Bridget Mora, Freelance Writer
Moral Monday Op Ed Published in Michigan Chronicle

I co-wrote this op ed with Robert Weiner about how North Carolina’s Moral Monday protest model is a good strategy for Michigan and the rest of the nation. It was published in the Michigan Chronicle, on TruthOut, and in OpEdNews.

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Michigan, Nation Must Look at

North Carolina’s “Moral Mondays”

By Robert Weiner and Bridget Mora

Millions and often majorities in Michigan and states around the country are under attack by right wing governors and legislatures on voting rights, voter suppression, removal of elected officials’ power, gun safety, attempted denial of insurance benefits and Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act, college education, veterans’ health care, women’s health choices, and jobs. They should look at North Carolina’s “Moral Mondays” movement. Moral Mondays, spreading rapidly to other states, aim to help ordinary citizens take back their state governments from corporate-backed extremists.

In North Carolina, Moral Mondays mean weekly large organized protests, sit-ins, demonstrations, and some nonviolent civil disobedience, all at the state legislature in Raleigh, plus accompanying media coverage. Each Moral Monday group has a distinctive local flavor and key issues. Voter suppression and education are flash points in North Carolina. Georgia and Florida protesters rally for repeal of “Stand Your Ground” laws. High unemployment and union busting are the focus in Wisconsin. What every Moral Monday group has is a coalition of diverse groups fighting for social justice for the poor, minorities, women, children, elderly, disabled, and immigrants. The organizations don’t always share the same opinions, but have a common enemy in the radical politicians who underrepresent their state’s constituencies and enact policies removing their rights.

Michigan is under attack by Governor Rick Snyder and an extremist state legislature who have disenfranched voters, unilaterally taken away Detroit’s constitutional electoral power and appointed an unelected manager, given $1.8 billion tax giveaways to corporate interests, raised taxes on seniors and working families, starved public schools while pushing private schools, denied pensions’ funding, passed “Right to Work” laws to slash unions’ effectiveness, and assaulted women’s healthcare and human dignity including with so-called “rape insurance.” Now you can add the City Manager and state Governor allowing the water company to stop supplying poor people for nonpayment from financial inability but letting hugely profitable big corporations delay their water bill obligations.

Circumventing the will of voters is a top priority of Governor Snyder, who proposed to repeal the minimum wage (and preempt a 2014 voter referendum) and dis-empowered Detroit’s elected officials, despite a statewide referendum vote against the emergency-manager law. Reverend D. Alexander Bullock, President of the Detroit chapter of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, rightly called Snyder’s hostile takeover of Michigan’s largest city “the death of democracy in Detroit.” House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Cong. John Conyers of Detroit called the Emergency Manager Law “unconstitutional.”

What’s happening in Michigan is part of a national attack on individual rights by corporate-backed state legislatures and governors. The North Carolina General Assembly turned their state into one of the most right-wing in the nation. They passed draconian voter suppression, eliminated the Earned Income Tax Credit for nearly 1 million working poor, would not help 43,000 Michiganders whose unemployment benefits ended, made it difficult for students to vote, rejected Medicaid coverage for 500,000, drastically restricted women’s access to reproductive healthcare, repealed the Racial Justice Act, slashed public education funding, and stripped high school teachers and college student voters of due process.

However, North Carolinians have fought back. They have become a national model. Moral Mondays, started just a year ago by Rev. William Barber of the North Carolina NAACP, have spread like wildfire in 2014 — into Georgia, Florida, Alabama, and South Carolina (where protests are called “Truthful Tuesdays”). It’s no longer just a Southern movement: Rev. Curtis Gatewood of the North Carolina NAACP reports that Missouri and Wisconsin joined the movement, and more states are mobilizing.

Many of the right wing bills come from ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), a dangerous organization that pushes corporate-backed model bills in state legislatures across the US, including the infamous “Stand Your Ground” legislation justifying what has often been perceived as murder. North Carolina’s House Speaker, Thom Tillis, was named ALEC’s “Legislator of the Year”. Michigan’s “Right to Work” law was modeled on an ALEC bill.

Moral Monday organizers don’t expect to change the minds of ALEC lawmakers; they work to change the landscape. Rev. Barber said, “The people have moved. Now less than one in five North Carolinians agree with them. Moral Monday is more popular than them.” Brett Bursey, Executive Director of the South Carolina Progressive Network, explained that a key aim of the protests is to support moderate candidates because in South Carolina, over 70% of candidates ran unopposed.

Parliamentary tricks can be overcome by voters who replace the legislators who took away their rights. People can resist efforts to suppress the vote and make it a point to turn out in large numbers, as President Obama’s campaign accomplished in 2008 and 2012.

However, voter turnout drops by a shocking 50 million in non-Presidential election years. The biggest drop-down is minorities, young people, and lower incomes—opening the door for a right wing takeover. Moral Mondays are gearing up for a “mass voter mobilization campaign.” In Michigan and across the nation, massive voter turnout in support of candidates who value people – not large corporations’ profits – is the best hope to recapture rights, power, and policy.

