Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

13 January 2015

From Durango, Mexico to Mayor of Chicago?

Jesus "Chuy" Garcia was ready to enjoy his first uncontested election. He had a few good books picked out that had been taunting him. Then he want to visit his friend Karen Lewis after her surgery. She greeted him with, "Sit down. You need to run." Lewis ran down all the reasons he was the best person to run for mayor of Chicago. And with that Chuy went home to discuss the idea with his wife. Her response?

HELL YES!

A few months and thousands of signatures later, Jesus "Chuy" Garcia is building a coalition of community people who want to work together to make Chicago a better place to live, learn and do business.

When I heard Chuy was jumping into the race I was excited. I had never met him, but I had followed his last campaign to become a Cook County commissioner. He seemed to be the exact type of politician so many people, myself included, wish where were more of. Chuy appears to have always fought for his community and with integrity.

That is why I said yes when I was asked to join a list of over 100 Latino leaders to endorse Chuy. Being at the Latino Leader event was exhilarating. The campaign office was filled with energy. Supporters spoke about Chuy's commitment to Chicago, to supporting neighborhood schools, to real comprehensive immigration reform and being part of a people's movement. Chuy spoke of being the Latino candidate who would work to empower the Latino community. As I shook his hand I mentioned that my dad is also from the state of Durango, Mexico. He lit up and smiled.

Later that day I reported to my dad and we had a great conversation about their homestate's penchant for mustaches and supporting our familia. My dad and I don't talk about a lot of things outside of his granddaughter and sports, but I can see us having a lot of talk about over the next few weeks.

On Sunday I attended a coffee where Chuy came to answer questions. I have been to enough of these events that I space out during "safe neighborhoods" and "strong schools" talk. When perked me up was how he brought up coalition building among community organizations. Chuy lamented the tragedy of community groups feeling that they are in competition because of limited foundation and government grants. He also impressed me with his response to a woman's question about her perceived distrust that African-Americans have of him. Essentially he discussed how discrimination against African-American workers and the hiring of immigrant workers has built a tension between the communities as some believe we need to fight over the same piece of pie. Chuy wants everyone to benefit from the whole pie.

I like that idea. This will require a lot of work, including policy changes, but to start, we need someone who will champion them. I really believe that person is Jesus "Chuy" Garcia.

This campaign has national ramifications, so if you cannot vote for Chuy, please consider contributing to his campaign. $50 or $5,000 will make a difference!

11 January 2015

EVENT: Chicago Women's Mayoral Forum


Chicago Has A Women’s Agenda –
Where Do Mayoral Candidates Stand On It?

Hear What The Leading Candidates Have To Say at the

CHICAGO WOMEN’S MAYORAL FORUM

Saturday, January 24 | 2pm to 5pm
Chicago Temple | 77 West Washington St

Featuring:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel
Alderman Robert Fioretti
Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia
Willie Wilson

Moderator: Cheryl Corley, NPR Correspondent


Brought together by:

American Association of University Women (AAUW) | Broadcast Ministers of Chicago | Chicago Area Women’s History Council | Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network | Chicago Women Take Action | Coalition of Labor Union Women | Democratic Women of the South Suburbs | EarthHeart Foundation | Girlfriends Group | Girls in the Game | Girls on the Run | GlobalGirl Media | HotHouse | Independent Voters of Illinois Independent Precinct Organization (IVI-IPO) | Jobs For Justice | Mujeres Latinas en Acción | National Council of Jewish Women Chicago North Shore Section | National Rainbow PUSH Coalition | Planned Parenthood | Rape Victim Advocates | The Voices and Faces Project | Younger Women’s Task Force

06 January 2015

#365FeminstSelfie End of Year Honors


Congrats y'all! We won a few end of the year honors!

First Colorlines named me as one of their 14 Women of Color Who Rocked 2014. Then Blogher named me one of their 2014 Women of the Year.

Yes, I do consider these OUR honors because, without all of you, there's no way that this project could be recognized. I had an idea, I put it out into the world and YOU respond without apology! Ok, some of you did apologize to your friends & families to prepare them for a year of awesome, but that's ok.

So take a bow, #365FeministSelfie. We kicked ass last year. Not to mention Mayim Bialik took a liking to us!

