Sitting for a couple hours at the Mexico-U.S. border it’s hard not to think about the imposing wall. Having the “right” passport got me to the States without a problem. But for many others, well, that wall must conjure up so many emotions.
Do those on the south side see a wall that represents hatred or opportunity? Do they see a barrier or an invitation? Do they believe it is necessary? Are they content to be on their side? Do they even notice it?
While the United States claims to be the land of the free, we all know that isn’t true based on how we treat our own citizens. Clearly, it’s not true based on how we treat people trying to get into the country whether it’s by legal or illegal means.
The southern U.S. border is just more than 1,954 miles, with the Rio Grande making a natural barrier for a significant portion. California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas are the states bordering Mexico. About 1,300 miles does not have a fence. Much of the 654 miles of wall was in place before the last president took office.
While Donald Trump made the border with Mexico a campaign issue and touted the building of miles of wall while he was in office, only 47 miles of new primary fencing were erected during his presidency.
It was Bill Clinton who as president in 1993 mandated the initial 13-mile wall between San Diego and Tijuana be erected. (Other, less permanent structures had been built in the 1800s in various border towns by both federal governments.)
Border issues, though, didn’t make significant headlines until after the 9/11 attacks in 2001. This, despite the fact the attack had nothing to do with that border or immigrants from Mexico or any Latin American country.
In 2006, President George W. Bush signed the Secure Fences Act, which was to create a 700-mile barrier between the U.S. and Mexico. Five years later, the Department of Homeland Security had blockaded 649 miles; 350 miles were pedestrian fencing and 299 miles were vehicle barriers. This came under the purview of Bush and Barack Obama.
Some areas, like what one sees at the Mexicali-Calexico (Mexico/U.S.) border towns is steel beams more than 30 feet high. At the wall in Tecate plenty of graffiti is painted, giving people pause as they wait to go north. Other locations the fencing is less imposing and restrictive.
Before the pandemic hit there were tours of the border and wall prototypes available out of San Diego.
One thing the current U.S. president did on his first day in office was to suspend further construction of the border wall.
On April 7, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, “We don’t believe the wall is an answer. We’ve never believed the wall is an answer to addressing the challenges, the immigration challenges at the border. That’s why we’re proposing investments in smart security at the border, why we’re driving what we see as 21st century solutions for border management, and why we believe we should build a functioning immigration system.”
Walls or barriers of any kind are not the solution to people immigrating to the United States. They are not changing why people are seeking entry into the United States. It is not dealing with the horrid conditions in the countries they are leaving. The wall merely forces people to embark on horrific and often deadly paths to cross the border. There must be a more humane way to help our fellow human beings seek a better life.
I sit here in my office looking at blank walls. Decorating will happen soon. It’s still impossible to park either vehicle in the garage. But the kitchen is done, I have a brand new bed to sleep in that has a base that can make me into a Kae taco, and the back yard beckons with its garden that is also a delight to a plethora of songbirds.
Home. I have a rather permanent one after three years of being a bit of a nomad.
I bought a house in Chico in March. My mom is my roommate. She’s 86, a survivor of the Camp Fire that destroyed the town of Paradise in 2018.
I’ve been visiting Chico since I was in fourth grade; so a really long time. That’s when my oldest sister, Jann, started college. She and her husband, Lester, moved back years ago and raised their three kids here. Another sister, Pam, also went to Chico State University, so the trips to this town as a kid just kept happening.
This city of more than 90,000 people has always been a place I’ve enjoyed visiting. Now I get to explore the area on a deeper level—something that hasn’t happened yet with all the boxes that came out of storage.
I love that it has a real downtown, stores/restaurants that are welcoming, road and mountain biking, and that famous brewery.
When things start to open up as the pandemic allows, being in a university town will be incredible because all that it will have to offer along with the energy of college students.
For now, I’m trying to figure out who to play tennis with, how to get the word out that I’ve started an outcall massage business, and generate some more freelance work.
