Thursday, June 4, 2015

Where's the top of the hill? When am I over it? My legs are tired.

I'm too lazy to dye my hair. Bring it.
Today, I turn 35.

I guess when you're in your thirties, you're supposed to start lying about your age and celebrating anniversaries of your 29th instead, but you know what? My thirties are good and I'm excited to be 35.

Gray hairs and all, I like it here.

What age has been your favorite?


Yesterday, I had several things to do after work. Got a kid to her t-ball game, went to get a haircut, did a little shopping. I finally got home around dusk and I wanted to run. It was a scheduled running day, but life got in the way.

I put on my shoes and headed out the door anyway.

If you've known me for any length of time, you're probably afraid I've been abducted by aliens. Frankly, I'm kind of wondering that, too. Running has never been my thing. It's my husband's thing. And he likes to run really far because he's crazy.

But I want to be fit, I want to be a good example to my daughters, and I love being able to run for Every Mother Counts. I couldn't think of more effective motivators.

When I don't want to go out, I look at my asthma inhalers. Or I go hug my kids and tell them I'm going to go get some exercise and I'll see them in a while. Or I think of women walking much further than I'm going to run just to get basic health care... while in labor.

All of those things help keep me honest. Which explains why I was out at 9pm last night, running.

I don't go far and I don't go fast. But I go.


Ok, now comes the part you'll hate -- I'm going to turn this post into a fundraising pitch without warning (aha, gotcha!).

It's my birthday, I can do what I want to. And all I want for my birthday are donations to my fundraising campaign.

If I can raise a bunch of money today, I'll probably end up weepy in gratitude by the end of the day. Charitable acts for women's health tend to do that to me.

So give a few bucks and make me cry!

(wait, that didn't come out right)
  • You could give $10, which is $1 for every kilometer I'm running in Oct.
  • You could give $35, which is $1 for every year I've been on this planet.
  • You could even given $1 because every little bit helps and I know we're all broke. It's the thought that counts.
My page is HERE.

If you want proof that your donation isn't in vain, follow me on Instagram and watch my training journey unfold.

Thank you!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Please help me ensure that Every Mother Counts

Week 1 of training: in the bag!
This October, I am a running a 10k.

There, I said it out loud. Now I really have to, right?

All joking aside, I'm excited. Not necessarily about the sweat and the muscle aches and all the swearing ahead of me (so much swearing!), but to work toward a goal twice as ambitious as my last one – and to raise money for an issue near and dear to my heart while I’m at.

On October 18, I’ll be running the Frank Lloyd Wright 10k in Oak Park as a member of the Every Mother Counts team.

Every Mother Counts is a non-profit organization dedicated to making pregnancy and childbirth safe for every mother. They do so in two ways: (1) by funding maternal health programs around the world and (2) by raising awareness of the problems they are trying to solve.

My participation aims to help with both.

Over the next four months, I’ll be writing about maternal health and why it’s important to me and highlighting the inequities in reproductive health care that women receive across regions and economic classes. 

I’ll also be asking for your financial support.

My goal is to raise at least $500 before the October 18 race.

I can easily meet that goal if I can get just 50 people to commit to one dollar per kilometer run ($10), which, if you ask me, is quite a bargain. After all, just ten dollars gives a pregnant woman two rides to her health facility in Uganda, a country in which she will have to travel, on average, 13km for care – and will most often have to do it on foot.

Suddenly running one 10k doesn’t seem so hard.

If you’d like to read more about Every Mother Counts or make a donation, you can visit my fundraising page HERE.

If you are unable to give a monetary donation at this time, I would appreciate your support in the form of sharing my page with your friends, family and social networks.

You can also stay up-to-date on my training and fundraising efforts by subscribing to my RSS feed here and following me on Twitter and Instagram. I can’t promise I won’t whine occasionally, but I can promise that I am going to try my hardest to succeed on this journey.

Thank you for joining me!

Friday, February 20, 2015

New writing home at Health eNews

I started a new job last month and am back to writing about health and health care, now at health enews

(c) Dr. Farouk via Creative Commons.
My first couple of pieces are live and you can expect to see new articles from me at least once a week, on Thursdays.

If you want to subscribe, sign up over at the health enews website. You'll receive a daily email highlighting the day's top stories.

You can also find me over at the @advocatessub Twitter feed. I'd love if you followed us!

If you see an interesting new study or have an idea you'd like to see me write about, drop me a line

Here are teasers and links to a couple of my first pieces, all published in February.

What would you do to live longer?
If you could decrease your risk of heart disease by taking a daily pill, would you?  You may be surprised to learn that nearly one-third of respondents to a recent survey would accept a shorter life to avoid taking daily medication.
How blueberries may help lower blood pressure
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a growing problem in the United States. Currently, 1 in 3 Americans suffer from this condition, but new research suggests that eating blueberries may improve blood pressure in postmenopausal women suffering from hypertension.
Whole grains may help us live longer
We already know that whole grains are good for us. Could they also actually help us live longer? A new study says yes.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Clearly, I've lost my mind.

