Justice for the unborn

I’ve already written about my opinion that life begins at conception (and therefore I do not support abortion), and I’ve written many times about my desire for radical change in our current political system. But I also believe that justice and change can occur in small steps that may not appear to lead us closer to our primary goals. I think HB 13-1154 (Crimes Against Pregnant Women Act) is one of those small steps.

This bill would make “unlawful termination of a pregnancy” a crime. Thirty-eight other states already have fetal homicide legislation, but Colorado was not one of those states. Since abortion is legal in Colorado, and this act specifically excludes from prosecution any “medical care for which the mother provides consent” and it specifically does not confer “personhood” on an unborn child, many conservatives (including the Republicans who all voted against the act) feel the law is a failure for the personhood movement.

Listen, I understand that we all have grand goals of personhood and criminalization of abortion, but sometimes it is necessary to take a step back and think about what this law will achieve, rather than what it does not or how it might make things troublesome “down the road.” And as much as it pains me to do so, we also need to consider compromise and common ground with liberals even on a topic as emotional as this.

This law DOES give justice to so many unborn children and their families who are ripped apart by crimes leading to an innocent death. These families currently have no recourse under Colorado law to achieve justice for the deaths of their children. I cannot imagine the wrath I would inflict on anyone who tried to tell me that this kicking, squirmy little girl in my belly right now is not a person and does not deserve to have her life vindicated in the event of a crime. I don’t really care that the legislation doesn’t include personhood, because this is a law that should be on the books no matter what.

This law is also a step toward finding common ground with our liberal friends. Many pro-choice people believe that intention is a primary determinant in whether an unborn child is a person or a pregnancy. In this instance we can agree and stand together in saying that these victims of crimes deserve a voice because their mothers intended for them to live. It’s a chink in the armor that we can work with. Once you’ve discussed with a friend that they believe a mother’s intention can make the death of an unborn child a crime, then you can discuss the philosophical ramifications of having one human’s intentions determine the value of the life of another. Are they truly willing to say that it is a woman’s emotions and life circumstances rather than some ubiquitous scientific standard of the nature of life that determines whether a death is legal or illegal? If so, why should our intentions about another person’s value cease to matter upon birth? You can’t have it both ways. It is either intentions or science that determines if a life has the value to be vindicated. If it is science, then all unborn children either have full personhood or never have personhood, even in the event of a crime. Many people are reluctant to take that stance in light of a law such as HB 13-1154. But if intentions are a person’s primary guide, then you can demonstrate to them the slippery slope that creates in their support of abortion and their value of all human life.

When considering your support for bills such as these, remember to look at all angles and ramifications. Unborn children deserve justice, even if this bill doesn’t include steps toward larger goals regarding personhood.

What does homeopathic actually mean?

Today’s post is a health post rather than a political post, because I feel like health “information” is what my Facebook news feed has been cluttered with lately. More specifically, I feel like “natural” and “homeopathic” medical advice has run rampant, especially when it comes to those annoying memes from people/groups that promote “natural” living.

One of my favorites that is circulating right now gives a vast and comprehensive array of cures that can be achieved by merely eating varied quantities of honey and cinnamon. I have no idea why we are putting enormous amounts of funding into research to cure cancer, when apparently the cure is in our kitchen cabinets (and probably quite tasty). I find this viral Facebook information particularly disheartening, because honey does actually have some scientifically proven benefits (for example, reducing coughing, improving wound care, and treating diaper rash) And the pilot study information on diaper rash treatment, which isn’t even included in the Facebook meme, is awesome as far as this pregnant mama is concerned. But when we dilute true breakthrough information with unfounded gibberish, the truth is lost in the mix.

The proliferation of this type of information and my observation of the constant recommendation of homeopathic remedies when friends ask for medical advice on Facebook (smh…) led me to the conclusion that many people that I know probably don’t even know what “homeopathic” actually means.

Homeopathy was invented by Samuel Hahnemann in 1807. And like all other “natural” medical theories it is not allowed to grow and develop as our knowledge of the human body increases. This means that the fundamental belief of homeopathy is that one of the four humors (blood, phlegm, black bile, or yellow bile) is out of balance when illness occurs, and we should introduce an amount of the disease-causing agent (usually a poison) into the body to jump start the body’s fight against illness. Keep in mind, this is the time period when physicians bled or leeched patients to cure them from disease… And we all know how well that works right?

