Hello my dear friends -
Before this hideous election that we all want to be over is actually over, there are some things I feel compelled to clear up with people who have known me since I was young.
I waited so long to publish this because 1) it took me forever to write, 2) it's extremely personal and in parts very embarrassing and I went back and forth about it and had to clear some content with a few other people, and 3) since we're only two days before the election, I'm not trying to change anyone's vote (most people I know (on all sides of the political spectrum) have already voted anyway), but rather just have peace of mind by publicly stating where I stand—and more importantly, why.
This post is LONG, and so I have condensed the first few sections into an "executive summary" of sorts, with all of the supporting sections down below (beginning with the heading THE EXTENDED VERSION: BABIES, GUNS, CANCER AND POOP).
I don't expect anyone at all to read this entire thing, I just had to do it for myself. (Plus, anyone who used to read my LOST blog knows I've never exactly been short on words.)
So here we go. Here's what I wanted to get out in the open: the cold hard truth is that Donald Trump has played a huge role in determining the direction of my career, and therefore my life. It began, I believe, with my first visit to New York in 1986. My aunt lived in Manhattan, and we visited her during the Statue of Liberty's Bicentennial Celebration in 1986, as pictured below.
I loved everything about New York City. And at some point during that trip, we must have gone into or past Trump Tower, and then I'm sure either my aunt or my parents told me about Donald Trump as a result.
The next year his best-selling book, The Art of the Deal,* was published, and I sought it out. I was 13 years old. (No one ever said I wasn't a nerd from the beginning.) So yeah, I was into Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, Madonna, WWF Wrestling (yep, really) ... and Donald Trump. I was very proud of the fact I'd read his book and bragged about it all the time.
Because of Trump I joined business-related clubs in high school and got an undergraduate business degree from Michigan Business School (which is now called Ross). I was never into politics and I don't think I ever even heard the terms "conservative" or "liberal" back then. But now that I know what they mean, I understand that where I grew up in Michigan is fairly conservative and homogenous, whereas the University of Michigan and the town it's in (Ann Arbor) are very, very liberal and diverse.
But I did not really open myself up to new ways of thinking and new experiences while at Michigan. I'd say if anything I was privately intimidated and overwhelmed and retreated further into a more conservative mindset (again, not really being conscious of that label at the time). My freshman year this guy named Bill Clinton was running for president. I remember my roommate and I going to watch his speech. Bill had laryngitis or something, and while he did give a short speech (as pictured below), Hillary talked more (prescient). I don't remember having strong feelings either way, but I know that I did not vote for him.
Fast-forward seven years, and I was in the thick of the dot.com boom, traveling across the country and literally around the world (10 countries, 5 continents back to back) doing consumer research for an internet consulting gig. It was that project that took me back to New York, where I of course had to make my pilgrimage to Trump Tower. Yes, that is me bowing down to a poster of Donald Trump in 2000. I still loved him and considered him a role model.
Around this same time I applied to Harvard Business School and was accepted, just as the dot.com boom went bust. Getting an MBA was always part of my "life plan" because of Trump. But just now—as in, five minutes ago while writing this post and researching things to make sure I'm accurate—I learned that Trump does not actually have an MBA?!?! My whole life is a LIE!!!!!
No, I kid. I will never regret my degrees, although I needed tens of thousands of dollars in student loans. (And despite this, I do not think college should be free. Sorry, Bernie bros.) But back to Trump: he was in the undergraduate business program at Wharton (similar to what I was in at Michigan) after transferring there as a junior from Fordham. He concentrated in real estate. I had always just assumed he had an MBA because that's what the Wharton school is best known for and he doesn't make it very clear when he brings it up (which is a lot). And so there's the first mention of what will soon become the overriding theme of this post: I have made assumptions and been wrong about a hell of a lot of things in my life.
I graduated from business school, got married and moved back to Chicago in the last half of 2003. A few months later, a call came from my dad that I still remember to this day. "Have you heard of this show with Donald Trump in it? You really need to watch it."
