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    The government is falling apart, and America as we knew it seems to have ceased to exist, but not much has changed in the households of the poorest of the poor: it’s the beginning of the month, and many of us are facing the fact that we can’t pay last month’s rent. I can’t speak for all poor people but like most women I blame myself.

    I’d rather die than be homeless again, I don’t think I could take it, it was so scary and, and, how can I even describe it? If you haven’t been homeless, you just don’t know. It’s a traumatic stress event: I still find myself scoping out good hidden sleeping spots just in case. (Don’t worry; I’m not suicidal. Even that option is closed to me.)

    As we know, it’s expensive to be poor. Once a person gets evicted from her home, it’s very difficult to become housed again. Here in Eugene, rents are high and there aren’t a lot of places available. When the market gets tight like that, owners need a way to sort their applicants, so they do credit checks,or background checks. Many of us couldn’t rent a lot of the apartments that you see from the freeway even if we had the money, because of the credit check. I’m lucky to have the place I’m in, a kind of studio where everything is included for $700. As a middle-aged woman I can live this simply. But I’m about to be evicted.

    Here’s my personal story of extreme poverty.

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    This is my dog Leonard, the best dog in the universe. He was picked up as a stray at around age 5 and rescued from the SPCA by a fostering program that helps little dogs. They neutered him and placed him in his first foster home. But he had a lot of problems, presumably caused by trauma in his past. He cried all the time when left alone and was so itchy he chewed on himself constantly. Also, his anal glands tend to get impacted and they are only accessible by a vet, not a groomer like most dogs. Also, he was enraged by men who are tall, or bearded, or wearing glasses, or hats. (They didn’t tell me any of that when I adopted him; it was a surprise.)

    He had failed out of three foster homes before he came to live with me, and he was also so obese he could barely run. He was so whiny and itchy I considered not keeping him, as my roommates were complaining; but I knew I was probably his last chance. I was working as a property manager at the time so I could keep him with me all the time; he huffed and puffed going up and down hills, but the ounces started to melt away. The vet and I started working on diagnosing his itchiness but were only able to find out it’s not a food allergy. His anal glands got drained regularly. (Instead of scooting like most dogs, he turns himself around and around in a circle to scratch his butt. It’s hilarious.)

    After a few months I started leaving him alone briefly and he was fine, no crying. Now he can be left by himself like a regular dog. He’s a bit over his ideal weight, looking very svelte. He is still a little suspicious of tall bearded men wearing glasses and hats, but if they scratch his butt he approves their presence. He LOVES women. He so appreciates being petted that he groans with pleasure and will eventually fall over if you keep it up. All he wanted was to be loved and feel safe. Now he’s social and happy and calm.

    He was about eight when I got him, probably getting close to ten now. For years I’ve been adopting senior dogs. They are harder to place than young dogs; everyone wants a cute puppy. I appreciate that they are calmer and usually already housetrained. It is painful when they die, as all dogs must eventually, but I’m comforted in knowing I made their senior years happy and full of love and soft beds.

    After we eliminated food allergies, the vet put him on Apoquel, which worked like a charm to stop his itching. He started playing for a while every day, which I hadn’t known he could do. He was obviously feeling much better on the medication, more relaxed and playful. It’s $2.40 a pill at our old vet.

    As many of you already know, I have multiple disabilities (high-functioning autism, depression, anxiety, and spinal arthritis) and it’s been a year of mostly unemployment. I got by with temp jobs and working on a farm and making things to sell, like hats and other wearable art. Sometimes I could only afford to buy two or three pills for Leonard at a time. But it’s been a year, he needs a checkup, and the vet won’t let me have any of his medication until he has an exam and they can do bloodwork, rabies shot and so forth.

    I just started a new job as a caregiver for an older man who uses a wheelchair. I love it and my person seems to like me a lot too. We get along really well and I enjoy having someone to care for. It gives meaning to my life. It’s almost like having a family. It also comes with a reliable paycheck, which is great. I was able to arrange a payment plan with my landlord to avoid eviction, since I’ll be late paying for at least one month until I get caught up. It’s part-time so I’m looking for a second job and may have one starting in February.

    But I can’t think of any way to get Lenny the vet care he needs immediately. I found a low-cost vet who works on a sliding scale, but everything Leonard needs still adds up to over $300. It could be months before I could afford it, and I don’t know anyone I could borrow it from. So I’m asking the community for a little bit of help. If you can please kick in a few bucks for the vet, I would really appreciate it, and so would Leonard. He shouldn’t have to suffer because of my lack of money. It’s not his fault. My Paypal email is I thank you, and I thank the entire DK community, which has saved me and lifted me up and in general been my support network and cared for me when there wasn’t anyone else to do it. Seriously, I think I’d be dead by now if I hadn’t found Daily Kos.

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    In therapy, I am discovering some deep-seated stuff in my psyche; as it turns out I was raised to believe that I’m a bad person, deserving of punishment. And I internalized that idea of myself as an irredeemable fuck-up. The proof is in my poverty; everyone knows that you get what you deserve, what you work for. This view, developed for me by my parents, was further cemented into place for them by Fox News and the rest of the right-wing noise machine, year after year. And although I knew they were being fed propaganda that predisposed them to a lack of compassion for me, I still wanted their approval. I tried so hard, and when my depression, anxiety, and autism prevented me from having the relationships and career that I was “supposed” to have, I blamed myself. And I punished myself. Now I wonder, even if I had been convicted of being a bad daughter in 1997, shouldn’t my punishment be over now?

    It doesn’t matter where the self-hatred started, as much as it matters that I stop doing it. Writing is my superpower: it’s how I express myself best, the best way I can make myself known, understood, a part of humanity that matters. We can’t really know ourselves without other people around to interact with. Our families and friends show us who we are, and who they want us to be, what’s socially acceptable or “normal” in a given society, and we take that in, process it, and modify our behavior to fit in or to rebel. What I learned in my family of origin was that there was something “wrong” with me. I know that believing this lie is holding me back, and I want to live a life that matters, I want to participate in my community and fully be a part of the human family. It’s harder than I thought to dislodge my idea of myself as a bad person. I know that I can write my way back to health, and that’s what I’m going to do, with the help of my counselor.

    When my daughter was four, I suffered a nervous breakdown and was hospitalized. I’d been asking for help for two years, but my parents didn’t think helping me was convenient. Lost my job and home. My parents took my daughter. My mother manipulated me into signing some paperwork that she faxed to the hospital. I protested but she said my daughter needed medical treatment and I had to sign right away. There went custody. I never imagined that they would refuse to give her back, that they would cut me out of her life, and their lives, so completely.

    For five years I was hell-bent on getting her back. I’d gotten a couple thousand dollars as a bonus at work and I thought I could hire a lawyer and get my daughter back. I’d set up her room, lived next door to an elementary school. But there was no way; they just outspent me right away. My lawyer told me, “They think that’s their child.” If I’d had unlimited funding, like my parents did, I might have prevailed. Instead I had to accept that she was never “coming home,” that her home was with my parents now, she was getting old enough that to disrupt her life would be wrong. It was pretty soon after that when I attempted suicide and was hospitalized again.

    It’s really difficult, hard work, to write about this stuff. But I feel compelled to be known. I want my voice to be heard. My daughter doesn’t speak to me now; she’s in college and that may change. But I’m writing for her, so she will have some explanation for who I am and what happened. Maybe she will never read it, but maybe her daughter will. Either way, I have to get it out. All of that mess, that ugly green ooze, the infection I’ve been pushing down in my heart all of my life, has to come out into the light of day and be sorted. I want to be accountable for the mistakes I have made, but also stop blaming myself, stop hearing my mother’s voice in my head saying STUPID STUPID and other, worse things. I want to acknowledge that although I may be on the spectrum, and have always tended to melancholy, with the right support I could have raised my child. They didn’t have to keep her away from me like I might contaminate her in some way, with my food stamps and my lower-class job.