Hahnemann believed that the greater the dilution, the greater the effect on the body (because that seems logical too), and he even gave it a name: the Law of Infinitesimals. His dilutions were as great as 1 part in 1030, which is an incomprehensibly large number.  Chemically speaking, there is such a thing as a maximum possible dilution. Beyond this point, which is where Hahnemann’s dilutions reside, the substance is considered pure water (or whatever the substance was diluted in). This was a known fact in 1807, so Hahnemann posited that if the dilution was agitated enough, it would retain the “spiritual properties” of the original substance. Seriously? Are there any of you out there who genuinely believe that water retains the spiritual imprint of something? Considering that our tap water was once toilet water, I’m glad I’m not one of those believers. (…ewww…)

Today’s homeopathic medicines list their potencies from 6X to 200C or even CM, but do you know what that actually means? The X is roman numeral 10. Meaning that in a 6X “dilution” of Allium cepa (onion), there is only one part onion per 106 (1,000,000) parts water. And in a 200C dilution of copper, there is 1 part copper per 100200 parts water. That’s a 1 followed by FOUR HUNDRED (400!) zeros. [I was originally going to actually write out that number to give you some perspective, but then I thought about it, and decided I was too lazy.] So to give you some more time efficient perspective, 10040 is about the number of atoms in the UNIVERSE. So, by no stretch of the imagination, is there enough water on Earth to even produce that type of dilution (if it were even chemically possible). And I don’t even want to spend the time to explain CM (100,000C). It’s a number so big that it’s beyond illogical. Still believe you are paying for something other than water??

Here is an amusing comparison. One of the recommended treatments for the flu is 200C dilution of Oscillococcinum (or as we simple people say, duck liver). Since 40C is about the number of atoms in the universe, you would need 10320 more universes just to have one molecule of duck liver.

What a racket!! These so-called medicines aren’t cheap. And the people who buy these treatments are the same ones that complain about the cost of modern pharmaceuticals and the money pharmaceutical companies make. At least they are providing you with an actual product. Homeopathic pharmacies are selling you water and sugar pills… LITERALLY.

If you think the spiritual essence of duck liver is going to cure your flu, go right ahead and waste your money. But please don’t rely on homeopathic medicine for your or your children’s serious illnesses. Seek out scientifically proven treatments and encourage the scientific community to thoroughly explore all potential treatments (like honey) so that we can gain a better understanding of the real benefits of home remedies.

Technology and guns are baaaaad

Why do so many Americans feel the need to be “extreme” is some aspect of their lives these days? I just finished reading a Sunset magazine article about a family of “unpluggers” – people who remove almost all “technology” from their homes. I put the word technology in quotes, because it is often a bizarre array of items that is excluded or included in the home. In this particular article, the author describes the family’s kitchen as “basic” (trying to promote the idea that having no technology equals simple living), however I can see in the photo that their kitchen includes stainless steel appliances, a very high-end gas stove, granite countertops, etc. This is not basic. This is extravagant compared to most of America. (If you want to see a picture of what “basic” looks like, I could provide that for you, but mine is a little dirty right now….) But since none of the appliances include LCD screens, they deem them as basic. In the photo montage of the home, they also show “other low tech furniture” including a lamp that belonged to the woman’s grandmother. Aside from the stupidity of the phrase “low tech furniture,” I’m pretty sure 50-year-old lamps use the same electricity as 2-year-old lamps. Now, an oil lamp is low tech. This family also uses a rotary dial phone. Ha! What?! Not just a land line or corded phone, but a rotary dial one? Sorry, but that screams hipster to me, not basic. They are also quite proud of their use of only analog clocks, rare use of computers (and mostly while hiding the use from the kids), and no TVs.

I’m not trying to bash these things – maybe make fun of them a little – but not bash them. My point is that they are trying so hard to be cool and Luddite-cutting-edge and extreme that they (and the Sunset authors) don’t seem to see how foolish they look. Technology can either be a help or a hindrance. But when you eliminate it completely from your family’s lives, it can be neither. They’re throwing out the baby with the bath water.

Personally, I think my son has been given an incredible gift by being born in this time period. He has access to knowledge and skills that I couldn’t even fathom as a child. I am also a supporter of the research that advocates that it is the content of media, not the media itself, which can have a negative affect on children.

