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Live Free Or Diet

 

Intuitive Eating coach Elizabeth Hall wants to change the way you look at food.

I notice women’s bodies, and I suspect that you do too.

We can’t help it. We’re a product of western culture and its emphasis on physical appearance. When someone loses weight, we notice and compliment her efforts. In our own way without even realizing it, we’re perpetuating and encouraging the idea that being thin deserves praise.

I am guilty of doing this too. Over Christmas, I saw one of my sisters who I hadn’t seen in a few months. She was thinner, and I asked if she had lost weight. “Yes, I lost 10 pounds during a program at my gym,” she said. “That’s good, but don’t lose another pound,” I said. “You don’t want to become too thin because it will show in your face.”

I shared this little conversation with Intuitive Eating coach Elizabeth Hall, and was met with prolonged silence. I knew I had blown it, but I wasn’t really sure why.

“Why are you commenting on someone’s else’s body?” Hall asked. “Weight should really be left out of the conversation.”

This, of course, is easier said than done in our weight obsessed culture, where losing weight tops the list of New Year’s resolutions, and triple zero is a clothing size. It’s particularly hard for women who grew up in the ’60s and ’70s in the ultra-thin days of Twiggy and Cher. Raised on the notion that you must be thin to be attractive, many women double up their weight loss efforts in their ’40s, ’50s and ’60s.

The result: an increase in rail thin older women who are so skinny you cringe and suspect they might suffer from an eating disorder. Though often associated with adolescent girls, post menopausal women are also prone to eating disorders. Like puberty, menopause brings with it changes in mood, hormones and fat distribution. As women age, they tend to put on weight in their mid-section – the last place they want it.

Faced with the prospect of getting older and heavier, some women step up their dieting and exercising regimes during menopause, intensifying a hostile relationship with food and weight that has dominated their lives.

“Women in their 40s and 50s are dieting more than younger women because they grew up in the diet culture in their 20s and 30s,” Hall says. “I know of women in their 70s who are still counting calories and dieting. Life is short, and food is pleasurable. People shouldn’t be afraid to eat and enjoy food because they’re afraid of getting fat.”

Hall is on a mission to help women break the diet cycle, helping them make peace with food and their bodies. She gently guides women away from dieting, teaching them ways to trust their bodies – and food cravings – and engage in life more fully. She’s also working to end size discrimination, which she claims is the most prevalent and accepted form of bias in the United States.

Hall hopes the documentary Fattitude will help her get her message out. She’s bringing Fattitude to the AMC Plainville 20, 220 New Britain Ave. Plainville, on April 19th at 7:30 pm. The event features a one-night screening of the 90-minute documentary aiming to change biases and stereotypes about fat. A brief question and answer session will follow.

Hall is excited to bring Fattitude to Plainville, but notes she needs to sell at least 100 tickets for the film to run. If you’re interested, you can buy tickets at www.tugg.com/events/fattitude-iudf.

Hall’s road to intuitive eating is based on her own lifelong battle with food. A chronic dieter from about age 13, Hall got the message early and often that small is better than large. Hall tried desperately to conform to what she believed her family and society expected from her. It wasn’t until she reached age 40 that she realized that her relationship with food had to change. Her website, https://www.elizabethhallcoaching.com/, features her motto: “Live free or diet.”

Hall became an intuitive eating coach about two years ago, counseling most of her clients by phone. Her initial 20-minute phone consultation is free. A minimum three-month commitment is required from clients.

“I always struggled with my weight,” says Hall, 47, a mother of three from West Hartford. “I was a larger size person from a young age and got the message that I should weigh less. A lot of us don’t even realize that we’re getting this message because it’s completely internalized. It’s just been ingrained in us from a very young age.”

Though women have been judged on their appearance throughout history, Hall claims pressure to be thin began in earnest in the 1920s with insurance companies’ weight charts and influence from the fashion industry. Television, movies and magazines featuring thin – and ultimately gaunt – models helped perpetuate the movement throughout the 20th century.

Hall claims that intuitive eating works where diets fail because it focuses on each person’s body and nutritional needs. People learn to listen to their bodies instead of eating foods prescribed on a diet. Hall says her approach works better than diets because 95 percent of people who go on diets gain weight back within five years.

Hall said television – and now social media – has a major impact on women’s body image. Countries like Fiji had never seen a case of anorexia until western TV came to their country, exposing them to women’s bodies in the United States. Anorexia’s emergence in Fiji demonstrates the power that media has in holding women to certain standards, Hall says.

“There’s an over-emphasis on size and weight in this country,” Hall said. “I think weight should just be left out of the conversation. I want people to realize that all bodies are good.”

Tomorrow: A closer look at “Fattitude.”

Carolyn Milazzo Murphy is blog editor.

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On the Importance of Teen Activism

It is of utmost importance that we, the youth of America, become promoters of change and take action. We are the future, and the time to create a better tomorrow is now.

A call to action by an organizer of the March For Our Lives Rally in Shelton

By Julia Meyer

Shelton High students Tyler Massias, Angela Camara and the author of this blog post, Julia Meyer.

