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Shot@Life Vaccination Campaign Celebrates One Year of Changing Lives #BirthdayBash

Disclosures: Photos provided by Shot@Life and Lindsay. Statistics for this post provided by the Shot@Life campaign and to the best of my knowledge are accurate. I was not compensated for this post, I just think this is a great movement.

 

Some ideas are so elegant in their simplicity they are awe-inspiring. For example, the United Nations Foundation’s Shot@Life Campaign. In a world where one child dies every 20 seconds from a preventable disease, the solution practically writes itself. Get those children the life-saving vaccines they need!

The Shot@Life movement focuses on just four diseases: pneumonia, diarrhea, measles and polio. These are diseases that can easily and inexpensively be prevented with vaccines and are widespread enough to merit targeting.

“Pneumonia and diarrhea are the two biggest killers of children under five, and account for more than one-third of childhood deaths worldwide. Polio has recently re-emerged in areas that had been polio-free for years and measles still kills an estimated 450 people each day—the majority of whom are young children,” according to the Shot@Life.org website.

Shot@Life’s first birthday — they like to use the term birthday rather than anniversary to mirror the act of a child reaching his or her first birthday — coincides with World Immunization Week. If you’d like to know more about the organization, you can see what I wrote about them after attending a local media briefing.

But in this post, in honor of Shot@Life’s own milestone, I was given an opportunity to interview one of their “Champions” — a blogger who took things up a notch, received training at the Shot@Life Champion Summit, and has blogged, tweeted, and spoken about the cause for several months. Lindsay from Laughing Lindsay kindly allowed me to interview her via email last week.

E-Interview with Lindsay of LaughingLindsay.com

Lindsay at a Shot@Life event.

JavaMom: How did you first learn of Shot@Life? Was it at the  Type-A Parent Conference 2012 in Charlotte North Carolina?

Lindsay: Yes, it was at Type-A. I visited Shot@Life’s booth and grabbed a blog prompt and then viewed their video on the last day which was very touching.

JavaMom: On your blog you said your Masters in Education compels you to stand up for all kids, but what convinced you Shot@Life was the right campaign to get involved with?

Lindsay: Healthcare is something that is very important to me… My dad had been in bad health for years. He was always worried about me developing some of his conditions and always made sure I received preventive care. Sadly, he passed away back in December. Since then, I’ve wanted to give other children the opportunity to survive and thrive, like my father did with me. I want to stand up for those children who aren’t as lucky as me.

 JavaMom: You went to the Champions Summit in DC — what was the most interesting or life-changing takeaway from that event?

Lindsay: The Summit was my first time traveling away from home since dad passed (I still live with my mom). The Summit forced me to finally talk about my dad and his passing (I hadn’t done it much prior to that). I still haven’t spoken much about it to people outside of my immediate family as it’s still hard to discuss. However, this cause has allowed me to discuss and deal with losing him around strangers.

 JavaMom: What was it like meeting the other Champions? Any surprises?

Lindsay: I’m initially a pretty reserved person. So, I didn’t say much when I was grouped with the other folks from Virginia. However, they called me on it and one of the first things I told them was about Dad. Those women instantly went from being strangers to some of the best ladies I’ve ever met. I didn’t think I would bond with other people so quickly there, but I did. The Summit was about learning about the cause/organization but also about connecting with other people right there.

 JavaMom: What have you been able to do as a champion to help further the cause of Shot@Life?

Lindsay: I blog and Tweet about it pretty often. I also spoke at the General Federation of Women’s Clubs in West Virginia state conference last month (which also forced me to talk about Dad).

JavaMom: What more would you like to do with the Shot@Life movement?

Lindsay: I would love to do an observation trip, like some other Champions have done. Also, I hope to get a mention in the local newspaper someday. Really, anything to get the word out there and get more people involved.

JavaMom: Please provide five key facts you like readers to know about Shot@Life and what they do.