    And so I will write. I’ll go back to the beginning and write everything I know about my grandmother, growing up a basketball fan in rural Mississippi, my father, who was dying in the same hospital when I was born; my mother, who went to business school at a time when women couldn’t even wear pants…. So many people and places and events and emotions that resulted in me, and eventually my daughter. As I write, I hope to heal these terrible, terrible wounds; and I hope that as my heart is lightened, I’ll be more functional, and then maybe I can get a counseling job and support myself and not have to worry about homelessness.

    Because I am ashamed to be poor. In our society, it’s a shameful thing. We even call it “inequality” now. I’ve learned that once you’re kicked out of the upper class, there’s no working your way back. And there’s no amount of pluckiness and spirit that will fix it, because the game is rigged. There is no safety net, if you don’t have family support. There are millions of people like me, underemployed and living in constant fear and isolation. The supportive programs that exist are already overloaded. It is all too easy for a person like me to become homeless, even in Eugene. And I’m so ashamed that I can’t take care of myself. I wonder what life would be like if I wasn’t carrying all this heavy pain. I am determined to find out. Thank you for caring.

    Want to help? Info in comments, thanks.

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    I’ve been underemployed for most of the past year. Last fall, I developed a plan. I won’t give up on using my MA in counseling; I’ll keep applying for jobs, knowing that it might take years to find a position. But I need a job for now, a job I can count on, with a regular schedule and a reliable paycheck. I decided to seek a caregiver position. There are a lot of these jobs available here in Eugene as we seek to keep seniors in their homes as long as possible. I applied to a couple of agencies and they called me right away (within hours of submitting my application.) My first interview, the guy asked me, basically, why do you want a job you’re so overqualified for? I told him I was wanting to make a career change, and saw elder care as a growing field with a lot of opportunity, plus I just love old people, and I have to be helping somebody or I’m just not happy.

    That agency offered me a job, and the supervisor told me that he wanted me to also work in the office learning the administrative end of things, since I have so much professional-office experience. It’s an established Oregon company opening a new office in Eugene. I thought that all sounded great and I accepted the job. My supervisor told me it should only take a few days to get my background check back and then he’d start assigning me clients. He gave me a little more than minimum wage for my education and experience: $12 per hour! I turned down the other interviews resulting from my applications.

    I knew it would probably take longer than that; my last background check took six weeks. But I was working full-time at a temp job and hoped it would fit together just right. However, it ended up taking eight weeks. Finally, I was assigned a client, went and met him, and started working: 25 hours a week, $1100 a month. In February I’d add a client who simply needed help in the morning bathing, bringing me to just under my upper limit of $1385 per month. I love my client, he is so cool. He’s 74, in chronic pain, and uses a wheelchair, yet is always occupied with creative electronic projects around his house. We get along great. I thought that I could rely on the job.

    (Like countless other middle-aged Oregonians, until I get a real counseling job, with a real salary and benefits, I have to stay qualified for Oregon Health Plan by not making more than $1385 a month. Usually this isn’t a problem, ha ha arrg. I’m very experienced in living simply.)

    Right after I started working, I got a call from the office. My supervisor, the one who hired me, was “no longer with the company.” I had a new guy. I should mention that I have yet to get a paycheck that is accurate or on time. The new guy complains, he has too much to do, he doesn’t know how to do payroll. I offered to work in the office but have been rebuffed. The company still owes me for a week I worked back in December. I have been trying to get paid for that since it was missing from my 1/5/18 check. That’s $250 that I need desperately and I have been inquiring about it daily. Twice my paycheck was “lost in the mail” and they had to overnight it; I think he just forgot. I’ve never spoken to anyone else from the company. I’m considering calling the home office, asking for human resources, and pouring out the whole sordid tale. But my short-tempered supervisor might take that badly.

    Last Tuesday, as I was happily portioning out rice for my amateur-chef client to use in recipes, my supervisor called. Due to a clerical error, we had to stop providing services for my client. He couldn’t tell me how long it would take to fix the problem. Days? Weeks? Who knows. I’m trying to wait to worry, but it isn’t working.

    Meanwhile, my home is being gentrified. I live in a crappy duplex in a very nice neighborhood with beautiful views. The owner decided to sell it, and after discovering the landlord’s mismanagement, decided to raze it. It seems the land is worth more without the slum-house that stands upon it. So all 12 of us, all low-income people, have been displaced, so that some rich person can build a mansion and look down upon Eugene. Now that I’m already here, there are way too many people moving into Eugene from other places. The housing market is tight; apartment complexes and property managers are requiring credit checks, income of 3x the rent from every roommate, and rental references. Even if I had $1500 or $2000 for deposit, I couldn’t pass the credit check, and I don’t make enough to qualify, even to rent one room in an apartment. I went and looked at some rooms, tiny little cupboards in cramped apartments in stacks of shacks, which I can’t qualify for anyway. I met and disappointed some really nice people. I hope they find financially highly-qualified roommates with a few thousand bucks on hand who for some reason want to live in an 8’ by 8’ room.

    But I found a place! I put an ad up myself, which I highly recommend if you’re looking for a place to live, and an older gentleman called me. I went out and met him and just fell in love with him. He’s 87 and used to be a real monkey-wrencher. Went to jail protesting the Vietnam War and everything. He’s an artist, loves bluegrass, couldn’t be a better match for me. His house is one-bedroom but there’s a garage, and I’m going to live in the garage. My friends asked if it had walls and a floor; well, sure, of course! My new landlord said he was going to put up wallboard, level the dirt floor and cover it, add a picture window and strengthen the person-door. I believe him because he called the handyman while I was there. Until it gets warm I can cover the garage door with plastic and blankets. I’ll put my bed in the back and the whole front can be my sewing/freeway sign studio. A few sturdy worktables is all I need. I’ve finished one project for a local family, given an estimate on a much larger job, and hope to grow this into another reliable source of income. I also have a relationship with a local boutique that sells my wearable upcycled art. That doesn’t bring in much, but every little bit helps.

    My new landlord wants first month’s rent and a deposit; I can handle the $500 rent but I don’t have the $500 deposit. The muffler fell off my car; well, we had to help it come off, but I have to get it welded back on ASAP because the community where my client lives has complained about the noise. The low-income vet pushed Lenny’s appointment back a month, meaning I’m draining his vet fund buying his medication to keep him from scratching himself bloody, poor thing. Car insurance, cell phone, and I’m waiting for this “clerical error” to be straightened out so i can get back to work, so I’m KINDA FREAKING OUT a little bit. I applied at a couple other caregiver agencies and scheduled interviews, but it will probably take another eight weeks for another background check, so that’s not going to help in time.

    One of my Kossack friends recommended I try and list everything I need and add it up; if I’m going to ask for help I should try and include everything. I’m ashamed to ask for help; I’m “supposed” to be able to take care of myself, never mind my several disabilities. Another Kossack friend told me not to be ashamed of my financial situation. I’m trying. My total crowd-funding goal is $960, which covers the deposit on my new home, moving expenses, making the garage livable, car insurance, and cell phone. I’m making the assumption here that I’ll be back at work very soon. If you’re poor like me, don’t send me money; in this case your thoughts and prayers are a precious gift. If you’ve got a little extra, even $5 is a lot of money to me at this point, and there are a lot of us. I need a miracle. I’m hoping I can make it through, just enough to feel a little safety, for a little while. Thanks for reading. My PayPal address is leannemnorth at gmail, or Kosmail me. Thanks, as always, for your support. I couldn’t do it without you.

