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Worthiness

I have had so much on my mind lately.

So many things make me question my worthiness.  I don’t even know.  I don’t even know what I want to say.  Usually I pull out my journal and just write until my hand cramps. Everything that comes from my head through my fingers. Usually it doesn’t make sense. But I need to get it out.

So that is where I am today.

First. I have missed the Band so much. I am so grateful it is back together again!

I was fired last year from a job I HATED! but loved at the same time. I was a teacher in a 2-year old classroom. I loved my kids. Even on the worst days they made me smile.

People left, got new jobs. People were hired that didn’t like the way my classroom ran. They didn’t have the heart for 2-year olds. They accused me of some shady shit and state got involved. It was bad. I cried every day for a few months. I was terrified!

I mean, this is what I know I was put on this planet to do!

And it was taken away from me and ruined by some 18-year old snot nosed little bitch who didn’t want to work where she was told. I could go into a rant about entitlement here but that would be another post for another day. Ultimately she made up things that just weren’t true.

And to deal with it, I was fired. I was HEARTBROKEN!  I was losing my kids. I couldn’t tell them why. I couldn’t tell the parents why. It was absolute bullshit! I was so hurt and angry. These people I worked with I thought were some of my best friends!

Guess what? I’ve talked to them maybe 5 times in the last year. They don’t care; I didn’t matter.

That is when I get into my head.  See, I have heard my whole life that I don’t matter.  That I am not good enough. That I am ugly and clumsy and not proportioned right – and too skinny, and too fat.

I was told I was stupid. 

I believe all of these things to be true.

If the people in my life who are supposed to love me the most say these things to me as a child, they have to be true.

I don’t have relationships. I have people around me who I know I am not good enough for.  I was just starting to actually build some self-confidence, believing that I was worthy of a friend.

BAM!

Once again, I was told I am a terrible human; I don’t deserve friends, don’t deserve to do what I love.

I really thought my ‘friends’ wouldn’t disappear.  I thought I might actually matter enough. And reality, once again, slapped me in the face.

It made me realize that I don’t have a single true friend. Someone I know I can call any time of the day and talk or cry or not talk or laugh.

I constantly feel like a burden. I don’t have a relationship with my own sister. Sure, I love her, I want to be her friend, but I am not even worthy of that.  I feel so incredibly alone….. Even surrounded by people.

I know if I weren’t there, no one would notice. Or they’d be talking crap about me.

I have a new job now that I absolutely love and I work with some great people. But my walls are even higher than ever now: I can’t let anyone in. I can’t be devastated like that any more. It’s crushed me.

It’s happened more times in my life than I can count.

And here I am, rambling again.

I even suck at writing. I just wish I had a person. Someone who really cared. Someone I could give all my secrets too. Even the ones I am not so proud of. The ones that make me terrified.

I just want to feel worthy of someone.

To know that I matter.

The Stew

This evening the conversation goes like this:

Me: Sam, would you like to have beef stew for dinner again, like Daddy and me?

Sam: Yeah.

Me: Great. Dinner is in ten minutes.

I am pleased that Sam says yes. I am pleased that he tried the stew at dinner last night. Trying new foods is a sign of health in our son, while rejecting foods is a clue that he is doing poorly.

We sit down to dinner. Sam looks at the bowl of stew in front of him.

Sam: I won’t eat this.

Me: Why?

Sam: I didn’t ask for it.

I’d sorted all the vegetables in the pot and put the best-looking ones in Sam’s bowl, because he won’t eat them if they are mushy or misshapen. Ian, Ruby, and I can live with less-pretty vegetables.

Me: Yes, you did.

Sam: No, I didn’t!

I’d poured Sam’s serving of broth out of the steaming pot five minutes before dinner so that it would be just the right temperature for him. I’d taken out four chunks of meat, cut them each into smaller pieces so their size didn’t freak him out, and then tasted a small piece from every chunk to make sure that none of them had that gamey flavor that stew meat sometimes gets, which would also freak him out and end dinner with tears. There had been three volcanoes already today, many more this week, countless more over the years we have been navigating life with Sam.

I close my eyes and take a breath.

Me: I would like you to eat your stew.

Feeding Sam is a delicate experiment, not only because a particular meal might fail if something is not right, but because a single bite of something he finds unpleasant will eliminate that food in his diet. It happened with a spicy bite of chicken when he was five, and now, two years later, he gags at the sight of chicken.

Sam, his voice rising: You didn’t ask me if I wanted this.

Me, my voice rising: I did ask you, Sam. Daddy and Ruby heard me ask you if you wanted stew.

Feeding Sam’s four-year-old sister Ruby is easy. She likes most of what we put in front of her and is eager to try new foods. As I argue with Sam about his dinner, Ruby quietly gets to work on her bowl of stew, the bowl of stew which I did not check over, taste or otherwise de-fuse before serving to her.

Sam, whining: I want to eat noodles.

Me, stony: You can have noodles if you eat your stew.

Sam stares hard at me, then lifts his spoon to his mouth. His small pink tongue darts out to lick the spoon, then disappears. He squinches up his face and says: The broth tastes bad to me.

The words pour out of my mouth hot and mean: You liked it yesterday.

Sam starts to cry. He beats the table with his fists. Ian warns Sam not to let his volcano explode. The developmental pediatrician had given us this metaphor for Sam’s angry meltdowns. There had been three volcanoes already today, many more this week, countless more over the years we have been navigating life with Sam.

