Category Archives: Social Justice

Social justice sets us all free

Infinity Dreams Award

Wendy notified me of a blog post that was so inspiring, I couldn’t resist the urge to update you on what I’ve been up to. Thank you Wendy!

Rules for the Infinity Dreams Award:

Please note: nominees are not obligated to accept this award. You may simply accept the nomination with a note of appreciation. However, if you want to accept the award, please follow the rules.

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you and make sure you link back.
  • Post the award badge and rules.
  • Tell 11 facts about yourself.
  • Answer the questions that were set for you to answer.
  • Nominate 11 other bloggers and set questions for them.

The Requisite 11 Facts About Myself

  1. Like Wendy, I love to dance. When I was little, my favorite stage was the silver screen of the portable black-and-white TV reflecting my moves. My body always moves when I hear music, and in my head I see exciting choreography.
  2. Like Wendy, when I was a kid, my shower was my favorite stage for singing. I held variety shows with (myself as) many guests. Then, I hosted fashion shows in my medicine cabinet mirror, using my big bath towel. I went on to sing, act, and dance in school and community theater performances.
  3. My dinnertime routine is to watch a movie with my husband. The only live TV show that we watch is the presidential debates. Our library includes old horror flicks, BBC historical dramas, documentaries, West Wing, Newsroom, Neil Simon, Gilbert & Sullivan, opera, concerts, ballet… No blood or crime. We are always looking for more good ones, especially that are inspiring. Please share titles of your favorites in the Comments box at the end of this post.
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  4. My resume could be as long as the title of this award implies: infinite dreams. It includes (roughly in chronological order) managing weaving studios, sales in a variety of businesses, costume design, resort management, waitressing, beekeeping, assisting rehabilitation therapists, career counseling, high-level customer service for a huge international corporation, website and database development, income tax preparation, licensed financial advising, and laboring at an organic farm. I enjoyed every job, and only moved on when I couldn’t see any way to stay.
  5. A year or so ago, we took shirts to a tailor for altering. Even after I returned them three times, they were still poorly stitched. I had stopped sewing before CDs, PCs, cell phones, and camcorders existed. My husband took me to look at sewing machines, and I fell in love with one. During this past year, I have been getting up to date on new sewing technology, e.g., my new electronic machine, rotary cutters, .pdf patterns, and a custom-padded dress form. I am delighted by the generous sewists sharing online. I am anticipating discovering serging and software. Now you know where I’ve been since you last saw me here.
  6. I think that I have resolved my lifelong love/hate relationship with art. I always saw it as taking away resources from feeding the world. This summer, I realized that art has a huge impact on people’s environments, which affects health and productivity. I’m wondering what your relationship is with art.
  7. I used to feel equally at home in New York City as I was in the wilderness of National Parks, but now that I’ve been living in a rural area for over 15 years, this is home. Its woods brings back fond memories of my first camping experiences as a Girl Scout.
  8. My latest greatest discovery is Andrew Johnson’s mp3s, Android apps, and videos. I also found his work on Spotify, Amazon, and iTunes. I hope that you will share in the Comments (below) any meditation practices that you recommend.
  9. Because I’m so focused when working on a project, I don’t hear when someone is talking to me.
  10. My husband says that one of the first things that he discovered about me was that everything that I do is deliberate.
  11. (I deliberately avoided this item.)

My Responses to Wendy’s Questions:

  1. Do you love your career or work?
    Yes. See Fact #4.
  2. Name your favourite author or book?
    My favorite one is usually the one that I’m reading, and I’m always reading several. I most recently began reading Sandra Betzina’s Fabric Savvy.
  3. What’s your guilty pleasure?
    Binging on snack food when I’m tired. Usually, I eat healthier than almost anyone whom you have heard of.
  4. Who inspires you and why?
    Wendy inspired me to return to WordPress to accept this award.
  5. Favourite food?
    Freshly-picked organic vegetables from our garden.
    Fresh-picked from our organic gardens
  6. Relate your good or disastrous travel experience.
    When I took my first college English class, I tried to tell my disastrous story about the first time that I went to Girl Scout camp. I got a bad grade because it was “anticlimactic”. I’d love to figure out a way to tell the tale in a more engaging way.
    One of my best travel experiences was being the youngest kid in a YMCA tour bus full of young teenagers going across the country, staying at college dorms and campgrounds.
  7. Sunset or sunrise?
    Sunrise. I don’t like staying up late enough to enjoy a sunset.
  8. Your favourite pastime.
    Right now, sewing, but I hope that writing will regain its place in my life.
  9. Who would you like to accompany you on any adventure?
    My husband. He is the best friend I have ever had.
  10. Something you did that your parents don’t know about.
    Lots. I can tell you now that I wished that I had accepted my father’s offer to use his influence to put me in a position at Lincoln Center’s theater, but if I did that then I probably wouldn’t be where I am in life, and I love where I am.
  11. If you were the President/Prime Minister/King or Queen what particular policy would you change in your country?
    I am loving what I’m hearing Bernie Sanders saying (during the U.S. Presidential debates) about everyone receiving health care, education, fair wages, fair trials with appropriate consequences, citizenship… the American Dream.

My Nominations for the Infinity Dreams Award

Wendy’s nomination brought me out of the woodwork. Therefor, for this award I selected some of my favorite bloggers who haven’t been posting lately. (listed in the reverse order of their disappearance)

Let’s see if we can bring these bloggers back with our visits, Likes, Shares, and Comments.

The Zombies Ate My Brains Maggie last posted on September 27, 2015. I miss the adventurous stories of this darling person.

Spirit In Action Ohnwentsya last posted on August 11, 2015. I miss the weekly digest of important stories from across the web.

The Truth Shall Set You Free Sydney last posted on June 23, 2015. I miss the insights into Social Justice in post-Apartheid South Africa.

Passing and Failing in Paradise Last post: June 3, 2015. I miss the insight into gender issues.

Unload and Unwind Jennifer last posted on May 10, 2015. I miss the stories, and perspective on social justice in Australia.

TG or Not TG? That Is The Question Rachael last posted on April 6, 2015. I miss the perspective on gender issues.

Yesterday Unhinged Aaron last posted on March 22, 2014. I miss the perspective on history.

Graphomania William last posted on February 11, 2015. I miss the poetic perspective on issues that we all face.

‘Ritings, Ramblings… Ronda last posted on November 12, 2014. I miss her serial novel titled, “Amigarumi”.

Three Dancing Flowers Last post: July 22, 2014. I miss reading about the experiences with Bipolar Disorder.

Greyling Falah last posted on May 16, 2014. I miss the inspiration.

JMGajda I think that I last heard from Jessica over a year ago. I miss the friendship, and stories of dystopia and social justice.

My Questions for My Nominees

What is one goal that you want to work on in 2016? What is your plan for accomplishing it? Why is it so important? How can we readers help?

I hope that you, readers, will also consider answering this question in the Comments section.

Wrap-up

My most recent post to my blog was half a year ago, when I shared my latest excerpt from my River Novel. My characters continue with their lives, and I look forward to continuing to share them with you.

In the meantime, people still stop by my blog almost every day, and I continue getting new (legitimate) followers!

Thank you to all of you who helped me get my blog up and rolling, and who have been keeping it alive with visits, likes, comments, and shares. Remember to share that attention with my nominees.

I Have The Right To Be Treated With Dignity

I must intellectualize this to cut my emotion.

The side walls are gray. Flat paint on the rough surface. The drop ceiling must be 10 feet high, at least. I feel small, but I might be able to touch both walls with my fingertips, from where I’m sitting.

Health Center Office

The far walls make this a five-sided office. They are at weird angles. That might be what sent my discomfort over the top. They are light beige. The one on my right is longer than the one on my left. The air is still, odorless. This place resembles the concrete box that a coffin is placed in.