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    For now, we have to let go of judgement about whether or not renting an unfinished garage was a good idea. For various reasons, there was not another option. So I have to make the garage work. It does have a person-sized door, and electricity. I think my main concern is the floor, which is made of dirt, and some rotting carpet scraps maybe, and also slanted. My best idea so far is to buy a bale of hay. No, I’m serious. I’ll buy a bale of hay and use it to level out the floor, then cover it with a big piece of linoleum I’ll find at the Habitat store or St. Vinnie’s. (I plan to call St. Vinnie’s tomorrow and see if maybe I can get a voucher for their warehouse store.)

    My other concern is the walls. I think I can scavenge a big roll of this textured vinyl. It’s pretty tough. Then I’ll staple lengths of the stuff over the walls. Apparently there is a window that has been boarded over. Some natural light would be nice. Maybe I can keep buying blankets and hanging them over the walls as money permits. Maybe this was a terrible, terrible idea.

    There are rafters. I can store stuff just overhead. And once it’s nice I can leave the big door open. There’s plenty of room for worktables and sewing machines and making freeway signs.

    I keep telling myself it will be fine. People have lived there before. I’ll figure out a way. I’m going over there tomorrow, and my 87-year-old landlord and I will clean out some stuff that needs moved and I’ll get a better idea of the spider population, and how big of an angle is that floor? I’ve located a bedframe, because I know from experience you can’t sleep on an angle. I can shim the bed level, at least.

    And I’m going to need help to move, because I’m not supposed to pick up anything heavy, which I already did while packing and am now suffering the consequences. It's hard to hold on to the “everything will be ok” mindset. At least...I got nothing.

    Update: if you’d like to contribute, my PayPal is leannemnorth at gmail. Thanks, DC!

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    I always knew I was depressed, but I didn’t recognize my own anxiety. I thought everyone’s body was like a clenched fist, that everyone had a knot of fire between their shoulder blades. The odd person that’s rubbed my back used to say, “Wow, your back muscles are so strong.” Now it’s “Your back is so tight, it's like rocks.” I’m literally crushing my own spine with stress.

    I didn’t want to be “on the spectrum.” I wanted to be normal, to be like everyone else. As a schoolchild I wanted to not be gifted, to not have any potential up to which I must live. It hurts when people look at me, especially in a crowd. I can feel your eyes upon me, observing my tears and distress, thinking, “What’s wrong with her?” It’s easier to hide. I can hide in many ways: by not leaving the house, for one. As a child I hid by always having my nose in a book. It might have looked like I was in the Albert Harris Middle School Cafeteria being picked on by my peers but really, I was on Prince Edward Island, picking flowers with Anne Shirley. I was making a feathered cape on the Island of Blue Dolphins. I was pouring molten pewter with Johnny Tremain.

    The “hole in the page,” as Stephen King calls it, has gotten harder to find as I age, as my imagination becomes brittle with overuse. But I still hide in Westeros, or in Anne Rice’s New Orleans. I still hide with Anne Shirley, roaming through fields in the PEI of a vanished age.

    What does it feel like? It feels like my mind is a tired little bird, fluttering with exhaustion, looking for a place to perch. But every place I might alight—the past, the present, the future; my family, my child, my friends—there aren’t friendly branches, but razor-sharp dangerous shards of rusty metal, of dirty glass.

    It feels like my head is full of squirrels, running furiously on squeaky exercise wheels, and each one is marked, my career, my relationships, my survival. The squirrels don’t ever stop, the wheels whir relentlessly, but they never go anywhere. It’s just wasted action.

    It feels like I am on one side of a thick, sturdy pane of ice. I can see all of you on the other side, going to the movies with friends, fixing dinner together, celebrating birthdays, grocery-shopping companionably. Watching your children graduate from high school, or go on their first dates. But no one can see me, or hear me, as I scream and pound on the barrier. It’s like I’m not even there. There’s my daughter, nearly unrecognizable at 18, walking to her next class at college. She can’t see me either. Do I even exist?

    Sometimes it feels like I am losing the thread of reality. All of this, after all, is only happening in the two pounds of fat between my ears. So what is real? If matter is mostly empty space, what am I really looking at, what are my “eyes” showing me? Sometimes I am afraid, when I sit down, that the chair won’t be there. When I take another step, the ground will dissolve under my feet. And my movements become guarded.

    And then I wonder, what if I did “go crazy?” Would that be better? Why fight so hard? Insanity seems like a roaring waterfall, that’s just ahead. I swim and swim with all my might, but it’s only enough to keep me from going over. I’m always fighting hard to stay on the edge. Where is the still, small pool where I can rest?

    Right now everything is up in the air, chaos: where am I going to live? How am I going to live? Do I even deserve happiness? Until I get settled again and on my feet, it’s hard to effect personal growth when your concerns are about survival.

    Sometimes the pain is physical. Sometimes the losses hit me—my daughter’s whole childhood, from the first day of kindergarten to her high school graduation, stolen from me, irreplaceable. And my whole body hurts; if I’m standing up, I might crumble to the ground. I might wail senselessly. See my tears; they fill the whole night sky.

    The whole night sky.

    I’m not looking to y’all to fix me; I’m under a doctor’s care and in therapy. Writing about this stuff helps me to get it out, smooth it out, clean it up, and pack it away forever, hopefully. And I’m writing for my daughter, my granddaughter, my great-granddaughter—so they know I was here. I existed. I was worth knowing.

    If you want to help, I’m trying to raise enough money to fix my car and move to a new place. Diaries about that stuff are linked above and my PayPal is leannemnorth at gmail. But your good wishes are even more valuable. Thank you for being my community.

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    Today I took my friend Blue over to meet the garage landlord. She was not impressed. She advised me quite strongly that I would be making a terrible mistake, and I should keep looking, because living there would be little better than being homeless. Then we returned to her house and consulted one of her roommates, who, upon hearing of the conditions, agreed with Blue and pointed out that I still have a month—although one of the men who lives here was harassing me, and I’m afraid he might start again. The girls assured me I’d find something more suitable in time. The elderly guy had offered to move his bed into the living room of his one-bedroom house and let me have the bedroom. But the one bathroom is off the bedroom. Still, if I don’t find something right away it would be, as Blue said, “out of the weather.” She grew up homeless and has lived and suffered in situations just like that, she says. “I can’t let you do that,” she said.

    It’s kind of hard to let go of an idea you’ve gotten pretty invested in, but I let go of this idea quite easily. I know I don’t always make good decisions—too trusting, not good at judging people, not socially intelligent. And I know that many times I have wished that I had listened to my friends when they said, “Have you lost your mind?” Blue is right; it’s not suitable. It’s not habitable. There aren’t enough blankets at all the Goodwills in town to insulate that place.

    I tried not to get too upset, and I didn’t. I only cried a little bit. Then I stopped at the cat rescue thrift shop, where you can pet cats while you look around, and bought a little needlepointed cat for 25 cents. I will make it into a little bag wallet. That distracted me. Then I came home and reposted my craigslist ad, being clear about my financial situation. Already I have heard from one person.

    I am trying not to be harsh with myself for making a mistake. But there was a time I would have followed through on my stupid ideas just because I’m stubborn. Now I can save myself all the hassle and pain that trying to do the wrong thing would cause. And so it’s okay.

    I think becoming a home care worker for Oregon Senior & Disabled Services is still a good idea, even if I go back to work for the agency. I didn’t know that was possible, to be a free agent. I’m sure I can handle the paperwork better than my agency does. It pays better too, to be independent.

    All of this is still going to be rough for a while. I made a mistake because I wanted so badly to be safe. I’ve got to cope with uncertainty a little while longer. Thanks for reading.

    Contribute to my live-indoors fund through PayPal: leannemnorth (at) gmail.

    Thank you so much for your support, prayers, and donations!

