interactive Blogging

UBC 4/20 Day 13: Not a Fish

Just like many Americans, as well as others around the world, I’m consuming an inordinate amount of television these days. Between Netflix and cable, I’m watching a lot of shows that have been in syndication and are the perpetual rerun cornerstone of channels like WE. Some of the shows, Law and Order or Criminal Minds,  I end up watching start off as mere background noise for one of the women I’ve been staying with for nearly a month now. Other shows are binge-worthy shows that have been picked up by Netflix, like The Magicians. The other woman whose home I’m staying in likes to binge-watch shows with me. We’ve decided our next binge will be Orphan Black. A couple of shows I’ve been watching are Locke & Key and Legacies.  I watch when neither woman is with me. Finally, there are their accumulated shows on their DVR…like The Closer and network staples like Grey’s Anatomy (which I never got into).

Why am I telling you about my tv watching habits? Glad you asked. Because sometimes there’s actually something useful to be learned or some bit of interesting trivia that you didn’t know. Such a thing happened to me, yesterday.

Earlier in the day, my friend was watching Grey’s Anatomy on her DVR. She offered to change what she was watching to something we had been watching together. I told her to continue watching her shows and free up some DVR space. After all, I’m a long-term guest whose presence had been invited over for a short period of, not to be a roommate. Apparently, there’s a character on there who was also an unexpected long-term guest at one of his friend’s.  He was packing up his things when the person who lived there questioned what he was doing and why. His response, “Houseguests are like fish. Both go bad after three days.” Later, we were watching a rerun of The Closer and Brenda Leigh’s mom had come for an unplanned visit and announced, out of the blue, that she was taking a flight back home the next day. Her reasoning? Houseguests are like fish, after three days they go bad.

My friend said, “You’re not a fish.”

It felt good to know that my presence hasn’t become a burden to them. I’ve basically been getting free room and board…and I feel very appreciative and blessed by them. However, I don’t want to take advantage of their hospitality. But, the longer this shelter-in order continues, the more concerned I get about whether I’m wearing out my welcome. So, I do my best to leave as little “footprint” in their home as possible.

I pick up after myself and sometimes pick up after them, too. Nothing major, just putting empty bottles in the Bottle Drop bag or gathering accumulated debris off the coffee table. I try to help with the dishes. I could do more there, so I’m going to make more of an effort…especially on the nights when the first woman cooks. (She’s an AMAZING Southern cook.)  IMG_20200412_153355Easter dinner consisted of glazed spiral ham, green bean almandine, and fried corn. Nom nom. I also go to the store with her to help her shop, so she doesn’t have to walk around too much. Her knees are bone on bone and she’s always in pain. However, she works herself like a workhorse. So, I try to help her in ways that don’t infringe on her pride and autonomy. I’m also planning on giving them some money when I start getting paid.

So, if you’re a houseguest who doesn’t want to start going bad like a three-day-old fish keep in mind the following:

  • The people you’re aren’t your maids. Pick up after yourself and see where you can pitch in with the cleaning.
  • They aren’t your cruise director. Don’t expect them to entertain you or take over their entertainment. Be willing to do what they normally do when you’re not there.
  • They’re your hosts, not your parents. Pay your way, when you can, and help out however you can that works for them.

If you’ve ever hosted someone in your home, what are some ways they can be helpful on their own, without your prompting?

If you’ve been a long-term guest, what did you do to not wear out your welcome?

What’s on your binge watch list?

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It’s that time again! April 2020 Ultimate Blog Challenge

First, let me start by saying, “This is NOT another pandemic blogging projecct.” When I first signed up for this month’s challenge, I was asked what my goal was. My response was to state that I want to write 30 posts that have nothing directly to do with the pandemic. I may refer to it, but, I won’t be discussing the politics of it, the projections, or a daily accounting of my time spent “sheltering in.” What I write about may not wind up being as interesting or light-hearted as it could be in this time of stress and fear. But, it is intended to be a different thing altogether.

Now that we have that out of the way, you may be wondering, “Lillian, what ARE your 30 blog posts going to be about, then?” The answer is, “I don’t know for sure.” Sounds strange, I know. However, I’m not a planner. Never have been. I’ve tried. Lord knows I’ve tried. I just don’t have it in me. Every time I create a plan, it falls through. You know the old adage, right? “How do you make God laugh? Tell him your plans.” Let’s just say that I tickle his funny bone whenever I attempt to make a plan.

What I do know is that there could be poetry or short stories. You might run into something like a devotional, refering to biblical scripture. However, it will likely be a combination of me processing my mental health stuff or discussing mental health stuff. It also might be a record, of sorts, about my search for employment and, hopefully, me adjusting to a job. For the moment, though, let me introduce myself, for those who don’t know me or who need a quick catch up.