On my left, slightly behind me, is a picture. Art work, sort of. A mass-produced copy of a watercolor portrait of a couple of kids. On hardboard. Hanging crooked. Below it is a sliding glass window, with a desk on the other side of the wall, with chairs facing the window, and another window like it on the other side of the small, unoccupied office. My neck hurts when I turn toward it.

On the cabinet that was placed against the far wall – the longer one – is two photos. One of a young boy, framed. Probably a school picture. Beside it is one of a young girl, slightly older, propped up in front of something framed (maybe an older photo of her?).

“ID and insurance card?” she asks. I take them out, and slide them across the desk to woman on the other side. I make my breath go as deeply as I can. It won’t go past the top buttoned-up-button on my shirt. I try to push a breath down into my belly. It won’t go.

I uncross my legs to plant my feet firmly on the floor to help me feel grounded. No carpet to settle my feet into. Hard vinyl flooring. It is a dark pattern. Abstract. Angular shapes of grays and tans. These colors might be known for subduing people, but I’m not feeling it. These sedating colors are making me impatient to get out of here. To anywhere. To outside. To sunshine and green and lively colors and traffic.

My breath is deeper now.

“Sign here.” She untangles its cord as she slides an electronic signature pad toward me.

“What am I signing?”

“Forms.”

“I think I should read the forms before I sign them?” I try to look at her quizzically, but I can’t see her face over the top of her computer monitor, even though I’m tall. I have to lean way over to the side to see around it. Leaning sideways makes me feel dizzy in this room.

One of the papers says that I will behave myself, do what I’m told, not carry firearms in this building… I never had to sign paperwork like this before. I tell the woman, “Do you know that studies show that people with mental illness diagnoses are less likely to be criminals, break laws, or attack other people than the general public?” She sputters a response of doubt.

Decision For Dignity

This is not where I want to seek help with my recovery from my mental illness, even though this is the only place, within a two hours’ drive from my home, where I have found psychiatrists who accept Medicare health insurance and new patients. I wish that my insurance covered the psychiatrist who has been advising me brilliantly.

I am following one of the options that I discussed with the psychologist: I am asking my physician (who accepts Medicare) to manage my prescriptions for psychiatric medications, as long as I continue to feel well.

Dignity For All

I am using Medicare this year for a few reasons: I save thousands of dollars on health insurance premiums, I want to know what poorer people experience, and I want to support a program that is supposed to provide affordable health care to everyone who qualifies. I also don’t want to support businesses that make large profits on providing essential services to those who can afford to pay the premiums.

When I talked with the intake psychologist who assessed me, and who assigned me to a counselor and a psychiatrist, he said that the paperwork, and a similar sign in the waiting room, were there to help me feel safe.

I would feel safer if the Center would tell us what we can expect, rather than what we can’t do. I feel safer in other professionals’ offices where I see positive affirmations, rather than signing “I shall not” promises that conjure fear.

My thought is, “why do they think that they need me to sign this?” rather than, “I’m glad that all of the patients here had to make these promises.”

The psychologist finally stated that the paperwork and signs were the result of “overpaid lawyers protecting the Center”. As I suspected, it has nothing to do with my feeling safe; it has everything to do with reducing the Center’s liability exposure. Even when they don’t expect people to read the forms that they’re signing.

As far as I recall, when I previously signed in for services at hospital-affiliated health centers, I have received a Patient’s Bill of Rights. I did not receive anything like that from this hospital-affiliated Health Center.

I share my story with the hope of enlightening you who have never been to such a Health Center, and you who go to such places and see nothing wrong. I want everyone to expect to be treated with dignity. Before my intake for outpatient services this week, I heard from health care professionals, and others, that people were really happy with the services that the Center provided. I wasn’t prepared for the psychologist to be derogatory. I want employees at the Center to sign a form that says:

I will behave myself
I will not carry fire arms
I will not raise my voice
I will be patient with you
I will not call you names
I will treat you with dignity

 

Image Credit:
Claustrophobia by Timothy Allen. Used under Creative Commons License BY-SA 2.0. Modified by Grace Buchanan.