Lindsay:

Five Reasons to Support Shot@Life

  1. 1.5 million children die each year of a disease that could have been prevented by a vaccine. We can change this!
  2. Vaccines are one of the most cost-effective ways to save the lives of children in developing countries.
  3. Around the world, some moms walk 15 miles to get vaccines for kids. Shot@Life can make it easier.
  4. $20 can vaccinate a child against four deadly diseases.
  5. Immunizing a child helps us build a healthier world for everyone.

JavaMom: What would you like to challenge readers to do this week?

Lindsay: Here are three easy ways to help:

  • From now  until May 2, share a relay post from the Global Mom Relay on Facebook or Twitter to unlock a $5 donation (up to $62,000 per week) from Johnson & Johnson and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to benefit Shot@Life.
  • Signup to join the cause at: http://shotatlife.org/join.html
  • Or donate here

 JavaMom: And since we’re talking about birthdays and milestones… Do you have any birthday traditions?

Lindsay: I must have cupcakes (preferably either chocolate cake with buttercream frosting or red velvet cupcakes).

 JavaMom: Did you reach any key milestones during your time as a Shot@Life Champion?

Lindsay: Well, the Champion Summit was my first trip to D.C. and while there I got to have my first ride in a taxi cab.

<end of interview>

The Shot@Life campaign has stressed milestones — what milestones can children reach if given the opportunity to when given a life-saving vaccine.  Throughout the campaign, we as US mothers have been asked to think about what milestones we dream of our children having and to think of what we hope their counterparts across the globe should be able to reach as well. One more child to lose a tooth. One more book reader. A shot at riding a bike. Doesn’t every child deserve the same? Of course they do!

In the past year, Shot@Life has ensured that thousands of children around the world reached the milestone of celebrating a first birthday by receiving life-saving vaccines, sent over 26,000 letters to Congress, and grew this movement to over 190,000 supporters. As if that weren’t accomplishment enough, as you can see by the interview, this movement not only changes the lives of the people it is trying to help, but of the volunteers as well. I appreciate Lindsay being so open about her father’s passing during our interview — obviously still a difficult topic to discuss — and want to point out the gift that this campaign has given of giving her something to help carry on the legacy her father gave her of feeling compassionate towards others and a forum for reaching outside of herself into something larger so that she could keep moving forward even in her time of grief and mourning. She not only continued to feel a sense of purpose, she found a supportive community. As someone with a long history with volunteer organizations, I feel this says a lot about the Shot@Life organization.

Please visit their website for a list of additional ways to get involved, follow the #BirthdayBash hashtag on Twitter to see more stories and tweets about this week’s activities, download the mobile app for a fun way to document your child’s milestone while raising awareness about the global vaccination movement, and spread the word about the Shot@Life movement with friends and family.

Shot At Life: Save Lives, Change the World, With a Few Clicks #shotatlifedc

If you could prevent a child’s death would you? Of course you would. Picture all the children who enter kindergarten in the US each year and then imagine half of them being dead by the end of the year from preventable diseases. That’s the number of children in developing countries who are lost each year, all for the want of some simple vaccines. (Statistics in this post are  provided by the United Nations Foundation).

One in five children around the world does not have access to the vaccines they need to survive, which means that a child dies every 20 seconds in developing countries of a disease that can be prevented by a vaccine.  

This does not have to happen. There is a very simple solution.

$20 can provide a lifetime of life-saving vaccines for a child in a developing country. The United Nations Foundation with many partners, has a program called Shot@Life focused on global health for children, currently by providing vaccines against four preventable diseases: polio, measles, diarrhea and pneumonia.

In the US, many of us have the option to delay or even deny vaccines, where in other parts of the world, mothers are walking 15 miles, desperate to get their children vaccines so they won’t lose another child to a preventable disease. United Nations Foundation Shot@Life Director Devi Ramachandran Thomas shared with us that in some countries, “They may have very few posessions, but they cling onto their immunization cards as their most precious possession, because it is that important.”

Every child deserves a shot at life. Every child should be able to reach the milestones we look forward to our own children reaching. His first smile. Her first bike ride. His first time reading a book out loud all by himself. Her first cartwheel. Knowing the facts, can we turn a blind eye? We can’t.