In recent years, I've set and met many personal goals. I've struck out on my own, taken risks, and been thrilled with the results, both personally and professionally. Show me a ridiculous leap and I'm likely to take it.

But, like anyone, I've fallen short on occasion  -- most notably everything fitness-related. I've joined gyms and left them. I've halfheartedly jogged every now and then. I've tried peer pressuring myself into committing to something via social media announcements. I even once ran a 5k.


I walked part of it and then never ran a 5k again. That was 7 and a half years ago. 

Lately, however, I've been on a rampage of Self Care and suddenly, without me realizing what I was really doing, I became a runner. Seemingly overnight.

I don't know how it happened. I don't know what changed. But here I am, running. In a race. (mid-right, below)

Yes, all of my fellow runners are dressed like Mike Ditka and I'm jogging along in a bright blue tutu and sparkly Wonder Woman socks, but that's not important. What IS important is that I ran 3.1 miles -- without stopping -- and I did it a full minute under my goal time.

And I only mostly hated it.

I'm partnered to an avid runner and marathoner (that's him leading my cheering squad in the forefront), but I've never considered running my thing, preferring to drink wine on the couch instead. Recently, however, several unexpected friends of mine have picked up the sport and I watched them progress -- and, frankly, kick ass -- and I was inspired to give it a try again.

I could've done a number of other things, but running has one thing going for it that most other fitness routines and sports don't: it's accessible. All you really need is a good pair of running shoes, a few minutes to yourself, and if you want to get fancy, a free or cheap training app for some guidance, and you're off.

I'm not fast. I'm not graceful. I'm generally somewhat miserable while actually doing it.

But, because I'm clearly insane, I still find myself Googling for local 10k races later this fall.

I'm not sure what's gotten into me, but it's good.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The perfect cup of coffee

This weekend, I went on an impromptu camping trip with my family. We packed up our young kids, our tent, and copious amounts of peanut butter and set off for a favorite state park for the night.

We had a lovely time, and despite the kids in the site behind us screeching like wounded animals just minutes after dawn, woke up refreshed and settled in for a relaxing morning around the campsite together.

My partner lit up the tiny backpacker's stove and put the tea kettle on, the girls gathered their superheroes and wandered off into the trees, and I got the coffee ingredients out.

Minutes later, I sat down with this. It was the best cup of coffee I've ever had.

Instant grounds. Lukewarm water (at best). Sugar scooped in via spork. Children's giggles off in the woods. Birds chirping above my head. The gentle sound of my partner's book pages turning. The stench of stinky feet lingering.

Perfection in a cup.

This morning, I woke up to the reality of being home again. My partner is off at work for the day, the kids are running around the house like wild monkeys, the camp gear is littering the living room and the dirt-covered laundry from the trip is piled high by the back door, waiting to be taken down to the washing machine. 

Then I realized I was out of coffee.

Remembering yesterday's nirvana, I frantically dug through the basket of things we haven't yet unpacked, found the left over instant coffee packets, and gleefully pulled a steaming hot mug of water out of the microwave.

And I bet you can guess what happened next.

So now I sit, among the chaos and destruction of our usual Tuesdays, drinking mediocre instant coffee and looking forward to the day when I can once again drink the good stuff.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Why you should support Kiddie Science TODAY

You should buy a raffle ticket and support Kiddie Science today. Right now, in fact. Why? Let me list the reasons.
  1. You could win a Stan Lee-autographed hand-painted Marvel animation cel (with certificate of authenticity!). If you win, my superhero-obsessed daughter will be forever jealous and perhaps concoct a plot to rob your house. [note: raffle is open to all residents of the continental U.S.]
  2. Kiddie Science's founder and teacher extraordinaire, Carmen, is basically a Brooklyn version of Ms. Frizzle. And you know you love the Frizz.
  3. Kiddie Science reaches many underserved kids in NYC. She's not taking advantage of the overinflated NYC market and charging a gazillion dollars a class because she wants to reach the kids who need it most: those who have no science enrichment in their lives and will greatly benefit from it. In a place like NYC -- where the Haves have a LOT and the Have Nots get whatever is left over -- this is huge. This means that every single dollar that Kiddie Science receives in donations is extremely valuable and much appreciated.
  4. Our country's level of science literacy is embarrassing. Like, super embarrassing. Every dollar that Kiddie Science receives goes toward creating young scientists and instilling a love of science in kids from the very start. We NEED programs like Kiddie Science.
  5. Carmen teaches kids that science is fun! And gross! And messy! And a part of our every day lives! Hell, I wish *I* was four so I could take the classes.
  6. TODAY IS THE LAST DAY to buy a raffle ticket and the First Annual Science Soiree Fundraiser is TOMORROW at LARK. If you live in NYC, you really should go. Carmen promises cocktails AND grown-up science experiments. See point 5. I really wish I didn't live in Chicago so I could go, too!
  7. Today is also Carmen's birthday. So, really, you owe it to her.
Disclosure: Carmen is a close personal friend and I'm a Kiddie Science Board Member. So you could also do it for me :)

You can buy a raffle ticket and/or a ticket to the Science Soiree HERE.
And you can always make a general donation to Kiddie Science here.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

No Exceptions: Pass the Peace Corps Equity Act

Today, Cambridge Reproductive Health Consultants released a new study exploring abortion and the Peace Corps. Titled "No Exceptions: Documenting the Abortion Experiences of U.S. Peace Corps Volunteers," the report [link, pdf] examines the impact of abortion restrictions for currently serving volunteers and asks important questions.

