The Private Option passed in Arkansas. Now I can re-emerge.

Supporters of Arkansas's Private Option at the Arkansas State Capitol, Feb. 24, 2014

Supporters of Arkansas’s Private Option at the Arkansas State Capitol, Feb. 24, 2014

I haven’t been here in nearly two months. This has been an extremely stressful two months, because my state has faced some horrible opposition to our state’s unique version of the Medicaid Expansion offered under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. It’s called the “Private Option,” and it uses federal dollars intended for Medicaid to be used to purchase private insurance plans for Arkansans at up to 138% of the poverty line.

As someone who works primarily from home and cannot get a standard full-time job with benefits, this was of great importance to me and my family. I’ve discussed my role as a caregiver before, but for those of you who are new or may have forgotten, here’s my story that I sent out to many state legislators:

I am a live-in caregiver for my mother, who is in Stage IV renal failure. I also work from home and have a part-time job at a company that is still in its first year of operation and does not yet have the profits or ability to provide employee benefits. My mother was hospitalized three times in 2013. There are many occasions in which if I was not here for her, she would have died. I need to be healthy so I can stay in the home for my mother, who is not healthy.

That’s the short version. The truth is, my mother has come to many close and frightening moments. And I’m really interested in keeping her around for as long as possible.

Meanwhile, I’d been self-paying for all my health care for the past four years. Uninsured, I paid for my doctors’ appointments in cash, I searched online for prescription discount cards that would knock a few bucks off my medication, ordered prescriptions from Canada if they were cheaper, and I spent approximately $300 per month on my medical care. During this time I also found a lump in my breast and went in for a mammogram, which unfortunately is not paid for by charitable organizations to women who are in their thirties.

I’m amazed I haven’t developed a serious ulcer.

I signed up for the expansion as soon as possible, and on Jan. 1, I was covered. On Jan. 2, I was able to visit my primary care physician – the same one I’ve had for 8 years. That same day, I headed to Walgreens and purchased prescriptions that would normally have cost me about $180 for $5. This including my asthma inhaler, which I had not been able to replace in years because of the expense.

This has been so important to me it hurts – and I have been sorely hurt by people who think that I don’t deserve to have health care just because my mother needs me around and I’d rather have her spend time with me and the dog than at some assisted living facility.

I have put so much time in the past couple of months trying to get the private option passed. All it took was for a friend of mine to get the most ridiculous email from Arkansas State Senator Bart Hester. This person wrote at least two people I know that a family of four making $94K/year qualifies for the Medicaid expansion (When in actuality, the most a family of four can make is around $32,500/year). This man, and many others who didn’t even know about the legislation they were voting on, were in charge of our future and our health. We knew it was time to act.

We got the email exchange he received to the media, including the Arkansas Times story you see above, and Arkansas Business Editor Gwen Moritz, who wrote an op-ed on Arkansas’ private option and Sen. Hester’s feelings on it.  Thus began a serious dialogue about the complete disconnect between some of our legislators and our citizens – particularly how many employed citizens of this state cannot access health coverage otherwise. We got more than 800 Arkansans to sign a petition asking their legislators to vote for the public option. We got people – Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Libertarians, the entire political spectrum – calling, writing personal messages, telling their stories.

This was one of them that made us say, “This is why we’re doing this:”

I am one of the many who use to not have insurance. I don’t understand why because I work as a health aide for the Health Department that deems my health worthless. I had no options and my only option I ever got through working for an agency was over 300 dollars just to insure myself a month. All I ever wanted was affordable insurance. As far as I am concerned no one cares about us. We clean your hotels, your hospital rooms, take care of your grandparents or parents, and the list goes on. However we don’t deserve insurance because we quote chose to be poor. I wish you thought our lives meant something.But mainly, we have saved our state $89 million, kept our only teaching hospital from closing, and have ensured that those of us who own our own businesses, work two or more jobs, work from home or care for our parents can get some health coverage and never worry about a catastrophic event ruining their lives.