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    After making a mistake with the garage thing, I have secured a safe and lovely place to live. It is in a nice quiet neighborhood with big lawns, north of town. My new landlady read my craigslist ad and felt moved to reach out to me, I think. Her home is beautiful, and clean, and full of art. I’ve been living in substandard housing for so long, I’ve forgotten what that’s like. She has three little dogs smaller than Leonard and six cats, all rescues. (Absolutely no cat smell.) Fenced-in back yard, washer & dryer, backyard meditation fountain...I can’t believe I was willing to make do with that filthy unfinished garage. Thank God I took my friend Blue over there. I wish I had not given the guy $300. I made an impulsive decision that turned out to be wrong. At one time in my life, I would have doubled down on the bad decision just out of ego, then found myself in an even more desperate situation a little bit down the road. I am so glad that I’m wise enough now to say,”Whoa, that was a bad idea. I’m not going to do that, I’ll choose a different path.”

    And I still have this self-talk where I always tend to get mad at myself, and it cycles.

    Self: That was stupid! What a stupid, stupid decision.

    Self: Don’t call yourself stupid!

    Self: Don't get mad at yourself, you fucking moron! It’s counterproductive!


    And so on. I have wasted so much time. What about all the good things that lie ahead of you? What about all you’ve lost in the past that’s irreplaceable? What’s the point in reveling in those sad memories, or lack of memories where my daughter’s childhood is concerned? Aren’t you ashamed? You should feel guilty for being a bad mother. You failed. I am sorry that I failed. I’m working to change and grow. I have felt guilty for long enough. You could never suffer enough. I have suffered enough. It’s time to live my life. I have suffered. Enough.

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    At times like this I find myself meditating upon what the world will be like in 500 years or so. It’s really looking like it won’t be pretty and it makes me feel sad for my descendants, and yours, that we’re probably bequeathing them a post-apocalyptic nightmare world. Maybe it will rain all the time. Then it couldn’t be worse.

    I have a hard time getting rid of anything useful, such as containers with lids. I don’t really believe that recycling is going to save us, since I discovered, at a grocery store where I used to work, that our recycling was being shipped to China. “They’re stockpiling it for the post-apocalyptic future,” I thought, and, “It’s really fucked up that our refuse is worth money in other countries, and yet we lock our dumpsters for fear some homeless person right here might prolong their miserable existence in the back of the train that is America by getting some of this day-old bread.” So I keep jars instead of recycling, and I use them as go cups, and overnight oats incubators, and storage of herbs, buttons, beads or whatever. And I still have a stockpile of sturdy containers with tight-fitting lids. When I look at them, I think that someday an item like that will be worth two unlabeled cans of (possibly human) food, or maybe even more! The future person who finds it will be so stoked when they return to their hut and barricade themselves in for the night.

    So every so often, I put a sturdy container with a lid into the trash, for the future garbage miners. Lately, I’ve been including other stuff I have around like matches, needles, newspaper and a note explaining what went wrong: we listened to idiots. And an apology, of course. It makes me feel a little bit better. I don’t recommend that everyone do it, though. We’re throwing away lots of useful stuff and our great-great grandchildren will have no problem finding things to help them survive in our landfills. So hakuna matata, my friends.

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    Hi everybody! I had hoped I’d never have to ask for help again. But being disabled means one never stops needing help, unfortunately, and my family doesn’t claim me. It’s just a small need, $125 for Lenny’s meds and my car insurance. I’m still catching up from unemployment and moving and I just don’t have a dime. Maybe a few of you could send me a dollar or two, if you have it to spare. I would be so grateful and so will Leonard. He’s such a good dog. He goes to work with me and thinks he is a home care worker too! He guards my elderly client, cuddles with him when he naps, barks at Meals on Wheels and generally takes his duties very seriously. My client loves him too and it’s so nice to see his face light up when Lenny arrives and is so excited to see him.

    If you’re following my story, things are improving, slowly. I’m installed in my new clean, healthy home. Thanks to everyone who insisted I could do better than an unfinished garage! My new roommate is helping me figure out a healthier diet and encouraging me to exercise. Yesterday I bought fruit instead of ice cream. Baby steps! I’m going to physical therapy regularly and hope eventually I’ll be able to go hiking, or even grocery shop without a cart to lean on! I finally got to see a psychiatrist and he actually knows a lot about autism. It’s been years since anyone adjusted my meds, so I was afraid he would switch them up too quickly, but he is very thoughtful and talks with me a lot about what we are changing, why, and what I can expect. I’m hopeful the new regimen will reduce my anxiety and irritability and also it is supposed to help with nightmares. I didn’t even know there was a med for nightmares. I’ll see my shrink every other week until I’m better. Thank God for the ACA. Thanks, Obama!

    My friend Blue and I have signed up for a “gentle yoga” class at the counseling center and we are excited to start Monday. It will be nice for us to have a special time together, and I’m hoping a greater mind-body awareness will help me to leave the past behind and live fully in the present. It’s time to lay my burden down.

    I’m also going to counseling regularly. I’m determined to follow through on doing these things that will improve my life, with the goal of someday working as a counselor again. I’ve finally said out loud that my mother was abusive (and I love her, and I want to reconcile), and have begun writing about it, although that is very hard to do. I share these writings with my counselor and we talk about it. I’m writing to save my life, to have a life. I’m writing so my daughter can know me, someday, and if not her, perhaps someday my grandchild will be interested in the family reject. I’m writing because I must. All these thoughts and feelings inside me, I need to express. I need to have my say.

    Paypal is leannemnorth at gmail. Thoughts and prayers cheerfully accepted also!

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    Here in Oregon, which has expanded Medicaid through the ACA, there’s a slice of the population staying poor so we still qualify for the Oregon Health Plan (OHP.) The cut-off income is $1385 monthly. So if a person is willing to limit her income to less than $1400 a month, she can qualify for OHP, as well as SNAP (food stamps.) SNAP is nearly $200 a month for one person, so that’s a significant benefit. But for me, a middle-aged woman with multiple health issues, having free health care represents an even larger benefit when counted in co-pays.

    The minimum wage here is $10.25. I make $12 an hour, so I can work 28 hours a week, though my job gives me only 25 hours. My current job as a senior/disabled home care worker doesn’t offer health insurance, but some do. If I worked 40 hours a week at a job with employer-provided coverage, I’d be just over the line, and I’d lose SNAP and OHP, but have Blue Cross or whatever. So I’d have to pay co-pays on all the medical services I receive. I’m in physical therapy, mental health counseling, and seeing a PNP twice a month. I have spinal stenosis and arthritis, so chronic pain is an issue, and I see my primary care doc every other month or so. I take 8 medications on a regular basis. I couldn’t afford to take a full-time job with benefits that paid less than about $20 an hour, or around $40,000 a year, just to maintain my current standard of living.

    As for me, twenty-five hours a week feels like full-time, because I’m disabled, so I don’t mind the reduced hours. Taking care of myself by accessing health care is like another part-time job. And since I’m disabled, and suckling at the public teat, I don’t expect to live in luxury. I don’t mind living simply. But if I were younger and more ambitious, I might regard this as an untenable situation, placing constraints on my ability to work, buy a house and such, and still have access to health care. Or I might just work as much as I wanted and think, “I probably won’t get sick.” Until I break my leg skiing or contract some awful disease.

    A nice side effect of expanding health care is that it drives the economy. My job as a home care worker is a health care benefit for my client. Lots of people are employed in providing universal health care. Back in SC I didn’t know one single HCW, but here it’s a common job.

    Universal health care is simply the only thing that makes sense, and now people can see that. That’s why nearly everyone supports the idea when it’s phrased just so. I think everyone should have no co-pays. Nobody should be making medical decisions based on what they can afford to spend on prescriptions and visits to practitioners. I’m so grateful that I don’t have to decide if I can afford it when my counselor suggests a yoga class, or when my PNP changes my meds. I want everyone to have health care like mine. After the GOP falls apart, let’s have universal health care like the rest of the civilized world.

