Reporting from an Abortion Rally in Oak Park, IL


Have you ever seen a plastic miniature mold of a dead baby fetus ?

Because I have. The abortion rally on June 26, 2013 in Oak Park, IL drew a crowd of about 30 people outside of Dr. Cheryl Chastine’s office. Dr. Chastine’s work as a physician spans from family practice to abortion procedures. She also travels to perform abortions at a Women’s Center in Wichita, Kansas throughout the year–the very same building in which Scott Roeder murdered the 67-year old physician George Tiller in 2009 for providing 3rd trimester abortions. It is primarily Chastine’s work in the gynecological milieu that has caused such an uprising amongst the pro-lifers of America.
The rally was to begin at 11:30 AM, but people posted their picket signs outside as early as 10:15. With no clear demarcation between sides, I was forced to judge books by their covers (or, in some cases, their neon yellow t-shirts) in order to discover their ideological leanings.
Nora, a student from the University of Chicago, became involved with the cause a year and a half ago when she signed up for the Planned Parenthood action program. It made her angry to know that some people want to ban Planned Parenthood’s plethora of services for women. She gradually started working with the Illinois Choice Action Team to support Dr. Chastine’s work and make a stand.
“We’re grateful for her. She’s a hero, not a monster. These protests are actually a disruption to her life.”
Dr. Chastine has had issues renewing the lease on her Oak Park building due to the negative publicity it has attracted in recent months. Some say that she may not be based out of Oak Park much longer.
Brian, Nora’s classmate, works at the Lumen Cristi Institute in Chicago.
“I’d call the ACLU if they fired me for being here,” he said.
A student of the Divinity School at U of C, Brian brought together two of his passions : theology and activism. But were others able to do the same ?
Directly beside Nora and Brian stood Eric Schneidler, executive director of the Pro-Life Action League. Eric’s father and founder of the league, Joe Schneidler, hoisted a picket sign of a mangled fetus in silence while Eric spoke animatedly about what brought him to Oak Park despite the scattered showers.
Before working at the PLAL shop in Aurora, his hometown, Eric channelled his energy toward the efforts of the Gift Foundation, a Christian-affiliated non-profit focused on fundamental marriage issues. In 2002, he realized that his past had brought him to a turning point, and he became the communications director for the PLAL.
Eric’s parents got involved in Roe v. Wade because they were shocked that unborn babies were not getting
“… the legal protection they deserve as human beings. They are fully unique, developing, individuals. Pro-choice people will come to me with evidence from an embryologist. For every embryologist, I’ll find you a guy that flunked out of embryology school.”
Among the societal ills listed by Eric Schneidler is a flawed culture of sexuality that is no longer life-giving. A change in ethics and morals, he said, is the only way to move forward as a society. He drew an analogy between the abolitionists of the 19th century and the pro-lifers of today, who he claims are fighting for human rights and social justice for all.
Concerning the recent filibuster in Texas, Schneidler said : “America’s a republic, so I feel a kinship with the people [in Texas].” About State Senator Wendy Davis’s speech, he said : “That lady will have her own conscience and consequences to deal with.” Schneidler may or may not have been alluding to the biblical judgment day.
Is it possible to reconcile religion and science, rational thought and passionate sentiment ? Pro-choicers and pro-lifers are people who whole-heartedly believe in making the world a better place. Their views are informed by cultural narratives and personal experiences that nobody can pinpoint perfectly. Change, it seems, lies in the delicate balance between dialogue and action. As long as constituents continue to question their policy makers, steps will surely be taken. Whether these are forward steps or backward steps are for each individual to decide.

This post was also published in Thought Catalog. You can read the original here.


How to Break up With Your Therapist


Look in a one-way mirror, like the ones in the play therapy rooms of a psychiatric clinic. You’ll see nothing but yourself and all the germtastic toys piled on top of each other like sinful pancakes. (There better be a hand sanitizer pump in here, otherwise I’m going to kiss this doorknob). On the other side of the mirror looking in is probably your shrink and whoever brought you into therapy. Your family, your partner, and your alter-ego, for example.

