Happy Mother’s Day…

Mom and I framed

My Mom and I ~ May 2016

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there.

Happy Mother’s Day to the mothers wrestling their baby into diapers and keeping them from eating the dog’s food.

Happy Mother’s Day to the mothers who got a finger painted picture and an inedible breakfast.

Happy Mother’s Day to the mothers of teens who gave a brief, albeit likely prompted, Happy Mother’s Day.

Happy mother’s Day to the mothers of young adults who would, like, buy you something if they had any money.

Happy Mother’s Day to the mothers whose kids have gotten so busy they don’t have time to call or visit now but will *soon*.

Happy Mother’s Day to the mothers who hold their child closely in their hearts instead of their arms.

Happy Mother’s Day to the mothers who are stepping up to co-parent their spouses’ children.

Happy Mother’s Day to the mothers who have part time custody and would love to see their children today.

Happy Mother’s Day to the mothers who used to be known as Dad and are now navigating a new role.

Happy Mother’s Day to the fathers who used to be known as Mom and still feel a twinge of nostalgia today.

Happy Mother’s Day to the people who really, deeply wanted to be a mother but couldn’t for whatever reason.

Happy Mother’s Day to the motherless mothers.

Happy Mother’s Day to the mothers whose babies bark, meow and chirp.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you. I hope you have a wonderful day! You deserve it!

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A wild violet just for you!

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My spring book sale…

I probably shouldn’t have ran. I was different enough to begin with and running attracted attention. But I was scared and I needed Papa.

I didn’t know what I’d do when he was gone.

The soles of my shoes slipped in the dust as I turned the corner toward home, making me stagger a little, but I was used to how worn they were and quickly caught my balance. One leap let me avoid the wobbly bit of our front steps then I slipped inside.

Papa lay on his bed in the front room, cocooned in blankets. He stared at me blankly for a moment before recognition slowly seeped in.

“Aren? Is something wrong?” His words were whisper thin and edged in pain.

“Papa? What’s treason?” I gasped as I leaned against the door. The sweat wicked into my dress as I stood waiting for his reply.

I’d understood most of the notice in the village square, more than enough to terrify me. The rest hinged on that one unknown word. Hopefully it wasn’t as bad as I feared although, judging by experience, things tended to be worse than expected and not better.

Papa pulled himself up a bit more onto his pillow. “Treason? It’s when you go against the king,” he replied. He coughed and the sound echoed through the mostly empty room. “Of course you need to have a king in order to be charged with that.”

I couldn’t stop the shiver that traced a path along my spine.

“It’s okay Aren, I know what Robert’s calling himself,” he assured me. “Smallest province in Avenna and he claims he’s king. I could call myself king of this bed just as easily and it would mean as much.”

He gestured briefly across the bed then he winced and his hand dropped.

“Papa?” I took a step forward then stopped when he smiled.

“I’m fine,” he whispered. He coughed again and raised his voice slightly. “When King Nicholas was alive, treason was one of the few crimes with a death penalty. I assume that much hasn’t changed.”

It felt like my heart dropped into my stomach. I stared at him in horror. He stared back, his face was so pale it looked waxy.

“It’s that bad Aren? What is he calling treason?”

“Half-elven babies,” I replied. I was right, it was worse.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

If the above couple of paragraphs interest you, you’re in luck! My book is currently on sale for $2.99 (or $10.99 for a kick ass paperback). For the price of a Starbucks coffee, you can have an enjoyable read. Every person who has read this book so far has loved it and several are eagerly waiting for a sequel (something that’s not happening until I have more sales). The book is also LGBTQ friendly (the T is fleshed out in the second book, which is already half written).

If you are in the United States, you can find the ebook here. If you’re in the UK, you can find the ebook here. And if you’re in Canada the book is here.

I am currently nearing the top of a subsidized wait list for housing and every penny I make is going towards moving expenses.