Sam yells tearfully that it isn’t fair, that he didn’t ask for the stew, that it tastes bad to him. Ian gives him a second warning. Something shuts down inside of me, as though my anger abruptly recedes, and I gaze toward the stewpot, thinking placidly about throwing my bowl of stew against the purple tile backsplash behind the stove. About how the stew would splatter, how the shards of the blue Heath bowl would fly. Sam lets out a howl and my anger floods back into the foreground. I excuse myself and go to the living room.

I sit on the couch, sadness and fatigue eating at the edges of my anger. Most days, Sam’s issues threaten to overwhelm me. Now seven, he has had a sleep disorder since birth, and gets up for the day, every day, hyperactive, between 4 and 5 am. He is anxious, depressed, irritable, hypersensitive and over-reactive, and has been all of these things in some way or anotherhis whole life. We recently found out that he also has celiac disease and cannot eat the gluten in wheat, barley or rye, and so now is on a strict gluten-free diet.

This is the son we have, the person we have to work with every day. Most of the time we do not feel equipped to do this, do not feel confident in handling what comes our way from minute to minute. I am, however, a competent researcher, and so I seek answers. This is one thing I can do.

Instead of working at my actual job, I’d spent my morning emailing with doctors at Stanford University, the University of California at San Francisco and the University of California at Davis, trying to find a physician who understands the relationship between Sam’s anxiety, depression and morning insomnia. We have seen psychologists, psychiatrists, a developmental pediatrician, a holistic pediatrician, a sleep disorders clinic, an occupational therapist, an osteopath, a chiropractor, and a speech therapist the latter for the oral-motor disorder he developed because parts of his mouth were so sensitive he could not let his tongue go there. No one, except for the speech therapistwho assured us that correcting Sam’s speech should only take three or four years of twice-weekly therapyhas an answer for us, for our child.

When Sam was four, he picked obsessively at his head until it bled, and chewed his fingernails to nubs. When he gnawed off an entire toenail, we took him to a psychologist for help with the anxiety that drove him to tear off parts of himself. The psychiatrist heard his story and said that Sam didn’t need therapy: he had sensory processing disorder, difficulty taking in and figuring out what to do with everyday sensory information: sound, sight, taste, smell, touch, awareness of his body in space. That explained why Sam gagged at certain smells, could not dress himself, had fine and gross motor delays. Why, as an infant, he had cried at loud noises, at sunlight, at the feel of wind on his face. But why?

We are cautious in the way I imagine an abused wife is around her husband when he’s been drinking, certain he will explode, wondering only when. No one could tell us this. I’ve asked them all.

One psychiatrist told me, when I asked him why: We must have a certain epistemological modesty about what it is possible to know. In other words, suck it up and live with it. But I can’tI need to know why my son is this way, so that I can help him live a less disordered life. I can’t see where modesty about my quest to help my child serves any purpose. Except, perhaps, that it might preserve my own sanity.

I feel so often that I am failing with him. Trying so hard and still failing.

At home we do what the occupational therapist calls a sensory diet to manage his sensory integration dysfunction, and what the developmental pediatrician calls cognitive behavioral therapy to redirect anxiety and rage. We are trying to control his behavior, mood and sleep disorders with nutrition he takes fourteen different vitamins and supplements twice a day, and sits in front of a 10,000 lux light box every evening. We have adopted strict timetables and firm boundaries and clear expectations because Sam thrives on structure. In these ways, we prevent as many meltdowns as we can.

Still, we are cautious in the way I imagine an abused wife is around her husband when he’s been drinking certain he will explode, wondering only when.

Ruby finishes her dinner and comes in to see me on the couch. I lie down with her delicate body on top of me, her back to my front. Cuddling. Snugging, as she calls it. Loving. We giggle and I start to feel a little better. She is my love, my light. I feel fortunate to have her, my normal child, my sweet girl.

Me: I feel lucky to have you.

Ruby: I feel lucky to have you too, Mommy.

Sam comes in. I ask if I can talk to him. I send Ruby to the kitchen in search of a gluten-free pumpkin muffin (Omnivorous Ruby has more-or-less happily gone gluten-free because of Sam’s illness). I tell Sam that I feel sad because I’d asked him if he wanted stew for dinner, and I gave him the best vegetables, and I cut up the meat and tasted each piece to make sure it was okay for him, and he still wouldn’t eat it.

His face crumples.

He starts to cry.

I pull him onto my lap and lie back down, hold him on my body the way I’d held Ruby. He is larger and more full of sharp elbows and wiggle. He starts to sob. I stroke his arms.

Sam digs an elbow into my ribs and wails: I hate you, you never do the right thing, I wish you weren’t my mother.

My hands freeze and my heart locks up. I think: I hate you. And I’m going to bite off a chunk of the inside of my cheek with the effort of holding those words in.

I take a deep breath and try something I learned in parenting class. As he howls on top of me, I say, with as much gentleness as I can muster: It sounds like you had a hard time with dinner tonight.

He doesn’t hear me through his sobbing.

I sit up and move his body off mine, position him next to me and look directly into his eyes. Say again, slower: It sounds like you had a hard time with dinner tonight.

He takes a ragged breath and sighs in two parts. Says: Yeah. Dinner was hard for me.

My heart melts a little.

Lock, melt. Lock, melt. This is the tachycardic dance in my chest every day I live with Sam. Sometimes it feels like I just can’t take it anymore, can’t handle the overreactions, the accusations, the sobbing, the vast despair. I don’t sleep enough to withstand it. I ask why he is crying. I think: I hate you. And I’m going to bite off a chunk of the inside of my cheek with the effort of holding those words in.

Sam: Because I feel so bad.

Me: What do you feel so bad about?

Sam: Because you did all that work for me and I didn’t eat it.

I melt the rest of the way. His despair becomes something to feel compassion for, not something hateful, hateworthy. Sam starts sobbing in that way that is not easy to stop. I put my arms around him.