You don’t know half your demons. If you think you can name them all faster than your favorite Manga characters, think again. You don’t fully know what’s going on inside that nefarious noggin of yours. A therapist’s job is to put your problems on speed dial. You’ll learn how to be angelic enough to ward off the demons when they pop up unexpectedly, ruining your daily interactions, increasing your self-loathing, and adding to your binge eating habit. That’s assuming you’re capable of such halo-worthy behavior.
We live in an on-the-go American economy. Everyone wants everything pronto, and talk therapy is way less common than it used to be. But shortcuts don’t really work as much as they used to. They were fine when we were kids. We would be walking home from school and duck through a fence with a hole in it to save a few minutes. And those few minutes were precious ! But not anymore. The fast road to mental health usually ends with you flushing your meds down the toilet at 3 AM.
Nowadays, if you want to deal with your issues, you can pop pills and chat on comfy couches and write in your leather-bound journal. The self-help articles you cleared from your browser history tell you that everything will get better. So you make your idea lists, dress up and go to the city, exercise, eat right, blah blah blah.
But what happens when you’re sick of paying someone to care about your problems ?
When your therapist seems to have one hand in your wallet and the other in your psyche, twisting it around relentlessly, it’s time to take a break. You could leave a shrill voicemail while your meds make an ominous blue puddle at the bottom of your pale porcelain toilet bowl, but that would be tacky. You could also just go in to the office one more time and leave them with a parting gift–cookies, kale chips, postcards, vitamins. Different strokes for different folks.

Just say, “You’re so good at what you do, you’ve put yourself out of business. Congratulations !”

Going at it alone can be great, but make sure that when you come crawling back  you bring chocolate. Nothing says “I’ve missed you” like a bar of Ghirardelli Midnight Reverie. Plus, you can pig out on it while recanting your latest string of failures. Cheers.

Strange Fruit : Racing for Real

ravenswood run

Yesterday morning, I ran a 5k. More specifically, it was the Ravenswood Run in Chicago’s newest yuppie neighborhood. With doggie yoga shops and puppet shows for canines abound, this several block stretch of cobblestone is a winning lukewarm combination of inauthentic Thai restaurants (read: Polygon Cafe) and upscale dive bars (@mosphere).

The race was sold out this year. 3,499 runners and I were feverishly doing our last-minute stretches at the starting line. Earbuds were in, scaredy-cats were out. As we began our slow progression through the shut down streets, it struck me how bizarre it was to be doing the exact same movements as so many other humans with the aim of finishing first, with no other true motivation than personal glory and accomplishment. ravenswood run starting line

Yes, the race benefits the local food pantry and Episcopal church, but people participate for their own reasons. Community, health, goal-setting, companionship, boredom. I like the competitive aspect of it all. This particular event spurred me to set a personal record despite the fact that I drank too many liquids beforehand. I pushed that thought out of my mind as I kept pace with a lady wearing a neon orange sports bra, her skin a wrinkly reminiscence of tanning salons and leisurely pregnancies.

As we fidgeted impatiently before the 8 AM foghorn, the announcer asked us to give a prayer before we ran. It was unclear whether it was to honor the Boston Marathon victims or because the run was affiliated with the Church. Either way, I looked around and wondered what it would be like to live in a truly secular society.

Crossing the finish line, I saw crates upon crates of ripened bananas, big boxes of bottled water, paper cups overflowing with Gatorade, and gooey complimentary cinnamon buns further down the street. Why not have water taps ? Don’t they know that you don’t need electrolytes after running a 5k ? What did they do with the extras ? You would think the food pantry got them, but it’s hard to tell.

After I got my gear and changed, I opted to make breakfast at a friend’s house instead of paying $10 for mass-produced pancakes soaked in syrup. They could have been tasty, but I’m skeptical. Have you noticed ? Although it felt good to finish the run and know I did something to help the community, I think next time I’ll try and do something a little less high-impact for the sake of my joints. That, and eat less salt.

6 Quick Ways to Make Salmon

Salade de jambon cru et saumon fumé. (salad of...

Salade de jambon cru et saumon fumé. (salad of ham and smoked salmon) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Everything we see these days is about “lose weight fast,” “get healthy,” or “tons of omega-3s!” What does it all mean ?

Your body needs certain poly/mono-unsaturated fats, and omega-3, omega-6, and omega-12 are these fats. They can be found in foods like avocado, salmon, nuts, and flaxseed.

It’s not about getting skinny, it’s about getting healthy. Some people like the thought of salmon but wish it were easier to make nutritious food with their busy lifestyles.

As long as you have a kitchen and basic appliances, you should be able to use at least 2 of these methods to make some mouth-watering fish.

1. Bake it

Take a filet and set your oven to 425 F. Wrap the filet in some foil and add whatever seasonings you like. My favorites are ginger, miso paste, and sesame oil. If you have a sweet tooth, you might like a combination of equal parts maple syrup, soy sauce, and orange juice. Take out the steak after 15 minutes, or less if you like it a little raw.