Robert Weiner is a former Clinton White House spokesman and senior staff for Cong. John Conyers, Charles Rangel, Ed Koch, Claude Pepper, and Sen. Ted Kennedy. He wrote the epilogue to Bankole Thompson’s groundbreaking book, “Obama and Christian Loyalty.”

Bridget Mora is a writer from Chapel Hill, NC, studies “Moral Mondays”, advocates for public schools and autism insurance reform, and is policy analyst for Solutions for Change, a foundation informing the public about issues.

Wedding Article Published on CNN.com

For this article, I interviewed 4 wedding experts to get their advice on common wedding etiquette dilemmas. Read it below, or view it on CNN.com.

8 Wedding Etiquette Dilemmas Solved

Editor’s note: Bridget Mora is a former bridal salon manager turned wedding writer. She also blogs about autism.

(CNN) — Although every wedding is unique, most wedding planning problems are quite universal. From traditional nuptials to offbeat hipster weddings to same-sex unions, couples face the same dilemmas. While I personally happen to adore reading about the finer points of etiquette (no, really!), most engaged couples probably do not have a shelf full of etiquette books in their home.

Fortunately we have assembled a team of top wedding experts to give you all of the answers you need so you can get back to the fun part of wedding planning: designing your dream celebration on Pinterest.

Meet the wedding experts:

Randy Fenoli: Star of TLC’s “Say Yes to the Dress,” “Big Bliss,” “Randy Knows Best” and “Randy to the Rescue” and author of “It’s All About the Dress”

Steven Petrow: Author of five etiquette books, including “Steven Petrow’s Complete Gay & Lesbian Manners” and “The New Gay Wedding” and The New York Times “Civil Behavior” columnist

Lizzie Post of The Emily Post Institute: Great-great-granddaughter of etiquette expert Emily Post, co-author of “Emily Post’s Etiquette, 18th Edition,” and author of “How Do You Work This Life Thing?”

The Editors of Southern Weddings Magazine: The South’s premier annual heirloom publication for the modern bride

CNN: When it comes to weddings, it seems like everyone has an opinion, from mothers to mothers-in-law to friends and sisters. Unfortunately, those “brilliant” ideas often do not fit in with the type of celebration that the bride and groom envision. How do you suggest that couples politely decline well-meaning suggestions about what they “must do” or “must have” to make their wedding perfect?

Steven Petrow: Make sure both members of the couple are on the same page. It’s called “the power of two” and makes it much easier for a bride to say to her mother, “James and I had another idea for the centerpieces.” It can also be helpful to assign specific tasks especially to a mother-in-law and mother-of-the-bride to help them feel a part of the planning and yet keep their focus narrow.

Remember, very few brides will get away without accepting some well-meaning suggestions. It’s the art of compromise, and it will get you off to a good start with your new family.

Interestingly, for same-sex couples this is much less of a problem since a large majority (86% according to a recent Advocate survey) of gay couples plan and pay for their own nuptials. Family members are also less likely to be as involved in the wedding as a result. That’s one way to tame a Bridezilla MOB to be.

Southern Weddings: Smile sweetly, and thank them graciously. Perhaps try this line: “Well, bless your heart — thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. We’ll definitely take that into consideration.”

CNN: Managing the guest list is typically one of the most challenging aspects of wedding planning. What is the best way to inform guests that they are not welcome to bring a plus-one or their children to your reception?

Lizzie Post: If you don’t speak up, you run the risk of upsetting others who did follow the rules. When you get the RSVP, call them and say, “Jane, there might have been some confusion — the invitation was for you and Bob only. We chose to have this be an adults only reception; I hope this doesn’t cause too much inconvenience.”

Think ahead of time about the people you are inviting. Should you have a babysitter at the wedding for guests with young children so their parents can travel with them? It is really important for guests to respect that “no kids” means no kids, not even infants.

If guests are unsure about whether it is OK to bring their baby, they can call and say that they are not yet comfortable traveling without the baby. That gives the host a chance to either say that it is OK to bring the baby or to say “We understand; we will miss you at the wedding.”

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Randy Fenoli: It should be clearly stated on the invitation: This invite is for one guest only and we love children, but we have decided to have a grown-ups only wedding. You should always be polite, but firm.

CNN: What advice do you give to a couple whose relatives do not support their union — whether it is a same-sex union, a matter of religious differences or some other issue?

Randy Fenoli: Every family situation is different and should be approached accordingly. For me, if someone didn’t support me, or the partner I choose to be with, why would I want him or her at my wedding? Invite people who genuinely love and support you. It’s far better to have an intimate wedding than a huge wedding filled with people who aren’t supportive.

Steven Petrow: Because weddings are about new beginnings I generally urge gay couples to take the high road and invite family members, even if they don’t support your relationship because you’re a same-sex couple.

One of the most effective things is to talk directly with any disapproving relatives, as a couple, about your love for each other, the commitment you’re making and your ceremony plans. Take the time to explain why marriage matters to you: because it makes for stronger families, that you’ll become eligible for federal and/or state benefits or that you want to affirm your relationship before your loved ones.

It takes an awfully cold-hearted person to sit through a wedding ceremony and not be moved — if not to tears, at least to acceptance. Consider this a unique opportunity to change some hearts and minds.