02 January 2015

Help Send "Locked Down, Locked Out" to Women in Prison

Maya Schenwar's book, Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn't Work and How We Can Do Better, has been lauded around feminist and progressive media:

Alice Kim at Truth Out:
Deftly weaving her own personal experiences with her sister’s incarceration alongside the stories of prisoners who she has been writing to over the last eight years, Schenwar illustrates the devastating effects of prisons on those who are incarcerated, their families, and our communities. With her book, she not only offers a searing analysis of the prison industrial complex but also possibilities for creating alternatives to mass incarceration.
Sarah Macaraeg from The Toast:
...Maya’s book, filled with the voices of her incarcerated pen pals—one of whom is Maya’s own beloved sister, Kayla. Woven together with her family’s experience facing the formidable hurdles likewise faced by millions as they try to remain connected to a locked-down loved one, Maya’s analysis of our “prison nation” is that of a system rooted in the dehumanization of people of color, particularly Black people. Her assertion that “prison doesn’t work” does not revolve around wrongful convictions, nor does her challenge that “we can do better” point towards mild reforms. Instead her book demands we wrestle with questions posed by indictments and non-indictments alike. What would truly provide healing and safety for our society?
Eleanor J. Bader at RH Reality Check:
Well-versed in the ins-and-outs of the system, Locked Down, Locked Out offers an accessible, easily readable account of the ways the system dehumanizes prisoners, making reentry into the outside world difficult for many. By merging her sister’s story with a broader, investigative report, Schenwar humanizes those we dub “offenders” and assesses how we, as a society, can do better. Rather than depressing, the book is ultimately an inspiring call to action.
I personally have not read the book yet (you gotta see my to-read-book pile, yikes!), but I know Maya and her work enough to know that this book will be an amazing read, especially to those who are currently incarcerated.That is why I was excited to here that the Chicago Women's Book Project has offered to send out copies of Locked Down, Locked Out to people in prison. This will be a demonstration that people on the outside are thinking about and supporting them.

Here is how you can help send a copy to women who are in prison and want to read this book. Just purchase the book from any online retailer [Powells | IndieBound] and have them ship it to

c/o RFUMC
4511 N. Hermitage Ave.
Chicago, IL 60640

Disclaimer: Purchasing from Powells or IndieBound using the links above benefits Viva la Feminista. Feel free to purchase Maya's book from any retailer of your choosing. 

31 December 2014

I guess you were in for #365FeministSelfie

A year ago I had a silly idea for a personal blogging goal. As I do with some of my posts, I added a "How about you?" at the end in an attempt to start a conversation. But in the era of social media, I knew that most conversation about a blog post happens on social media and not the comments section, so I didn't think much about it. I scheduled the post and waited.

OK, I figured that a few friends would humor me and do it for a day or two. I never set up any systemic way to track how often the hashtag was used on any platform because I honest to gawd thought it would peter away. Now I get people asking me to give metrics on how many people, who are they, how old are they, where do they live? I did create a census form for participants, but I know it undercounts (yes, it is still open!). It is hard to get all those answers, but really it does not matter how many people joined in on my silly idea. What matters is that they did and in that we created a new community.

Some people posted on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Flickr, and Facebook. Some in all the above. On Facebook there was a private group that one amazing woman, Cara, started for her and friends to participate in private. Soon they invited others and I stumbled onto it. In all of these venues I have been privy to conversations about women (one thing I do know is that most participants identify as women) coming to terms with their bodies, going through pregnancy (I have lost count of how many babies were born this year), new jobs, opportunities lost (ahem, phd), tackling traumas like death, divorce and continuing to deal with being a birth mother. We have laughed, cried, and yawned through the mundane daily life moments. We know what each other's kids look like and some of our partners too.

I will be honest (cause I can't be anything else with this project) that I was not prepared for the emotions of writing this last post. I was not prepared for the finality of "Day 365" and am glad I haven't taken that selfie yet. It was about in October when people really started to ask what would happen on January 1, 2015. Would we go on?

My immediate reaction was no. The project was set up for a year and that is all it is meant for. Let's get one thing straight, while I did create the hashtag, I do not feel like its owner. We all own it in some fashion. Viral things are hard to hold. But it is my baby so there's that. It's a paradox.

So what are we to do on January 1, 2015?

For some people the project will be over. I know for them it was a challenge to do the project and they need it to be done.

