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  • 08/11/15--05:58: Bags are Packed, Ready to Go
  • Hey y'all! I'm up early this morning, all excited because I fly to Oregon today. It was just about a month ago that I wrote the blog that started this whole thing. I could not have done it without your support, because I did not have much support on the ground here. People were mad at me for leaving. It was difficult. But as Elsa sings in the great film Frozen,"Its funny how some distance makes everything seem small. And the fears that once controlled me can't get to me at all. It's time to see what I can do, to test the limits and break through. No right, no wrong, no rules for me....I'm free..."

    It will shock you to discover, I am sure, that I am a flawed human being with all sorts of foibles and quirks, character flaws and so forth. There have been times over the past month when I was seized by fear and doubt. But I remembered Shackleton, going on in the face of certain destruction with a smile, and I heard him whisper to me from last-century Antarctica, "Never give up..." and so I kept going, pinched nerve and all. I had a plan that I had worked out with advice from my elders, so I trusted that plan and followed it, and now everything has been taken care of and this evening I will be going to bed on the left coast.

    My revolution starts now. And the hard work starts now as well, finding a home and a job and a circle of friends in Eugene. This will be difficult and require much effort from me in ways that are not always comfortable for me, like being social and making small talk with lots of strangers. Filling out dozens of job applications with the same information and making eye contact with managers while offering a firm handshake. Looking at houses and apartments and trying to read potential housemates in a ten-minute meeting.

    It will also be fun and exciting and twenty degrees cooler than South Carolina. I remember how the fog hangs low on the cedars. I remember the quality  of light and the way the air smelled. I look forward to getting to know my new home.

    The way I've been feeling the past few days reminds me of when I first started skydiving. It's such a sensory overload when they open the door of the plane ten thousand feet up and you feel the wind and the cold rushing through and it just seems impossible that you might jump out. Laughable. But there you are, booted foot on the step, gloved hands on the strut, outside the plane and away, even though the whole time part of your mind is screaming NO NO NO NO NO. You're terrified, but you go on in spite of the fear. That is how we do as human beings. It's amazing, really, that we can ignore our instincts that way and leap into the unknown even if mortal peril seems certain. It is how progress happens.

    So send me your vibrations of lovingkindness, your prayers and meditations and kindly thoughts. They will be my parachute as I exit the plane of Columbia for the madly rushing sensory overload of Eugene. Here we go!

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  • 08/19/15--15:11: Finding Myself in Oregon
  • I have now been in Oregon for a week, and it is completely amazing! I arrived last Tuesday and was met at the airport by my Air BnB host, Annemarie, who whisked me off to a comfortable room. It is just beautiful here, with blue skies and warm temperatures, but I keep hearing the natives comment on the smoke in the air. I can see it too, when I look at the distant horizon, a brownish layer in the air. It's the wildfires all over the Northwest. When I lived in Oregon years ago, I kept remarking on how green everything was. Now, the Emerald City is more yellow and brown. Some of this is because it's August, and soon the rains will begin and things will get greener. But the drought makes itself felt here in an obvious way. The wildfires are getting close.

    It's like a different country here compared to South Carolina. In the South, when I see a person who is sporting some visual cue of a progressive mindset in their clothing, accessories, or body modification, I am cheered. I have a feeling of, "There goes another of my tribe." I feel safer, just a bit. I think this is a very human thing; although we value our uniqueness, we also want to feel included. Here in Eugene, nearly everyone I see looks like a member of my tribe. My tribe includes alt folks of many, many stripes, spots, and plaids; all of the denizens of the Island of Misfit Toys and their families, friends, and allies. So many people are flying a freak flag of one subculture or another, it has the effect of making everybody look familiar to me. Add to that the West Coast habit of cheerful greetings to strangers and I feel right at home here, very welcomed.

    I really enjoyed Saturday Market! I was entirely blown away, became overwhelmed, and had to back off and observe for a while with a delicious cucumber juice. I cannot believe they do this every week! It's the most amazing craft fair and farmer's market ever. It's like a giant Grateful Dead concert venue parking lot, but with more vegetables and old people. It was incredibly crowded. I will have to strategically attend very early to avoid the chaos. All of the beautiful handcrafted things made me brainstorm about what I could someday make and sell. While there, I ran into the Bernie people and exchanged contact info with them. Apparently there are a few more people involved here than back in SC.

    I rented a temporary room from a gentleman named Charlie who owns several rental properties. He's a world traveler who enjoys exotic destinations on the cheap. Now that he has Obamacare, there's no need for him to hold down a regular job for the health insurance. He can work when he needs to and travel as much as he likes. Thanks, Democrats!

    I've been learning my way around town and making new friends. One challenge that I have is a pinched nerve in my neck. Thanks to the lovely Kossacks, I was able to seek medical attention for this, because the pain is excruciating and debilitating. Because I can't straighten my neck, interacting with strangers is awkward. When I meet a new person, I have to explain my scrunched-up posture right away. The doctor said that yes, it is really bad, maybe a ruptured disc, and I need an MRI right away, and until then, DO NOT ride a bicycle, or do anything bumpy, and rest it and ice it and BE VERY CAREFUL. So I am trying to follow those directions while still doing the footwork toward finding a permanent home, a temporary job, and eventually a professional job. I have already applied for Oregon Health Plan, and that's about all I can do toward getting an MRI. In the meantime, I am gaining valuable experience that will help me to understand people who live with chronic pain. It is frustrating, however, that I'm not able to get out there and see things and meet people as much as I'd like.

    In my job search, I am leaning toward agencies that work with the poorest of the poor. Now that I have all this personal experience in living in abject poverty, I want to put it to use to help people. There are several agencies here that I'm interested in who are tackling various aspects of homelessness. They seem to post multiple openings pretty regularly, which is good because I've had luck in the past with just letting an agency know I want to work there and will start anywhere they have a space. I'm applying for everything I'm qualified for, though. It's been a long time since I worked in my field and I'm not picky. There seem to be many entry-level mental health openings though, which makes me optimistic. And the minimum wage is two dollars higher here, while rents are a little less, so I'm hopeful. The neck thing is causing delays though, and I am trying not to stress about it, but I do.

    Thank you to everyone who supported my move! I am comfortable and safe, and things are proceeding pretty much on schedule, although I feel thwarted by my neck problem. But when is life ever easy? My spirits are good, although I feel unsettled, I think I am coping pretty well with lots of support from my friends. I am really happy to be here! I will keep you all posted as I stumble along the road of happy destiny!

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    Hi, I’m lonely and desperate! The age I’ve listed is a lie, by the way, but since you’re lying about your age too, consider it self-defense. My height, that’s the truth, but I’m using a neutral-sounding adjective to indicate that I’m fat, although I’m going to tell you that I’m on a diet and get plenty of exercise. In actuality I hate stairs and avoid the outdoors like the plague. But I’m going to pretend to like whatever you like, so you won’t figure that out for a couple of months. That’s okay, because you’re going to be pretending you’re not actually kind of a selfish dick during that same time period. The picture I send you, like yours, will be several years old and feature me during a rare attractive period. You might as well just ignore it. From my personal history, I’m looking for a man with pretty severe emotional issues, like maybe someone who is so insecure he will need my constant attention and ego boosts. Get pissed if I don’t text back within five minutes, that sort of thing. He should be absolutely unequal to me intellectually, and devoted to something I consider a waste of time, like NASCAR or drug dealing. Bonus points for some nefarious scheme of low-key non-physical abuse, or psycho ex-girlfriends he still contacts daily. I’m going to say I can’t wait to meet you, but put you off and even cancel a few times. Since we have nothing in common, our conversation will consist of superficial flirting. On our date, you will spend the time entirely preoccupied with getting laid, since you haven’t gotten any in over a year. I will wear something uncomfortable that makes me fidget, increasing my anxiety until I become just a little hysterical. Both of us will be so distracted by the chaos inside our heads that we learn absolutely nothing about each other, yet we will persist and enter an awkward, tension-filled alliance for the apparent purpose of joyless, mechanical sex (for which you undoubtedly need Viagra and an hour of vigorous attention from me.) After a couple of months, our veneer of kindness and empathy will have deteriorated and all we’ll do is bicker, until one of us gets sick of it and storms off. Then we’ll spend three months complaining to our friends about how horrible the other person was, then forget about it and start dating someone else.

    Have a nice weekend.

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    Mr. Robot
    Black Mirror
    Two television shows portraying a dystopian near future have recently come to my attention as being thought-provoking, well-done, and critical of the status quo. Yet the two shows are very different in tone and appearance.

    In Mr. Robot, a quirky young computer genius named Elliot copes with the tedium and life stressors of the modern corporate world. But his abilities have drawn special interest, and he's being drawn into an alternate world of resistance. Black Mirror is a British anthology series; each episode stands alone like a short movie, but they all depict possible futures marked by advanced technology.

    Black Mirror has the Hitchcockian feel of psychological suspense, tinged with a dark hilarity that feels almost out of control. In the pilot episode, Britain's most popular princess is being brutalized by a vicious kidnapper who demands that the Prime Minister have sex with a pig on national television. It sounds like the set-up to a bad joke, but as the clock ticks down and options run out, tension mounts both within the government and on the streets. It's like somebody is sitting next to you and blowing up a balloon very, very slowly. Filled with rotting fecal matter.

    Another episode follows a couple through a dinner party as their relationship dissolves in a future where all memories are preserved on an implant called a grain. Memories can be played back to settle an argument, to get feedback on a performance, or, problematically, used as porn. The hostility palpably cranks up between the two as they interact in a series of increasingly spare and linear interiors, until the inevitable violence erupts.