I’m a 50 year old mom and grandma. My children are currently 11, 26, and 33. My grandchildren (by the 26 year old) are currently 6, 5, 2, and due in two weeks. The 11 year old experiences the world through the higher functioning end of the Autism Spectrum. Due to her behavioral issues and my mental health issues, I recently had her go live with her father. I have all kinds of feels about that and some of that subject may show up this month. My 26 year old daughter is pregnant with baby #4. Her family of five, soon to be six, are living in my tiny 2 bedroom apartment, along with a dog and a cat. Anecdotes and feels about things related to that may also appear here. As for my 33 year old, he’s married and living with his wife, doing his own thing. There will proably be little reference to him, unless it relates to our history.

I also live with a bipolar brain that has been shaped by trauma. So, I have diagnoses of Bipolar II Disorder, PTSD, Depression, and Binge Eating Disorder. I just started weekly therapy with a trauma therapist. I was blessed with a gift of 6 – 12 months of this therapy by my faith community, otherwise known as “church.” So, there could be a LOT of me processing through my mental health challenges this month.

I haven’t been employed for a little over seven and half years, except for a recent, very brief stint with H & R Block. I took their income tax preparation course last fall, and barely survived it. I also took a three month Peer Support Specialist class, followed by a 10 week Peer Wellness Specialist class, which I completed on Friday, March 13th. The last day I worked at H & R Block was March 16th. I have to obtain my Peer Wellness Specialist Certification through the OHA – Oregon Health Authority before I can actually get a job doing that work. Right now the OHA is pretty occupied and they already took 3 – 6 months to process those applications before the current health crisis. In the meantime, I need an income. So, I applied for a grocery store position, thinking it would be a good bridge job while I go through the hurry up and wait process. But they decided to “pursue other applicants.”

On Monday I applied for a Direct Care position in a mental health group home situation with the community behavioral health organization I took my Peer training through and have been receiving services with for almost a year. The next day, yesterday, they did a phone interview with me. I have a video interview with them today. Wish me luck.

This month promises to be quite the journey, or at least the first chapter of this new book in my life. I’m happy to have the company while it gets written. Thank you for joining me.

Classism

I did it again.

I read the comments.

Again I was struck by the intensity of reaction vs the lack of vitriol. I mean, the tone was definitely combative and the “troll” was less of a troll as much and more of a “true believer.”

In grammar.

I get it. I seriously GET. IT. I really do. I mean, I couldn’t finish reading a published author’s post when there were two errors within a paragraph of each other and the second one was using “fourth” where “forth” should’ve been used.

I cringed, then moved on. I didn’t feel the need to publicly point out the misuse of the word.

As a writer, I believe that good grammar, proper spelling, and word usage matters. Of course it does.

That being said, a person’s worth and value doesn’t rest on whether they use “is” vs “are” correctly. Which is where we begin our tale.

It starred a meme on FB. What else could it have been?

Yeah. That was it. Cringe worthy, but, ultimately, not a big deal. Right?

“Disney is*”

Aaaand we’re off.

The initial discussion was whether Disney was a group (There is a legal, singular entity, The Disney Group International, Inc.) and if there was a group, should it be referred to in the plural.

Then it got interesting.

The initial person who made the comment was called classist. The debate shifted as she got defensive.

That interaction made me remember some recent conversations I’ve had with people regarding language, how it’s used and how that usage is perceived.

I have been accused of “talking down” to someone because I often use large or complicated words and phrases where clear, easily understood ones exist. For example, a much more natural way for me to have written that would have been: I have a tendency to use large, multisyllabic, and obscure words and phrases where clear, easily understood words exist.

Why? And why did the woman who had been a former foster child feel the need to publicly use her hard earned education to correct the grammar in a meme?

Because Classism.

For those of us who come from a background of poverty, education is very, very important.

It’s a way to prove to ourselves and to the world that “we’re better than that” and can “make something of ourselves” by “rising above” our origins among the underprivileged, ignorant masses.

Apparently, it’s also important to those of wealth and privilege, as well. Otherwise, several, high-profile celebrities wouldn’t have been caught buying expensive, elite educations for their offspring.

In other words, having a college or University education is, not only a key to higher income, it’s a piece of evidence that we can function on the level of a higher class of people.

Why else would some POC get accused of “acting White” for speaking in certain ways? Why else are people with proven experience and ability passed over for jobs and promotions in favor of less experienced, often younger, college graduates? Why else do all the other prejudices and “isms” exist?

Because Classism.

So, I finally felt compelled to enter the fray.

“A) The Disney Group is a collective of other corporations. It is a singular entity which encompasses other entities.

B) Classism isn’t about whether or not those of us who have worked for or earned a specific degree of education come from a position of wealth or privilege (I most certainly do not). It is an attitude and assumption of stigma toward those who aren’t educated and socialized in a specific manner which is acceptable to navigate in a classist, elitist society. It’s systemic as much as it is attached to personal privilege.