2. Poach it

Take a filet and season it with veggies, sauces, and powders. Curry and onion go well together. Throw it on a microwaveable plate and pop it in the box for 2.5 minutes (newer microwaves, full power) to 5 minutes (older microwaves, full power.) This is a quick and easy way to make healthy meals in a limited kitchen.

3. Fry it

Mi-cuit (half-cooked) salmon is a delicacy in many restaurants. If only people knew how simple it is to make at home ! No need to be scared of eating raw fish. Unlike meat, raw fish rarely makes people sick. You might not like the taste, but you won’t get sick from eating it. Just take a filet with the skin on and put it on a greased frying pan (olive oil and grape seed oil are going to be your healthiest options). For a mi-cuit cut, cook each side for 2 minutes on medium heat. For a well-done filet, cook each side for 5 minutes on medium heat.

4. Grill it

Grilled salmon is absolutely delicious. Wrap a filet in some foil and place it on your grill. Depending on how thick the piece is and how big the fire is, you might want to poke it with a fork and see if the metal comes out cold. If it’s cold, that means it’s still a little raw inside. If you do this right, you may see some charring on the salmon, which is perfectly normal.

5. Boil it

This is for people who like stews, soups, and very well-cooked protein sources. Boil a pot of water and place a salmon filet inside with a dash of salt. Cook on medium-low for 15 minutes or until the salmon is flaky and light pink.

6. Do nothing

That’s right, eat your fish raw. Some Westerners might cringe at the thought of eating raw fish, but as long as the product is good quality, this is actually the the healthiest option. Dip the fish in some soy sauce, wasabi, or lemon juice for a tart finish. Remember, the more you cook your meat, the less nutrients it retains.

That’s my mini-tutorial on how to eat salmon. I try to eat salmon once a day. Not only is it great for your hair and skin, but fish oil is known to improve mood and sleep patterns, too. What’s more, it’s a great source of Vitamin D for those of us who are not fortunate enough to live in a place where it’s sunny all year-round. Now that you know how to make salmon, you should go out and buy some for your next meal. Skimping on your health and the quality of your food is not a good idea. Make sure you buy the best, or close to it ! Skip dessert and buy some nice salmon steaks instead.

Did I miss a technique ? Let me know your favorite ways to make salmon.

Holistic Healing


Serendipity is not dead. And I don’t mean the romantic kind, either. On my way in to the gym today, I sauntered over to the complimentary massage corner and asked the masseuse his name and if he would be finishing up soon. He smiled and said he was almost done. His name was Michael. I could hardly wait to get the tension out of my body.

Michael took 15 minutes instead of 5 because he said I had so much heat coming off my neck and shoulders. There’s something to be said about feeling the energy of another person when your bodies interact. Michael told me that heat was coming off of my torso in waves. Educated by a naprapath, he attended the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in Chicago. He chopped my back and arms while using traditional Chinese massaging method that he claimed would simultaneously prevent carpal tunnel, loosen the joints, and relieve stress.

It was a glorious 15 minutes. After the session, Michael advised me to go out and buy some Epsom salt. The magnesium, he said, would loosen my muscles and prevent me from being sore tomorrow morning. From my limited kinesiology background, I knew he was right. He also said it was important to drink a lot of water to hydrate my muscles before and after the workout. There was a lot to talk about–I mentioned Amos Soma’s book Stretches in Bed and Tough Like You, must-reads for any health and wellness experts. Holistic health is not just a fad, it is a legitimate alternative for people who are disappointed in their Western medical practitioners. Skip the chiropractor. Educate yourself.

Stretches in Bed

Amos Soma

The AlchemistPaolo Coelho’s book The Alchemist says that if you want something badly enough in life, all the world will rearrange to help you achieve your dream. Maybe that is what’s happening here. My dream of helping people get healthier minds, bodies, and spirits by spending less time in front of screens and more time in the natural world is slowly becoming realized. It’s not a matter of ‘if’, it’s a matter of ‘when’.

Eastern medicine gets a bad rap, but the truth is that it treats the root of your illness instead of the symptoms. It looks at the entire picture. Western medicine has its triumphs and benefits, but for those of us that are looking for a different path, holistic health is a credible alternative. Chinese medicine is rooted in a tradition that goes back much further than anything we have in the West. It has been tried and true for centuries, so giving it a try will not hurt anyone. What do you have to lose ?