Tuesday, January 31, 2012

My Heart Hurts... My Commentary on the Latest with Komen

I have to tell you all right now that this is a painful blog for me to write. It hurts me to see something I believed in so much turn so bad. I am not sure what brought this about but I can tell you that it wasn't always like this - only the last year I was very active (about 1.5 years ago) did I see any of the big issues that I am about to talk about. And to be honest I didn't see this first big one coming at all...

I want to know what Komen was thinking when they hired their VP, Karen Handel, this past year. As best I can tell she wants to trample all over women's rights and assert that only her thoughts and beliefs are what we all should live by. She tried to defund Planned Parenthood as a Republican anti-abortion anti-choice (she termed herself anti-choice) activist while in Georgia but failed so it looks like she brought her baggage to her job at Komen.

The ongoing investigation about Planned Parenthood using federal money for abortions is a fishing expedition that pretty much everyone knows will end with nothing. Given their accounting and how under scrutiny they have always been I have no doubt that they have been sure to ear tag all federal funding for things other than abortions.

Here are some facts folks... okay and some opinions interjected too...

  • Planned Parenthood has a budget of nearly $1 billion a year
    • Less than 1/3 of this money is from the government in the form of grants/contracts
    • The rest is from private donors
      • Guess what - Bill & Melinda Gates are large contributors to Planned Parenthood. Everyone in favor of defunding Planned Parenthood should have to give up their PCs and Microsoft products if they really feel strongly about this. Otherwise they are just hypocrites because guess what - buying that Microsoft product just helped put money in the pocket of Planned Parenthood. 
  • Federal funds can not be used for abortions
  • Only 3% of the services are abortions
    • Do the math people... 3% of $1billion does not add up to 1/3 of the budget
  • 35% of the services are for contraceptives
    • Again - do the math people... do you really want all these people to be without proper birth control and end up with unwanted pregnancies?
  • 16% of services are for cancer related testing and treatments
  • Other services include mammograms, education, vasectomies and general healthcare
  • Planned Parenthood serves more than 5 million people a year
    • 26% of these are teenagers under 19
      • Who guess what? Likely won't go to their parents or regular doctor if there is no Planned Parenthood. Do we really want all these kids having uneducated unprotected sex? 
        • Yes I mentioned uneducated because a large part of Planned Parenthood is education and given that it seems more and more that schools are taking real sex education out of schools and replacing it with abstinence only (which we all know is crap!) isn't it important that teens have somewhere to go to get educated and to get help?!
      • 75% of the patients have income at or below 150% of the poverty level

Nixon signed into law in 1970 an act that allows funding to a place such as Planned Parenthood because "no American woman should be denied access to family planning assistance because of her economic condition." Perhaps the rich (like Karen Handel) forget what it's like to not have healthcare they can afford.

My personal opinion is this... All of a sudden Planned Parenthood has come into the limelight from the far Right due to them performing abortions (which they have for many years). This has become a hot button in politics and enough people starting screaming about Komen donating to Planned Parenthood that they have decided to cower to the far right because of fears of unpopularity and perhaps some drop in donations. I suspect what they have done is alienate many staunch supporters of the cause who stand by their beliefs and are not swayed by the "presiding" political opinion of the day.

Bottom line for me is I support a woman's right to choose and a woman's right to health care that is in HER best interest. (Do we really want to return to the days of back alley abortions?) I feel in this case that Komen has bowed to the Right Wing faction that has decided that personal and religious vendettas are more important than a woman's individual rights.

Kimi brought up a point that I had started to see during my time doing a lot of volunteering and fundraising with Komen. They are very protective of their "brand" to the point that it is prohibitive and elitest. They need to officially approve anything and everything that has their name on it. It caused people to have more issues with fundraising which was crazy to me - I mean isn't the point to raise as much money for the cause as possible. Conversely, there's the Multiple Sclerosis Society who runs the MS150 bike rides. They want you to put their name and logo all over everything if you want to for fundraising. That just passes a sanity test for me. Looking more into this I am finding out more alarming news....They have sued 100s of small charities for using the words "for the cure" or anything with pink in conjunction with the words "for the/a cure." They have done this to many "mom & pop" type charities who are simply trying to raise money for worthy causes. These charities don't have the means to fight this and are forced to change their name. How can the simple words "For the cure" be trademarked? Fact of the matter is they really can't but smaller groups can't fight that battle. (What Komen can trademark is "Komen for the Cure" with their specific pink ribbon - the 2 tone one with the running head.) Komen spent more than $1 million in lawsuits against groups last year over their names... that is NOT how I intended for my donations to be spent.

