits and pieces of what many would deem useless information that only the client would know. When I am able to tap into that information, it validates for both the client and myself that I am tuned into them. It's a way of letting me know that I am on the right energetic track or that I am indeed talking about the same person my guides are.

The real significance comes after that, when the person receives valuable information confirming their own instincts and intuition about which path in life to go down next. I'm not the one with all the answers. I just seem to be the one who is able to translate for the client the wisdom of their own higher self to the practical applications of their own worldly self.

I'm often asked if I'm not just a mind reader, to which I say it's possible. And if it's so, then it means that we all know the answers; but perhaps only some of us know how to read, interpret and transfer the information.

When I'm working with people hands-on I often feel what they feel. If they have a backache, I will have a backache, without them even telling me. I often know when my child is going to have a fever because I start to feel feverish first. This type of empathy used to make leaving the house problematic and sometimes it still does, which is largely why I never wanted to pursue being a psychic as a job. As my Papa used to say, "Not every hobby has to be a career. Some abilities may be meant to be kept private." He was also a psychic.

Growing up in a family of psychics was like living with a bunch of paranoid loonies on truth serum who are addicted to vices of escapism to drown out the thunderous volume of information overload. Some were addicted to the obvious and typical: alcohol and drugs, others to more creative and less destructive remedies: fantasy and humor. The number one addiction in my family was gambling, because, let's face it, when you're psychic, you tend to win.

Everything in my grandparents’ house was something they had won, from the furniture and electronics, to the appliances and Encyclopedia Britannica. They won trips and cars, backyard accessories and new wardrobes — consolation prizes for carrying the gift and burden of knowing the future. One parent won a quarter of a million dollars on an Indian Reservation Casino, then blew it all on Lottery tickets. Even still, my family collectively has won more times playing the California Lotto than probably most people in one entire state do collectively.

Personally, I don't gamble, take drugs, drink excessively or indulge in the escapism of fantasy. I'm an overly responsible mother in the 21st century — I don't have time for an addiction. I've done my best to cope with my psychic abilities in the way my psychic Native American antecedents would have, by accepting them and integrating them into normalcy as best as I can. I feel drawn to use them for goodness and shy away from frivol. I would feel naked without them, unrecognizable, as if all my extremities were suddenly amputated. Yet, I was never in a hurry to embrace and promote them for profit.

Conversely, when one has a child it's not as easy to make personal sacrifices for the sake of our integrity if it means going hungry because of it. I have never been one to believe in consequentialism, but I am a believer in personal responsibility and creative resourcefulness. When the situation demands it, we have to do what we can to put food on the table.

My child was born with some moderate, but persistent, health challenges that led to some major fulltime care. Both my husband and I had to take time off from work to take turns caring for the baby around the clock. Then the industry that we both work in underwent a major strike that limited our work potential even more severely. We found ourselves out of work with a sick baby and no future income in sight.

Even though I was accomplished in my chosen career and had devoted over half of my life to it, I was willing to wait tables if necessary just to earn an income. I put feelers out into the workforce for every conceivable employment opportunity that was possible. Unimaginable road blocks arose to each potential prospect. In spite of this, the thing I resisted the most kept coming to me readily, inviting and enticing me with illusions of ease: working as a psychic.

Mary, an old roommate from 20 years ago, who knew of my psychic abilities and also of the financial distress we were experiencing, called me with a proposition. "I have a friend who needs your help,” she said. “She's willing to donate money to a college fund for your child in exchange for your services."

Being a psychic was never a goal or a real interest for me. I had been offered many times to work for hire and had declined most offers. It can be very draining work and the name "psychic" itself has a negative connotation. I did not want to be put into the same category of the late night $3.99 per minute Jamaican psychic Cleo. Integrity has always been a key proponent in my life. I didn't want to be associated with a profession that was surrounded with labels of con artist, scam or trickery.

As Mary was speaking to me about her friend, I was already receiving specific information on her behalf: she has a brain tumor and needs to make dramatic changes in her life or else she will be dead within six years, etc. Mary confirmed the details. I figured, well, if I'm getting the information and I can help her, I might as well accept the money on my child's behalf.

Within a month, more referrals came my way and more people were asking to make donations to my child's college fund in exchange for a psychic reading. The problem was that we needed the money more for daily survival than we did for a future college fund and we needed to pay for our child's doctor visits too.

Mary set up a barter system between my child's doctors and myself. She also came up with a price list of what I should charge and helped me write text for a website. Within two months I had a new business and was working part time as a stay at home mom.

In our American society of gender inequality, my husband still had the greater earning potential of the family so we decided that he deserved more work time than I did, which meant that I only had a few hours a day to work. At first, my only time to work was during my child's naptime. I'd give a psychic reading while holding my cell phone with one hand and pushing the stroller with the other.