For others, the community is too strong to let this project slide to 100% transparency. So it will continue on. Not just for the community, but a lot of people did not join on January 1, 2014 and want to get through 365 selfies! SO HELL YEAH FOR THEM!

There are also a few retreats or mini-conferences in the works, so keep an eye out for info on that so we can take one hell of an epic selfie together. 

And I am working on a book proposal about this project. Yes, there will be a call for submissions as I see the book being part anthology. 

#365FEMINISTSELFIE WILL LIVE ON!

I can't promise to take a selfie every day, but when I do, it'll have the hash tag on it. I have a few people who want to help me shepherd this baby along, so keep an eye out for my deputies.

Lastly, thank you. Thank you for everyone who participated. Especially you die-hards who actually did it every single day. Thank you to everyone who tolerated our faces every day in your social media feed. Who posed with us as we took our selfie for the day.

If you want to be one of the #365FeministSelfie deputies, please leave a comment or email me a note. Let's work on the plan together. 

27 December 2014

Book Release: Intensive Mothering: The Cultural Contradictions of Motherhood


Demeter Press is pleased to announce the release of:

INTENSIVE MOTHERING: THE CULTURAL CONTRADICTIONS OF MODERN MOTHERHOOD

Edited by Linda Rose Ennis

To celebrate the twentieth anniversary of Sharon Hays' landmark book, The Cultural Contradictions of Motherhood, this collection will revisit Hays' concept of "intensive mothering" as a continuing, yet controversial representation of modern motherhood. In Hays' original work, she spoke of "intensive mothering" as primarily being conducted by mothers, centered on children's needs with methods informed by experts, which are labour-intensive and costly simply because children are entitled to this maternal investment. While respecting the important need for connection between mother and baby that is prevalent in the teachings of Attachment Theory, this collection raises into question whether an over-investment of mothers in their children's lives is as effective a mode of parenting, as being conveyed by representations of modern motherhood. In a world where independence is encouraged, why are we still engaging in "intensive motherhood?"

"This volume revisits Sharon Hay's groundbreaking work to productively re-examine her contributions in light of changing cultural discourse about motherhood in 21st century Western cultures. Focusing on a breadth of topics by examining the complexities of motherhood from various perspectives, Intensive Mothering demonstrates with keen insight how this ideology has been reinforced, revised, and challenged in relation to women's evolving relationships to work and family. The volume also adds nuance to the field of motherhood studies by accounting for how consumerism and capitalism have complicated expectations and identities of motherhood and mothering in the last two decades."

-Jennifer L. Borda, Associate Professor of Communication, The University of New Hampshire

"Without question this topic is highly significant and important. Given the predominance of intensive mothering ideology defining 'good motherhood' in North America, it is absolutely crucial to critique and assess what this means for mothers, children, families and North American society."

-Melinda Vandenbeld Giles, Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto, Editor, Mothering in the Age of Neoliberalism

"In this text, Dr. Linda Ennis has compiled a thorough and thought-provoking array of articles examining how the dictates of intensive mothering have become the predominant ideology disciplining contemporary mothers. This text is a must read for anyone wishing to gain a more in-depth understanding of the emotional, physical, financial, and psychological consequences of mothering intensively by both the individual and Western society at large."

-Tanja Tudhope, Producer and Maternal Scholar

Dec. 2014 / $34.95 / ISBN 978-1-927335-90-1 / 6 x 9 / 343 pp.

Please visit http://demeterpress.org/IntensiveMothering.html for details on how to order this new title!

26 December 2014

Spending #OfficeHours with Kevin Spacey

Kevin Carroll/a digital cure Photography
Kevin Spacey is not the first name to pop in one's head when you think of who could give women advice on mentoring and risk taking, but Levo certain did! In this entertaining and enlightening video you learn a lot about Spacey and how he became the actor he is today. There is a point where he uses a visit to the Middle East as evidence of how the arts can empower women and it is problematic as he positions the repression of women in that region of the globe. But overall the video is fun and just might stick in your memory the next time you are faced with a career risk. And maybe, just maybe will help you recognize when a dark and scary place ends up being where your dreams have been waiting for you.