CNN: One of the most commonly asked wedding etiquette questions is: “How can we politely request cash gifts?” What’s your advice to the couple who already has all the toasters they could ever need?

Southern Weddings: It’s never considered in good taste for the couple themselves to offer gift preferences, unless asked directly, so make sure your closest friends and family know your wishes. Guests are more willing to give cash when they know what it’s going toward, as in: “Emily and John are saving for a down payment on a house, and would be so grateful to have your help.”

Steven Petrow: “High manners” still generally frowns on the notion of “pay for play” weddings, even though it’s perfectly acceptable to ask for and receive a cash gift in some communities and ethnic groups. Still, plenty of workarounds exist to avoid getting an excess of toasters.

Feel free to tell those in your wedding party or other close relatives that you prefer dollars to doilies and that, if asked, they should relay your wishes. There are also honeymoon registries, which make it possible for guests to contribute to a fund; their gift might be one night at the hotel or an adventure outing (sea kayaking, anyone?)

Many same-sex couples, marrying after many years together and with too much stuff, are forgoing gifts altogether and politely suggesting to their guests that donations be made to a marriage equality organization, like Freedom to Marry.

CNN: Destination weddings have their own special set of dilemmas. The biggest question that couples face is who pays for what. What’s the best way to handle expenses for a destination wedding?

Steven Petrow: I love the idea; I hate the cost. In fact, I have an invitation right now for a fall wedding in Italy that will cost at least a couple of grand to attend. Unless your destination wedding is, say, in Syracuse, New York, you’re going to lose a number of your guests who can’t afford either the cost or the time away from work.

Guests should expect to pay for their airfare and accommodations as well as any meals not associated with wedding festivities. So before you say yes, do the math.

Special circumstances: If you have a dear friend or relative who can’t afford your dream wedding, do your best to make sure they can attend. Factor this cost into your budget before you make your final decision.

Lizzie Post: These days, many weddings are destination weddings for everyone but the couple. For any wedding, the hosts should pay for the bridal party’s accommodations, so they just pay for their own travel.

Do not pick bridesmaids based on who can afford to come; invite those whom you want, with the understanding that it is OK for them to politely decline if the expenses are too much.

Consider your priorities about who will be able to attend versus having a certain location. If you do book your wedding at a ritzy resort, look for other nearby accommodations. Think about all of the expenses that are going to be involved in attending your wedding — travel, attire, even care of pets back home. Make it very clear to everyone involved whether you are covering expenses for accommodations or not.

CNN: Every social circle has at least one person who is known to cause a scene at parties. (Yes, probably even your family has at least one of them.) How do you recommend that couples prepare for problem guests?

Southern Weddings: There’s always one in the bunch. Discreetly warn bartenders about possible repeat offenders so they can keep an eye on how many times they’ve filled up. And if possible, assign a trustworthy relative or friend to shadow each rowdiest party-goer.

Randy Fenoli: Couples need to set ground rules, have tough conversations and be firm, even if this means you may not have some people at your wedding.

CNN: Who should get the most say in which wedding gown to buy — the bride or her mother? And does that change depending on which one of them is paying for the dress?

Randy Fenoli: I work for the bride, so when this problem arises, I ask the mother, “Who picked out your wedding dress?” If she did, then I tell her it’s time to let her daughter pick out hers. If her mother did, I ask her how she felt about that.

If this doesn’t work, I ask her who is choosing her mother of the bride gown, or how would she feel wearing a garment she didn’t like on the most important day of her life.

If all these tactics fail, I simply turn to the mother with a smile on my face and say, “I’m sure like any parent, all you truly want is for your daughter to be happy.”

Lizzie Post: It is a discussion you need to have before you go shopping. If your ideas are too far apart, thank you mother for her offer to pay for the dress, and then say that you have decided to take care of it yourself. You may still wish to invite her to come shopping for the wedding gown with you.

CNN: What is your best advice for couples about choosing the people who will stand up with them at their wedding?

Lizzie Post: Take everything into account. Who is really important to you? Look at family first. Also reach across the aisle to the family you are going to be joining; you may wish to invite your future sisters-in-law to be bridesmaids.

Do not get carried away choosing your bridal party; keep it simple and remember that you can always find other special jobs and other ways to include friends who are not bridesmaids. Sometimes it is best to limit your bridal party to just family to keep the size reasonable. It is also OK not to have attendants at all.

Southern Weddings: Think about your past, present and future. It’s tempting to choose your childhood friends for sentimental reasons, even if you’re not close to them anymore, but a newer friend might be a more meaningful choice if you can see them standing beside you long into the future.

Keep up with CNN Living on Facebook

What other wedding etiquette dilemmas have you been facing? Let us know in the comments below.

CHART Blog

This is my baby, a blog I write called CHART: Chapel Hill Autism Resources and Tools. I share information on local events, resources, and happenings in the world of autism in the Triangle region of North Carolina (and sometimes beyond). We also connect with readers via Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Opinion Piece Published on CNN.com

This is an opinion article that I had published on CNN.com in response to a current news event. The complete article is below, and the piece can also be read on CNN.com.