Living with mom is the easy the part—so far. She’s agreed to dust; I’ve agreed to clean the floors. She’s agreed to take care of the plants; I’ve agreed to cook. The cost of TV service is hers; the hot tub care/expenses are all mine.
While Tahoe is no longer my address after nearly 19 years, it will always be part of me and someplace that I will visit often. Plus, I know there are a few more books in me with Tahoe themes—and Baja. For now, I am focusing on getting settled and seeing what this part of Northern California is all about.
I’ve never said so many goodbyes in such a short amount of time.
While one friend appropriately described my leaving Baja as driving into my future, the other part of the sentiment is that I was leaving something behind.
This third time to leave Todos Santos was definitely more permanent. I’ll be back, but not for a winter, at least not anytime soon.
I knew this saying goodbye thing was going to be difficult when I got teary-eyed telling Tony, the guy who delivered my pesos for writing for the Gringo Gazette, that I would not be coming back. He isn’t a friend, he’s not my editor, he’s just someone who always had a smile for me. Someone who was genuinely kind. Someone I will likely never see again in my entire life. He was also my first goodbye.
Tears fill my eyes now. The computer is a blur. I need a tissue.
The sadness is mixed with so much joy. The sadness isn’t just leaving Baja, my friends and the life I created there. I’m also leaving Tahoe. How often does one move entail leaving two places? Two sets of friends? Two ways of life?
I’m happy about the move I made; it was my idea after all. Those details will be in another story. This is about my goodbyes, which because of my decision to move means I brought all of this on myself. The sadness is also a testament to the importance the people and places are to me.
The last 10 days in Todos Santos the social calendar suddenly became full. We all knew I wasn’t just leaving for the summer. JR told me he hoped he’d see me on a court again as he walked me to the gate. I wanted to hug him goodbye. Hugs during a pandemic, though, are frowned upon. I spent a couple hours talking to him and his wife, Geri, after we played mixed doubles that Friday. It was normal and relaxed. I know we’ll find ourselves on another tennis court somewhere in the world.
Anne and Ray didn’t know I was in escrow on a house in Northern California when we met for our final breakfast. They became friends after staying as Airbnb guests at my sister’s place in Todos Santos the previous winter. I don’t know when our paths will cross. They are travelers, so perhaps their van will make it to my driveway.
Knowing March was going to be chaotic I asked some of my Tahoe tennis friends who I’d been Zooming with while in Baja if we could have another session before I headed north. I didn’t know when we would all be on the same screen again, let alone see one another in person. They will be easier to rendezvous with than my Baja friends just because of proximity. Our lives are already complicated with only one of the six actually in Tahoe for the winter. Still, I needed to see them together before I embarked on my next adventure.
Dinner at Tim and Susan’s was bittersweet. For two winters I lived across the street from them. This last winter I was with friends in Todos Santos instead of at my sister’s. I was so used to seeing Tim and Susan on a regular basis. This season we gathered twice. Damn COVID. They were the best neighbors I could have asked for; and friends who will be there when I return.
Scott and Gail are two of the genuinely nicest people I’ve ever met. Something about tennis people, I guess. Libations and the sunset sinking over the Pacific, dinner and conversation, fire pit and more talk. I couldn’t answer when I’d return.
I don’t know—it’s what I kept saying when people asked when I would be back. As long as AJ is alive, I don’t expect to fly anywhere because I no longer want to leave her with anyone. As long as my mom is alive, I can’t imagine wintering again out of the country.
A trip to Cabo was made to say farewell to Joyce and Ron. Their Bella is aging just like AJ, so not sure we’ll be seeing our respective dogs again. But the humans, we are bound to rendezvous in Baja or Tahoe.
The hardest Baja goodbye was with Jill. She and Robert, along with their dogs Rubi and Pepper, opened their casita to me for more than four months. In that time we became even better friends. A big hug goodbye. Then tears filled my eyes and words were useless.
There were so many goodbyes on the tennis court—mostly in Baja, but one last day in Tahoe, too.