    Black Mirror has a polished feel. The future is touchscreen video perfect. Characters inhabit spaces that are controlled and man-made. The sense of artificiality is heightened by within-story advertising that looks and sounds creepily familiar. People seem less than organic in these spaces; less than human, blank, vapid. It's a kind of death within an ongoing human life. I guess this is not your show if you like things to be uplifting and hopeful. But if you're a fan of science fiction or black humor and the post-apocalypse is your jam, you'll find Black Mirror both thought-provoking and satisfactorily disturbing.

    Elliot's world in Mr. Robot is a more familiar one. He lives in a crappy city apartment and rides a dirty subway to his shitty corporate cube farm job, where his boss nags him about the dress code and his coworkers annoy him with pointless small talk. The people around him are all pretty much messed-up in one banal way or another. Elliot narrates directly to the camera, which he calls his "invisible friend." His mental health and addiction issues are immediately apparent. Here's the unreliable narrator in all his misleading glory.

    Elliot doesn't have a lot of dialogue outside his narration, but Rami Malek is so expressive with his face and body language that viewers feel as if they are inside Elliot's head. However, that's not always a sane or happy place to be. Much of the show takes place at night; it's literally a dark show. Christian Slater is in it. That's how dark it is. There are not enough synonyms for sarcastic in the English language to describe Christian Slater on-screen.

    This show is blatantly anti-capitalist. Mr. Robot enlists Elliot to help save the world by eliminating everybody's debt through the simple means of wiping out all of the pertinent data. (I am told this is not actually possible as described in the show, to keep us all from doing that. Very important for national security.) His best friend suffers with student loan debt she can't pay, and both their parents were killed by industrial pollution when they were kids. Elliot even has to wear shirts with collars to work. Obviously he has reasons to be angry at The Man, here called Evil Corp.

    As a person with Asperger's I identify strongly with Elliot, although that's never mentioned. His way of showing affection is kind of weird--he hacks into everyone's various data files and learns all about their lives, sometimes turning in a pervert, sometimes doing somebody a favor. His self-talk is eerily similar to mine, as are his non-standard social interactions. Yet it's obvious, to me at least, that Elliot loves his friends and cares deeply about what happens to them. He isn't cold at all, just more detached that most people are used to. It doesn't mean a connection is not there.

    Black Mirror is easily available on Netflix, but Mr. Robot is a USA show, so you might have to pirate it, but that will be really quick as there are thousands of seeders. If you plan to watch Mr. Robot, do yourself a favor and don't Google it. Spoilers are rife.

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    Not evil. Just confused.
    We get so angry at the individuals who act out right-wing talking points in their lives like Kim Davis. It's been making me uncomfortable and I've figured out why: they've been hoodwinked, bamboozled, and are acting on inaccurate information that they believe to be true because it came from a trusted source: a news network. It's not their fault.

    I'm not old enough to be sure, but I've gotten the impression that in the long-ago, journalists were expected to tell the truth. If they lied or made an error, they were expected to correct it. Now there is an entire news network anchoring a vast system of deliberate misinformation. And people are paying the price.

    Mike Halstead, police chief in Surf City, North Carolina, has been forced to resign after posting a lengthy Facebook rant on why Black Lives Matter is a hate group and cops should shoot first, ask questions later.

    When a black thug is killed by the police they are all over it as is Mr. Barack Obama. However when a police officer white, black or any race is murdered for doing his job the media is short with it’s reporting or not at all. When a white person is killed by a black officer you hear nothing. Has our so called President spoke publicly about these murders of police officers by blacks, HELL NO he has not. I have instructed my officers to be vigilant, if threatened take appropriate action. If that means shoot a thug, then do it and answer for it while you are still alive not dead. Law Enforcement is fed up with this murderous society who want to take out those who protect and serve.
    That's just a sample. It goes on and on. He lost his job for it, which seems appropriate, but this keeps happening. People believe the propaganda, act on it, and are then entirely puzzled when they get in trouble. They don't understand why, because in their minds these are simple, proven facts. They saw it on the news, after all. It's not Bill O'Reilly sitting in jail or facing unemployability, it's his victims.
    I want to thank you all for your support. I was forced to retire or be terminated. I had to beg for a 60 day severance to feed my family. That was the thanks I got from those I thought were family, I was thrown under the bus for expressing my 1st amendment rights and speaking the truth and concerns for law enforcement.
    He doesn't understand what he did wrong, because he believed what the media told him about the War on Cops, just like many keep acting on their belief in the War on Christians. Neither of these things are true, but Fox News keeps repeating the lies as if repetition can make them true, which works great on people who don't know how to evaluate information.

    Why is this allowed to go on, unfettered? Why doesn't Fox News have a label that says, "For entertainment purposes only"? There seem to be no standards for journalism these days, as we've seen with the fawning 24/7 Trumpnothingburger coverage. When a politician lies on camera, why doesn't anyone pull out their phone and say, "Let me google that for you"? How do we destroy the transmitter that is keeping our neighbors in thrall to evil? Could someone explain this to me like I'm five?

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    Chris Hedges gave a speech yesterday at a Green Party event in California. I find it so relevant and important that I hope everyone will head over to Truthdig and read it. Here's an appetizer:
    A bankrupt liberal class, holding up values it does nothing to defend, discredits itself as well as the purported liberal values of a civil democracy as it is swept aside, along with those values. In this moment, a political, economic or natural disaster—in short a crisis—will ignite unrest, lead to instability and see the state carry out draconian forms of repression to maintain “order.” This is what lies ahead.

    We will, as Friedrich Engels wrote, make a transition to either socialism or barbarism. If we do not dismantle global capitalism we will descend into the Hobbesian chaos of failed states, mass migrations—which we are already witnessing—and endless war. Populations, especially in the global South, will endure misery and high mortality rates caused by collapsing ecosystems and infrastructures on a scale not seen since perhaps the black plague. There can be no accommodation with global capitalism. We will overthrow this system or be crushed by it. And at this moment of crisis we need to remind ourselves what being a socialist means and what it does not mean.

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  • 09/23/15--14:02: Half of America is Poor
  • How can we help you?
    As I'm reading about poverty, I keep seeing a figure of about 45 million people counted in the American poor. That's the number of people under the poverty line, as determined by the federal government. The way they come up with that figure has been entirely discredited, and recently a supplemental poverty measure was introduced, moving the figure closer to 50 million, which is a much smaller slice of American society than seems to be suffering and needing help. Still, there are complaints that there are actually fewer poor people than that, because of the value of the benefits they receive from our inadequate social safety net. So how many Americans really are living in poverty? I think the answer is about half. The entire American median income, around $50,000, is nearly consumed by the necessary American expenditures. Therefore, half of America lives in poverty or in near-poverty conditions of scarcity. Of course, if you are a person of color, it is much worse. American net worth went from $12 trillion to $77 trillion over twenty-five years. But the median African-American income went down during that same period! Unconscionable! When you see "45 million" or hear "15%" in poverty, that seems like a small slice. However, the scope of the problem is much, much larger. Many of the people are suffering, but they smile and smile, they do their jobs, and they mostly, sincerely want you to have a great day.

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    President Obama visited with federal prisoners last Thursday. He talked with six inmates during filming of a Vice special on criminal justice reform that airs Sunday on HBO.
    The visit was the first by any sitting president to a federal corrections facility, and came amid a week of actions and events highlighting the inequities of a system that he said disproportionately affects minority communities and is costing taxpayers too much, while rehabilitation rates for prisoners remain too low.
    Obama told reporters the men he met were not that different from himself.
    When they describe their youth and their childhood, these are young people who made mistakes that aren't that different from the mistakes I made and the mistakes that a lot of you guys made. The difference is, they did not have the kind of support structures, the second chances, the resources that would allow them to survive those mistakes.
    I can't wait to see this special. There's something really amazing about watching this clip of our sitting president speak so warmly and show so much empathy with people our society has condemned as worthless. I consider our criminal justice system to be far beyond broken, so it's important that President Obama is focusing attention on this issue, not by making a big speech to people in suits, but by sitting down and learning about the lives of the people who are affected.

    The GOP has been trying for thirty years to convince us all that voting Republican is the Christian thing to do, and many Americans believe it. But their policies are so far away from being Christlike, I wonder why more people haven't noticed. In the Bible, Jesus says there will be a quiz in Heaven about how you treat the poor:

    For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me. Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you? And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’
    These Republican politicians are obviously not following Jesus Christ, and I don't understand how they get away with pretending that they are.

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    As you may know, I've been zoning in on a focus for my poverty book. I'm still in the middle of an ambitious immersion journalism project wherein I've been living in abject poverty for almost ten years. It's so authentic. I've been researching poverty academically for a year, I'm ready to go. What I want to do is give a voice to the very poor. There are a LOT of homeless people here in Eugene, and they are from all over. They are very diverse in age and background (and level of sanity.) I've been hanging out with them, just chatting, since I got here. I want their stories to be told. What if I...

    What if I passed out numerous notebooks and asked people to write a few pages of their story and then pass the notebook to someone else? I just got a job doing political polling downtown right by the bus station, which is where I've been kicking it with my homeless friends, so I'm going to be around there a lot. People could just hand me their pages, or maybe I could put a collection folder at the library? The library is right there too and everyone goes in there every day. Also, I could set up an email that's really easy to remember, because some people have internet access, like our homeless Kossack brothers and sisters.