There are things we could, should have done differently with Sam. We should have gotten help with sleep earlier. We should have figured out his sensory issues when he was a baby, not a four-year-old. We should have found a more aggressive pediatrician who helped with referrals and diagnoses. We should have taken special parenting classes sooner.

And there are still questions. Should we medicate him? With what, when his doctors can’t agree on what is wrong? Could we have found his celiac disease earlier? Are we, as our pediatrician once suggested, making too much of this? But here we are, on this couch, in this moment, and we have not done these things or answered those questions, and I have to decide how to respond to the howling boy next to me. My boy.

I murmur: It’s OK. I love you. I even loved you when I felt sad about the stew. I will always love you. I’m not mad. It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s okay.

His sobs start again. I hold him.

Me: It’s OK. Everything is going to be OK.

He cannot stop crying.

Ian comes in and says it is time for Sam’s supplements. That Sam already has two warnings. That it’s not OK to let his volcano explode like this.

Me: No, this is different.

Ian stares at Sam for a moment, taking in the ragged breathing, the small face wet with tears and snot. Then he says to me: Earlier when Sam was upset we did some squeezies, and Sam felt better.

Squeezies are the sometimes-ineffective and sometimes-magical joint compressions that the occupational therapist taught us to do on Sam. They are helpful during a meltdown when words don’t work. I often forget to try them.

I sit him in my lap and squeeze him firmly: shoulders, upper arms, elbows, forearms, wrists, hands, each joint of every finger. Press the flat of my hand into his stomach, compress his ribs from the sides, gently press his head down into his neck.

He begins to calm down. Still taking uneven, gulping breaths.

Me: We will get help for you. For this bad feeling inside. We are working on it.

Sam: Okay, Mom.

I squeeze his smallest, last finger. He catches sight of a toy catalog on the floor and asks to look at it, sitting up next to me on the couch. He takes a shuddery breath. Mommy and Daddy both try our best. We don’t always get it right. But we are always trying our best.

Sam, opening the catalog: Is that a bouncy house?

Then, with more enthusiasm: Is that a pirate sandbox?

He smiles.

We look through the catalog together, and then I tell him it is time to go take his supplements. He does not argue. He looks at me.

Sam: I wish you could do my bedtime reading tonight, Mom. Daddy was giving me warnings. He thought my volcano was exploding.

Me, thinking for once it is Ian and not me who has missed a cue: It wasn’t your volcano, Sam. This is something else.

Sam: Daddy thought it was the same thing.

Me: Mommy and Daddy both try our best. We don’t always get it right. But we are always trying our best.

Sam: Okay, Mommy.

Sam goes into the kitchen. I sit on the edge of the couch alone for a moment.

I take a deep breath, and then go back into the kitchen to find my family.

Ask The Band: Angry Child

What am I supposed to do about an extremely angry child who has ADHD?

We’re in counseling but it’s not helping; the shrink can’t even figure out what to do with him.

Where do we go from here? Should we send him to an inpatient psychiatric unit to deal with rage problems? Or try outpatient anger management?

He’s punched walls and made his brothers cry; they would not tell us because they are scared of him.

What should I do?

Mommy Dearest

I’ve been debating joining Band Back Together since the day it opened. I was leery, because good goodness do I have a lot to say. Sometimes it’s hard to know where to begin. And hard to let yourself. Some things are hard to pull out of the box under the bed. It’s not easy to give them attention or light, even if sometimes that is necessary.

So I’m here. And fuck it all. I’m healing. I’m better. I’m stable and mostly happy. I got shit to say.

My mom once showed me a song by Lucinda Williams called Sweet Side. She said it reminded her of me. Which is sort of bullshit. I’ve been pretty emotionally fucked up but never quite to that extent. In any case, I found it sort of ironic that my mom should point it out to me. She mistakenly believes my internal wounds were created when I was molested.

They weren’t.

They were her made by her alone. I’m honestly not affected by the molestation. I have been, but that pain has long since been banished.

The worst damage is the quietest.

It is the person who should love you unconditionally repeatedly telling you, “I love you, but….” It is being thrown out into the streets at the age of thirteen. It is being told you are insane; a bitch, violent, angry, a failure, unstable, and worthless in words and actions for most of your life. It is trying, with EVERY OUNCE OF LOVE in your child’s body, to gain the affection of your mother by any means necessary. Then, when that fails, to gain -attention- by any means necessary.

And when that fails, shutting off to the world.

It’s being sent away, over and over as a child, on the word’s “I can’t deal with you any more, you are going to your (Aunt’s/Dad’s/Grandma’s) house.”

It’s your insane family hosting an intervention.

To tell you to lock yourself in an insane asylum. For the horrific sin of being angry. When the forty-year old virgin who still hides in her mother’s attic, the woman who had seven kids (five outside of her marriage) lied about the whole thing, watched her husband beat and molest her children and ignored it willfully, and the former heroin addict tell you that you need help, something has gone terribly wrong.

Having one of the most insane stick up for you at the least expected moment. Finding shelter in his rage. Seeing the correlation. Black sheep meet black lamb. Those surreal moments that buffer you from the storm.

It’s moving in with your step-dad when your parents separate. Because he’s the better parent.

It’s being kicked out of your bedroom and moved into the corner of the living room, so your mother’s boyfriend can have an office. Or moving into the spider-infested, insulation-free shed outside. Because they are tired of you inside. Or a 3AM, walk outside to get to the restroom, because you aren’t welcome to live IN the house with the good people.

And finding the front door locked.