Now that business has picked up for me and slowed down for my husband we split all the work, caregiver work and career work, evenly. The upside is that our lives are more equal and I get to work which I have missed deeply and which I thoroughly enjoy. The downside is that I rarely see my husband anymore. Either he's working while I am taking care of the baby or he's taking care of the baby while I'm working. We're doing our best to find balance while knowing that it doesn't always come from standing in the middle of the seesaw but sometimes it comes from taking turns. One baby step at a time.

Eventually we hope to both work during the same hours with a child care provider who comes to our home who we can monitor throughout the day. We are blessed to both be able to work out of the house. We save on gas and only need one car for the entire household. We enjoy taking family breaks from work to share meals together and having the distraction of taking time out for playtime, hugs, kisses, learning something new, singing a song, reading a story or going on an outing with our child. We need to work but we also want to be with our child, and working from home provides us with the luxury of both. Sometimes we suffer from cabin fever, but having a toddler who enjoys the outdoors helps to break up the days.

I work on referral only and usually through email communication. I prefer if I don't see the clients or know anything about them. They send me questions and I send the answers and sometimes we talk on the phone. Most of the time I don't even know their names; and I never give them any information about me, including my name. Psychics can have problems with people who become attached to them and are unable to adhere to personal boundaries, which is why I am referring to my offspring only as child and not sharing unnecessary personal information with more digestible reading aids provided by pronouns.

In addition to personal clients I also work with doctors, private investigators, lawyers, business people and other professionals, and I go to their offices. Sometimes doctors know a patient is sick, but they don't know what it is or how to help. They enlist me to work with the patient and put my hands on them to sense what I feel.

I have private investigators that have contacted me about missing children and I do my best to help, but I find the tragic horrors of that work too emotionally taxing. I can't be a good mom to my own child if I am overwhelmed by that sort of pain, but of course I help when I can.

I spend most of my time working with business people who have a lot of money. They invite me to sit in on interviews for employees and help them choose the most honest person for the job. I help them decide where to invest their money, what advertising would be best, etc. They use me to run ideas by, and I use my intuition "gut feeling" to give them the best advice I can.

I charge $125 per hour, but I never spend the money until I have the information. Sometimes I am wrong — about 10-20% of the time — and I tell people that up front. They tend to focus on the fact that I'm usually right more than 80% of the time. It's a good hourly rate but I can only handle one client per day for what it takes out of me physically. My hourly rate does not take into account the work I must do to prepare for the reading and the work I must do afterward to protect myself from the reading. All in all, it's not that profitable to be a psychic unless you're in it for the fame and book deals and can take on the energy drain more than I ever could.

Being psychic is part of who I am, but it's not something that I choose as a career — it is not my passion. To me it is a job, something I am doing because I can. Even so, I derive tremendous pleasure when I am able to truly help someone through a challenge. Much of my psychic mentoring is centered on basic principles of simple wisdom, like holding joy in your life, expressing oneself creatively, good self-care, and encompassing integrity and love into every personal exchange.

Having a job centered on values of goodness helps me stay in my core of truth and practice what I preach. But the downside is dealing with energy vampires who can suck me dry if I let them as they keep asking the same question over and over again hoping to hear a different answer. People with negative energy from having non-human entities attached to them can also be terribly toxic. Being drained by empathy work can overtax my adrenals and compromise my personal health. This is all saying nothing of near daily and nightly visits from deceased loved ones who want me to connect to their live counterparts on this side, many of whom I have yet to even meet.

Not being able to connect with someone enough to give them a reading always deeply disappoints me. Especially when I actually am connecting with them but they are too obtuse to realize it — like my most recent client, a hairdresser willing to do a trade of services with me.

Psychic: Do you have an aunt named Lynn?

Hairstylist: No.

Psychic: Are you sure? It could be someone like an aunt, she's around your mom's age and she has the energy of an aunt.

Hairstylist: No, I do not have an aunt named Lynn. I'm sure.

20 minutes later I am still getting this strong message for her aunt named Lynn; and my guides were telling me that I was right, so I asked the hairstylist to think really hard.

Psychic: Maybe it was a great aunt, but I definitely feel that you have an aunt named Lynn and that I have a message for her.

Hairstylist: The only Lynn I know is my dad's brother's wife.

Psychic: (Dismayed shock covers me like the black cape collecting my hair clippings.) That would make her your aunt.

Hairstylist: Well, she's not a blood relative.

Psychic: That doesn't matter, she's an aunt; and I asked if you had an aunt named Lynn and you said no. You do have an aunt named Lynn. Correct?

Hairstylist: I guess if you call the woman my dad's brother is married to my aunt, then yes.

The humor colored the experience lighter but it did not lift the heaviness of fatigue that it created. I spent three hours with this woman and every question turned into a rerun of the one before. I wished I had just gone to Supercuts instead.