    Okay, maybe I could make up an info sheet and laminate it to both covers of the notebook, and tie a string with a pen, and put the whole thing in a zip bag. I could also just pass out the info sheet if I don't have enough notebooks. Remember, I don't buy new things, but the thrift stores are full of old half-used notebooks. The info sheet could have some writing prompts like, "What's your typical day like?" and "What do you wish the American people knew about your life?"

    Then I could collect them, post them here, eventually publish them, and learn a lot about our homeless brothers and sisters in the process. This is where my superpower comes into play: I read about five times faster than a normal human. People's handwriting might be a challenge, but not insurmountable. Also, I have found that sharing my story makes me more mentally healthy. Maybe it would be the same for the folks who participated in my project.

    Does this seem like a workable and worthy project? Do you think I would get enough pages to work with? Is there anything unethical I'm not seeing, or am I failing to be compassionate in any way? Thanks as always for your invaluable attention, care and advice. This community keeps me strong!

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  • 10/06/15--09:18: My New Political Polling Job
  • Now that I'm a pollster, it's incomprehensible to me that the data I'm producing is actually useful to anyone. We almost always call land lines, which a lot of people don't even have anymore. Eighty percent of the time there's no answer, and when it is answered, the person on the other end doesn't want to talk to me. Usually they just hang up, but some people are kind enough to understand I am human, and I need to be loved, so they make an excuse. Don't tell me you're in the middle of dinner if what you mean is don't call back, because I will definitely call back. So the people who actually take the survey are a tiny fraction of America.

    Unsurprisingly, calling red states is different from calling blue states. People in Texas are meaner, more suspicious,and much more likely to be angry at me personally, but in Maine they speak to me kindly, even if I am bothering them, and they don't accuse me of nefarious motives. Red Staters are paranoid, y'all. They are scared of everything. They are absolutely sure that everyone they encounter is trying to screw them over in some way. They idle at outrage.

    I've talked to about 90% Republicans, and it is very, very sad. They hate Obama, but they don't know why. When I attempt to probe and clarify, they aren't able to come up with anything specific. Further attempts to elicit information are interpreted as attacks, and they become defensive and angry. Democrats, on the other hand, are able to name a policy or program they oppose when talking about their Republican senator.

    I haven't talked to any Democrats about why they are supporting their presidential candidate, but I've talked to a bunch of Republicans, and they're all over the map. None of them has chosen Trump, thank God. Nobody's picked Jeb! either. They can't tell you why they support their candidate with anything specific. They use vague, emotional language like "honorable" and "strong moral values." Several people have told me Ben Carson is smart and reasonable.

    One thing they all agree on is that poor people don't deserve help. They will go on and on about this, the welfare, the food stamps, the beer and cigarettes. They will complain that the poor have it easy and that there are too many homeless people stinking up the sidewalks in the same breath. The hatred and anger they direct at poor people is staggering. Often they mention that poor people from other places are coming to their nice town for handouts and screwing everything up. They believe the poor don't want to work, and are actively seeking a lifestyle of freeloading, and that this makes them evil. It's scary to hear.

    Of course I'm not allowed to refute any of this, and I can't ask the questions that I want to ask that might help me to understand why so many Americans are this way. Is it new? Has it changed? Has the American public always been so resentful and seething and bitter? These are not rhetorical questions. I want to know. I feel bad for these people, actually. They have the shittiest mental health of any group in America, being both delusional and filled with rage. Aren't we morally obligated to help them in some way? They are obviously in distress and not in their right minds. They need help.

    In spite of all this, I like the job for now. Since no one wants to talk to me, nearly all my time is spent listening to answering machines and hang-ups while I read, write, text my friends, or do crafts. It's AWESOME. I might make a chain-mail cape. Thanks for reading!

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    So grateful, and ready to give back!
    Yesterday I woke up with a scratchy throat and cough. If I had still been in South Carolina, there wouldn't have been anything I could do about it. I would have had to go to work sick, at a grocery story, mind you, and possibly infect my coworkers and customers. In Oregon, however, I called in sick. The minimum wage is so much higher here, and the work is so plentiful at my job (thanks, Donald Trump) that it was no problem. I was much worse today, so I called in sick again. Back in the South, I could not have done that; I'd have gotten fired! Here, I do need a doctor's note, but that's no problem, because I have Oregon Health Plan. Peace Health Medical Group, my provider, even provides an urgent care clinic for the weekends, which has a location quite near my home. I just walked over there, waited a bit, spoke with a very nice doctor who listened to my lungs and tut-tutted warmly, went into Fred Meyer and got my medication, and came home. I know that sounds like a very normal thing to do when one is sick, but for me, it's a freaking miracle. I feel so lucky to have this very, very simple care for my health. I mean, I kind of feel crappy because I have bronchitis, but I can rest easy with the proper medication, knowing that nobody at my job is mad at me, and that I can go back when I feel better. I don't have to work or else starve, because I have food stamps. I can also have healthy food to eat, fresh fruits and vegetables. This week, I will see my primary doctor for the first time, and hopefully get ahead of my health problems, repair the damage that's been done, and start living a full, healthy , active life again.

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    The tiny house I'm saving up for
    Hey y'all, having left the South, things have changed. Most importantly, I have health care! It's pretty good except for the long waits. I have a pinched nerve that turned out to result from two ruptured discs in my neck. The physical therapist examined me and worked me over but seemed to despair of being able to do anything at all with my neck. "There's no stretch at all," he said worriedly. He was very kind and definitely wanted to help me but could offer only ameliorative pain therapy, which made me cry, y'all. It really did. It was just so nice to be in a clean, well-appointed medical office instead of a shabby free clinic, as if one could ever get into a free clinic, and have a medical professional take care of my injury with concern and professional hands. I have to see a neurosurgeon because my neck, it is FUBAR. Every med person I see keeps asking me if I was in a car wreck. No, I was not. My friend asked me, "Do you think it could be the headbanging in high school? What about the skydiving? Any caving injuries you recall?" I have no idea. Maybe I stressed myself so hard I created a blunt force trauma musculo-skeletal injury. That is pretty impressive fucking stress, I have to say. It had been building a long, long time, and if I had stayed in South Carolina, why, I really think I would be homeless by now or maybe even dead. It was that serious, for me to get out. I am so grateful to everyone who helped make it happen.

    I don't see the neurosurgeon, who will hopefully only do some sort of shot in my neck, I'm trying to not worry about that part, until the day before Thanksgiving! Quite a wait, but it is free, so I'm not complaining. I also saw my primary doc who prescribed me all the meds I'm used to having, plus prednisone that I am afraid to take because insomnia is the first listed side effect. Then I went over to my local evil corporate big-box store pharmacy and they just handed me all my meds. For free.

    In South Carolina I was paying several hundred dollars a month for my medications, and that was just the psych meds. I didn't even have a primary doc and had to do a lot of footwork just to keep myself in blood pressure meds. You would think they would be handing out blood pressure medication for free in South Carolina since it is one of the fattest states and probably has lots of high blood pressure. Also, a little cheap medication now can prevent a very expensive twenty or thirty year stay in an assisted living facility after I have a stroke, not to mention the emotional cost to my friends and family, and the societal loss of the benefit I would have been to my community, had I been healthy. It's unconscionable, and I don't see how the leadership of the red states can sit in church on Sunday without squirming under the gaze of the stained-glass Christ.

    Even if health care was the only benefit that would be great, but I'm also making $10.25 an hour doing basically nothing, that is, political polling surveys, which I enjoy doing anyway, if I ever get someone willing to take a survey, which very rarely happens. (Yes, we are hiring.) While listening to answering machines and beginning my spiel so people can hang up on me, I read, make notes for my book about poverty, write, write letters, text my friends and family, and do crafts. I make jewelry, prep sewing projects and now, flower crowns. I only use upcycled materials, of course. These things I will sell when I have enough to make a craft-show display. I'll probably move on to a third and fourth project, depending on how long it takes me to get a counseling job.

    The great thing about not having to worry about having health insurance is that people can take any job they like and work as little as pleases them, spending time with children or aging parents or doing art or activism and still have health care, as long as they don't mind living simply. As we know, this is good for the economy (we don't really need everyone to work), and I think, good for the soul. In generally the vibe is just more positive here. People are happier. They make more at their jobs, even if the jobs suck, and they can spend more at places where other people have jobs. It's just a big job creation machine that never stops working, because the more people you have, the more stuff and food and services and day care and haircuts they need, and that just makes MORE JOBS! It's beautiful!

    I have been applying for counseling jobs and going to interviews and have focused on one place in particular that serves homeless kids, and I think they will hire me, but the wheels of bureaucracy grind exceedingly slow. It's going to be great to be working with disadvantaged young people again. I can hardly wait.

    I am also making friends with the homeless people I see every day, trying to understand what their lives are live and reach out to them. I see the cops hassle them, like they have anywhere to go or anything to do with their time. I see professionals walk by them like they're invisible. I sit down with them, and I become invisible too! It's a weird feeling. You should try it! Just go up to some homeless peeps, it helps if you have cigarettes to share, and ask if you can sit with them. I bet they will welcome you. Don't ask stupid questions like, "So, how did you become homeless?" Ask their name and where they're from, ask how their day is going. (I recommend you avoid the more mentally unstable ones at first.) They are regular human beings, and they need to be loved! Just like anyone else does. It's great if you donate food and clothes, or write checks or go to benefits, or volunteer. Please, though, just look a homeless brother or sister in the eye today and smile. Say, "How are you doing today?" And then listen to whatever they tell you. Then say, "I hope you have a good day. Be safe out there! See you later!" Introduce yourself, they're you're neighbors, for God's sake. Please. Just see them.

