Ramble on

A lot’s happened over the past two days and even more is happening today.

On Monday, I attended the orientation session for the Health Careers NW study. It’s a federal research study to determine if providing vocational training in healthcare fields and employment support for low-income people receiving public assistance can help them attain a greater degree of financial self-sufficiency…uhmmm yeah!

In order to move forward with that process and when I, eventually, obtain a job, I’m going to need to show my Social Security Card. I don’t have it. Rather, it’s (hopefully) lost and buried somewhere in the depths of a very large box full of boxes and bags of papers…and by very large, I mean a moving box sized to carry several oversized pillows and lightweight items.

Trust me when I say there isn’t enough time or physical space for me to go through it and continue doing the job readiness, mental health recovery, and physical health activities I’m doing.

So, the Employment Specialist who has been working with me through the Social Security Administration’s Supported Employment Demonstration (a different federal research study to determine if people who have been denied Social Security Benefits for disabling conditions can successfully be transitioned back to employment with Employment Supports, Mental Health Case Management, and Physical Healthcare Supports…uhmmm yeah, again!) has been helping me get to and from some of these employment readiness activities I’ve been doing. She went to the orientation with me.

We decided to try to get to a Social Security Office afterward. However, she was on a tight schedule and had already agreed to take me to a store where I could exchange my empty 5 gallon water bottles – it’s too hot to go without decent water. The first place we went was out of water. So, we had to go to a different store.

While walking into that store, I tripped on a curb and went down on my left knee, then rolled onto my back. I managed to avoid going down too hard, thankfully.

By the time the water got replaced, it was too late to go to the Social Security Office. So, we agreed to go Tuesday…fully expecting at least an hour wait. Lo and behold, we got there and I had less than a 20 minute wait! 😮

I had tried to sign up for the NCRC, which I talked about here. However, I couldn’t just sign myself up. So, I called and spoke to the gal who’d led the Health Careers NW orientation on Monday. Now, I have four hours of testing to do today.

Not looking forward to it.

I tried to do math prep yesterday. I realized that geometry will kill my math score…which will kill my overall rating, since the lowest score determines the final rating.

The perfectionist in me is quite unhappy with that thought. However, the realist in me knows what’s what and that, ultimately, geometry is not a part of my career path and that my other abilities will speak for themselves when the time comes.

So, I decided not to make myself crazier with the math prep.

Later, I had a Volunteer Orientation at NAMI. NAMI is the National Alliance on Mental Illness. It’s a nationwide, peer driven organization offering support, education, and community engagement for those experiencing mental illnesses and their families. Since I want to get into peer work, this is my next logical step.

There are several opportunities for me here: teaching classes, as long as I’ve already taken them myself; Community engagement – speaking at schools, organizations, and businesses about my lived experiences as both a person living with mental illness and a parent/family member of others who have experienced mental illness; operations support, which will have me exercise my office and writing skills.

I start next week. My first volunteer project will be working on updating the local resource guide. The current one is two years old and things change.

I’m really excited about this next phase.

On my way home, I experienced another knee injury. I’m afraid this one was a bit more severe than the first. I’m really hoping that the pain subsides without me having to make another medical appointment.

What happened?

A slightly out of it man got on the bus, chose not to sit down, and neglected to hold himself steady. So, when the bus started to move, he came toppling down onto my lap like a felled tree, his shoulder gouging into the top, inside of my knee, above and to the side of my kneecap.

That’s the leg with the nerve entrapment in my foot and the same knee I’d fallen on the day before. So, now I have some radiating pain going down into my foot. Yay.

Since I’m hurting, sleep is elusive. Which means, I’ll be going into my tests sleep deprived and in pain.

Wish me luck.

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Who knew I was a perfectionist?

Not me.

How can I possibly be a perfectionist? My life’s kinda, sorta, really a mess. I mean, I regularly accumulate two or more weeks worth of laundry to put away. After all, I spent Sunday morning folding and putting away three bags of clean laundry and still probably have three loads worth to still put away. (Who knew I had that many clothes?!?!?) I have bags of non-perishable groceries, purchased IN FEBRUARY, which still need to be put away.