With Carolyn and Bob now wintering in the Palm Springs area, I was able to see them outside of a Zoom call for lunch as I drove north.
I was in Tahoe less than a week before arriving at my final destination. Rosemary and I walked through her neighborhood trying to stay in the sun and keep me off the ice; Baja made me a little soft! Joyce was wonderful in arranging a few hours of tennis in the Carson Valley. I got a little front porch catch-up time in with Denise and Steve before the cold sent us in search of warmth. Sue, well, she again welcomed me and AJ into her warm home and hot tub, poured wine and put up with my scatteredness as I prepped for my transition.
So many friends have offered a place for me to stay when I visit. And I look forward to welcoming them to my new home as well as meeting someplace to share new experiences.
While you may not have been mentioned here, all of my friends mean the world to me. All of you are as vital to me as oxygen and water.
Last summer Jill sent me a text saying they would not be letting anyone stay in their casista in Todos Santos because of COVID. Robert, her husband, said not so fast–let’s invite Kathryn, she’s family.
I didn’t spend much time thinking about my answer. I had already decided not to go back to my sister and brother-in-law’s place in Baja because my dog, AJ, could no longer navigate stairs. I was undecided about my plans for the fall. This offer solidified them.
Property-mates—it was the best living situation I’ve had with friends.
Same property, different buildings. An incredible garden separated us. The bonus is that it was edible. Papaya, mango, and banana trees along with the vines of passion fruit clearly are wonderful for eating, but they were also beautiful to look at. Then there were the raised beds. The eggplant would not stop producing. (I may never need to eat another eggplant the rest of my life.) Unfortunately, I left too soon to benefit from the tomato harvest, which from the previous two years I knew would be prolific and sweet.
Several Bismarck palm trees dotted the landscape. It was like silvery fans quacking in the breeze. They hovered over the more common aloe and other desert flora. This creation was Robert’s doing, but something he and Jill took pride in.
Fortunately, the dogs—AJ, Rubi and Pepper—got along just fine. Pepper was aloof toward both of us, but finally warmed up to me and was happy to get a massage. Rubi is much more social, and even tried to get into the casita a few times.
The living arrangement was ideal because it was like being with people but not. We each had our own dwelling, so there was no getting in the way of each other. We shared meals on occasion. Catching up during “toddy time” on their porch was a ritual several times a week. We each brought our beverage of choice, though sometimes that, too, was shared.
This together time underscored the need no matter my living situation to carve out time when electronics or something else is not the focus. Just talking. Just being. Human interaction. Caring about each other’s day. Solving the world’s problems. Conversations sometimes more mundane. It was bonding, deepening friendships, creating memories.
The only negative about the whole situation was it ended too soon.
I totally understand not trusting the government, any government. Being a guinea pig in a massive medical experiment is not something most people want to do.
I did it anyway. I signed up last week as a massage therapist; something that California allows. I put my faith in my scientist friends who said there is no reason not to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
A year ago I wasn’t sure if/when I would get this vaccine, which at the time didn’t even exist. I was on the fence and leaned toward waiting, as opposed to lining up in the first few months.
I started doing some research, talking to people. None of the vaccines approved by the federal government contain the live virus. That mattered to me.
Some basics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention: “The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are mRNA vaccines, which teach our cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response. The mRNA from a COVID-19 vaccine never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA is kept. This means the mRNA cannot affect or interact with our DNA in any way. Instead, COVID-19 mRNA vaccines work with the body’s natural defenses to safely develop immunity to disease.”
Get your info from reliable sources, from doctors who understand infectious diseases. Go online to learn more. Make an educated decision about whether to be vaccinated.
I don’t want to die from this deadly virus; this vaccine will keep me alive. While I may still get this particular coronavirus, it’s highly unlikely I would even be hospitalized. Time will tell if this will be an annual vaccination, and whether those who are vaccinated can spread it to others. I’m willing to be part of this experiment. It’s certainly not as risky as participating in the trials.