Being a psychic is an honest way to make a living if you really have the ability and always use it for the highest and best of all concerned. Nevertheless, as I make more of a living doing the things I really love, I will spend less time doing the psychic work. For now, it's a way for me to have an income by helping others, which affords me the cherished opportunity of also being a stay-at-home mom.

As a writer, I turn every client exchange into a story; and while I may not always have clients as fodder for my stories, I will always be a psychic mama — and to a psychic child no less — and there will forever be a plethora of stories to come from those unique circumstances.

jd smith is a writer/performer and an advocate for equality who just happens to also be a psychic medium. She teaches chess to children and in her spare time enjoys creative methods of archiving.

Word Count 2,794

Nursemaid Elbow: My toddler's first trip to the ER

Fifteen minutes before dinner, my daughter locks eyes with me and reenacts a silent film starlet's series of intense emotions. Her eyes are screaming, "Mommy, Mommy, the train is coming! Rescue me at once!" The lines on her forehead begin to form a map of distress. Her chin starts to quiver like Grandma's fruit Jell-O, then suddenly the sound barrier is broken and a Tsunami of anguish has me impulsively joining her in a chorus of "AhhhhOwieAhhhh!"

I call out to my husband, "Come quick. Bailey's hurt. She was climbing on the couch and then held her arm and began to scream, 'Owie! Owie! Owie!' I don't know what happened." "Did you see her fall?" "No." "She must have twisted her arm or fractured it." "It doesn't look broken."

I try to gently move each digit, each joint. She cries. I get the Tylenol. We turn on Our Neighbor Totoro for distraction, or was it Caillou? My husband, George, starts calling hospitals in the area to confirm which have urgent care and will also take our insurance. My mind snaps quips at myself: we should have already done this, I thought we had. I grab the diaper bag and some snack bars and we're off.

Now comes the question of do we risk hurting her arm further by putting her in her car seat or do I hold her and risk injuring her more if there's a car accident? We chose to put her in the car seat and thankfully, it did not seem to cause additional pain to her arm.

In the emergency waiting room, her walk is a modest version of Quasimodo. She lets her left arm just hang by her side, limp. She leans into it as she does her plush Elmo, knowing this is a part of her she cares for and wants restored. A beam replaces her ache when she realizes she has an audience and at 21 months begins her touring performance set of "The ABC Song," "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" and her show stopper finale, of "Frère Jacques."

As the spectators revolve from adoring, seven-year-old girl with rash to leave-me-alone projectile vomiting, burly biker man, Bailey's howling lament resumes. Four hours later, George reports to the triage nurse that Bailey's condition is worsening. 20 minutes later we go in. The doctor offers the diagnosis in less than 2 minutes: Nursemaid Elbow. I, who like to glamorize everything, hear: Mermaid's Elmo and think, "how cute!"

The doctor said that the most common way this happens is from lifting the child by their wrist, arm or hand. Last week, Bailey was holding her Godfather's hand and my hand; and as we were walking over sand dunes on the beach we lifted her up by her hands, like countless generations have done before. Yet, at the time, my mother's intuition said, "The baby books said this could be dangerous." But I was too afraid of hearing Godfather allude that I was once again being overprotective, so I said nothing. Now I have mommy guilt which is much worse than Godfather fear. Of course, I don't know conclusively that this had an impact on Bailey's condition, but it's eating away at me nonetheless.

Nursemaid elbow is, in essence, a dislocated elbow. Published case series report a slight predominance in females.1 and a slight left arm predominance in both males and females.1 It was my daughter's left arm. It most commonly occurs in children aged 1-4 years. However, it has been reported in patients as young as 4 months and as old as 15 years. Nursemaid elbow tends to reoccur. Avoidance of future axial traction should minimize risk of reoccurrence.*

Therefore, I have an excuse why Bailey cannot be lifted by her hands again. Not that I need one, but then again, maybe I do. I have fewer critics as a performer than I do as a mother. Since most people either have parents, become parents or both, they tend to think they are an expert on parenting. If only people could remember that their words are like songs we often sing along to subconsciously, perhaps they'd choose their words more thoughtfully. In addition to that, I have to embrace the fear of criticism if I am to put my daughter's safety first. My instincts for and knowledge of my child must take precedence over others' parental experience with their children.

The doctor said that he could either manipulate her elbow now or take x-rays to confirm that it needed manipulation. Being a firm believer in communicating with my child I explained to her what was going to happen. She went into hysterics and began a tantrum disproportionate to any other before. In the process, she manipulated or snapped, her elbow back into place herself.

Her requiem of grief escalated to a crescendo inspiring even gun shot wounded patients to part their curtains and observe the unearthly commotion. This and her new flailing arm which she was using as a target to slap mommy's face repeatedly, persuaded us to just admit defeat to the paroxysm and leave.

