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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.

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Adjusting to the New Normal

So, the SSA doctor’s official word is that I am legally blind in both eyes, and my eyesight is starting to deteriorate in my left eye as well. With any luck, the SSA will approve my application for SSDI, and I will be able to get Medicaid so that I can (I hope) slow down or maybe even stop or reverse what is happening to my eyes.

I’m scared. I can still see well enough to paint, and I can use a magnifier to write and edit, but it tires me out easily. I’m also able to take care of my kids, cook, clean, and do laundry.

I’m trying to learn as much as I can, and then I am going to do my best to learn how to do it with little or no eyesight. I suppose that means learning to enjoy audiobooks and trying to be an auditory learner instead of a visual/kinetic learner.

I just hope everything works out so that I can still do my part to support my family financially.

I hope I can.

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In my mind’s eye…literally

My youngest is quite needy and super-mobile. I am working out when to be able to work on blogs and my other writing around her needs.

Strangely enough, I’ve found it easier to work on art while I’m taking care of her. I’ve moved into the realm of digital painting. I love it when I can do it.

The irony is that my eyesight has considerably deteriorated over the past year. The central vision in my right eye is completely gone, and my peripheral vision is distorted. It’s better than nothing, I guess, but it gets frustrating when I’m typing on my phone and hit the wrong letters by mistake. I can still type mostly well on my computer because I don’t have to look at the keyboard to know where the keys for each letter are. It’s not perfect, but it’s much easier than doing it on my phone. That being said, I have gotten kind of lazy and enjoy the autocomplete feature on my phone. It saves a lot of time when I’m chasing a very active, curious, and jeopardy-friendly toddler.

My most recent art has been inspired by the spot in my right eye. It occludes my vision when my right eye is open, but when it is shut, I can see some pretty cool stuff in the spot, such as a tree silhouetted against the moon, an eclipse of a blue star, a tree at sunset, a planetary system, and other cool imagery involving a spot in the middle. I try to paint what I see digitally on my phone. It doesn’t always come out the way I’ve seen it, but I really enjoy it. It also makes me feel like I’m taking something that has closed some doors for me and using it to open others.

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Pity Party Parenting

I’ll say this bluntly: I hate martyr mommies.

What are martyr mommies?

Good question.

Martyr mommies are the kind of people who use their children’s diagnoses and the challenges they face as a result of those diagnoses to get pity and internet clout.

Parenting is hard. None of us really know what the hell we’re doing no matter how many books we read or classes we attend. Life is random, and our children are people in their own right, not extensions of ourselves.

Can we grieve the expectations we once had based on the diagnoses our children receive? Certainly. It would be strange if we didn’t grieve when our children face unexpected challenges. We all want our kids to stand out in ways that won’t bring them pain we may not know how to help them navigate or manage. We all want our children to have easy, successful lives with minimal effort on our parts. That’s normal, too. That is absolutely, 100% normal.

But the universe is a complex place, God has a sense of humor, and once you think you’ve figured out all of the pitches in the game of life, an unexpected curveball can catch you unaware.

Sometimes it can even be a bean ball.

So you stand there, rubbing your head, wondering what the hell just happened and how you can win the game with a sore noggin. There are two choices here: you can stay put, complaining about how much your head hurts to whoever will listen, or you can go to the bullpen, get evaluated by the team doctor, and strategize with your team to figure out what to do to go forward and win the game.

I’m autistic, and so is my oldest child. We have two completely different flavors of autism. While I excel at reading and writing, I barely limp by in math, eye contact is physically painful, I can’t wear tight clothing or certain materials, and I experience intense sensory overload when I try to drive a vehicle, so I am not a particularly safe driver. Sam, on the other hand, has a gift for mathematics, enjoys leggings and other form-fitting clothes, and doesn’t seem too bothered by eye contact, and she HATES reading and writing. She stims and vocalizes more than I do, but I have had years of conditioning that make it easier for me to remain rigid and still. (Before I had children, I could literally go days without talking if I didn’t have to work, and I didn’t talk when I wasn’t working. Talking is hard for me most days.)

I’ve seen what martyr mommies have to say about their autistic children. With nonverbal children, they seem to assume that because they can’t talk, they don’t understand what’s being said.

And they would be wrong. There are quite a few nonverbal autistic writers, and some of the more famous ones have blogs and social media where they interact with others. They understood what was being said about them, and I have no doubt that nonverbal autistic people pick up on the meaning behind words, even if they don’t understand those words.

One of the biggest things I’ve had to struggle with as an adult is knowing how much of a burden I was on my family. If you ask my parents, they will deny that I was a burden, but I knew I was. I didn’t fit anywhere, I struggled to make friends, I was blunt when I did speak, and my very existence cost my parents money that could have been spent on other things. They already had three children when I came along.

They never said I was a burden, but I knew.

My siblings had to put up with my otherness, too. My youngest older sister once told me, in a moment of intense irritation with with me, that I was a mistake. The story goes that my mother was taking birth control pills and had decided that she wanted a tubal ligation, but when she went to the doctor to see about getting it scheduled, she found out she was pregnant with me. My parents didn’t believe in abortion, so I was born into my family as an unexpected “blessing.” My mom got angry at her for telling me that I was a mistake. She reframed it as a “happy accident,” and she said that none of my siblings were planned, so if I was a mistake, so were all of my siblings–and she didn’t think that any of us were mistakes.

But the feeling still lingered. And logically, I knew that my existence stretched my family’s already too-thin resources.

But I digress.

