society

NanoPoblano – November 2018 Daily Blog Challenge

🤔 You’ve probably noticed, or maybe not, how dormant my blog has been for a long while. Periodically, I try to jumpstart my writing by doing a daily blog post challenge. This is another such effort.

The past few times I started a challenge, I haven’t been able to do the full month before…life. My hope and my plan is to incorporate my life into this month’s effort.

By that I mean I’m going to bring y’all up to speed with the things that have been going on in my life this year, especially the past couple of months:

• Parenting
• Autism
• ADHD
• Bipolar 2 disorder
• PTSD
• WW (formerly Weight Watchers)
• Binge Eating Disorder & Compulsive Eating

are among the things I’ll write about. There may even be a haiku or two and other poetry tossed into the mix.

Welcome and thanks for joining me on this journey.

Click above to find other NanoPoblano bloggers.

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Crazy

You’re not crazy. You’re pain is not a pathology. Your pain makes sense…You’re a human being with unmet needs.
Now This Op-Ed video about depression

Crazy.

“She’s just crazy. I’m done.”

“That’s just crazy talk.”

“How crazy is that?”

“What are you, crazy?”

Crazy.

How often do we throw that word around? We use it as a throwaway label for people and situations we don’t have the time, energy, or inclination to try and understand. It’s mostly a word which people who consider themselves as “normal” use to explain away and dismiss the abnormal.

Guess what? It’s ableism.

What is Ableism? According to The Urban Dictionary, “Ableism is the discrimination or prejudice against people who have disabilities. Ableism can take the form of ideas and assumptions, stereotypes, attitudes and practices, physical barriers in the environment, or larger scale oppression. It is oftentimes unintentional and most people are completely unaware of the impact of their words or actions.”

This definition isn’t only about physical disabilities, it also counts for those experiencing mental health issues due to atypical brain structure and neurochemistry.

Bipolar Disorder
Borderline Personality Disorder
PTSD
Anxiety disorders
Addiction
Compulsive Behavior disorders
ADHD
Asperger’s
Autism Spectrum Disorder (high functioning)

These are but a few examples of things which people with non-neurotypical brains and brain chemistry experience.

Crazy

It is a word which holds a strong stigma. The thought of being “crazy” often causes people not to seek help for symptoms and behaviors which make them feel mentally and emotionally out of control. They don’t want to be labeled as “crazy.” WE don’t want to be labeled and dismissed as being “crazy.” We don’t want to be treated as defective or dismissed because having atypical brains makes us “less than.”

I say “WE” because I have a Bipolar brain which has been affected by ongoing and varied trauma experiences. Four and a half years ago, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, Type 2, and PTSD. Around the same time, my youngest child was educationally identified as having “High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder.” Recently she received the official diagnosis of Autism AND ADHD.

These things cause us to think, react, and act differently than those who have neurotypical brains. We aren’t “crazy,” we aren’t disabled. We are neurodiverse and differently abled.

The thing about the word, “crazy” is that it’s such an inherent part of our American vernacular that even those of us who have been affected and marginalized by the term frequently use it ourselves.

I’m not going to “go off the deep end” (another phrase often used instead of “crazy”) and call out everyone, every time I hear the word used. However, I will start with myself and maybe those closest to me. I haven’t figured out what to say instead, but, I’m working on it. I’ll keep you posted.

Maybe you’ll think about it the next time you hear or use the word.

In case you’re wondering, the August Scrawls Day 3 word is “atypical.”

Ten Day Check-in

Yesterday I decided I would take pics every ten days to document my journey. It’s not really evident in the pictures yet, but changes are happening. I can feel them. Others are seeing them.

My stomach is slightly less round…a smaller “apple” than it was. 😉 My clothes are a little looser. As a matter of fact I pulled down a pair of jeans I got about ten years ago, before I got pregnant with my third, youngest, and LAST child. I was between 225-240. I can’t remember exactly. What I do know is that I squeezed into them and got them buttoned while standing upright.

WINNING!

More importantly, I’ve exercised 8/10 of the days a minimum of 30 minutes. I kind of overdid it the first few days – my intensity was good, but the amount of time each session was a bit much.

During my walk on Sunday, I had a burst of pain in the front of my right hip. Turns out I now have bursitis in that hip. I’ve shortened the time per session to 30 minutes and taken it to the water.

The doctor I saw (who appeared younger than my 31 year old son) was very encouraging and gung ho about me exercising. He said exercising in the water was good and referred me to physical therapy. My first appointment is the 30th.

The biggest challenge, for me, is the fibro-fatigue. I’m really tired, not I worked hard and pushed my limits tired, but, my get up and go, got up and went. Some of that is parenting stress.