Opinion: Let’s talk about autism in public spaces

By Bridget Mora, Special to CNN

updated 3:07 PM EDT, Thu May 30, 2013

Editor’s note: Bridget Mora is the mother of a 5 ½-year-old son with an autism spectrum disorder. A resident of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, she is a member of the board of the Autism Society of North Carolina Orange Chatham Chapter. She also blogs about autism.


(CNN) — Ashley Bays took her toddler into M Spa Salon in Portage, Michigan, for a simple haircut but left with a “severe tongue lashing,” according to a witness whose Facebook post about the event went viral.

Customer Vanessa Hunt wrote about her outrage at watching salon owner Michelle Mott allegedly dress down Bays and 2 ½-year-old Grayson because the child cried during his haircut.

“At the conclusion of this woman’s tantrum to the mother the mother said through tears, ‘I’m so sorry, he’s autistic,’” Hunt wrote in a post that has been shared more than 35,000 times. Attorneys for the salon said in a statement to mlive.com that Mott reacted reasonably to safety concerns caused by the boy’s behavior.

Many toddlers cry during a visit to the hair salon, but the experience can be particularly challenging for individuals with the sensory sensitivities that are common in autism. I know, because my son is one of them.

Haircuts require a patient stylist, a special list of instructions, books to read and a fresh shirt to change into immediately afterward. If it weren’t for the promise of a lollipop at the end of the haircut, he might not go into the salon at all.

The noise and feel of the clippers can be painful, the smells of dyes and permanents overpowering, the water sprayed on their hair upsetting and the sound of hair dryers panic-inducing. However, Bays, a longtime client of the salon, had found one hairstylist she trusted to cut her son’s hair — no small thing, as parents of children with autism can attest.

The incident at M Spa Salon has brought a much larger issue to the public eye than merely the allegedly nasty behavior of one business owner: Parents of children on the autism spectrum struggle with public judgment on a daily basis.

Sometimes kids with autism exhibit behaviors that draw attention to themselves, ranging from self-soothing repetitive motions to a full-blown meltdown in an overwhelming situation. The reaction of the bystanders can go a long way toward defusing panic or exacerbating it, which is what happened when Mott reportedly yelled at Ashley and Grayson Bays until they both left the salon in tears.

“I’ve never experienced anything else like this before. I understand if she doesn’t want children in the salon, but she could have handled it a lot differently. She could have pulled us to the side. She was very insensitive that he does have special needs,” Bays later said.

Just as a negative reaction can make matters worse, thoughtful words and actions can help. The hairstylist who joined the family outside to complete the child’s haircut stands out as an unsung hero in the unfortunate M Spa Salon drama.

Another recent example was the kindness of a waitress at a Chili’s Bar and Grill in Utah who replaced the “broken” hamburger of an autistic girl without batting an eyelash. Small kindnesses can go a long way.

So what should a person do if they witness a child with autism (or frankly any child) in distress? According to Amanda Benson, LCSW, an autism specialist at The University of North Carolina TEACCH Autism Program, the most useful thing that bystanders can do is ask the parents: “Is there something I can do to make this easier for you?”

“The parents will know what will best help their child,” Benson said, such as dimming the lights, moving to a quieter space or offering a preferred toy as a distraction. In the specific case of a haircut, the child might be more comfortable with scissors only or conversely only with clippers. Because autism encompasses such a broad spectrum, there is no single solution that will work well for all individuals.

Bystanders should refrain from judgment. Effective parenting techniques are different for children with autism than for typically developing kids. Because attention is often a strong behavioral reinforcement for individuals on the spectrum, parents may strategically ignore inappropriate behaviors, while providing positive reinforcement for appropriate behavior.

Bystanders can help by offering an empathetic smile for the parent or a word of praise for a child who is trying his best. Some parents of autistic children carry small cards to hand out explaining autism to strangers who stop and stare, or sneer.

Without acceptance of the whole spectrum of human development, people with disabilities are inevitably excluded from society. Given that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates the autism prevalence in the United States to be 1 in 88 (and more recent studies suggest that figure may be as high as 1 in 50), business owners are going to have to become better educated about how to serve individuals with special needs. Not only are they their customers, as in the case of the young Grayson, but people with autism are entitled to the same access to public spaces afforded all other Americans.

Op-ed Published in the Charlotte (NC) Observer

Op-ed Published in Charlotte Observer about the importance of enacting autism insurance reform in North Carolina:



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N.C. lagging on insurance for autism

By Bridget Mora and Robert Weiner
Special to the Observer
Posted: Wednesday, Mar. 28, 2012
The Autism Society of North Carolina’s annual conference, the largest autism gathering in the state, takes place in Charlotte tomorrow and Friday. Bringing to light a disability that has seen a rapid rise (in part because of better diagnoses), the conference may serve as a wake-up call that over 50,000 people in North Carolina and their families are now personally impacted by autism.

According to the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities, the rate of autism in North Carolina is 1 in 97, above the national rate of one in 110. Yet North Carolina lags behind 29 other states in the U.S. that have already passed autism insurance reform laws.
It is time for the North Carolina legislature to follow the lead of neighboring states like South Carolina and Virginia, and pass the autism insurance reform bills which are languishing in committees (House Bill 826 and Senate Bill 115).

