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Like a Wrecking Ball to the Psyche

This page went offline for a few days because the annual fee for the hosting has fallen at a time when we had more month than money. I hate this, but we’re still figuring things out and dealing with a lot of stuff.

I just had my bankruptcy hearing last week. It’s never fun, but it went pretty smoothly overall. It made me relive the trauma of the fire, though, because I had to share that I lost everything two years ago, then after my youngest was born, I lost my job. A few months later, I lost the central eyesight in my right eye, and my overall vision is deteriorating. I just hope I don’t lose my eyesight altogether. While I would hate being only able to see things as fuzzy blurs, it’s better than not being able to see them at all.

We also have stuff going on that I can’t really talk about publicly. Our marriage is good, and our daughters Sam and Nem are great, and none of us have broken any laws (none that we’re aware of, anyway). Suffice it to say that the laws apply very differently to people based on their income.

I also have to somehow overcome my people-pleasing ways to set boundaries to protect myself and my children. I hate having to do that, but I keep telling myself that it’s better than subjecting my children to things they should never have to endure.

And the rebuilding continues, one brick at a time.

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The Tyranny of Fear

I am a perfectionist. I’m intensely uncomfortable with being wrong and making mistakes. That is one of many reasons that I have a hard time sharing my writing and art. I have had it drilled into my head that I can’t mess up or be wrong–EVER. So when I mess up and/or get something wrong, it’s a really, really bad time for me internally. When I step back to look at myself, it’s amazing how much of my self-worth is tied to getting it “right” the first time, every time.

I’m afraid. Every minute of every day, I’m afraid of screwing up. I’m afraid of making mistakes. I’m afraid of getting it (whatever it is) wrong all of the time.

For example, I messed up a crustless quiche this morning. The recipe called for pepper, and I misread the amount. It turned out terrible. I ended up throwing it away after we all tried to eat it. I cried because I wasted perfectly good bacon, eggs, and cheese to make that quiche. A quiche normally is good for two breakfasts, but this was garbage. I pride myself on my cooking, so this was really, really hard on me. Worse, hearing honest critiques of my failure triggered bad memories, which made me cry.

Fear is a tyrant with his boot on my neck. Although I’ll never make that recipe again, the pain and twisting anxiety are still with me. I am trying to push through and do my best in all things, but the fear keeps me from moving forward. I need to figure out how to move it off of me.

Until then, here I am.

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Domestic Dungeoneering: Deep Dives

I’ve been pretty open on social media about my struggles with anxiety, depression, PTSD, and trying to maintain functional enough to ensure my husband and children have all that they need. Often, stuff like writing, artwork, and other freelance work gets put to the side in favor of things that take greater priority. Recently, I had to humble myself hard and ask for help from my friends just to be able to feed my children. My bank account had hit negative numbers thanks to a surprise charge, so I was beyond broke when I needed money most. My friends came through in a big way, and I was able to buy food, diapers, and other things my children needed.

I’ve also had to file for bankruptcy for the second time in my life. It’s just one more thing in the constant trauma I’ve been experiencing over the past few years. From the house fire, to the trauma of giving birth to (and nearly losing) Anemone, losing my job, losing my central eyesight in my right eye, losing my ability to enjoy reading, gaming, and using electronic devices like I used to…it’s been a lot. Add to that chronic pain and the anxiety and depression that were already present, and I’m a mess. I still manage to keep the kids clean and fed and wearing clean clothes, though, so that’s progress. I also wouldn’t be embarrassed to have someone come over and see the house as it is now, even though I would probably keep them from looking in my office/storage room.

I am doing my best to carve out time to write and make art, though it feels as if I don’t deserve that time because there is so much that still needs doing every day. I also play Wurm Online to help give myself a little respite from the real world. It doesn’t require that I have perfect vision, though it is a bit frustrating when I click on the wrong command. I’ve made friends from all over the world in my time playing Wurm, and after a hiatus, I came back to build a deed that resembles my dream hobby farm. It even has the name I wanted to use for my farm–Tranquility Base.

Additionally, my husband and I are doing our best to incorporate more exercise in our daily lives. The pandemic and stress caused us to gain weight, and while I can’t speak for my husband, I’m ashamed to admit that I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been in my entire life. I’m doing my best to choose nutritionally dense foods and sensible portions, but I also have trouble making myself drink enough water, and I’m constantly exhausted from my medications and from having to wake up in the night when one of my children is having trouble staying asleep. I feel like I do as much as I do through the grace of God and the miracle of caffeine.