As someone who is needle phobic and tends to faint whether it’s an injection or blood draw, I willingly sat in the chair waiting for the shot. It was more like a poke. I barely felt the jab as Victoria, a nursing student at Chico State University, administered my first dose of the Moderna vaccine. The entire process was organized, fast, efficient and uneventful. My second appointment is set for four weeks.
When Victoria found out I’m a fainter she offered a private area where I could go to be horizontal. I toughed it out and all went well. Everyone was told to sit for 15 minutes in the waiting area to make sure there were no adverse reactions. My mom drove me in case I passed out. My reward, just like when I was a kid, was French fries. Some traditions are worth keeping even without a fainting episode.
Lifting my arm a few hours later I noticed soreness. I was pain free on the computer. I know this will be one of the best decisions I made. I’m grateful my tax dollars are at work providing this vaccine for free to anyone who wants it.
I’m still wearing my mask and washing my hands. Clearly, masks work against the basic cold and flu as well. Who knows if I’ll ever want to shake someone’s hand again.
As of March 21:
- 543,000 people in the United States have died from this coronavirus;
- 81,415,769 (24.8 percent) of people in the United States have received on dose of the vaccine;
- 44,141,228 (13.45 percent) of people in the United States are fully vaccinated
There will be consequences for those who are not vaccinated beyond the possibility of death. The European Union and China are planning to implement vaccine passports. In other words, only travelers who can prove they have been vaccinated will be allowed to enter. I’m hearing from people they will only want to gather with those who are vaccinated. I’m ready to be around people, to hug friends outside my bubble. One day I might even sit inside a restaurant.
Nothing like a little shot in the arm to also provide me with a dose of hope.
In the march to power California without fossil fuels by 2045, the choice by some cities to ban natural gas has lit the fuse on a battle pitting environmental groups against developers, involving not only cost of home construction, but whether government has picked the wrong target.
“Going after housing is like trying to knock that flea off an elephant’s butt. It is not going to effect change,” said Craig Lawson, president of the North Coast Builders Exchange board and owner of CAL Custom Building Services in Santa Rosa. The general contractor has been building homes since 1979. He would prefer people were tackling the harder issues like transportation that would have a greater environmental benefit based on that sector’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Construction experts cite California Energy Commission numbers that say residential housing accounts for 7 percent of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, compared with transportation at 41 percent and industry at 24 percent. They say their industry is not a major contributor to the climate change, which some scientists say is accelerated by those emissions.
Contractors agree banning natural gas will drive up construction costs, could leave people in the dark and cold during power outages, and will limit people’s choices when it comes to the appliances they use.
Proponents of requiring all electric homes say the environment will be better off without natural gas, energy bills will be lower, and the health benefits from reducing emissions are measurable for people and the planet.
“Natural gas is mostly methane and 25 times more harmful than (carbon dioxide). When it leaks, it’s very harmful to the climate,” Geof Syphers, CEO of Santa Rosa-based Sonoma Clean Power, said. “If we don’t at least meet or exceed (the state’s goals), all of our current science says more and more of California becomes unlivably dangerous. There is no way to be lawful and compliant without phasing out natural gas.”
He said it’s what needs to be done before the bigger items are tackled: “Let’s do the easy stuff, like not adding more gas to new construction.”
Sonoma Clean Power is a customer-owned public utility. Customers pay the agency for electric generation, and PG&E for delivery and maintenance of its power poles and wires.
PG&E plans to limit exploration for new gas because of the state’s carbonless energy mandates. However, Ari Vanrenen, spokeswoman with the utility, said, “Natural gas remains a critical and essential resource to Californians, supporting households and businesses with affordable energy used for heating and cooking, manufacturing and transportation. Beyond new construction, PG&E believes a multi-faceted approach is needed to cost-effectively achieve California’s greenhouse-gas reduction objectives, including both electrification and decarbonizing the gas system with renewable natural gas and hydrogen.”
NCBE, a nonprofit contractors’ association that provides services and representation to construction-related firms, NCBE calls city ordinances that ban natural gas “reach codes” because they reach beyond the state’s requirements for construction.