Pretty much every surface above the floor is occupied with stuff. Papers are EVERYWHERE: loose on various pieces of furniture, in boxes, in bags, in boxes of bags…And notebooks, lots of notebooks. Every therapy group and class has a notebook, as does my Peer-To-Peer class, and I have a full notebook of all my job readiness stuff – the most organized thing in my life.

My adult kids suspect that I may be a paper hoarder.

Maybe they’re right.

Or, maybe, just maybe my therapist is right. Maybe I’m a perfectionist.

I have difficulty with little goals. You know, the little daily goals that list makers have. Tasks that need completing in that day’s 16, mostly functional, productive hours.

Little goals never seem like enough. For me, that is, not for others. I’m a “go big or go home” kind of gal. Unfortunately, if it looks like I’m not going to be able to complete the big goal, I get overwhelmed and shut down. I’m fairly certain that’s why I haven’t written anything longer than short flash fiction or a blog post. The thought of curating and editing what I’ve written on the blog feels monumental and overwhelming, on several levels.

It’s always been that way academically, too. Good enough is seldom good enough for me. In retrospect, it’s partly that mentality that precipitated me running away from home when I was 16, which you may or may not have read about here and here. Since I’d missed 1/3 – 1/2 of the first term of my Junior year, I was convinced that there was no way I could catch up and earn the grades I would need to take advantage of the potential scholarships which had been implied with the recruitment letters I had received from Whitman College, Harvard & Radcliffe, and the combined branches of the military (I was offered my choice of ROTC scholarships).

All or nothing. All too often it has turned to nothing.

I realized yesterday that particular attitude is manifesting again in my job readiness process.

There’s a thing called the NCRC (National Career Readiness Certificate).

The NCRC is a multi-functional, Nationally Known and recognized credential designed to document the current essential skills of job seekers and students. A Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum certificate can point to a specific industry and/or job type that is translates into a “right fit” for an employer.

There are three assessment tests: Reading, Math, and Locating Information using graphics, ie. maps, charts, and other visual representations of data. There are four levels of achievement: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. I’m fairly certain I could earn Gold or Platinum for Reading assessment. I might be able to do Silver or Gold for the Locating Information assessment. However, I’m pretty sure my math skills are rusty enough that I could only score a Bronze for that assessment. Pesky fractions and geometry!

I could handle all of that, except, it’s a 3 for 1 kind of deal. What that means is that there’s one overall score/rating. It isn’t an average of the three. It isn’t the middle score. It certainly isn’t the top one. Nope. It’s the lowest one. So, if I score a Platinum rating for Reading, a Silver for Locating Information, and a Bronze for math, my overall rating is Bronze. The thought of that makes me cringe. I’m better than that, dammit! (or so I tell myself.)

The assessments are offered twice a month. Which means there have been at least two or three opportunities to take it that I have passed up, in favor of other job readiness activities which may or may not hold universal weight with potential employers. I haven’t taken it because I wanted to figure out how to brush up my math skills first.

Yesterday, I attended an orientation for Health Careers NW. “Health Careers NW is a WorkSource program that provides coaching, training and job placement support to low-income adults interested in a career in healthcare. . HPOG is a study funded by the federal government which is being conducted to determine how these training opportunities help people improve their skills and find better jobs. which is a potential opportunity to get training funded and employment supports.”

During the orientation, I found out that there aren’t any child care funds available. However, the person giving the orientation suggested that obtaining the NCRC certification opens to door up to travel funds and other benefits. It also might make child care funds available. When I raised my objection regarding the probability of me getting a Bronze for Math, she told me that it doesn’t really matter what the level is, what matters is getting the certificate and that any assessment can be retaken.

I still have an internal resistance to doing this. HOWEVER, I’m going to see what I can do tomorrow to register for the orientation and assessment sessions on the calendar for Wednesday. After all, it probably holds more weight than the Google applications computer course I’m signed up for and can take at any time.

So, as I stated in a prior post, I’m going to Just Do It!

God Doesn’t Waste A Wound

Everyone has a story. Chances are that story has a time of crisis or trauma. That moment may be the worst, most terrifying, darkest, lowest time you’ve ever been in, in your life. Often, it becomes a defining moment…a quickening. It becomes an opportunity, an invitation, to do more than survive. It is a moment of learning and growth  . . . or it can be.