21 December 2014

Guest Post: Roxane Gay on Today’s Feminism: “Better is Not Good Enough”

Nearly three hundred bad feminists gathered at the Chicago Temple on December 10 to hear New York Times best-selling author Roxane Gay discuss issues around feminism, inequality, and the struggles that 21st century women still face at an event hosted by Women Employed. Gay’s commentary and criticisms on Wednesday were in line with those found in her recent book Bad Feminist—incisive and insightful, covering a broad range of topics with her signature quick-witted sense of humor. Some highlights from the evening:
On the wage gap: “Women have compromised enough! 77 cents is a compromise. Pay me a dollar, you asshole!”
On burning out in social services and activism: “Self-care is a priority. You must decide how much self care you need. If you burn out, then you’re not doing anything. If you’re not here, you can’t do any good in the world.”
On not always having an opinion: “Sometimes it’s Tuesday and I’m thinking about macaroni and cheese.” 
On privilege: “Saying that you have privilege does not mean that you do not have suffering.”
On intersectional feminism: “Feminism is so much more complicated than just gender. If good feminism is only about middle class white women, then I don’t want to be a part of that feminism.”
As Gay points out, there are̶—or at least there should be—as many different kinds of feminism as there are different kinds of people. A problem emerges, however, when one type of feminism comes to stand in for all types of feminism—when one approach or perspective claims to authoritatively represent all perspectives. Broadly speaking, mainstream feminist movements have left behind women of color, low-income women, and LGBTQA women. As Gay writes, feminism is certainly flawed, but it is flawed because it is a movement powered by people who are also inherently flawed.  At its best, feminism has the potential to offer a way to navigate our shifting cultural climate and to help women find their voices, which is what we find in Gay’s work.
Bad Feminist is easily one of the best books I’ve read this year. Gay’s writing is accessible and her tone approachable, yet her criticisms are articulate and pointed, as she never waters down the complexity of her arguments. In fact, one of Gay’s greatest strengths as an author and speaker is her ability to personally connect with her audience, allowing her to present highly sophisticated and nuanced social critiques without alienating anyone through the use of jargon-laden language, as may be the case with fellow academics (Gay is a professor at Purdue University). After all, what good is critical cultural commentary if someone needs a PhD to understand and respond to it? We need clear and discerning voices like Roxane Gay’s to serve as models and encourage us all to look much more critically at the world around us. Furthermore, the breadth of issues that Gay addresses in Bad Feminist speaks to the landscape of today’s feminism—complex, rapidly developing, contested, and above all, still necessary. 
Sure, things have improved for some women, but they have not improved enough, particularly not for women who are not highly educated, straight, middle-class, able-bodied, documented, and white. When women hold less than 20% of seats in Congress, when popular music boasts lyrics like “I know you want it,” when 1 in 5 women are raped or sexually assaulted in college, when there were over a thousand bills proposed in 2011 that intended to limit women’s ability to access an abortion (200 of which passed), when white women earn 77 cents, black women 64 cents, and Latina women 53 cents to every man’s dollar, how can anyone really say that feminism is irrelevant? At this point, we should not be questioning the relevance of feminism, but rather, we should be rolling up our sleeves and asking, “Where do we even start?”
And this is no easy question. During the question and answer at Women Employed’s event, an audience member asked Roxane how to know when to pick your battles. After all, the problems are complex and numerous, and most of us only have a finite amount of time, energy, and resources that we can dedicate to the causes we believe in. Gay’s advice was simple, but powerful: 
Use your voice where it will do the most good.
You can’t do everything, but you can do something. No matter where you live, what you do for a living, or how much time or money you have, there is a unique way that you can contribute to social change. Do you have a bit of financial flexibility? Make a donation to a women’s nonprofit (such as Women Employed). Do you have expertise in your field? Mentor younger women or donate your time and knowledge by serving on a council or board. Even more importantly: do you have a voice? Speak up, and do so as often as you can. Do you have ears? Listen to others who have experiences and perspectives different from your own. If nothing else, be proactive and stay informed about what’s going on. Sure, things are better than they were a generation or two ago, but as Gay aptly puts it, “Better is not good enough, and it’s a shame that we would settle for so little.”
Here’s the truth: all feminists are bad feminists. We’re imperfect, and our feminisms are imperfect. As individuals, we each have limited perspectives. We contradict ourselves. We make mistakes. We’re human. But does that mean we abandon feminist causes? Definitely not, because then we’re really in trouble. We do the best we can with what we know, we get challenged when someone disagrees, we pay attention and remain open to new perspectives, and then when we know better, we do better. We may all be bad feminists, but it’s up to bad feminists to keep fighting the good fight.
Rachel Clark studies Women’s and Gender Studies at Carleton College in Northfield, MN. In December, she had the opportunity to intern with Women Employed, a Chicago-based nonprofit organization that advocates for increased educational and employment opportunities for working women. She aspires to one day be a professional feminist. 