Technology is not inherently bad. It is how you chose to use or abuse it that creates the positive or negative effect on our lives. Like most other kids born around 2010, my son can efficiently navigate our Kindle Fire to play puzzles and alphabet games, read books, and watch some of his favorite shows. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. We have some limitations on usage (probably fewer limitation than many families) and a lot of limitations on content. In my opinion, we use technology with him appropriately. It’s not the downfall of our existence. We eat dinners together as a family; we play puzzles, games, and instruments together; we read constantly; we play outside almost every day – all the same things the “unplugged” family does and probably in nearly the same amounts.

My point is that I’m the human. I’m the one that chooses how to use the tool. It doesn’t control me, because I make a purposeful choice to be the one in control. So I don’t run away screaming from television, that doesn’t teach my son anything other than fear of the unknown. I teach him that there is a correct and incorrect use of television and many other tools.

I think this same lesson applies to many other aspects of today’s culture where people feel the need to run away and hide rather than stand up and take the control that is our birthright as self-aware humans. I think the most obvious example is gun control. It is our responsibility to behave appropriately regarding such a powerful tool, but the tool doesn’t have to be erased from our lives for us to function. There are compromises that need to be made and rules that need to be enforced, but absolute removal of weapons will not solve the problem, which is a lack of responsible ownership.

I could go on about this forever and attempt to spell out my perfect world scenario, but I won’t, because there are already too many cooks in that kitchen. I just want you to think about what the real roots of the problems in our country are. It’s not the items we possess; it is the way in which we own them.

Calorie counts on menus: Good or bad?

Soon (a deadline has not been set yet) restaurant chains (not just fast food) will be required to post calorie counts on their menus. The public health side of me is thrilled with this. I believe in giving people the power, information, and education to make their own wise choices. The libertarian side of me dislikes forcing private entities to do anything they don’t want to do. But let’s be realistic. We “force” restaurants to follow health codes, building codes, etc. all the time, because those regulations are in the best interest of the American people. We do this because customers don’t have the power to go back into the kitchens and up into the attics of these restaurants to assure their quality before dining there.

I think the same concept should apply to calorie count requirements. I don’t get to go back into the kitchen to see if a recipe uses butter or lard rather than olive oil to sauté the veggies. I could ask about each ingredient, but it’s unlikely I will get very useful answers, and I would probably have a pretty annoyed server by the end of the conversation. I’m not given the power or information to make an educated decision. But a calorie count could bridge that gap. A calorie count is a sufficient summary of the nutritional information regarding a menu item.

I’m sure there are plenty of fellow libertarians out there who are revolting against this regulation simply because it’s another regulation, another restriction on private enterprise. But, please, hear me out. We do have to make compromises for our country to move forward. Not all legislation is good, but not all legislation is bad either. Some legislation increases public safety. Some decreases discrimination. And some increases the power of the people. (Yeah, that last one is pretty rare.) I believe this aspect of the Affordable Care Act of 2010 will increase the power of the people without being a detriment to restaurants.

Of course, there are other discussion points regarding calorie counts, such as the accuracy of such counts and whether or not the average American will change their behavior based on such information, but in its basic form, I believe the concept of requiring chain restaurants to provide calorie information is a sound investment in the health of Americans. It forces us to eat our food with our eyes wide open, and it give us the opportunity to educate our children in one way we inform our food choices.

So don’t fight a regulation simply because it’s a regulation. Dissect its purpose and its positive and negative effects, then decide if it’s worthy of your support, even if it seems to go against your usual opinions.

Forcing the flu vaccine?

Over Christmas, I announced to my family and friends that my husband and I are expecting Baby Jewell #2 in July. I haven’t written much in the past several weeks, mostly because of this little peanut and the toll he/she is taking on me. It’s been a lovely 1st trimester, filled with exhaustion, nausea, and sleeplessness. And lucky for me, looking at a computer screen tends to take the nausea to a whole new and exciting level. Yay for me! So I’m going to try to tough it out for a short post… Here we go!

Let’s start with a basic scenario. You have a surgeon who refuses to scrub before surgeries and wear gloves during surgeries. He thinks the soap contains harmful chemicals and the gloves reduce his tactile sense and ability to perform delicate surgical procedures. (Yeah, I know: How did he get through med school and residency?? It’s a hypothetical situation people. Let’s stretch our imaginations.) So, we know through years of evidence that soap and the use of sterile gloves reduces the likelihood that a person having surgery will end up with infection-related complications. So for the benefit of the patients, a hospital would either force the physician to comply with standard procedures or be terminated. You agree with those choices right? You surely don’t want a physician without sterile hands operating on you. And why on earth would you want a physician’s personal opinions based on feelings and preferences to affect your physical health? You wouldn’t. You go a hospital to get the best care possible in a country where cutting-edge medical breakthroughs are commonly introduced into everyday practice.