A few days ago, I made lists of what I love about Michael and what I love about Samantha (I would have made one for Anemone, but she can’t read). I had a dream that I made that list for Michael, and I felt like I needed to make it for him. I also made one for Sam because she is going through a rough time, and I wanted to remind her that she is loved and has lots of amazing qualities that make her special. Michael was pleased by the spontaneous gesture…then he challenged me to make a list of what I love about myself.

Dear Reader, I still haven’t made that list.

I don’t even know where to start.

Even with the medications I take to keep myself marginally functional, I’m still struggling to see what there is to love about me. Maybe it’s the strong lessons that were hammered into me as a child that I was worth less than nothing because I was a girl. Maybe it was the teachings that to love anything about yourself was vanity and a sin. Maybe it’s the self-hatred I carry for every mistake I’ve ever made in my life. Maybe it’s because society says I am ugly and useless.

And maybe it’s just depression that refuses to abate no matter how much therapy and medication I throw at it. Again, it just makes things more manageable and helps me be somewhat functional.

I don’t know what it is or how to fight it…but by God, I’ll do my best to dig deep and rebuild myself.

Maybe then the list about me won’t be so hard to make.

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Let’s Play Money-Making Game

Pretty much any app that advertises itself as a quick way to get money is lying. The only truly reliable app I’ve ever used is Swagbucks, and it will neither make you rich, nor will you get your winnings quickly, but it actually does pay you and never runs out of the gift cards you want.

(Incidentally, it’s been my experience that any app with “luck” or “lucky” in their name is more or less a scam just using you to farm ad clicks. Feel free to correct me if you’ve actually had an experience that wasn’t just a waste of time.)

The only app/websites I’ve actually had decent luck with making any money are NCP and Swagbucks. I also have accounts with Picky Domains and Slogan Slingers, but I’ve only made money from Picky Domains once, and I have used Slogan Slingers once since they switched to making people pay to submit their ideas.

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Tilting At Windmills

I’ve emailed the developer of Block Go three times, and they have not responded. I have given them enough time to respond. Soooo, I sent them invoices for the PayPal cash that they stated that I earned playing their app.

It probably won’t do a damned bit of good, but I felt a lot better doing it. I also have a paper trail established, should I need to escalate this to a higher authority. I probably won’t ever see the money I earned, but at least I made the effort rather than just rolling over.

I am still investigating what I can do to hold these phony app creators accountable. They didn’t steal money from me, but they did steal time and hope from me, and I cherish those just as much as I like having money.

So far, Block Go by funnytaskst hasn’t paid out, nor has Starry For Cash by Merge Boat Games. Their ads used deceptive practices. I have also found that if an app’s ad is done by Mintegral or UnityAds, the app is probably a waste of your time. Additionally, if the games are labeled “early access” and have no other reviews visible, they are likely a waste of your time and hope. Since I have received no responses from either developer, I have left them bad reviews on Google Play.

I’m not sure if there’s a Hell, but if there is, the people who create these games and ads that prey on the hopes of people who have lost their jobs due to COVID, people who are disabled and struggling to get by, and people who desperately need money to pay bills…there’s bound to be a special spot in Hell for them. And if it’s anything like Dante’s Inferno, it’ll probably be some sort of irony where they’re given false hope that they’ll be moved to a less brutal section of Hell…only for it to never come to pass.

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Game App Scams

I like playing leisure games on my phone. I like it even more when playing the game lets me earn money.

What I don’t like are ads that take advantage of people who are desperate to make money in the time of COVID.

In other words, people like me. I’m still waiting on my disability and writing and making art and hoping for the best. I would rather be able to earn money through my work, but COVID has forced my target audience to choose between paying rent and feeding their children. It sucks, but it is what it is. I am unable to do most other jobs due to my health issues and duties as a stay-at-home mother to a disabled child and a very active toddler.

Soooo, when I saw an ad for a game that looked fun and claimed to pay out via PayPal and Amazon gift cards on the same day, I thought, “Well, why not? Every bit helps.” The game itself was a fun little puzzle app that was interrupted by an ad every time I earned a chest or got a bonus for clearing multiple lines.

I could live with that; after all, ad revenue is how these apps are able to let users earn prizes, right? Pretty soon, I had earned enough to cash out on PayPal.

The first lie was that there was no minimum to cash out. When I clicked on the PayPal icon in the game, it had a minimum cashout of $200. I had earned enough to cash out the $500 PayPal card, so I went with that. It asked for my email address, so I provided the one I use with my PayPal account. No big deal.

