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Tuesday
Jul182017

It's Amazing What I Didn't Know About Sex

This is a sponsored post from a collaboration between Amaze and The Mission List. It's a review of Amaze but all experiences are mine.  

When I was 10 years old I attended a Catholic School in Chicago. While it was a great education for academics it left something to be desired when it came to discussing health and sexuality. In fact, it was that age when my friends and I, on the playground one day, had a discussion of things we'd been learning and I recall saying, in the hautiest possible tone, "You know what? I will NEVER have an abortion." My friends all agreed and this discussion went on for some time. Of course, that's what we were taught to say. What we didn't know was that abortion had something to do with the consequences of sex.

 

 

Naturally, I was pregnant twice by the age of 16. Suffice it to say, I didn't get a healthy education about protecting myself from STDs or pregnancy and when I was pregnant I finally understood the connection. That was far too old for me to finally get it. Obviously.

What I know, as an educator, is that teaching abstinence is, statistically, the absolute wrong way to teach sex education. What I didn't know or understand could fill a book. Hell, it could fill several volumes and once I did finally get the right information I was pissed that it wasn't offered to me. By the time I understood it all I wished someone would have just had those awkward conversations with me even if they were weird. (Because of this, I taught my own children while they were young and we used all the anatomically correct words for body parts.)

So, listen up parents of young children: I have something for you to review along with me: AMAZE.org is the perfect tech companion to having those talks about sex with your children. As I reviewed it I thought some of the cartoon videos were a bit corny but they work and they share correct information (sometimes with a robot who is demonstrating how a condom works I KNOW THAT SOUNDS CRAZY BUT WHATEVER IT WORKS.)

You can also check out the hashtag #MoreInfoLessWeird on Twitter.

AMAZE.org is a collaborative effort from three reputable organizations in the field of sex education: Advocates for Youth, Answer, and Youth Tech Health. Parents can use whatever part of the site they'd like to supplement their own discussions of sex education and there are some pretty amazing categories like puberty, sexual orientation, gender identity, personal safety, healthy relationships, STDs and HIV, and pregnancy and reproduction.

Their site is really cute and colorful (this here is a screenshot, you can't click on it) and I also appreciated how they addressed issues of personal safety like being safe on the Internet.


 Like most things on the internet, you can find them at their website, their Facebook page, a Twitter account, and a YouTube channel, and on Snapchat.  

Their video series is appropriate for 10-14 year olds and they cover the basic mechanics as well as more complicated and complex topics around relationships and consent. THESE ARE REALLY IMPORTANT. I wish I didn't witness as many unhealthy relationships as a school educator that I did but so often I found myself counseling young couples about how manipulative and destructive they could be when they came to me for help. We have all known those people in a relationship where it's absolutely toxic for them to be around one another but it's hard to get guidance on it when they think they know and understand the signs to watch out for when they turn violent. 

What I like about AMAZE is that it's easy to navigate and their information is plentiful. You, as a parent, are the primary sexuality educator of your child and they just want to arm you with what you need for those conversations. 

For me, the easiest way to be reminded was to like their Facebook page. Go check it out! There's lots of curated content over there or you can check out some of their videos like Where Do Babies Come From? or Birth Control Basics. Either way, you can find out if something is helpful to you in talking to your children. If you're a teen, hit me in the comments with what you think of it. I'd like to know.



Tuesday
May302017

What if Planned Parenthood Didn't Exist?

This post is made possible with support from the Mission List. All opinions are my own. 

There was a time in my life when Planned Parenthood came through for me in ways that other places didnt. That time was in my teens when I became a teen parent myself. Instantly, I was off my mother's health insurance and signing up for things to help me as I raised a baby alone. Luckily, that didn't last too long because I attended college immediately following high school graduation and had health care through the university.

 

That didn't last long, either. At the time there was a battle about parents keeping their college-age children on their insurance and the universities were also fighting it. It was as if no one wanted us to have coverage.

Here we are in 2017 and that debate, about the right to health care, rages on still.

 

Having already gotten pregnant, I knew I needed birth control that would work for me as well as other health services that my college didn't (couldn't? wouldn't?) provide for me and a host of other young women. In fact, I remember that being a banner year for the number of girls enrolled at my university because we outpaced the boys in enrollment.

Think about that for a moment: more young women were going to be educated yet there was, in the political sphere, so much constant controlling over the very women who would be educated and in the work force soon. 

That's something I've never forgotten and it colors my politics to this day. 

In the small college town where I lived, I stopped in at Planned Parenthood one day after talking to a classmate. She knew I'd had a recent urinary tract infection that health service couldn't get to for the sheer volume of students who were ahead of me so she drove me uptown to Planned Parenthood where they got me in quickly, diagnosed me, and sent me on my way with the proper care. (And then we stopped at the grocery store for a lot of cranberry juice!)

After that, I used Planned Parenthood for a whole host of things I wouldn't have gotten without them.