It’s a birthday party alone, while your family went on vacation (again) to New Orleans without you. During Mardi Gras. It’s a sweet sixteen where they haul in a musty old pull-behind trailer and tell you, “Happy Birthday, now GTFO” and you find yourself with a ‘birthday’ basket of cleaning supplies and a rank, disgusting trailer parked in the back yard. Your new home. Have a paper umbrella, it’ll make it right.

It’s making the (sane) decision to not speak to your mother, ever again, at seventeen. And being talked out of it. Stupidly.

It’s having the power cord leading to that same trailer be pulled repeatedly in the middle of the night by your mother’s boyfriend. Leading to HOLY FUCK IT’S COLD IN HERE. Leading to ‘Stop lying! He didn’t do it!’

It’s trusting, against your better judgment, to go home when your life collapses and you are sick and losing your mind. And finding yourself taken advantage of, and then thrown out. Again.

Of trying to get your life back together, only to have your money depleted entirely. Of going back to school only to discover that every day seems to result in another, “I TOLD you I couldn’t watch the kids, I have an appointment”

Of visiting a friend in California to get away from the building stress and anxiety, to find yourself homeless and stranded and papers being filed in your absence claiming you abandoned your children. Of having to explain to your children that you didn’t. And that you meant it when you said you’d be gone a week.

Of living in a shitty motel in the middle of the Mojave desert, subsisting on ten dollars a week in food to make it back to get your kids. In waiting a year to see them again because of your mother’s treachery.

Of gearing up for an epic court battle only to have her mysteriously drop them off with ‘a secret, don’t tell your mother’ and have your beautiful, sensitive daughter burst into tears because the pressure is too much. In hearing her, through her sobbing, explain that she’s afraid Grandma would be back to take them again in a month, because that’s what she said.

Holidays are bullshit. They remind me of the family I don’t have.

They remind me of going to Thanksgiving to drop off my kids to spend time with their Uncle, and be entirely ignored by my family. They remind me of being asked how much a vacuum was at Home Depot without a ‘hello’ or a ‘Merry Christmas’ preceding it and without even so much as a ‘have a nice day’ on leaving.

I spent the last two years with just my partner during the holidays. It’s been years since I so much as got a birthday card or a Christmas card. I don’t expect them, and I don’t need them. But I kind of wish I got them. It felt odd. It still feels odd.

This year, I’m going to cook a turkey, we will all will sit down to it and be thankful for what we have. And I will continue to love my children fiercely every day, no matter how angry and hurt they are inside. No matter how long their own healing process takes. No matter what silly, childish things they do. Even if they break something I love, or snark at each other in a hormonal rage, no matter if they make horrible decisions or great ones. I’m going to be there and love them.

The fact is, that no matter how much she’s done to me, no matter how much she has injured my heart, no matter how many times she’s screwed my life through her manipulations, I love her. She’s my mother; I can’t help it. I miss the love a mother is supposed to provide. I miss the safe haven. I miss the support system.

I miss the person you call when you are at your wit’s end and need advice. I have nothing like that. I’m it. I’m my own self-contained support. If a kid does something baffling, I’m on my own. If I’m drying out the turkey, I’m on my own.

I haven’t spoken to my extended family in years. I haven’t spent more than five minutes in conversation with my mother for two. My life has NEVER been better. It’s stable, I’m back in school. My kids are healing, slowly and painfully, but they are healing. We have our finances in order and our life is generally upwardly mobile. But still…

I want a mother so desperately it hurts.

And I can’t make that feeling go away, no matter how much I want to.

My Uterus Is An Asshole

I’ve been commiserating with my little sister about the assholery of our uteri.

We may not be biologically related, but we have both had our histories of hysterical tissue issues. Mine are rooted a bit higher, in my ovaries with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Hers, a bit lower in whatever was left of her cervix after multiple surgeries to remove cancerous bits, with fibroid growths to really get a party started.

I started menopause about a year and a half ago, with missed periods here and there, and she’s being chemically induced into menopause to bitch-slap her uterus into better behavior.

My uterus, not to be outdone by hers, has decided to head for the nearest exit. The technical term for this is prolapse. I think my sister correctly called it when she told my uterus to fuck off and quit being an asshole. Being more muscle than brain, my uterus simply flipped her off and continues it’s exit strategy, crawling out of my vagina.

I thought I was going to have a nice and easy peri-menopause, progressing without hiccup into full menopause, thus creating a permanent détente to my chronic battles with PCOS.

Up until this, I wasn’t having nearly the issues my mother had. In fact, by my current age, my mother was completely done with menopause, although hot flashes were a thing for her for quite some time. When I first started skipping periods, sometimes for up to three cycles, I went to my gynecologist, who gave me some brochures, tested my thyroid (all my doctors are convince there’s a thing going on with my thyroid, despite ever so many tests proving to the contrary) and told me that this was all very typical for a woman my age.

My sister is right. My uterus is an asshole.

Fuck you, uterus.

The Band Presents…The History of Voting

Buckle up Band, we’re about to take a trip down history lane and learn about how our voting process was put into place and has evolved over time!


Voting Process

According to the Constitution, the President of The United States is elected every 4 years. A candidate must be 35 years of age, a resident within the U.S. for at least 14 years prior to running, and a natural born citizen.

The Presidential election is decided by the Electoral College, which was formed by our founding fathers in 1788.

Electoral College votes are divided among the states: Each state gets two votes for it’s two U.S. Senators. There is also a vote for each of their U.S Representatives, which is dependent upon each state’s population. The Presidential candidate that wins the popular vote in each state gets that state’s Electoral College votes.

In 1789, George Washington was the first president elected using this method of voting. We still use the Electoral College today. The year 2000 was the first Presidential voting cycle in U.S history to be decided by the Supreme Court instead of the Electoral College.