The second lie was that the PayPal money would be available to redeem within minutes. Instead, I was greeted with a timer saying my card was processing and would be available in 72 hours.

Oh, okay.

Then when I came back to the app to check my status again, it told me that I had to watch 100 ads AND wait three days to get my PayPal money. I was annoyed, but I shrugged and played the game and watched the ads.

72 hours later, a new timer popped up. Now it said that I had to wait 480 hours (20 days) to get my PayPal money. I was very annoyed because due to COVID and my lack of income, we had to split up our rent payment and defer our car payment. My kids were also outgrowing their clothes, and I needed some sundries myself. I figured I would wait and hope for the best. In the meantime, I earned enough to redeem $2000, $3000, and $5000 in PayPal cash, as well as enough pink gems to redeem for a $100 Amazon gift card. For each of those prizes, I had to watch 100 more ads and wait 72 more hours and 20 more days.

The third lie came when the first 20 days had ended. The app now says that the money was transferred to my PayPal account. It has been long enough that I should have $5500 in my PayPal account and a $100 Amazon gift card (which I redeemed with my same valid email address).

So far, nada.

I emailed the address listed with the account, but so far, they have not responded.

I’m not the only person out here who is trying to keep her family afloat in these challenging times. I’m furious that these scammers are taking advantage of good people who are trying to earn money however they can to provide for their families. I’m not sure if there’s anything that can be done, but I’m looking into it. It’s not fair that these people are exploiting vulnerable people and getting away with it.

If anything happens, I’ll be sure to provide an update.

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Poverty (S)kills

Poverty kills. There’s no disputing that being poor leads to a shorter lifespan, more health issues, and worse outcomes in virtually everything. However, when you live close to or below the margins, you learn a lot of useful skills…mainly because you can’t pay someone else to do it for you, and if you do it poorly, it’s just going to make things worse.

One of the things I learned from both of my parents is to use what we have on hand to make reasonably edible food that can be used to make other reasonably edible food if there are any leftovers.

Case in point: last night, I went to one of my long-neglected staples, red beans and rice, Creole-style. Sadly, I was out of tomatoes and andouille, so I made do with ground beef and tomato soup. I cooked the beans in my instant pot and cooked the ground beef on my stove. I then mixed the beans and ground beef (both drained) in my instant pot with the tomato soup and an assortment of spices. It came out so good that there weren’t really any leftovers. If there had been, I was planning on using tortillas to make burritos. I was both very pleased and mildly irritated that my ad hoc recipe worked well enough not to leave leftovers.

Another example is chili. I can make a pot of chili stretch for days, and it actually tastes better if you give it a day or two to let the ingredients get to know each other really well. (I also have a surprising secret ingredient that gives my chili a pleasing, unexpected depth of flavor, but I’m keeping it to myself for now.)

If I ever write a cookbook, I’m calling it “Reasonably Edible,” because that’s the baseline for good food in my house. I do my best to use what I have on hand to bring recipes to life, and I often have to tweak things based on what ingredients I have on hand. My goal is to fix food that is nourishing, filling, tasty, and affordable.

Another important skill I’ve learned is hand sewing. My stitches aren’t always pretty, but they’ll hold. I used part of the first COVID stimulus payment to buy a sewing machine because I went blind in my right eye, and threading a needle is considerably harder when one no longer has any real depth perception and one’s “good” eye doesn’t have very good visual acuity. I haven’t touched it yet because the bulk of my day is spent wrangling a very curious toddler, and I’m scared she’ll swallow a needle or sew her hand.

Basic plumbing is another important skill for a poor person to have. If you know how to get a hairball out of your tub drain, clear a clog, or install new flushing hardware on a toilet correctly, you can save yourself a ton of money. The bigger stuff needs to be done by a professional, of course, because an untrained person messing with pipes will likely end in a bigger mess, but the minor stuff is easily handled by anyone who can learn from someone who has experience fixing stuff like that.

Auto skills like being able to change your own oil and change out a flat tire are also important, but with new rules in most areas regarding doing automotive maintenance at home and distracted drivers, it’s probably best to rely on professionals for help.

As a person doing her best to claw her way out of poverty, my best advice to you is this: learn from people who have skills in various areas from cooking to home maintenance. If you can do things well yourself instead of having to hire a professional or spend tons of money on premade food, you’ll be able to stretch your dollars further than you thought possible (And when you’re stuck living paycheck to paycheck, every penny saved matters a lot.)

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A Pain in the Royal High Ney

My oldest, Sam, collects LOL Surprise dolls. They’re cute, and the way they’re packaged captures the fun part of unwrapping something and discovering what’s inside.