I learned about Shot@Life by attending a press event Friday evening, hosted by Monica Sakala of Wired Momma and Anastasia and Gianluigi Dellaccio, owners of the local business Dolci Gelati. They are ambassadors for the program and shared their stories about why they have become involved. And while the event itself was lighthearted and fun, the seriousness of the campaign was not lost on any of us who were there. Children are dying. And we can stop it. But we have to get the word out about how simple this solution is.

Here are a few more facts to know:

  • 70% of all unvaccinated children live in just 10 developing countries.
  • The Measles Initiative, which vaccinated one billion children in 60 developing countries since 2001, decreased world measles deaths by 78%.
  • Polio eradication is within reach — the world is 99% polio-free, but getting that final 1% is critical.

This week is World Immunization Week. Will you join me in advocating about the need to help? Here are some very simple things you can do:

  • Educate yourself further about the need and the program at the Shot@Life site.
  • Tweet about the program or World Immunization Week using the hashtags #shotatlifedc and #vaccineswork. Feel free to give a shout out to @shotatlife and to me as well @caffandaprayer.
  • Don’t know what to say? You can always tweet this post using the short link http://caffeineandaprayer.com/?p=3232 with the hash tags #shotatlifedc and #vaccineswork.
  • Keep current on the campaign by following @ShotatLife on Twitter and Liking them on Facebook.
  • Sign the pledge on their web site.
  • Put your money where your mouth is and donate whatever you can to the cause – remember, $20 can provide a lifetime of vaccines to a child.
  • Share, share, share the info any way you can, from old-fashioned word-of-mouth to your personal Facebook pages, to even offering to host your own informational night about Shot@Life.

Very rarely can we actually make a global difference right from our living rooms, but this time, we can.  Let’s do it!

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Disclosure: I attended a press event with other bloggers and members of the media and was provided a PR gift bag. I have not been compensated for this post and everything is from my heart. I believe in this campaign. All statistics cited have been provided by the Shot@Life media kit. All photos are provided by and copyrighted by Shot@Life .

Space Shuttle Discovery Thrills Audience at Udvar-Hazy #SpotTheShuttle

Joy, patriotic pride, and sadness over the end of an era swept over me as the space shuttle Discovery whooshed over our heads while the kids and I stood with what felt like half of Northern Virginia at National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center Tuesday morning. I wasn’t born until after the first astronaut landed on the moon, but I vividly remember (and was even invited to attend) the first shuttle launch. The 1986 Challenger explosion is a defining moment for my generation, and every launch that followed felt like an American triumph over tragedy, especially after the Columbia tragedy in 2003. We no longer naively believed that the shuttle was invincible after Challenger, and Columbia reinforced that. Space is still a wild frontier, with so much left to be tamed. Though there has been the International Space Station, the Hubble telescope, and the Mars Rover — to me, the shuttle program has been the iconic symbol of NASA. It is what I grew up with, studied, rooted for, cried over, cheered for when it rose again, and then struggled with the realization that we weren’t going to see another one launch. I can’t imagine not watching another one launching.

I pulled my kids out of school to watch today’s flight, and made a last minute decision to rush over to Udvar-Hazy rather than just watch from our front yard. The kids were reluctant to miss school, but once they felt — actually FELT — the air rush over them and saw the underbelly of the jumbo jet that gave it a piggyback ride to Virginia, they understood why I was so insistent. Miraculously I managed to pick the right spot to be directly under it for the first pass of the morning, directly under it, feeling so close that we almost felt like we could reach up and grab on for a ride. In fact, it flustered me so much, I pushed the wrong button on my new camera! I got off a couple of shots, but not the ones I should have!

 Space Shuttle Discovery Udvar-Hazy fly-by

Thankfully, we had two more chances for an up-close view.

 

Space Shuttle Discovery side view

Between flights, I had an opportunity to take some shots of the people who were trying to spot the shuttle.