Members of the House of Representatives are elected to 2 year terms. Each state has congressional districts based upon their population reported on the U.S. Census every 10 years. Each state is guaranteed at least one Representative. A candidate for the House of Representatives must be 25 years of age, a citizen of the United States for at least 7 years, and inhabit (have a residence in) the state that they represent.

Members of the Senate are elected to 6 year terms. Candidates for Senate must be 30 years of age, a citizen for at least 9 years, and inhabit the state the represent. Each state has two U.S. Senators who’s terms are staggered, so every 2 years approximately a third of the Senate is up for election.

There are also many local elections for Governors, State Senators, State Representatives, Assembly Members or Delegates, Municipal positions and School Boards. These are all controlled by State Constitutions and vary by State.

History of Political Parties

The founding fathers never intended for America to be partisan, it is never mentioned in the Constitution. In fact it was written in some early Federalist papers that partisanship could lead to dangerous domestic political factions causing conflict and stagnation in our country. However, the first political parties were seen in 1792 with the Federalist party founded by Alexander Hamilton and the Democratic-Republicans (AKA Jeffersonian Republicans) founded by James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. These first two parties made up The First Party System (defined by political alignment, shifts in party beliefs, and ending when the dominant party loses two House election cycles by large margins) and lasted from 1792 to 1824.

The Federalist party was founded on a basis of a centralized banking system, close ties to Britain, a strong central government, and close ties between the government and men of health.The Democratic-Republican party was based on a strong opposition to Hamilton. They did not agree with Hamilton’s financial programs because they believed they would lead to a monarchy. This party was sometimes referred to as “Anti-Federalists”  or “Anti-Administration party. They believed in strong state governments and advocated for yeoman farmers.

The Second Party System started in 1828 with the splitting of the Democratic-Republican Party into the Whig Party, led by Henry Clay, and the Democratic Party, led by Andrew Jackson. The Second Party System lasted until 1854.

The Democratic Party was based on opposition to the Bank of the United States and modernizing programs as well as a belief that the President should be more powerful than the other branches of the government.

The Whig Party’s core beliefs advocated for the strength of Congress over the executive branch, as well as modernization and protection of the economy.

In 1854 the Third Party System took over with the founding of the Republican Party (aka. The GOP) comprised mostly of Whigs and Northerners and the Democratic Party which was mainly comprised of conservative white Southerners. It persisted until the 1890’s.

The Republican Party’s had a strong anti-slavery platform as well as believing in modernization and strong social spending.

The Democratic Party ran on a platform of state’s rights and protecting the rights of property holders (ie. slave owners).

The Fourth Party system originated in 1896 and lasted until 1932. It consisted of the same social groups of the Third Party (Democratic and Republican Parties) but the topics debated shifted to regulation of railroads and corporations, child labor and labor unions, women’s suffrage, segregation, and immigration control.

The Fifth Party system emerged with The New Deal in 1933. This was also the time period that The Republican Party turned more Conservative and the Democrats took a turn for more Liberal agendas.

It is debated that a Sixth Party system emerged around the 1960’s around the time of the Vietnam War and the collapse of The New Deal. Some experts disagree and say the Sixth System started in the 90’s with cultural divisions.

Voting Rights

The Constitution did not originally define who was eligible to vote, leaving it up to the states to decide who was eligible. Throughout the Early 1800’s, as each state joined the union they developed their own state constitution dictating who could vote. During this time the voting population was mostly white males property owners.

The Suffrage Movement began with fervor in 1848. Three hundred people attended the very first convention, held in Seneca, New York, for women’s voting rights. At this convention a petition was started calling for federal voting rights for women. The “Declaration of Sentiments” received 100 signatures from 32 males and 68 females.

In 1866 the 14th Amendment was ratified, stating that men over the age of 21 who were legal residents of the United States had the right to vote. Any state preventing these rights were penalized by losing electors in the Electoral College.

In 1868, after many years of fighting by suffragists at the state level and several national conventions for women’s voting rights, the first federal women’s suffrage amendment was introduced into Congress by Senator S.C. Pomeroy of Kansas. This same amendment was proposed by various members of Congress during every session for the next 41 years.

In 1869, the 15th amendment was ratified giving men the right to vote regardless of age, color, or former slave status.

Wyoming becomes the first state allowing women to vote in 1890 with it’s state Constitution. By 1900, Utah, Colorado, and Idaho joined Wyoming allowing women the right to vote in their state Constitutions.

On August 18th, 1920, The 19th Amendment was ratified giving women the right to vote.

The Indian Citizenship Act was enacted in 1924, giving Native Americans federal voting rights. Prior to this, many Native Americans were told they were not legally citizens of the United States, because they were citizens of their tribes according to treaties made from the 1780’s to the 1870’s. According the The Dawes Act of 1887, Native Americans could legally become citizens, thus giving them voting rights, only if they gave up their tribal affiliations.

Chinese Immigrants are given the right to vote with the passing of the Magnuson Act in 1943. This Act, sometimes called the Chinese Exclusion Repeal Act, officially opened U.S. borders to Chinese immigrants for the first time since 1882 when Chinese immigration was banned after many years of resistance against Chinese migrant workers. It allowed those who were here to become naturalized citizens, thus giving them the right to vote. This act was later repealed in 1965, ending restrictions on the number of immigrants allowed, as well as business and property ownership to all Chinese immigrants.

Washington, D.C. residents are granted the right to vote for President in 1961 under the 23rd Amendment, this right was taken away in 1801 when Maryland delegated this part of their state to Congress.