Ah yes, the first season of The Apprentice began in January 2004. I was looking for a reason to get together with some of my MBA classmates who were also in Chicago, and I'd found it. I began hosting weekly Apprentice viewings at my place. We had a blast. It was the perfect show for recent business-school graduates to geek out over. But when the first season ended, we were at a loss. Now what? Hmm, there was a show called LOST that was starting up in September. We kept our weekly get-togethers and switched to watching LOST... and I think you already know the rest of that story.
That same year in October, Trump visited Chicago to break ground on what would become the Trump International Hotel and Tower, which Bill Rancic (winner of The Apprentice Season 1) was supposed to oversee. So of course I went. I got to see Donald in the flesh! I remember taking some awesome pictures of his hair flying in the wind, but I can't find them. This was before digital cameras or smart phones, people!
A few days after Trump's Chicago visit, my husband and I went as Donald and his ever-patient Apprentice associate Carolyn for Halloween.
My friends and I watched Season 2 of The Apprentice ... and then I actually tried out for Season 3.
I stood in line for about 9 hours outside of the NBC building in Chicago—there I am with some of my linemates and Bill Rancic, who came to greet wannabe contestants. I brought the picture of me bowing down to the Trump poster along with my application. When we actually got into the tryout room, the question we had to debate as a small group was whether or not someone who's applying for a job should let the employer know if they're pregnant. It was clear they were looking for people who would say controversial things; those were the ones who moved on. I was not one of those people. (And of course now we all know that Trump has publicly said that pregnancy is "wonderful... but an inconvenience for a business.")
I grew weary of The Apprentice after Season 3 and was done with it. I was initially interested in The Celebrity Apprentice, but never actually ended up watching it. I had other things keeping me busy by that time (around 2008).
So now that you have all of that background, there are a few last things I want to mention before I get into some very personal stories that explain why I now feel the way I do about certain topics that are relevant to this week's election.
- I get disturbed when I sense that people are treating politics like sports. Our elected officials WORK FOR US and are supposed to represent us to the rest of the nation and the world at large. This is not like, say, remaining a Cubs fan for decades out of some sort of loyalty and hope that they may one day win the World Series. (YESSSSSSSS.) If your party or candidate has drifted away from your stance on issues or has promoted someone up through the ranks that you don't think is qualified for the responsibility of their office, you shouldn't vote for them. End of story. Period. For that reason I do not understand party loyalty, and for that same reason I have actually voted for independent/third-party candidates in two past presidential elections. I voted for the person I thought would do the best job handling the issues I care about.
- Which leads to the fact that no politician exists who has ever represented how I feel about ALL issues. So it comes down to prioritizing what I care about most, and keeping in mind what the president's role is (vs. members of Congress, the Senate, and other state and local representatives).
- If there is one label I would be OK with for myself, it's "realist." Reality is what I always try to come back to. What is actually happening, what is fact (versus ALL of the rumors and opinions out there), what I know to be true from my own experiences and the experiences of those I love, and what things are beyond the control of any of our politicians (such as the global economy, which affects our economy).
Here's my message to Trump now:
* We know now that Trump did not actually write The Art of the Deal. His ghostwriter, Tony Schwartz, recently gave an extraordinarily enlightening interview about what he observed during the 18 months he spent by Trump's side in order to write the book. You should read it.
What, you want more? Happy to oblige.
My husband and I tried everything under the sun to have a child between 2007 and 2011, when I became pregnant with Desmond using IVF and an anonymous donor's egg. From 2013 to mid-2015 we went through more rounds of IVF unsuccessfully and then began the adoption process to finally bring our Summer home.
During that entire time—7.5 years in total—I was very open about our struggles, and as a result heard heartbreaking stories from countless other women and men who had endured similar situations.
I had multiple miscarriages both before and after we saw a heartbeat. Because I was so high-risk, each time I did get pregnant my doctor would perform an ultrasound every single week, sometimes twice within a week. (For comparison: during a normal pregnancy, women get two to three ultrasounds TOTAL over 40 weeks.) When you try that desperately and that long to have a child, it is hard to imagine how someone who's pregnant could not want a baby.