As the doctor was hurriedly getting the paperwork to accommodate us in a swift departure, the x-ray technician magically appeared. Deciding that it was fate interceding to cover all our bases, we went forth with the x-rays. It's unfathomable that it can take two large adults to hold down one tiny toddler, but fear can have the strength of unforeseen forces. It was at this point I began praying like an in debt, alcoholic gambler at the Roulette table. But instead of asking for the ball to land on 29, I asked for my daughter's discomfort to cease.

My prayers were answered when her uncontainable wet tears became dry, gaspy sobs that slowly surrendered to an exhausted, melancholy gaze. I held her tight and swayed with song to soothe us both. Her x-rays were clear, no broken bones or fractures. A friendly nurse appeared with an orange elixir by the name of, Ibuprphen. I don't like for Bailey to ingest anything I don't ingest first, so we downed our first shots of pain relief together. I gently settled her on the hospital bed and within moments, her arms, legs and head formed the shape of a slumbering starfish, sans her Mermaid's Elmo.

While we were waiting for the doctor to bring us our discharge papers, I realized the room was lit, she was asleep and this was a perfect time to cut her fingernails. I had been trying to trim them for days, she had already started making slight slashes across her forehead when brushing her curls aside and I was afraid her arm might be too sore for me to hold to cut her nails tomorrow and I didn't want her to cut her face up anymore tonight. I just happened to have a spare pair of clippers in her diaper bag and as I reached for them my husband laughed at me saying, "Only you would think of trimming her nails at a time like this. You're so you!"

The cleaning lady arrived before the paperwork so we decided to hurry the process along so that someone who really needed a hospital bed could have the one I was using as a manicure station. As George gathered our scattered belongings, it was time for the consummate groomer to enfold her tiny toddler into her mama bear arms and release her family from the chaos of the ER and back into the quietude of home.

Dinner was only six hours late and consisted of dashboard dining from Del Taco. Bailey's dinner was the sustenance of sleep. We drove home grateful for six working elbows and we all slept through the night. Night being five hours escape from wakefulness. But with working elbows, who needs sleep?


Word count 1,306

Reader Breeder

Today my daughter, Bailey, got her first Library card! I got a bit weepy as I have such a deep respect and appreciation for libraries and a great love for books. It was a tender rite of passage to introduce Bailey to the library and the nice librarians. They told us that she was their youngest card carrying member at 18 months of age. It's never too early to foster a love for reading.

One of my most special childhood memories is of my Papa (my grandfather) and the trips he and I used to take to the library twice a week. I was fortunate to grow up with a library just down the street, walking distance even by California standards.

Papa and I would go to the library on Sundays and, if I read whatever books I checked out by Wednesday, Papa would buy me a new book from the mall.

Each newly purchased book would go into our personal library collection. Most families refer to this as a "spare room," but in my grandparents' house it was always the library. I grew up with the wonderful illusion of thinking everyone had a library in their home.

The first book checked out was one Bailey chose herself. Papa was a wonderful teacher and example for me to follow in the freedom he gave me as a child. He always trusted me to choose my own books, and he never tried to influence my choices. I hope I can follow in his footsteps.

It's been said that books are our friends, and when I look back on my life I remember my past by the books I read just as much as by the people I surrounded myself with. They are the scrapbooks for the places I've traveled to, if only in my imagination.

It's essential to read to our kids every day, but it's special to encourage and create a space for them to enjoy reading to themselves too. My daughter has a little spot that she crawls into with her books. Relaxation is a learned behavior, and she looks forward to her down time with books as much as her parents do. There's nothing quite like sharing an activity together that is also an individual experience. Reading as a family often gives us a home that is at once quiet and yet also filled with adventure.

Names changed to protect privacy.

word count: 398

A Woman's Worth

In the "Europe" section of The New York Times, I read an article about an Albanian woman who chose to become the man of the house after her father was murdered. She, Pashe Keqi, now 78, was able to do this at the age of 20 by becoming a sworn virgin. She said, "While a woman’s life is worth half that of a man, a virgin’s value is the same: 12 oxen." Her virginity ensured her equality.

That led me to ponder, how many oxen am I worth; and can I still ensure my equality if my virginity is long gone?

In a world of equality, that question would be moot. Or is that moo when dealing with oxen?

American women can tout equality from their L'Oreal locks down to their Jimmy Choo shoes, but they're still only paid 75.3 cents to every dollar a man makes. They are still traditionally defined by their marital status (Miss or Mrs.) before they are as an individual (Ms.). They still often give up their name for a man when they marry, and they still often pay more for a haircut and dry cleaning than a man does (even if they have shorter hair and simpler clothes). They still do not have equality.

What is a woman's worth? Her ability to bear and raise children? To multitask? To bring home the bacon and fry it up in the pan?