My name is Julia Meyer, and I am an organizer of Shelton March For Our Lives and a teen activist. I believe we are currently living in one of the most crucial political times in American history. There is a heavy demand now, more than ever, for United States citizens to challenge the system that has failed them for so long. With the current presidential administration, it will be an uphill battle to change the flaws in our country. This provides young people–specifically teenagers and young women–an opportunity to share their voices in the hopes of making today’s problems nonexistent tomorrow.

It is especially important for teens to share their voices because we are the future. Many of us young adults will be eligible to register to vote very soon. Therefore, we should start pinpointing the issues that matter to us now. For those who do not know where to start, try making a list of things that matter to you. Then think, What can be done to make sure these things are prioritized?

Take women’s rights for example, many of us young women want to have equal opportunities to our male counterparts. Maybe you feel more can be done to allow for women to have equal pay in the workplace. If so, do something about it! Reach out to your local representatives, congressmen, and town officials. Participate in demonstrations or protests to advocate for these issues that matter. You want to make what you care about a priority amongst people in power, so you can get the change you want.

As a result of the recent Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, many teen activists have risen up to promote change. Since the tragedy, the school’s students have been figureheads for the fight for gun control. Emma González, for example, was a survivor of the shooting and has been an advocate for change. She initially grabbed the nation’s attention after delivering a speech at a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., gun control rally. The speech went viral. She has since been advocating for gun control through social media and even appeared on The Ellen Show, alongside fellow student activists Cameron Kasky and Jaclyn Corin. After the tragedy, Emma has become an example for young women everywhere. She is living proof that by speaking up, you will be heard. Emma has shown that any young person, especially a women, can be an advocate for change.

This Saturday, March 24, students, teachers, parents and thousands of others will march on the streets of Washington, D.C., to demand an end to gun violence and safety in our schools. This event will be known as the “March For Our Lives.” On this same day, hundreds of sister marches around the country will be also taking place, including one in Hartford and one in Shelton.

The Shelton March For Our Lives rally will take place at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Veterans Memorial Park, 38 Canal St. E. It is being organized by myself, Tyler Massias and Angela Camara. At this event, students, teachers, parents, and local officials will speak about gun violence and school safety. We will then march the streets of Shelton, passing by City Hall and demanding change. All our welcome to join us.

The March For Our Lives rallies provide a great outlet for teens to share their voices, whether it be by speaking at them or by marching. It is especially important for young people like me to promote the causes of school safety and ending gun violence, because these issues directly affect us.

It is important that teenagers’ voices be heard as loudly as everyone else’s. The current conflicts of our country affect every citizen, young and old. It is of utmost importance that we, the youth of America, become promoters of change and take action. We are the future, and the time to create a better tomorrow is now.

Julia Meyer is a junior at Shelton High School.

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Testimony on HB 5416, An Act Concerning Deceptive Practices of Limited Services Pregnancy Centers

Testimony for March 20, 2018 Public Hearing, Committee on Public Health

Representative Steinberg, Senator Gerratana, Senator Somers, and distinguished members of the Public Health Committee:

My name is Lauren Pizzoferrato and I live in Wethersfield. I am writing on behalf of the Connecticut Chapter of the National Organization for Women. I testify in strong support of H.B. 5416 An Act Concerning Deceptive Advertising Practices of Limited Services Pregnancy Centers.

CT NOW is a pro-choice organization, and we believe true reproductive choice can only exist without coercion.  Women already face a host of constraints when choosing whether or not to take a pregnancy to term. These constraints include the state of their finances, whether or not they have the support of a healthy partner, their own physical health and their religious beliefs.

For that reason, it is a public health issue when any women is denied this crucial choice because she has been deceived into receiving services from an organization that does not support her belief system.

If a woman is seeking an abortion, she should not be confused about where to get that care. HB5416 protects women from deception during what may be a difficult time during her life. It also lessens any delays should she need time-sensitive services, such as emergency contraception or prenatal care.

In conclusion, I strongly support H.B. 5416 to limit the deceptive advertising practices of crisis pregnancy centers in our state. I urge the committee to move forward with H.B. 5416.

Thank you for your time.

Lauren Pizzoferrato, and on behalf of the Connecticut chapter of the National Organization for Women.

 

Lauren Pizzoferrato serves as Connecticut NOW’s representative on the Connecticut Coalition for Choice.

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The Lesson of MADD

Poster boards of drunk driving victims line a conference room at MADD Connecticut chapter headquarters in East Haven.

If you grew up in the ‘60s and ‘70s, you know at least one person who was killed in a drunk driving crash.

For me, it was a beautiful girl with red hair and fiery spirit the year behind me in school. I didn’t know her, but knew who she was. She went to my church and was part of a large Irish brood known by everyone in town.

She was killed after the car she was riding in slammed into a tree late one night returning home from her summer job. In an instant, she was gone.

Back then, our attitudes and laws about drinking and driving were pretty lax. We hopped into cars after partying without thinking about crashing or getting arrested. One of my friends from Fairfield Prep drank so much one night that he passed out at a toll booth on the Merritt Parkway. No one took his keys, or called his parents. They simply shook him awake, and told him to move on.

