Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Get to Know the 24%

Hi there!

I did a profile on Indiana State Representative Robin Shackleford which was featured for the Get to Know the 24% series for Women In Government. The series features the women state legislators who make up 24% of all state legislators nationwide. Representative Shackleford is doing some amazing work in her state on economic and community development. I focused on a specific Bill she sponsored that addresses pay disparity in Indiana, but I also touched on her other legislative initiatives for this session. It was an incredible experience interviewing Representative Shackleford and speaking to someone who works so hard for their community. I hope you all enjoy and please check out the other Get to Know the 24% stories that feature different women state legislators.

Follow the link here:





Friday, March 27, 2015

My Experience as a Pro-Choice Escort

I look at my phone, It is 6:00am and the alarm is blaring.  Sleepily, I rush to turn off the ungodly noise usually reserved for weekdays. My eyes struggle to adjust to the low light and I force my body out of my warm, comfortable bed. It is Saturday morning and instead of sleeping in, I am getting up earlier than I ever need to.

“Why, WHY, do I do this to myself…?”

What I have learned since becoming a Pro-Choice escort is that abortions and accompanying procedures and appointment happen really early on weekends, like really freaking early.  When most 9-5 office workers are sleeping in from the busy work week,  abortion clinics prepare for some of their busiest time.

Weekend Warrior

Like many people, I was moved to become an escort after Massachusetts. My ten months of experiences, and I have experienced A LOT, are so tiny minuscule compared to escorts that have been doing this years. Some have dedicated ten, twenty years’ worth of Saturday morning sleeping in time to escorting.

I attended training last summer before escorting at my local clinic. One of the first things we were told was that there was probably an “Anti,” or Pro-Life protestor, present in the room. It was a chilling admission. I remember looking carefully around the room, attempting to spot who the undercover agent was.  Surely it wasn’t the young girl, proudly sporting a, “Notorious RBG,” graphic tee sitting a few seats from me. Could it be the muscular, “man’s man” sitting across the room? The idea that within what I assumed was a safe space was somehow being infiltrated by contrasting and insidious intentions left me feeling uncomfortable and cautious.

While unsettled, I marveled at the sheer amount of diversity in the room. There were a number of women with huge pregnant and ready to burst bellies present. There were also a lot of men. Despite the looming prospect of a lone dissenter, it encouraged me to see people of all shapes, sizes, ages, backgrounds, with a shared interest. We were all connected in some way.

We learned about our role and the history of clinic escorts. The trainer told us horror stories about escorts being slashed in the back of the leg by Anti’s, or how Anti’s would chain themselves to the doors of clinics. Some even had attempted to bomb clinics. Although things have significantly “cooled,” down since then, we still practiced making human walls of interlocking arms and using our bodies as shell-like shields around patients. I left with a huge appreciation for those that escorted years ago. They really did put their safety and lives on the line in a way that I knew I wouldn't have to. I honestly don’t know if I would have been brave enough.

When I arrive at the clinic to it is still dark outside. The skies have begun their move from a pitch black to a dark grey. Only a few cars make their way down the street. I sit in my car and enjoy my coffee.

Arriving to the clinic alone is always a little nerve wracking. It is usually eerily quiet. I find myself looking around constantly for anyone walking around or driving up. Sure enough, I see a familiar car park across the street and an older man making his way slowly out of the car.

“Here we go,” I think to myself as I get out of my car and walk into the clinic as quickly as possible.
I walk in and am met by another escort. We pull the neon orange jersey vests emblazoned with, “Pro-Choice Clinic escort,” over our clothes. In the winter time, the vests go over puffy jackets and we look like orange tents. These differentiate us from the protesters so that when patients come in, they can easily tell us apart.

 Outside, I can already see the first Anti pacing up and down the sidewalk. His is frantically waving his sign up and down.  At our particular clinic, protesters must stick to the sidewalk outside of the building. This provides a small, but appreciative buffer zone from the protesters, the escorts, and the patients.

This particular protester is one of our regulars. Typically the first to arrive, he has been here every single time I have escorted and I hear he has been coming for years. This older man is fond of yelling at just about anyone walking into the building, while recycling his list of about ten phrases,  and running up and down the sidewalk at approaching cars and people. The clinic is just one of many offices in the larger building yet this protester will yell at just about anybody.

“Don’t make a decision… that will haunt you… for the REST … of your LIFE,” is one of his most used lines. He emphasizes each part so specifically and melodically as he has said it hundreds of times.

