Categories
Reflection

Nod Ya’ Head

“What makes you nod your head in agreement?” is a pretty straightforward question for me. Things that make me nod my head well-made points with which I agree, regardless of whether they are whole novels or just memes. This is probably the easiest question to answer so far.

Categories
Reflection

Taking Back “Empowerment”

“Empowerment” is a word that actually has some ties to trauma for me. It’s been used as a buzzword and bastardized to the point where it’s a limitation rather than a true source of power.

I’ve been struggling with this a lot over the past couple of weeks. It didn’t help that a close friend of my husband’s died unexpectedly. Nothing hurts quite like seeing the person you love most in the world experiencing soul-crushing pain and not being able to do anything to help. All I could do was let my husband grieve, validate his grief, and remind him that I am here for whatever I can give.

So, empowerment.

What gives me power?

What is it that makes me feel like I can move mountains whenever I want to?

It’s being able to say, “Yes.”

Yes to taking rest when I need it.

Yes to helping people when it is within my abilities to do so.

Yes to knowing that I helped someone have a better day because I had the means, skills, or knowledge they needed.

Yes to being able to join communities and movements that are working to make the world a better place.

Yes to good results.

Yes to achievement, no matter what the size.

Yes to being good to myself without feeling guilt or shame.

Yes to being able to give my family good things and good experiences.

Yes to seeing that the world is not a zero-sum game, and we can all win.

Yes.

Categories
Reflection

Tears of Joy?

It was really difficult for me to think of a time when I had cried tears of joy. Most of the time that I cry when I’m happy, my tears are tears of relief rather than joy.

I did think of a time that I did cry tears of joy. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is my story.

My Cherry Blossom (not her real name, of course) and I are both autistic. I didn’t get a formal diagnosis until I was put through testing just as CB had been two years previously. It explained a lot about me, and it highlighted how every flavor of autism is different.

I didn’t know that CB was neurodivergent until she lost her words. She started saying simple words at around nine months, but by the time she was two years old, all of that was gone. She was mute, and she communicated by gesticulation and grunting, and by hitting or kicking me whenever she got frustrated.

After CB was diagnosed, a local organization helped us get copies of Signing Time and Baby Signing Time for free. It turned out that verbal speech and ASL use different neural pathways, so while CB was in speech therapy to relearn how to talk with her voice, we were able to learn some signs in ASL together so that she could be heard even without spoken words.

Things progressed, and as CB was able to use more spoken words, we used ASL less and less (which is sad, because it is a great language that should have more fluent speakers).

I remember the first time she called me Mama. It was unexpected, and it was beautiful.

I cried.

It may have been vain.

It might have been selfish.

I own it.

CB was my only child then, and I thought I would never have any other children back then.

I had wanted to be a mother all of my life, and to hear the word I didn’t know if I would ever hear again was miraculous, and I felt joy that she called me by my name again.

CB now talks a lot. She still has a lot of challenges, but she’s smart, and I believe in her. I believe that she will achieve anything she wants to achieve, even it takes her longer than other children.

CB relearned how to speak because she wanted to be able to speak, and I am proud of her for her hard work.

And I am selfishly joyful she calls me “Mom.”

I can live with that.

Categories
Self-Care

We interrupt this series of introspection for a change!

While I’ve been working on the exercises in Jenna Kutcher’s book, How Are You, Really, I was inspired to make a change. I’ve been waiting for all of my hair to turn gray so that I can experiment with bright, fun colors. I’ve tried using dyes meant for dark hair (my hair is naturally a dark variant of Titian that looks straight-up red in bright sunlight), but the results have been disappointing.

Due to some recent, unexpected, and heartbreaking losses in my circle of friends, I realized that life is way too short for me to wait for my hair to turn gray all over before I do what I want to do.

So I bleached out my hair using a bleach from Feria that was supposed to lighten my hair to platinum without damaging it. While my hair was not damaged by the bleach, it stunk to high heaven and fell somewhat short of the promised platinum. It was nearly there, but apparently my hair was considerably darker than I thought it was, and it took me back to having hair a color I hadn’t had in at least 30 years. I went from Titian to Venetian!