An estimated 1.5 million Americans have an autism spectrum disorder, but most Americans have no understanding of what it is. Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects brain function, emotional development, and social interaction. It affects every facet of daily living, including the ability to communicate, succeed in school, hold a job, maintain friendships, and live independently.

While autism is not curable, it is treatable, especially with early diagnosis and treatment. The American Academy of Pediatrics stresses that intervention in children as young as 18 months old can dramatically improve lifetime prognosis.

Individuals with autism in North Carolina currently face discrimination by health insurance policies that specifically exclude treatment for autism and developmental disabilities. Because state law does not mandate coverage, most companies deny coverage.

To the families of the more than 50,000 individuals with autism in North Carolina, this is an outrageous exception to medically necessary health coverage. Would we accept it if other chronic medical conditions like diabetes, cancer, or heart conditions were excluded from treatment?

With appropriate intervention, many children with autism can grow to be independent adults who contribute to society and have a meaningful quality of life. Without intervention, individuals are far more likely to require lifetime support from their families, the school system, and the government.

Later life can be filled with employment and social difficulties for adults as they age. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2010 only 28.6 percent of individuals aged 16 to 64 with a disability were in the labor force. The lost productivity and earning potential costs everyone.

The cost of therapy for autism is more than a typical family or individual can afford, up to $50,000 per year. Parents have a reasonable right to expect that their health insurance premiums will cover necessary services for their children, something which the Coverage For Treatment of Autism Disorders bill would address.

Insurance lobbyists have tried to use scare tactics to convince state legislatures that the cost of adding autism coverage to existing health plans would increase premiums by 1 to 3 percent for all subscribers. However, studies have proved that to be false. In states that have tracked the costs of claims following the enactment of autism insurance laws, the average premium increase is only 31 cents per month. For less than the cost of an apple a month, North Carolina’s children with autism can be helped. Even that cost will be overwhelmingly paid back to society by productivity.

The current versions of the Coverage For Treatment of Autism Disorders bills were introduced to the North Carolina General Assembly in 2010 by a coalition of autism advocates, state legislators, and organizations. Legislators across the state need to know the importance of the Coverage For Treatment of Autism Disorders bill, and vote to end discrimination against people with autism.

Bridget Mora is a chapter Board Member of the Autism Society of North Carolina, and the mother of a four-year old son with Asperger’s Disorder. She is also the author of http://www.chartnc.blogspot.com/,a blog dedicated to sharing information and resources for autism in the Triangle region. Robert Weiner is a former chief of staff of the U.S. House Health Subcommittee and House Aging Committee. For more information, contact the Autism Society of North Carolina at 919-743-0204.

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2012/03/28/3131573/nc-lagging-on-insurance-for-autism.html#storylink=cpy
Guide for the Autism Society of North Carolina about Bullying

The Autism Society of North Carolina also requested that I write a guide to handling bullying for their website. The resulting 14 page article required extensive research into legal aspects, current statistics, recent studies, and best practices in the field. The guide is available to read and download on the ASNC website. Below is an excerpt; click through to see the entire article online.

Why Children with ASD Are Often Targeted by Bullies
Children with disabilities are bullied at far greater rates than their non-disabled peers, and this holds true for children with ASD. There are a number of reasons why a student with autism may become the target of a bully. First, it is often an “invisible” disability. Students with more obvious impairments are bullied less than those whose disability is more subtle (perhaps due to a social climate in the school that would make victimizing a very impaired student “uncool”). Children whose peers see them as “odd” or “annoying” without realizing that their behavior is caused by a disability such as autism are far more likely to be targeted for harassment. A child with ASD may have behaviors that make him stand out from his peers in an inclusion classroom, might have age- inappropriate interests, or might be easily provoked to react, all of which increase the likelihood of being bullied.
Article for the Autism Society of North Carolina: “Homeschooling Information: Factors to Consider”

This ten page article was written on the request of the Autism Society of North Carolina to address homeschooling. It is one of my longer articles, and required a considerable amount of research. Below is an excerpt from the article; the entire article can be read on the ASNC website.

Homeschooling Children with Autism
 
Every parent wants the best education for their children. While the Autism Society of North Carolina (ASNC) does not recommend one particular school or educational model over another, some of our families have found home schooling to be an appropriate way to educate their child with autism. This guide is intended to provide
information about homeschooling in North Carolina and to direct parents to resources to help you make an informed decision about whether homeschooling might be the right choice for your child and your family. An ASNC Parent Advocate may be able to provide you with additional contacts and resources related to homeschooling in your local area. Your
local ASNC Chapter can also be a place to connect with others who
homeschool and gather additional insight.
Social Media

In addition to writing, I maintain social media accounts for several clients to help increase their online presence. I have experience with Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest, among others. This is a link to a Pinterest account that I created and maintained for Silverland Jewelry.

Writing for WordPress blog: The Silverland Jewelry Bride’s Blog

Silverland Jewelry is a long term client, for whom I have worked for over 5 years. They maintain several WordPress blogs, including The Bride’s Blog for which I have written numerous posts. Please visit the blog to see examples.

A graphic that I created in Photoshop for the Bride’s Blog.

Press Release for Jeweler

I have written countless press releases on topics as varied as information technology, finance, sports, health, and weddings. This is a press release that I wrote for Silverland Jewelry & Gifts.