 

There were people of all generations in the parking lot, including a grandfatherly gentleman who was also skipping school (“I told my geology professor I was skipping class so I could come here!”) He was clearly as giddy to be there as some of the kids. In fact, I almost think that the excitement factor racheted up in direct correlation with age. Though there were some grumblings along the political front about the future of the space program (one comment I heard, “JFK must be spinning in his grave!”), overall the crowd was united in how thrilled they were in being able to be this close to the action. It was the most well-run event and politely behaved crowd I have ever seen.

I’m not sure my kids fully grasp the meaning of this historic day, but one day they will, and they will thank me for understanding that sometimes, you can learn more out of the classroom than in it. In the meantime, they got to see the beauty of Discovery in the air, not once, but THREE times, hone their powers of observation, (When did the air traffic stop? When did the pacer plane come by? When did the helicopters sweep through, where did they hover? What clues told us when Discovery was coming back by and which path it would take next?) and feel the difference between watching an incredible moment and actually being a part of it.

Incidentally, one of the channels recently ran a series of programs that was co-created by Discovery Channel and NASA called When We Left the Earth: The NASA Missions. I found it so fascinating that I am going to purchase the DVDs and found you can buy them online at Amazon or at Discovery. I think these will help my kids help put today into perspective, and you may find them helpful for yours!

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Associate and have included a link to a product to Amazon.  If you buy a product on Amazon directly after clicking on that link, I may receive a small percentage of the sale. I do not track nor have a way of tracking who purchased what.

Drinking, Driving and Motherhood

Woman with wine glassSome posts are simply harder to write than others. They roll around in my brain until they are ready to be written.  The topic of drinking and driving is easy — in my reporter days that was standard fare for the holiday season. Gruesome as it is, I’ve covered so many drunk driving fatalities, I no longer remember the total body count. 

But drinking and motherhood, that’s an entirely different story.

Because drinking and motherhood is the dirty little secret of suburbia. Even though it’s not really a secret and generations of women have turned to alcohol and sedatives as a coping mechanism for the stresses and isolation of motherhood, it is still a topic that is tough to talk about.  Especially as a mother myself. 

Motherhood and Getting Drunk: A Bad Mix

So it made for a slightly uncomfortable brunch at the Sofitel in Washington DC when a group of women, some from The Century Council, an advocacy group funded by distillers to fight drunk driving and underage drinking, and some from the media, got together to listen to data about the 36% increase in arrests of female drunk drivers over the past decade and the personal journey of Baby on Bored blogger and Sippy Cups Are Not for Chardonnay: And Other Things I Had to Learn as a New Mom author Stephanie Wilder-Taylor as she shared her story of realizing that her nightly drinks went from “taking the edge off” to a drinking problem. Because all of us were mothers and and all of us were left to look inward and ask, “Have I ever crossed the line?” And if so, just how often?

Motherhood is hard. Yes, maybe I should say parenthood, but I know more about motherhood than fatherhood. It is the hardest job I’ve ever had. I was an on-air television reporter and anchor, and I feel more under a microscope as a mother than I did as an on-air personality. If a dad screws up (for example, when I went off to an early meeting, despite a closet full of clean, adorable clothes, my husband once sent our daughter to school dressed in a navy blue satin nightgown with strawberries, thinking it was a dress), he tends to get a forgiving chuckle and an “at least he was helping” atta boy.  If  a mother screws up, it feels like she’s a step away from being reported to Child Protective Services for the most minor of infractions. (Are you aware your daughter is wearing white socks with two different kinds of ribbing?  Your son was upset because you sent in a packed lunch and it was the Thanksgiving Feast in the cafeteria today.  Why haven’t you volunteered for everything we’ve asked you to? Don’t you CARE about your children?) 