“We have opposed them because of the minimal good it does and it’s punishing the new home buyer who might want to cook with gas, and might want a gas fireplace. Our objection is there is so little effect on the environment, and all electric has the potential to raise the cost of construction on a new home by $5,000 to $10,000. Why do that when there is such an important need for new housing?” asked Keith Woods, the organization’s CEO. “For the government to mandate this is frustrating to us.”
Homes built pre-1980 have older, non-efficient appliances unless they have been updated by the homeowner; this includes gas and electric. Legislation regarding these issues was not passed in California until the late 1970s. New rules are always affecting the housing industry, like how solar panels are required on all new construction as of Jan. 1, 2020.
Both sides throw out figures when it comes to what the added costs or savings could be for a new home to be all electric, what those appliances will cost, as well as the cost of using gas vs. electric. That is a large part of the problem, knowing whose numbers to believe in order to determine what is cost-effective.
One issue is that most electric bills are based on a tiered system. After the flat rate customers are charged based on usage, with those using the most electricity charged a higher rate. That is why going all electric today is likely to be an expensive proposition.
The American Gas Association contends, “Households that use natural gas for heating, cooking and clothes drying save an average of $874 per year compared to homes using electricity for those applications.”
But not having to put in gas lines lowers the cost of home building, according to the Sierra Club.
“With new construction the cost of building new housing will be significantly less, saving $6,000 on single family housing if it’s all electric and about $1,500 on multi-family. The savings come from not hooking up the gas,” Rachel Golden, campaign representative on building issues for the Sierra Club, said.
As with any change, there are consequences. A concern is people with money can afford all electric upgrades, thus leaving low-income people with natural gas. If fewer people are using gas, the price will inevitably go up because there would not be as many people to split the expenses associated with supplying the fuel.
Cultural considerations are also a component when talking about eliminating gas for cooking. An open flame is the best way to cook a poblano pepper, while woks often require gas. Whether a backyard propane barbecue will suffice remains to be seen or if other options come into play.
Syphers, with Sonoma Clean Power, acknowledges it would be impossible for the state to go all electric today because the storage capacity for renewable energy does not exist.
“The amount of storage California needs is really significant,” Syphers said. “Anything that can deliver energy to the grid for eight hours or longer is rare in California. There are not that many batteries in California right now.”
Batteries are needed to store the renewable energy when it is not immediately needed on the grid. It is becoming common that as solar farms are developed outdoor battery facilities are built on-site. This makes for more efficiency and less transmission issues, according to industry officials.
But what happens when the power goes out? Smoke-filled days from fires reduce solar output. When the wind dies, that renewable source is not an option. Then there are the rolling blackouts that power companies have been using to ensure the grid has enough power.
“Natural gas provides critical electric generation by filling power supply gaps when renewable resources are not available, especially during winter peak periods,” PG&E’s Vanrenen said.
A generator would be the solution in an all-electric house. This, though, is an additional cost that not everyone can handle.
I love working remotely, but I can’t imagine starting a job that way, let alone a career right out of college.
While COVID-19 has sent millions of people to home offices, real or make-shift, many others have not had that option. Those essential employees—medical personnel, store workers, garbage peeps, just to name a few—have kept right on working in this last year. The pandemic has proven some jobs require going to the work site no matter what.
My job as a writer, well, I can do it from just about anywhere. Internet, phone and electricity are the tools I need most.
Today, rarely do I want to interview someone in person, even though I have long said that method is best. I’m trying to avoid strangers if I can. Looking at what is on someone’s desk, or their walls, seeing how they handle interruptions, just watching body language in reaction to my questions—all that is gone with a phone interview. All of that often would lead to questions I would not otherwise have known to ask. (Zoom interviews don’t work for me because I can’t look at people and type notes on the computer. I’m sure others can do this without it being awkward.)
After doing this writing thing for decades I think I know what I’m doing. That’s not to say there isn’t room for improvement. I’d like to believe I’ll always be learning and evolving. But I don’t need to ask colleagues or editors constant questions. Editors can work with me via phone as we go through my copy. Their questions are answered, I might need to do a little more reporting, and back the story goes to their in box.