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    I started working at a political polling firm on 10/2/15. On my application I indicated that I had a disability, and on the first day I went to the HR person to tell her about my Asperger's syndrome. I was pleasantly surprised that she knew what it was. I asked for more flexibility with breaks and lunches and she said that would be fine. I warned her about what happens when I "go aspie" and that it's best at those times to let me go outside so I can do my meditation practice for a few minutes and return to equilibrium. She said that was fine too, and that she would share the info as appropriate. She asked for documentation and I told her I wasn't seeing my PCP until the 15th but I would request it then. She said fine.

    I've been having pain from a pinched nerve for about three months. The wheels of medicine turn very slowly. I finally had an MRI on October 2, but didn't hear the results til the next week or so. I have two ruptured discs in my neck that are basically crushing all the nerves in my left arm anytime i lift my chin off my chest. It's very, very painful and distressing, but I still worked as much as I could, and when I couldn't, I had a doctor's excuse. But I really need to be working! I have a Master's degree but it takes 3-6 months to get a professional job. I've had several interviews though, and I know where I want to work--the homeless youth shelter--so I was happy to work at this place until I found a job that was a good fit with my professional skills. I discussed this at the interview and she said that was fine. During my first week, several supervisors complimented me on my skills. When I got my first paycheck, I was surprised to discover I was in the top 5% of performers and thus got $10.25 an hour. That's a three-dollar raise from South Carolina.  Also, I enjoyed the work and was good at it. All was well, except I couldn't sit at my desk in a position that was comfortable for my neck, arm, and shoulder. So I went to HR again and explained the situation. She said I could bring something in to help or use what was in the office. I told her I wanted to sit with my feet in a second chair. She said that wasn't possible because it would block the aisles and that's a fire hazard. I told her I would look around the office and figure something out.

    I tried a stool under my desk, but that didn't work because my knees needed to be higher. There was no way to put my knees under my desk. Now, the cubette farm is always at least a third full because their number of employees changes with the election season, but my neck should be fixed, or I'll have a new job, within six weeks. So I figured out if I sat in a corner, facing into the corner, with my feet on a second chair and my keyboard on my lap, monitor positioned where I could see it, that worked perfect, I was as comfortable as possible. It would require the desk beside me be unoccupied, but usually half the desks are unoccupied, so I figured, sorted, and went to see HR.

    HR was not in her office but the Boss was. I'd heard the Boss was hell on wheels etc but never had a problem with her. I waited my turn, sat in the chair in front of her desk, and began to explain the situation, what HR had said, what I'd tried, and so forth, but she very quickly began to scream at me that what I was saying was not possible, that we would have to buy a lot of new fancy equipment, and so forth. I was puzzled, it was as if she wasn't even listening to the particulars of what I was saying, and she was getting angrier and angrier. It seemed so strange that a professional manager, who employs multiple autistic people, would be talking to me like this, so I asked her if she knew I had Asperger's and she said yes. I pointed out my top-performer status and she had a sarcastic comment for that. I should add that she was yelling at the top of her lungs, other people were in and out of her office, and there were plenty of people hanging out right outside the open door, hearing everything. By this point they were mouthing "WTF?" at each other and a bit of a crowd had gathered. I again attempted to explain that all I needed was one empty desk next to me and one extra chair and to sit in a corner, and she exploded, screaming, "THERE'S NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU! YOU JUST WANT TO SIT BY YOURSELF SO YOU DON'T HAVE TO INTERACT WITH ANYONE!"

    If you yourself don't have a mental illness or love someone who does, this might not sound so terrible a thing to yell at someone, but it is just about the most horrible thing you can yell at me, give my particular history of undiagnosed Asperger's. I lost it. I went Aspie, I'm unclear on what followed, I know I tried to hide because that's what I do, I'm shaking now writing about it. EVERYBODY WORKING THERE SAW ME HAVE THIS HUMILIATING FREAKOUT. Somehow I got out of there and outside and after I spent several minutes getting control of my breathing, shaking, etc, I called my friend who is disabled and has dealt with a lot of this stuff. He told me go back upstairs, tell them you are a disabled person and you believe your rights have been violated, so you're going home, and then leave. So I did that. It was really hard to do because I was sort of having an extended moderately functional panic attack, which is how I spent much of my childhood.

    I left and I found two elderly unhoused gentlemen right there and sat with them, because I couldn't walk. They were very kind and listened to me cry and commiserated and cussed out my boss for me and made up terrible things they would do to her, given the chance, until I was okay to walk to the bus stop. Went home to bed.

    The next day, still shaking and crying, I called the Center for Disability Rights, the Bureau of Labor and Something, and a couple of lawyers, and corporate HR. Everybody listened to the story and said they'd call me back. Corporate HR called me back and wanted the story again, said they'd call back again. All this time I'm shaking and crying. The the Boss called me, just as sweet as potato pie, wanting to know when it would be a good time for us to meet to plan the accommodations they were going to provide for my temporary disability. I told her I was expecting to hear from HR and she said this is that call, and I told her I didn't want to talk to her and to have HR call me back. Hasn't happened. The thing is, I can't go back to that place and work there after that experience. I don't want my job back. I want the Boss to pay for abusing an autistic person, so she never does it again, and I want the company to pay because they continued to employ her even though her foul temper was well-known.

    The Disability Rights people are sending me some sort of intake packet, and the Bureau of Labor and Whatever has a similar snail-mail process, and the first lawyer I called said they are just too busy to take it, but keep trying other lawyers, so I called another lawyer, and told the story AGAIN, with the whole shaking and crying AGAIN, just like I am shaking and crying RIGHT NOW. But haven't heard back from that call either.

    I saw my doctor the day after because I was a mess, and talked to my counselor on the phone. I'm still pretty freaked out about it and don't really want to go in there to get my last check Monday. And now I have to find a job again, which means more lags in the money flow. I've been making stuff like crazy but this is Eugene. Handcrafts are everywhere, and busking doesn't work here either. So I'm pretty worried about the short term, although not the long term, because that feels secure to me now. I will get a counseling job, and I will have a safe place to live, and I will have a life that's fulfilling and interesting and full of love. Already, even with all this SHIT, I still feel better off here, I'm still happier that I was in South Carolina. So the mission was a success!

    I'm hoping to get some advice on what my next steps should be. I don't really want to win a big settlement or whatever, but I want that woman and the company that hired her to know that you can't abuse autistic people like that. When properly supported, we can be great employees and really good at our jobs. We have a right to be involved in the workforce and to feel productive and support ourselves through our own labor like everyone else. We shouldn't have to worry that work will be a dangerous place for us. I've never been active in the mentally-ill rights stuff, but now I see why it's so important. I will bounce back eventually. Someone else might be literally destroyed and never work again. Who knows, maybe I'll have a fear of call centers now! Thanks for reading, y'all. Any advice is appreciated because I have no idea what to do next.

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    Like every good-hearted American, the events of the past few weeks and months have been increasingly discouraging and depressing for me. All of the videos, some of which I can’t first I tried to watch them all. I wanted to bear witness. But it was too much. I watch the moms and families, listen to them talk about their loved one, bear witness to that instead of the violence. It is heartbreaking. Maybe because of my autism, I’ve always felt the pain of all humanity. Maybe everyone can feel humanity’s pain and they can ignore it. I don’t know, I’ve only ever been me, and since I was a little kid I was deeply, deeply concerned about the state of civilization. It’s gotten louder. The population has doubled during my lifetime; if it seems more crowded to you over-40’s, that’s because it is. But it has also gotten louder because when I was a kid, there weren’t stores filled with cheap imported goods made under unthinkable conditions that are for all intents and purposes modern slavery. But I digress. 

    I was trying to explain the situation to my Brazilian friend. I told him that my people, white Americans, especially white Southern Americans, do not understand that black people are human. We of a certain age were mostly raised to believe in offensive, subhuman stereotypes about our neighbors and schoolmates. Most of us figured it out when we started school, but there are still a lot of white people, I am ashamed to say, who hold these views. This leads my people to unfortunately devalue the lives of our black brothers and sisters, even when they don’t understand that they’re doing it. It’s like pointing out water to a fish. Therefore, we have to remind them that black lives matter too, just as much as white lives. It is so very hard for my people to learn this, that is has to be repeated over and over.

    What I can’t get my head around is that this has been happening all along. It took a while to really sink in. The violence isn’t new, it’s the citizen journalists who are new. The videos are new. The deaths have been happening all along. And black people have been trying to tell white America for years that this was happening, and have been frustrated in their efforts. We wouldn’t listen. We ignored it, and enabled it, and tacitly approved it. How many people have died while we were turning away? It is unthinkable, for me. I am ashamed of the color of my skin right now. And I’m amazed that black Americans have been so patient, so determined, so relatively nonviolent in their response to the oppression. My brothers and sisters, I am in awe. And I am woke.

    Maybe there should be a #WhiteMindsCanChange movement. It’s going to be hard to change white attitudes; it permeates our culture so thoroughly. I believe that enlightened white people have a duty to whitesplain this to any unreconstructed racist they encounter. (Do not attempt if subject is armed.) This racism, it’s a white problem and white people are going to have to solve it. We can’t expect the black community to fix it; we built it. And besides, they have other stuff to do. Like grieve, and comfort one another.

    As we all know, racist attitudes are now getting worse because that, that THING is making it seem normal and OK to be a flaming asshole racist. Even the young are affected, and I had so hoped it would die out. We are all one human family, and we need to pull together, because we have several dangerous situations we need to address. We don’t have time to argue with idiots anymore.