I wasn’t done, though. I didn’t want to be a bleach blonde–I wanted to be a peacock! To that end, I gave my hair a couple of days to recover from bleaching, then used Manic Panic Atomic Turquoise, carefully following the instructions. While I wasn’t impressed with the consistency of the product or how my hair felt after I rinsed it out, the color is pretty nice. My husband and my daughters love my new color, too, and that makes me feel even happier that I did this!

On the minus side, I’ll probably have to invest in a deep conditioning mask or two to return my hair to its previous softness and shine, but that’s not something unusual after bleaching and dyeing one’s hair. The part that perplexes me is that the bleaching process wasn’t what dried out my hair or made it dull!

As for future coloring, I’ll probably go back to using Overtone when I can afford it. It is more expensive, but the consistency is better, and it does a better job of moisturizing hair while it colors. I might give Strawberry Leopard and/or Arctic Fox a try, though. I have more options now that my hair is lighter.

Categories
Reflection

What Makes Me Snort-Laugh?

It’s kind of difficult to explain precisely what causes me to laugh so hard that I snort, but I can tell you who is the usual source of laughter that strong: my husband. We have a very similar sense of humor, and we can get into a groove where we have each other absolutely rolling with laughter. Some of our best nights involve laughing together while we watch a show. We also stay connected during the day by sharing funny memes. I think being able to laugh together and laugh hard makes our bond even stronger than it would be otherwise.

Categories
Reflection

I Got Rage Every Day On the Inside

The next question Jenna Kucher asks in How Are You, Really is “What fills you with rage?”

As it turns out, there are a lot of things that fill me with rage. The biggest one, though, is that we live in a world where labor has no value unless it actually brings in money instead of just saving money.

I get up early every day to make breakfast from scratch for my family. I also usually make lunch for our family, unless we’ve decided to get pizza. (We usually get enough of it to cover both lunch and supper.) Then I make snacks and supper for my family.

Up until I was able to get my teenager to learn how to use the washer and dryer, I was handling all of the laundry duties myself. When the clothes are dry, I sort them and put away all but my teenager’s clothes. (She’s very good about putting her own clothes away.)

I also take care of my children all day instead of putting them in daycare, which would cost us extra money. My toddler is having a hard time listening to her body, so we’re still working on potty training. Up until a month ago, our school district’s preschool wasn’t even free for local students, but now that it is, the prospective students have to be fully potty trained to be enrolled, and enrollment ended in June. My teenager is mostly less work, but she also has autism, so that presents separate challenges, such as how long it took to teach her to use the washer and dryer.

The bulk of housekeeping falls to me as well, as I am unable to work outside of our home due to my multiple disabilities, including being legally blind. This is fair, because my husband works full-time and earns an income to pay the bills. He does take care of the yard and sweeping and mopping or vacuuming the floors once a week, and he does a wonderful job. He also dusts places I can’t reach on my own. I take care of everything else from washing and putting away the dishes to scrubbing the toilet.

We are very much a team.

Additionally, I’m in charge of buying whatever we need and somehow making it all fit within our means. It’s getting harder and harder with inflation. I’m going without to make sure my husband and kids have what they need. I take fewer showers to keep the water bill down (and given that my medications make me very prone to heat stroke, I don’t get out much). I eat less than I normally do to ensure that they get as much food as they want (and I sometimes eat what they leave behind, if they haven’t spit in it or made it disgusting some other way). I’ve been doing what I can to cut down my consumption of soda and energy drinks so that they last longer, though I pretty much run on caffeine because I’m exhausted.

On top of that, I wake up whenever the kids wake in the middle of the night to ensure they don’t disturb anyone else. My toddler had a particularly rough patch recently, and it was a real battle to ensure she got all of the sleep she needs. A lot of times, I would end up sleeping with her, which was really hard on my back. But still, I had to get up early and take care of my duties.

I don’t get days off.

I don’t get sick days, although the family is patient with me when I take a little longer to get stuff done.

I do remind them to remind me when they need things like shampoo or deodorant or a particular pair of socks because I don’t have x-ray vision and don’t make a habit of checking their spaces. The only person who gets a pass is the toddler, because she doesn’t need much beyond a stack of pullups and wipes, a clean potty, clean clothes, food, snacks, milk, and a charged kindle. (Keeping her room cleaned up is a lost cause right now, but we’re working on it.)

These are the sacrifices I willingly make for my family.