My nine year old experiences the world through the Autism Spectrum. I also suspect she’s got some preadolescent hormone changes happening. She struggles with emotional self-regulation and is easily frustrated and angered. She’s been having increasingly violent responses and I’ve borne the brunt of it.

I’m also tired from lack of sleep. Some of which is also attributable to the issues between me and my daughter. However, I’ve had poor sleep my entire adult life. It’s a trauma thing, apparently.

So, I’m tired and pretty much the exercise and, maybe, the dishes, are the only things I’m accomplishing on a regular basis.

I’m trusting this will not last and that my energy levels will improve by the end of the month.

Overall, it’s been a great start to 2018.<<<<<<<<
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The Power of Numbers : Measuring Health and Happiness

Those of you who’ve been reading about my health and fitness journey may think I’m focusing, or maybe should be focusing, on weight loss. After all, at the beginning of last week, I tipped the scale at 258 lbs…about 125 lbs more than a woman of my short stature is “supposed” to be. According to the formulas and charts, I have a BMI of 45, putting me in the extreme obesity category.

Here’s the thing, I’m over trying to judge myself and my value according to a number on the scale. At least that’s what I’m working on.

That being said, I was inordinately happy to discover that I’d lost five pounds the first week of January.

I hate that I’ve been conditioned to the point where the number on a scale indicating I’m getting rid of part of my being is worthy of celebration.

Self-inflicted fat shaming is just about an automatic thing.

What I really want to be happy about was that I ate consciously aware of what I was eating and why.

True confession: I just ate two Hershey’s miniature candy bars because I was stressed and beyond frustrated with an ongoing issue with my child.

Guess what? I don’t feel one iota of shame or guilt. Now, THAT’S worth celebrating.

The number that should matter is how many days I chose to care about my physical health enough to exercise. Another number to be proud of is an ideal blood pressure of 129/68 after I’d worked out an hour before it was taken.

I can truly celebrate when I get the results of my next A1c blood test and the numbers measuring the previous three months of blood sugar levels have decreased. I can celebrate when the next cholesterol test shows that my choice to eat oatmeal every day has paid off by lowering the bad cholesterol numbers.

The weight changing and going down may be a consequence of the choices I’m making. However, it cannot be the number determining my happiness and contentment with myself.

One of these days the number on the scale may will the same or even go up. It will have to be an informative number indicating whether or not I need to address the actions which contributed to those results.

The scale is a tool, not the Holy Grail.

It takes a village: I can’t do this alone

I have a lot of complex issues and the conditions of my life aren’t exactly conducive to accomplishing self-care activities.

Here’s the laundry list:

  • Single parenting a child on the Autism Spectrum
  • Dependent on ex to pay the bills and basic necessities
  • Subsisting on less than $100/mo and $350/mo SNAP benefits, aka food stamps
  • A support person for adult daughter and her family with three children under four – depending on availability
  • In treatment and recovery from PTSD & Bipolar Disorder
  • Fibromyalgia, hypothyroidism, diabetes

As you might imagine, I feel overwhelmed and isolated much of the time.

The isolation exacerbates the intensity of the overwhelm from all the challenges.

In the past, I lived by the mantra, “If it’s to be, it’s up to me.”

I became the go to problem solver and rescuer of those around me.

A lifetime of living that way is what led me to where I am…a 258 lb woman under 50 with diabetes, high cholesterol, unable to maintain employment, dependent on government assistance and the ex.

I have very good whys for changing my health style by exercising and improving nutrition.

However, those whys aren’t motivating when the overwhelm kicks in and takes over my brain. They just add to it and make it worse.

This is where I need community. I need a village of support people. I need a network and a safety net for the times when I’m going to backslide, cheat, or start to give up.

I need to feel the hope and inspiration from the success stories of others who’ve gone before me. I need the camaraderie of those in the trenches, marching beside me. I need the cheers of those who believe in me. I need others not yet where I am who I can offer my experience, hope, and strength to.

I’m pretty sure I’m not alone with these needs. I’m almost positive that we all need these kinds of connections…which is more than challenging in the culture and society we live in today.

Everyone has their own laundry lists, their own challenges, and maybe even their own sense of being isolated.

What, then, is a person to do, especially when making the kind of changes I am making and can’t afford to join the weight loss programs and organizations?

I started online with my social networks on Facebook & Instagram.

I also did a little research and discovered Spark People. In the two days I’ve been engaged on the site, I’ve discovered tools (food/exercise tracker), information regarding making the healthy changes and sticking with them, as well as all the things I listed above. All for free.

I’ve found my tribe in a virtual village.