The state Senate passed the Private Option immediately, but State Speaker of the House Davy Carter had to hold five votes for it to finally pass. I can’t even begin to tell you about the bickering that ensued. But mainly, we have saved our state $89 million, kept our only teaching hospital from closing, and have ensured that those of us who own our own businesses, work two or more jobs, work from home or care for our parents can get some health coverage and never worry about a catastrophic event ruining their lives. We’ve also set up a way for the Private Option to be paid for when it is not completely paid for by the federal government in three years.

I don’t have to worry about my bosses moving to another state just so they can get healthcare for the entire family. I don’t have to worry about having a horrible asthma attack. My friends don’t have to worry about themselves or their children or their parents, siblings and extended family.

Most importantly? Services for our foster children and our developmentally and intellectually disabled will continue because of this passage. When these people are left out in the cold, what kind of humans have we become?

So basically, during my sabbatical from my website, I’ve been spending a lot of time fighting hard for myself and the most vulnerable people in my state. I hope I don’t have to get the battleaxe out for a while. But now I’m a bit more prepared.

It’s good to be back.

Supporters of Arkansas's Private Option at the Arkansas State Capitol, Feb. 24, 2014

Supporters of Arkansas’s Private Option at the Arkansas State Capitol, Feb. 24, 2014

Please tell me what being ‘really raped’ is, jerk.

sltuwalk My friend Slap Dash Mom recently wrote a heartfelt post about rape and rape culture. I encourage you to go over and read it. It has several real stories from rape survivors that usually included blaming and shaming the victim. Blaming women for drinking, for dressing provocatively, for basically doing everything but wearing a dress to her ankles and participating in a women’s knitting circle. Several more stories are in the comments section. Including mine.

Then there’s this know-it-all A-hole named “BMan” who wrote his own rules. Let’s see what this GENIUS has to say. I can’t even read it without clenching my fists, but you need to know that this is what we have to deal with ALL. The TIME:

Look…I feel for some of you ladies…especially the ones who were REALLY raped…like when you were a child or if you were VIOLENTLY raped. Those are real rapes. BUT….as bad as what you went through was…it does NOT change the facts ONE IOTA. WHAT FACTS? THESE:

1. YOU CAN REDUCE THE INCIDENTS OF RAPE BY BEING RESPONSIBLE AND NOT DRINKING

2. JUST BECAUSE A WOMAN CLAIMS RAPE DOESNT MAKE IT TRUE. (YOU MAY POSSESS BLIND HATRED FOR ALL MEN BUT THAT IS NOT EVIDENCE)

3. THE WAY YOU DRESS DOES IMPACT THINGS…BECAUSE IT CALLS ATTENTION TO YOU.

4 NO DOES NOT ALWAYS MEAN NO (SAD BUT TRUE…SOME WOMEN SAY NO WHEN THEY MEAN YES…THEY LIKE TO FEEL IRRESISTIBLE… I KNOW THIS FROM EXPERIENCE…AND I HAVE NEVER ONCE HAD A WOMAN ACCUSE ME OF RAPE)

5. AS NOTED IN THE ARTICLE THE GIRL WHO WAS RAPED SHOULD WITHOUT A DOUBT BE CHARGED WITH UNDERAGE DRINKING…YOU WOULD WANT THE GUY CHARGED WITH IT IF THE GIRL SAID HE RAPED HIM…SO WE JUST WANT YOU LADIES TO FEEL “EQUAL” . SO WE CANT CODDLE A LAW BREAKER..HECK SHE MIGHT GO OFF AND DO THAT AGAIN…AND WE CANT HAVE THAT NOW CAN WE?