Thank you and enjoy!

heart book

Taking life one little bit at a time…

20180509_150012.jpgThere was a time, before, when I didn’t need lists. Stuff needed to be done so I did stuff. It was that simple. Now I get overwhelmed so easily. I forget to do things or get halfway through and just stop because there’s too much to do. But I’ve found a way to help. I wouldn’t be writing this post except I know I’m not the only one in this situation. The solution I’ve found is to micromanage and make lists.

When I was in grade school and when Colin was as well, the teachers set up something called “chunking”. That’s taking a big task and breaking it into little tasks. Let’s take a shower for example, because I’m pretty sure that almost everyone with a mental illness struggles with this. Don’t write down “have shower” if you know you’re going to really struggle. Write down get undressed, put clothes in hamper, turn on shower, shampoo hair, rinse, condition hair, shave legs and pits (optional), wash body, rinse hair and body, turn off shower, dry off, get dressed. It’s a lot of stuff but it gives you a chance to work through every step so you’re not stuck just conditioning and forgetting to wash or missing shaving one leg.

As you can see from my list above, I’ve done some minor chunking. Laundry has three mentions because all three steps are separate and, as you can also see, the chore chart is almost done. All that’s left is dinner, which is still cooking as it’s only 3:30pm. I even got my 10 thousand steps in on the Oshawa Creek Trail and doesn’t that leave a sense of accomplishment.

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Everything’s so green! I didn’t even need a sweater today!!!

 

If I’d been left to my own devices, without a list today, I don’t think I’d have got nearly as much done. One thing chunking and writing a list does is help you maximize your time. For example, I had laundry to wash today. It takes an hour and 38 minutes but in reality I’m only spending 5 to 10 minutes down there total. So my lunch was eaten while the laundry was in the washer and I made the biscuits while my laundry was in the dryer. By the time it finished, I’d not only made the biscuits but washed the dishes and taste tested two biscuits (the second just to be sure of course). My two heart shaped biscuits are in the fridge, ready to go for tomorrow, and my favourite tea cup is tucked safely away in one of my favourite bags, also for tomorrow (we’re having tea and biscuits).

Making a list gives you some accountability. It’s easier to put something off until tomorrow when it’s not staring you in the face. Also, pro tip, you will not want to do that thing tomorrow either. It’s better to get it over with unless you’re totally out of spoons. No one wakes up with a smile on their face and says, “Yay! I can’t wait to scrub the toilet today!”

The other side of micromanaging is don’t add too many things to your list. Just because they’re in smaller chunks doesn’t magically give you more energy. Listen to your inner voice, or in my case, the scribble in my stomach, that says “whoa there, I’m going to be crying in a fetal position halfway through dealing with this list”. I don’t care what your Mom, your uncle, or your friend Sarah can do in a day. Unless they’re coming over and doing this for you, plan for your limits. I could throw scrubbing the bathroom onto my list today no problem. Would I have the energy to do it? Hell no.

spoons

For my fellow spoonies

So try taking your life in baby steps. It might seem overly simplistic when you first start but when you’ve got a day that requires a lot of spoons it can be a real lifesaver!

Kathleen in blue

Yay! My chores are done!!!

Continuing education…

Colin was only six when he started in a special education class and it was a bad fit for him. Despite him not knowing his alphabet yet, his teacher decided to start in on spelling tests, telling me it would keep him with his peers and he’d pick up the alphabet on his own. Soon she was finding him inattentive and difficult, something that came as a complete surprise to me as his kindergarten teachers loved him. Although in hind sight, considering she wasn’t helping him catch up with his peers, I can understand. He must have been so bored and frustrated.

He moved from that class into a multiple exceptionality class in grade two and his teacher adored him. He worked hard and had all sorts of innovative ideas. He genuinely loved school and looked forward to attending.

And then came high school and that was an unmitigated disaster. His “innovative ideas” were seen as an attempt to control the class. In fact anything he did seemed to fall under that category. He couldn’t have a stress ball on his desk or a fidget toy because he was trying to control the class by distracting them. Note, he was squeezing them, not flinging them at classmates.