This is the work I can do.

Categories
Reflection

What Inspires Me?

The first question asked in the life inventory is, “What inspires you?”

My response was a big, fat, “I don’t know.”

And I didn’t.

There’s a lot about me that I still don’t know since I haven’t been able to take the time to think about any of it until now.

I needed to make the time to know.

I ended up breaking down the word “inspire” because the Miss America and Senate hopefuls’ answers came across as what they thought people wanted to hear rather than their truth.

My truth was found as I considered “inspire.” It comes from Latin and means “breathe in.”

Since breath is life, I realized that what inspires me is what gives me life. There are many things that I love that sap my energy daily. I love people, but I’m an introvert’s introvert, so I prefer to love them from a distance. I think that my autism contributes to me being overwhelmed by being around people, even people I love, because the constant barrage of sensory data (to borrow a movie title, it’s like “Everything Everywhere All At Once”) is overwhelming. It’s even worse if people expect eye contact, because it means that I’m being hit with the eyes’ microexpressions so fast that I literally cannot focus on what the person is saying, especially if I’m already stressed.

There are things that I do that I love to do, and there are people with whom I enjoy spending time, but they don’t breathe life into me. I give to the activities and to the people I love, freely, and after that, I need to recharge.

I don’t always get the time or space to recharge, though, and that’s when other emotions creep in, especially anger. It’s hard to control my emotions sometimes, and I end up expressing my anger in a way that is not helpful or productive.

But that’s a blog for another day.

What inspires me? What gives me life?

Nature, first of all. Being surrounded by greenery and the whisper of the wind in the trees, that brings me life.

Water is life, and it gives me life, too. This is why I hope to have a tub big enough to soak in, and maybe even a swimming pool big enough to float in someday. It’s nice to be weightless and give my joints a break.

Solitude that I choose also gives me life. Solitude is not the same as loneliness, because I choose it. I need the time away from others, away from electronics, away from distractions to just breathe and be and recenter myself.

The process of discovery is another thing that gives me life. I love being able to explore, whether it’s in a game or in real life. Having an adventure is a joy of life, and I wish I could have more adventures.

Sincere validation also breathes life into me. To be validated is a gift, whatever I am expressing. I need more of it. When I’m validated, I feel like I can do just about anything.

And there we are. I’m sure there’s more that breathes life into me if I think even deeper, but I’m certain that’s plenty without delving into minutiae.

Categories
Reflection

The Unexamined Life, Examined

I recently bought a copy of Jenna Kutcher’s new book, How Are You, Really, because it came with bonuses that interested me. The book arrived yesterday, and so far, it’s been a good read.

Unfortunately, I reached a troubling portion. Jenna asks us to take a life inventory, and so many of the questions only have one answer: I don’t know.

I’ve spent so much of my life trying to survive, living with poverty, depression, chronic pain, blindness, autism, trauma, and doing my best to be whatever I thought other people needed me to be so that I would make them happy.

I don’t know myself.

I’ve never really examined my own life or my own self because I was so busy trying to survive. There have been countless times I’ve tried, books I’ve read, but I’ve never made the time to know who I really am outside of the gaze and lenses of others.

I’m a wife. I’m a mother. I’m a sister. I’m a daughter. I’m an aunt. I’m a niece. I’m a cousin. I’m a friend. I’m a former coworker. I’m a customer.

Who am I to me, though? At the end of the day, when I fall into bed exhausted and anxious, listening for my toddler to wake up in the night as she has been for the past few weeks, I haven’t had time to shift those weights of duties and expectations off of myself to think about it.

My body is covered in excess skin and fat, but my soul is starving.

My mother would tell me to read my Bible, but why would I return to something that never really comforted me in the past and still doesn’t comfort me? I remember the mandatory Bible readings and the consequences for trying to get away from them or falling asleep. I remember reading multiple translations on my own, trying to find comfort.

She would also tell me to go back to church, but why would I go back to a place that abandoned me when I needed them most? They didn’t care about me. When my house burned down, they didn’t call to check on any of us. They didn’t offer to help like the community at large did.

Why would I go where people don’t care?

Why would I go where I don’t fit in and don’t belong?

Why would I darken the door of any place that told me that my Naomi died because of my sins?

And so I have made some of you reading uncomfortable.