6. IF YOU DONT SCREAM OR FIGHT ITS NOT REAL RAPE…YOU ARE JUST HAVING FUN AND YOUR REGRET LATER DOES NOT MAKE IT RAPE NOW. (EXCEPTION…UNLESS HE HAS A GUN OR KNIFE..AND YOU ARE GROWN UP)

7. IF YOU WANT EQUALITY WITH MEN THEN YOU MUST TAKE THE BAD WITH THE GOOD. TAKE YOUR LEGAL PUNISHMENTS LIKE A MAN…SO YOU SHOULD BE LOBBYING FOR WOMEN TO GET JAIL TIME THE SAME AS MEN DO FOR EQUAL CRIMES…AND DOUBLE TIME FOR FALSE RAPE CLAIMS

8 STOP MAKING EXCUSES AND MAKING STUPID CATCHPHRASES LIKE NO MEANS NO….IF YOU ACT LIKE A WOMAN AND STOP TRYING SO HARD TO BE A MAN THEN YOU WILL SEE THAT MEN WILL RESPECT YOU AS A WOMAN AND PROTECT YOU…AND IF A MAN DOES DO WRONG TO YOU …OTHER MEN WILL BEAT THE SNOT OUT OF HIM FOR YOU.

I’ll let you curse to yourself at this point.

Sadly, B-Man’s thoughts are shared by a lot of people – men AND women – in today’s world.

I shared my story on SDM’s page as a comment. Here it is. Only this time comes with edits and visuals!

It was the summer of 2008. I went out drinking with a good friend, her husband and some of their friends at the time. We had a

Don't I look foxy? Yeah, this was taken hours before I was raped. Is it weird that I still like this photo? This shirt is still hanging in my closet.

Don’t I look foxy? Yeah, this was taken hours before I was raped. Is it weird that I still like this photo? This shirt is still hanging in my closet, even though I haven’t worn it since that night.

designated driver. I was going to stay at my friend’s house, in her kids’ room (they were off to see relatives). After we went out drinking, we had an after-party. There was a man there who was going up to the girls and lifting up their dresses.
Yes, I was drunk. And I went to him while everyone else at the after-party was there and I cursed at him, telling him you do NOT do that to women, that it is NOT cool at all.
Afterwards, that same man started pursuing me. I rejected his advances as I became more and more tired. And eventually I went to my guest bed to pass out. He came in and got in bed with me. Kept telling me he wanted to be with me. I still remember his lisp and the smell of cheap, heavy cigarettes on his breath. I managed to chase him out and lock him out of the room.

Then, I had to get up to use the bathroom. And he followed me again. Got in bed with me. Tried to arouse me. This time, I tried to run out the door and scream for help (all the other party guests were out on the deck). He held me back. And at that moment, I made the decision: “I’m not going to get out of this, so I might as well make the most of it.” I went back to bed as he locked the door.
He did things to me that I enjoyed – not because it was him, but because I was a woman and women get aroused. And I reciprocated. When he was ready to have intercourse, I told him he needed a condom because I had an STI. So instead of getting a condom, he decided to sodomize me.

Was he forceful on me? Did he hold me down? No. But I’d already tried that fight. I remember that as he was doing the things I enjoyed, he asked me if I wanted him to come by my place every day and do those things. I told him, “No, just get this over with.”
When it was over, he asked me to give him a ride home. I cursed at him again and went to sleep.

I didn’t remember most of these things when I woke up the next morning, because I was hungover. I just thought he was another one-night-stand. And of course I told friends who weren’t at the party about it, oh, ha-ha. But then as I started remembering more things, something in my gut told me he did something that wasn’t right.

I shared it with some friends who lived elsewhere and didn’t attend the party, and when the first one said, “I don’t think you were raped,” something in me snapped. My friends told the same things Bman was saying. I shouldn’t have dressed the way I did. “Oh, I was REALLY raped, you weren’t.” I shouldn’t have been drinking. “You’re just trying to draw attention to yourself.” I should be more careful who I hang out with.