What does your tribe look like?

Welfare vs Work in the USA 2013

Warning: Political triggers. If the topic of welfare incites your political troll, then troll on by. 

Disclaimer: This is long, but necessarily so. There are “from the horse’s mouth” facts and information about several “welfare” programs.

A woman I admire and respect tremendously, someone whom I share a spiritual faith with and value as having been a positive influence in my life, even for the brief time it was face to face and has now become another meme and link sharer in the Facebook news stream, shared something today that really lit a fire inside of me.

“No wonder we have the highest unemployment. . . .

On Labor Day 2013, Welfare Pays More Than Minimum-Wage Work in 35 States

A mutual FB friend, who is a member of the same church community where I met my friend had this to say: “Good ol’ Oregon!” to which my friend replied, “I want to move to Texas…”

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.

That’s how I feel about right now, especially the, “Fire burn, and cauldron bubble,” bit. I am beyond heated, I am bubbling, boiling angry!

I am angry because the researchers and writers and propagandists are essentially stating that people on welfare would prefer to stay on welfare handouts because it is more profitable than working a minimum wage job. Then, the end of the article laments at how companies who essentially have built huge fortunes for their investors off of wage-slave laborers are being hurt by Obamacare’s requirements.

What?!?!

I’m sorry that the billions you have made off of the time, energy, health, and well-being of your workers and the ones most vulnerable to the insidious marketeering of your employment practices and non-nutritive, styrofoam valued products and services are now being threatened because legislation is now forcing you to do what being human should have inspired you to do on your own – take care of your employees and enable them to actually not become indentured servants in this post-postmodern era.

When this article talks about “welfare,” it lumps in a large variety of programs: SNAP, TANF, WIC, medicaid, housing assistance, utilities assistance, and the Emergency Food Assistance Program. Let me talk about each of these programs for a bit.

First let me establish my credentials: I worked for three years as an assistant manager for a for profit professional management company which contracts with housing owners who receive funding from federal programs under a variety of tax-credit and subsidy programs, the most commonly known of which is the Section 8 “choice voucher.” I worked for almost five years as a customer service representative for an electric utility company. I worked for three different fast food franchises of two of the named companies at the end of the article. I have worked for a community based social service agency while stationed in a state “welfare” office. I have been a single parent receiving cash assistance, food stamps, and medical benefits. I have been a working, single-parent receiving food benefits, medical, and childcare assistance. I have received WIC. I have received utility assistance. I have received emergency food. I am currently a non-working parent in a two parent household with the other parent being unemployed living in subsidized housing, receiving food benefits, and in between looking for work, waiting for a determination on the Unemployment Insurance claim, and not receiving cash benefits.

In other words, we have only the change in our daughter’s change jar and nothing else to buy food, pay bills, or purchase toilet paper. The only reason I can write this is because he worked hard enough to get caught up on all of our bills before leaving the over the road job, so he could find a job closer to home, because our family needed him here. But, I digress.

WIC – Women, Infants, and Children: $6 a month to purchase fresh or frozen produce or seeds for planting produce. A 16-oz loaf of bread or whole wheat tortillas. A dozen eggs. An 18 oz jar of peanut butter or a 16 oz bag of dried beans. 36 oz of specifically approved brands of cereal in their specified options. A couple of cans of frozen juice or their bottled equivalent. 1 lb of cheese. Approximately 3 gallons of milk +/- half a gallon. Breastfeeding mothers get a few cans of tuna or extra beans. Babies on formula get several cans per month, but I don’t know how many (Formula is EXPENSIVE!). Per month. Per child under 6 years of age. I could be misremembering some of the amounts, like the milk, and forgetting an option or two. All together, I would imagine that maxing out each available voucher and using them all in a month equates to less than $100/month per child.

TANF – Lifetime, time-limit per adult household member = 18 – 24 months, in most cases, to my knowledge. A single parent with two children receives less than $550/mo cash assistance in the state of Oregon. Prior to receiving cash assistance the adult(s) have to attend one – four weeks of job readiness and work-search classes. There are mandated job search requirements and action plans and goals that have to be adhered to or the adult members get “sanctioned” off of the benefits, reducing the monthly grant by their portion.

SNAP – Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, still known as Food Stamps: A household of three with zero income might receive $500 +/- each month to purchase ONLY food. No toilet paper. No diapers. No feminine sanitary products. No shampoo, soap, laundry detergent, or household supplies of any kind.