16 December 2014

Bindercon & Women of Color in the Media

I missed BinderCon because it was in NYC and I was at Space Camp! I haven't heard a lot of what happened so I was excited to see this video clip from the panel "Looking Forward: Roles for Women in the Future of Media." Jessica McGlory, the founder of Forecastr (@TVforecast) says some awesome stuff. Hopefully BinderCon will realize that those of us in the Midwest would love to host!


12 December 2014

Judy Baar Topinka, the Polka Queen of Illinois Politics Dies at 70

Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register
Illinois politics is a lot of things, but boring rarely is the word to describe it. That is until yesterday. In the wee morning of December 10, 2014, Illinois politics lost its Polka Queen, Judy Baar Topinka.

Since I am an unabashed feminist who normally votes Democratic, one might wonder why Topinka means enough for me to write this post. Well it is because she was freaking awesome to watch. As many people in the media have said over the past day, she was blunt. The only spin Topinka knew how to perform was on the dance floor. I really wanted to share a video of her spinning around during a polka but every single media outlet's videos seem to be tagged with "Topinka polka" at the moment. ARGH!

She seems to be best remembered for her Chicken Little moment of telling Illinois that former Governor Rod Blagojevich was under federal investigation. But Illinois reelected him anyway after he linked her to the previous Governor who was already convicted of corruption. I told ya Illinois politics ain't boring. I still believe if she had chosen almost anyone else other than Joe Birkett as her running mate she may have won. Birkett's strident anti-choice stance pushed a lot of women away from even considering Topinka. For me, I could not forget his role in the Rolando Cruz case. 2006 was the year that the Green Party topped 10% of the vote, meaning a lot more voters than just me had lost faith in Rod, but couldn't vote for Joe.

But what she should be remembered for is that she was one of the first politicians, Democrat or Republican, who marched in Chicago's Pride parade. She was also pro-choice. Hell, she even bragged about voting for the ERA! That was Topinka, a straight shooter.

Which reminds me that one of my friends on Facebook (can't recall!) said something about picturing Dawn Clark Netsch and Judy meeting up in Heaven over some drinks and just shaking their heads at the mess the rest of us are left with. I can see it. And I hope so, because we're gonna need all the divine help to get through the budget mess we are in and appear to be headed into the "even worse" category.

Topinka was beloved by not just Republicans (heck, during her race for Governor her male primary opponents were so vicious to her, Hillary must have send her a card.) but also a lot of us Democratic women who respected her ballsy ways, her feminist sensibilities and how much fun she made politics look.

Thanks, Judy. You inspired a generation of women to lead this state with a wink and a hearty laugh. We shall carry on.

10 December 2014

Happy Nobel Peace Prize Day!

Women testifying

Today is the day the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded. While recent awards have been controversial, today Malala Yousafzai receives the award for her work advocating for the education of girls, along with Kailash Satyarthi an advocate for children's rights. I'm the type of person who believes all our issues are connected, interconnected and intersectional. 

In that spirit I share with you a three-part series based on the Nobel Women's Initiative delegation to Mesoamerica I traveled with in 2012. These films are an excellent representation of the whole delegation. In these films you will meet women who are feminists fighting for their homes and families. Far too often the media in the USA depicts Mexico and Central America as lost lands. The framing of Central American children fleeing from their homes is sometimes seen as fleeing from countries that cannot be saved. Yet these women are fighting to reclaim or retain what has been their land for longer than one can imagine. Take a moment to watch at least one film today. Save the others for later.





09 December 2014

2014 Holiday Feminist Gift Guide


It's that time of the year again!