I had a major issue during the Pasta Party & Auction where the president of the Houston chapter told me that I couldn't use a Hooters gift certificate in the auction. Never mind that it was a fairly valuable gift certificate (worth more than $500) and I had 2 of them... She said it wasn't in keeping with Komen's "values." I thought this was BS because the last time I checked that gift certificate could have raised enough money to provide a few mammograms for women who needed them. And Hooters is "technically" a family mainstream restaurant. (Don't get me wrong - I wouldn't take my small kids there but I am trying to make the point that it's not like it's a strip club or something and yes you do frequently see families in there.) I was annoyed by the snobby attitude which I found to be completely unacceptable. Then Komen launches the KFC campaign for pink buckets - last time I checked unhealthy diet is a contributor to cancer possibilities. Let me be clear - I am actually okay with the fundraising gained from KFC or a winery etc. I have no problem with it. But you can't be a hypocrite and say I'll take money from KFC but not Hooters.

Shame on you Komen... it breaks my heart to say it but Shame on you.

Pardon me while I go clean out a large portion of the shirts in my closet. I will continue to support breast cancer research and awareness but I will not do it through Komen, or any other charity, who will throw another well-intentioned group who is providing for women's health rights and needs under the bus. We live in a country where we are afforded freedom of religion (last time I checked it's part of why our Founding Fathers came here) - don't try and force your religion on others in ways like defunding Planned Parenthood.

I hope one day Komen will go back to its roots of truly helping women (and men!) but until then... they won't see another dime of  my money... I will do a lot of research on the next charity I choose to pour so much heart, soul and time into. To be fair - I did do a lot of research on Komen many years ago and it was nothing like this.

Shame on you Komen for becoming someone who I cannot in good conscience support in any way... shame on you.

I wanted everyone to know I had a very hard time sleeping last night (even after I went to bed very late). This whole thing really bothers me so very much. A few other things I want you to know...
FIRST & FOREMOST - there are some absolutely amazing people who still do good work for Komen. I have worked with incredible individuals who work tirelessly for all the right reasons. Please remember that the choices of a large corporation/charity are not necessarily the choices of individuals within this organization.

The pink ribbon in general is not owned by Komen - only their specific iteration of it. (I'd post a picture of it but don't want to get in trouble for it so google it if you're not sure which one is theirs.) So you will still see me wearing pink ribbon items - just not Komen ones.

There are 2 walks in the country of a large variety that support breast cancer. Avon originally started a 2-day walk and here is some more information on where that money goes.

Komen decided to copy this and do a 3-day variety of the walk. Funny how they didn't see that as an "infringement" on Avon's previous creation and note that Avon didn't sue Komen.

A lot of the pink products with the generic pink ribbon are to support the National Breast Cancer Foundation. I've only just started looking into more detail on them and will keep you posted if I learn anything of value

Lastly (hopefully for now) - I feel it's also important to make a statement about Planned Parenthood in general. In case you can't tell this is an organization I whole heartedly believe in. Frankly even if you are pro-life it's an organization you may want to consider getting behind given all the good it does for so many women (and men too!) who have no other alternative. I respect your right to choose not to want to choose please respect my right to have the choice. I can tell you that at a time when I was in college and had no money to spend at the doctor and no health insurance I was a patient at Planned Parenthood because I wanted to be sure that I did not end up with a child. I give you this piece of very personal information so you can realize that it's not just some "random" or "faceless" woman who has benefitted from Planned Parenthood services... I, your friend or acquaintance, or maybe former friend if you are so annoyed by my stance on this... I, a college educated, professional woman have in the past been helped with affordable birth control by Planned Parenthood. Perhaps you should ask yourself who else you know may have been in need of their services in the past. I can tell you I plan to write my donation check to Planned Parenthood today.

My latest soapbox about airlines...

You know how I say some of my blogs will be offensive? Well guess what – I am pretty sure this one will be to some folks… especially moms with small children… consider yourself forewarned…

Can someone please explain to me how it is that airlines are charging for everything these days (I fully expect there to be a charge for air to breathe before too long!) yet people can still bring a small child onboard as a lap child for free? If I want to bring my dog (who quite frankly is much cuter and more well-behaved than most children on airplanes) it will cost me ~$150 EACH WAY and it counts as a carry on. Last time I checked if he has to be counted as a carry-on, and I get 2 carry-ons for free, why the heck do I have to pay for him just because he is of the canine variety. Not to mention the 2 carry-on rule… apparently that doesn’t apply to folks traveling with children either. I just watched a woman walk on with a stroller, car seat, diaper bag, bag full of toys, backpack and a purse. (Note – this is in addition 2 the 2 carry-on items her husband had with him.)