Women don't have to be like men to have equality, but they have to know that they are worthy of it and they have to see it as an inherent right that they desire. I just wonder if they do.

It's impossible to ensure equality by participating in a tradition that does not promote it. Based on the fact that more than 90% of American women take a man's last name when they marry and go by "Mrs.," it begs the questions: Are women simply not interested in equality or do they not see the connections between their actions and the inequities those actions perpetuate?

Any tradition that promotes inequality is a tradition worthy of reconsideration. Women are amazing and powerful. They are not afraid to have "ah ha" moments and change their lives in an instant. I believe that as more women make the connections between the choices they make and the inequities those choices create, that more women will make new choices.

word count: 400

New York Times piece By DAN BILEFSKY Published: June 25, 2008.
United States Census Bureau 2003

Dream Child

My husband and I met around Halloween of 1989. We had our first date near Thanksgiving. He flew me out to meet his parents for New Year’s Eve. He proposed marriage on Valentine's day and we married on The Fourth of July, 1990. Our entire courtship from meeting to marriage was roughly seven months and yet we waited 17 years to have a child.

Every year, right around Thanksgiving and Christmas, I would have a dream that I was giving birth to a little girl. Everyone around me said the dream was metaphoric and not literal. Dream books told me that having a dream about giving birth was symbolic of projects I was working on that I was giving birth to.

In my dream, after I gave birth, the baby always appeared as a young woman and would introduce herself saying, "I am your daughter; and someday, when you invite me, I am going to be born to you."

n the many years I spent considering the little girl spirit's birth, a play about giving birth was conceived and born of me instead. I was working as an advocate for foster care children; and as the numbers of unwanted kids in America rose past 700,000, the number of women who were no longer able to conceive and who were turning to in vitro fertilization grew exponentially. All this was happening concurrently with fierce evidence of global warming due in part to overpopulation. Under those conditions, the thought of bringing another child into the world seemed inconceivable to me.

I wrote and performed a one woman show on the subject matter and was deeply rooted on a soapbox with the impassioned opinion that if people wanted to have children they should take care of the ones already here instead of bringing more into the world. I did not know how to reconcile my beliefs about breeding and procreation with my spirit child and her periodic visits.

I was obsessed with the topic and it touched every area of my life. I frequently became engaged with others on the issue, probing people's conscience to inspire my own. I continued to go within for answers and listen to my still small voice.

In 2005 — on my birthday — while having my annual gynecological exam and ultrasound, my doctor spotted an egg in my uterus. She said, "Wow, if you go home and make love now, you could make a baby." That frightened us more than excited us. We did not go home and we did not make love. Nice birthday.

I had recently recovered from a series of 13 surgical procedures and a chelation detoxification regimen. I had mercury poisoning from botched dental work as a child. I had endometriosis and polycystic ovarian disease, and I was so severely anemic that I needed thrice weekly iron infusions for an entire year. On paper, my body wasn't capable of conceiving; and if it did, the likelihood of birth defects would be greater than normal due to the mercury toxins in my body.

I rationalized that my health was in no position to take that step nor were our finances nor my conscience for that matter. I did not want to be a hypocrite by saying one thing about breeding in my public life and doing another in my private life.

As a young married woman, I feared pregnancy; but as a married woman of advanced maternal age, I feared not being able to get pregnant, even though I had consciously made the choice not to have children. Knowing that the choice would no longer be mine to make incited a fear of a loss of freedom in me. Choosing to not have sex on a day when I was likely to conceive felt like having an abortion. I felt guilty for not taking that opportunity, but I knew that above all I was not ready psychologically to even invite the thought of that experience into my consciousness.

Once the opportunity passed that I did not take I felt saddened but relieved. I apologized to the little girl spirit for not inviting her and giving her the opportunity of life. That's when she began speaking to me, even when I was awake. She said, "It's OK. That was just to prepare you. I will come back again next year on your birthday and if you invite me, I will be born to you."

The metaphoric seed was planted; and my husband and I made a tentative plan that if my health continued to improve and the doctors gave the OK, and I could reconcile my public beliefs with my private beliefs, then we would try, just for one cycle, on my birthday in March of 2006. If it was meant to be it would happen, and if we didn't conceive right away then it wasn't meant to be and we wouldn't try again.

I told our little girl spirit our plan. She responded by telling me what she wanted to be named and insisted that we give her initials of BLISS. "I will be with you on your birthday," she said. I acknowledged her and the agreement was made. I never came to a place of intellectual reconciliation, but I did come to a place of peace about my choice to move forward.

I could not argue that others had no business breeding children and then breed myself. My only comfort was that as far as I knew I had never met anyone who consciously waited as long as I had to have a child and who had put as much thought into the social and political ramifications, to say nothing of the personal, than I had. This somehow made me feel different enough to justify being an exception to the rule. I didn't think I was worthy of being an exception but I felt I was and thoughts and feelings can be very separate things.