    If you are a person of color, I want to offer you my apology. In the past there have been times when I let someone’s racism slide because it was easier. I am so sorry. I am so sorry that you’ve had to teach your children to be afraid. I am so sorry that it took us seeing it with our own eyes before we would believe you. I hope now we can find the political will to seriously change the system.

    It feels so...nothing, what I can offer. It’s so inadequate, yet what adequate remedy can we offer a mother who has lost her child to a police officer’s bullet? Nothing. If it was me, I’d be out of my mind with grief. I’m so sick of the hate. I’m sorry that my apology is so meaningless and insubstantial. My stupid, silly white guilt doesn’t help anyone. I just feel so sad for everyone right now. All I can offer is that I am even more determined to change the world, and if I have to piss off tons of white rednecks to do it, that’s ok.

    Thanks for listening.

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    I was distressed to hear that The Nightly Show was cancelled. I think Larry Wilmore is smart and funny, the rest of the crew is talented each in their own way, and I found the show welcoming in that the cast was so diverse, and spoke frankly about racism. I had taken to watching it first, when I watch the news. Maybe it was a little rough, some of the jokes a little unpolished, but nothing that couldn’t have been tweaked. I was wondering how Larry would handle it, and it broke my heart when I watched him face the camera, after the audience went nuts in support, to comment. He said, “Well. How was YOUR day?” Everybody busted out laughing. A lot of people were mad about the n-word thing, which he didn’t mention on his show at the time, but explored last night in a hilarious bit with Mike Yard and Rory Albanese, in my favorite bit, Pardon the Integration.  Monday’s episode was a good show, warm-hearted and sad. They always looked like they were having so much fun working together. I am really going to miss them.

    So. We know that the right wing has a lot of media outlets; the noise machine, or echo chamber, is the wool that’s been pulled over the eyes of America, and it hasn’t just affected the people who watch it. When Fox News and the rest of their ilk demonize poor people, and black people, and women, it becomes the water we swim in. It affects everyone. The right wing has an entire “news” channel, as well as entire industries manufacturing American doubt in science, in facts, in the very idea of knowledge, churning out wingnut propaganda at a horrifying pace. And it has worked. Oh, it worked like gangbusters. Watch The Brainwashing of My Dad if you haven’t seen it. The right wing noise machine has taken us into a very dark place: Donald Trump, con man. The right wing noise machine is like a vaccination against truth, it never shuts up,and it just might destroy us.

    All progressives really have in the way of broadcasting our message to the general population are a few websites, like this one, and a few political comedy shows. Very few political comedy shows. Comedy Central said Larry got cancelled because of ratings, you know, those Nielsen boxes? Right, I’ve never seen one either, because beginning in the late nineties a lot of people quit watching TV and started watching the Internet, instead. It’s like doing political polling on landlines. Younger people don’t have landlines, and they don’t watch cable TV. They don’t listen to NPR either. But they’ve been watching The Daily Show, The Nightly Show, The Colbert Report, Samantha Bee, John Oliver, and other kinds of liberal media online. From the commercials, it’s starting to look like Boomers are the only people watching TV, no offense.

    Until yesterday, I had no idea that Larry Wilmore and Stephen Colbert were on TV at the same time. I haven’t watched TV since about 1997. Like millions of other people, I watch what I think of as “the news” in the morning: last night’s political comedy shows. I also read a lot online, but many younger people get all their news from political comedy, which they watch online, and they wind up better informed that any Fox viewer. The Nightly Show was the only show I know of looking at the USA from the minority perspective, and that always makes some white people nervous. There were certainly other (fixable) problems with the show, but being opposite Colbert kind of doomed Larry and friends to failure ratings-wise, didn’t it? Why pull the show right before the election? It’s insulting.

    I think these shows and other web content are so important. They are basically the only outlet the left wing has to reach the young, the undecided and the sadly ignorant. Each one is precious, and I think we should support all of them, and raise a ruckus when we lose one. What The Nightly Show was trying to do is not easy but so important, to tackle head-on the racism that is so obviously prevalent throughout our culture: the racist water in which we swim. The toxic, deadly, dangerous water in which we swim, which was produced by the right wing. And now, extra poisonous with bonus Donald Trump! It has never been so important to amplify these voices in any way we can, just as enthusiastically as we flushed Rush. So when Larry gets a new show, which I’m sure he will, try and support him! Even if you like Stephen Colbert better. Black voices matter.

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    I can’t look at new stories. There doesn’t seem to be any hope anywhere. Even Colbert’s reaction didn’t help. Half the country hates me as a woman. America just elected an abusive, bullying sexual predator. As a rape and abuse survivor...just sobbing. It’s a punch in the face to every disabled American, every American of color, every American woman, every little girl. I work with domestic violence offenders. My job is to challenge male entitlement. That seems impossible now. The idea of going to work tonight and sitting in a room for several hours as the only woman with dozens of abusive men fills me with dread and horror. Maybe I should call in sick. Maybe I could just have today to grieve? I’m afraid to tell my boss why because maybe he voted for the rapist. I just don’t know what to do. I’m having a low-grade panic attack that just goes on and on.

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    What if the Republicans impeach Trump and Mike Pence becomes President? This is a man who has said that gay people should be imprisoned. While Trump seems to be getting in the Republicans’ way, Pence would go along with whatever evil they wish to perpetrate, because he’s one of them. He was a right-wing talk radio personality. IT MIGHT BE WORSE.

    Maybe this has been their plan all along. Maybe it will arise as the most logical way to deal with a President who makes ideologically improper statements and promises things the GOP has no interest in delivering, like “insurance for everybody.” It’s certainly something Congress could hold above his head. Democrats would go right along, because Trump.

    Then there’s the Russia thing. At least Pence is not a Russian time bomb. He might not start a nuclear war, but he’ll do everything he can to take away our health care. This is a tricky situation. I wish we had more of the facts.

    I know that every time someone suggests that people like Trump, someone else points out his low approval rating. And there are certainly people with voter’s remorse. But 62,000,000 people voted for him. They are all around us. I’m afraid to bring it up with anyone, and I LIVE IN OREGON. It’s not unanimous that Trump sucks. He has his fan base.

    It’s difficult to think about having to fight Trump’s impeachment. Please tell me Pence would be somehow less destructive, because I kind of like watching the Republicans in Congress scurry around trying to shape their interpretation of whatever Trump just tweeted into support for their America-destroying policies.

    This is a chaotic situation, with a lot of complicated variables, and the potential for real harm to people. I try to have a positive outlook—protesting is fun, we’ll have lots of opportunity for that. But it is a thin gruel and not satisfying. I wish someone would tell me it’s not as bad as I think. Please. Tell me it’s not.

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    I just finished watching the first episode of the new season of United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell. It was a pretty shitty news day, and I’m in a pretty shitty space. But Mr. Bell has completely turned my viewpoint around by showing me beautiful, happy diverse people working together with hope and courage and laughter. He also went to NPI and interviewed Richard Spencer, which was very brave. I don’t think the interview could have been handled any better, and it was eye-opening. It’s a comedy show technically, but I thought it was brilliant and thought-provoking. I can’t wait to read his new book. I am going to let CNN know how much I appreciate seeing a Black man in his own show, being who he is, and spreading joy through the world. Thanks, Kamau.

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    My 40” by 90” painted white cardboard is ready. Now I can’t decide what to paint on it! It’s going up on I-5 in Eugene on an overpass near the mall, kinda in Springfield, which is Trump country. Please help me decide! Thank you so much!

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  • 09/03/17--07:48: My First Freeway Sign
  • When I first read FreewayBlogger’s posts, I was intrigued. The stuff he does looks so cool! And way more people read it than read our blogs here (no offense, my fellow Kossacks, but we’re preaching to the choir here.) I wasn’t sure at first I’d be able to post signs. I’m no rock-climber anymore, but as my back started to heal, I started looking for an overhead projector during my regular thrifting activities. No luck. Then FWB announced the Labor Day collective action, and that was what I needed to get me in gear. I found a box. I stopped by the Habitat for Humanity store and got white paint, and I scored a gallon of black porch floor paint on clearance at the hardware store. It’s thick and glossy and looks really cool on a sign. I taped and painted, asked you guys what my sign should say, and the winner is shown above. I was born in a house with Klan rags in the attic, and although that time had passed for my generation, I wrote (small) on the back of my sign: “I repudiate the sins of my ancestors, their racism and bigotry. It ends with me.” So if anyone wants to know why it’s up there, they can read it for themselves. I used a yardstick and a pencil to sketch out the lettering. I bound the edges in white duct tape and reinforced the attachment points, which now had eight layers of duct tape. I drilled through that with a leather awl and attached my hardware.

    I picked out a pedestrian overpass a few miles away because I felt safer with that, although I figured it would get taken down quicker. Then when I returned home, exiting the freeway half a mile from my house, I realized I had an overpass right there. Perfect!

    I decided to deploy my sign at dawn. I put my boots on. Then I went down to the overpass, parked my car, removed my folded up sign, walked onto the overpass, unfolded it, and hung it up. Carabiners work great. Don’t use quick links even if you get a package deal on 3 carabiners and 3 quick links. I’m going to go online and purchase a large quantity of carabiners. It took about a minute to hang, but if I’d had all snap links I could have done it in fifteen seconds. Nobody drove by while I was out there.