In 1964, the 24th Amendment was passed outlawing poll taxes, which were a ploy used by states to discourage voting by poor people. The next year, The Voting Rights Act is signed by President Lyndon Johnson. This act has been touted as the most effective piece of federal civil rights legislation in the history of the country and was passed in Congress thanks to the American Civil Rights Movement. It federally prohibits racial discrimination in voting and has been amended and added to a number of times to protect the voting rights of all minorities, including Native Americans.

In 1971 the 26th Amendment was passed lowering the voting age from 21 to 18.

We enacted the Uniformed and Overseas Citizen Absentee Voting Act in 1986. It requires all U.S. States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands to allow members of the seven Uniformed Services, members of the Merchant Marines, their family members, federally employed U.S. citizens working outside the United States, and private U.S. citizens living abroad to vote via absentee ballot.

That brings up to today! People are currently fighting for voter’s rights and accessibility for the disabled. Homeless people also have a hard time practicing their right to vote because of residency requirements. Felons are not allowed to vote in many states, since the U.S has a much higher proportion of our population in prison (nearly 6 million American, approximately 2.5% of our voting aged population) than any other Western nation, this has led to a very high percentage of Felony Disenfranchisement.

There you have it, Band! Hasn’t this been a fun trip down memory lane?

Now, GO VOTE!

The Day My World Crashed

I lost my best friend, my very first true best friend, the one who taught me how to love and how to be loved back, to suicide in July 2015. The following is my thoughts when I found out he had taken his own life…

…4 months after it happened.

You see, we had lost touch and I had made myself invisible to everyone around him. I don’t typically believe in regret – it only leads to negativity – however in this case I truly regret leaving his circle. I’m still not sure why I felt it necessary. I missed his memorial. I missed the late night call. I missed saying goodbye.

Because the brain is a funny thing, I seem to have blocked out most of the hardcore grieving.

So here, from my Facebook and various platforms, the recounting of my thoughts and feelings during that time:

November 11, 2015

The journey of life is such a strange thing. I just learned that the person who was my light when I couldn’t see through the darkness left this life a few months ago.

November 12, 2015

I woke up this morning and he was still gone. It wasn’t all just a horrible nightmare giving me chills while I sleep. It’s real life.

I went to sleep crying and I woke up crying. My 2 year old keeps asking why I’m crying. Mommy’s just sad baby. So very sad.

“There will come a day when the joy runs out. Do not ask “What could I have done?” but instead ask “What will I do now?”  Think of me when you hear music, and laugh at something you remembered me saying. Know that I am silent and still, and believe me when I say that sweet nothingness is preferred to this life of disgrace, heartache, and pain. I will be no longer be a burden. There will come a day when the joy runs out.”

Pat wrote this on his Facebook February 18th, 2012.

I don’t recall what inspired him to write it, but I saved this note because he put his soul into words.

Words that rang true, unfortunately, way too soon.

So tonight, at Pat’s request, I’m asking myself, “What will I do now?” Instead of the “What should I have done? What could have I done?” that has plagued me since I found out what had happened. Months ago. That I did not know had happened.

Months ago.

I lost him through choices that were very much my own. What will I do, now that my heart is incomplete? I will think of him when I hear music. I will laugh when I remember something he said. I will remember that he isn’t here suffering in the prison of his dark thoughts and insecurities. I will continue to love him as if he were still here, because I don’t know how not to.

In a serendipitous way, he’s the reason that my husband and I are together today. I had stopped at Walmart to grab some books because I was preparing for an extended visit with my friend, Pat, who was having a rough night. The (future) husband just happened to be building a feature nearby. We got to talking and planned to hang out soon.

Three days later, we were sure that we’d never be apart again.

Pat officiated our wedding in the rose garden at Gage Park a year later to the day.

We had lost touch the last couple of years. I’d gotten busy raising kids and building our new extended family and Pat had been busy working and playing his beloved music. We met for coffee at Denny’s about two and a half years ago to catch up and share memories. He had changed and so had I and we couldn’t find our common ground anymore. We both just kind of let our relationship slip into fun memories and the occasional longing to be together, where we used to be.

I’m a firm believer that everyone comes into your life to give you a lesson, good or bad. Pat taught me many lessons in our time together; a hug is the best medicine, astrophysics is fascinating, and Neil deGrasse Tyson, Carl Sagan and Alexei Filippenko are awesome to watch in lecture. That music is a piece of my soul and goes deeper than a Top 40 pop radio station. Today Pat is teaching me to not take for granted the people that come into your life unexpectedly and leave the same way.

I love you, Pat. I’ll forever miss your hugs and dumb Assy McGee references.

I’ll never forget your smile.

January 1, 2016

You’re on my mind a lot today, buddy. There was a curious string of songs in my Pandora shuffle and while I know that if you were here you’d tell me how silly I was being and it’s just a coincidence, but I can’t help but think that it’s you giving me a little boost when you know the day is rough.

Miss you, been missing you. Wish I could tell you that.

(To my friend in a private chat) I can’t say this on my picture because it’s too public. But I’m having such a hard time dealing with his loss.

It’s like a shot to the gut. I feel like I failed him. He couldn’t function on a “hey how ya doing” every six months. He was a full-contact, likes-to-hang-out-in real-life type of guy.

I knew that about him and I just, I feel so badly that I let him grow away from me.

That I let myself become a part of his list of “people that don’t give a shit” because I totally gave a shit. I guess I’m really struggling with what I know his last thoughts were before he took his life.

I know he was listing off all the people that had failed him because I talked him down from that thought before. Many times. I have a Facebook messenger full of me talking him down from that. I wasn’t there that time to talk him down from that.