Did I drink and drive? Yes, I did. I wasn’t drunk, but I would fail today’s standard for designated drivers, which is no alcohol. I’m not proud of it, but it’s the truth. We were all a little dense back then.

Today, we know better. Drunk driving laws have been toughened, lowering the standard for drunk driving from .10 to .08 in Connecticut. Stricter penalties, mandatory jail time for repeat offenders, and ignition locking devices are in place to keep drunks off the road. But MADD’s biggest achievement may be in changing attitudes.

Beer cups after a road race.
Today’s teens, young adults and parents are much more aware of the dangers of drinking and driving.  Designated drivers are assigned or overnights arranged at friends’ houses keep kids safe after a night of drinking. Schools have also jumped on board, hosting alcohol free post-prom and graduation events.

It’s worked. Today, half as many people are dying in DWI/DUI crashes in Connecticut as 1984. MADD is proof that you can make inroads and save lives if you’re persistent.

MADD is proof that change is a slow process borne of years of conviction and dedication. It shows that change can happen if people make enough noise that lawmakers must listen.

It’s proof that if laws and attitudes about DWI can change, stricter laws can be adopted to prevent gun violence in schools. It won’t happen overnight, with one day of student walkouts or one national march. Like MADD, gun safety advocates must gear up for the long haul because changes take time, a very long time.

MADD started with one California woman, Candy Lightner, who took her devastation and anger over her daughter’s 1980 death in a DWI crash and sprung into action. Lightner’s 13-year-old daughter was walking to a church carnival when she was struck by a repeat DWI offender. Lightner committed herself to changing attitudes toward DWI, which she termed society’s only acceptable form of homicide. Today, MADD is among the largest non-profit advocacy groups in the nation.

Like Lightner, Janice Heggie Margolis unwittingly stumbled into her role as Connecticut chapter MADD president.

Eric Zimmerman was killed by a drunk driver in Milford, CT. I covered his court case, and interviewed his heart-broken mom.
While working in a hospital emergency room one night, a 4-year-old boy was rushed in and later declared dead after a DWI crash. The boy was standing on the passenger seat, and catapulted through the windshield on impact. Janice, a registered nurse, went to break the news to the driver: the boy’s father, who was too drunk to comprehend what he’d done.

“I had a baby at home so I had to do something,” she said.

Instead of a nursing career, she committed herself to MADD. She was still saving lives, but in a different way. She admits she was green when she started out. What did a nurse know about the court system? She credits court officials and judges with showing her the ropes.

Over the years, Janice, 66, has been a tireless victims rights advocate, appearing in court, working with families and lobbying for tougher DWI laws. She can take pride in her work, which has drastically cut the number of drunk driving deaths in Connecticut.

Janice attributes the reduction to public awareness, ride services like Uber, and interlocking devices requiring people who’ve been arrested for DWI to blow into them to start the ignition.

If you’re arrested for drunk driving, your car is equipped with an ignition interlock device requiring you to breathe into it to start it. You pay for the device, but like many things, people figure out ways to circumvent it. They have other people blow into it, or borrow cars without the device. Sadly, someone who wants to drive drunk can always find a way.

Though often feeling as though she taking three steps forward and two back, Janice said she’s seen progress since the late 80s. Between July 1, 2015 and July 1, 2017, ignition interlock devices stopped 144,010 intoxicated drivers in Connecticut. That’s 144,000 times that people were too drunk to drive, and tried to do it anyway.

The number of drunk driving deaths is also dropping. In 1984, 252 people were killed in DWI crashes. In 2016, that number dropped to 100. But it’s a constant fight. And Janice points out that no devices prevent people from driving under the influence of drugs, another major road hazard.

One of the conference rooms at MADD headquarters in East Haven is filled with poster boards bearing the images of people killed in drunk driving crashes. I asked Janice how she handles sitting in the room. The images of smiling faces whose lives were tragically cut short is haunting. But Janice doesn’t see things that way.

“I see it as I’m having lunch all these people every day,” she said. “It’s an honor to sit in this room and honor their memory.”

Today, Janice is the oldest MADD president in the nation. But if you think 35 years is enough or she’s thinking about retirement, you’re wrong.

She’s made inroads, yes, but there’s so much more to be done. And as she’s proven, she’s in this for the long haul.

Carolyn Milazzo Murphy is blog editor for NOW-CT.

 

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Bethel teen implores you to say #Enough to gun violence

… being young has always been accompanied by a feeling of powerlessness; voicelessness; a ‘you’re too young to understand.’ What more do we have to understand about mass murder? Is there a hidden secret about gun violence? How many more kids will die before adults take our opinions seriously?

Support local school walkouts, rallies this month

By Joely Feder

My name is Joely Feder. I am a high schooler from Bethel, Connecticut. I am part of the growing population of youth who are saying #Enough to gun violence.

Just over a week ago, another senseless act of gun violence occurred in Parkland, Florida.

I learned of the events in school.

Another one, I thought to myself. And they’ll do nothing to stop it.

Being a teen in 2018 is an odd phenomena. Sure, it’s great. We have iPhones, a whole world of information at the touch of a button or touch screen. Students are more educated than ever. We are learning at fast paces with high expectations placed on us, dosed with just a bit of social media and cool TV shows to take the edge off.