Therefore, it is possible to come from an underprivileged background and still be classist.”

I doubt there’s much to be done about Classism, other than to be aware and recognize its existence, in its various forms, then check our own assumptions, beliefs, attitudes, and language.

At least, that’s where we start.

I can see clearly now…or not

I’ve been using reading glasses for a couple of years now. My eyes have been getting more and more blurry over the past several years. Yet, every eye exam results in a very mild prescription, for a complex combo of issues which include astigmatism and far-sightedness.

I haven’t been able to afford glasses. The last pair I got were covered by my church…up to the cost of a single lens prescription. The progressives were going to cost an additional $200, which I had no way of covering. So, I chose the middle…not thinking it just meant that I was getting what I basically already had without glasses. Silly me.

So, yesterday, I had the opportunity to get an eye exam that will result in a good pair of prescription glasses, sponsored through a partnership between Dress for Success and Myoptic Optometry. For the first time I can remember, I found out the true reason for my blurry vision, which fluctuates in degrees.

Dry eye Syndrome, aka Chronic Dry Eye.

Yay.

Another health thing that won’t be going away.

Fibromyalgia…✔️
Diabetes (2)…✔️
Hypothyroidism…✔️
Bipolar (2)…✔️
Depression…✔️
PTSD…✔️
Chronic Insomnia…✔️

and now…Dry Eye Syndrome…✔️

I can’t really complain. I mean, any one of these things could be so much worse. Plus, there are so many people going through things and dealing with much more major issues.

It’s just that the combination of these things is collectively overwhelming… especially if you factor in the depression’s ability to make everything else seem and feel worse than it is.

Add a night of the worst insomnia I’ve experienced in awhile, and I’m hurting and exhausted. I’ve got a ton of stuff to get done today and all I can do is lie here and be a lump.

Nap time before 9 am.

Thanks for “listening” to me whine. I’ll write something more interesting next time…maybe.

Freya the Fierce

I’m not a dog person.

Really. I’m not.

However, it seems she’s a Lillian dog.

She reminds me a little bit of Falkor, the Luckdragon, from Neverending Story. Which, I suppose she kind of is.

Just like Falkor helped Atreyu battle The Nothing, she’s been helping me battle Depression over the last month.

I mean, who could ignore the demands of a face like that? She’s relentless. Catch. Chase. Tug. She just wants to playyyyy.

Just like I have to stay functional enough to keep my daughter fed and off to school, I have to stay functional enough to keep Freya fed and walked so that I’m not cleaning up accidents.

When the depression got really bad a couple of weeks ago, she was a tangible connection when I would otherwise have been alone.

I’m not a dog person.

Really. I’m not.

Trauma Response

Like the sea cucumber
I protected myself
Spewing my guts
At anyone who drew near

Go away before I get too attached.

Like the abandoned stray
Quivering with hope and fear
Once given scraps
I clung, unrelentingly

No, stay, I need you to survive.

Like the porcupine
Trapped and under attack
Spraying sharp quills
Piercing the inquisitive

I’m dangerous, keep your distance.

Like the sinuous feline
Not to be ignored
Winding around legs and feet
My insistent presence tripping you

Pay attention to me, on my terms only.

Insecure
Needy
Defensive
Demanding

Shaped by trauma.
Forged in neglect.
Informed by abandonment.
Afflicted with mental illness.

Is this at all familiar?

Trauma Is Not Your Fault, But Healing Is Your Responsibility

Two minutes

Two minutes.

That seems like such a short time.

Unless those two minutes are for standing up and talking to a group of people. Especially if the subject is me, myself, and I.

Then, those two minutes feel like two hours.

I have four weeks to prepare this little speech to present to my class as part of my final requirements, in order to graduate and obtain my Certificate of Completion for Peer Support Specialist Training.

Two minutes.

How is that possibly enough time to explain my lived experience with mental health challenges, what I bring to the job, why I want to do it, and why I’ll be good at it?

Two minutes.

How in the world am I supposed to remember a two minute speech when I don’t remember what I was going to say two seconds ago?

Two minutes.

The time stretches and constricts, like a rubber band.

I’ve survived this long. I’ll survive two minutes.

Special Needs

Ableism is discrimination and social prejudice against people with disabilities or who are perceived to have disabilities. Ableism characterizes persons as defined by their disabilities and as inferior to the non-disabled. ~ Wikipedia

I made the mistake of reading comments on an Instagram post in favor of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. They were mostly positive. But, there was one naysayer who stood out for his initial lack of vitriol. He was just mildly snarky. But, it was like he had committed some heinous sin, instead of posting a disagreement rooted in ignorance.

He was immediately under attack. Mostly the responses remained as snarky comebacks. However, one of them made me cringe.