I made many judgments and had many ideas stuck in my head about women who have gotten abortions. But after being schooled on every angle of reproductive rights and procedures and adoption and abortion, I now realize how ignorant my earlier biases were. Some people assume that because I've adopted that I MUST be pro-life. But what I know now is that term is just pure marketing fluff (coming from someone with two degrees in marketing). It is a fallacy. The pro-life/pro-choice debate is one of the most unfortunate and misguided battles of all time.
What SHOULD it mean to be "pro-life"? I was all worked up to write about this... and then I saw that someone already did. Someone who's not very similar to me, background-wise—hard-core Christian, masters degree in Special Education with a specialty in Autism and Learning Disabilities, six kids (four adopted and of different races)—somehow still encapsulated all of the things I wanted to say in this (long but incredibly thorough and inspiring) post. This woman has done her homework.
There are two things I'll add from my own experience:
1) After about thirty hours of adoption training and two years of meeting directly with adoption counselors and adoption lawmakers who've seen everything, I have learned more than I ever wanted to know about a whole other world right here in America that I never knew existed. A world where people are born into abuse, rape, neglect, addiction, hopelessness, and a cruel cycle of poverty. The multiple birth mothers (and birth fathers) we met during our adoption process had absolutely tragic life stories. I know now that the reality is if some women are pregnant they'll be beaten, or lose their low-paying manual-labor jobs that their families depend on, or be kicked out of their house and become homeless. They will become desperate.
2) I have two different lifelong friends and four other acquaintances who had to end very much wanted pregnancies after 20 weeks because their babies had developmental problems that would have caused them to die either in the womb or right after birth. Their gut-wrenching, life-changing and utterly heartbreaking stories are not my stories to tell. But their experiences are one of the main reasons I decided to write this post overall. After the third presidential debate, I witnessed several discussions on Facebook related to Trump's totally false claim about babies being "ripped out of the womb" at nine months. (Which, I hope you know, doesn't happen in the United States. Ever. This is one of hundreds of things Trump just made up and says for shock value.)
The people I saw posting on Facebook about "who in the world would get an abortion after 20 weeks?" are people I know and they're good people. But because of what my friends went through with their pregnancy losses, I truly wanted to jump through my laptop screen and choke those commenters. About 10 seconds later, I did a 180 and felt a really weird sense of happiness. And it's because I realized that if they had no clue about why someone would end a pregnancy after 20 weeks, it meant that they themselves nor anyone they're close to has ever had to experience that awful situation.
My goal here is not to educate anyone (but if you'd like to learn a little more, I love and recommend Dr. Jen Gunter's work) but rather challenge people to consider that they may not know everything. Just like I didn't. Hardly anyone (as in, .3% of all abortions) ends a pregnancy after 20 weeks because they no longer want the baby. Something has gone drastically wrong.
My own experiences and the experiences of my friends made me certain of one thing: no politician should be determining what a woman does with her body. Nothing enrages me more than hearing another story about some old ignorant dude trying to pass laws that hurt women's reproductive rights, especially when it seems like the majority of these politicians can't even answer basic questions about women's menstrual cycles, conception, how birth control works or pregnancy.
smoking does not kill people (please tell that to my two grandparents who died of lung cancer and emphysema), does not believe in climate change (please explain that to the researchers I spent time with in Antarctica), and infamously signed and defended Indiana's LGBT discrimination law under the guise of religious freedom. I mean seriously, this guy is the worst. And Trump picked him precisely for that reason—he wanted the most extreme running mate possible to play to his base.
So what did I mean about neither of my kids existing if Pence had his way?
With Desmond, I'm talking about Pence co-sponsoring the Personhood bill (H.R. 374, "Life at Conception Act"), which would give a microscopic fertilized egg full protection as a human being. Such a law would signal the beginning of the end of reproductive rights. Fertility procedures such as IVF would likely be banned. Our Desmond (and 5 million other IVF babies around the world, many of whom I'm sure you know) would not be here. (It didn't pass.)
With Summer, I'm talking about Pence's relentless crusade to defund Planned Parenthood because 3% of its offerings cover reproductive services, including abortion. Pence didn't care about the other 97%. I urge you to read this Chicago Tribune article about what has since happened in Indiana thanks to Pence. I saw this tragedy with my own eyes last year (we adopted Summer from Indiana). If Pence had succeeded in defunding Planned Parenthood when he originally wanted to, I don't think Summer would be here because I don't think her birth mother would've been alive to have had her.