Yet, being young has always been accompanied by a feeling of powerlessness, a voicelessness, the view that “you’re too young to understand.”

What more do we have to understand about mass murder? Is there a hidden secret about gun violence? How many more kids will die before adults take our opinions seriously?

Because there is no joy when children die. There is no light when teens are at school and a gunman storms their classroom, and they go through the drills that are now a reality. Hidden, or trying to hide, they stay quiet, don’t move a muscle, hold their breath, and pray they won’t be shot dead. Like so many of my friends, I think too often now, What if I am one of these teens?

There is a growing sense among my peers and I that no one in power in the United States cares about our lives. What we see is a total lack of passion for young people, and total antipathy about whether the future workers and leaders of this country live or die.

How crazy is that? Who will protect us if our elders don’t?

Parkland isn’t the first, or biggest, or most unimaginable school shooting. It’s the most recent, and we need to take action to make sure it’s the last. Because already this year alone, there have been mass shootings in Texas, Washington, Kentucky, and other states, too.

And what steps toward gun reform have been made?

None.

Though I am only 17 and can’t yet vote, I’m doing everything I can to show Congress that my generation will end gun violence. … Not that we just want to, but that we will. We will step up and fight tirelessly in the battle that only some Congressmen and women in America can truthfully say they engage in.

On Wednesday, March 14, many of the nation’s youth will participate in school walkouts to send a message to the government that we want to end gun violence now. At my high school in Bethel, I am working with administrators to lead these kinds of events. We will remember the victims’ names, we will honor them, we will raise awareness about gun violence, and we will fight hard against the lack of laws in place that have allowed too many to die. Then, on March 24th, we will take to the streets and March for Our Lives. One of the events planned in Connecticut is a statewide rally in Hartford. Another is planned by Shelton students.

I get that this sounds idealistic. I get that many people don’t think that marching will do anything. But we need to make noise. We need to be heard.

How many more people will die before laws around gun control are changed? 10? 100? 1000?

Will the next school shooting be in Florida again? In Texas? Nebraska? Maine? Kentucky? Washington? Indiana? Maybe Connecticut will suffer another Sandy Hook. And maybe it will be me who’s shot dead.

I wonder sometimes, Will it be me who gun-enthusiast politicians use as a sob-story to promote their agenda to blame mental illness, terrorism or another abstract idea on murder?

This country needs change, and it needs change NOW.

I encourage you to spread the word about the #Enough National School Walkout on March 14, and to take part in one happening near you. Join the students in your community and show them your support. Then, Tweet it. Snapchat it. Instagram it. Facebook it. Flood your state and federal legislators with messages, letters and emails about the urgent need now in our country for gun reform. Send a message that shows you care about what’s going on. Show the country you care about youth. Show our Connecticut legislators and Congress you will not tolerate more killing.

Support us teens. Works with us to advocate change.

We won’t keep dying. We refuse, and we won’t stop until the gun violence stops.

Joely Feder of Bethel is an intern for Connecticut NOW.

 

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On Angels and Fast-Tailed Girls

…. It is certainly an abuse of power and reeks of sexual abuse grooming. Any discussion about the teen-aged girl and her “responsibility” in this scenario is shaming children for their sexual exploitation by adult men.

 

By Kate Hamilton Moser

Last week, news broke that a well-respected member of our state Legislature was exchanging messages with a 16-year-old girl. The messages were described as “unusually familiar and affectionate in tone.” What does that mean? Who determines what is “unusually familiar and affectionate in tone?” As a parent, I can tell you that any messages from an adult to my 16-year-old of any gender–particularly from an adult with significant power and authority–would need to be perceived as “professional and detached” in order for me to read them as appropriate.

When this state legislator was confronted by The Courant about these messages, he initially stated that he didn’t remember the girl.

He didn’t remember the girl? How is that possible?

He didn’t remember telling a 16 year-old-girl, “Really hun trust I think we going to keep a lot of secrets between us?” How is that possible? Does he routinely say these things to 16-year-old girls? Did he not remember because she wasn’t that important to him and because this is routine behavior for him? Are there too many messages with other underage girls to keep up with this one?

When the state legislator was again confronted, he told reporters to contact his attorney. His attorney stated that the elected representative “did not do anything improper, but will not comment further based on my advice.”

“Good night love and sweet dreams and thank you for coming into my life,” one text read, while others said: “I wish you were living in Hartford. We be hanging out all the times”; “You so beautiful and gorgeous”; “Really hun trust I think we going to keep a lot of secrets between us”; “Hope you know how to keep things to yourself when we conversate”; “I’m going to help your mom get that job in Hartford.”

Does that sound like proper communications from a 57-year-old man and state representative to a 16-year-old girl?

There is nothing improper about saying any of these things to a 16-year-old girl? What about “I’m going to help your mom get that job in Hartford”? In what world is it proper of an elected representative to discuss employment opportunities of a parent with a 16-year-old girl? What was asked of her and what sort of secrets did she need to keep in order for her mom to “get that job in Hartford”?

