Monday, October 31, 2011

Vlad the Impaler's jack-o-lantern collection

My husband and I spent several hours on Sunday carving pumpkins and decorating the front yard. Inspired by Vlad the Impaler (aka Dracula), he made spikes out of metal and wood while I started carving pumpkins. When we impaled a jack-o-lantern on a spike, it made a satisfying, popping, squishy sound and pumpkin goo slid out of the puncture. Gruesome!

Happy Halloween, from my muse, Medusa

Medusa pumpkin carved by Ray Villafane. See more of his carvings at

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

People with disabilities are the 99%

image from

On Saturday, my husband, father and I drove two hours south to San Francisco to march with Occupy San Francisco, which is affiliated with Occupy Wall Street. We felt we needed to be there for our daughter, Queen Teen, and others who have disabilities. Services for people with disabilities and the elderly are being cut to dangerous levels. Health care, supported living, therapies, In Home Support Services, jobs programs, day programs, and every other service necessary to the health and well being of people with disabilities have been slashed. People are being forced into nursing homes because no one can care for them in their homes. Imagine what it must be like for a 25 year old man with a disability to live in a nursing home, surrounded by the elderly and the dying, just because he needs a physical attendant to survive. The wealthy can get all the health care and supports they need while the elderly and disabled are forced to choose between food and medicine. This is a crime, and any civilized nation should be ashamed. I will not sit silently while one more person with a disability is killed because of "budget cuts."

The other reason we needed to go was because last year we almost lost our house. My husband had been laid off for the second time in 5 years and was unemployed for over two years. We tried getting help from our lender, Bank of America, but they wouldn't talk to us. We didn't qualify for any of the programs available to help people from being foreclosed on because we actually did everything right. We had a traditional 30 year loan at a good, fixed interest rate (for then) and put down a large down-payment. We were never late on our payments and when we had to refinance the first time my husband had been laid off, we refused when the bank wanted us to pull out ALL of our equity. They practically begged, but we only took what we needed to survive. But then, 3 years later when we needed to refi  because he had been laid off again, B of A wouldn't grant us an interview. They got bailed out... we got ignored.

The protest and march were small and disorganized, but the people were passionate. It was a mix of old and young, but the young were the majority. Different races and different cultures were represented. I saw young professionals walking side-by-side with tattooed hippie kids. The image you see on the news is that the OWS (Occupy Wall Street) movement is primarily made up of communist and anarchist kids who have nothing better to do then drum and rant about revolution. That image is only a tiny part of who is really there. I am a working, highly educated, middle class, woman from a small town and I saw many more people who would fit into my demographic. The idea that there is no message or cohesive point to the rallies and marches is ludicrous. Pay attention! This is a wake up call to our government demanding that our needs, the 99%, become more of a priority then multi-national corporations and banks. I don't know who payed for Obama when he got to be President, but he sure doesn't seem to be listening to us anymore.

We marched from the Federal Reserve Bank up Market Street to Civic Center Plaza near Van Ness Avenue. It was peaceful, but loud. The police traveled along side us in their cruisers, watching us with impassive faces, keeping us from blocking the road, but allowing us to walk in it. I ended up walking on the outside of the marchers closest to the police and it felt eery having a cop car slowly moving beside me while I shouted, "Who's streets? Our streets!" The march was going all the way up to the Mission District and Dolores Park, but we couldn't stay that long. We had to be back home by 9:00 p.m. for the sitter. Queen Teen had stayed home because we felt the noise and all those people would be too scary for her. Plus, it's hard to run away in a wheel chair if the protest gets violent.  I've seen the pictures from New York City. We may be peaceful, but sometimes things happen. We may not be able to camp out with the protesters, but we supported them the best we could.

Occupy Wall Street is growing all over the country, including here in Ukiah. I'm excited. Perhaps as the OWS grows, our government and our president will finally start to think about the rest of us, the 99%, and the responsibility we all have to support those who need our help.

Stop the killing of people with disabilities through draconian budget cuts. I will gladly pay more taxes if it will save a life. Wouldn't you?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Keeping it Real

How much information is too much? After I wrote the post about my struggle with depression, I had to ask myself that question again. Am I sharing too much, especially now that I'm a teacher? What if my boss or co-workers read my blog, or the parents of one of my students? How will they feel learning that I need to take medication just to get out of bed in the morning?

But after thinking about it for a while I decided to go ahead and click "publish." This is who I am. I'm not trying to get sympathy votes and I certainly don't want to sound whiney (whiney people bug the hell out of me, so I hope that's not how I sound!). I simply want to keep it real. Depression is a very real part of my life, as it is for thousands of others, especially parents of special needs kids. Just the every day stress and fatigue can make even the toughest person start to crack. There is only so much a human brain can handle before it decides to go on strike and stop absorbing serotonin. If my honestly about depression can help others, then my blog is doing its work.

I've always been forthcoming. Too forthcoming! I know it, and I've tried over the years to keep things quiet and close to the vest, but it's so against my nature it makes me feel like I'm trying to wear a wool sweater against my bare skin (I'm allergic to wool). So I gave up. I'm more selective as to where and when I speak my mind, but I still suffer from severe oversharing. My friends understand and seem to put up with me. People who think I'm weird stay away.

I'm just as eager to know about you, too. What do you think? Hope for? Need? What makes you mad, and what makes you so happy you almost piss your pants? What were you like in the 3rd grade and what do you think you'll be like when you're 80? I love hearing people tell their stories, which is one of the reasons I love blogs so much. Don't just post a recipe or a photo of a cute kid, and please don't try to sell me something by reviewing it. Tell me a story.