I kept flashing back on a heated philosophical discussion I had with my brother-in-law in the early 1990s. We were writing a screenplay together that touched on this area. He was writing the voices of the moderate to conservative characters, and I was writing the dialogue for the liberal perspective.

For every reason he gave in favor of breeding I would give him two in favor of not. Exasperated he finally just put his head in his hands, and after a few silent moments looked up at me with tears in his eyes and said one word, "Desire."

He went on to explain that for better or worse, right or wrong, he had a desire to have children and no amount of intellectual facts or figures was diminishing that sense of calling in him. If anything, it was only making it stronger. There was nothing I could say to argue against him. I felt I had a calling in my life to be an artist and I couldn't fathom someone trying to take that away from me so how could I argue it away in him? He had the last word in that debate, and it was a powerful one that has stayed with me ever since. He ended up having three beautiful, bright children who I can't imagine not having in my life.

But alas, I did not share his desire. I did not feel that need, urgency or calling to give birth to a child in order to be a mother. This only made me question even more if it was something I should even be considering. Comic Betsy Salkind refers to breeding as genetic narcissism. It was that very line that bonded us as friends because I had also used that concept in my play. How could I believe that breeding was genetic narcissism and yet still be considering participating in it?

It didn't feel like narcissism to me. The BLISS baby was her own unique entity. She did not really feel like an extension of me. She felt more like a friend I cared deeply for who I shared a lot in common with and who I enjoyed being around.

Have you ever had a strong opinion about something and then met a really nice likeable person who held the exact opposite opinion as you? Well, it was kind of like that for me juggling my philosophical beliefs with my BLISS baby spirit visits. The BLISS baby of my dreams kept coming back to me and with each visit she brought out a little more desire from me for her, in spite of my beliefs.

I began to form a friendship with her like I would with anyone who I heard from on a daily basis. I learned her likes and dislikes, her hopes and fears and more of why she had come to me specifically. She told me that we had always been together as spirits, and now we had an opportunity to be together as two physical beings as well.

She showed me pictures of our life together. I was able to view a movie in my dreams of her performing as a comic on a college campus. In a wakeful vision I saw her with her husband and children at my death bed. She introduced me to two other children — a boy and a girl who also wanted to be born to us — and they told us their names as well.

She had a great sense of humor, loved music, had a determined spirit, was super smart and had a passion for learning. I could see what she looked like clearly: light eyes and curly hair with a beautiful smile, nothing like me at all. I shared these details with my dearest friends and my best friend, my husband. He began to see her too and have brief encounters with her during moments of meditation.

As the days turned into months, my birthday was just around the corner. Inviting the BLISS baby to become our daughter no longer felt like a political or social issue about breeding, over population and unwanted children in foster care. It became about finally meeting this spirit in person who we had come to know through our dreams.

When my birthday arrived, the day of the deed, I felt like she was in the room with us which was both awkward and yet also somehow spiritually magnificent. It was a wonderfully romantic experience and not far from movie magic where it's easy to forget what's a documentary and what's based solely on fantasy.

It was beyond an exciting voyage to consciously choose to create life and still not know if it would be successful, not to mention carrying the pressure of living up to the agreement we made to only try once. What if it didn't take? Would we ever meet the BLISS baby?

I felt a bit like Tom Burdet in the Motel 6 commercial saying, "I'll leave the light on for you." She must have had a GPS system installed in her DNA because she never even paused for directions. We conceived that night, and five months later ultra sounds confirmed that it was indeed a girl.

I immediately felt that her personality was already completely developed and I was just the vessel that she was coming through. I was so completely certain of this that I wrote a public description of her in our baby shower invitations before she was ever born which later turned out to be entirely accurate.

There once was a flower of a little girl spirit. Over the course of infinite soul years and 37 earthly weeks, she made her caterpillar to butterfly transition from the ethereal into the physical. She was expected around Christmas and was born around Thanksgiving just like she had been in my dreams for 17 years. She was the perfect holiday gift.

My husband's last name is Bailey. My last name is Smith. She asked for initials of BLISS so we named her Bailey, Love, Isabella, Sage, Smith. She has five names to choose from, two of which are fairly typical another that is common and two new age, spiritual, dreamlike names for the new age, spiritual, dreamlike child that she is. She will carry forth both her mother and her father's heritage, and she got her wish for initials of B.L.I.S.S.

Now I am being visited by the other two spirit children as well, but again I find myself in a state of mystification. I cannot comprehend on an intellectual level the reality of having two more children whether through breeding, adoption or any means really. I feel so completely overwhelmed with just one child. But I continue to forge the family ties on the spiritual realm and leave the reality of manifesting on the physical plain to unforeseen sources of influence that may come into play. Perhaps those of fulltime help with cooking, cleaning, laundry, shopping and childcare.