These aren’t messages that many of us routinely send to our friends that we forget about 2.5 years later. If you ask me if I remember complaining about something to a friend, or flirting with my spouse in a message from 2015, I probably won’t remember. If you ask me about messages that I sent to an underage child that were “unusually familiar and affectionate in tone,” I would certainly remember. Why? Because I did exchange messages with a 16-year-old boy last year, and I did so carefully.

These messages were about political events and issues involving town politics. I always communicated at a level where I would not be uncomfortable with any adult reading them at any time. I always imagined that I was exchanging messages with him AND his mother AND DCF. While I texted messages that I hoped were warm and funny in tone, it was always at the front of my mind that despite this boy’s intelligence and maturity, he was a 16-year-old boy. I respected him as a teen and my responsibility as the adult in the relationship.

This state legislator was immediately stripped of his titles, committee responsibilities, and asked to resign is role as state representative by the House majority leader. The governor and mayor of the town his district represents also followed suit. This state legislator did resign from his role on his town committee, but with a town committee election scheduled for Tuesday, March 6, the deadline had already passed to remove his name from the ballot.

Why hasn’t he resigned his role as state representative? Does he think that he can ride out this scandal and abuse of a child without any real consequences? Is someone whispering in his ear that all will be fine and to let it blow over?

Or is it something else? Is it because there is this idea that underage girls, if their bodies have developed, are ready for sexual relationships with adult men? Do they believe that she is “asking for it?” Did she flirt with him? Is she a fast-tailed girl? A bad girl? Did she use her years of experience as a 16-year-old to seduce and lure an experienced and powerful 57-year-old man into this relationship? Or is she merely part of the spoils of being an experienced and powerful man?

No. She is a child. Legally a child. A minor. There is nothing she could have said or done that makes this relationship and these messages “proper”. It may not be illegal, yet, but it is not proper. Not from any adult in our society and particularly not for a man elected to represent his district in the Connecticut General Assembly. It is certainly an abuse of power and reeks of sexual abuse grooming. Any discussion about the teen-aged girl and her “responsibility” in this scenario is shaming children for their sexual exploitation by adult men.

What will it take for this state representative to resign his position and change the culture surrounding the sexual exploitation and abuse of children in our communities? There is legislation being debated in committees in Hartford now that can address some of the legal holes that allow child sexual predators to abuse and exploit children without fear of any legal consequences.

Should the state legislator in question be allowed to vote on those bills? Should he be allowed to use his still considerable power and influence to negotiate with other members of the legislature in regards to these bills? Is that why we elect people to represent us and our interests at the Capitol?

Kate Hamilton Moser is vice president of legislative action for Connecticut NOW.

 

 

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Clearing Up Paid Leave Myths

By Nichole Berklas

It’s time to clear up some myths about paid family leave.

SB-1: An Act Concerning Earned Family and Medical Leave and H.B. 5387: An Act Concerning Paid Family Medical Leave, are set for hearing Thursday at 2:30 p.m., and making their way through the legislative process. With the public hearing fast approaching, it’s time to clear up the following misconceptions.

  1. We already have FMLA, that is enough.  Check out our earlier blog for more details on this issue- the short and sweet answer is NO.  http://now-ct.org/but-wait-dont-we-already-have-paid-family-leave/
  2. What employees will be eligible?  Any employee who has earned $2,325 in the highest earning quarter within the five most recent completed calendar quarters is eligible, and their eligibility is determined based on earnings with multiple employers.  
  3. What if YOU are the employer?  Needing paid leave does not restrict itself to employees only.  Self-employed people may choose to opt into the program should they want a safety net in the event (or when) life rears up!
  4. If you take leave, what do you get?   Employees may take up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave, with an extra 2 weeks available if there is a serious health condition with a pregnancy that results in incapacity.  Employees receive 100% of their weekly wages, up to a cap of $1,000 per week.
  5. This seems great, BUT CONNECTICUT HAS NO MONEY.   The advantage of this program is that it is not dependent on the financial viability of the State.  The program is funded by a small employee premium of 0.5% of weekly earning, up to the SSI limit on deductions.  While the program will be administered by the CT Department of Labor, and will require personnel to administer, the costs of this administration has been factored into the program itself.  Start up costs will be funded by bond allocation, and premiums will be collected for a year prior to claimants being able to draw upon the fund, which will allow the program to be self-sustaining  and cover benefit claims as well as staffing needs.
  6. This will hurt businesses, and we certainly can’t afford that NOW.  When workers don’t have access to paid leave, they are more likely to leave their jobs.  Improving worker retention has real monetary benefits to employers large and small. After 10 years of paid family leave in California (the state with the longest existing program), employers overwhelming report positive or neutral impacts on their business and note increased morale and productivity in employees.

Nichole Berklas serves as Connecticut NOW’s representative to the Connecticut Campaign for Paid Family Leave.

 

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Making Her Mark

A few months ago, I was going through a tiny Will Smith jag.

After the song “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” (I know, dumb title, dumber song) came on the car radio, I came home and wanted more Smith. I’ve always loved the song “Men in Black,” though I’ve never watched the movie. I then played “Miami,” Smith’s tribute to the city’s tropical climate, fancy cars, lavish homes and beautiful women.