From the Executive Summary:

Since 1979, U.S. federal appropriations bills have restricted the coverage of abortion for Peace Corps Volunteers. There are no exceptions to the coverage ban and abortion care is not covered under any circumstance. Other groups who receive health care through U.S. federal funding streams, including Medicaid recipients, federal employees and their dependents enrolled in the Federal Employees Health Benefits program, residents of the District of Columbia, women who receive health services through Indian Health Services, and women in federal prisons, receive abortion coverage in cases when the pregnancy threatens the life of the woman or is the result of rape or incest. In December 2012, these same coverage benefits were extended to military personnel and their dependents. However, for Peace Corps Volunteers abortion services are not covered even in these narrow circumstances. 
As Peace Corps Volunteers often serve in countries where abortion is legally restricted, receive stipends that are minimal, and are at risk of sexual assault, these restrictions may be especially devastating.
I served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Romania from 2003 to 2005 and was one of the 433 current and former volunteers interviewed as a part of this study.

I was also one of the small percentage of volunteers who serve as part of a married couple. While abroad, Peace Corps provided me with birth control, free of charge, and I am grateful for that. But had my birth control failed and I found myself pregnant, I would've faced difficult decisions -- remaining pregnant is cause for immediate medical separation from Peace Corps and a plane ticket home, but Peace Corps would've continued to cover my health care, from prenatal care through to birth. Had I opted to terminate the pregnancy, however, I would've been sent to D.C. for a month, where I'd have been able to access abortion services -- but only if I could pay for them myself. 

Had I become pregnant as a result of a rape, the circumstances would've remained exactly the same.

From the study: 
If the Volunteer wants to have an abortion, she is medically evacuated to Washington, DC to speak with a counselor about her options. If she chooses to terminate the pregnancy, she is required to pay for the procedure herself and remains in D.C. for about a month, after which she can resume her service.  
The majority of our study participants who had abortions learned about the policy only after they became pregnant. Women reported that it was difficult to cover the cost of the abortion given their small stipends [varies, but is typically $250-300/month currently]; this was particularly challenging for women who did not want to disclose the abortion to family members or did not have a partner who could afford to pay for the abortion.  
Although women who were able to return to service after an abortion generally expressed relief at being able to do so, the length away concerned some of our participants, with respect to both their projects and confidentiality. Finally, lack of social support also emerged as a major theme, as most of the women with whom we spoke went through the abortion process alone. These overarching dynamics shaped some women’s decisions to obtain abortion care in-country, outside of the Peace Corps. These abortions ranged from legal and safe to illegal and decidedly unsafe.
The Peace Corps Equity Act attempts to remedy this inequality.

From the NPCA (emphasis mine):
The National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) supports legislation in the United States Senate that would allow Peace Corps Volunteers to receive the same health services and opportunities as other citizens serving our nation overseas. 
Senate Bill 813, introduced by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) [now-deceased; bill now championed by Senator Jeanne Shaheen] would provide a technical fix to the Peace Corps Act, allowing Volunteers to receive federal support for abortion services in the narrow circumstances of rape, incest, or endangerment to the life of the mother. Peace Corps staff and others serving overseas who receive federal health care currently receive this allowance. Last year, as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, Congress unanimously approved a similar provision to provide such services to military servicewomen, leaving Peace Corps Volunteers virtually alone in being denied this provision.
Peace Corps Volunteers do not deserve to be singled out and left without needed health care, particularly at their most vulnerable moments. And although the Peace Corps Equity Act would be but a baby step in the right direction, I support it without reservation.

Lest we forget, American women -- all of us -- have the Constitutional right to access abortion, however one becomes pregnant. I know people like to create moral gray spaces in which some women are more "deserving" of abortion access than others (rape, incest), but I find those attitudes repugnant.

Jessica Valenti summed it up well in her piece in the Guardian today:
The decision to have an abortion is personal and complicated, and any legislation that seeks to control such decisions is based on an anti-choice ideology that thinks very little of women. It assumes that women, if not kept in check by the government, are not to be trusted to make good decisions about their bodies and families.
Hopefully this report will bring much needed attention to this issue and help get the Peace Corps Equity Act passed into law as soon as possible.

Learn More

To learn more, visit the National Peace Corps Association website and check back here for links as I read through the ongoing media coverage and continue to update the list below.

You can also download and read the full report here: No Exceptions: Documenting the Abortion Experience of U.S. Peace Corps Volunteers. [pdf]

Get Involved

You can help change this discriminatory policy which unfairly singles out female Peace Corps Volunteers. Sign the statement of support HERE.

Contact the National Peace Corps Association at to find out other ways you can help in the coming months. 

Notable Media Coverage of the "No Exceptions" Study