As usual, I'm behind on my full book reviews, but here is a list of books I have read this year that should go on your gift list. Some are linked to their review, others to their publisher or author page. A reminder that if you click the link to buy from either Powells (P) or IndieBound (I), VLF gets a small cut from your purchase:
  • This is Not a Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education by Jose Vilson P | I
    • A challenging and honest look at our public education system through Vilson's own education journey and path to becoming a teacher-activist. 
  • What Works for Women at Work: Four Patterns Working Women Need to Know by Joan C. Williams and Rachel Dempsey P | I 
    • This is the book you need to read instead of "Lean In." Williams has studied women in the workforce for years. Academic work in everyday speak.
  • Rosie Revere, Engineer P | I 
    • A beautiful book about a girl who has amazing ideas and how she learns that fail is often the first step to success.
  • Dear Sister: Letters from Survivors of Sexual Violence edited by Lisa Factora-Borchers P | I
    • A painful, but loving collection of essays about sexual violence.  A slow read.
  • League of Denial: The NFL, Concussions and the Battle for Truth by Mark Fainaru-Wada & Steve Fainaru P | I
    • An investigative look into concussions in the NFL and the NFL's attempt to hide the pain and injury that cause. 
  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell P | I
    • This was a very uncomfortable tale of a young woman not ready to grow up and stand tall without her twin sister. It was a great read
  • It Runs in the Family by Frida Berrigan [not available at Powells or IndieBound]
    • Frida is the daughter of acclaimed peace activist Phil Berrigan. This book is part memoir of growing up in the peace movement and her journey as a mother. The biggest challenge in this book is that she is devoted to anti-capitalism and her judgement for those who do not adhere. It is uncomfortable, but in a good way. It will make you examine your choices. 
  • The Good Mother Myth by Avital Norman Nathman P | I
    • The Good Mother Myth: Redefining Motherhood to Fit Reality looks to dismantle the myth of the “good mother” by sharing essays from women whose voices and stories are normally silenced or ignored within the mainstream narrative of motherhood.
  • MaddAddam Trilogy by Margaret Atwood P | I
    • Personally, I'm still at the early part of the last book, but had to include the whole trilogy on this gift list.  
  •  Who Fears Death? by Nnedi Okorafor P | I
    • Another great vision of post-apocalyptic Earth, this tale occurs in Africa. A young woman with anger and power fights for her life. Okorafor writes in the tradition of Octavia Butler and Ursula K. LeGuin by interrogating gender roles and speculating on where humankind may lead.
  • Redefining Girly How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from Birth to Tween by Melissa Atkins Wardy P | I
    •  One of my favorite parenting books..and not just because Melissa asked me to write a letter to the reader either. Ella is 11 and I have lost count of how many times I've been asked for advice on raising a strong and confident daughter. Not all my secrets are in Melissa's book, but until I get moving on my own parenting book, this will more than do.


Flipstir: I tried this baby out at the Chicago Toy and Game Fair and it was tough but a lot of fun. I did end up winning one for myself because I had one of the top times over the weekend. *YES* And because of that, I get to share with you a code for free shipping. CODE: SHAKESTIRSOLVE14

Catan Junior: Ella & I got a full game in at ChiTAG in about 30 minutes. Catan Junior is smaller and that makes the game go quicker. I know this is great for smaller kids who may lose interest in a longer game of Catan.

Sew Cool: This is definitely for the very junior DIY kids. I have no idea how it sews the felt-like material together, but I think it would be great for kids who are too young to have on a real sewing machine, but want to sew. You can see me in the collage above sewing a hamster pillow together. There was a line of kids who wanted to make their own pillows.

Family Challenge: This one was Ella's favorite. It has four types of questions, which include physical challenges, where it pits the kids versus the parents. We did note that in our home, that would pit Ella against two parents. But isn't that why we have only one? May the odds be our favor.

Make 'n' Break: If you are looking for a good game to help your kids with spatial skills, this is a great one for the younger set. You get cards with a design to build, a timer and blocks to build the design. Perhaps with competition will help make this game a family game, but Ella & I did think it was pretty easy. Then again, we didn't compete with the timer.


And some other ideas that fall under miscellaneous awesome gifts:

Bitch Magazine - Also check out the BitchMart full of feministy gifts
HipMama Magazine
Donate to their favorite charity! 

What other things are on your wish list?