The second LOL Surprise Sam got when she first started collecting them was a opulently dressed doll named Royal High Ney.

And boy, was she ever!

Naturally, Sam loved this cute little tribute to the opulence of 18th century French royalty and took her EVERYWHERE. Unfortunately, this constant companionship led to Royal High Ney I being lost in the Missouri Botanical Gardens during the Japanese Festival of 2017. After many days of calling to check if Royal High Ney had been turned in, I decided to buy a new Royal High Ney off of eBay.

Royal High Ney II arrived with a little parasol and a note that she had a great time at the Japanese Festival, but she had gotten lost and had to make her way back home. Royal High Ney II joined all of the other LOL Surprise dolls, and they had lots of fun and adventures.

…and then our house burned down in the early hours of April 13, 2019. Royal High Ney was lost once again, along with all of Sam’s other LOL Surprise dolls.

Christmas was tight in 2019, and again in 2020, but I did my best to try and track down some of her old LOL dolls on eBay and buy her some new ones. I got her Fancy and Royal High Ney III. All seemed to be well until I went to wrap up the open LOL Surprise dolls. Fancy was right where I left her.

Royal High Ney III had disappeared.

I tore up my room and house trying to find her, but she wasn’t where I left her, and I wasn’t able to do a thorough search of areas where she might have accidentally migrated. Sam was happy with Fancy and her new LOL Surprise dolls, but I was angry with myself because I couldn’t find Royal High Ney III.

The adorable plastic pain in my heinie has to be in this house somewhere. I’m hoping I find the misadventuring LOL doll before Sam’s birthday so I can give her to Sam with her other birthday presents.

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What Determines a Person’s Worth?

I recently got into a bit of a scuffle with my father over a meme I had posted.

My father interpreted it as me saying that people who produce food, shelter, and healthcare should not be paid for their work.

That is not what I, or the meme, was sharing at all. What the meme is stating is that a person’s worth is not tied to their ability to bring in an income, and a person’s access to food, shelter, and healthcare should not be tied to their income.

Contrary to what certain narratives would lead one to believe, people do want to work to the best of their abilities and be able to bring in an income and help provide for themselves and their loved ones. Unfortunately, circumstances prevent someone from being able to work to provide an income.

Before I started going blind, I had a child with autism who was entering puberty, and I had a very attached baby who is commonly referred to as a “velcro baby.” We could not afford childcare for them (and my velcro baby would have been very distressed to be away from me), and any job I could get with my degree and gaps in W-2 employment probably wouldn’t even cover the cost of daycare. We save more by me staying home, but the fact remains that the income isn’t there. There are very few jobs that allow for the flexibility of caring for children and working whenever one can while still providing a regular paycheck.

I write books and make art (and I have had an easier time making art while caring for my children, surprisingly enough), but the pandemic being what it is, I haven’t been able to create a steady income from the work that I can still do with my declining eyesight. I can’t even see the screen that well without zooming in and closing my right eye so that the blur doesn’t cover up my words.

I’m not sure if he was being deliberately obtuse or was genuinely misunderstanding the meaning of the meme, but either way, the fact that that is what he took away from it is troubling.

Everyone should be paid fairly for the work that they can do, be it making art or saving lives or even just writing. We also have a duty to take care of those who are unable to work for one reason or another. A person’s worth is not based on their ability to contribute, nor should it be. All life has value.

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Wiggle Room

I’ve been trying to find the space to write and make art, but it seems like my work is never done or I never get enough rest.

I get it–it’s what I signed up for as a parent–but at the same time, it sucks.

My husband got me a gently used tablet for Christmas with his bonus from work, and while it’s easier for me to use in Nem’s room, she still tries to take it from me when I try to work while she plays. Even Haru can’t resist the allure of the stylus so seductively attached to my tablet case.

I’m still trying to figure out what works on the tablet and what doesn’t. I’m hoping I can do blog entries on it without too much of a hassle. I also enjoy making art on it. I’m not happy with the stylus I have, but I’m not sure if there’s anything better out there, really.

Sam’s doing a mix of in-person school and school at home. Our district gets a lot of grief, but they’re doing a great job helping the kids stay safe and partnering with local mental health resources to help kids cope with everything that’s going on. The teen years are tough enough without a pandemic and catastrophic loss piled on top.

And since it looks like Nem is going to wake up from her nap, I’ll close for now. I haven’t found a specific “voice” for my blog, so I’ll update as I can, and it will probably be pretty random for a while.

Hang in there, everyone.