I know that’s not fair of me to put that on myself. I know that intellectually, but it hurts my heart so fucking much.


This. This haunts me so

He was there for me in my bad time. I was there for him in many of his bad times. I wasn’t there in his last bad time. I don’t know.

I feel selfish. For not trying harder to make him a part of my life. I’m struggling in the shoulda coulda woulda. It’s a favorite past time of mine. I keep pep talking myself “You didn’t know, There’s no way you could’ve known, he shut himself off, too”. I’m just really struggling today. I’ve been in tears for hours. I’m just struggling with my choices. I’m hurting.

February 23, 2016

It’s your birthday today. Normally, I’d be constructing some smart assed email joking about getting old and having you sneak goodies in to me at the nursing home. Instead I’ll be heading out to see your headstone in the country, along with the kiddos so I’m not tempted to be out there for too long. Missing you Pat. Today and everyday. Happy Birthday.

July 3, 2016

It’s been a year. I can’t believe it’s been a whole year. What I wouldn’t give for a Pat hug today. Instead, I’m watching astrophysics documentaries, some of your very favorites, Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson and of course Alexei Fillipenko. They’re not the same without you here to dumb them down for me, but it feels like the right thing to do.

I’m looking forward to catching up with your family later today and celebrating your life and sharing memories. Until we meet again, I love you and miss you so, so much.

July 3, 2017

It’s been 2 years that you’ve been gone. I still miss you every day. I find myself in tears when I come across random 6 ft tall bald dudes, with sweet beards sporting some chucks. There are more of those than you would expect. It’s never you, if only I could convince my brain to stop looking. What I wouldn’t do for one more Pat hug. Love dove.

February 23, 2018

Happy Birthday dear friend. Watching some Cosmos tonight and thinking of you. Miss you so much, today and every day.

“when you meet that person.. a person. one of your Soulmates. Let the connection, relationship be what it is. It may be five mins, five hours, five days, five months. Five years. A lifetime. Let it manifest itself, the way it is meant to. It has an organic destiny. This way if it stays or if it leaves, you will be softer from having been Loved this authentically. Souls come into, return, open, and sweep through your life for a myriad of reasons, let them be who and what they are meant.”

― Nayyirah Waheed

Lucy Clare

Since 2003, the March of Dimes has led Prematurity Awareness Month activities in November as part of its Prematurity Campaign.

The goals of the campaign are to reduce rates of premature birth in the United States and raise awareness of this very serious problem.

Please, we encourage you to to submit your own stories of prematurity with The Band.

Four years ago I would not have paid attention to an event like Prematurity Awareness Month and I likely would not have even known about the work of the March of Dimes. Today I am proud to be a supporter of the March of Dimes and their important work.

On March 8, 2007, my niece, Lucy Clare entered this world after my brother, Jonathan and sister-in-law, Mary, made the difficult decision to have an emergency c-section at 25 weeks gestation. In the weeks leading up to Lucy’s arrival, Jonathan and Mary knew that there was a chance Lucy would have to arrive early. She wasn’t growing and the doctors said that if she didn’t reach 500 grams (1.1 pounds) there would be very little they could do.

We all held our breath as Mary went to each ultra-sound appointment, hoping that this baby (gender unknown to all but them) would grow – just a little bit more, just a few more grams.  They were briefed by the ob-gyn on what outcomes to expect if she was born at 32, 30 or 28 weeks.

A few weeks prior to Lucy’s birth, they were given a tour of the NICU so that they would be prepared for what they may encounter.  At their last appointment, on March 8, they were told they had to make the difficult decision – wait another week and risk that she wouldn’t survive in utero or deliver that day knowing that the hospital had never had a baby that small survive.

Wanting to just give Lucy a chance, they opted for the c-section.

Lucy was a micro-preemie in every sense of the word. She weighed only 400 grams (14 ounces) and was just 10 inches in length.  At her lowest, she dropped down to 290 grams.  She was given surfactant therapy – its research was funded by the March of Dimes – for her lungs.

She breathed with the help of a ventilator for five weeks before being switched to CPAP for two months and then on nasal cannula until she was discharged.  Lucy’s time in the hospital was filled with ups and downs – it often seemed like one step forward and two steps back.  She faced many of the challenges that preemies in the NICU face: infection, retinopathy, the struggle to breathe on her own, a heart condition and feeding challenges.

Lucy spent 182 days in the hospital – six long months – before she joined her family at home.

Today Lucy is a happy, funny, easy-going 3 ½ year old who adores her big sister Stella and is starting to enjoy her baby sister Mallory. She loves books, colouring, watching Yo Gabba Gabba and dancing. But she still faces many challenges:  she takes medication for pulmonary hypertension, she relies on a feeding tube for 100% of her nutrition and she has deteriorating eyesight.  She has therapy appointments with a feeding specialist, physiotherapist, and attends weekly sensory motor sessions.

The work that the March of Dimes does through education, Prematurity Awareness Month, March for Babies and so much more, is crucial to helping all babies have a healthy start.  Our family considers itself lucky that Lucy is here today and we want to do everything we can do to raise awareness for prematurity-related issues.  It’s our chance to give back just a little bit.

Visit www.marchofdimes.com to find out how you can help!

How Can One Child Have So Much Woe?

Friday’s child is loving and giving.

So why is my Friday child confused and behave as though he’s Wednesday’s child instead?  B doesn’t stick to the old English poem.  He got confused along the way. I know exactly when that was. When he was twelve days old and caught the dreaded meningitis.

That was the worst of times.

We were told he wouldn’t survive the night, but he did.  We were told he would never recognize us or smile or manage any basic functions, but he did.  I won’t bore you all with the setbacks, the heartache every night, the months spent in hospital, how none of our friends visited, the long, drawn-out wait to get home.