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    I’ve always loved fireworks. I grew up near DC, and more years than not I spent July 4th there as an adult. I’m super patriotic, like most progressives, so I cry every year. On the night of July 4, 1998, you sprang into existence in Brookings, Oregon. At the time I was very happy; I was newly in love with your father, and working as a counselor for teenagers, in a beautiful Oregon coast town.  I was fairly happy during your gestational period although your father did leave town in October. I’ll write about the circumstances around that another time.

    That winter, I went to a conference in Eastern Oregon, and as I lived west of the Cascades (like I do now) I got to cross the mountains. The Cascades are beautiful any time of year. I bought a new CD for the trip, the Indigo Girls’ 1200 Curfews. I really loved “The Power of Two” and sang the chorus to you all the time, before and after you were born.

    You see, I thought everything was going to be fine, I was enjoying my pregnancy. I had a good job, nice car, nice place to live on the freaking Oregon coast, and I was super excited to meet you. I was not at all bummed to be a single mother. I was going to take you to work with me, and my teens were looking forward to having a baby around. I sang to you, “So we’re okay. We’re fine. Baby, I’m here to stop your crying…”


    The weather was nice going out (for me this means cloudy but not raining,) so I stopped at my favorite place, Cougar Hot Springs, for a quick dip. It was a weekday, so I had the place to myself. In later years this visit became my happy place. There’s a short hike off the road to reach it, going up and down into little valleys full of ferns. It was a bit foggy and misty, cool. I reached the changing area and quickly shucked my boots and clothes, hanging them on the hooks there. Then I picked my way over the rocks to the coolest pool (I was pregnant, after all) and settled in. Just as I relaxed and laid my head back, looking up into the evergreens, It. Began. To Snow. I could hear the sound of thousands of snowflakes hitting the trees and ground and the surface of the warm water. Years later I returned to this place, this feeling of serenity, again and again in my mind.

    After soaking for a few minutes, I returned to my trip. Just as I pulled the car out and headed back toward the highway, I felt you move for the first time. I pulled over and stopped. It was the most amazing feeling. Before, you had been something of an abstraction, but here was incontrovertible truth: there was a tiny human being in my belly, soon to join us in this vale of tears. “Hello, baby,” I whispered to you, my hand on my tummy. “Hello. Please be a girl.” I swore to you that I would always take care of you, that you would know you were loved. I wanted you to have what I hadn’t had, your mother’s love. And that you have always had, whether you knew it or not.

    This is an excerpt from a multimedia experience I’m creating for my daughter (if she reads it.) I would love your feedback and your support as I embark upon this emotionally difficult project. New! I made a Patreon, if you’d like to support me with a few dollars each month, I surely would appreciate it. Be the first and get a prize!

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    Today I thought I would go look at the river and have some quiet, contemplative time. But when I was walking through the park, a man greeted me, and I failed to respond with the right sort of delight and gratitude, so he yelled things like “Fucking bitch” at me as I walked away. It rattled me. I’m already feeling delicate since it’s a holiday, and I’m estranged from my family, and it’s my daughter’s 19th birthday. She didn’t answer the phone or respond to my text. Hell, she could have a new phone number for all I know. I’m writing a blog for her, if you’d like to read along.

    It made me think about the fact that Trump isn’t the problem; he’s a symptom. I develop such ire toward the man. If thoughts could kill...then Pence would be president. Donald is not just a rotten apple. The whole barrel is rotten, and it may corrupt all within. Including some guy at the park who thinks he has the right to scream obscenities at a woman who didn’t smile warmly enough at him. Getting fat doesn’t help. Getting old doesn’t help. It doesn’t matter what you wear. I’m sick of it and I want a new barrel, one not made of white male privilege and greed.

    In other news, my last paycheck bounced, and my SNAP has been cut off by a clerical error. I’ve been calling and calling and I’m sure eventually it will get straightened out; I’m a casualty of the new ABAWD restrictions, where you can’t get food if you fail to work a certain number of hours. I’ve been working, so I should be able to straighten it out, but it’s easy to see why these policies cost more than they save. Also, do we really want to starve people who can’t find work at all? Should unemployed people or those engaged in temp work have to continuously prove that they are, really and truly, being as industrious as they are capable of being? Does the whole process have to be as humiliating as possible?

    As for my paycheck, I’m tired of this. Tomorrow is payday, I’m down to $2, and I shouldn’t be wondering whether or not I’ll get paid, if it’ll be for the right amount, or even my own check, instead of someone else’s, and whether I’ll even be able to cash it, should I by some chance actually receive a check. I plan to get my own provider number, so I can be an independent home care worker. There are a few hoops to jump through, which I can do in ten weeks. If I get paid. I have to get fingerprinted for the umpteenth time and attend an orientation. Maybe some other fee. But then I’ll get a $2.50 raise. Per hour! I’m basically paying my agency $250 a month to fuck with my head about getting paid.

    I’m tired. It’s so hard to keep one’s chin up, isn’t it? I try to be cheerful and perky and get along with everyone and serve my community and do the right thing, and I just keep getting handed a pile of shit in return. If it wasn’t for you guys, I’d...well, you make me feel a lot less alone. Even when I can’t connect with anyone IRL, I still have you, Dear Reader. For that you have all of my gratitude, from the depths of my dark charred little heart.

    Follow along on my journey with “Dear Daughter,” my book in progress about the mother-daughter wound. Feedback welcomed.

    Want to throw a few bucks in my metaphorical guitar case through PayPal at leannemnorth(at) It’s MUCH appreciated by me and my wonderwoozle Leonard! We’ll definitely use it to buy food!

    Become my first patron through Patreonand get a special prize!

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    Hello, Republican friends and neighbors and relatives. How are y’all? I hope you’re hanging in there. I miss you. I submit to you there are only two kinds of Republicans, and I only need to ask you one question to accurately predict which you are. Here it is:

    1.  Are you incredibly wealthy?

    I’m guessing you aren’t, in fact, incredibly wealthy. The two kinds of Republicans are Rich Greedy Assholes and Those Who’ve Been Duped. If you aren’t a RGA, consider that you may have been fooled by going on forty years of relentless right-wing propaganda. As it turns out, Fox News and all those other guys have been lying to you. They’ve taught you to hate me, your relative, your friend. Members of your party suggest killing us all the time. And people are dying, a few, here and there, mostly there. Ask yourself, is that really what you want? Aren’t you tired of the hatred? Do you seriously think that I’m subhuman or evil or something? Because I’m not. Progressives, liberals, feminists, the poors: we’re people just like you. We need to work together to save ourselves.

    In fact, lots of us are Christians, and even more follow the teachings of Christ whether they know it or not. I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but Republicans can’t be Christians, as it stands today. The GOP party platform is at odds with Jesus Christ in nearly every way I can imagine. If you think you are a Republican and a Christian at the same time, with love I suggest you re-read the Gospels plus Acts and reflect on what “Love everyone, no exceptions” really means; if it can include deporting human beings to certain death. Torture. War. Spitting on brown children. Corruption. Amorality. Humiliating the poor, instead of caring for them. “If you love me, feed my sheep,” He said, over and over. Don’t you remember that part? The humility, the generosity of feeling, the Christ?

    So once you figure out you’ve been duped, now what? You might change your media diet, start seeking out reliable sources of information. If you wonder why progressives seem to love science so much, it’s not a religious thing at all. It’s kind of the opposite of a religious thing. Science is a method of determining whether things are true or not. After a long grueling process we consider these theories to be facts. Like, is the sky blue for a reason? Why are plants green? What is wood made of? Would common-sense gun control legislation decrease the number of children shot to death, per capita? How much money would we save if we switched to renewable energy, counting all the jobs it would create? These are all questions that can be answered with science.