If you are used to being a career woman and switch to being a stay-at-home mother, it can become extremely isolating in the early days and there is no way to prepare for the complete lifestyle shift no matter how many books you read. Add in some post-partum depression and no wonder so many women hit the bottle. Even though I’ve never been a big drinker at any point in my life, I, myself, have found that some days, I looked forward to my husband coming home so I could fix myself a mixed drink or go out for a celebratory drink with some girlfriends after a day of endless grilling with impossible-to-answer questions, being splattered with other people’s bodily fluids, and the general sense that perhaps the kids really would be better off being raised by PBS and Baby Einstein than by me (fortunately those days got fewer and further between the older they got). I think for women, part of it is the relaxing effect of alcohol, and part of it is the reminder of our younger, carefree days — a little bit of of Carrie from Sex in the City going out for Cosmos with the girls. For some, that occasional desire becomes a lifestyle.

Stephani Wilder-Taylor

Author and blogger Stephanie Wilder-Taylor stays behind to autograph books and talk to the audience after sharing a very personal account of her journey from drinking "to take the edge of" to realizing she drank under the influence to now not drinking.

That’s exactly what happened for Wilder-Taylor. “I noticed that as a new mom my drinking became more pronounced. It was how I dealt with stress.  It was how I dealt with the transition  from being a  fun career person who was on my own and independent and all of a sudden I had this new baby, it was a lot a lot of stress, a lot  of work, it was  very demanding and having a glass of wine at the end of the day was helpful to me and to a lot of my friends… Alcohol helped me take the edge off and unwind and I found that I was drinking more and more and that was one of the only coping skills I had, opening a bottle of wine at the end of the day…  It is kind of  isolating being a new mom, so sometimes the only social interaction we have is being with other moms, and we like to get together and have a little something to drink,” said Wilder-Taylor.

Drawing on her comedic skills, Wilder-Taylor turned her coping skills into a successful blog and then the book, Sippy Cups Are Not For Chardonnay (and later, three more books!)  But soon, her drinking became less funny.

“As time went on and I had two more kids and I had a lot more stresses and a lot more time at home I was drinking more and every single night… I was on a playdate with some friends and we were drinking martinis… I would’ve told you that I wasn’t drunk.  I would’ve sworn to you that I wasn’t drunk. I felt fine. I got in the car was with two of my kids, one was 16-months-old, one was four-years-old, and I drove home.  I’ll tell you why I drove home, because it  seemed more shameful to call my husband and tell him I was too drunk.  Thank God I got home alright. Thank God that was the wake up call I needed. And when I got home, my husband was appalled.  He was shocked and horrified and angry. And it took that to realize that if I couldn’t tell that if I couldn’t tell that I was too drunk, that I didn’t have a good gauge, to realize I had a problem. Most people don’t — most people are offended if you try to take their keys away… I tend to drink too much under stress,  and I now have learned other coping mechanisms, and no it’s not a bath with rose petals!” 

Thankfully, Wilder-Taylor’s wake-up call came before there were tragic consequences, but not everyone’s does. For example, the 2009 fiery crash of Diane Schuler, a mother who had her childre her children and three nieces with her while driving the wrong way on New York’s Taconic Parkway for two miles and then crashing into an SUV and killing eight people, is still an oft-cited example of an impaired mother driving. 

Traffic fatalities are ugly sights. Shattered glass, twisted metal, often the smell of spilled gasoline and other car fluids mixed with the distinctly acrid scent of burned rubber from skid marks. Aside from what human gore may remain, there are the eerie details that stay behind long after the ambulances or coroner have left that let you know someone was in the middle of their life and suddenly everything went horribly wrong. A sneaker in the middle of the road. Music still playing on the stereo. One accident I vividly remember, it was the fishing poles and tackle boxes, flung all over the trunk of the car, which had popped open in the crash. It is even more gut-wrenching when you see a child’s toy, an abandoned car seat, or the carcass of a car that had to be cut open with the jaws of life.  Walk to the other car and you will often see bottles or cans rolling about the floorboards, the stench of alcohol reeking even without the driver present. Sometimes the accidents are so bad, you can’t tell where one car ends and the other begins.

“Even worse than the scenes are being at the hospital and to make a notification to a family member,” said Assistant Chief Patric Burke, DC Metropolitan Police Department. “That’s the stuff that is etched in your brain.  To talk to a parent who has lost a child is just a horrific thing.”