Not being believed was more painful than the rape itself. I felt like the girl who cried wolf. I was dared to report it to the police – but I was a reporter at the time and I did not want my coworkers reading my sworn affidavit. I did not want news stories in the paper I worked for on the front page, even if they kept my identity private. I did not want the public to know about me. I didn’t want to talk with police officers that I had worked with in a professional capacity. And I knew that since he and I were the only ones in the room, that my chances of winning a case were nonexistent.

It’s been five years, and I’ve healed enough to the point in which I have no shame or regret in telling my story. People need to know. And something needs to be done. And if someone tells you they think they were raped, the first thing you do is BELIEVE them. If the person is making a false accusation, it will eventually come out. Then you deal with it. And never, but NEVER, tell someone whether they were “really raped” or not. Unless it’s your body, you do not know.

“If I am a woman and I am walking down the street naked, you still don’t have the right to rape me.” ~Dick Gregory

Wordless Wednesday: My Life In Bitstrips

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Thanks to my newest Facebook addiction, Bitstrips, for allowing me to tell my story in comics.

Having it all? Pfft, whatevs.

This post is sponsored by The Style Network.

The closest I get to “Having it All” in an average week is a moment like this: When I’m having good hair for just enough minutes to snap a bathroom-selfie of said hair while wearing a seven-year-old t-shirt.

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The rest of the time, it’s quite the challenge.

I have a lot of girlfriends in the blogosphere and the real-lifeosphere who struggle every day to balance work, marriage, kids, a household and still manage to live a good life.

My situation is a bit different. I’m single, I have no kids (except one with paws and a waggly tail), I work from home, and I never have to scrub crayon markings from the wall, and I don’t have the trials of a marriage or partnership yet.

But I do still struggle with balancing a lot of things. I live with my mother, who, as I’m writing this, is undergoing dialysis treatment for Stage IV kidney failure. I try to keep the peace at home, help make sure she’s comfortable, and deal with messes, sickness and suddenly-cancelled plans because my mother needs me.

I am a caregiver – which means my life is filled with unexpected events. I have to balance that with trying to make an income to pay the bills, dealing with my own medical issues that include depression, anxiety, PTSD and, most recently, compassion fatigue. This all while properly raising my dog to be the great work companion he is.

The compassion fatigue has probably been the worst. It occurs among those who are in a position of caring for others – nurses, counselors, social workers and caregivers are all susceptible to it. And it can often cause mood swings, erratic behavior, addiction, depression and all other sorts of things. At times I feel like nothing I do is ever enough, I’m overwhelmed beyond belief, I’m trapped in a hole and there’s nothing I can do to crawl out.

I took this photo of myself on one of my worst days. I figured some day I’d share it on my blog.

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That was a tough day. My mom was in the hospital (again), I felt powerless, and I shared this photo with some of my dearest friends, who gave me words of encouragement.

In dealing with compassion fatigue, I’ve learned that I have to do a number of things to keep balanced. I have to set boundaries that allow me to have “me” time, not only to myself so I can pay my bills, but also time away from the home that I can spend with friends.

That face isn’t the only one you see when you see compassion fatigue. You also see the face of a girl who ran several blocks in the rain with a good friend to make it to the Paul McCartney concert on time.

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Or the face of someone who has just read a nice message on her phone.

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So, thanks to loved ones and boundaries, I’m able to achieve balance. I may not “have it all,” but really – who wants to? Even if you do have it all, you’re still going to find something you don’t have – like someone else’s breathing room or a private dinner with Ryan Gosling.

Season three of “Tia & Tamera” on the Style Network follows the twin sisters as they redefine their roles and tackle new ventures, from an exciting business opportunity to big projects to a baby in the family. They’re okay with not being perfect, and want you to be okay with that, too! The season premieres Sunday, July 14 on Style.

I love this video featuring Tamera dumping her giant purse out and showing all the things she has in it. See if you can identify. I know I can!

So, how about you? How do you find balance in your life?

Wordless Wednesday: Created Equal

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