I wish no one ever had to have an abortion. I wish all children who are born would be loved and cared for and given what they need to reach their full potential. But right now that is not reality.
It is very, very easy for some people to throw Bible verses around when it comes to heated and emotional issues like this. But if you truly consider yourself pro-life in this way (same link as earlier) and you want to actually do something to help, donate time or money to organizations that assist low-income women. Financial instability is a top reason for both abortion and placing a child for adoption.
Or you could look into adopting, fostering or mentoring one of the 415,000+ foster children currently awaiting placement in the United States.
One last word for anyone reading this who considers him or herself to be religious and has seen posts about how all of Trump's horrible, completely un-Christian behavior should be overlooked because the Supreme Court is at stake and there's a chance to overturn Roe vs. Wade: as I mentioned waaaay back near the beginning of this post, you do know that the Supreme Court justices that decided Roe vs. Wade in the first place were conservative, right? This Christian journalist recaps it for us.
P.S. I can't believe it is 2016 and this is still a major campaign issue. Smaller government could start with getting out of people's bedrooms and doctor's offices.
A similar scenario came close to unfolding another time. I was on the bus in Chicago and was reading a magazine article over someone's shoulder. It was about how parents of shooting victims had to identify their kids' remains by dental records. I ran off the bus and put my head between my knees and felt sick the rest of the night. The image that was conjured up in my head by that article still haunts me.
That happened in 1999. It was a cover story about the Columbine shooting.
Right after that tragedy, I took my work trip to 10 countries around the world for the consulting project that I mentioned earlier. I was asked the exact same question by clients at every stop: "Why do Americans love guns so much?"
It is 16.5 years later and I still don't know the answer, and things have of course only gotten far worse. In 1996, 16 children were killed by a gunman in Scotland. The very next year the UK enacted drastically tougher gun laws. A few weeks after the Scotland massacre, a gunman killed 35 people and wounded 24 in Australia. TWELVE DAYS LATER the Australian government passed the National Firearms Agreement to tighten gun laws.
Let that sink in. As a nation who claims to care about its children and "family values" and all of that, we are totally pathetic on the gun violence front.
I was terrified of gun violence before I had kids. I became nearly paralyzed by fear after Sandy Hook, which happened when my son was 11 months old. One week when he was 3, his pre-k teacher sent her usual e-newsletter and I nearly vomited after reading that "the kiddies did a great job crawling on their bellies" during a lockdown drill. WHAT? At work, my husband was trained on what to do during an active shooter situation. Did your school prepare you for active gunmen scenarios when you were growing up? Did any of your employers offer training like this more than, say, ten years ago?
We as a country have totally failed when it comes to gun safety and gun violence. It is a disgrace. And let me be clear: I am from a state where hunting is a big thing, many of my relatives hunt and have guns, and some of the country's biggest employers in my home state gave people the first day of hunting season off work as a holiday. (This is true.) I'm not against guns, but I am certainly not for keeping the status quo.
Neither was Trump, at one point. In his 2000 book "The America We Deserve" (the one in the poster I was bowing to), he criticizes Republicans who "walk the NRA line and are against even limited restrictions." He wants to ban assault weapons and increase gun-purchase waiting times. You can read it yourself here.
But then despite all of his big talk about being an outsider who can shake things up and someone who's just going to do what he wants and not be beholden to anyone or any organization, Trump joins forces with the NRA—one of the biggest and most powerful lobbying groups in the country—which has since endorsed him, given his campaign millions of dollars and is running ridiculous (and, again, totally untruthful) ads on his behalf across the nation talking about Hillary wanting to take everyone's guns away and leave people defenseless.
That is the textbook definition of a flip-flopper, a hypocrite, and a sell-out. And let's remember that the exact same claims were made about Obama "taking guns away." Yet here we are eight years later with even more guns floating around, a quarter of a million more people dead and hundreds of thousands more injured, and not bit of national progress on gun safety.