I can tell you that to hear the screams of a parent who has lost a child is something you never forget. There is a guttural sound to pure agony that is like no other. I may not remember all the names of the car accidents I’ve covered, but I’ll never forget the screams. 

Profile of a Female Drunk Driver

Not all female drunk drivers are mothers, but as a society, we often pay more attention to those who are because the idea of driving drunk with a child in the backseat is more shocking; somehow, and unfairly, even more shocking than the idea of a man driving with a child in the back seat.  However, as Wilder-Taylor brought up, there is a very public “Mommy needs a drink” culture going on — wine at playdates, mothers drinking every night at home, tweets about coveting a cocktail while waiting for husbands to get home. Whether there is actually more drinking going on in this generation or it is just more publicly discussed is unclear. But many times, these alcohol-charged social outings involve someone getting in a car to get home, often a mother, and sometimes a mother with a kid in a carseat behind her.

The Century Council presented its commissioned report, State of Knowledge: Female Drunk Drivers, with literature review and research conducted by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF),  on Capitol Hill to the Congressional Stop DUI Caucus and media last month.  According to the report, women were “most likely to be diagnosed with a primary problem with sedatives or opiates” as opposed to their male counterparts who were more likely to have a primary issue with alcohol or marijuana.  This goes hand in hand with the finding that “diagnoses of anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder are common among female drunk driving offenders.”  Apparently significantly more so than compared to the male profile. So we’re not just talking about drunk women, we’re talking about drunk and drugged up women driving.

What needs to be done? It’s a complex issue, according to The Century Council. It involves looking at why women drink, why they drink and drive, and how they are treated once they are convicted so they get the kind of treatment they need to deal with mental health and substance abuse issues, and also have support systems in place including transportation and child care to get the treatment they need.  In other words, there is a lot more research that needs to be done to gain a better understanding of the issue of female impaired drivers.

“A lot of people who don’t look like they have a drinking problem and don’t look like they drive drunk are, and they may need help and that doesn’t mean they are a bad person or a bad mother, so we need to make it less shameful for them,” said Wilder-Taylor.  She does her part via speaking engagements and her Don’t Get Drunk Friday feature on her blog.

Why Are the Numbers Increasing?

It’s not as easy of a question to answer as one might think.  Several theories from research review indicate it can be because women are on the road more than they used to be, more women are in law enforcement so the laws are more evenly enforced to both genders, and that lowering the blood alcohol content limit to .08 had an impact.  At a pre-briefing brunch in a casual conversation, several bloggers and representatives from The Century Council also discussed the recent trend of drunkorexia — a practice of eating less in order to “save” calories for drinking alcohol, though this was not covered in the report.  I, for one, have been at a Weight Watchers meeting where the idea of saving up calories to enjoy drinks while on vacation was discussed by several women. It’s not just college girls who are counting up how many calories are in a margarita!

Does Mommy Really Need a Drink?

Though Wilder-Taylor made a few jokes about the new coping skills she learned to deal with the stresses of parenting, ultimately it all boiled down to learning how to make time for herself. Exercising, getting out of the house (not so easy when she had one child and then twins), and learning how to cut herself some slack. Drinking and sedatives often become the shortcuts women take to allow themselves to keep pushing themselves harder and further, thinking no one really notices. Heart-breakingly, it is often the children who notice, but they don’t have the words to say so. Friends either don’t know what to say or may be in the same boat. Spouses often turn a blind eye, hoping there is really not a problem. If you’ve found yourself moving from the occasional drink to not being able to cope without a drink, take the time today to open up to someone you trust about it, before it turns into a tragedy.

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Disclosures:   As part of the media I was given a complimentary copy of Wilder-Taylor’s book.  There is a link to Wilder-Taylor’s book to Amazon and I am an Amazon Associate, if you purchase the book through this link, I may receive a teeny-tiny percentage – one day I hope being an Amazon Associate will buy me a cup of coffee. In three years of being one, it hasn’t.  Photo credits:  Photo of woman with a wine glass from Microsoft clip art gallery.  Photo of Stephanie Wilder-Taylor is my own.