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Monday, February 20, 2017

Keeping Busy

So this morning I woke up to a familiar springtime sound around here... baby woodpeckers learning their trade. Thankfully, this year they don't seem to be using the metal flashing around the bathroom fans, because holy hell, that was noisy.

It was Laston who first figured out what the sound was, the first spring we were in this house, and so this morning I was feeling a bit wistfully sad. But not swamped under by emotion, which is a huge improvement.

Adding to the wistful sadness is a Proud Mama My Baby Is Growing Up moment; my daughter has her first Real Job, and one in an industry she looooves. Abby (14) is an assistant counselor at Studio East this week, helping out the teachers with the K-2 day-camp kids. They don't pay her in real cash (because under age for that), but they pay her in credit toward future tuition the next time she wants to be in one of their camps or productions.

This is a big deal, because their production tuitions are fairly expensive, and the YAPI (Young Actors Professional Intensive - they learn from not only the Studio East pros, but also from other bigwigs in the industry around here, in culture-conscious Seattle) camp she auditioned and interviewed for this summer? Very expensive. This will help defray those costs, as will a partial scholarship we may qualify for.

I took this week off on the plan that we would go with my mom up to her time share for midwinter break. But Abby got a job (yay!) and someone has to get her there as she is not able to drive yet. And my mom didn't want to take the little girls up to the condo in the winter by herself (the Washington beaches are cold this time of year!) so she has them at her house for a few days.

This gives me Alone Time. Which I need, but which also makes me sad if I don't keep busy. Thus, I bring you the Proposed Schedule:

Monday: Kids to respective places, home for blogging, laundry, taking another swing through paperwork in the never-ending-search-for-missing-car-title (since the finance company apparently doesn't give a shit). Pick up Abby at 340 and come home for pork chops, asparagus, and Supernatural mini-marathon until bedtime.

Tuesday: Abby to work, Jenn to storage shed to get the last of the books sorted, then to HPB, research legit extra-cash things online (mom found some in the AARP magazine) and sign up for same. Pick up Abby at 340 and come home for orange chicken, fruit, and Supernatural mini-marathon until bedtime.

Wednesday: Abby to work, open savings account for Leanna and Lizzy at my credit union (yes, one of those things I though Laston had taken care of years ago; they are legion), move Abby's savings account from bank to same credit union (for convenience and because that feels safer to me), pay bills. Pick up Abby at 340 and Lizzy around four. Home for dinner (not sure what yet), Avatar: The Last Airbender until Lizzy bedtime, Supernatural until Abby bedtime.

Thursday: Abby to work, Lizzy and I to have vacation-homework-clean-and-cuddle day. Pick up Abby at 340. Home for dinner (not sure what yet), Avatar: The Last Airbender until Lizzy bedtime, Supernatural until Abby bedtime.

Friday: Abby to work, Lizzy and I to go to Weight Watchers (I missed it today because timing), then have vacation-homework-clean-and-cuddle day. Pick up Abby at 340 and Leanna around four. Home for dinner (not sure what yet), Avatar: The Last Airbender until Lizzy bedtime, Supernatural until Abby & Leanna bedtime.

Of course, laundry, dishes, and general maintenance are every day.

It looks like a lot. But it's really not.




Monday, February 13, 2017

Sadness vs Depression vs Side Effects (or All of the Above)

This is an open letter, especially to those I alarmed or worried on this Facebook thread yesterday.

I felt it coming like a wave at the beach.

But with help from you all, and a few realizations, it never materialized fully. I was sad, but not suffering from (or going to be suffering from) a major depressive episode.

There is definitely cause for sadness and depression over here. Laston's death was just over six months ago (last Friday, the tenth), Valentines' Day is coming up tomorrow (though we didn't really celebrate it, it was still there... and now he's not), I'm scared to death about the monster we as a country have created (but that's a matter for a different post, at least this time), there are money troubles (there are always money troubles), and it's still winter (in spite of the fact that I went out in a t-shirt and leggings today and was perfectly comfy).

So yeah, depression and anxiety and the usual suspects.