Mental Health Athletes

I greatly appreciate writers who share ideas for attracting readers, for example, at Twitter: #amwriting #amreading; and at Google+: the Saturday Scenes and Writers Discussion Group communities.

Here are thoughts that I would like more authors to consider when sharing what they write about mental illness.

I often perceive an “us and them” way of thinking, for example when a writer claims, “it’s very easy to tick them off.” I suggest that we all have triggers that are easy to spark; people with a specific issue aren’t unique in that regard. The quote conjures visions of a herd of people with the issue, wound tight like springs, ready to attack. With this image in mind, I can see why some people try to keep a wide berth between “us” and “them.” Remember that all people are people. Attackers attack, resilient people bounce back, doormats are trampled, and so forth, regardless of specific issues.

Attack

Fiction can be better at building understanding than nonfiction. Novels can make challenges and solutions vivid for the readers. I’m thinking of Hamlet and Don Quixote, Sybil, and more recently Cut, and The Silver Linings Playbook.

Mental illness is like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes: all can be addressed with preventive measures and therapies, and all are invisible to most of us.

A person who is not dealing with a mental health issue, but is writing about a character who is, is like a male writing about a female, or a European writing about an Indian. It is like being a real person writing about someone who is not. A key is getting feedback from people who have similar characteristics.

The most enthusiastic readers might be those who recognize something in common with at least one of the main characters. Therefor, reaching out to people who have an illness that is similar to the fictitious condition should be effective. However, main characters have more to them than just one issue. Draw on those other similarities as well.

Consider that the only difference between someone who has a mental health issue, and someone who doesn’t, is that one is seeking treatment. Everyone deals with mental health; the people who are working on their mental health issues are like athletes who are working on their physical health issues.

Healthy-Athlete

We are all working on putting our best foot forward.

P.S. I found more guidelines for writing about mental illness, for people who are looking for more specific advice. What are your favorite resources? Which resources have you discovered recently?

 

Image credits:

Woverine vs. Hulk, by Marcel Trindade.

Fields Squats, Fields Prosthetic, and Fields Runs 200, by Tim Hipps, FMWRC Public Affairs.

All images used under Creative Commons License by-2.0.

The Longest Night

Thank you Liza for reassuring us that we can bring back and expand the light.

photo: Candle in the dark, by Andy Hay

Like Liza, I have been sifting through memories of my Christmas Pasts, to find ones that nourish new possibilities. I am so content with what I have, my seasonal joy is now from gifting things to people who are in dark times, to surprise and delight them.

When I studied Psychology, I learned that people collapse under crises just after the worst is over. Forget the common idiom, “the darkest hour is just before dawn”; the darkest hour is the one just after dawn. People tend to give up just as things start to get better. That is one reason to appreciate that Christmas and New Years are after the Solstice; after the darkest, longest night. That means that the most important time for action is now.

What is making your days merry and bright? How are you brightening the dark times of others?


(This might be especially true for people close to the North Pole. I have not found a comparable tradition for Southerners; short days are less drastic for them.)

Deeper Roots

Tonight is the longest night. At 5:03 the shortest day of the year ended and the winter solstice, the longest night began.

My family lit candles – six candles on the menorah for the six (thus far) nights of Hannukah and four candles on the Advent Wreath for Peace, Hope, Joy, Love. We won’t light the Christ candle until Christmas Day. My family gathered in the flickering flame. The light looked so fragile, the shadow and the darkness beyond so vast and enclosing.

It feels like it is the longest night in our nation as well.   The President of the New York Police Department Union said “There’s blood on many hands tonight….That blood on the hands starts on the steps of city hall in the office of the mayor.” In fact there is blood on many hands. There has been for many generations. Since the first Native was murdered, since…

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