 Anti’s like this man and his cadre of mostly other old men opt to screaming at patients – devoid of logic, they think that harassment is an effective method for ending abortion. The second a car pulls up to the clinic, they run up to it and begin yelling, some even block the entrance, forcing people to roll down their window to ask them to move. They wave digitally altered pictures of mutilated bodies and homemade signs with mismatched fonts. These protestors aren’t shy who they yell at, it could be an obviously nervous young girl or a mom coming in with her children. Proudly, they hold their shocking signs in front of the scared children while screaming into their face.


Some will throw pamphlets with, “information,” inside or hand them to people approaching the clinic. I saw an escort once get handed a pamphlet by a patient who had reluctantly accepted it from an anti, only to get accused for stealing the anti’s property (the pamphlet). Protestors grasp at straws for anything that they can call illegal. Such as running into escorts and calling it assault or claiming that the squirrel running next to the building is a rat infestation. For this reason, escorts are always in pairs to provide witness if anything crazy should occur.

“Don’t go in there, it’s not safe, they failed inspection!” Is one line I hear a lot and I’m not sure where it comes from.  

I’ve seen protestors wear cameras on themselves. Is it to record everyone that walks into the clinic, or to capture escorts? I don’t know, but I do know that it is without consent. I’m not sure of the legality of doing this. Some keep large binders in which they carefully write throughout the morning. They could be writing descriptions on patients or escorts, or something more deceptive like writing license plate numbers down.

Occasionally, we are graced with the presence of an old, white van which has been repurposed as a portable “Medical Clinic.” With big signs, it advertises free ultrasounds and medical counseling. The person who drives it is not a doctor or medical professional.

The other kind of protestor I have seen are the prayers, who come and pace the buffer zone with their rosaries, praying out loud, and occasionally flicking holy water. These folks won’t scream at patients and in contrast to the yellers, they protest in relative silence. Many come and pace up and down the sidewalk for a few minutes saying prayers and clutching rosaries before leaving with a smug look on their face. They did their good dead for the month. I actually don’t mind these protestors because in contrast to the yellers, they don’t openly harass. Yet the way I see it, if you truly believe prayer to be effective, than you could do it at home or in your church. I believe it works that way.

The yelling antis will hurl bait at you hoping to get you to upset enough to engage with them. The truth is that every escort handles them differently. Some experienced escorts will “fall” for their bait in a clever attempt to draw their attention away from patients going into the clinic. Others will simply never engage, which I am fond of doing myself. I’ve seen escorts try to reason with protesters and they fall back on the same illogical circles.

“Abortion is killing, you are killing innocent children”

The argument begins and ends on this point with Anti’s every single time.

The ignorance of Anti’s extends to others areas than just abortion. In particular, one protestor has recently become fond of calling all of the escorts, Muslims. As if I we would consider this an insult. I was told by one of the more experienced escorts, that years ago the same protestor would yell at the escorts, calling them lesbians.

“Nazi death squad! “and “Hitler youth,” are other things we are called frequently.

The truth is, I would love to have a discussion with an Anti that did not get immediately elevated to,
“You support killing babies.”

No, that’s not what I support. On a really basic level, I support safe healthcare and open access to that care. This means that abortion should remain legal and accessible.

I would love to ask an anti, “If abortion were made illegal tomorrow, do you think that people would automatically stop getting them?” The answer is no, women would still seek abortions as long as they are having unwanted pregnancies. On the other end, those women who have wanted pregnancies with extreme complications would not get the healthcare they deserve. It’s more complicated than just supporting “killing babies.”

They claim that they are acting as sidewalk counselors. I have never known a counselor that screamed at me, videotaped me without consent, took my plates and information down like a criminal, scared my children, or lied so directly to me. It is not counseling in any way. If this is what protesters think is counseling, I hope to never see within their personal lives.

What I see is hearts that are full of hate or people that are told how to believe. I know that every protester has rationalized their place and I try to empathize with that. If I were told by my church that there was baby murder happening and it was my job to stop it, I can see how people would take up that cause. The thing is, it is a much more complicated issue than that. I would also question my churches insistence on focusing on this issue as opposed to the host of other problems that could be addressed, like financial corruption and the covering up of child molestation done by priests.

I would love to see them supporting comprehensive sex education that would lead to less unwanted pregnancies or advocating for increased birth control or something… take your pick at what works.
I would love to see protesters adopting children.

I would love to see a lot of things that aren’t happening.

And I would love to see a lot of things stop happening – I want all of the protestors to wake up one day and realize that screaming at strangers on Saturdays is bad; it’s not working and its hostile behavior that breeds hatred.