Why is it that the average person if they want to sit in a premium economy seat will have to pay extra (unless they are a frequent flyer) yet they will seat someone with a lap child there for free? How is that fair to the average person?

Bottom line – the word equality. Everyone should have the same rights/have to pay for the same things.  (Obviously you are going to get special treatment if you are flying first class or if you are an elite frequent flyer – those things you have paid for or earned from the airline, which makes them fair. Being a parent doesn’t entitle you to these things. You chose to have a child and as such you chose what goes along with that.) Am I saying that a dog is equal to a child – no. But if my dog is a carry-on I have to pay for that actually fits under the seat why is it that a breathing human being can occupy the lap of someone (crowding generally the person in the seat next to them) for free? Speaking of crowding – last time I checked I paid for my seat – THE ENTIRE SEAT! So if you are too large to fit in yours you need to buy a second seat. That’s not discriminating against large people that is called equality. Why is it no groups ever protest that we people that actually fit into our seat are being discriminated against by being forced to sit next to large people who spill over into our seats?!

I’d like to see airlines create airplanes that have child-free areas or even make specific flights child free. I’d even be happy to pay more for that. If you think that’s harsh try flying for 17 hours with a screaming child anywhere in your near vicinity and then tell me if your opinion has changed.

So I guess that’s the end of my tirade… feel free to throw stones at it… I am happy to listen to them address them…

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Guinness Pictures of the Week - 29 January 2012

Sorry for the few week hiatus... here are some more Guinness Pictures :)
He sure loves his hedgehog!!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Vegas Trip Report

Just a few thoughts on this trip here in Vegas - not a real trip report because in part, to be honest, I've been sick the majority of the time that we have been here so we haven't done a whole heck of a lot.

We've been staying at the Hilton Grand Vacation Club... some of these guys have been/will be out here for months for work so it's a nice place to stay because it's a timeshare lace so there is a full kitchen and a separate living room. It's about halfway between the Wynn and the Stratosphere so not an optimal location but not bad. Biggest issue is there is not a true restaurant or bar on the property. There is a Marketplace that has coffee, some breakfast items, sandwiches and pizzas as well as some "pantry" items that you can buy.

New Year's Eve
We looked into going to a nice dinner that night but honestly the prices were about double the normal for a prix fixe menu without alcohol.... so we decided to pick up some pizzas and drinks and pre-party in our room. We then walked down to the Wynn where we went to a couple bars there. (Not clubs - we didn't want to pay the ridiculous over the top covers for those places just because they had idiots like the Kardashians as the celebrity guests.) There was some great people watching no matter where you were! As we got closer to midnight we took our to-go drinks out to the strip to ring in the New Year out there. About half a dozen of the hotels/casinos shot off fireworks at Midnight which was kind of cool. I have to say it felt odd that there was no "Auld Lang Syne" playing.... and to be honest the fireworks at Disney are much better. But it was a neat experience and I am glad to say that Ken and I got to have that experience together. I will say though that given how packed Vegas was in general and the elevated prices I don't think I would choose to ring in the New Year again in Vegas... to be honest the only reason we did it this time is because Ken had to be here for work anyway.

Public House
This is in the Venetian - it opened on New Years Eve apparently. Their claims to fame are an amazing beer selection and quite the wine selection as well. There are 22 beers on tap and 200 more in the bottle. We sat down at the bar while we waited for the rest of our buddies to join us. Mindy the bartender was VERY knowledgable and happy to answer questions about their beers on tap. She was happy to offer a few samples as well so we could decide exactly what we wanted. This is a place that has virtually no crap on tap.... I say virtually because they do have Stella and Hoegarten both of which are ImBev products which I have no declared are included along with the crap because it's ImBev. We eventually sat down for dinner and the dishes were varied and delicious. We had some rarebit (Delicious!), Jared ordered some parfait foie gras (I don't like it but to each their own), Ken's burger was delicious and they have the awesome skinny fries, I had a short rib that was marinated with Black Butte Porter which was quite tasty as well. In Short - if you're in the area definitely check this place out. Between me and Ken we had 5 different beers and were happy with all of them!