But the about-to-be-swamped-under feeling? Not the usual for me, even under these circumstances.

I took your advice. I did my deep breathing and planned today to be about me, not the world. I took my melatonin and my meditation app and went to bed.

And this morning I woke up just fine.

It occurred to me that the copious amounts of Benadryl and Albuterol I've been taking for the past couple days - thank you, massive allergy to spider venom - may have contributed to my sense of impending doom. I mean, Benadryl is a sleep aid, which means a depressant, no? And I didn't take any last night, nor did I use more than the daily inhaler (rather than the rescue inhaler) yesterday.

(On a side note, now I really grok why Abby's Epi-pen says to go to the hospital afterward if you have to use it. The aftereffects are probably nearly as bad as the anaphylaxis.)

So no medication hangover.

And the depression is back to the usual low levels.

Imagine that.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Good Days, Bad Days

I'm doing better in general.

Some of this is the Great Cleanathon of 2017; any of you who follow me on Facebook are well aware of this project. It has had the effect of making this house belong to me and the girls, with bits of Laston's character here and there; before it was Laston's and my house, with him missing.

Some of it is the widows' support group, although I've only been a few times. I'm not going this week either; there's a transgender awareness seminar at my local high school I want to attend instead. One of the effects of Doing Better in General is that I have more emotional energy for issues that are important to me. LGBTQ+ rights and awareness are - if you've ever read my blog you know this already - one of those issues.

However, because this sort of thing is so politicized these days - God forbid the RNC should actually practice the Minding Their Own Business they used to - that I can hardly stand to be on places like Facebook. There's so much awful going on, and that sort of thing can lead to Bad Days for me.

In the grand scheme of things, my Bad Days are nothing. I'm not getting deported, for instance, or beaten up in the street or depressed to the point of self-harm. I'm only constantly worried about money, and depressed for other reasons (like grief and winter, although the latter is better now that I have started a new schedule that a) gets me to work after the sun comes up, and b) netted me a window seat). And today because of a massive allergy attack a couple days ago (spider bite), I have the aftereffects of Too Much Medication too. Nothing big in comparison to people I know and love.

But for me, they're still Bad Days.

The good thing is that out of 43 days so far this year, I have had seven Bad Days. That's, well, about one day a week that are Bad Days on average. And that's a huge improvement over just a couple of months ago.

So all I need to do is get some more money (wanna buy a book?), get my taxes done (scheduled for Tuesday) so I can hopefully build some kind of buffer/cushion, and try to fake it 'til I make it some more.

And get a couple of epically asshatty strangers reported on Facebook. I can't do it from the app; it seems that Facebook's report-this-post link is broken in the app. I wonder why...

I got this.

I think.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Buzzwords

There are a lot of them around the Internet.

And in real life, especially in the last few months.

Some of these, especially in activist circles, are things like (insert-majority)-splaining, privilege, and intersectionality.

I try really really hard not to do the first (though sometimes I slip), to be aware of the second, and to practice the third, special liberal snowflake that I am. So I'm going to take them one at a time.

'Splaining, as I understand it, is people of a majority group trying to explain away the minority group's feelings / views as in, "what they really mean is..."  I can usually avoid the white-splaining, although I got gently called out for cis-splaining the other day, when a transgender friend pointed out that not all women have pussies (as in the women's march on Washington on the 21st of January). I said that I thought pussy in this case was in response to Voldy's remarks. That may be true, but it doesn't negate my friend's feelings of exclusion from the pussy corps.

Privilege. This is a hard one. Most of the privileged people I know aren't even aware of their privilege, and frankly, I haven't been until recently either. So, to my friends who do not share my privileges, please correct me if I 'splain here.

It's really, really easy to believe that you aren't privileged if you're not one of the one percent. I mean, how could you think you're privileged if you're struggling to pay your bills (as I am; death of a spouse is not cheap, and neither is grief counseling for children,) or if you're female (check) in our male-dominated society, or whatever?