Online Jeweler SilverlandJewelry.com Thrives, Expands in Struggling Economy

Raleigh, North Carolina (PRWEB) May 27, 2009

Online bridal jewelry specialist Silverland Jewelry.com will be expanding their operations to include a new retail shop in Raleigh, North Carolina, marking their first entry into the traditional brick-and-mortar jewelry business. This news comes even as many jewelers are being forced to scale back or close their stores due to the difficult economic climate. Despite the current recession, http://www.silverlandjewelry.com has seen their sales grow and their business thrive, leading them to the decision to open the new store.

Owner Ray Paquette attributes the success of Silverland Jewelry in a tough economy to its combination of reasonable prices and attention to customer service. “We offer a level of customization that is not often found at such affordable prices,” Paquette states, going on to point out that his bridal jewelry and bridesmaid jewelry sets can be personalized to suit the client’s style preferences, wedding colors, and more. “Offering brides custom jewelry for their weddings at prices they can afford has always been the specialty of Silverland Jewelry”, Mr. Paquette said; noting that during the economic downturn people continue to have weddings, but are looking for the best possible values.

Silverland Jewelry meets the needs of its clients by offering wedding jewelry for brides and bridesmaids that is handcrafted in Raleigh, North Carolina, primarily from Swarovksi crystals, freshwater pearls, and sterling silver. Each piece is created to the specifications of the bride, allowing for personalization that is typically only available at much more expensive retailers. The jeweler has had an extremely positive response to its free sample program, which allows brides to request crystal samples to match to their bridesmaids’ gowns before placing an order. Add to this Silverland’s ability to accommodate requests for rush orders, and it becomes clear why this jeweler is thriving when others are failing.

The new retail shop is scheduled to open August 1, 2009 in the Sutton Square Shopping Center at 6325 Falls-of-Neuse Road in Raleigh, North Carolina. Owner Ray Paquette believes that having a traditional retail store in addition to the online business is the next logical step in his goal to offer brides the best possible experience. While selling bridal jewelry over the Internet has allowed Silverland Jewelry to reach the widest possible market, having a physical presence will also allow his designers to meet with local brides face-to-face to create the jewelry for their weddings. This level of personal attention is one that many brides find lacking in other bridal jewelry specialists, and Silverland Jewelry has stepped in to fill the void.

For additional information on Silverland Jewelry.com, or its new store in Raleigh, North Carolina, contact Ray Paquette at http://www.silverlandjewelry.com.

About Silverland Jewelry:
Founded in 2005, Silverland Jewelry.com has rapidly become a popular destination for brides seeking beautiful handcrafted wedding jewelry. Their focus on providing unique and affordable bridal jewelry along with personal service has proven to be a winning formula.

Contact:
Ray Paquette, owner
Silverland Jewlery
866-658-4567 
http://www.silverlandjewelry.com

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Website Content for IT Firm

I wrote several pages of website content for CommTech, a New Orleans IT provider. View it on the website here, or read it below.

Computer Service New Orleans Redefined

Redefine what computer service New Orleans means for your business. CommTech doesn’t merely provide computer repair jobs New Orleans, we build partnerships with our clients. We believe that the purpose of outsourcing IT department functions is ultimately to streamline your operations and increase your profitably. Our success is based on yours. For 20 years, CommTech has been offering a broad range of IT consulting, technology managed services, and outsourced IT solutions to businesses in the Gulf South, serving New Orleans, Metairie, Covington, Mandeville, Slidell, Hammond, and Baton Rouge. We are a trusted New Orleans HP partner, and we also carry best-in-class IT hardware and software such as Dell products, Microsoft operating systems and applications, Cisco network switches, and ShoreTel VoIP Unified Communications phone equipment. Whatever your company’s technology or technology services needs, we are here to meet them. Call CommTech at 504-200-1300 to experience New Orleans IT redefined.

Proactive IT Managed Services

Is there anything worse than an unexpected computer crash or systems failure that sends you scrambling for emergency New Orleans computer repair services? What about knowing that your current IT catastrophe that is costing your company time and money could have been prevented? That really stings, doesn’t it? The truth is that many common computer problems are utterly predictable, if a qualified computer technician is monitoring the infrastructure. That is where CommTech’s signature Complete IT™ managed computer technology services come in. It begins with selecting the level of computer repair & service that best fit your requirements. The Complete IT™ program is offered in three versions:

  • Basic: Systems monitoring, reporting, and proactive management.
  • Custom: The Basic package plus any additional special services your business requires.
  • Enterprise: A complete package of technology resources at an affordable fixed monthly rate, including CIO (Chief Information Officer) service, help desk telephone support, routine maintenance remote online repair (why wait for onsite services & computer repair if the issue can be quickly resolved remotely?), and much more.

Managed services allow our desktop support technicians to detect and resolve many issues before they ever affect the end-user. When PC repair is needed, no computer shops in New Orleans surpass the technical expertise of CommTech. We offer a vast array of Metairie IT and PC solutions – virus removal, networking solutions, new hardware setup and troubleshooting, router setup install, project design and implementation, cloud services, remote desktop support, and help installing patches, software, and updates. Contact CommTech at 504-200-1300 today to discover why our clients say we provide the best computer service in the New Orleans area.