    Then I came home, feeling like I’d gotten away with a jewel heist. It looks great up there and all the people currently being evacuated from the wildfires will drive right under it. I was going to go back to bed but I’m too excited. Now I can’t wait to make more signs! I’m sure the local bike shops will be happy to give me their cardboard, white house paint is super cheap at the thrift store, and I still have a gallon of excellent black paint. The only thing I need is a projector. Digital projectors are getting really cheap so I’ll look for one of those on craigslist. There are lots of places on I-5 right here that would look better with a nice political sign. I’m so excited! Thank you, Freeway Blogger, for showing me The Way.

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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!

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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!

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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”

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    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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    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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    It’s hard to write when I’m depressed. I don’t feel like doing anything, especially examining my past and explaining myself. My new roommate recently told me that he doesn’t understand depression because he’s never been depressed. “I’m in a pretty good mood most of the time,” he says. I don’t understand that. I’ve been depressed for as long as I can remember. I have been happy also, I do remember that, but I’ve had these black periods all my life. Everything seems hopeless. Nothing seems like a good idea. I don’t get excited about anything. Today I asked myself, “What would I be doing right now if I were happy?” Projects, I thought to myself, so I sorted through some fabrics to pick out something to work on. But none of them seemed like a good idea, and I have some beautiful fabrics.

    It affects me physically as well. When we are stressed, our bodies produce more of the hormones that are deleterious to our health. We get sick more easily when stressed. For me specifically, I have always “stored” stress in my neck, the thing I had surgery for. The surgery fixed the crushed vertebrae that was pinching my nerve. But I didn’t fix however it is that stress hurts my neck, and I’m afraid the problem has just moved down one vertebrae and switched sides. So now it’s my right arm that’s affected. I also have lower back problems that affect my walking and standing. I can’t walk across a grocery store, so going hiking is out of the question, and I love hiking. We all need to be connected to nature. I have been going to the river with my friend Michael, sitting and watching the water and the ducks, which does help. I get sick in direct sunlight, though, so it’s hard in the summer to spend time outside, since it is relentlessly sunny here all summer long. I don’t know why that happens. It’s just been the last three years or so. I’d think it was Oregon but it started happening back in SC.

    When I tell people about these physical limitations, it feels to me like I am complaining. I hate to complain. I’m just explaining my limitations, the circumstances under which I operate. It sounds to me like I am whining, though. I guess I am not used to being dis-abled. I think aging sucks, I planned on it not happening somehow. Of course nothing has turned out like I had planned. I’m a stranger in my own life.

    I used to put myself to sleep with a wish that I would wake up the next day in my “real” life, in a different time stream. I would turn to my husband and say, “I had the most horrible dream. You didn’t exist.” He would tell me that’s ridiculous. And then I would get my kids up and pack their lunches while Hubby cooked breakfast, then drive to my community counseling job. I hoped maybe if I thought about it hard enough, I could slip sideways into a parallel universe where I wasn’t so alone, so depressed, where my life wasn’t so meaningless. Where my life circumstances had been just a little less debilitating, or I’d been luckier, or made better choices.

    Sometimes I think that I am just a bad person. I know everyone thinks that sometimes, but I can point to my lack of lasting relationships as proof positive. I try to make up for it by being the best person that I can possibly be. I try to be kind and gentle to everyone I encounter. But sometimes I am in so much pain that I can’t do that. So I withdraw. When I’m depressed I spend even more time alone. I don’t like people looking at me at the best of times. It’s unbearable when I’m depressed. I’m trying to get over this feeling. But it’s pretty deeply ingrained.

    I’m also at odds with my friend. She treated me badly because she was in pain. When I have conflict with another person, I tend to withdraw. I might really psych myself up and reach out once or twice, but if I’m rebuffed, I give up. Especially if the person has hurt me in the past, I don’t want to risk being hurt again. It’s easier to be by myself. Over time this leads to no relationships, certainly no older, strong ties with anyone. Grandmother was the strong twine that held my life together, her love propping me up, but since she died there’s been no one who really knows me.

    My best friend Deidra, back in South Carolina, is my longest relationship, and we met not even ten years ago. I’m hard to be friends with. I don’t like to talk on the phone. I don’t need to spend a lot of time with people to consider the relationship close. I get caught up in my own issues or projects and I guess it can be hard to get my attention. I’m good at texting, though. I send cards and little gifts, but usually forget birthdays. I’m really good at presents though. I think I’m a good friend once you get to know me. I’m loyal. But the feedback I have gotten over the years is that I’m difficult to get to know. And I stay by myself so much that I rarely encounter new potential friends.

    Another source of stress is not having enough money. I am out of money right now. Payday is coming up, but I don’t make enough to cover my expenses, so I’m constantly running short. I wondered what amount of money I need to feel OK, and I think that it’s $40. If I have $40 in my wallet, I don’t stress about money. I know that the USA operates at a loss, and I know that big corporations maintain huge debts, and get bailed out when they go too far into the red, and I wonder why I have to suffer like this, me and all of the American working poor. It’s not necessary; society could be arranged so that everyone is free from want. Our wealthy society chooses not to do that. This is the basic Democratic/Republican divide as I see it: shall we take care of the poor? Democrats say hell yes; Republicans say hell no. Being in poverty has an extremely deleterious effect on one’s health, mental and physical. At least now I have health care, due to living in Oregon, where they care for the poor. But being poor is still stressful.

    That’s why I haven’t been writing. It isn’t that I don’t want to. It’s that I’m dealing with this black wave, sticky like molasses, that slows me down and makes everything seem so hard. It will pass, and I will get better. But for now I just have to move forward as best I can. Once I’m better, I will return to my writing project. I haven’t forgotten, and I haven’t given up.

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    I was separated from my primary caregivers, my grandparents, when I was five; thirty years later I was separated from my four-year-old daughter. Now she is 19 and we are estranged. None of this is of my choosing. I fought it with all I had. I ended up with no family at all.

    I’m not comparing my suffering to that of the migrant families from Central America who are at our border. I can’t even imagine enduring a harrowing thousand-mile journey only to be ripped from your kids and thrown into jail in the promised land. It’s unconscionable and Americans stood up and said no. Now we begin the process of reuniting those families, tending their wounds, resettling them, and fighting for the rights of other refugees. I understand a little bit the trauma that will stay with all of them forever.

    Seeing all of this unfold in the country that I love is re-traumatizing me, and I’m not the only one. Lots of people have a family-separation story, and they’re all heartbreaking. For me, at least I got to see my grandparents as I grew up. I seldom got to see my daughter as she was growing up. I was prevented from being a part of her life. I’m having a hard time grappling with the enormity of all that I lost—from her first day of kindergarten, to picking out her prom dress, to what’s going on with her right now—the depth and breadth of experiences that I missed. The richness of bonding with one’s growing child and seeing their personhood evolve. I missed it all and I can never, ever get it back.

    Besides that, I am estranged from any family. Holidays are torture. It’s so hard to be alone and isolated. My attachment problems have prevented me from forming long-term relationships. I have no support network, except y’all.

    I always thought, “At least my daughter is fine.” By all reports she has been happy and thriving. But this happened to her, too. I understand that now; she has trauma of her own. She was only four. I wish I could help her but I can’t right now. Hopefully someday we’ll reunite.

    In the meantime I carry this wound. I must move forward with it, accounting for it, dealing with it. Most of the people who see me every day have no idea of how badly I’m damaged. It’s taken a long time for me to figure it out myself.

    I believe we should take in these Central American refugees and help them. Seeing them treated so inhumanely is breaking me. Those bad old PTSD symptoms are triggered. I’m confused and emotional and sad and feeling helpless. I wish there was something I could do. I see lots of others helping, though. If I could just take care of myself, that would be sufficient unto the day.

    If you are feeling this way too, triggered once more by this inhumane regime, and caught swirling in the worst moments of your past, you are not alone. Many, many of the people around you are feeling the same way. It’s all of us. Reach out to someone near you. Find the help you need. I’m  trying to do that too.

    If you want to read my work-in-progress about my family, it’s here. I keep telling myself: I am doing my best. I am not a bad person. Everything is cool; everything’s OK. I’m not feeling OK today, though. And that’s okay.

    Thank you for reading.

    Your support via Patreon or paypal is deeply appreciated. Thanks to everyone whose support has been vital to my survival in the past.

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    When we last spoke, I had moved in with Older Anal-Retentive Vegetarian and was dealing with her following me around the house, criticizing me, whenever I left my room. (You may remember that I have Asperger’s, or High Functioning Autism.) I’d retreated entirely to my room, eating only foods that take less than a minute to prepare. She never left the house. Any other roommate would leave the house occasionally, allowing me to leave my room and utilize the kitchen or laundry. I was like a cat trapped under a strange couch. A friend stopped by to see me on Mother’s Day and OARV was so angry at me. If I went out at night, I had to stay out til morning. I couldn’t have friends over. There were a thousand rules. I decided to leave. When I told her I was moving, in accordance with my month-to-month lease, she got mad and said, “I’m keeping your deposit,” and that’s exactly what she did. She sent me an itemized list of “damages” with photos of specks of dust, smears, etc. I was only there three months, there’s no way I did that much damage. She did send me a check for $4.50, I guess just to be insulting. I did not cash it yet.

    I’ve been putting off asking for help. I hate doing it, and I so appreciate your generosity, with friendship and kindness as well as dollars. The good news is, I left my caregiver agency and now work independently for the state. This comes with a $2.65 raise! And I joined the union! This hefty raise will put me right below 135% of the poverty level, so I can keep my Medicaid. It’s very important that I not make too much money because my Oregon Health Plan is nearly irreplaceable. I would need a VERY good job just to break even. But I’m thinking about returning to counseling. I miss it. And I think I am strong enough to try, at least. It’s time to live the rest of my life and leave the past behind. I CAN DO THAT.