Utility Assistance: a) Every utility customer pays a few cents to a few dollars on each utility bill into a fund that provides energy assistance, including “welfare” recipients who pay for utilities (when there is enough money left over from paying rent and buying toilet paper). b) Once every twelve months. Different community service agencies administer different sets of energy assistance funds and how much is available is kind of dependent on how much money the utility companies received from their customers in the area, so there is no gurantee funds are available when needed or that a household will have the ability to call and get an appointment at the exactly right time. c) Maximum yearly assistance per household is $300 +/- for the year.

Emergency food: see Utility Assistance. Different programs administered by different agencies. A food box provides 2 – 5 days worth of food per household member. However, the government provided foods are insufficient to meet need. Which explains why I can get a food box with lots of cheap carbs like Hamburger Helper, but no hamburger to use with it, and cheap, knock off junk foods because people can go to the Dollar Store and purchase the required number of non-perishible items to donate so they can go see a movie at Regal Cinemas for “free” once a year. Some agencies allow emergency food boxes once a month, some once every three months.

Housing Assistance: Multiple programs, multiple funding streams, multiple income guidlines and eligibility requirements. Section 8 choice voucher or project-based (subsidy stays with the unit not the people living in the unit) uses the following formula to calculate how much rent is paid. Let’s use our single parent of two children who is receiving TANF:

Child credit $480/child x 2 children = $960/yr.

Utility allowance is the average cost of usage for same size unit in area, calculated annually.For our example let’s say $70/mo.

Monthly Cash Assistance: $550.00
X 12 months $12.00
Annual Income $6,600.00
– Child Credit -$960.00
Adjusted Annual Income $5,640.00
X 30% 30.00%
Annualized rent $1,692.00
/ 12 months $12.00
Monthly Rent $141.00
– utility allowance -$70.00
Monthly Rent $71.00

Wow! $70/mo for rent. WooHoo! That leave this parent $480 for electricity, household goods, laundry, diapers and/or replacement clothes the children are outgrowing, and transportation. A monthly bus pass is $100, unless there is a certified medical disability, then a monthly pass is $26.

If the property has the voucher, the parent waited 1 – 7 years to get a call that a unit was coming availabable and to drop everything and come fill out a new application ASAP. Bring all proof of citizenship documents for all family members, fill out a 1/4 inch thick stack of papers and documents authorizing all assistance agencies, people who help with periodic assistance, whatever form it may take, and any banking institutions, then wait 1 – 3 weeks for all documentation to be returned from the requested agencies and organization and for the management office to input the data and send paperwork off for approval or denial at the corporate level. If they are approved, then they give their 30 day notice where they are at, but have to move in and pay move in expenses concurrently with existing rent due at current place.

The housing provider gets to charge going market rate in the neighborhood. Project based housing is often in neighborhoods that have been targeted for gentrification, thereby raising property values and what market rate is for housing in the area. Brand new, eco-friendly, energy efficient apartments with all amenities can charge $850 – $1200/mo. in my neighborhood. My apartment was built in the 1970’s. No amenities besides the requisite apartment sized refrigerater and range oven. One laundry room with one coin washer and dryer set shared between six units. Less than 1,000 square feet. Market rent for this unit is almost $900/mo.

Sure the single parent of two on welfare is only paying $70/mo. rent. The housing provider is receiving almost 13 times that from the government in subsidies. This is just one type of calculation for people receiving housing assistance. There are many, many, many other types of Affordable Housing Housing Subsidies which fall under the heading of Housing Assistance.

As soon as the adult gets paid employment, they begin a transition off of TANF and receive Employment Related Daycare, meaning a portion of their earnings is paid in co-pays to a child care provider. At the same time, rent gets recalculated and increased with a slight modification for having to pay some child care expenses. SNAP benefits get reduced, and eligiblity for other services are reduced as well, including loss of Medicaid for the adult member after a transitional period. Oh, let’s not forget that all benefits are calculated off of gross earnings, not net. So, not only do all benefits decrease as the income increases, the increased income is taxed, resulting in a net paycheck that could wind up leaving the family with an overall decreased ability to be self-sufficient.

Oregon Minimum Wage is $8.95. Very few if any of the minimum wage job providers offer full-time employment. Let’s be generous and say that a fast food vendor is offering 30 hours a week employment at $8.95/hr. That’s $268.50/wk multiplied by 52 weeks, that is $13,962 year, more than double the cash assistance. Rent jumps to $255.05. Food stamps might drop to about $250 – $300/mo. Childcare copay could be $100 – $200 +/- each month. 

Let’s abolish most of the taxes, tax credits, and various forms of corporate welfare, mandate that all jobs are paid a standard living wage that doesn’t keep people from wanting to pursue their best selves, establish laws requiring employers to provide for their employees before their stockholders and owners, at least for business that are earning billions for owners, upper managment, stockholders and the like while crushing their labor force or eliminating it altogether and shipping jobs to other countries where human rights are not expected to be upheld.