These 2,000 words could ever tackle this issue and I don’t expect them too. Until then, I remain inspired by the long-term escorts and the random supporter who will come and offer an encouraging word (which happens pretty frequently) while I escort. I remain steadfast in providing some semblance of comfort to the women and the families who seek the medical care of an abortion. And I also remain hopeful- naively so- that every Anti will change their mind. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

#Transparency

I'm done. School's out forever. And I couldn't be happier/Scared (What Do I Do With All This Freetime?!)

My last semester was real busy, mainly with this project for one of my classes which I would like to share. In my Media and Advocacy class we were tasked with making video with the purpose of advocated for an issue. We got to choose topics and I ended up in the Transgender Awareness group. It was both the topic that I had the most genuine interest in and I also did not really know that much about the challenges that the transgender community face. .

What can we really say about the transgender community ... when none of us are transgender? We asked ourselves the question: What is it like to be transgender? This is what we came up with and I hope that you like it. We came in with minimal/to no video editing experience so I am pretty proud of how this came out. Hope you all enjoy:



Thanks!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Last Days.

Today is (fingers crossed and everything goes well) my last, first day of school! It is also getting to be the end of one of the best summers I have had in a long time. I don't think that I've ever been able to look back on the last few months and seen so clearly how much my life has changed and I have changed with it. All corniness aside, it feels awesome to know that the first step to change really is to just make the decision to change. (Gah, look at any motivational quote, blog, website, whatever and they will the say the same thing, dammit it's cliche for a reason, it's true)

I am so happy that I made the decision to finish Grad school early. Originally, I was going to finish next spring. I ended up taking a class this summer and enrolling full-time for fall semester because I finally feel ready to be done with school. I think that I held on to being in school as some sort of security blanket for a long time. If I was still in school, it didn't matter that I worked at an unrelated law firm job. That wasn't the real me and I would do what I was supposed to do in some undefined future time. It was a way to hold off taking a dive into the real world, which means putting myself out there, vocalizing my wants, asking myself tough questions, getting uncomfortable, and finally actually acting on those wants.

I was waiting to act instead of just ... doing it.

Now, I'm anxious and excited to be done with school! I am determined to have the best last semester in school and to transition into the next stages of my life. Instead of biding my time and expressing disdain for what I am doing in anticipation to some distant "future," that only vaguely exists in my mind, I truly am ready to enjoy my last semester, to use it for all its worth, and to really live in every moment. I also realize that the future you want doesn't just "appear," you have to build it. These past few months have helped me realize that, so I already have nostalgia for the past few months. They have been wonderful!

Anyway, in keeping with my "last days," theme (obviously not to be confused with the Gus Van Sant movie) I thought I would share some good summer 2014 memories.

Favorite Moments from the Summer: 


1. Swimming in our "Secret Spot," in Harper's Ferry
Our "Spot"

Mike and I were so proud of ourselves because we packed a picnic, drove to Harper's Ferry, WV, hiked down from our car to the river and actually found a generally secluded spot to hang out for a few hours. I got into the water with the intention of swimming for awhile. The water was freezing and I decided that taking a quick dip in the water counted as "swimming." After awhile we heard something in the trees, both a tad freaked out, and this man decked in fishing gear walked by us with his dog. We were never quite as alone as we thought, but for awhile it felt like we were which was pretty awesome.

Me, freezing. 

2. Outer Banks 


We try to make it to the Outer banks, North Carolina every summer. With our busy schedules, we were only able to stay for a few days this time around. That was kind of a bummer, but we still had a lot of fun. The ocean was beautiful, we ate crabs, spent time with family, and had great nights.




3. Running 

I finished my first run (5k) in May! A 5k feels so distant and short to me now, but there was a time not too long ago that the prospect of running one mile made me sick with anxiety! Now I have my sights set on a half marathon. I look back fondly on this first "fun" run.



4. My last "first," day: 

No more education in the traditional sense for me after this! After this last semester of graduate school, I don't anticipate doing another program, like a PhD, or something similar. I can see myself taking a few classes here or there in the future. Here is me when I graduated high school! I look like such a baby and can't believe it was six years ago! It feels equally like a million years ago and like yesterday. So is life!

Older me would like to know where I got those jeans. 
5. The MANY other things that I did not have a camera for

I'm so bad at remembering to take pictures! I don't ever want to overdue it with the picture taking, but I do wish I took more time to capture moments. It's something I'm trying to work on. :D

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I am very happy for the wonderful memories from this summer and for the ones I am determined to make this semester and beyond. I hope everyone else had a great summer and has great plans for the fall.

