Category Archives: Concerned Bloggers

Let’s Plan a Family

An estimated 222 million women in developing countries would like to delay or stop childbearing but are not using any method of contraception.¹

222 million women don’t have a say over their bodies. Doesn’t that just amaze you? I know a lot of Pro-Choice / Pro Family Planning advocates always begin by talking about a woman’s right to take control over her personal health. I’m not going start any differently. There is an intrinsic right that seems to be missing from many developing nations and that is the right to freedom, the right to empower, and the right to equality.

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Globally, an estimated 287,000 maternal deaths occurred in 2010. Sub-Saharan Africa (56%) and Southern Asia (29%) accounted for 85% of the global burden.² Why? Why is there so much unnecessary death?

The key to stopping this is education, contraception and taking responsibility away from bureaucracy and enabling women the freedom to choose.

Family Planning is more than just a pretty word for abortion. It is actually about planning your family to when your health, finances and support are aligned to bring a child into the world. They are about education, contraception, and protection of a woman’s body. If we can institute this for developing nations, we can begin a change for the better. Allow women the opportunity to understand their bodies and offer them the resources to acquire contraception.

The time for change is now.

¹http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs351/en/index.html
²http://www.unfpa.org/webdav/site/global/shared/documents/publications/2012/Trends_in_maternal_mortality_A4-1.pdf

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This Public Service Announcement was brought to you by the Concerned Bloggers Association. If you want to join us, please contact Marleen Vaughan for more information.

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The Arts in Education

When I was little, pretty much everything that I liked had 4 legs or was in the back woods of my house. I didn’t particularly “blend” into the normal crowd in my schools. I was introverted, shy, and socially awkward. I had no idea how to communicate with other human beings, so animals worked a lot better for me. Nature in general was the bee’s knees in my book.

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My self-expression seemed to naturally lay with the arts and nature was my muse. Growing up, I often felt incapable of handling most situations. With an absentee father and a mentally ill mother, I was left pretty much to my own.

In middle school, I began to explore photography. My father, at that time, was the principal of my school. In order to demonstrate his love to me maybe, he built a dark room in an unused teacher’s bathroom. There was counter space to lay out all the chemicals, a tap for running water, and even a place to examine your negatives while they dry.

This was the first time, in all my life, that I felt self-expression. I could go out, take pictures, come in and develop them all on my own. They weren’t particularly great, I was only 13 at the time, but they granted me a voice. A starting point for my creative young spirit to bloom from.

My final photo in the 8th grade.

My final photo in the 8th grade.

There are tons of studies proving the efficacy of the arts in education. Statistics like:

Studies show that students of the arts in all disciplines outperformed their non-arts peers on the SAT by 91 points in 2009.¹

Students who participate in arts programs are at least three times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, elected to class office within their schools, participate in a math and science fair, win an award for school attendance and win an award for writing an essay or poem.¹

Support your local Arts Programs. They are an opportunity waiting to happen.

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This Public Service Announcement was brought to you by the Concerned Bloggers Association. If you would like to become involved, please contact Marleen Vaughan for more information.

¹ SOURCE: http://www.dosomething.org/tipsandtools/11-facts-about-arts-education#

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Mindful Compassion of Yourself

Nearly 1,000,000 people make a suicide attempt every year.

Being alone in body, mind and spirit sucks. It’s a hard rock to come out from.. trust me, I understand. There is nothing easy about the overwhelming feeling of being alone in your thoughts. Isolated from humanity and detached from these aliens that run around this earth mucking it up. You feel so fucking tired of fighting yourself and those around you. I get that.

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But please, let me offer you something. It might even be a version of peace of mind for you. I know it was for me.

Let me first say that I am a card-carrying atheist. However, I think the religion I am most comfortable with has been Buddhism. As I have been taught new things over the last year by my mentor, I have expanded my world views to see that Buddhism is so much more than a “brand name” religion.

Here’s where I get to the peace of mind part.

There is a technique I have learned that has literally transformed my fucking life. It has brought me to a deeper understanding of myself and the world around me. It’s fleshed out all those grey areas where fear lived, where self-loathing lived, where I lost myself in negative thought. The strange part is that it is so very easy. I devote 10 minutes a day to saying out loud or to myself these four lines:

May I have happiness and the causes of happiness,
May I be free of suffering and the causes of suffering,
May I have joy and the causes of joy,
May I remain in equanimity from attachments and aversions.