Looking Under the Hood: Technology Audits and Assessments

Audits and assessments are an essential computer service New Orleans provided by CommTech. Our audit and assessment process enables us to “look under the hood” of your IT infrastructure to identify potential vulnerabilities and offer solutions. Once you have a realistic picture of the current state of your equipment & systems, service can include network redesign, upgrades to security systems and procedures, installation of state-of-the-art Metairie VoIP and telepresence video conferencing equipment, and custom computer solutions. Among the many industries served: graphic design, CPA firms, insurance, architectural companies, engineering, health care, and law firm offices. CommTech offers the following technology audits and assessments:

  • Network Assessment: Complete review of networking equipment and connectivity testing. We will identify opportunities to improve data access, storage, and use without compromising security. If your network is slow or inefficient, let CommTech perform a new equipment install and repair existing connections as needed.
  • Security Assessment: Thorough penetration testing and security audit to identify potential risks and breaches. A security failure can have serious ramification to a company’s reputation, productivity, client base, and ultimately their bottom line. It is critical to prevent security failures, remove viruses and malware, and secure your entire network before an incident occurs.
  • Unified Communications & Telepresence Assessment: How well are your company’s communication systems serving you? Our phone service assessment will analyze your current methods and identify ways to streamline communications. New Orleans VoIP service, video conferencing, mobile communications, and other up-to-date telephony solutions will keep your entire workforce connected, promoting collaboration and efficiency.

Hoping for the Best, Preparing for the Worst: Disaster Recovery

One hard lesson our region learned in the wake of Hurricane Katrina is the importance of New Orleans disaster recovery. If a natural disaster, fire, or some other situation made your office inaccessible or destroyed your computers, how would your services offered be affected? Would you be able to pick up where you left off and carry on your business from a remote location? If the answer is no, it is time to create a disaster recovery plan with offsite back up. CommTech offers far more than New Orleans computer repair service when needed; we help businesses develop and implement strong disaster recovery plans with the necessary equipment & systems to ensure their success should they ever be needed. Once the plan has been set in motion, our team will put your disaster recovery plan to the test. We then work with your company to fine tune the program until your business continuity is assured, whatever may come. Whether you are a small business, a mid-sized company with several branches, or a large enterprise, a solid network and server disaster recovery and backup plan is absolutely essential.

Beyond Computer Repairs

CommTech is proud to be one of the best computer shops in the New Orleans area, but that is only the tip of the iceberg. Our staff is much more than “computer geeks” – they are smart, experienced, and dedicated to helping your business meet its goals. It is our mission to provide your business with all of the New Orleans managed services, long range planning, telephone system design, security, and computer repair services you need in one convenient package. Whether your company requires occasional computer repairs or comprehensive CIO service, CommTech is here to help. Call us at 504-200-1300 to discuss how CommTech computer service New Orleans solutions can help your company put technology to work for you.

Website Content for Lenora’s Legacy Estate

I wrote all of the content for Lenora’s Legacy Estate, Upstate South Carolina’s premier wedding ceremony and reception site. Please visit www.lenoraslegacy.com to have a look.

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Op-Ed in New York Daily News

July 5, 2009

This is an op-ed for which I did research and a draft that appeared in the New York Daily News:

Renters across America need more help from Congress

Sunday, July 5th 2009, 4:00 AM

While the recent anti-foreclosure bill signed by President Obama is of assistance to the homeowners affected by the current financial meltdown, the bill and its $13.6 billion of housing recovery money have ignored the nearly one-third of American households who rent, including more than 2 million households in New York City.

All these people also have a dream of having and staying in a home - and they also need help from Congress, on the double. Over the course of the last generation, things have gotten progressively worse for renters - and the deep recession has added insult to injury.

When Congress passed the Housing and Community Development Act in 1974, the law included a goal of closing the gap between the rising cost of housing and the slower rate of increase in wages. The Koch Amendment to that bill - which established that a family should pay no more than 15%-20% of their income in federally assisted housing, and that a voucher (we now call this a Section 8 voucher) - would cover the difference. After a compromise with the Senate, the cap was set at 25%.

Over the years, this successful program has been whittled away by special interest groups and misdirected priorities. In 1983, the percentage of a family’s income that could go towards rent was increased to 30%. That may sound like a small but necessary increase given federal budgetary constraints. However, many families that get Section 8 are paying upwards of 40% and 50% of their income because they cannot find an apartment that meets the established rent cap.

It’s not just the size of the individual voucher that’s the problem; it’s the overall scope of the program. The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that 3 million families will receive aid under Section 8 this year. The number of individuals in need is far greater. The New York City Housing Authority reports there are 127,825 New York families on the wait list.

Their hopes for affordable housing are dependent on the chance that their number is picked out of a hat.

The Federal Housing Administration advocates that a family should spend no more than 30% of their income on housing. In 2006, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than half of renters exceeded this guideline, with almost a quarter of renters spending more than 50%. The situation is particularly dire in New York, where nearly one in three New Yorkers use half of their income on rent.