But I am privileged. I have trouble paying those bills, but bill collectors don't automatically assume I'm a deadbeat, because I'm not a person of color. When strangers find out I'm a widow, they don't assume my husband was killed as part of a drug deal. They might make assumptions based on my size ('she's fat; she must've let herself go and her husband left her") but the fact that I'm a straight white woman means that people in our society do not as a rule make assumptions about me being on, say, welfare or food stamps.

So even though I'm a financial mess and often an emotional one, I have privileges that many people don't, whether because of color or gender identity or religion or whatever.

And lastly, intersectionality. This is also hard. If I understand it correctly, it's about making sure that all bases are covered, that if you support, say, women, you support all women: white, brown, black, Christian, Muslim, Atheist, straight, gay, transgender, disabled, all of them. I have noticed that while I - and most of my friends - try very hard to do this, there are unconscious biases that seem to determine a... a priority, I guess... of what we react to first.

I have a friend, for instance, who is a total social justice guy. He's out there supporting everyone, women, LGBTQ+ folks, all the things. But his first priority seems to be racism in all forms; if something is racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, and homophobic, he'll jump on the racism first. I tend to jump on sexism first, then LGBTQ+, then immigration and basic human rights, and only then on racism in general. I mean, I try to be involved as much as I can handle on all of these, but that's my knee-jerk priority right there.

And I wondered why? I mean, women's issues I get; I'm a woman, after all. But I am neither an LGBTQ+ person, nor an immigrant, so why are these taking priority in my brain? Is it that I'm a closet racist? I hope not. So I was puzzling this out, feeling guilty, (like I don't have enough on my emotional plate since last August) and I mentioned it to my mom.

Who said, "Jenn, your best friend all through your teen years was a gay man who thought he was the only one. That made a huge impact on how you see the world."

Oh.

So, for me, this is how it goes. I can be horrified and heartbroken at the racism in our country. I can do my best to shut it down, and to raise my children to have less intrinsic bias than I do. I can combat racism - and all injustice - whenever I see it.

And I can still have my own set of priorities.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Politics of Cookies

You may know that the Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) had a presence in the inaugural parade o nJanuary 20th 2017. Seventy-five girls who had been planning to participate in this inauguration for  months before anyone knew who would be elected, and the Internet went up in flames.

Because of little girls. All they wanted to do was take part in a 100+ year tradition that they had been planning for several months by the time inauguration day rolled around, and everybody screamed BOYCOTT.

Sort of like people boycotting Starbucks for offering to hire refugees "instead of homeless vets," even though Starbucks already has a program for hiring vets and their families.

Or maybe like putting a travel ban on all the people in the Muslim-majority Arab world unless you happen to do business there, hmm?

Gosh, it would be like banning all Christians because of Westboro Baptist's hatefulness.

In any case, because under a hundred Girl Scouts (of nearly two million) participated in something you don't approve of is not a reason to deny yourself (or others if you are so inclined) the yumminess of Girl Scout Cookies. Or to punish a local kid who just wants to sell enough cookies to earn part of her camp tuition or a trip to the aquarium or something.

So... anybody want to pre-order some cookies? We have a few more days for pre-orders; I have to turn them in on February 5th. You don't have to pay until late February when they are delivered.

All cookies are $5 a box this year. This is the first price hike in over ten years, and frankly, the kids like it better because, well, multiplying by five is just easier than by four. There's even a new flavor this year; S'Mores.

We get our cookies from Little Brownie Bakers (click the link), and while LBB doesn't have Lemonades, they do have Savannah Smiles, which are yummy. Toffee-tastics are gluten-free and Thin Mints are vegan, and the palm oil is now from sustainably harvested sources.

And there are other old favorites, like Samoas (my fave and Lizzy's), Trefoils (so good with jam or chocolate or tea,) and the peanut-buttery goodness of Do-si-does and Tagalongs.

If you don't eat sugar, or you've given up cookies for Lent (that happened last year), or if you want to support Lizzy and by extension the Girl Scouts of Western Washington but the Weight Watchers points won't allow for a Thin Mint (two Smart Points, BTW), then you can always donate to Operation Cookie Drop. Those cookies go to what Lizzy called, "The other kinds of troops, the ones who have to fight."