Breast exams, pap smears, counseling about my sexual and reproductive health, and affordable birth control. These were all things I wasn't getting under my mom's insurance when they dropped me. They weren't things that I was getting elsewhere and I appreciated using the health care provider of my choice.

And yet...what if it didn't exist when I needed it?

What kind of pain would I have to endure with a UTI if Planned Parenthood wasn't there to care for me?

What dangers would I not have been able to avoid without a yearly pap smear from Planned Parenthood? I can tell you that I likely would not have continued to get those and found that they were abnormal to the point of having 2 surgeries in my life later on. 

When I did have that next baby, where would I have gotten prenatal care?

Where would my own daughter, after graduating college herself, have gotten affordable birth control if it wasn't for Planned Parenthood

It's devastating to think about all those things missing from my physical and reproductive health. These are things I cherish when talking to friends and family about the effects of the ACHA. 

College is when I started paying attention, not just to my own health and choices, but to politics and policies that aim at removing those choices. That's what the AHCA aims to do: remove choices and harm women. It would deny this to the 2.7 million men and women who use Planned Parenthood. 

YES. MEN, TOO.

Which is why it is SO important we all raise our voices and remind the senate that we stand with Planned Parenthood and against the AHCA. Here are some things I'm hoping you'll do:

Here's another fact for you: Planned Parenthood uses federal money for preventive healthcare. That means healthier adults, families, and children. 

But wait! Here are some more facts:

Here's an overview of services provided each year (in case you didn't know)

Here's how you can fact check some of those politicians (because some of us might need this)

Here are 4 groups that will be hurt the most by “defunding” (it's unconscionable, really)

 

You can help right now. Politics are personal and this one is really important if you care about, you know, the health of your fellow community members. Your friends. Your family. Yourself. 

Go here and join us in the fight ahead to protect us against the worst bill for women's health IN A GENERATION. The work starts today.

 

Thursday
May042017

Right Decisions, Right Now

This is a sponsored post. Opinions are all mine. 

While I no longer work in a school setting I am no less interested in helping teachers and schools with good materials and contests. This here has both.

The Right Decisions, Right Now anti-smoking and anti-tobacco educational materials for teachers and schools (grades 5-9) is a really great campaign for this age group since they are at the highest risk of trying tobacco. Young people are most likely to try smoking for the first time between the ages of 11 and 15, or grades 6 to 10. I can attest to that with a group of friends in the woods when I was 12. I was such a chicken about it, too, and thought we were going to accidentally burn the whole forest down. THANKS, SMOKEY THE BEAR. I AM STILL TRAUMATIZED.

 

Anyway, if you're a school or classroom teacher who would like to enter a classroom contest then this is for you! First off, what's the prize? Good question. Thanks for asking. (Sorry. The teacher in me will never leave my body.) Four lucky teachers will EACH win one $500 Staples gift card to use for classroom supplies in the 2017/18 school year, plus they’ll each win a colorful, printed Cost of Smoking wall poster.

So, yeah, this school year is winding down to a close but if I know teachers, and I do, they are already thinking about what they're going to next next school year. 

Teachers spend a great deal of time working and re-working their lesson plans all through the year. I used to keep a journal full of ideas just for the purpose of saving brilliant ideas I had while teaching. (Ok, so I was probably the only one who thought they were brilliant.) They're also always looking for the following: 

free materials

easily accessible lesson plans

DID I MENTION FREE? WE WANT FREE ALL THE TIME, Y'ALL.

Because I love teachers so much here are some free things:

1 - Right Decisions Right Now has some anti-smoking resources for teachers. This one is especially cool because they've incorporated technology for those schools with Smart Boards. Check out these Smart Board activities and surveys. They're listed by grade level with topics like Making Healthy Choices and Choices and Consequences. You'll be asked for your zip code and then a list of school choices comes up. 

2 - For parents and teachers there are some  Right Decisions Right Now’s resources which include posters and brochures as well as videos. I can see guidance counselors and support staff such as social workers and school psychologists using the brochures to keep in their offices. Also, they include this in Spanish (MUY BUENO Y GRACIAS). The Pledge Forms would be a great addition to things like Red Ribbon Week if your school does that.

See all the free stuff? You can enter the contest here and it's SUPER EASY to fill out the entry form. That's the other thing educators want besides free; they want easy. Because their jobs most certainly are not.

Here are a couple of things to know about the contest:

• Classroom contest is open to United States residents who are currently employed full- or part-time as an educator by an accredited public or private K-12 school in the United States.

• Contest closes on June 30, 2017

• 4 randomly-drawn winners will each receive a $500 Staples gift card + a printed Cost of Smoking wall poster

 

Best of luck with the remainder of your school year, teacher friends. Well done if you've already made it through and have finished. Now, go enter this for the possibility of winning $500 worth of stuff from Staples. THINK OF ALL THE MARKERS YOU COULD BUY WITH THAT.

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