As “Miami” blared, my 16-year-old daughter came into the kitchen. “I don’t like the way he’s talking about women,” she said. “He’s just talking about what they look like. That’s wrong.”

Yes, he was and it is. I wasn’t paying attention the lyrics, which are pretty tame by today’s standards. But she noticed. And though I’ve never discussed objectifying women with her, I’m happy she’s aware of it and knows it’s wrong. Like most teen-agers, she gets a lot of information online. This was one time I wasn’t upset that she spends too much time on her laptop.

But I thought about it, and realized that I’ve dropped the ball discussing women’s issues with her and my 20-year-old son. I realized if I don’t bring up the way things were and are, who will? I shouldn’t depend on others to do my job. I think I was suffering from a bit of complacency like a lot of women today.

Fortunately, March is a good time to change because it’s Women’s History Month, 31 days devoted to recognizing our struggles and accomplishments. Originally launched 40 years ago as National Women’s History Month, the designation expanded to include the entire month of March in 1987. This year, International Women’s Day is Thursday, March 8th.

Women’s organizations, colleges and universities, schools and public libraries are hosting speakers, workshops, essays and poster contests to mark the month. Organizers say this year is particularly important because of the #METOO and #TIMESUP movements. The issue of college date rape is also hitting close to home with the trial of a former Yale student accused of sexually assaulting a classmate while she was intoxicated. Though many colleges and universities are addressing this issue, it remains a deeply troubling problem nationwide.

I plan to seize this opportunity to discuss women’s issues with my kids. I may even bring them to one of the many events being held this month. Connecticut Public Radio’s Where We Live is hosting three conversations with prominent Connecticut women from very different backgrounds.

In the Making Her Story series, host Lucy Nalpathanchil will ask each about the journey that led to her success in business or non-profit work. The series opens tonight with Teresa C. Younger, who has served as President and CEO of the Ms. Foundation for Women, the oldest women’s foundation in the United States, since 2014.  The event (reception 6 p.m., followed by talk at 7 p.m.) is at Gateway Community College’s Curran Family Community Center, 20 Church St., New Haven. Tickets are $10.

I’m also going to tell  my kids about growing up in the ’60s and ’70s, and the inroads feminists made for us. I didn’t burn bras or march – I was only in my early to mid-teens at the height of the movement – but I do have my own stories. I entered Wheaton College, an all-women’s college (now co-ed) at a time when colleges and universities were still “going co-ed” and grappling with the transition.

People often ask me if I played golf in college, but I didn’t because there was no golf team. This wasn’t the exception back then. Women were treated like second-class citizens. We were paid less than men, barred from joining civic groups like the Rotary Club, and blocked from certain jobs.

I grew up in an era when men and women were treated differently, particularly in sports. I’m old enough to have watched the original Battle of the Sexes between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King in 1973. I’m old. Heck, I’m old enough to have played tennis against Patty Ann Meyer, one of the founding members of the Virginia Slims Tour. She can still beat me with one arm tied behind her back, but you get the point. We are not that far removed from those days, but people have short memories.

My husband was part of the first co-ed freshman class to enter Williams College in the fall of 1971. During his four years, the ratio of men to women was 3-1, and it took years for the classes to even out. Though many feared that going co-ed would lead to the admission of women with inferior academic records, the opposite was true: most of the women admitted during the transition were highly intelligent and more studious than their male counterparts.

Did they have a point to prove? Absolutely. As any hiker will tell you, it’s a lot easier to navigate blazed trails. Take a look at some of the activities planned this month. There’s a lot to celebrate, but many trails that still need to be marked.

Carolyn Milazzo is blog editor for CT-NOW.

 

 