    For now, though, I have to ask for help. If you can spare it, five dollars is a lot of money to me. When you’re used to having nothing, a little means a lot. I need to pay half my rent, pay my car insurance, get Leonard’s medication, and food. (My food stamps were cut a couple months ago; thanks, Trump.) So I need about $500, which coincidentally was the amount of my lost deposit. If you use PayPal, my email address is leannemnorth(at) Or click here. If you’ve been reading my work, and you want to become a patron, click here for Patreon. I have only one patron, so hi, Patron! I appreciate your support!

    The good news is, my new place is wonderful. My lovely roommate Matt is laid-back and easy to get along with. Also, he leaves the house daily. Sometimes he’s even gone a few days. If I left a cabinet door open, why, I think he would simply shut it without lecturing me about it. Lenny can go out into the backyard whenever he wants, he LOVES it here. There’s even a squirrel to chase that fusses at him. I can put my plants wherever I want in the back yard and we have a clothesline! I can hang out outside and even have friends over! I can use the kitchen whenever I want! And, get this: I can spend my time in the living room! That’s right, for the first time in many years, I am not confined to my bedroom. I only sleep there. I have space for my sewing machines and all my craft stuff. It’s like paradise!

    Thank you so much for being my support system, my community. It’s wonderful to have a community where it doesn’t matter how weird I am, or if I’m disabled physically, mentally, or emotionally; I still feel accepted. And all of the positive changes that I’ve been able to make to my situation over the past few years have been because of you guys, lifting me up, giving me feedback on my ideas, guiding me, and generally being there, in place of the family that I don’t have. You give me courage to try to keep going and improve things even more, perhaps by returning to my field. It’s so hard to escape the mire of a traumatic past; but I will keep reaching out, and hopefully moving up. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

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    Things change so quickly. Last week my client got mad at me and fired me for the nth time. He accused me of stealing, but I couldn’t figure out what I was supposed to have stolen. He’s fired me before, but this time was different. He’d clearly decided I was a criminal and not to be trusted. I had been thinking he wanted a male but didn’t know how to say so, but I’d hoped to find him a new caregiver and train that person, and leave amicably with peace of mind. I handled it calmly, but I’m sad about it. I’m also worried about him, because he’s methodically pushing everyone in his life away, and it may be that he is using drugs. Meth is a huge problem here, which is new for me. I don’t know the signs. I never think of the elderly as having drug problems, but I’m sure they do.

    At any rate, I need to find a new client, and you guys know how softhearted I am. I want to help all of them but I’m trying to be careful and find a good situation for myself. I’ve interviewed a couple of people and they are colorful. And needy. I was really liking one guy but his dog just poops and pees on the floor as a habit. And that would be my job, cleaning up the shit. It was a hundred degrees yesterday and nobody has AC here in Oregon, so the smell was quite overpowering. Clearly he needed help, but I need to think carefully and not make a bad decision, which you may recall has been a problem for me in the past. I’m going to meet another lady today. There is a very long list of potential clients, unfortunately for those needing help, but I can find someone who is a better fit for me. There is a bit of time pressure and I need to get back to work. But I’m not going to commit to a bad situation.

    Patreon also deleted my account for fraud, without ever responding to my pleas for information and help. Then they finally opened a ticket, maybe because other people got involved, and told me I was welcome to open a new account. I never got an explanation about why this happened. My account was tiny. I requested an apology, which they provided. If you were my patron before, I invite you to re-subscribe. I write here at DK, and I’m also writing about my childhood and adult traumas in an effort to heal them. Some of that I cannot share and you would not want to read it. But I’m writing a blog for my daughter, with whom I am estranged, and you can follow that here. I also plan to use my Patreon account to report on my progress, such as it is. Actually, I have made a tremendous amount of progress and am experiencing high levels of personal growth, which fucking hurts. Thank you to everyone for supporting me, sending your thoughts, prayers, good wishes, comments, questions and your own personal stories. Y’all truly are the wind beneath my wings.

    Last Saturday my new roommate and I went up to Sahalie Falls and spent the day climbing up and down the falls and sometimes just looking at the amazing pools and falls along there, hugging trees, as one does. It was really great to get back in touch with Mother Nature. I expected Her to be pissed at us. But I did not experience Her as angry. Sad. Resigned. Maybe She knows more about the future than I do. You know, I’m trying so hard, and I’m so hard on myself, and I’m trying to change that. It feels wrong to just love myself and not be constantly self-critical. But I want to enjoy the second half of my life. I want more joy and less sorrow (and a lot less cleaning up shit.) I want to reach out boldly, and not get burned. I want to be my authentic self. I want to love, and to accept love. And I want all that for you too. Blessings, y’all.

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    Three years ago, I left South Carolina, hoping for a better life in Oregon, propelled by the Kossacks, Class of ‘15, who earned my deepest undying gratitude and restored my faith in human nature with their generosity. A lot has happened since then. But I am undeniably better off, in many ways. You may recall my main goal was better health care, which would have been quite simple to achieve since in SC I had no health care whatsoever. And toward this goal I have succeeded 100%. I now have Oregon’s expanded Medicaid, Oregon Health Plan. It is the best health insurance I’ve ever had, and I’ve had professional jobs. It’s the insurance everyone should have. It covers nearly everything and there are zero co-pays. I choose my doctors, I don’t have to wait unreasonable times, and it’s simple for me. The only drawback is that I have to stay poor, within the income limits. To do otherwise would require me to work much more than I am capable of at this time. Oregon Health Plan is excellent.

    That’s s good thing, because I am technically disabled. I have Asperger’s, but that’s my superpower. Depression and anxiety are my disabling factors, along with increasingly, the arthritis in my spine. So even with unlimited medical care available to me, I still have difficulty accessing it. Luckily, I have an excellent mental health center where I get counseling, psychiatric services, and access to other stuff like yoga and groups. I did have minimalist mental health care back in South Carolina, but I never made progress like I have in the past three years. My counselor’s warmth and acceptance, as well as the expertise of the psychiatric nurse practitioner who prescribes for me, have allowed me to make remarkable progress towards living a full life.

    I have a job that pays a living wage, and that I enjoy. I’m a home care worker for the disabled, so I’m not using my master’s in counseling, but I am starting to think about exploring more opportunities in that direction. At any rate I am working regularly, although shit always seems to happen. I try so hard, and yet landlords keep my deposits, elderly clients become unmanageable unpredictably and have to be replaced, and roommates’ exes steal my mail so I don’t get paid on time. And so, I have to keep asking strangers for help and friends for patience. But someday very soon I will have worked my way out of that, because now I’m getting in touch with my personal power. And I have a lot of that. It is formidable. It is indefatigable. It is mine.

    I also have friends, both here and IRL, and that has historically been very difficult to nonexistent for me. My best friend is what sociologists call a “connector”—she is a person who can’t help but bring others together. Because of her, I have access to social opportunities, and lately I have been getting out more. And it’s been wonderful. I have been dancing, y’all. Also, I have noticed that my mental jukebox is back up and running, providing a soundtrack for my life that makes me wonder, when did that stop? why didn’t I notice?

    But that doesn’t matter now, babies. Because now we are going forward and we are not looking back. I have punished myself enough. I have suffered enough. It’s time to live the rest of my life. I don’t know what that will look like. I will always carry these sorrows with me. But I am ready, if I dare ask the Goddess so much, to be happy.

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    Due to an error on my paperwork, I’m not getting paid this week. Or next week. I don’t know when. I’m trying not to freak out about it, but there are several things that are urgent. As Leonard’s fans know, he has an issue with his anal glands. I called to schedule a butt squeeze, and there was a recording saying the low-income vet has closed. Permanently. So I’ve been trying to find a new vet, but they all want to do a full exam before treating him. He also has fleas, I’ve been bathing him every day to try to keep him comfortable, but he usually takes the anti-flea med. A visit to the vet always seems to cost about $300. He also needs his anti-itchy meds urgently, which is $50.

    If you’ve been following my story, you may remember that I have to keep my income below the poverty level in order to stay on Medicaid, which Oregon kindly expanded, because I am disabled. Yes, I could apply for disability, but I have this weird theory that I can take care of myself with a little support. I live with depression and anxiety, and am diagnosed with PTSD, and am blessed with Aspergers syndrome, which tends to put me out of step with society. Here in Oregon, I’ve been able to grow a lot. I have a counselor who is actually helping me. But dealing with my childhood traumas, and working on my social isolation, these are very difficult things that I’m doing. I’m like a duck: everything is happening below the surface.

    Bad things happen, seemingly more often to me. Paychecks are delayed, but rent is due. I reached out to my estranged mother and daughter, but was rejected. The car desperately needs tires; my spare is dead. My new clients are unruly. I haven’t been able to establish a routine, which is hard for me. I’m dealing with my setbacks much better than I used to, though. My bestie Blue is proud of me; “That was only a little freakout,” she said last night, when I found out I’m not getting paid. “You’re getting better.” But it’s so hard, y’all. Emotional pain comes out of nowhere like a black wave, and I have to push back against it, or be overwhelmed. I am getting better. But the mental price is very high. And it just takes time, there’s no rushing it.