Let’s establish a public child education and wellbeing system that begins at conception to help support, educate, encourage, treat, and build up ALL families, providing truly equal access to medical, vision, dental, mental health, art, physical education, and academics which promotes excellence in cooperative advancement for all, instead of falsely weighted apples to oranges competetiveness, one upsmanship, and building one’s success on another’s failure.

Let’s stop blaming the people and start fixing the problem.

Daybreakers: What happens when adjusting to the new normal doesn’t work anymore?

I’m not generally a fan of horror films. Gratuitous violence, gore, or mindless action bore me and I’m not entertained by the shrieking and shrinking terror of those who are still developing their pre-frontal lobes in sylph-like form. However, like so many, I am fascinated by vampire and lycan mythology, and often enjoy watching movies about vampirism and lycanthropy, in spite of the inherent violence and gore which accompany them. Movies containing moral and psychological conflict where the characters have to wrestle with their own beliefs, prejudices, and outcomes of choices they made really intrigue me. When a new mythological context for telling the vampire or werewolf story happens, and new dilemmas and complexities are explored, I can really sink my teeth into it and draw a lot from it.

Sorry. I couldn’t help myself.

“Daybreakers” is such a movie. When I saw the previews for it before finally seeing “After Earth” last week and I saw Ethan Hawke, Willem Defoe, and Sam Niel were portraying principal characters in the movie, I knew I wanted to see it. The quality and caliber of other characters I’ve seen them portray and movies they have been in served to whet my appetite and intrigue me about the movie.

I was given the opportunity much sooner than I expected when I told my cousin about it. She loaned me her new, unopened DVD on Friday, when Luna and I visited her on the spur of the moment and wound up hanging out for two or three hours. When LaLa and her SpiritLove decided to take Luna with them on their excursion yesterday, I finally had a few hours to myself and decided to watch the movie.

The year is 2019 and the world has changed and adjusted to what appears to have been a pandemic of vampirism. An infection that has left the nearly extinct, highly endangered human species as the only source of sustenance for 95% of the population.

The striking thing is that the people in the 95%, once becoming infected, adapted, adjusted, and accepted the change that stripped them of their so-called humanity. They continued operating and functioning as if nothing had fundamentally changed in their lives. There was little, if any, recognition that absorbing the changes and accommodating their new normal was a massive societal agreement to operate in denial of the inevitable devolution and destruction of themselves and their society.

Maintaining the facade of normality by getting up everyday, going to work, hiring military and police to round up and keep those affected by lack of access to the critical resource, called Subsiders, who are no longer able to fit in, appears to be the primary concern of most.

As human blood becomes more scarce and unobtainable, more and more of the population degenerate and devolve while the effects of the infection affect their brains and bodies and they are reduced to instinctive attack mode toward those who still appear to have what everyone needs to survive.

The symbolism and metaphors in this movie can be drawn in many ways:

• Amorality of corporations in conjunction with government preferring to seek answers that maintain status quo.

• The role and motivations of the power players in big pharma focusing on creating dependence on substitutes for symptom treatment over looking for cures, since cures will inhibit profit.

• People make awful choices, overriding the wishes, free will, and convictions of their loved ones, out of self-certainty, fear, and the need to be right.

• On a societal level, it’s easier and more acceptable to believe in and hide from the overt and immediate personal danger of a less privileged population fighting for survival than to recognize and hold our individual selves accountable for the part we play or taking personal action to create solution. We want someone else to blame, someone else to be responsible, and someone else to save us from our own folly, without expecting us to change.

The correlations of how members of our society criminalize the actions of those marginalized and devalued by the effects of poverty, mental illness, and the physical and psychological effects of these things are unmistakable.

One of the things that I truly appreciated about the movie is that it doesn’t oversimplify the cost and sacrifice necessary in order to hold onto hope, achieve solutions, and fight for the things that matter in affecting change. The solution and cure is unexpected and risky. Once cured, survival is not guaranteed, because the fight isn’t about obtaining a cure as much as it is about going against the established rule of might and those who have invested themselves in personal gain by maintaining the status quo.

The true horror in this movie is how easy it is to accept the unacceptable. The redemption comes once the hero understands his own capacity for change and acts on his convictions and values.

“Daybreakers” is rich and complex. This is a movie that has appeal to more than fans of the horror genre. It has sufficient violence and gore to satisfy them, but the exploration of relational dynamics between parent and child, siblings, societal classes, and racial tensions means it can appeal to a wider audience as well.

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