That’s what last night’s message and discussion was about, within my faith community. How these times of crisis often present us with a question which causes us to examine ourselves, our lives, our priorities, and cause us to decide who we want to be in our lives and in the world.

Just about everyone has at least one…possibly more.

The Bible is full of them, starting from Adam in Genesis, through to Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, on and on through to the disciples and Jesus himself.

In those moments of trial and pain, many of us, if we are persons with a spiritual faith, question whether or not God is real. We may come to believe that we are being punished for some sin or that he is causing our trouble and pain in order to accomplish something. I personally believe that everything we experience is part of a cause and effect cycle, even if we can’t identify the cause.

The initiating cause doesn’t have to be ours, it can be that of someone or something else, we just happen to get caught in the effect. It is especially in those times when we can’t identify the cause that we may think we have been abandoned by God, believing that he should have protected us against and rescued us from the painful situation.

The reality is that we have a God of redemption and restoration, as well as a God of salvation, refuge, and protection. This means that those crisis moments can lead to us spiraling and spinning into a life of crisis and reactivity. We can feel shattered and completely broken. We may feel as if we’ve lost everything and have no reason to move forward. We wonder why God did this to us or allowed it to happen.

My experience has been that he is present all the time, including in those moments of painful crisis when we feel lost and alone.

Last week, I shared with you about one of those times for me. It was a brief overview of one of the defining relationships in my life and a time fraught with crisis moments, culminating in a near death experience. You can read about it here.

A brief recap: When I was 16, I was a victim in search of a predator, but didn’t know it. I was seduced and manipulated by a man 14 years older than me. I spent 3 years hitchhiking across the country and living out of cars with him . . . before, during, and after my pregnancy with our son, who was born when I was 17. When I was 19 and our son was two, he almost killed me in front of our son. He stopped at a moment when there was no reason or sanity to intervene. I felt as if there was a second between when I was alive and when I would die. In that second, he got up and moved away.

In that previous post, I said that he stopped short of killing me for some reason. I believed then and I believe now, that God was that reason.

There were consequences of that moment. The effects of it weren’t just in me, they were in my son. He was an angry child. I didn’t understand why throughout his childhood. However, once I started my healing process, five years ago, I came to understand that the root of that anger was planted in that moment of crisis.

Several months ago, my son and I had occasion to talk. During that conversation, we touched on his anger and I told him that I knew why he had been so angry as a child and why it continues to affect him. He wanted to know why, so, I told him about that crisis moment when he was two.

About two months later, he called me and told me that he needed to tell me something. He’d experienced a revelation while he’d been in prayer, asking God to show him a more complete picture of what happened and where he had been during the experience. God showed him where He had been in that second between life and death.

My son told me that God showed him that He had been present in my body, my bones, my muscles, my ligaments and tendons, protecting me from the physical effects of the attack. That I had been saved so that I would be here, now, in this moment.

I believed my son, because I knew that there was no earthly reason why his father would have stopped himself and allowed me to escape and get to a place where I could call the police. I just didn’t understand why my life had been saved. I didn’t know what was so special about this time of my life that I would have been saved then so that I could be here now.

Now though, I think it has to do with the career trajectory I’m on. I have a compelling desire to become a Mental Health Peer Support/Wellness Specialist. Not just because of my experience of living with Bipolar II, but also because of the PTSD and how it has manifested in my life. I want to help others navigate through it in ways I never had anyone to help me.

The deep wounding of that event will not be wasted.

 

Mama Dear

Sundays are always my busiest day of the week, so, I’m just now getting to today’s post and it’s 8:08 pm.

Yesterday, I had my Peer-to-Peer class then went to a friend’s barbecue. She and her wife have been strongly encouraging to stop dragging my feet about putting a book together. So, I asked the wife if she would help me “curate” from my previously written content. She told me to pick 10 of my favorite things.

That’s a difficult task. I don’t really have favorite things. I have things I’ve written that, if I go back and read, I don’t like. But I don’t have favorites. I don’t remember the details of most of what I write.