If not, we'll see you at the local stores starting in early March.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

"When You're Rich, They Think You Really Know..."

It's a political rant. With F-bombs. And actual mentions of religion (not generally in the same breath). Cope with it or don't read it.

Most of my liberal friends who are posting their protest playlists are referencing artists like Green Day, or Bruce Springsteen, or Alanis Morissette. My theater folk are using music from Hamilton (for obvious reasons if you haven't been living under a rock), or maybe Evita.

I went with something a whole lot older on the Broadway scene, because that title up there seems to sum up this whole big mess for me. Now, Fiddler on the Roof has its own set of issues, but that's not what I'm talking about.

What I'm talking about is the serious levels of cognitive dissonance I'm experiencing here the past few days. It's doing some bad things to my head/emotions, which is why my protesting will - at least for the time being - be limited to online; I haven't the emotional energy to cope with people and this political sideshow.

So here's the thing: I have friends all over the political spectrum. I have friends and family around the world. I have a Bachelor of Science in Intercultural Communication. My personal quote that I use all over the Internet is "I know there are people out there who do not love their fellow human beings... and I hate people like that!" (Tom Lehrer, 1958). Basically, I like people, and I do not grok folks who only want to keep to their own tribe (or turn the rest of us into their tribe... like, say, the Romans did all over Europe back in the day. Or the various European settlers to the indigenous peoples of their respective lands).

The guy now allegedly in charge doesn't seem to give two shits about anyone.

The "America First" shtick strikes me as scary as hell; it's insular, exclusive, and mean-spirited. What happened to "Give me your poor..."? (or maybe we don't like the French anymore). I'm all for taking care of me and mine first too (hence the online protest/support for protesters), but that doesn't mean you can't be decent to other people. All the Abrahamic religions (yes, including Islam) have basic decency at their core, and yet the supposed Christians in Congress and now in the White House have fucked that up good and proper.

All these allegedly Christian government folks breaking the Golden Rule (love thy neighbor... because other countries outside these secular borders? They're our neighbors). Breaking Commandments left and right (at least three of them all the time: adultery (about half of them, though not the Obamas or the Bidens), theft (anyone who uses their government position unfairly, hello oil and banking... and apparently education. Grizzly bears, for the love of God...), and bearing false witness (for fuck's sake, birthers, get over yourselves), and expecting us not to notice?

Or not caring if we do.

And clearly about half of us (less three million or so) didn't notice. Or didn't care. Or are so squicked by the thought of gay marriage or legalized marijuana or decent gun licensing or health care for all or abortions being legal even though legality actually reduces them... that they just went with the loudest voice.

And you guys, my friends who are actual conservatives, with actual conservative beliefs, like small government and staying-the-hell-out-of-people's-bedrooms? I'm not talking to you; don't bother with the "but not all..." or "I never..." This is not about you. I don't get you, I don't grok how you can be people I love and trust and respect, and still support the showman now in office (not to mention the congresspeople with their constant get-over-it-it's-time-to-work-together patter. Like they ever even tried to work with Obama; they actually said they would not. It's recorded).

I love you, I respect you; I don't understand you.

I respect protesters (the ones who are peaceful in these early days until and unless it becomes necessary to be otherwise, says the woman whose paternal family is all Austrian Jews).

I respect the police who appreciate the peaceful protests, regardless of their own affiliation.

I respect the lawmakers who chose to stay away from the inauguration and I respect those who attended even though they really didn't want to.

I respect the people scolding the nasties who speculate about poor Barron on social media.

I respect people who wear pussy hats and safety pins. We all help in our own ways.

I respect my friends and neighbors from other countries and cultures.

I support those refusing to use the President's name online, so as not to help him trend (although I prefer the ones who don't make fun of his face and form in the process; don't call him Tiny Hands or the Cheeto Nazi anymore, k? You have my permission to use "Asshat in Chief".)

So I will do my protesting from my keyboard for now.

And I can only hope that the other quote from Fiddler also holds true, the one where the men of the village ask the Rabbi if he can come up with a blessing for the Tsar.

"May God bless and keep the Tsar... far away from us."