Recently, I’ve talked to friends about what it would be like to start a job out of college as a remote worker. Maybe it would be OK for this current generation which seems to prefer electronic contact than in person. They would not have to worry about socializing, getting dressed for the job or any other soft skills they might be lacking. Plus, some of them will have finished their college careers online, so the transition to working remotely should be smoother than it might be for others.
But it’s hard for me to imagine every first or even second job is ideal being remote no matter the work involved or comfort of being at home and not in an office.
I think back to what it was like for me at my first reporting job. This was when reporters didn’t take pictures, when they didn’t take video, when podcasts weren’t a thing. This is when there were copy editors, news editors, and production staff—even at small publications.
At every paper everyone I worked with on the editorial side and in production contributed to making me a better reporter. I would not have gotten that on the job education sitting alone at home. It’s also doubtful that I would have made lifelong friendships like I did.
I was able to hear others conducting interviews. By osmosis I was learning what good as well as bad questions were. I had no idea how much I was learning from the awesome photojournalists I was working with until I had to put a camera in my hand to document my stories. And until I had to shoot my own pictures, I didn’t have the respect for their skills and artistry that I should have.
Working on site I got to know my colleagues and those in other departments. Sure, I could get to know co-workers via Zoom or the like, but what about everyone else in the company? Not likely. Are people having “water cooler chats” remotely? Not that I’ve heard about, but maybe. There’s a lot to be learned from those conversations. It’s human interaction. It’s people caring about me, and me about them. It’s friendship building, even if it’s “just work” friends and not people I would socialize with otherwise. It’s getting to know someone and being able to read if they are having a bad day, to be able to reach out. It’s too easy to fake that everything is fine on a Zoom call; much harder to do for eight hours in person.
Some of the jobs I had in my twenties brought me some of my best friends. I would bet that would not be the case had we worked from home.
I would not be the reporter/writer I am today without having worked in several newsrooms. I know journalists are not the only professionals who have and will continue to benefit from working in a group environment as opposed to being isolated. I would not want to be in a newsroom today, but can’t imagine starting off at home.
As bosses contemplate what the office world looks like going forward, I hope they take into consideration all that new hires (of any age) can learn from veterans (also of any age)—and vice versa. At the same time, I hope they consider that not everyone thrives in a traditional work environment. Some will always do better working remotely—could be their personality, might be a better situation with family needs, commuting issues are eliminated, maybe the hours might be better, or other reasons.
What I hope the pandemic has taught those making decisions for workers is that there needs to be greater flexibility in what the job site looks like. Maybe the workweek doesn’t need to be Monday-Friday, or the hours from 8am-5pm. At some point it should just matter that the work gets done, whenever and wherever it gets done. Maybe instead of having to take a sick day to care for a family member, the boss will let the employee work from home that day if they want to.
Because I benefited early in my career by being in the office I would think I would welcome that scenario at the next full time job. I say this even though today as a freelance writer I like the freedom of being remote. I know there must be a happy middle ground out there if bosses look for it and listen to what their workers need and want. There has to be a way to find a winning formula for the company and workers.
Walks are shorter, monkey playing really doesn’t exist, sleeping together has ended. The love, though, well that is unbreakable.
The changes have taken some getting used to. That’s what happens as we age. We slow down. Dogs are no different. I’m just thrilled to be celebrating another birthday with AJ. She turns 18 today.
I don’t really know how many miles AJ gets in each day because she does a good deal of walking without me. She has this large, beautiful yard to roam around in in Todos Santos. I’ll be sitting on the patio with my friends Jill and Robert, who own the property, and we laugh at AJ making her laps around their house. It’s like she is patrolling the grounds.
About every other day if not more I put her leash on to go for a walk down the arroyo. Most of the time she is off leash once we are through the gate. Her nose is one thing that still works well. She’s a good sniffer. Sight and hearing, well, those diminish a little more each year.