    There will be a lot to learn, and as you enter progressive communities, you may feel judged or criticized a lot. I’m sorry about that. Hopefully most people will recognize that you’re a recovering Republican and not give you shit about the stuff you don’t know yet. Because you have a lot to (un)learn, frankly. And we need you to catch up quickly so we can start dealing with the myriad crises which face not just our nation, but the whole world.

    We’re all Americans. We’re mostly working people. We love our kids and want the best for our families. As human beings, are we not all one human family? When my brother is hungry or my sister is in jail, if my nephew is homeless or my grandpa has untreated chronic pain, that’s a problem that deserves my full attention right away. Within families, we work those problems; we come together, we don’t leave anybody behind. There are no throwaway people. If you think you are superior to any other “kind” of human, you’re quite simply wrong. It’s not an opinion that can be tolerated, like a preference for Weird Al or bacon ice cream. It’s up to you to learn that you are just one little part of a great big whole: the one human family. Wishing and doing ill to others is wrong. I’m sorry you’ve forgotten that. I wish no ill towards you.

    In fact, we welcome you. I know how hard it is to admit you’ve been wrong, and try to live a different way. For human beings, it is one of the hardest things to do. But relieving that cognitive dissonance will make you a much happier person. You won’t even want to hate anyone. Because the world is a good place, and we can make it better if we work together. Let’s get started!

    Support my work via Patreon

    or toss a buck in the kitty here

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    I’ve always processed emotion by writing. When I want to really communicate with someone, I write to them. For me, only writing feels like I’m fully expressing my thoughts and feelings. When I’m speaking to someone, there is too much else going on that I’m trying to process, like body language, facial expression, all that stuff that’s so confounding to me. This is entirely because of my Asperger’s. I’m very high functioning and lucky enough to have been blessed with a high IQ, which often seems to go along with Asperger’s. I also got help in elementary school which helped me learn to blend in better. My parents either didn’t know or didn’t accept that I was on the spectrum. I think they overestimated how much of an advantage a high IQ confers. If she’s that smart, they reasoned, she can just overcome this social awkwardness, difficulty in communicating thing. They didn’t understand, which at the time would have not been unusual. The autism spectrum was not something that everyone knew about, like it is now. I consider it my superpower, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. But it is disabling, particularly in relationships. I think that’s why I have so few. I wish my parents had known more about Asperger’s.

    I get frustrated in emotional conversations, because I feel like I can’t communicate what I’m really feeling. Often I don’t know what I’m really feeling. It takes me time to process new information that’s emotionally intense. Or if too much is happening at once: it’s a loud busy place, for example, I might freeze and then not be able to say anything at all. If I get very frustrated, I will cry. A lot of male Aspies have this explosive anger thing. I have explosive crying instead. There’s probably other stuff that I do, too, and it all combines to make talking to me very awkward sometimes. I just get too overwhelmed, start crying, and really at that point need to take a break so I can regulate my emotions. If my loved one/boss insists on continuing the conversation, I just get more freaked out and unable to process my emotions and cry more. A lot of people have hated me because of it. But I’ve come to understand that I can’t help it. If people are patient, and accommodating, then I’m able to form a bond with them. This is why Aspies hate talking on the phone, by the way. It’s very disabling in terms of relationships.

    I know it’s pretty rare for someone my age, with all the advantages I have had, to be so thoroughly socially isolated. I’ve had such a hard time maintaining relationships, that I have like two friends, and none of my family have really shown much interest in me since Grandmother and Granddaddy died. Of course, there’s the estrangement from my parents, and you. It breaks my heart. It broke Grandmother’s heart too. She wanted so badly for Mother and I to be close, and for you and I to be closer.

    As a small child I was terrified of both my parents, Mother especially; I didn’t know them. Being separated from my grandparents was very traumatic for me, as I’m sure being separated from me was traumatic for you. It’s a traumatic childhood event for anyone. We were both five when it happened. I don’t know what kind of effect this has had on you; I’m still working on understanding what happened to me. I wish I knew what happened to you, but I really don’t. Mother never told me anything. I wasn’t able to communicate effectively with her. She shut me out.

    It feels like a betrayal to be writing “bad things” about Mother. I feel angry at myself, as if I deserve punishment. That is a fucked-up, self-defeating behavior, but these things from my childhood are pretty hard-wired. Becoming aware of your own fucked-up, self-defeating behaviors is amazingly difficult. Some people never manage it. I hope you will choose to become aware, though the path is more difficult.

    I also don’t want to hurt your relationship with your grandparents. They fell in love with you at first sight, and seemed to cherish you throughout your childhood. I’m not aware of any kind of abusive behaviors they might have subjected you to, except Mother’s sarcasm; I’m sure you didn’t miss out on that. But they appear to have taken excellent care of you, you seem devoted to them, and I don’t want to mess that up.

    You see, people change over time. I’m not the same person now, at 48, that I was when you were five and I was 35. I was a completely different person then. Mother and Daddy were completely different people forty years ago, different parents, than they were for you. Grandmother and Granddaddy were different parents for Mother, than they were for me, when they had already raised three girls and gotten older and wiser and more mellow. You’re probably changing a lot right now, as you leave your childhood home and start making a life out in the world. I can’t wait to see how you unfold and blossom and what direction life takes you.

    I’m trying to be fair and truthful and honest; to take accountability without blaming myself too much, as is my wont. This is a very fine line to follow. How reliable a narrator am I? Hopefully, much more reliable now that I’m older and wiser and dedicated to following truth, wherever it may lead. It’s hard to know yourself. It seems like it would be the easiest thing. But we lie to ourselves so easily, so frequently, we humans. We are each our own worst enemy.

    So I want to communicate with the people I love, with you and Mother and Daddy. But I can’t. This so frustrating that I’m always explaining things to you inside my head. I have to write it down, to get it out where I can make sense of it. I started writing letters to Mother and Daddy before I was ten. They didn’t seem to read them, though; at least there was never a response. I stopped trying, I think, eventually, but not for years. It was like there was a wall there that I couldn’t get through. I picture this wall as translucent but distorting, like a thick piece of ice.

    Writing to you is the only way I know of getting through that wall. It has always been the only way I know of really communicating how I feel. I know I’m hard to love, that it takes extra effort. I think maybe everybody is hard to love, not just people on the spectrum. Love is just hard. It takes effort. And I feel compelled to write, like maybe you feel compelled to make art, or whatever your interests are now. I know I’m also compelled to make stuff. I bet you are too.

    So I’m writing it and I’m sharing it. I’ve no idea what you feel about this, or about anything really. I’m not including any identifying info, and sharing it with disinterested outsiders with no dog in this hunt, mostly to get feedback on my writing so I can improve. Maybe you will never read it, and I’ll have to get it published and preserve it for future generations. Maybe no-one related to me will ever read it. But I think that writing it helps me, and I need all the help I can get. It’s very difficult though, emotionally.

    Read “Dear Daughter”

    Support me on Patreon

    Trump cancelled my food stamps. Want to throw a buck in the kitty via Paypal so I can eat? Thanks!

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    My SNAP got cancelled, and I’m hungry. It was a clerical error, caused by the new work requirements that went into effect January 1. Although I’ve been working all along, I now have to prove, with three months’ of pay stubs obtained from my famously incompetent employer, that I was actually grubbing along at my low-wage job the whole time, like most SNAP recipients. Perhaps eventually I will get SNAP back, but in the meantime, the Republicans have succeeded in throwing millions of people off food stamps, including me. Because I make so little, and am disabled, my SNAP benefits are an essential part of my budget. I had to pay for an emergency car repair, so not getting food stamps this month means I can’t afford food. I’m kind of freaking out about it.

    I’m good with paperwork; I keep everything current and do whatever is required. I’ve attended job-search seminars to keep my benefits, made calls, submitted forms, showed up in person, and got cancelled anyway. What if my health care benefits get cancelled? I don’t have the emotional energy to worry about that. It’s a nightmare, right here, right now. In a blue state. Run by Democrats.

