“The Pregnancy Project” by Gaby Rodriguez with Jenna Glatzer
c.2012, Simon & Schuster
$17.99 / $19.99 Canada
By TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER
You weren’t really sick at all.
You felt fine, in fact, but you said you had a headache, your stomach hurt, and you weren’t up to going to school. The truth is that you really weren’t up to the quiz in History, the test in Physics, drama with friends, a tiresome situation, homework undone, or an embarrassment that just wouldn’t go away.
So you faked sick. Whatever. It happens.
But how far would you fake? Would you be willing to live with deception for nearly your entire senior year? Author Gaby Rodriguez did it in order to make a difference, and in her book “The Pregnancy Project” (with Jenna Glatzer), she explains.
While most kids have some idea of what they want to be someday, Gaby Rodriguez knew what she did not want to be.
She didn’t want to be a teen mom.
It would be a hard legacy to avoid, though. Gaby’s mother was pregnant at fifteen. All of Gaby’s older sisters were pregnant in high school, and some of her brothers were fathers before they were out of their teens. Everybody in their Oregon community figured that Gaby would follow suit. It was practically a “tradition,” in her family.
But Gaby knew what happened when a girl got pregnant while still in high school. For one, her education suffered and for Gaby, that was not going to happen. She was going to college, end of story.
But then she began to think… what would people say if she did get pregnant? Would their attitudes toward her change? What would it be like to live the stereotype?
Since her senior project – mandatory for graduation – was looming, she decided to get permission to try a bold experiment. With the help of her mother, boyfriend, best friend, and a few trusted teachers, Gaby let her classmates and her siblings believe that she was expecting a baby that April.
Enduring stares and whispers, nasty comments and disappointment, Gaby thought a few times about quitting – but she didn’t, even making a “bump” out of clay and padding. She thought she’d learn a lot about that which some girls think is “cute.” But there was nothing cute about being pregnant – even when a girl really wasn’t.
Pure bravery. That’s what you’ll find in “The Pregnancy Project”, along with a dash of brilliance and some wide-eyed amazement at what author Gaby Rodriguez discovered before, during, and after her senior project.
And yet, what Rodriguez (with Jenna Glatzer) learned isn’t nearly as important as the guidance she offers girls in this book. The authors are blunt in sharing Rodriguez’s experiences: the pain of disappointment; the hurtful comments from supposed-friends; the smug, yet unwarranted, “I-told-you-so” remarks; and the anger that came as a surprise. Wrapping it up, Rodriguez is firm and level-headed in her advice for sexually-active teens and girls who are contemplating pregnancy anyhow.
And if that’s you, stop what you’re doing right now and go get “The Pregnancy Project.” It might change your mind because this fake pregnancy was definitely for real.
Jim Donnell and his common law wife don’t have a choice.
Their home is a 20-foot motorhome in Keizer city limits. A single room doubles as a bedroom, kitchen and living area, there’s a bathroom in the rear. A small television streaming NASCAR from the satellite dish outside rests on the bunk above the driver’s cab. It’s one of the few apparent luxuries, but Donnell admits he hasn’t paid the bill recently.
A pick-up is parked outside, but escalating gas prices are too much for Donnell to drive it.
“I walk a lot – about 3-5 miles every day – and just happened to be walking down the road and saw the sign for the food bank,” said Donnell, who sits on a cushion atop a cooler.
Donnell, 67, is a semi-regular visitor to the Keizer Community Food Bank (KCFB) where volunteers assemble emergency food boxes for local families in need. He started making monthly trips in November, but he had to enlist a friend to go along with him after his wife declined. It made him feel less conspicuous.
After a lifetime of working in sawmills and on garbage trucks, Donnell and his wife are making do on his social security check. They’re stretching it to the outer limits, but they’re far from alone in feeling tapped, said Curt McCormack, director of KCFB.
“We had a grandmotherly woman come through and I didn’t think a lot about it, but when I asked her how big her family was she said seven people – she had just gotten custody of her six grandkids,” McCormack said. “The other day we got a call from a woman, her husband and child living in a tent at Wallace Marine Park. They didn’t have transportation and were completely out of food.”