The teachers responded in bizarre ways. Colin loves math, always has, and asked for math class regularly. His grade school teacher loved his enthusiasm and rewarded it. His high school teachers went out of their way to avoid having math class when he was there. If Colin was sick or suspended they would have math class, something the other students would promptly inform him when he returned. One day Colin had felt sick but recovered then walked to school. The teacher watched him enter the class the immediately erased “math” off the day’s schedule.

When Colin came out as trans, he came out as non-binary first. He wasn’t sure what pronouns to use so I googled pronouns and came up with a chart. We sounded out each one then he decided to use the same pronouns as my then friend Lenny; zie and zir. I looked up the district’s policy on trans students and their pronouns and found this quote (bolding is mine):

“Suggestions to enhance the school learning environment for trans youth follow. This list is illustrative and not exhaustive. We encourage you to develop and share with your staff and the Durham District School Board other gender inclusive ideas and protocols you may develop.

PREFERRED WAYS OF ADDRESSING TRANSGENDER PEOPLE
Transsexual females—identified as male at birth To be addressed as ‘she’
Transsexual males—identified female at birth To be addressed as ‘he’
When you are in doubt of an individual’s gender Address an individual as ‘they’”

Colin’s teachers and the other team members insisted they could not use zie and zir because it was against school rules. They could only use she, he, and they as the diagram showed. I pointed out the “illustrative and not exhaustive” part and they insisted that meant again that they could only use the diagram. Sigh, that’s not what the sentence means.

I had to go over their heads and, thanks to PFLAG, found someone on the school board to explain the guidelines. Which worked well in paper but not so much in real life. In real life they continued to use he and him. In meetings they’d, oops forget, 9 times out of 10. You don’t forget pronouns that much unless you never use them in the first place. And, to make matters worse, the teachers were actively teasing Colin over his pronouns. Separating the class into boys and girls then telling Colin he’d never get to be first in line for a treat because he’d “chosen” not to be male or female (among other instances).

At the end of grade 12 both Colin and I were so done with his school. He could have continued in a “bridge to work” programme but we figured it would be more of the same. More of them refusing to allow him into mainstream classes, more refusals to have harder work, especially in math, and more antagonising behaviour.

Colin has loved computers and electronics as soon as he was aware of them and has wanted to work with them for as long as I can remember. It was in high school that his dream job focused on robotics. Now that he was out of high school, he set out to realize his dreams.

He couldn’t start at college, even with support, as he didn’t have nearly enough education. So he called continuing education, who also told him he didn’t have enough education. He only had one high school credit and needed more. Then he tried Durham Alternative Secondary Education and was told the same thing. Same with the Catholic School Board. Finally, in desperation, I suggested the John Howard Society and, bingo, we had a winner.

Soon Colin was in school from Monday to Thursday and loving it. He attended right though summer and only missed days for doctor’s appointments. Then one day recently, he came home and told me he was only going to school on Friday now and was going to be taking school at Durham College. Soon I found him working on a computer he set up on our kitchen table (so not the place I’d have chosen) with two monitors and a calculator so he could finish his work and get it emailed in.

Colin smiling on his balcony

One proud smile

And then came last Wednesday when Colin proudly informed me he’s now going to College Prep classes. He’s attending school from Monday through Thursday again but this time with an eye towards him entering college as a student, albeit one with special needs. Finally his chance of going to school for robotics is in sight.

Colin has always been a smart kid, he’s struggled due to learning disabilities and autism, but he’s smart. I am so glad to see that educators are finally seeing this and are giving him a chance not just to survive but thrive.

Way to go Colin! You’ve earned this!!!

Playing depression limbo…

I got my glass measuring cup from the cupboard and started carefully pouring milk. It took me a couple of seconds to realize it was cow’s milk. I’ve been vegan for five years. No harm done though. Oreo was right by my feet so I pulled out a ramekin and gave him the milk before carefully rinsing the cup. I put the milk away and got out a carton of cashew milk and set it on the counter then got a carton of cashew milk and stared in bewilderment.