    It’s not just me having this problem. I’ve talked to lots of people who are having problems with their Medicaid, Medicare, SNAP, and other benefits. It’s as if DHS has been instructed to use whatever reason they can find to cancel benefits. Now it’s up to me to fight to get it back, which I will, eventually. But many people don’t have the emotional resources that I have (you), and simply give up, thinking nobody cares, thinking they aren’t deserving of even a simple life, thinking they can’t fight a system that seems determined to punish and humiliate the poor. Now you can lose your SNAP if you don’t earn ENOUGH. They’ll take your food if you’re sick and can’t work, for example, or if you get laid off, or your work hours temporarily drop. If your income drops below about $950, no more food for you, you lazy bastards.

    Every time I hear a liberal say, “Maybe Trump is a good thing, he’s bringing all these resisters out...” NO. PEOPLE ARE DYING. PEOPLE ARE SUFFERING. Human beings, our brothers and sisters, are being deported to certain death. Children are being separated from their parents. Disabled people and seniors are not getting their survival needs met. It’s an atrocity happening on the American soil we hold so dear.

    If you have it to spare and you want to help me, just send me a dollar or two via Paypal. I will be most grateful. I don’t need much, just enough for this week to supplement whatever I can get from the food bank. But it’s not just me. Our family is suffering; we need help. Post a freeway sign; attend a resistance meeting; call your congresscritters; run for office; VOTE. Do anything and everything. But mostly, when you see a homeless person today, when you see an immigrant or person of color being hassled, let us know you care. Look us in the eye and say something kind. Let us know you can see us and hear us. Because silence really does equal death. And sometimes we wonder: is there anybody out there?

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    I worry about becoming homeless again. Maybe everyone who has been homeless has this worry, like a PTSD symptom. As I grow older, this sense of impending doom heightens: at some point, I won’t be able to work any more. Because of my struggles to survive, I don’t own a home; have never even come close to anything like that. There’s no reason to think this will change; there doesn’t seem to be another option besides renting rooms in other people’s homes. Rent is just money down the drain; I’m spending roughly $6000 a year on rent, with no return on my investment.

    Another problem with renting a room is the lack of privacy. I like my housemate, we get along fine, but I need more privacy to be mentally healthy, a space of my own. Something that cannot be taken away from me. I used to want a tiny house, and that would be lovely, but tiny houses cost nearly as much as real houses these days. And what is a camper but a tiny house on wheels? I’ve been thinking that maybe my goal should be an old camper or RV. I love this idea! You can get an old camper pretty cheaply these days, definitely for less than a year’s rent, if you don’t care about slide-outs. I could re-do the interior, if needed, to a custom style with less kitchen and more craft studio. I hang out in my bed like a medieval lord, but I do need space for sewing machines, an ironing board, supplies.

    I see myself in a little RV, fitted out to my peculiar needs, with “Custom Sewing” on the side, tooling down the road to some coastal park. I see myself setting up folding tables outside under my awning to baste a quilt or do other large projects. I see my little home parked on some friendly person’s land where I can enjoy nature instead of neighbors. I see myself traveling, if I choose, or staying put, if that’s what I want. I see myself spending the summer going to craft fairs to sell all the things I made when I was tucked up on someone’s farm for the winter. I see me never being homeless again, instead feeling secure and safe in my little rolling cabin. I see me post-apocalypse, journeying village to village, repairing textiles. 

    I dream an achievable dream. Here in the PNW, there are more campers, trailers, fifth wheels, and RV’s than there are families. In my neighborhood, every driveway has at least one. Craigslist’s RV section offers a multitude for sale, some incredibly cheaply. I don’t have $6000, or even $1800, but I am resourceful. Maybe I could even find someone who’d rent-to-own their old RV, leaving it on their property until it’s paid off over a year. I need to make sure I choose the right one.

    I need your advice. Y’all have never steered me wrong. I may not have family, but I have the collected wisdom of a million Kossacks. And that’s invaluable. I know so little about RVs I don’t even know what questions to ask, but I do have a few.

    • Should it be a drivey or a draggy? The kind you drive around is more expensive, but if I got a trailer, I’d have to have it moved wherever I wanted to go. But the engine might break down. More maintenance, more freedom. Still, a small one would not be hard to move, just find someone with a truck. And post-apocalypse, it could be moved by horses.
    • How big should it be? I definitely don’t need a whole bus; I’m accustomed to living in 200 square feet. But I’d like as much room as I can get without sacrificing other advantages, like ease of parking. Is it harder to find a place to park it if it’s really long? What’s the optimal size for roominess plus maneuverability?
    • Are there styles or brands to avoid? Maybe a fifth-wheel is a bad idea because it can only be moved by a special truck? I have no idea.
    • What other questions am I too uninformed to think of?

    I’d love to hear your opinions and get your advice. I’m sure many of you have used RVs or even lived in one. You have the wisdom I need! Please share it!

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    Read the blog I’m writing for my estranged child, Dear Daughter

    Thanks for reading!

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    Originally published at my blog Dear Daughter

    I’ve been putting off trying to write this. I can’t write it without making myself look bad, and I can’t write it without making Mother and Daddy look bad. It was a sunken-place time in my life, I was in terrible pain, I didn’t get the help that I needed from my parents. Instead they used it as an opportunity to take you away from me. Then they kept me away from you and destroyed our bond. I tried my hardest. But it was beyond my control.

    There’s no use pretending that I am not flawed; I’m deeply flawed. But I am a good person and I have a good heart. I’m not selfish or vindictive. I was obviously born with the neurologically diverse condition I call Asperger’s; it’s technically now High Functioning Autism, or you might use the more graceful term “on the spectrum.” The main reason I know that I was born this way is that I was a spontaneous reader; I taught myself to read before I was three. This is not uncommon but it is unusual. I think I was also born with a tendency to mild mental illness; depression seems to run in our family. This was exacerbated by lack of support around my mental health as a child, which I experienced as traumatic. I had other strengths upon which to draw, and I think if I’d had sufficient support and encouragement, there’s no reason I could not have led a normal, healthy life: married, raised my kids, had a career. And it’s not too late for happiness, I do know that.

    I can’t be entirely happy without you, though. Things are pretty stable for me now but there is always a daughter-shaped hole in my life: this wound. I have to think there is a Mommy-shaped hole in your life also, even if you don’t want to deal with it right now; I think you have this wound as well as other wounds I don’t even know about. Shitty things happen in life, it’s guaranteed. More shitty things will unfortunately happen to you in the future. I want to know about these things and be there to help you along. Because you’re going to need all the help you can get, trust me

    I always had trouble forming and maintaining relationships. It’s not because I’m a bad person. It’s because of my autism. I very much want to have close, warm relationships with people, and I am capable of doing that. I had it with Grandmother all my life, I’ve had it with friends, and I had it with you until you were five.

    I didn’t understand or accept my condition until pretty recently. When my doctor first suggested it, I was not at all receptive. But I knew there was something different about me, even as a kid: I was really smart. I had a lot of potential, Mother said. This was revealed when I started first grade, because I could read. I think I was reading at about a high-school level. Years later, my elementary school principal told me he’d expected me to become a rocket scientist or something. “I’d never seen anything like it,” he told me when I was about 20. “I couldn’t find anything in my office that you couldn’t read. Finally I gave you a [scholarly] journal and you had trouble with that. But you could read the newspaper, you could read the encyclopedia, no problem. We didn’t know what to do with you.”