For now our world is content with Bailey. She is everything I literally imagined and more. She is our greatest joy, our bliss, our dream child.

Names have been changed for privacy’s sake but do connote symbolic likeness.

Word count 2,170

Friendly Fire: How to break up with a friend and still stay friends (in four easy steps)

Friends are like diamonds
…or cubic zirconia.

Step 1: Know which kind of friend they are and which kind of friend you want them to be: season, reason, lifetime…or healthy.

1. Season (The Holiday Card Friend): Dear but low maintenance friends.

2. Reason (The Convenience Friend): These are the people we become friends with not because of common interests as much as common surroundings. This could also be a friendship by fire.

3. Lifetime (The Best Friend): This friend can be both the most comforting and the most overwhelming of all. Your relationship can be the toxic, co-dependent, enmeshed one that all others revolve around and the solace you run to from all the rest.

4. Healthy (The Whole Friend): You email occasionally. You talk on the phone sporadically. Maybe even get together every now and then. This could be your best friend or any number of good friends. These are people who are in your life because they enrich your life. You are consciously choosing to keep them in your life not out of obligation or a momentum of perpetuation, but out of a clear choice. You share common interests, beliefs and often the same or similar values. Your lifestyles are most likely compatible.

Step 2: Reality Check. Define what went wrong to create an impetus for change.

Perhaps you had a baby and your best friend was single and now your lives don't mesh as well. Maybe you were friends with a co-worker but changed jobs, and now it just seems like too much work to maintain a friendship that was built on shared surroundings rather than shared interests. Possibly you bonded through old wounds and now that one or both of you are healing, there isn't anything left to bond over.

Step 3: Share your observations and how you'd like to see the friendship evolve. If your friend responds to your sharing, simply gracefully accept their response, without refute or argument. Remember the intent is not to be "right" and prove a point, the intent is to change the status of the friendship. Give them the last word, if nothing else, as a parting gift.

"Dear Convenience Friend,

Now that we no longer work together I won't be seeing you as much. I would however like to keep you in my life. Therefore, I'd like to upgrade our friendship status to that of a holiday card friend (everything's an upgrade). Your President's Day card is in the mail."


Seasonal Friend"

Step 4: Move on. I recommend not communicating until the next holiday rolls around when it's appropriate to send a card. Be as sincere as you feel compelled to be. I sent a birthday card wishing that my friend receive all the joy, love and abundance that she deserves (and I meant it).

Word count 486

Originally published by June, 2007

Food Allergy Alert: What Everyone Should Know

My daughter has life-threatening food allergies to eggs and bananas. Approximately 12 million Americans suffer from food allergies, according to The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN). The odds are in favor that a child with severe allergies will come into your life. What you are about to read could save that child's life.

If you have a baby with signs of colic, they may actually have food allergies. In such an instance, please be sure to test for allergies before getting vaccinations as some vaccines are made with eggs. In serious but rare cases, if a child is allergic to eggs and then injected with a vaccine with eggs, the result can lead to death.

An allergy can present itself in many ways. Symptoms include rash, eczema, swollen tongue, watery or itchy eyes, vomiting, diarrhea, choking and inability to breath. If your child ever says, "My tongue itches" or exhibits any of the above reactions, I recommend breaking out the Children’s Benadryl and seeking medical attention immediately.

Any food has the potential to be an allergen. The most common offenders are nuts, eggs, wheat, soy, milk, and seafood. To help others with allergies, please be as conscientious, understanding and flexible as possible. My daughter cannot attend parties or eat out in uncontrolled food environments. Food doesn't have to be ingested to cause a reaction, contact alone can cause a problem. We read the ingredient labels on everything and the postscript that tells if the food was made on equipment that also processes allergens. If anyone with an allergen on their hands were to touch anything that my daughter could then touch, or if anyone were to kiss her after eating something with an allergen, she could have an anaphylactic reaction. My daughter's food allergies are not flexible, therefore we need others to be.

The advice western doctors have given us is to breastfeed for as long a possible. We carry individual servings of Benadryl (antihistamine) and Jr. EpiPens (adrenaline) at all times in case she does stop breathing, but that is a treatment for a reaction not a cure for the allergy. The only treatment is avoidance of the allergens.

We have nevertheless had hopeful results with alternative, eastern medicine. A treatment called NAET that is usually administered by chiropractors, has been able to successfully cure many children and adults of their allergies.

For more information on allergies please visit

word count: 403

Originally published by August, 2007

Chess For Kids

There are four universal abilities that I wish I could bestow upon every child: how to play a musical instrument, speak a foreign language, enjoy a physical discipline (dance or sports), and how to play chess. One can go anywhere in the world with three of these ways to communicate without words. To communicate is to connect. The more we connect to others the more connected we become to the world at large; and connection is both a gift and an art form.