Fall is my favorite time of year and Halloween is my favorite holiday. I still haven't figured out what to dress up as this year. Typically, Mike and I will spend October trying to watch as many horror movies as we can, marathon-month style. It can even bleed into September because we simply can't wait to start watching movies!

Anyways, as the summer is not yet over, we still have a few more "summer," activities planned for September that I am looking forward too: hiking, camping, music-camping festival. September will hopefully be a really awesome month and I am really looking forward to it. Hopefully with it comes cooler temperatures as well.

How was everyone else's summer? Any awesome fall plans? What should I dress up as for Halloween? (hahahaha)



Thursday, August 14, 2014

Turning Comparison Into Good



There is that saying that, "misery loves company," and I get it. When I am stuck in a rut and feeling pretty crappy, I find myself in this bitter state, looking around me and picking out bad qualities in people. It is like I will latch onto anything that I can. I will turn something that is not even negative into a negative quality or trait. Or worse yet, I will get into this nasty, out of control, comparison spiral of oblivion that's just full of self-hatred.  It's like I focus my energy on pointing out someone else's flaws instead of facing the issues I am so obviously having with myself ... like maybe I just had a bad day, or I am tired.

Does anyone find them selves doing this?

The thing is, social media makes the whole comparison deal even worse. I've found myself sitting at my computer, seemingly for hours, just scrolling through people's profiles (whether it be LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or blogs) When I come around to someone's profile and they have done something that I have always wanted to do, have a job I love, went to a country I've always wanted to visit, etc, I'm at a point where I can make a decision:

-Get jealous and begin dismissing any of their accomplishments
OR
-Try and find out how they achieved what they have.

There was a time when jealousy would have been my default reaction. I did not even think that there was necessarily anything bad in that, because I was so used to just dwelling on those negative thoughts like it was normal and okay.

But there are a few things that I now know a few things to be true:

1. The only thing you can control is your reaction
2. You are in charge of building your life to your desired specifications 

With these in mind, I have been in the process of training my brain to not go to the negative first. When I see someone that has accomplished something awesome and I have the chance to speak with them, I am ready to ask them the steps they took to achieve this dream, the lessons they learned along the way, the unexpected things they had to do.

Not only can you actually form a blueprint of success for yourself, you don't end up feeling all negative and jealous.

Sometimes I get into ruts, still (and honestly I probably will for the rest of my life). I may feel negative or that none of my ambitions will come to light or I just feel plain lazy. It reminds me of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (which everyone should definitely read and I have talked about before) in which Pirsig talks about gumption and gumption traps.

Essentially gumption is what keeps us going along our tasks and yet we can fall into "traps" in which we are no longer being productive in these tasks. I love Pirsig's common-sense suggestions of how to come out of one of these traps, drink some dark coffee, take a nap, whatever works for you. Pirsig is an incredible writer and spends pages upon pages describing something I could never fit into a few words. Suffice to say, just go check him out and procure yourself a copy of ZAMM!

I think that having healthy comparison can be a good thing. I think that it can be productive.

In a world where the stereotype of professional women as "Bitchy" persists and  the image of Lady Bosses as unhelpful (and even harmful) to other women starting their careers persists, I think re-framing comparison is especially important. Women should help each other be successful in their careers, and their own accomplishments can be a guide.

I am definitely not perfect when it comes to comparison and occasionally find myself envious. But I am constantly evolving to be a better person and I hope that one day I can help someone else achieve their aspirations, whether by example, advice, or by being a mentor.





Saturday, August 2, 2014

Thoughts that inevitably go through my head while I am running

1. This is not bad at all, I could probably go like ten miles today. Why do I think this is so hard?
2. I totally look like a bad ass, I bet people are thinking that I look like a bad ass.
3. Oh, look a tree! I love nature, why don't I spend more time in nature?
4. I can definitely go a faster pace, I am strong!
5. Okay, don't get too crazy and trip.
6. Do I normally breathe like that? I feel like I'm breathing strange today.
7. That person run by me ... what a showoff.
8. Why is it so hot?!
9. I hate nature.
10. Maybe I'll just go a half mile more and then turn around.
11. My leg hurts. Is my leg supposed to hurt?
12. Shut up brain! Focus on something else.
13. A Stone! Dirt! Tree! A bird! Look at that nice couple walking!
14. I am thinking too much about not thinking about running and how I want to die.
15. Okay, you can do it, you have ran longer than this before.
16. Pain is good, pain is good, pain is good.
17. (Whatever corny motivational phrase I recently read becomes my mantra)
18. Push push push!!
19. This is it, I am am probably going to die.
20. Only a little way longer!