    Maybe nobody suggested that I was anything more than intelligent. But based on my experience as a counselor and educator, I’m pretty sure someone must have suggested to my parents that I was “special.” I know the school was providing me with services designed to help me manage my autism, because I remember them. It was in grad school that I first began to suspect I might be on the spectrum, because I was learning techniques that made me think, “Wait a minute. I did that in elementary school! Did they think I was…? Must have.” The more I learned about psychology, the more I learned about myself, the more I realized that there was something messed up about the way I was raised. Well, it was a long time ago, and people were much less informed and accepting about mental illness.

    But Mother’s insistence on my “potential,” along with their reluctance to accept my developing mental illness issues, or psychology as a valid field at all, makes me think that she listened when they talked about my intelligence and shut down when they talked about my deficits. I never got any counseling because she didn’t believe in counseling. She believed that I was smart enough to overcome anything I wanted to overcome. And being smart has been a huge plus. But I needed help and support as a child that I didn’t get at home. The school snuck in some social-skills training while I was in elementary school, then put me in gifted classes and hoped for the best. I became an anxious, depressed child who grew into an anxious, validation-seeking teenager and then became an anxious, depressed, validation-seeking, self-deluding young adult. I was boy-crazy and had terribly low self-esteem. I was in pain and I didn’t even know it.

    So  as I became a grown-up, I had a shitty relationship with my parents, very few friends, trouble with romantic relationships. When you were born I was so happy with you, I just fell in love with you. We moved to South Carolina and I tried to build a life. I loved my job as a counselor at the Governor’s School; you loved the “big kids” too. But as the years went on I became lower and lower. I knew I needed to move to a bigger town, but my parents were not receptive to this idea. There weren’t any counselors, for example. I tried various things to help myself, and asked several times for my parents’ help, but they refused me. I fell in with a crazy Pentecostal church, which really messed with my head. After a bad break-up, I became so depressed. I’d developed an opiate addiction as a result of my doctor overprescribing for my migraines. (I don’t have migraines now, I think it was stress.) I was trying to treat it myself, stepping down off the pills, but it wasn’t working. I realized I would have to go to a hospital. You went to your grandparents’ house. I thought it would be three months, then they’d give you back, but while I was in the hospital, Mother tricked me into signing away custody. There’s just no nicer way to put it. She told me that you were sick, and in order for you to receive medical care, I needed to sign this form she was faxing me and fax it back right away. Of course I did as she asked. It broke me when I realized they intended to keep you.

    I wonder how you experienced this time. You couldn’t have understood what was happening; I certainly didn’t. I have faced the fact that you must have cried for me, and I wasn’t there. I know you wanted to talk to me because every time I called you, you would ask me to give Grandmother my phone number; apparently you were asking to call me and they were telling you, “Oh no, we don’t have her number.” I sent a thick stack of cards that were returned unopened. But I couldn’t tell you the truth. You were so little and I felt like I had been such a bad mother. You had surgery on your Achilles tendons during that first year and thinking about you being in the hospital and in pain and asking for me just tortured me. It still does. But the worst was, at some point you gave up asking for me. The pain of that is overwhelming.

    Meanwhile, the Great Recession was keeping me from finding another good job. At first I had a counseling job and I thought I could get you back. I tried for five years, turning my whole soul and being into the project of getting you back. Finally I even had your room ready, painted and decorated. But I failed. I had to accept that you belonged to my parents now, that was your home. I fell apart. I was barely staying housed. The job situation got worse and worse; my health deteriorated. An abusive man took advantage of me and stole my car. It became nearly impossible for me to see you. I bounced around South Carolina. And then finally I moved to Oregon, and things started to get better.

    Except for this wound, of course.

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    I took Leonard to the vet today to get his butt squeezed. As you know, he’s formerly unhoused, and at some point suffered a butt gland infection so he has a lot of scar tissue in one of his anal glands. Yeah, it’s completely disgusting. So every two months he goes in to the vet, because the groomer can’t do it, and they, um, evacuate them. He cries and cries, it’s awful. It must be painful, I can only imagine. But it just takes a second and then he’s good to go. Usually.

    When I first got him the vet warned me this might happen, that he might have to have the bad gland removed eventually, if it got infected again. That day has arrived. We go to the low-income vet so it will be somewhat cheaper; the vet said plan on around $500. He has to go back for a real exam to set up the surgery, which the vet told me is routine, but I will have to clean him carefully afterwards, and...this is terrible. I just googled it and it sounds awful. Maybe he should get a second opinion. Going to a regular vet always seems to cost around $300 for Lenny. But it doesn’t sound like this is something to be entered into lightly.

    Either way, I am broke. If you’ve been following my story, you’ll recall my food stamps were recently cut—to $15. A month. I was getting $194 so that leaves a pretty big gap in my budget. I’m having to make less healthy food choices. You may recall that I’m on a sort of voluntary poverty disability plan experiment(for real disability, I’d have to not work for a year, HA! HA!) and so my income is limited to what won’t get me kicked off Oregon’s expanded Medicaid. Rents are high here, I pay half of my income for my rented room. It doesn’t leave much, after bills. I’m estranged from my family and my Asperger’s makes it difficult for me to form relationships. This community has lifted me up in so many ways. I try to give back in every way I can. To me, these are real relationships. Y’all are my family.

    Why is Lenny the WonderWoozle?

    • He’s a caregiver. He goes with me to work and my client just lights up when he sees him. He plays with him in his wheelchair, and when he takes a nap, Lenny curls up next to him. The other day, my client was calling me, but I couldn’t hear him. Lenny came and got me! What a good dog!
    • He’s a survivor. Lenard came off the street when he was five. He went through three foster homes that couldn’t deal with him before he came to me, fat and anxious. All he needed was love and play, and now he’s a completely normal dog. Well. He’s a weird dog. But I love him.
    • He loves everybody. My client says, “Lenny will lay down with anybody.” It’s true, he loves everybody he meets, even if he does bark at bearded men in hats. He just wants to cuddle. He’s so fun to pet because he obviously appreciates it so much.

    So I am humbly asking, if you have it to spare, could you throw a couple bucks into Lenny’s vet fund? I’m pretty worried, he keeps trying to chew on his butt, and I know that it’s hurting him. You can paypal me at leannemnorth(at) Or click here

    The good news is, sometime in June I will start working for the county Senior and Disabled Services instead of my current incompetent agency, and that will come with a $2.50 an hour raise! It will get me right up to the income limit to keep my healthcare, and it will offset the loss of the food stamps. I’m hoping if I budget carefully, I can be self-sufficient. It’s painful to have to ask for help. If you are in my same boat, I appreciate your thoughts and prayers too. Someday things will be better. We have to believe that.

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    When we last spoke, a vet had said he might need to have his bad anal gland removed, and I wanted to seek a second opinion. Thanks to everyone who contributed to Lenny’s vet fund! The new vet said he thought surgery was too drastic. She recommended expressing the glands weekly for a few weeks and put him on an antibiotic just to be sure, but she thinks maybe his old scar tissue made it seem worse to the other vet. He certainly seems fine. Lenny and my elderly client have developed a game involving growling at each other enthusiastically. He gets so excited he runs around the living room, in his wheelchair. Leonard too.

    So hopefully we have averted the potential surgery, although a weekly tech visit will not be pleasant for anyone involved. But it is worth it, as Lenny is a angel in fur, and I don’t know what I would do without him. I think his vet fund will hold out. I’m moving next week. It should all work out OK.

    Things are kinda bad right now for me emotionally but I’m hoping they’ll get better soon. Like I have the mental health flu, it will take time to recover. Don’t worry, I made an appointment to see my PNP. I’m just sad. For some reason I’m very aware of happy families around me, and I’m feeling very alone. One friend’s phone is turned off and the other is mad at me for reasons I don’t understand. Hurting people hurt people. I’m trying to be kind and gentle to everyone with whom I interact. But I know my autism is really affecting me right now. It’s hard. Life is hard. The struggle. It is real. Shalom, y’all.

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