    I need help; my situation is bad. If you can spare a few dollars, I would be incredibly grateful, and so would Leonard. Even five bucks is a lot of money right now. My roommate has to pay the rent and I need to give him something, at least half. And gas and food for two weeks. My goal is $600 but if I can just get Leonard taken care of, I won’t be so worried. It’s astonishing, the toll poverty takes on one’s mental health. Here’s my PayPal link or you can use my email, which is leannemnorth (at) I have a brand new Patreon with no patrons yet; I’ve been doing a lot of the kind of writing you burn afterwards, and bury the ashes. But soon I’ll be back to writing I can share.

    Thoughts and prayers are good too. Thank you all so much, just for being there, and hearing me. I’m trying to become less isolated, but I still depend on all of you being here every day, coming together in fellowship, towards a better life for us all. I couldn’t handle these times without you. Thank you.

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    Recently I was triggered by something Trump said, as so often happens these days. His response to questions about Saudi Arabia’s latest human rights atrocity, the likely murder of a journalist, centered on profit: his imaginary hundred million dollar arms deal. He sounded confident that this rationale for letting Saudi Arabia off the hook for murder was entirely self-evident: such a good customer!

    I’ve worked a lot in the service industry, mostly as a cashier, and it’s been my experience that a lot of men think the money they spend, along with their self-perceived status, entitles them to bad behavior. Management frequently agrees. So servers, cashiers, hotel staff, housekeepers, and other low-paid, mostly female workers, are expected to put up with daily harassment ranging from sexist comments all the way up to assault. Because such good customers couldn’t possibly be offended. I can’t believe US foreign policy has become The Customer is Always Right.

    We’ve got to get out the vote like never before and get control of Congress. This administration is driving us straight into a cliff. Our collective mental and physical health is deteriorating, not to mention the health of our planet. People are suffering, families are being torn apart, our neighbors are being deported, and Goddess knows what else, while the clowns in the circus perform ever more frantically, while our children’s future slips away unnoticed.

    The time is now. We’re going to have so much work to do just to clean up the mess, before we can get back to making progress on things like climate change and prison reform and corporate accountability. Let’s plan for that time instead of paying attention to the clowns, because they certainly won’t go quietly. Don’t be afraid. Be happy, like a pug in a field of tulips.

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    I used to wonder why I’d hear Republicans call Obama a socialist. Can’t these morons use a dictionary? I’d think. Back then, I still thought words had precise meanings. I didn’t understand that the radical right was busily redefining words like freedom and liberty. Words like Democrat and socialism.

    Recently I finished Nancy MacLean’s work of true horror, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America. It scared the hell out of me. I was taught as a child that Democrats and Republicans have different ideas about the size and scope of government. If only that were true! MacLean’s book explains that the radical right--which now wholly owns the Republican party, and right now, our entire government—actually wants to eliminate government. No more public schools, or roads, or libraries. Strictly pay-as-you-go, and if you fail to save enough money to pay for your appendectomy, you lose the game, and die.

    MacLean traces this idea from a Virginia economist I’d never heard of, James Buchanan, to today’s well-funded Koch organization and the whole radical-right apparatus. It is an entire system of propaganda, funding media and schools and think tanks and lobbyists and dark-money PAC’s, designed to turn out true believers to pack the courts, state and local governments, and all levels of the Federal government.

    Already this evil machine has worked away, hammer and tongs, bringing us ultra-conservative judges and lawyers and TV stars, bending the will of the majority to the monetary power of the few ultra-rich. Much damage to our democracy has already been done. A deep schism has been sunk into our social fabric. Many of these extremists are already entrenched in our political system, working to turn the USA into an oligarchy. The only weapon we have is our votes.

    Voting is more important than ever, and we must work to bring more of our friends and neighbors into civic engagement. It will take all of us to save our democracy. Let’s get started, now!

    I highly recommend Democracy in Chains. Check it out at your local library today.

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  • 11/10/18--11:12: Own Your Righteous Fury
  • “We are outraged,” she thundered. “Hell yeah!” I said to the screen. “More of that.” Stacey Abrams’ lawyer was on MSNBC last night, speaking about the ongoing Georgia vote count, which Brian Kemp is suing to stop. She has a right to be angry. We all do. It reminded me of how I’d wished Gore had fought harder, when his presidency was stolen by the right.

    I have a hard time accessing my anger, always have. When I get mad, I start crying, which is not very threatening and distracts me from my actual emotional state. That’s because, like millions of other people, I wasn’t allowed to be angry as a child. Women especially are not “supposed” to show their anger. Female anger is harshly discouraged. It’s bound, like the feet of long-ago noble Asian girls. That keeps us from going places, because anger is a propellant, when controlled and directed. I’ve always admired women who could communicate effectively while expressing their fury. I’m a Southerner, and it has always seemed to me that women of color are much better at this. Men don’t seem so handicapped. Plenty of them have no problem expressing their anger, and it’s just fine with society if they do so (see B. Kavanaugh; also D. Trump.) Unless they’re Black, of course. Black men are discouraged from anger by society also, but punished much more harshly if they break this norm.

    On the left, we like to blunt our anger into satire or sarcasm. That's certainly an effective means of communication. But many nonvoters don’t get it; it doesn’t read to them like it reads to us. We who shy away from anger do so, I think, because our opponents, the radical right, seem driven by rage, also fear. For decades they have used anger as a tool. It’s been very effective. When observing Trump’s behavior, we often say things like, “If a Democrat had done that, everyone at Fox News would be apoplectic! Rush Limbaugh’s head would explode!” As a tactic, their fake anger has been insanely effective. There are lots of people on the right who now seem driven mad, or terrified, because of the right-wing noise machine’s rage-filled fear-mongering. This phenomenon now has a body count, and we mourn as a nation for those who’ve been killed or had their lives destroyed.

    The actual anger, and fear, felt by the rest of America, is different. It’s driven by real concern about actual events. I’m not saying we should be running around like our hair is on fire. Except maybe we should be. Because all of this bullshit is distracting people from the very real danger presented by climate change. If Al Gore had become president back in 2000, maybe we’d have been fixing the problem for nearly twenty years by now. We’d have kept better pace with the rest of the civilized world. Things certainly wouldn’t be so dire.

    In the present, it’s time to fight like hell. All the alarm bells are ringing. All of the lights are flashing red. Now is the time to scream NO with all of your being. We’ve got the momentum. Own your righteous fury, and use it as fuel to change your world. We need to stand in the gap until the new Congress is seated, in the streets and halls of power, raising our voices, and letting our anger find its voice. Put on your pussy hats and get going!

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    When I came home from work yesterday and discovered my laptop had been stolen, I had an autistic breakdown that lasted several hours. I’m still not feeling right, kind of want to hide under a table. It’s like they stole part of my mind. I’m having trouble thinking and I’m probably not writing well. I got lost earlier coming home from work. My roommate was upstairs when it happened. He’d left the back slider open and somebody moved a chair to reach over the fence and open the gate, then just walked right in and took my jewelry box from the bathroom, and my laptop. A very nice policeman came and even took fingerprints. He was not hopeful on ever recovering my computer but it was reassuring to have him come out. Thanks, Eugene PD!

    They did steal part of my mind, a very important part. I live maybe 30 to 40% of my life online, feeling connected, feeling a sense of belonging in my community, participating in civic life and doing what I can to help others. Maybe it’s because of my Asperger’s, but I’ve had an unnaturally close relationship with my laptops over the past 25 years. An internet-connected netbook or laptop provides a safe, comfortable way for me to participate in society, to find work and housing and friends. And finding community online has encouraged me to seek it in real life, but it’s much, much harder for me there. I’m still quite isolated in real life. But here, I feel safe.

    Most of my writing was safe in the cloud, but I lost three years of books and music and pictures and art. It was a devastating, traumatic event, and I’m trying to be kind to myself and take care, to know it’s a wound that will take time to heal. But I keep remembering and then I get upset all over again. I bought that laptop with the first money I made writing, and it was the nicest one I’ve ever had.

    I worry about my mental health, without a computer. We have two recycled-computer stores here, Goodwill and a local org called Next Step. I called them and they have netbooks and laptops from $100 to $400. That’s not a lot. I’m hoping we can crowdfund it. If you can spare it, even $5, every little bit helps. If you use PayPal, my email is leannemnorth (at) gmail (dot) com. Or here is a link. I was already broke due to car troubles (which are ongoing) and Leonard needing the vet (he got a shot and no more itching!) and I have a slipped disc, so I can’t work extra. (Maybe surgery soon.)

    I was already planning on writing about my disabled client, “Ed”. He is 56 and has end-stage renal failure. He goes to dialysis three days a week and is not a candidate for transplant. Ed has a lot of other health problems as well. He is a sweet man and does not complain. I try to keep him as comfortable as I can. His friend told me he’s been in much better spirits since he got home care, so I’m helping some. An infection in his neck “chewed up” the bones, according to the doctor, and it has left him in terrible pain. Ed can’t sleep in his hospital bed and stays in his wheelchair nearly all the time. He uses a recliner at dialysis, and says he is able to sleep in that, so I’ve been trying to find him one. I tried his doctor, St. Vinnie’s and Goodwill, some other social service agencies, nobody can help. I checked craigslist and there are lots there, from $60 up to about $150 for the power lift kind, which would be ideal. I’m so sorry to ask for two things at the same time! But I told him I would find a way. I’m hoping we can crowdfund Ed’s recliner five bucks at a time too. Same thing, leannemnorth (at) gmail (dot) com, or the link above. He deserves to be comfortable. I hope when I have come to the end, there will be someone looking out for me. In real life.

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart, y’all. Not only if you can donate, but just for being there, 24/7, being the only home I have in this world, standing in as my only family, always there, supporting me. I could never have the words to express what Kossacks have done for me; saved my life, you did. Thank you.