In Tahoe during the summer and fall we went for longer walks. I think the added exercise in the yard in Mexico means she doesn’t want/need to go as far with me. I guess I’ll test that theory about the length of her walks when we head back north.
AJ has a monkey that has been her favorite toy since I’ve known her. Yes, there has been more than one monkey. It sits against the wall collecting dust. The desire to chase or catch it in the air no longer exists. Well, maybe the desire is there, but the energy certainly isn’t. I just can’t get rid of it, though.
The hardest thing to get used to in this last year is that Miss Audrey Jean no longer wants to sleep in my bed. When I put her up there she is immediately ready to jump off. The fact that she did so before I could catch her freaked me out so I don’t want to try again. She makes no effort to get up there. No reason other than selfishness to keep trying.
I miss her cuddles; I even miss her taking up the entire bed and leaving me a sliver of mattress.
Now I lay on the ground wherever she is—in her bed, the gravel, the patio, the concrete floor—to hug on her. She practically purrs during neck rubs.
Kisses from her are rare. But she still gets excited when I return even I’ve just been out playing tennis. Before leaving I always tell her how much I love her. We have lots of conversations throughout the day.
We’ve had the talk—more than once. I trust her to let me know when enough is enough. For now, though, we’re going to celebrate the start of her 19th year. My niece left a can of tuna, so that will end up in her bowl. I haven’t had French fries since being back in Mexico, so that will be another treat for both of us. It’s her favorite human food.
We will go for a walk. We’ll talk about her mommy Joy; after all she is the reason AJ is in my life. Joy died in August 2012. That’s when this greyhound, yellow Lab and who knows what all else came to live with me. It’s been an adventure; one I didn’t expect to enjoy as much as I do.
While it’s AJ’s birthday, every day she is with me is a gift.
Considering half the population menstruates and everyone comes from this natural female body function, it is amazing how much stigma surrounds this monthly flow of blood.
“It is the source of life,” Veronica Wong simply said of periods. So why then are so many people embarrassed to talk about menstruation?
Wong is chairwoman of Period Proud’s board, an organization created to break down barriers, remove the stigma around periods, and provide Black, indigenous, and people of color with monthly menstrual supplies.
Period Proud is a 501(c)4 started by Anisha Murarka. The 2019 Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s raids in Mississippi left her angry and sad, feeling like she needed to do something.
“With so many sole financial providers jailed instantly, the beginnings of Period Proud formed to send menstrual products to community centers and churches in Mississippi. The group’s mission was to ensure all menstruators did not have to worry about choosing between a meal or a box of menstrual products for up to two to three cycles,” the website says.
It was a side project of sorts for Murarka before she reached out to friends to help make Period Proud something more. The board has three members, all people of color, and fourth person involved in the organization. All are volunteers. They live in various parts of the United States.
Just in its infancy as an organization, Period Proud has sent more than 40,000 tampons and pads to marginalized menstruators and the BIPOC community. Groups in Minneapolis, Oakland, Cleveland, Louisville, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and Los Angeles have been beneficiaries.
The reaction to these gifts has been heartfelt.
“Some said they had never had a whole box of tampons before,” Wong said. And this is in the United States in 2020.
Wong added, “As we delivered products to menstruators, we started hearing their stories. There is still a social stigma around menstruating. That is why we are collecting stories.”
Those first person accounts are on Period Proud’s website. Some are joyous recollections, including one person crediting her father for celebrating her womanhood. One woman was told by her mother that tampons are for sluts. Another didn’t know it was OK to urinate with tampon in. Sex and menstruation is a subject most menstruators face—no matter their sexuality.
Menstruation is also an economic issue and one of equity.
On Jan. 1, 2020, taxes on tampons sold in California were eliminated. Sales tax is also no longer allowed on specified sanitary napkins, menstrual sponges, and menstrual cups, along with diapers for babies. However, it’s just a two-year deal, so legislators will need to address the issue again this year or the tampon tax will be resurrected Jan. 1, 2022.