Shortly after Sandy Hook I went to my first meeting with a local chapter of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, founded by President Reagan's White House Press Secretary and Assistant to the President (Jim Brady) and his wife Sarah (now both deceased). I was shocked to find that several people there were gun owners. But they were there for the same reasons I was: they were sick of nothing being done. They were not threatened by the group's efforts to expand background checks or close gun-show loopholes or target the small number of gun dealers who supply the majority of guns used in crimes. They were like, "Yeah, duh." They were looking for advice on how to talk to fellow gun owners and separate fact from all of the rumors out there about politicians wanting to "take away" their guns (which no one has actually ever said, ever). They were not fans of the NRA. But incredibly, the NRA was not even brought up by anyone at Brady. That's not their focus.
I won't go on and on about this organization because you can read more about it yourself here. What I will say is that I have met and talked with all of its leadership team and have been thoroughly impressed. They have very clear, realistic goals and are succeeding in making positive changes, even if you don't hear about their efforts on the news.
So after all of these horrible mass shootings that have taken place in just about every public place you can imagine (malls, schools, churches, movie theaters), after personally meeting the wife and sister of a policeman shot and killed in the line of duty, after learning about a friend's ex-co-worker who was shot and killed by a stalker, after knowing those who've lost siblings and children to gun suicides, and after consoling a close friend over the loss of her former co-worker and friend, a beautiful woman, who—along with her two-year-old son and six-year-old daughter—was shot and killed earlier this year by her husband after he went on pro-gun, anti-Obama, anti-Planned Parenthood, anti-ISIS and anti-immigration rants online, I have had enough.
If Trump actually did what he said Republicans should do in his 2000 book and stood up to the NRA, I might've had a little bit of respect for him. But once again, he's just all talk.
Like all of the stories I'm sharing in this post, I could write a full-length book about this experience alone. But what I think is most important for other people to know is that we were screwed. My brother did not have health insurance and was diagnosed with cancer, so now he had the worst of all "pre-existing conditions" and no one was going to cover him. His future wife (who is one smart cookie with a degree from the top public health school in the world) and I (also not a dumb person) joined forces to figure out what to do in order to get him treatment. I had an incredible boss at the time who let me work remotely for two weeks (if you're reading this, MK, thank you once again).
The bottom line is something I think everyone can actually agree on (what?!?): our healthcare and insurance industries need to be redesigned from the bottom up (and there are many amazing firms working on that right now). But the answer in the meantime is to not to force millions to give up insurance by doing away with the ACA. Obamacare is a freaking mess and constant and continual tweaks are needed, but: 1) I'm glad it exists so that no one else's family has to go through what mine did, 2) don't blame Obamacare (or Obama) for underlying problems with the industry that have been building up for decades, and 3) Republicans have tried to repeal Obamacare 60 times (and counting) but I haven't heard anyone offering up any better solutions... ?
BEWARE YOUR SOURCES (OR, THAT TIME I SENT POOP IN THE MAIL)
Admit it: you didn't read any of my heartfelt missive above and skipped straight here to the poop section, didn't you?
That's fine. I get it. I won't disappoint.
I am sharing this story with you to prove how easy it is for well-meaning and intelligent people to fall down the rabbit hole that is Information On The Internet.
Several years back I had a health scare. I looked up information about it on the internet. I found tons of articles about a screening procedure that would predict if you were going to get this possibly deadly diagnosis that I was convinced I had. I found even more articles about changes you could make to your diet and supplements you could take that would help you reverse what was happening in your body to cause this condition.
And so I spent over $600 on that screening test and probably $1000 more on getting my entire DNA report downloaded and meeting with a dietician who helped me interpret it and suggested a phased plan of how I should change my eating habits and what vitamins I should be taking.
I did all of it. I completely changed my diet and was miserable. I peed on a stick multiple times per day to check certain levels in my urine. I bought hundreds of dollars in supplements. I paid for a critical $400 test she recommended that would analyze my bowel movements and tell me what else might be wrong with me and what I could do about it.
So yes. YES. I pooped into what looked like a french fry container, sealed it up as instructed, and sent it off to a lab across the country.