So why is there an “uproar” about requiring hospital employees to either receive a flu vaccination or wear a mask during flu season? The flu is deadly, killing between 3,000 and 49,000 people each year. And who is it mostly likely to kill? The young, the old, and the sick (i.e. those is hospitals). I’ve already explained the concept of herd immunity in a previous post, and that information holds true in this scenario as well. Many people in hospitals are unable to receive vaccinations due to their current health, and it is vital that they are protected by a “barrier” of vaccinated individuals to reduce the likelihood of contracting certain illnesses.

Some people complain about the “guesswork” that goes into predicting the next year’s flu vaccine. Guesswork is what I do when I decide whether or not I should double a recipe when I cook for friends. What vaccine developers do is far beyond guesswork. Each year’s vaccine is very well matched to the strains that dominate the season. And even if you aren’t lucky enough to get infected with a strain in the vaccine, you are still likely to have some degree of cross-protection against related strains.

Who cares about the scientific evidence, you say. What about personal rights?? Well, just like the surgeon in my ridiculous scenario, these people chose to work in a hospital. And hospitals, just like most other jobs out there, have requirements to which its employees must adhere. A hospital exists to help the sick get well. It can’t attempt to achieve that goal without taking every step necessary to increase the likelihood of that outcome. These hospitals have even given employees an alternative to the vaccine, but, boohoo, it’s uncomfortable and “stigmatizing.” There probably really are surgeons out there who detest the constrictive nature of surgical gloves, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have to wear them. They serve a vital purpose, just as the face mask does on someone who may be carrying the flu virus.

Here’s my bottom line – most of the news articles about this issue focus on the “victims” – those who refused the vaccine and got fired. I want you to focus on the real victims – the child undergoing chemotherapy who had a nurse carrying the flu, the elderly man who has undergone a hip replacement and worked with a physical therapist carrying the flu, or the 4 month old baby who went into the doctor’s office for a well baby visit and left with the flu virus. Those are the weak. Those are the ones who need a voice. Those are the ones we protect. Those are the ones that have no choice. The hospital employees have THREE choices: vaccinate, mask-up, or resign. They aren’t forced into anything. The hospital patients are.

How to be a survivor

I’m really not sure how to start this post. This past Friday, my original plan was to write about why my posts are less frequent around holidays, and explain why I feel my time is better spent with my family rather than on writing. I never wrote that post because my day got off to a rough start with a broken garage door, and I felt like doing nothing but complaining. Then I turned on the news….

This is the first school shooting with an incredibly high death toll that has occurred since my son Silas was born. I was in high school when the Columbine shooting occurred, and I remember viewing this type of event through the eyes of a peer. These were boys my own age who killed their fellow students. In the major shootings that have occurred since then, I’ve viewed the events through the eyes of someone with an education in psychology and public health – grieving with the rest of the country at the tragedy of such an event, but never fully comprehending the pain of the families left behind.

This time around is different. I’m the mother of a two-year-old boy who was at his weekly half-day playschool class when the shooting occurred. The mere thought of being one of those parents who frantically searched for their first-grader after receiving text alerts that there had been a shooting at the school and not being able to find my child among the dozens of scared but alive children sends me into panic. The thought of a life cut short, of the potential of each of those children that will never be realized, the love and happiness that they will no longer get to share with their families… I can’t stop crying just trying to imagine what the parents must be going through. I pray to God that I never know that kind of pain.

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Lots of people are using this tragedy as a platform for their own “pet” issues. So, I figure I could talk about the tragic state of mental health services in the US. But there are plenty of other people who’ve covered that ground already. So, instead maybe I could talk about gun laws, because we all know that they are the root of this school shooting problem, right? Kids and young adults with mental and emotional health problems will certainly avoid murder and mayhem if guns are more difficult to obtain. But in truth this is not a gun control issue any more than 9/11 was an airplane issue. I want to talk about something useful, rather than ranting about politics and legislation.

When we look at an event like this, we don’t usually see an avenue where we personally could have had the power to change the outcome. It is rare that we are given the position and opportunity to change the course of events when we are faced with a life or death situation. Most of us won’t ever have the power to spot a troubled child and ensure they receive proper treatment, or intuitively know to avoid the movie theater because we just have a “bad feeling” about going. And we will never be able to completely avoid the wrath Mother Nature inflicts on all parts of our country in the form of hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, etc. We feel powerless… helpless… at the mercy of the perpetrator.

