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Both Sides of the Fence

A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!

Planned Parenthood and me

Planned Parenthood

Like a lot of women my age (that would be 60), I can remember a time when it was a lot easier to get pregnant than not.

Now things are different. But I wonder if young women like Lila Rose, avowed enemy of Planned Parenthood, have any idea what life would be like if you didn't have ready access to contraception.

I was about 20, maybe 21, when I made my first visit to Planned Parenthood. It seemed like having sex was inevitable, given the way the relationship was going, so my boyfriend and I made the trek from Madison on the Badger Bus. We were pretty sensible and responsible people.

Most people I knew were pretty cautious about sex. Our mothers had convinced us if a boy just waved "it" over us, we'd get pregnant. Nice girls didn't do it. Nice boys didn't even ask. Except when they did.

Still, a high school friend or two had disappeared to visit distant "aunts" and come back months later, a little quieter, a lot more subdued.

An affluent college friend had left the country to have an abortion. A less affluent friend went to Chicago.

And I went to Planned Parenthood in Milwaukee.

After filling out the paperwork we met with a counselor who asked when we were getting married.

"Married?" I asked, puzzled. "We don't have any plans like that." The woman frowned and left the room.

A few minutes later, an elegant older woman in a wool sheath dress called me into her office. "You can't get the Pill unless you are going to get married in the next few months," she said. "We can only give it to married or engaged women. So I suggest you get engaged fast."

I got the message. "We're getting married this summer." The nurse nodded, the stirrups were pulled out and the exam given, and I walked out the door with a pink plastic disk full of tiny pills.

Can it really have been like that? Yes, it was. This was a couple years before Roe v. Wade.

The boyfriend lasted through about four pink plastic disks. Then there wasn't any boyfriend or disks for awhile. The next time, I went to the kindly old Madison doctor everyone else went to. He didn't even bother with the exam. There was just a friendly chat and the writing of the prescription.

To have health care depend on telling a lie or finding a doctor whose mission of kindness made him forgo the requisite medical steps seems awfully odd these days. But not to those who are straining to turn back the clock.

Now it's my kids and their friends who turn to Planned Parenthood when they have nowhere else to go. I'm glad the organization is still there, and glad they aren't making kids tell lies to get care.

As to those who are dramatizing lies to entrap Planned Parenthood workers, let's hope those lies don't harm their souls, and let's hope they help the organization become more thoughtful, careful, and honest about the good work they do.

What do women want for Valentine's Day?

Wouldn't it be great if there was one easy answer to that question?

But women, like government employees, like business entrepreneurs, like teachers, like other human beings, are various. Some want one thing, some want another, and others will declare they want nothing but love.

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Bedtime story for the governor

Governor Walker

Once upon a time there was a pretty land, green in summer, white in winter, and green-and-gold all of the time in its heart.

As most places, and not just in fairy tales, there were times that felt pretty calm and good.

Just yesterday, most of the people were doing a little better than okay. They had jobs and time to go fishing now and then. They could eat the fish they caught, as long as they didn't do it too often. Their children kicked or tossed balls around and went to decent schools and grew up well, planning to do a little better than their parents.

But then things shifted. They always do, but we always forget. That's one of the magic spells cast on human beings, forgetting what we need to know until something or someone, usually an unlikely, even unpleasant Rumplestiltskinny source, comes along to lift the veil.

Then we smack our foreheads and say things like "Duh!" Or "Hey, that emperor really wasn't wearing any clothes," or "wait a minute: hope and change are good things."

But back to the shift. For reasons in their personal control, like spending too much for the wrong things, and for reasons out of their personal control, like population pressures and financial skullduggery, things got worse for a lot of people.

(They also got a lot better for a very few people, but that's not my story. I sort of wish it were, but if I say that someone will pop up and holler "class envy," which isn't really it. It's having-enough-not-to-worry-so-much envy.)

Anyway, the population, which used to have barbecues and baby showers together as they cheered for their kids or the Packers, began to divide.

One tribe was the Notax tribe. The other was the It'smorecomplicated tribe.

The Notaxes liked simple messages, like, well, No New Taxes. Or Open for Business. You can't blame them because really, it would be lovely if life were that simple.

The It'smorecomplicated tribe couldn't really pull together a nice slogan because, well, it is more complicated. But not that complicated. Personally, I think they let despair drive them down. But for whatever reason, they lost their story. And it's one of the stories that keeps our spirits alive.

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This is what democracy looks like

Walking up to the state capital building in Madison yesterday, the mother stopped to adjust her daughter's scarf and hat. It was a tender moment, and the girl didn't seem to mind. About 11, she wasn't much bigger than the sign she carried.

"38,000 of you and just us two against you," I think it said. She'd drawn the letters carefully, though the lines were a little thin, making it hard to read even from 20 feet.

And this is what democracy looks like: a mother and child braving a crowd that must seem scary and threatening to speak for what they believe.

Democracy also looks like the tens of thousands (38,000 is as good an estimate as any) of people carrying signs with messages like "Care about Educators Like They Care about Your Children."

A few signs were rude, over the top, confusing. Some were clever and funny, some just belligerant. All around the capital were solitary sentinels holding the peace, sitting with signs reminding everyone "This is a peaceful demonstration."

And so it was, for the most part. Even yelling seems violent to me, and there was a little of that.

Police were everywhere, along with sheriffs and game wardens and whoever else was officially called to keep the peace. Inside the building, the officers were relaxed. The atmosphere was more festive than anything, and there was none of  the sour, metallic smell of danger.

Friend Susan took photos of me with some police from Kiel and a game warden from who knows where. I promised not to put flowers in their weapons.

They smiled and said, "Just don't photoshop signs on us!"

"We're too old to know how to do that," I claimed.

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What links us

During times of division and stress, it's easy to lose perspective. We steep ourselves in the news and become more anxious or angry. We build up barricades of our beliefs, turned rock hard, and stand behind them, lobbing words and worse at each other.

So what do you do to pull yourself back into a quieter space of mind or to stay calm?

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