I decided to start by just gathering some poems. I found one I had completely forgotten about. The note said it was a draft and it looked like there was going to be at least one more stanza. But, I had no idea what it was going to be. When I read through it, it seemed pretty complete to me.

Let me know what you think:


Mama dear
This shed tear
Transformed from fear
Is making me clear

Mama love
My mourning dove
Absent gift from above
My life devoid of

Mama me
Never been free
Always tried to flee
Broken memory

Mama dear
You are my peer
Your spirit near
This time of year

Mama knows
How to bear woes
Keeping faith close
As the heart slows

Mama’s pains
This daughter gains
Release from the chains
My hope remains
©️ 2018 lem

Full Circle

I’m still struggling to write cohesively about all the things going through my mind. Through some random circumstance, I came across this poem I wrote a little over a year ago. Another version of my origin story.


Lying here crying over you,
As I promised I would not do.
Forgetting to my own self be true.
Reacting like a kid without a clue.

I’m too old to be doing this;
telling myself, you I would not miss.
Forgetting as I remember your kiss.
Reminded by your ghost dis.

When will these voices cease?
How do I gain release?
My mind, I need to quiesce.
My soul is seeking deep peace.

You’re not what this is truly about.
You’ve triggered all my fear and doubt.
You’ve broken my resolve so stout.
I just want to scream and shout.

In my infancy it all began
when I thought my father so quicky ran.
Teaching me not to depend on a man.
Relationship was not part of my plan.

Then, a kiss, unbidden.
A “love” to keep hidden.
Right by wrong overridden.
In society ’twas forbidden.

Rejection turned to twisted revenge.
My mom sought avidly to avenge.
Her sanity began to unhinge,
darkening her spirit more than a tinge.

Understanding nothing at my age.
Inner pain turned to outward rage.
Her brokenness I could not gauge.
Her torment she sought to assuage

Burdened by her own embattled past;
that agony, that pain could not last.
A deep darkness so wide and vast,
Unburdened with a final blast.

All this before I was a teen,
shaped into a spirit so mean.
Attempting to affect a stoic mien
inevitably set the scene:

A life repeatedly caught in love’s mirage,
built entirely through self-sabotage.
I see each one lost in a montage.
Unsure if I can withstand the barrage.

Full circle…I’m back to you.
Missing what you say and do.
I fell, despite what we both knew.
My heart stolen, lost to your coup.

©️2018 lem

Write about a time when…

Still feeling blocked. My soul is aching from all the hate and the suffering it’s inflicting on various people groups in my country. I’ve been housebound with a sick child this week and I’m dealing with some mental health stuff triggered by stress and worry about a family situation I have no control over or say in, but impacts me and my youngest child.

I’m determined to follow through with this session of The Ultimate Blog Challenge and write a blog post everyday. I just want whatever I post to be interesting, if not entertaining.

So, I searched for a prompt I could write about substantively. Here’s what I found: Writing Prompts: 60 Ideas You Can Use Today

I chose prompt 21: Write about a time when you or someone you love was scammed.


In some ways, this is my origin story…or one of them.

It was the beginning of my junior year of high school. My life had been upended…again. I was 16.

My uncle, who had been my guardian since just prior to my mother’s suicide four years earlier, had gone through a divorce and a custody battle over my baby cousin. He’d moved me in with my grandmother while he moved forward into a toxic and destructive new relationship.

Meanwhile, my grandmother and I were taking care of my cousin a lot of the time. She was with me so often that, when I was 15, I was often mistaken for her mom.

For whatever reason, I never knew, he moved my grandmother and me back to the place we’d lived when my mom and I had first landed in Portland. It was just down the hill from where his ex-wife was staying and back into the school district I’d been unenrolled from following the breakdown of our not-so-happy little family.

It was homecoming week and I was sneaking into school while other kids were sneaking out.

My uncle was MIA and had failed to do what was necessary to reenroll me in school and, because I was under a guardianship instead of living with my biological parents, I wasn’t allowed to enroll myself.

Contrary to everything pop culture indicates about the adolescent desire to avoid the confines of educational institutions, I WANTED to be in school…desperately. You see, I believed that the only way out of poverty and away from the kind of life I’d lived was my intellect and education.