The only thing we truly have the power to change is ourselves. So, rather than talking about how I want the world around me to change, I want to share with you the ways I have found to change and empower myself.

My interest in emergency preparedness has led me to read many helpful books over the years, but few have had the longstanding impact that The Unthinkable: Who survives when disaster strikes – and why has had on my understanding of disasters. And school shootings are most certainly disasters as well.

This book is written by a journalist, which usually makes me cringe and seriously doubt if it is worth my time to read, but in this case it is extremely well researched and written. It not only gives intriguing case studies, which satisfy my voyeuristic desire to see inside the scene of a disaster, but it also gives very useful information about our psychological responses when faced with impending doom.

The Unthinkable helps you determine how you might respond during a disaster, and if the outlook is grim for your disaster personality type, the author offers plenty of advice for increasing your survival odds. In many cases it boils down to planning and remaining aware of your situation and responding appropriately. For example, when you fly, you really should count the rows between you and the nearest exit. In a hotel, you should pay attention to the evacuation plan on the back of the door to your room. The people who do things like this tend to survive disasters. And it is healthy and useful to let your mind wander through deadly scenarios that could happen to you at the mall or school or work. In the event of a disaster, your brain will search for useful applicable information. Your daydream about hiding behind the employee’s counter at Macy’s and then running for the emergency exit near the elevator could very well save your life while those around you stand catatonic with fear.

That’s a realistic statement, by the way. Most people will become catatonic and wander aimlessly rather than panic or behave appropriately during a disaster. It’s not like in the movies. There is usually very little screaming and running. It’s important to be mindful of that when planning how your family might react during a disaster. Your plan may be to grab your youngest child and run for the exit while telling your older child to follow, but if your older child is catatonic and fails to response to your command to run, your plan will fail.

It is also important to empower yourself and your family members with the knowledge that they can influence the outcome of a disaster. You are not powerless. You can control your destiny. When you believe in your own power and abilities, you are much more likely to survive a disaster.

So, don’t just talk to your kids about the tragedies that occur around us, talk about what we can do as individuals to control our destinies and react appropriately when tragedy strikes. Have fire drills at home. Role play responses to strangers/kidnappers. And of course, do these things on an age appropriate level. Our kids are capable of understanding more than we give them credit for, and we can’t always be there to protect them ourselves. Read The Unthinkable and pass along that knowledge to your kids in a way that is suitable to their age and ability. Don’t become overwhelmed by the horrible things in the world that we cannot change. Empower yourself to change the things you can.

Consistency is the key

Let’s talk about consistency. Lack of consistency bothers me almost as much as injustice. I supposed I can blame both of these pet peeves on my INTJ personality type. Things like that just drive me up the wall.

Recently, my annoyance at lack of consistency has been aimed at voters in Colorado. Here we are celebrating the 79th anniversary of the repeal of prohibition and ringing in the new year with the legalization and regulation of marijuana, and in the very same week the Boulder City Council, with virtually no opposition, plans to ban smoking on Pearl Street, an outdoor pedestrian mall.

What?!

The same voters that wanted to legalize marijuana (Boulder is an epicenter for all things pot related) also want to completely disallow cigarette smoking OUTDOORS in a certain area. This blows my mind.

I don’t care if you want marijuana legalized or not. I just want people to acknowledge this ridiculous inconsistency and think about why they hold such contradicting views.  If you support the legalization of alcohol and/or marijuana, and you also support the outlawing of smoking in outdoor public locations, how do you rationalize that? I don’t want to hear the “bad for my health” argument. I know the risks of second-hand smoke. And I know a drunk or high driver will kill you in a heartbeat and smoke will not. One can be instantly life-altering and deadly. The other is not the best exposure to a carcinogenic substance, but unless you live with a smoker (which this law doesn’t affect) you won’t die of cancer.

Cracking down on smoking has become a snooty, holier-than-thou pet cause for entirely too many people. Legalizing marijuana has become a too-cool-for-school pet cause as well.

You can’t have it both ways people. You can’t just follow the popular causes. You have to think about why you believe a law or regulation should be changed; you can’t just go with what feels good and will make you seem like an in-touch person. Exercise your rationality. Stretch your thought process beyond following the opinions of those around you. I promise you’ll feel more confident about the things you support.