McCormack gathered up an emergency food box and delivered it to the park.
Depending on who is talking, the economy is either in a turnaround or it isn’t. Either way, hunger remains a growing concern in Keizer and throughout Marion and Polk counties, said Sarah Perryman, a campaign manager for Marion-Polk Food Share.
“When the recession began, we saw families’ safety nets – savings accounts, 401Ks, pensions – get stretched, but now they’ve run out,” she said.
Fifty-eight-year-old Judy Stone lives alone in a small apartment not too far from the food bank. After a year-and-a-half wait, she’s hoping a new job opportunity will turn into something closer to full-time work than the 15 hours a week she’s cobbled together by working for family and at her church in the past two years.
She has a degree in early childhood education, but found she’s been over-qualified for many of the positions she would gladly have taken given the chance.
“I take the bus to go everywhere so I was walking by when I saw the signs for the food bank, but then a neighbor who volunteers there told me to come down to see if I qualified,” Stone said.
Stone cut out most of the luxuries from her life, but medical bills thinned her resources.
“Around July or August last year, it got to the point where the bills had to be paid, but I didn’t have enough to cover the food,” Stone said.
For Donnell and Stone, emergency food boxes provide a lifeline when choices would feel like a luxury.
“It helps me a great deal. We buy other food to go with what’s in the boxes and it can last about a month,” Donnell said.
Occasionally, Stone ends up with more than she can eat on her own and she shares it with her brother’s family. His work has also been sporadic recently. Her children also plant a garden each year and, during harvest time, the fresh veggies round out square meals she makes from the supplies in the food boxes.
Donnell has a friend with a deep freezer near where he parks the motorhome and it allows him and stock up when meats are on sale.
Both discovered seeking assistance from KCFB a departure from what they expected when they walked in the doors.
“I was surprised. I thought a lot of people would look down their nose at me, but no one ever did, they’re all real friendly people over there,” Donnell said.
While KCFB and Marion-Polk Food Share see spikes in the number of boxes given out around the holidays, the need is ever-present. Children are often some of the primary recipients of the food doled out by both organizations and, in 2011, May and June followed close behind November, December and October in the numbers of kids eating from food box programs in the area.
“We’re trying to get people to understand that ending hunger requires a community-wide response,” said Eileen DiCicco, a development assistant with Marion-Polk Food Share. “It’s also a year-round problem. We need a year-round response to it.”
Editor’s note: Jim Donnell’s and Judy Stone’s names have been changed to protect their privacy.
The jobless rate in the Salem area dropped once more in February.
The rate fell to 9.1 percent in February after a revised rate of 9.3 percent in January. It’s 1.2 percentage points lower than the reported unemployment rate for February 2011.
Statistics are provided by Worksource Oregon, and are for the Salem Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), which includes Keizer.
An estimates 19,789 residents of Marion and Polk counties were unemployed in a labor force of 198,948 for the month. According to Worksource Oregon, some 1,587 fewer people were considered unemployed in the area than in February 2011.
But job growth for the month was slower than is typical, said Pat O’Connor, a regional economist for the state of Oregon. Total nonfarm employment increased by about 900 jobs, when normally that figure is closer to 1,300. Government jobs gained 400 positions.
In the past 12 months, some 1,200 new jobs in the private sector were offset by the same number of job losses in public service.
In key sectors:
• Educational and health services gained 1,000 jobs in the past year.
• Manufacturing employment shed 1,500 jobs in the past year.
• Construction lost 100 jobs in February and 400 jobs in the past year.
Parent company Sleep Train also owns Sleep Country USA, which has a Keizer Station location. This new store will be in addition to, not a replacement for, the chain’s existing store, said Jack Steinhauer, director of acquisitions and development for Donahue Schriber, which owns Keizer Station.
“This will be the discounter version of that,” Steinhauer said. “They’re going to be catering to both ends of the market.”
The store will locate next to the Keizer Chamber of Commerce. No opening date has been set.