I’d taken the PSAT (Pre Scholastic Aptitude Test) the previous year, as a sophomore. My scores were high enough that I received interest letters from Harvard & Radcliffe and Whitman College. I was also offered my choice of ROTC scholarships…all contingent upon my graduation from high school.

I was missing half of my first term as a junior and was anxious, angry, and feeling abandoned, again.

That’s when I met him.

At first, I shied away from him. We were living in the place where respectable morphs into disreputable and he was an unknown entity. Strange men were suspect and not to be trusted.

Then, when I was at loose ends one day, I ran into him again. This time, he was with a girl my age. I thought she was his girlfriend. It turned out that they’d moved in right next door. Within a short period of time, they became my port in the storm.

It turned out that she wasn’t his girlfriend, but someone he was helping to get her life back on track. Or that was the story…and I believed it.

He was 30, passably attractive, and treated me like I was an adult. He listened and talked with me as if what I had to say mattered. He was my safe haven from the drama and paid attention to me when no one else, my uncle, could be bothered. I fell in love.

Within a couple of weeks, I was finally enrolled in school, but I’d missed almost two months of the beginning of the school year and was struggling to catch up. I spent every moment I could next door, getting homework help, friendship, and feeling as normal as I had ever felt.

Things got physical. I initiated. In hindsight, I know I was manipulated to that point. But, I thought it was my idea. He pretended to dissuade me, but, took what I offered anyway.

Then, my uncle decided to show up and assert his authority. Probably because my grandmother had been trying to get me to stop going where I was headed and had reached out to him.

There was a scene right out of an angsty teen drama, where my uncle and I were yelling at each other (cue Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It). “We love each other!” I loudly declared. I don’t remember what was said next, but I got my face slapped. I almost hit back, but, my uncle was holding my 2 yr. old cousin in his arms. He saw the look in my eyes and taunted me, “Go ahead. Hit a man with a baby in his arms.”

Next thing I knew, I was out the door and locked in the bathroom next door. Shortly thereafter, the two men were squared off, outside, and I was on the door stoop, screaming for them to stop.

I went into my appointment. Things calmed down and my uncle eventually left. I snuck back out and went next door. We knew we wouldn’t be able to be together if things stayed as they were. The next day, we left.

Three months after we left, he got picked up on a parole violation. A month later I found out I was pregnant. A few months after lat, I turned 17. He was released, then, we were on the run, again. Almost a year after we’d first run away, our son was born.

We spent a little over three years hitchhiking across the country and living out of cars. We put notes up in rest areas and told people stories about our circumstances designed to manipulate them into giving us money, food, and shelter. He was a low level scam artist and I became his apprentice.

Two weeks before Christmas of 1988, a little over a month after our son turned two, I’d had enough. I was 19 and over it all. I was done and he knew it. He disappeared for a week with that month’s welfare allotment. The shelter we’d been staying in either needed the monthly “rent” – money they set aside to save enough for move in expenses – or we had to go. They gave me our “deposit” back so I could try to find someplace for us to go.

Somehow, he knew to come back that night. We fought. He wanted the money and I wasn’t going to give it to him. He almost killed me in front of our son, but, stopped short for some reason. Then, he left. I never saw him again.

His love was a scam that changed my life forever.

Blocked

I feel like my brain went on vacation and forgot to take me with it. There’s just a hodgepodge of feelings, thoughts, and experiences from the past several weeks, swirling in my psyche. I didn’t really know what or how to write about it. So, I started where I was and followed where it led.


When my mind is blank
and my vision dim;
my heart is heavy
and my soul is grim.

When my words are lost
and my mouth silent;
my lungs are empty
and feelings are violent.

Avoid and evade
the sorrow and pain.
Numb the body
Disconnect the brain.

This half life
I do not want.
Yet, in this moment
my will is daunt.

The tank is empty.
The drive is gone.
It’s time to rest
and wait the dawn.

Open the heart
and clear the mind;
heal the soul
and mend the blind.

Love lives in me,
a spiritual well
I forget to drink,
my thirst to quell.

Reach deep within
Touch the eternal
Connect with love
Fraternal

Grasp the vine
In him abide
Mind, heart, soul
Full life betide.