The next day, the results came in from my other screening test, and they were bad. I was developing the condition but it probably wouldn't show up on any "western medicine" tests or scans for decades. I FREAKED OUT. I called my doctor within minutes of opening the test results. I got in to see her right away. She had never heard of what I was talking about but her good friend from med school was a specialist in my area of concern. She got me an appointment with her a few days later.
Then I saw the specialist. She tried to explain why the screening test I did was not something she could consider valid or even worth looking at. How no clinical trials had been done on it; it wasn't proven. She tried to console me by telling me her own story of listening to an informercial on a rare condition while driving to work and then becoming convinced she had it.
I pleaded with her that I was an educated person and had done my research. I dissolved into a sobbing mess. They had a counselor come take me to another room and try to talk me down. I was ashamed; I was in a place where people were getting really, really bad news. And here I was taking up this counselor's time about something a leading specialist wouldn't even acknowledge. But I didn't feel any better.
The turning point came after I had driven myself and my husband crazy after another week or so of digging around on the internet. I still hadn't heard from the place I sent the poo into. I dug out my copy of the shipping label and typed the name of the lab into Google.
The lab had recently been raided by the DEA for growing pot.
I showed the article to my husband. He said, "I can just imagine a bunch of stoners sitting around when your sample came in and saying, 'Duuuudddeeeee, yesssss..... we got some more poop!'"
It was the first time I'd cracked a smile in a month. He was right. They probably used my sample as fertilizer for their weed.
Then I found message boards with people complaining about the lab and how they'd been scammed into the tests and the supplements and the procedures. There were some heartbreaking stories on there from parents who had bought into it because their kids were sick. They'd gone bankrupt thinking that these "specialists" and labs and supplements would give them the hope that legitimate, trained, actual REAL doctors couldn't.
And then I came across Dr. Jen Gunter's blog (I mentioned Gunter in the Babies section because of her articles attempting to dispel inaccuracies about late-term abortions). She's an OB in Canada, writes about a whole host of women's health issues, and is very active on Twitter. She had a post from years ago about the very screening procedure I'd done, and she explained why it was bogus. (Oh, and the place I had the screening procedure done closed up shop two months later.)
I was equal parts enraged at myself, ashamed and relieved. I was always the FIRST person to tell people not to put any faith in forwarded emails (remember when that was a thing?) and not to believe what they read online. I did not take my own advice, and I learned an embarrassing lesson.
And that's why I'm especially horrified by how many U.S. citizens seem to be both seeking out and basing their votes on completely made up information they find online or the opinions of political pundits and others that have a clear agenda. I know what it feels like to believe what you are reading is factual, especially when it's something you already think is true.
How can you know what's real?
- If you see it going around on Facebook, Twitter or another social media platform, it's probably fake. I almost included a Trump quote in this post that's been circulating heavily until I checked Snopes.com and found it wasn't something he ever said. Snopes and Politifact are my go-to sites when it comes to separating fact, rumor and fiction.
- If you're primarily getting your information from cable news, you might want to take a breather. Stations like Fox News, MSNBC and CNN have notorious and obvious biases and it's easy to confuse pundits and "talking heads" with actual news anchors. Opinions are not facts.
- If a site you're reading has charged political words or terms in its URL... that should be a clue.
- If an article you're reading has no author, has information that you haven't heard anywhere else and is littered with ads, it's almost definitely NOT a trustworthy source.
My firstborn's middle name is in honor of a (fictional) conspiracy theorist, so I understand the allure of rumors and speculation and going against the mainstream. If you just want to validate things you already think, well, I guess no one can stop you. But if you actually want to make informed decisions and not come off like a loon, take special care with what you believe (and what you post or pass on to others). And whatever you do, NEVER send your own poop through the mail!
Half of the country is going to be disappointed after this election. I hope people are respectful to each other. I personally plan to take a break from social media.
What I'll be doing instead is performing random acts of kindness all day Tuesday and Wednesday. Yes, it's cheesy, but who cares. It'll be needed.
(I welcome polite and respectful comments. But I will be reviewing all of them first. I am going to be slammed with work all week so if I do not publish your comment or respond to it, rest assured that I'm not ignoring it. Please be patient.)