Seriously, I can't believe the roller coaster my brain goes on while I run. They say that running is all about mindset and I can totally understand that. I find it so easy to convince myself that I am too weak to finish a run, yet I finish it and I feel great afterwards!

What do you guys think about when your running? Working out? How do you push yourself to finish?

Friday, August 1, 2014

Busy summers and doing what's best for you

Do you remember when summers used to be that awesome time of year that you would spend your days carefree and unplanned. Hours spent outside with your friends, making forts, playing games, getting scraped up and unknowingly tanned. The beginning of the summer library trips and huge "summer stacks," piled up in the corner of my room, waiting to be consumed. What I miss most about summer as a kid was how little I cared about planning out my time and how little reflection I gave to if I was spending time doing something productive or not.

I honestly don't know if I'd rather be young again, or if I prefer the independence of being an adult. Sure, its crazy but it feels really cool to be able to actually control your own life and destiny and all that corny junk.

I've come to the end of a crazy busy schedule (Whew!) and have found that the summer is almost gone and I've barely looked or touched this blog! I would have loved to have been able to write something but life has amped up in the past two months at an alarmingly speed. Well, I should say that I could have made time to write on here but instead chose to spend my extra time watching Netflix or mindlessly surfing the web, and generally being lazy.

Since I finished my classes in May the following have happened:

-Got a job that I was very excited about
- Heard back from an internship and accepted it.
-Finally heard back from a dream fellowship after sending my application into the big black hole that is job searching on the web.
- Had to quit said job which incited inner turmoil.
- Started fellowship and internship.
- Signed up for summer class so I can finish graduate school early.
- Juggled fellowship, internship, condensed summer class, and volunteering.
- Tried to make the most of time off.
- Slept well every night.

I feel like a jerk for insinuating that my summer activities have been a burden, because they have not been at all. I have been happily busy and loving learning how to juggle it all. I have also found that I have learned a few things about working in general.

For one, I had the worst time quitting the job that I got only after accepting it/working for less than a month. I still feel crappy about it. During the month that I was at this job, while I liked the work, I definitely found myself distracted and bored. I enjoyed the mission, but it didn't' feel like my mission or passion. When I was offered the fellowship, it was in something that I had hoped to get into for quite awhile. I think I knew it was the right thing to do, to quit, but the whole thing made me stressed out and unsure. I even Googled, "How to make a hard decision," in the hopes that the internet could make my decision. On one hand, I knew that in either position, I wouldn't be making a ton of money. If I quit the job I had just taken, I felt like I would screw the organization (or I thought). I just didn't want to seem like an asshole. If I took the fellowship, it would be in a field that I felt passionate about and an area met with equal passion. When I finally spoke to another person at my internship about it the answer seemed kind of obvious, I had to take the fellowship. Their advice:

                                                            "Shit happens"

While crass, it's true. It's life, and its messy, and things don't work out how you planned and in or in an orderly manner.

My next move was to take the fellowship and to quit my job. My supervisor was out of the office for an extended amount of time so I did what any other confident person would do, I emailed her with a meek excuse and a lame apology. Inner me shakes still shakes my head at doing that because I know that's not what you are supposed to do. You are supposed to be upfront and confident in your decisions. The worst part of this whole experience was that I got a really bad stomach bug which took me out for a few days. One of  those days happened to fall on what was supposed to be my last day at work. My stint at the first job ended so badly.

My fellowship has so far been exactly what I expected and so much more. At its core, my fellowship is with an organization I believe in, a topic I am passionate about, and it is the right amount of challenging and fun. There really is something to this whole, love your job and you will never work a day in your life saying because I haven't felt like I have had a job since I have gotten this position, when technically,  I do.

I was able to complete an internship with my free days, which fulfills some graduate requirements at my school. With the completion of my internship and my summer class, I am all set to graduate this coming December.

I am thrilled. I am ready to take on the challenge of a full-time semester and I am happy that I had the energy and foresight to push through this challenging summer.

This summer has also been fun. I've been able to visit with family and friends, go camping, kayaking, hiking, spend time in the water, and complete plenty of jogs. I've been lucky enough to have a few adventures.


                                                             Harper's Ferry

Enjoying the River and doing outdoor summer crap 

Before the heat disappears I want to make sure I go kayaking and camping again, perhaps at the same time. I still haven't figured out where or when.

This summer and year has definitely been one of the better ones of my life. I wouldn't have expected saying that in January, but it's the case now. Its been full of challenges and self discovery and I appreciate all of it.