La Cave -Wynn
We decided that no matter if I was feeling lousy or not (which I was sadly) we were going to attempt to have a date night while here. (I mean I drug my fancy new sparkly shoes with me and I just HAD to wear them somewhere!) The last time we had been in Vegas (meaning in 2010 not earlier in the month of December 2011) La Cave had not been open so I was excited to try out this new place. It's a small plates type of place where you order a variety of items to share instead of a big entree. You may also have guessed by the name that it is a wine place as well. We had an amazing half bottle of Joseph Phelps and then tried some Australian wine as well. The cheese board is spectacular and all the food we ordered was delicious as well. This place is so high end that you can get Opus by the glass! I was so tempted but given that I was still sick I decided that I would hold off on the $50 glass til I was sure my taste buds were well!! La Cave is a must do if you are in Vegas!!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Kangaroos, Koalas, Wallabies and Wombats - Oh My!!

When I have talked about going to Australia in the past I have always said something along the lines of "Oh I can't wait to hold or pet a koala." In fact I made this comment enough times to my friend Vicki, who lives in Ballarat, that she mailed me an absolutely adorable stuffed koala who I promptly cuddled, held, petted and named Kooky.

Upon arrival into Australia naturally one of the top things on my to do list was to visit a wildlife park where I could pet a koala. Vicki was happy to indulge my child-like desires to go play with the animals so off we went to Ballarat Wildlife Park. Little did I know that the koalas would not be even close to my favorite animal before the outing was over!

It was a coldish day (by Australia summer standards) and it was a bit rainy so the park was not terribly busy when we got there which was great! Upon walking through the gift shop (where you pay your entrance fee) through the door to outside which is the entrance to the wildlife park we were met by a half a dozen kangaroos who were quite happy to see us. Once I had food in my hand it was nearly a mugging! :) They were so sweet and so friendly. Many of them would grab my hand so I couldn't move it away when they were trying to get at the food.

I got to pet literally dozens of kangaroos throughout the park - they just wander about. I even got to pet a little joey in his momma's pouch! That was so incredibly cool!!!

We wandered through the park petting and feeding our new roo buddies all along the way. Apparently word travelled fast that I was a sucker to give every one of them attention!

We stumbled upon the wombat area where the keeper, Casey, was cleaning out the "cage" area a bit and the current resident decided that he was going to escape. Mind you he wasn't moving very fast though! Casey told us not to worry to let him wander and that we could pet him. His name is Boo and he is so very cute! He's a very stocky creature who is really all muscle it seems! Apparently Boo's mom kicked him out not too terribly long ago and he was missing her. He wandered to her "home" area and though he couldn't see her he knew she was there and whined because he was missing her. It was so cute yet kind of sad at the same time. Apparently Mom was ready to party and it was time for her son to be off on his own in her opinion.
Boo was quite happy to be petted and to be held by his keeper. I had no idea wombats were so cute!!

We did get to pet a koala. Boy are those sleepy little things! They spend most of their time wedged in the trees drugged up from all the eucalyptus that they eat. They are very cute creatures and really neat to pet but they aren't terribly social and this is why the kangaroos are much more my favorite now!

We also got to see some other really cool animals like Tasmanian Devils but we certainly didn't pet those!

I enjoyed my time at the wildlife park so much that when Chris (my Mission Discovery colleague) mentioned he wanted to go to Cleland Wildlife Park here in Adelaide because he wanted to see the animals I was totally game to go again. And if Mel makes it to Australia I will be absolutely on board with going a third time. Frankly if I lived here I would definitely be at these parks on a regular basis!!!

So at Cleland we got to see even more roos and koalas but we also got to see some wallabies which were incredibly cute as well!!! I especially loved this little  baby!!! Too adorable!!

Bottom line is a trip to Australia could not possibly be complete without a trip to a wildlife park to get to pet some of these cute creatures! Now if only I can figure out a way to bring one home with me... I think Guinness would love to have them as playmates!!!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Guinness Pictures of the Week (Just a little late!) 15 January 2012

Guinness loves to chase squirrels. So far he has not actually caught one but it's not for lack of trying! I am not sure I want to know what will happen if he does catch one...

Ken took these pictures a couple weeks ago - Guinness "treed" a squirrel and refused to come in because he wanted to get at that critter!!!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Guinness Pictures of the Week - 8 January 2012

Guinness sure loves to play and of course is always a fan of new toys. He is very thankful to his friends Belka and Strelk for his latest very colorful toy. And I am very happy that this is one he can't inviscerate for me to have to clean up!!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Guinness Pictures of the Week - Happy New Year!!

Guinness appears to have partied a little too hard :) Sounds like a lot of us huh?
Many thanks to the Van Dykes for sending me this picture - it literally made me laugh out loud!!!
Happy New Year Everyone!!!!