It sounds like your boss is good at hiring people with special needs.

I couldn’t scroll past without addressing it.

Back in the day, the insult used was, “retard,” frequently accompanied by a physically mocking action. Much like 45’s mocking actions regarding a reporter who experiences a physical disability.

Another one is, “riding the short bus.”

However you frame it, it’s showing a prejudice toward people with disabilities, especially intellectual ones.

How about how mental health challenges are referred to?

What are you, crazy?

Man, that was INSANE!

She’s so bipolar.

That one’s not right in the head.

Or the fact that so many movies and TV shows portray mental health patients as dangerous killers and all the shootings being reported as someone with mental illness, before an evaluation can be done?

The stigma and prejudices against people with physical, developmental, and mental disabilities is real and insidious. Just as we need to recognize, call out, and address racism, in all its forms, sexism, genderism, and sizism, we need to call out ableism.

It isn’t about political correctness, it’s about human rights.

For more on my perspective on ableism, go here.

Finding Truth

Some days, it is hard
Opening my eyes to see
I am good enough

There are times it’s hard
Stopping critical voices
Words I tell myself

Often difficult
Gathering my scattered thoughts
I am herding cats

Easily confused
Feeling all the emotions
My soul overwhelmed

Distinguishing truth
Letting go of the old lies
Settling in what’s real

Giving myself grace
All of me acceptable
I am good enough

To the me I used to be

As many of you may know, yesterday was October 31st. Some cultures celebrate it as a sacred day, others don’t celebrate it at all. In my corner of the world it is celebrated as a fun, commercialized way of being in brief community with neighbors you don’t know, with children in costume knocking on doors and acceptably begging for candy, while caregivers observe from a short distance…aka Halloween. (It’s also a way for those same caregivers to get their own sugar rush when they tax the candy haul.)

Anyway, that only has passing connection to why I’m writing today.

Today is the first day of NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. For some of us who blog, this is Nano Poblano – “the World’s Least-Official November Blog Challenge”

I won’t be writing a post a day, as I have attempted in other challenges. Instead, I’m committing to 10 posts this month. I’ll also be linking to 10 other posts this month.

Welcome to my first post of the month. Now, back to what I was writing about.

Last night I shared the requisite costume pic of my youngest, who will be 11 in a little over a month.

She looks older, huh? Sooo not ready for that.

When I woke up this morning, there were many “👍” and a few “♥️.” The last “like” was from a guy who had attended the same high school as I did. Just about the only interactions we have are reading and occasionally clicking our reaction to each other’s posts. But, he posts nice pictures of nature and other things I find mildly interesting. We reconnected at our 30 year class reunion a couple of years ago.

He may or may not remember, but, we had previously connected on FB back in 2010 or 2011, when I first joined the ‘book. It ended after a contentious interaction when the world didn’t end according to the 2012 Mayan Calendar predictions.

Depression had its hold on me and I posted some joke about being disappointed that the predictions had been wrong. He took exception to that and expressed his disagreement and disapproval.

That triggered anxiety and activated my defensiveness. I felt attacked. I was shaky and feeling threatened for no apparent reason. That was about the time another h.s. acquaintance and I got in conflict over something else, entirely.

I reactively “purged” my FB account, hoping to deactivate my hypervigilant hypersensitivity of the moment. I remember that I still felt threatened in some vague, amorphous way.

Some of that stemmed from my desire and need to be understood and accepted. However, I equated being understood with being agreed with and being accepted meant being justified and approved of. Anything else felt like I was under attack and unsafe.

I still don’t really understand the root reasons I experience anxiety around feeling rejected and not acceptable. I guess that hearkens back to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, with a sense of belonging being a basic need.

All I know, is that my gut clenched, my breathing got shallow, and my heart hammered when I saw the guy at our class reunion. Our online disagreement had such an impact on me. I wanted to avoid him and hide, because I was certain he would remember our interaction and be judging me by it.

Chances are he doesn’t remember that interaction. Otherwise, we probably wouldn’t be connected today. If he does remember, it likely doesn’t matter to him one way or the other. Regardless, the fact is that a molehill had been amplified to seem like a mountain, and, I think it’s possible that interaction will stay with me for a long time.

Part of me looks back on that time and sees the degree and type of reactivity and judges past me harshly. However, there’s a bigger part of me that understands and accepts who I was back then.

So, here’s my message to the me I used to be:

I love you. You’re not ridiculous and never were. You were living with the results of trauma. You were living without knowledge or understanding of the mental illnesses in your brain. I’m proud of you. You knew your reactions were signs you needed help and you paid attention to those signs. You had the courage to ask for help. You put in the work to change, heal and grow. You had the strength of character to own the consequences of your actions and behaviors from then and before. I’m grateful to you. You made me, me. You’re amazing. Thank you.