That’s it. This is called Compassion Training. I am learning how to have compassion for MYSELF. The depths of the human psyche are all different, but I do feel there is this string that binds us together. It is the self-hate we have practiced over and over on ourselves. The Compassion Training allows you the opportunity to view yourself with kindness and deserving of happiness. It re-trains your brain to instead of being inflamed with lust or pissed with rage – to think on things with understanding. It is the motivation to see them how they are, and not as a reaction.

I’ve found with the training that it was difficult at first. When I would try to say the verses, my mind would try to distract me with negative thoughts. It would bring up all this garbage from years ago and remind me of the piece of shit I am. But you must fight through that. That is your brain resisting the training program. You must get through that and see that when you come out the other side, you are totally enabled to love yourself.

This isn’t a cure and might not even help with suicidal thoughts – but I know it has helped with my severe depression. It has transformed my brain into a loving machine. Don’t get me wrong. I still have orgasms and fight with family, but not everything is so god damn charged that I could choke on it. It releases this tension and allows you a calm.

Here are some medical and psychology journals talking about Compassion Traininghere, here and here.

If you are in Crisis and need help right away, call this toll-free number, available 24 hours a day, every day: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You will reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a service available to anyone. You may call for yourself or for someone you care about. All calls are confidential.

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This Public Service Announcement was brought to you by the Concerned Bloggers Association. If you would like to become involved, please contact Marleen Vaughan for more information.

Blood is Life

Every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood.

This month Concerned Bloggers Association is talking about Donating Blood. According to the American Red Cross more than 44,000 blood donations are needed every day. Every day. It would be great if you could be a part of it.

Here’s what you need to be in order to donate blood in the USA:
1. Be healthy*
2. Be at least 17 years old in most states.
3. Weigh at least 110 lbs.

* Note: Healthy means that you feel well and can perform normal activities. If you have a chronic condition such as diabetes, healthy also means that you are being treated and the condition is under control.

You can find your local Red Cross here: http://www.redcrossblood.org/our-regions

This Public Service Announcement was brought to you by the Concerned Bloggers Association.
If you would like to become involved, please contact Marleen Vaughan for more information.

SOURCE: http://www.redcrossblood.org/learn-about-blood/blood-facts-and-statistics

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Comics Need Love Too

I’ve been reading comics since I was 15 years old. They are the lifeblood of my love of reading. I can be super busy in my real life and forget all about the joys of reading – and with the stroke of one good comic – that can all change. Suddenly, I am neglected my man, my work, and my friends because I’m engrossed in a series of amazing comics, which then leads me straight into some historical fiction work for the next month. It’s a beautiful thing.

I’m not sure why some people think reading is boring, but I think it’s the most exciting thing ever. Words hang with you and pop into your mind and create vivid memories that illustrate another world.

Comics bring all this and more to my heart. They opened up an alternate world for me which I could be myself. I would know just what to say when someone was sassing off to me. They taught me how much I love gritty detective novels, spy stories, and heartbreaking unconventional love.

Here’s a list of some of my favorite reads. By no means is this complete. I could go on for days with the number of graphic novels that are filling my book shelves. I’ve separated them into three group for easier categories…

Classics Comics
Hellboy by Mike Mignola (Any book will do.)
Preacher by Garth Ennis
Sandman by Neil Gaiman (Although I really only recommend up until A Doll’s House – after that he gets a little tiresome.)
XMEN’s The Dark Phoenix Saga by Chris Claremont
Hellblazer by Garth Ennis (he no longer writes for it – but his work on the title really brought new life to the series.)
The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller
The Invisibles by Grant Morrison

Current OnGoing Titles
Locke & Key by Joe Hill (son of Stephen King – yep. THAT Stephen King.)
Fables by Bill Willingham
The Boys by Garth Ennis (WARNING: not safe if you have kids – a lot of this book is very naughty.)
Powers by Brian Michael Bendis
The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman

Great One Shot Graphic Novels
Fell by Warren Ellis
Desolation Jones by Warren Ellis
League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore (The first book of this series is genius – without alienating the audience. Admittedly, Mr. Moore can get a little carried away with his own intelligence.)
The Killing Joke by Alan More
Stray Toasters by Bill Sienkiewicz
The Collected Fantasies of Jean Giraud (Moebius)

Please note that I am a fussy cunt when it comes to quality comic book reading. I do not like to be patronized or pandered too. I demand quality dialogue and characters are as fucked up as real life. I tend to stay away from the typical “super hero” books, except Batman. I love Bats because he’s just as mental as the rest of us.

This Public Service Announcement was brought to you by the Concerned Bloggers Association.
If you would like to become involved, please contact Marleen Vaughan for more information.

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