Chess teaches the art of thinking things through before acting but with a conscious mindfulness of time management while incorporating intelligence and intuition as well as creativity and logic to make each choice. It's also fun and can inspire joy, especially among those of us who enjoy laughing at ourselves.

Games and sports are often synonymous with competitiveness. However, chess is one of those great activities in which participants can play with the intention of improving their game rather than merely to compete against others.

I have a tremendous amount of respect for children as people and am always impressed with how they form conclusions based on observation, logic or intuition. Each child thinks with unique aspects of their brain depending upon where they are on the spectrum from learning disabled to gifted and yet they all possess genius in their own way. As a chess teacher and a mother I am privileged enough to witness this first hand; it's thrilling and fascinating.

Chess is arguably one of the most complicated games to learn; but for a child with an porous sponge of a brain, it's nothing more than additional information. The most brilliant minds among us are often children under the age of ten.

Please check local community based programs for chess classes. I guarantee it will be an investment in your child's future in more ways than you can imagine.

word count: 315

Originally published by August, 2007

Female Gendercide

Oprah brought to light the gendercide in India, but it's also happening in China and here in America.

Gendercide is the intentional killing of the XX chromosome, whether it's in the Petri dish, through abortion or murder after birth — as a result of a preference for boys.

In the United States, where gendercide is being practiced under the guise of gender selection for the purpose of "Family Balancing," the exact numbers of boys outnumbering girls are considered confidential. The medical language used in defining gender selection preference can be misleading and is often interpreted and divided into many subgroups, most likely giving the impression that fewer gender selection procedures are taking place than actually are. Even in the United States, the amount of boys being chosen over girls is unclear.

What is clear is that the choice is being made. But why?

It's men and women making these choices, these distinctions. Could it be that couples are turning to science for gender selection to secure a son for the purpose of carrying on the family name? If that's the case, then the choice of a woman taking a man's last name in marriage can be directly linked to the decline of the female population.

This would prove once and for all that something as seemingly insignificant as taking a man's last name is in fact not insignificant at all. Indeed, the taking of a man's last name, and the gender selection of a son over a daughter to carry on that name could, in effect, be the crux of the inequality that all American women face.

How can we stop female gendercide in our country? Perhaps we can by choosing not to participate in the traditions that make gendercide a desirable option for some. If women keep their own last names when they marry (see *What's In A Name? for more info), if we go by "Ms." instead of "Mrs." or "Miss" (see This Ms. Don't Miss The Mrs. for more info), if we give our children our last names, we are practicing equality*. Women have often been the torchbearers of evolution. It is the practice of equality, not the theory of it, that shapes our perceptions and can ensure the balance of nature.

word count: 363

1-26-2004 Newsweek "Girl or Boy? Now you can choose. But should you? The new science of sex selection. Claudia Kalb, Sudip Mazumdar in New Delhi, Sarah Schafer in Beijing and B. J. Lee in Seoul.
National Geographic Ultimate Explorer (Jan, 2004)

What's In A Name?

I kept my maiden name when I married and even gave my child my last name. Radical? If you think so it's evidence of inequality, for no one thinks it's radical for a man to keep his own last name when he marries or gives his children his last name.

Is it possible to maintain our equality and still have a cohesive family unit? Yes! It just requires a little creative thinking.

If all girls received their mother's last names and all boys received their father's last names and everyone kept their own last name and did not change it when they married, then both sides of the family would be preserved in the genealogical family tree for generations to come.*

In terms of holiday cards, making reservations at restaurants and other such occasions where a single family name is helpful, we created one. This name is not used for legal documents just for social circumstances of convenience.

My maiden name is also my surname. I've been accused of still having a man's last name thereby defeating the purpose of keeping one's last name for sake of equality. Is that true?

My last name is also my mother's last name and both her mother's and father's last name and her grandmother's on her father's side's last name. It may have originated with a man but it has since been passed down through five generations of women. At what point does it deserve the right to be referred to as a woman's last name?

People used to drink the beverage, Coke, because it had cocaine in it. It's still called Coke but it no longer contains cocaine. Is it still considered a drink with cocaine in it? Of course not. The same name evolved into something different, so too can a woman's last name.

Taking a man's last name may be a tradition, but it's also an example of inequality the likes of which may be responsible for such socially accepted atrocities as gendercide (see Female Gendercide for more info).

Every choice we make has the potential to create significant ripples. I believe that once a woman knows her power, she is compelled to use it for the greatest good of all concern.

word count: 356

*Naming Ourselves, Naming Our Children: Resolving the Last Name Dilemma (Paperback) by Sharon M. G. Lebell