This is also why I love publishing memoir. Even though it is extremely hard work helping a writer tell her story in a way other people will want to read (no one wants to read about why you bought green pants at K-mart on Jan. 3rd), after three years of being a publisher I still love editing memoir. Human beings and the epic nature of their lives make fascinating reading.

So I'll keep writing what I think and how I feel, and I'll hold fast to keeping it real.

(cool, I made a rhyme)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Depressed? Enter a Drag King contest.

It was time to do something drastic. I've been living with depression for months, coping with side-effects from different medications while searching for the one that would make me stop being suicidal. The weight of it all is exhausting. So I entered a Drag King contest.

The event was hosted by our local chapter of PRIDE to raise money for their community grants program. The theme was "Marie Antoinette" and the hosts of the event wore elaborate 17th century French gowns with oversized powdered wigs. The stage manager wore a man's suit in the same style, complete with powdered wig and powdered face. The audience came in costume, some inspired by the theme and others simply celebrating Halloween. My husband wore a kilt and Valkyrie outfit, torpedo boobs, braids, horned helmet and all. I wore a blue velvet frock coat with lace cuffs and my shiny black boots, my hair slicked back. And then I drew a mustache and goatee using a .99 Wet and Wild eyeliner pencil. With my little round glasses I felt more "Sergeant Pepper" then French Revolution.

I performed to Depeche Mode's "Martyr" which gave me lots of opportunity to interact with the audience. Kind of sexy, very danceable, the song is all about giving yourself completely to love, even if it destroys you.

"I've been a martyr for love
And I will die in the flames
As I draw my last breath
As I close in on death
I will call out your name"

So much drama to work with! It was great. The audience cheered and waived dollar bills at me, tucked them in my boots and down my shirt, swooned when I knelt at the feet of one woman, laughed when I used my mic as a... lets just say prop. I had so much fun lip syncing and dancing it was hard not to leap on tables (they were plastic. it would have been a bad way to end my routine).

Judging was done by audience cheers, and the cheers were split between me and another woman in drag. Because it was so close, we had a dance off. I was already winded from my performance, now I had to dance one-on-one with a 24 year old girl who could dance circles around my tired 44 year old ass. I just leapt all in, acting cocky and sexy and wild.

And I won.

I am now the Drag King of Ukiah.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Depression is not for Wimps

August and September have vanished. All of the sudden it's fall, and yards are beginning to be decorated with pumpkins and dancing skeletons. I missed the end of summer because a dark haze of depression took over. When I finished school I got a serious case of the blues, which I was told pretty much everybody feels when they finish grad school. So I didn't worry about it to much. I figured I was worn out from stress and the energy it took driving back and forth to San Francisco for classes and then studying every day. But instead of getting better, my feelings of futility and fatigue got worse. By July I was fighting inertia just to get out of bed. By August, I was dreaming of killing myself. And then when I wanted to cut my wrists with the knife I was using to chop an onion, I knew I had to get help. This wasn't just post-grad school angst. This was full on, life-threatoning, depression with a capitol "D".

So began the trials of finding the right medication. The first one my doctor prescribed made me manic and gave me such horrible panic attacks the first week I couldn't leave the house. I became agitated and couldn't eat. I guess some people pay good money for Crank to feel like this, but I hated it. After three weeks when the side effects didn't go away, I called my doctor and asked for something different. Problem is, none of the SSRI's work for me; Paxil, Zoloft, Celexa... out. That meant trying a new class of anti-depressents which of course, my insurance wouldn't cover. Oh well, I can't spend my days wishing I was dead. Makes it hard to get anything done.

Now I'm on a different medication which seems to be working well, other than feeling like an idiot half the time. My short term memory is terrible and it can be hard to stay focused. The first week I was so stoned I just sat outside and stared at the leaves on the trees all day. Luckily that wore off, and the fatigue is better, but I still feel like an elderly person who forgot why she went into a certain room.

And while all this was going on, I started my new job. I am officially an Orientation and Mobility teacher, which is exciting, and stressful. I'm trying to learn all the procedures and paperwork required to do my job, let alone teach. Luckily I only work part time. When I started this new medication I decided I shouldn't be driving children anywhere, let alone my own kid, so I missed half a day of work. But overall, I'm managing.

This has been a real test of my will-power; first I fought to keep myself from doing anything stupid, then I had to deal with overwhelming side effects, all while taking care of Queen Teen and starting a new job. My husband has been wonderful and really supportive, and the few friends I told about my depression have been incredible. One friend drove all the way up here from Petaluma just to take me out to lunch. And now my father is here, helping with child care and keeping me from brooding.

I feel that I am on the mend and finding my strength again, but it can feel like failure when you hit this level of depression, like I can't "hack it." I beat myself up for my apparent "weakness." Just like any medical issue, though, sometimes it takes accepting that you need help and taking medication to become well again.

I am Wonder Woman! Super Mom! I don't need no stinking medication to keep me sane.

Yeah, I do.

Please, if you're feeling like I did and are too ashamed to admit it, remember that you're not alone. Many people have major depression, even someone like me who people think is so "together." Get help. Don't wait so long that you get the impulse to kill yourself. It takes a lot of strength to go to your doctor and admit you are miserable, far more strength than jumping off the Golden Gate bridge. It takes courage to stick around and work toward wholeness. Depression is not for wimps.