02 December 2014

#ILGiveBig on #GivingTuesday

This #GivingTuesday Illinois organizations are asking us to give big - #ILGiveBig. Organized by the Donors Forum, you can search for an Illinois organization where you can donate. But if you don't want to do the searching here is a list of my recommendations:
  • Chicago Abortion Fund: They support women who are in need of financial assistance to make their health care decision to terminate a pregnancy a reality. I served on as the co-chair of CAF's board for a few years and their work is transformational to the women they serve.
  • H.O.M.E.: Simply put, they help seniors stay in their homes, find new homes when necessary and are basically awesome. A dear friend works for them so I am quite familiar with the awesome things they do and trust that any donation goes the distance.
  • Access Living: They foster the dignity, pride, and self-esteem of people with disabilities and enhances the options available to them so they may choose and maintain individualized and satisfying lifestyles.
  • Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana
  • Chicago Foundation for Women: Helping to meet the giving gap for women and girls issues.
I also recommend the Chicago Community Trust, our region's biggest foundation.

The Broad Side also has a list of great orgs to support. 

Have fun!

01 December 2014

Reducing Open Enrollment Headaches!

President Obama Signs Health Insurance Legislation Into Law by Pete Souza
Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Far too many of my friends are underinsured or have no insurance at all. That is why I was a proponent for the Affordable Care Act or ACA. But I know that just because we have access to ACA things are fine and dandy either. For many people it can be overwhelming to choose an insurance plan. I know when it is open enrollment time for my workplace insurance plan I hid my head because it was confusing enough to select a plan the first time around.

That is why I am partnering with UnitedHealthcare to bring you helpful videos to make selecting an ACA plan a little easier for you. The first thing is to check out their Open Enrollment Guide to help you figure out what you should be thinking about when selecting a plan.

Another aspect of health insurance that you should keep in mind is the differing cost of treatment and procedures. Before ACA, friend of VLF, Kathie Bergquist, Editor in Chief of Ms. Fit Magazine, had been covering herself with the same plan since grad school:
As an adjunct professor, I don't receive health insurance through my employer. Up until earlier this year, I never used my insurance for anything other than routine check-ups. Then, this past winter, I was hospitalized for a severe asthma attack; almost as soon as I was out of the hospital, I received a notice that *former insurance company* was jacking my premium by more than $100/month, from $328 to $430. In the ongoing treatments I required, I came to realize that my exiting plan was pretty terrible. It covered absolutely no diagnostic care; I had to pay 100% of all tests, etc., plus for any doctor visits outside of my annual exam. I never realized how limited my plan was because I'd never really had to use it before, and I had it for a long time. So, I'm getting all these tests and follow up doctor visits, getting billed 100% for them, Also, there was no prescription coverage, and I was put on medicine that costs $300/month. AND I was still paying my insurance premium, and when I turned 45, the raised it again -- to $460, for terrible, useless coverage.

The open enrollment period couldn't open up quickly enough for me.
 
Through the healthcare.gov website, I was able to get a platinum insurance plan with no deductible, PLUS pretty good dental coverage for $100/month less than the monthly premium for my worthless *former* plan. Now I know that I can continue to receive the medical care I need (and some overdue dental work) without having to worry about it bankrupting me or ruining my credit. Such a relief! I'm glad to know that I will actually be getting what I am paying for. 

And if you don't know what a deductible is, you should know because it is an important part of your health insurance plan. 

So hopefully you know a little more about what you should be considering as you go through the menu of options in your state marketplace or the national marketplace. And if you are like me, I have learned that we should also be checking out our deductibles and out-of-pocket fees on a regular basis. I am guilty of sticking with a plan unless I change jobs or a carrier is dropped.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. I was compensated by UnitedHealthcare to create this post. 

28 November 2014

Dear Kate and The Perfect Body

 As some of you rush out to the mall to get in on deals, I wanted to share this response to the Victoria's Secret "Perfect Body" campaign from Dear Kate. While they changed the slogan to be less offensive, if you are looking for some comfy underwear AND some cute period panties, look no further than Dear Kate.


So not only are they a super neat idea (pretty period panties) and they have awesome marketing images. This "Perfect Body" campaign is not the first time a wide range of bodies have been used in their images.

BUT...get this, they have a line of underwear called "The League of Ladies" that depicts bad ass ladies of history as superheroes. Which, I guess they kinda are.

The only downside to "Dear Kate" underwear is that the magic science stuff that make them awesome for wearing during one's period make them not suitable for drying in a dryer. And if you're like me and a bit forgetful, you might ruin a pair.So careful!

Disclaimer: I was not paid for this glowing blog post, but I did receive some pairs of their underwear for a test run.