It shouldn’t surprise us that one very immediate consequence of all this is homelessness. In New York City alone, there has been a 65% increase in the use of homeless shelters since 1998 and a 23% increase since 2002. Even at these record numbers - 36,218 were in shelters as of May 31 - a shelter, though a wonderful resource, is not a permanent home, and shelters only house a tiny fraction of the homeless. While a virtually immeasurable number, the New York City Coalition for the Homeless believes homelessness this decade is “the greatest since the Great Depression.”

In Congress, Reps. Maxine Waters (D-Cal.) and Barney Frank (D-Mass.), the chairs of the House Housing Subcommittee and the full Financial Services Committee, are moving forward with Section 8 housing reform after the July 4 recess. The White House and Congress can help the third of Americans who rent by going back to the guidelines set by the Housing Act of 1974 - increasing the availability of Section 8 housing vouchers, assuring that families pay no more than 30% of their income on housing and using the rent limit as a model for other low income housing. This would not be a bailout for renters, but a return to the protection needed to enable people to pay their rent and remain in their homes.

Congress must make sure that all citizens, including renters, who are often the poorest Americans, have roofs over their head. That’s not too much to ask in America.

Koch is former mayor of New York City and member of Congress. Weiner was his legislative assistant.


Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/opinions/2009/07/05/2009-07-05_renters_across_america_need_more_help_from_congress.html#ixzz0KaWdt1FV&C
Press Release

This is a press release that I wrote to announce the expansion of an online-only retailer into a new shop.

Online Jeweler Silverland Jewelry.com Thrives, Expands in Struggling Economy

Some good news in difficult economic times: bridal jewelry retailer Silverland Jewelry.com has announced that despite the current economic downturn, their business has been steadily increasing, leading to plans to expand into their first traditional retail store. The jeweler will make the leap from maintaining an online-only retail presence into debuting a brick-and -mortar shop located in Raleigh, North Carolina on August 1, 2009.

Raleigh, North Carolina (PRWEB) May 27, 2009 — Online bridal jewelry specialist Silverland Jewelry.com will be expanding their operations to include a new retail shop in Raleigh, North Carolina, marking their first entry into the traditional brick-and-mortar jewelry business. This news comes even as many jewelers are being forced to scale back or close their stores due to the difficult economic climate. Despite the current recession, http://www.silverlandjewelry.com has seen their sales grow and their business thrive, leading them to the decision to open the new store.

Owner Ray Paquette attributes the success of Silverland Jewelry in a tough economy to its combination of reasonable prices and attention to customer service. “We offer a level of customization that is not often found at such affordable prices,” Paquette states, going on to point out that his bridal jewelry and bridesmaid jewelry sets can be personalized to suit the client’s style preferences, wedding colors, and more. “Offering brides custom jewelry for their weddings at prices they can afford has always been the specialty of Silverland Jewelry”, Mr. Paquette said; noting that during the economic downturn people continue to have weddings, but are looking for the best possible values.

Silverland Jewelry meets the needs of its clients by offering wedding jewelry for brides and bridesmaids that is handcrafted in Raleigh, North Carolina, primarily from Swarovksi crystals, freshwater pearls, and sterling silver. Each piece is created to the specifications of the bride, allowing for personalization that is typically only available at much more expensive retailers. The jeweler has had an extremely positive response to its free sample program, which allows brides to request crystal samples to match to their bridesmaids’ gowns before placing an order. Add to this Silverland’s ability to accommodate requests for rush orders, and it becomes clear why this jeweler is thriving when others are failing.

The new retail shop is scheduled to open August 1, 2009 in the Sutton Square Shopping Center at 6325 Falls-of-Neuse Road in Raleigh, North Carolina. Owner Ray Paquette believes that having a traditional retail store in addition to the online business is the next logical step in his goal to offer brides the best possible experience. While selling bridal jewelry over the Internet has allowed Silverland Jewelry to reach the widest possible market, having a physical presence will also allow his designers to meet with local brides face-to-face to create the jewelry for their weddings. This level of personal attention is one that many brides find lacking in other bridal jewelry specialists, and Silverland Jewelry has stepped in to fill the void.

For additional information on Silverland Jewelry.com, or its new store in Raleigh, North Carolina, contact Ray Paquette at http://www.silverlandjewelry.com.

About Silverland Jewelry:
Founded in 2005, Silverland Jewelry.com has rapidly become a popular destination for brides seeking beautiful handcrafted wedding jewelry. Their focus on providing unique and affordable bridal jewelry along with personal service has proven to be a winning formula.

Contact:
Ray Paquette, owner
Silverland Jewlery
866-658-4567
http://www.silverlandjewelry.com

To view the press release full size with media, follow this link: http://www.prweb.com/releases/bridaljewelry/weddingjewelry/prweb2406624.htm

Current writing samples

These are some of the most recent articles that I have written to drive traffic to a retail website. The increased traffic has driven sales so high that the business will now be expanding into a new location.

http://ezinearticles.com/?Irish-Wedding-Customs-and-Traditions&id=2303740

http://ezinearticles.com/?Weddings-With-an-Artistic-Flair&id=2225933

You can view all of my articles at: Bridget Mora - EzineArticles.com Expert Author