Eight states have completely eliminated the tampon tax: Nevada, Utah, New York, Florida, Connecticut, Illinois, Ohio, and Rhode Island.
Still, California is ahead of many others because public schools provide period products for free.
Period Proud as it grows plans to advocate for repealing pink taxes. Those go beyond menstrual products. They are called pink taxes because most things pink targeted for girls/women cost more than the same item in blue intended for a boy/man. A study published by New York City in December 2015 about gender pricing revealed that women pay more for similar products compared to men:
- 7 percent more for toys and accessories
- 4 percent more for children’s clothing
- 8 percent more for adult clothing
- 13 percent more for personal care products
- 8 percent more for senior/home health care product.
This is not a new issue. A 1994 California report about gender-based pricing of services revealed women paid what amounted to a “gender tax” of approximately $1,351 each year for the same services as men.
This issue is global, especially when it comes to tariffs on international trade.
As Period Proud says, “Menstruation doesn’t stop when we are fighting for justice.” Following the organization on Instagram is the best way to keep informed.
Going forward Period Proud will continue working to deliver menstrual supplies where needed, plans to partner with other menstrual justice organizations, hopes to work with makers of menstrual products and other corporate entities, is looking into grants to help fund the cause, takes donations online, has swag for sale, and wants people to share their stories online.
Note: Veronica Wong is the author’s niece.
So many people are looking forward to flipping the calendar to 2021. What worries me, though, is so much of what has burdened us in 2020 is going to follow us into the New Year.
The pandemic will still be here. Political strife will continue. More people will lose their jobs and businesses. The divisiveness won’t disappear.
While Jan. 20 will mean a new president will be sworn in to lead the United States, it doesn’t mean instant change in the way so many would like to see. Remember, more than 74 million people voted for the loser. He will be ushered out of the White House, but his followers aren’t going anywhere.
Clearly, the electeds are not leading the United States to a place where we can agree to disagree, to where we respect one another even when we believe something else. The electeds have failed us in so many ways. That should hopefully lead to an overhaul of those in office at all levels in the coming years.
It is time for we the people to solve our problems—big and small. Maybe that includes acts of defiance. I have disagreed with the shutdown of the businesses since last March. I don’t believe a government should be able to close a business without paying the business to do so, which in turn means the employees will get paid. Maybe it’s time for businesses to operate however they want, and it is up to customers to decide if they are good with whatever protocols may or may not be in place.
Yes, health is more important than money. But without money, people can’t survive. They can’t pay their medical bills, let alone put food on the table, pay the rent or mortgage, along with all the other expenses of living.
Masks might be part of our lives for quite a while. Plenty of people won’t get the coronavirus vaccine, and even with it, some people will still contract the virus. Plus, it’s too soon to know how long the doses will last. Will people need to get the shot annually? Maybe. It’s still unbelievable to me that masks became politicized. Even social distancing is balked at. I wear a seat belt in a vehicle, a helmet when I cycle and ski. I wear a shirt and shoes into a business. Wearing a mask has not prohibited me from doing anything I want to do. Wearing a mask is a simple act to demonstrate you care about the health of others. It’s so incredibly selfish not to wear one.
What concerns me about having hope for 2021 is that so many talk about returning to what life was like pre-pandemic. It’s not going to happen. That could be a good thing. Were things really that great? We have the opportunity to learn from this huge disruption of 2020 and move forward, not back to what was. This will take work and will not be easy. Rarely, though, is something that is worth doing ever simple or easy.
People are already making adjustments to how they conduct business, where they do it, and even deciding to move into a new field. Pivot is one of the most overused words of the year; but that is exactly what people have been doing—pivoting as one roadblock after another has been thrown at them. Being able to pivot is an action that will follow us into 2021.
I am hopeful and optimistic things will get better. But that will be up to us to make it happen. It’s going to take courage, innovation, strength, determination, compromise and willpower. It’s also going to take cooperation, listening, and trust. We can do this–this being making the world a better place for everyone.