Suffice it to say that children can tell how you feel about them, even if you don’t put it into words or think you’ve hidden those words in a place where you think those children will never see or hear them.

And now we move on to the next thing: Being a good parent is hard no matter what challenges your child faces.

My oldest is autistic. Does it suck? Yeah, it does. I wanted her life to be easier than mine. I didn’t know I was autistic before she was born; it was two years after her diagnosis before I was diagnosed and so much about my life made sense.

My youngest had GERD so bad she was up practically every hour of the night, throwing up slightly less than what she kept down until she was about nine months old. Did it suck? Hell yes, it did. I was scared that if I couldn’t get her GERD managed, she would end up with a feeding tube or hospitalized. I felt like a failure as a parent. I was also severely sleep-deprived and not a very good parent or partner.

Even after the GERD got managed, she still took a long time to sleep through the night, and that didn’t happen until she was almost a year old. She sometimes wakes up in the wee hours when she’s sick, both other than that, she’s a pretty good sleeper. She’s still prone to bad gas when she has a cold, but we’re doing baby-led weaning, and she’s cheerful in spite of the rough start she had.

And these are just the challenges in my family. I am not sure if my youngest will end up being autistic, but if she is, it will be a very different flavor from me our her sister, because she’s an extremely charismatic, people-oriented child.

But that doesn’t mean there won’t be challenges. I know people who are good parents who have done the best they could have children that have been through rough challenges ranging from cancer to teen pregnancy to substance abuse.

Parenting is hard no matter what life throws at you. Nobody is disputing that. It’s the dwelling in the difficulty that makes things worse.

Sam was completely mute by the time she was two years old. She had started talking at nine months, and then it was all gone. It was that loss of speech and a few other flags that led me to taking her to the Thompson Center in Columbia to be evaluated. Once we knew she was autistic, I worked together with her healthcare team to secure the therapy and tools she needed. I also applied for SSI for her since I had lost my job and felt that I needed to be a hands-on parent to navigate these challenges. I was a single parent living with my brother, my younger older sister, and my nieces and nephew. That family support network was also helpful.

I fought for what my daughter needed, and I did not stop fighting even when she began to make progress.

And she still has a long way to go.

Has it been easy? Nope. I’m not going to elaborate, either, because I don’t need to share what we’ve been through to score internet points. My child doesn’t deserve to be humiliated so I can receive validation.

Instead, I prefer to focus on what our hard work is bringing forward. My oldest daughter’s father, my husband, my daughter’s healthcare team, my daughter’s education team, my daughter, and I all work together (though not all in the same room; that would get pretty crowded) to help my daughter have her best possible future.

I acknowledge that parenting an autistic child is challenging, but I would argue that parenting any child is a challenge. Rather than humiliating our children for sympathy or internet clout, we should focus on the things they can do and do what we can to help them master more. Not every autistic person will be the next Temple Grandin or John Elder Robison (nor should they be), but we parents should seek out and use every resource we can to help our children be all that they can be.

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Requiem for a Sewing Machine

I’ve wanted a sewing machine for a while now. It’s one of those things, like a Ninja Foodi or a KitchenAid Stand Mixer, that I’ve put on hold to take care of more pressing financial matters. I definitely want to get my hands on one before school returns to in-person classes, though. Sam will need masks when it does. I also want to learn to use a machine because of the problems I’ve been having with the nerves in my right hand. It makes sewing by hand difficult and often painful.

Looking at sewing machines made me remember the sewing machine my mother had when I was a little girl. I don’t seem to recall her ever using it; it seemed to be in need of a needle or a few small repairs that were pushed aside for other concerns. It was an old (even then) Kenmore sewing machine that was housed in its own two-door wooden cabinet with a fold-out leaf. The cabinet was gorgeous–the wood was beautifully carved and stained walnut, and the pulls for the doors were lovely brass rings mounted on matching hardware. The machine itself was less attractive, but I’m sure it got the job done when it was in working order.

In the meantime, though, the sewing machine cabinet served as a perfectly lovely stage for the productions my sister Rachel and I would put on for our family using our dolls and stuffed animals. We called it “Mount Sinai Theater” (though the spelling of Sinai was so badly mangled that I’ve blocked it from my memory entirely–which was my fault, I must add–phonetically, it sounded very different from its spelling to younger me). While the sewing machine may not have been able to fulfill its intended purpose back then, it enabled us to create some fun memories as a family.

Unfortunately, my mother doesn’t have her sewing machine anymore. After almost 20 years, my parents divorced, and about a couple of years later, my mother married her second husband, and we moved to a new town. While we were waiting for our new home to be ready, someone broke into the trailer where some of our things were being stored and stole Mom’s sewing machine.

…that’s the story we were told, anyway. The more I reflect on what I was told, the more implausible it seems. Only someone who knew the value of an antique Kenmore in the original cabinet would go to all the trouble of stealing such a large and heavy item. I think what really happened is that Mom said or did something that irritated her second husband, and out of spite, he and his friend took her sewing machine and sold it. After being subjected to him for the duration of their marriage and divorce, his true character became abundantly clear.

Unfortunately, I can’t ask him what really happened to my mother’s sewing machine because he died almost 20 years ago. It’s just as well, because I doubt he would admit to any of the cruel things he did to my mother, my sister Rachel, or me.

Meanwhile, though, I sometimes check Craigslist or eBay to look for a familiar walnut cabinet. It’s probably long since been turned firewood and scrap, but nostalgia is a powerful thing.

As for me, I’ve got my eye on a sewing machine that is supposed to be good for first-time sewing machine users. I’m probably going to buy it as soon as the stimulus comes in.