I have a feeling this whole process is about to get a lot more uncomfortable for all of us.

Hold on to your butts.

Categories
Uncategorized

Failure

In spite of our best efforts, we failed to secure all of the money that our loan company and the seller were asking us to pay up front, so we had to cancel the contract. It was devastating for us, and we also have to process the sorrow that we were unable to help the seller with his goal of being able to retire to the Philippines. We hope that the right person comes along to buy his home so his dream can come true.

As for us, we’re leaving the GoFundMe up, and any monies we receive from it are going into savings so that when we are ready to try again, we have enough money to get the right home for us and our children. We still want to move to Illinois to give our children more opportunities and enable our oldest daughter to be closer to her biological father and his family.

On the bright side, we’ve learned a lot from this experience. Additionally, my brother and his family recently moved to the St. Louis metro (they’re staying with my mother and her husband), and they are very interested in buying a forever home of their own. What we learned from our heartbreak is helping them, too.

While our housing situation is still insecure, we are safe right now, and we plan to try to buy a house again after my husband completes his provisioning and is fully licensed. His pay is supposed to increase, and it should open more doors.

Meanwhile, I’m doing my best to find a way to earn money, even though my eyesight is severely impaired and I am in constant pain and have to take care of our home and children. There’s got to be a way.

Categories
Uncategorized

The Learning Curve

Since my last post, we were preapproved by Veterans United for an FHA loan of $125000 to buy a house. After a lot of searching and narrowing down, we found a house in an area we hadn’t previously considered that was a little higher than what we had hoped for, but was pretty much perfect for our needs. The owner had taken good care of it and seemed like a decent fellow.

The problems we’re running into now have nothing to do with the seller and everything to do with the purchasing process and the ridiculous rules of certain financial institutions and homebuying. The rules of homebuying are both needlessly complicated and designed to make buying a home extremely difficult for anyone who isn’t flush with cash.

First of all, there’s the down payment. 3.5 of the selling price isn’t bad by any means, but for a family living paycheck to paycheck because rent is so high, we’re responsible for all of the utilities, and gas, food, and toilet paper all cost money, saving anything has been an exercise in futility. Michael does have a 401k, but they aren’t allowing him to withdraw the entire vested amount for some reason that I do not understand. The entire vested amount would cover the down payment and earnest money with some to spare to pay down debt. But noooo, we can’t have that.

And then there’s the earnest money, which I had forgotten was a thing because I have never bought a house before, and the closest I came to homebuying was when my parents were trying to buy a house in Hannibal back in the 80s. (Man, it would be nice to get a house that big for $25000 now!) It’s only $500, but they wanted it two days after the contract was signed, and we were between paychecks. We were able to get that worked out, but it was still a pain.

Next are the closing costs, which suck. The seller agreed to cover $3000 of it, but there’s still roughly $2000 that we need to cough up ourselves. Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Elon Musk probably have more than that stuck in their couch cushions, but I don’t. I’m lucky if I have more than $50 in my checking account after I pay for groceries and toilet paper.

Finally, there are the moving expenses and the cost of getting utilities and internet turned on in our new home. Since teleportation isn’t a thing, we have to pay for a truck, gas, and all the other little expenses that go with getting a household moved from one place to another.

Frankly, the system is designed to keep people poor and renting someone else’s property. I feel angry about this.

I feel very, very angry.

From where I sit, all of the ladders that other people used before us and others like us to climb out of poverty and create a good life for themselves and their families have been pulled away or destroyed outright.

This isn’t fair.

This isn’t right.

The only way that I can find that we can escape poverty now is if we help each other and keep helping each other even after we’ve achieved our goals. The ones at the bottom can lift others up if the ones above pull the others up at the same time. If we all work together, lifting and pulling, we can build an unbreakable ladder of human compassion and mercy to lift each other up so that everyone has the opportunity to reach that good life and help others do the same.

So once again, I am asking you to help us reach that next rung in the ladder so that we can be better positioned to help others rise in turn.

Our GoFundMe is here:

https://gofund.me/13961424

If you would like to help, but you don’t want to use GoFundMe or trust them, you can send donations directly to me here:

PayPal: https://paypal.me/LadyCygnet

CashApp: $LadyCygnet

Venmo: LadyCygnet

Thank you!