I laughed about my forgetfulness and made a humorous post on Facebook. Then it came time to make dinner the following evening and I just did not have the energy to make anything. The simplest meals seemed much too hard. So I had an english muffin with peanut butter and a mug of hot chocolate, my usual breakfast and standard depression dinner.

Last night I had a dream that I was an inpatient in the psychiatric ward again. I can remember thinking “how did I get here?” and remember the frustration of being back yet again.

This morning I finally recognized the depression clinging to me like tar. It’s heavy and weighs down everything I do, making each task take twice as long. I tried to carefully plan my breakfast but still ended up with two hot chocolate mugs waiting on the counter because I’d completely forgotten I’d got one out already. Depression fucks with your memory.

20180505_101511.jpgI know life isn’t fair but that was my first thought anyhow. I’m on twelve pills a day (seven prescriptions) and have been trying so hard. The weather’s getting nicer, the sun’s shining, and the buds are almost exploding from where they’ve been hiding all winter. Every day brings a bit more green… a bit more colour. I should be happy. I should be eagerly anticipating Kait and Josh’s move to their first apartment together. I should be eagerly anticipating their first child and my first grandchild. I should be thrilled to pieces about Colin’s acceptance into college prep classes. And I am… underneath all that tar. So far anhedonia hasn’t reared it’s ugly head. I’m still scrapbooking, still going to karaoke, still visiting family.

So I’m going to dye my hair teal and take the bus to my parents’ house this afternoon, hoping I can fake it well enough to be good company. And I’ll just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Depression has pulled out the limbo game of “how low can you go?” but I’m not interesting in playing that. Hopefully, somehow I can work past it. Hopefully I’ve got enough supports in place to work through and past this depressive state.

Two years…

I deserve better blankTwo years ago I cried until I thought I could cry no more and still the tears kept coming. I cried until my eyes swelled shut and my head ached. I felt like my entire world had fallen in on me and there was nothing left but ruins. Like there was only one option left and that was to jump off my 7th storey balcony to the unforgiving pavement below. All that stopped me was the concern that it might not be high enough. What would happen if I ended up paralyzed? I wouldn’t be able to try again.

Luckily for me I’m a writer. I write about everything and this was no exception. I got on Facebook and a veritable flood of words was released. I lied and said I wasn’t planning to kill myself. Even so, what I said was worrying enough that my sister Jen called then drove me down to the hospital. My Mom traded off with her when Jen had to pick up her kids. It takes a long time to be seen for mental health issues but they do keep close track of you.

In some ways that day feels like the beginning of a whole different life but it wasn’t. I’d been struggling with my mental health for at least a year. My family doctor started me on Effexor the spring of 2015 and prescribed Ativan for my rare panic attacks. It was getting harder and harder to stay at work. Some days I’d grip the sides of the cash register or my arms in an attempt not to run screaming out the door. I had always been the fun loving person. I cracked jokes, sang along with the radio, hugged people who liked hugging, and joked with the regular customers. My manager joked that Happy was my theme song. All that slowly drained away as my focus turned inward, a silent struggle to keep running my life.

20180418_101120.jpgIt’s been two long years but I’m slowly rebuilding my life. I’m printing out my scrapbooking pages and am finally up to mid 2017. I’m starting to read again and am thinking, once again, about my novel. I’ve joined three groups and enjoy every one of them. I visit my family every week and try to get out once a month for karaoke (yes, I can sing LOL). It’s not the same life I had before. My attention span is negligible. I find two hour classes to be just long enough. Any more would be overwhelming. But I’m surrounded by friends and family. Life is good.

Am I back to normal? No. I’m currently taking twelve pills in order to function and still struggle with anxiety. Am I happy? Yes. And I think that’s the most important answer of them all.

building your life