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Why Paid Leave Matters

Matt Laufer with his mom Jane Miller Laufer in a recent Facebook post.
Jane Miller Laufer is in crisis mode – again.
Nearly 15 years after her son Matt was paralyzed in a devastating car crash on Interstate 95, Jane is by his side as he battles acute respiratory failure. The condition causes a build-up of fluid in the air sacs of the lungs, preventing proper exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen.
For nearly eight months, Jane has worn two hats: devoted and loving mom to 38-year-old Matt and registered nurse/case manager for her gravely ill son. She’s where she needs and must be, but it’s been a huge emotional and financial strain on Jane and her family.
She’s living apart from her husband, Dan, and the couple have put their fledgling women’s clothing business LuLaRoe on hold. After exhausting 16 weeks of unpaid family leave time and paid benefits, Jane, 59, recently resigned as a full-time registered nurse to care for Matt. She pays Cobra for her health insurance.
“It’s been a huge financial strain,” she said.
 “I’m exhausted physically, but more so emotionally on this roller coaster ride of good days and bad days,” she said. “Matt’s diaphragm, although not fully paralyzed, has atrophied over the years. He has chronic end stage respiratory failure. Slow, steady decline is anticipated. Matt’s need for continuous care will remain unchanged. At some point, he most likely will choose the option of hospice, but currently, he wants to try to enjoy whatever quality of life he can.”
Jane is a staunch advocate of paid family leave in Connecticut, saying that four months of unpaid leave is woefully inadequate when dealing with a chronic health condition. She supports caregivers being eligible to receive up to one year of paid family leave.
Though anyone can find themselves in the sudden role of caregiver, studies show the issue affects far more women than men.
About 66 percent of caregivers are women. The average caretaker is a 49-year-old woman who works full time and provides up to 20 hours of unpaid care to her mother. And while men are also caretakers, women provide 50 percent more time caregiving than men.
NOW’s Connecticut chapter supports paid family leave, which is being considered under a proposed state law. NOW-CT believes paid leave would give caregivers financial security during medical or family emergencies.
In Connecticut, employees can take up to four months of unpaid leave for a medical or family issue, such as an illness, accident or the birth or adoption of a child. But a proposed state law would provide a minimum of 12 weeks of paid leave for people who stay home for family or medical emergencies. (For a rundown of the proposal, see below.)
A handful of states currently provide paid medical leave. CaliforniaRhode IslandWashingtonNew Jersey, and New York –  and the District of Columbia – have laws that provide paid family leave laws.
A public hearing on the proposed bill in Connecticut is at 2:30 p.m. March 8 at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford. Bill supporters are urging residents to attend the hearing to share their stories with legislators.
Jane said having to worry about losing her job was an additional burden while caring for Matt. She said she was filled with anxiety about quitting her nursing job, but had no choice.
If she couldn’t provide round the clock nursing care, Matt’s only option would be admission to a nursing home that accepted patients on ventilators. Jane said that was out of the question.
“There is no way I was going to put my 38-year-old son in a nursing home,” Jane said.
The Laufer’s life changed permanently in May, 2003, when Matt was paralyzed in a car accident while driving to work on Interstate 95 in Fairfield. With traffic at a standstill due to an accident ahead, Matt sat in gridlock in the center lane. Glancing in the rear view mirror, Matt saw an 18-wheel truck barreling toward his car. The truck struck with such force that it pushed Matt’s car beneath an 18-wheeler ahead of him, pinning the car beneath the trailer bed.
Matt’s injuries were catastrophic and permanent: six of seven neck vertebra were crushed, paralyzing him from the shoulders down. He was a paraplegic at age 23, but determined to live as independently as possible. After living with his parents for two and a half years and being cared for by Jane, he moved into his own house, where he lived with the help of aides for his basic needs.
His health took a sharp downward spiral last August when he was hospitalized for acute respiratory failure. A tracheostomy tube was inserted to create an opening in his airway, and he was placed on a ventilator. Jane said the disease is slow and progressive.
“I feel fortunate to be able to provide the care that my son requires,” Jane said. “But the hardest part about being a “Nurse-Mom” is knowing that the outcome will not be positive for Matt in the long run. Sometimes, ignorance is bliss.”
 
BY THE NUMBERS:
Below are highlights of the proposed Family & Medical Leave Insurance Program being considered in Connecticut.
REASONS FOR TAKING LEAVE
●A serious health condition
●The birth or adoption of a new child, or foster care placement
●To provide caregiving to a family member with a serious illness
●To serve as an organ or bone marrow donor
●To care for an injured service member
●For issues associated with domestic violence
COVERAGE
●Must work for an employer of two or more
●State and municipal employees who are covered by collective bargaining contracts can opt into the program through the collective bargaining process
● Self-employed people may opt in
● Includes job protection for workers who have worked for an employer for at least 6 months and 500 hours
ELIGIBILITY
● An employee must have earned $2,325 in the highest earning quarter within the five most recently completed calendar quarters
● Earnings may be with multiple employers
● Workers may use leave for the reasons defined in CT’s FMLA with the addition of caring for a sibling, grandparent or grandchild, a child of any age and any other individual related by blood or whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship
NUMBER OF WEEKS
● Employees may take up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave. An employee can take two extra weeks if there is a serious health condition with a pregnancy that results in incapacity
● The waiting period before using leave is 7 days
WAGE REPLACEMENT
● Employees will receive 100% of their weekly earnings, up to a cap of $1,000/week.
Source: Connecticut Campaign for Paid Family Leave.

Carolyn Milazzo Murphy is blog editor for NOW-CT.

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My New Gig

 

Momma’s New Gig

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                                                          CT-NOW President Cindy Wolfe Boynton blows me a good luck kiss.

Momma’s got a brand new gig.

My friend and former editor Cindy Wolfe Boynton asked if I’d take charge of the National Organization of Women’s Connecticut chapter’s blog. I’m handling its content so Cindy can do other things, including running for state representative, teaching college courses, leading CT-NOW, advocating for adoptee rights, being a wife to her husband Ted, and mom of two young adult sons.

I’m sure that’s not all she’s doing, because she’s one of the busiest people I know. She wrote a play about her mother’s battle with Parkinson’s disease, has written a couple of books and leads a quirky walking tour called Spirits of Milford that visits famous ghosts sites.

She’s someone you want to be around because she’s on a mission to make the world a better place. Years ago, she asked me to sit on a committee to collect gifts, clothing and throw a Christmas party for residents at the Beth El Shelter, Milford’s homeless shelter. She also got me involved in a movement to open adoption laws in Connecticut so adoptees born before 1983 can access their original birth certificates. Cindy’s an adoptee, while I’m the mom of two adopted children.

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My favorite Maltese Eli.

She’s a person who sees endless possibilities instead of obstacles. When Internet trolls took potshots at her for supporting Hillary Clinton, and entering the race for state representative, she kept their ugly comments on her Facebook feed. When I asked her how she deals with unkind remarks, she shrugged. “People can be so cruel. I guess I just let it roll off my back. I learned that from Linda Bouvier, my editor at the Milford Citizen. She didn’t let anything bother her.”

When I reminded her that Facebook is not a newspaper and she has the right to remove such comments, she looked as if it had never crossed her mind. She is the rarest combination of big-hearted yet tough as nails. I’m hoping a little of her resolve rubs off on me. I still remember every nasty remark anyone ever said to me when I was a reporter.

“So, what’s up? What are you doing, sitting at home writing blog posts all day?” she asked. “What’s the story with your blog? How did this whole thing come about?”

She’s always had the impression that I’m pampered, like a Maltese with a tiny ribbon in its hair with a jeweled collar and leash. And I suppose by some people’s standards, I am. I was lucky to stay home with my kids, but I know what it’s like to work and scrimp. I put my husband through law school on a $12,000 per year reporter’s salary. We qualified for free blocks of federally-funded cheese, and I bought paper towels one roll at the time.

I explained my blog is an outgrowth of my inability to find a job after being a stay-at-home mom for 18 years. I have a part-time job and volunteer, but my blog is my baby. I write every day, though 75 percent stays in the draft bin. I don’t make a dime off it, and I like it that way. If you want to ruin something, make it your job instead of your passion.

I blog to share my thoughts and take on life, to work out things that perplex, amuse, interest or move me. I don’t have an axe to grind. I just want to share my stories, and for you to weigh in if you’d like. I love feedback. It means you’re paying attention.

Like a lot of things in her life, Cindy has a great vision for the CT-NOW blog. She’d like to feature stories about women facing issues because of their gender. I wracked my brain for women who could be profiled over the next few weeks. And then I realized that I could have used CT-NOW when I launched my job hunt two years ago. I’m convinced I was dismissed as a job candidate for positions well beneath my pay grade because I’m a woman over 50 (OK, over 55, but who’s counting?)

I suspect I was a victim of sex and age discrimination, that when people looked at my college graduation year (1980) they thought, “Why is she applying for jobs when she’s nearing retirement age?” Job hunting at this age is humiliating. It’s even worse when the neighbor down the road tells you she’ll put in a good word, and you still hear nothing.

I believe that age discrimination is becoming as big a problem as sexual discrimination in this country.  Sally Koslow wrote a brilliant piece on this subject last summer in her piece entitled, “Hire A Woman’s Your Mom’s Age” in the New York Times. Reading her piece was one of the first assurances I had that I wasn’t a complete loser, that other women had tread similar paths and survived.

As my accounts to Indeed, Monster and LinkedIn sat woefully silent, I was flooded with news about new college graduates landing jobs for well over $100,000. I was happy for them, but dispirited and depressed. I found myself regretting my decision to stay home with my kids, and urging young moms to keep a foot in the workplace lest they never work again. I was haunted by the expression, “Out to pasture.”

At cocktail parties, I’d tell everyone that society has no respect for stay-at-home moms, that we’re viewed as second class citizens who spend all day watching TV, nibbling on bon bons and spending our husband’s (or partner’s) hard-earned cash. A part of me believes there’s still this perception, that we’re lazy and took the easy way out.

I’ve heard of women who have penned novels at kitchen tables, and painted murals while their kids were sleeping, but these are superwomen. Most of us just want to put up our feet and watch a TV show or read a book without being interrupted when the kids are finally in bed. At least that’s my goal.

Women need to realize that we’re all in this together, that when one woman is discriminated against, we all suffer. Over dinner with two couples, a woman I went to high school with complained about stay-at-home moms looking down on working mothers.

My former classmate is a divorced mom who worked full-time to support her two children. Despite her job duties, she made a point of attending school events. One day when showing up to a field trip, a stay-at-home mom glared at her and announced, “Oh look who showed up. Doesn’t Mrs. So & So look nice in her fancy boots?”

We’ve all been there, haven’t we? And sometimes it feels like we just can’t win. We’re all doing our best – holding down jobs, taking care of kids, parents, the house and the dog, and trying to carve out time for self-care. But the self-care more often than not goes out the window. Just ask any woman who plans to hit the gym after work, and has to skip it because of dinner, the PTA meeting or the book report due the next day.

I’m convinced that women hold the power to do great things if we unite and take more active roles in changing things. It’s easy to sit back and criticize, quite another to put yourself out there to affect change. I’m convinced mothers must take the lead in ending school shootings. Organizations like the Sandy Hook Promise are doing great work, but they can’t do it alone. We need to get out there and make our voices heard.

PB233269 (1).jpgCarolyn Milazzo Murphy is blog editor for the National Organization of Women-Connecticut chapter. She is a freelance writer with more than 30 years experience in journalism. She writes the gsandwich.wordpress.com, and is active in many community organizations. She can be reached at carolyn.milazzo@gmail.com.

 

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