Those are for another time. Maybe.

This post is about now, this minute, how I am feeling.  I have never written anything like this down before, but I am an avid follower of Aunt Becky and she told me to, in all her posts about Band Back Together.

I don’t know how to make this a nice flowing post rather than a list of illnesses, surgeries, appointments and setbacks.  I suppose I’m having this issue because that could be how you would sum up B’s life so far.  I know that’s how others see him. When we meet for a Girly Catch-Up date, it’s never, “how are you all?” it’s “what’s B having done now?

My friends are great but I’ve been labeled The Coper; or she who deals with all that life throws at her.  B is labeled as ‘poor thing.’ Not a great label for an intelligent, reasonably active eight-year old. We have settled into this comfortable way of coping that I don’t know how to let people know that sometimes I am not coping very well.

Maybe Band Back Together will be the friend’s ear I can bend.

Anyway, back to my child of woe.

We were lucky to get pregnant with B and we were lucky to have a nice ‘normal’ pregnancy.  B was born on his due date and then things started to go wrong.

B was labelled with Torticollis and Talipes within the first few days of his life.

It threw us but we had just come to terms with all of that when B caught the dreaded Meningitis, caused by late onset Group B Strep.  Again, not to bore you with that hell of a first 6 months, B managed to cling on and then thrive.  He was considered a ‘floppy’ baby due to, what we figured was the brain damage caused by the meningitis, so all his milestones were delayed.  He also couldn’t work his muscles properly, including swallowing, so B was fed through a gastrostomy.

When we thought we were through the worst year of our lives, we were hit with another side swipe, B’s hip was dislocated and deformed, it needed immediate surgery.  That surgery was deemed successful and so we carried on.  We even began to relax a bit and focused on having some more children.  B still had some problems, mainly with his muscles, but we had got him off his gastrostomy and, again, he was thriving.

So, we relaxed and concentrated on other issues, such as my infertility and the long rounds of IVF, but again another story for another time.

During these years we were eventually blessed with twins Z and E.  All seemed well in our household, the girls were healthy and B was doing well.

Then, when B turned 6 we were knocked over again by the diagnosis that his hips weren’t right still.  So major surgery followed, which involved B being in an hip spica for 8weeks (not great for a 6yr old boy and a mum who also has 2yr old twins to look after) and wheelchair bound for many months more.

However, we all survived, well I am a’coper’!

B was just beginning to get mobile again when a doctor noticed his face was looking wonky.

A year of maxillofacial appointments followed which ended with us being knocked over again by the diagnosis of Juvenile arthritis.  The arthritis had been attacking his jaw joints for some time unnoticed and had now deformed them to the point of major facial surgery required.

However, they cannot do this while the Arthritis is active, so cue major arthritis drugs. Now B has to have weekly injections, for years, that are lowering his immunity, great.

However, we are coping!

Now factor in his hips update as well last week and we are cooking!  B’s hips have, again, grown wrong and further major surgery is required, probably in January.  Again my lovely son will be wheelchair bound because of his hips, injecting for his arthritis, struggling to eat because of his jaw deformity and tiring due to his muscle issues.  Again, I have taken on this diagnosis and have dealt with it and I am prepared for it.  What I didn’t expect was for his orthopaedic surgeon to say that things don’t seem quite right with B’s muscles and they seem to be getting worse.

Well, yes, he has hypotonia from the meningitis. obviously his muscles are not right.

That is not what he meant, the surgeon knows of B’s past history and thinks there is something else affecting him.

So that is why my gorgeous, bright, loving son is now being tested for Muscular Dystrophy and the medical view is that he probably does have it.

WHY?? I mean, hasn’t B gone through enough?

Haven’t I gone through enough?  Haven’t all our family gone through enough?

B has, at the moment, hypotonia, hypermobility, hip problems, arthritis, jaw problems and now possible MD.  Any 1 of these diagnoses would upset a parent, my son has all of them.

I am not coping any more, outside it looks like business as usual, but inside I am crumbling.  I look at my friends’ children and, selfishly, wonder if I can pass on just one of B’s problems to them.  Why did he get all of them?  Even the doctors can’t believe how unlucky he has been.  When friends worry about their child’s broken wrist, I think that I wish B could do cartwheels and break his wrist like that as well.

Then I feel bad for not having sympathy for them.  Then, I overcompensate for my guilt by offering help and being the friend they can always turn to.  They take that help because they know that I am a coper whereas they aren’t.  They make half-hearted promises of help in return but, they have their own families to look after and B and I would need too much help.  My hubby is pretty hands-on with the house and the kids but he has never been to a hospital appointment with B, never.

I feel it is B and I against the world sometimes.

So, there you have it, my child of woe.

This has been quite therapeutic, I feel like I can now go out into the world and carry on ‘coping’ again.

Lost: Mental Health Meanderings of a Tired, Ticked Off Thirty-Something Woman

This week has been a struggle.

In brief: I have a chronic mental health condition, and have struggled for years to find mental and emotional stability. I’m also a woman, and am impacted heavily by hormonal fluctuations that occur on a monthly basis.

Anyone who feels that I am just whining can do me a favour and stop reading right now.

Through medication treatment and self-discipline, I have found a level of stability that has been unparalleled in recent years of my existence. All this good goes out the window, however, for a period of a few agonizing days on a monthly basis.

Is it predictable? Yes.

Does that make it any easier? No.

Recently, I’ve been told that I am not a good “fit” for certain mental health services that I feel should apply to me. First example: I finally had an appointment with the Women’s Health Concerns Clinic outpatient services this past Thursday. I spent months looking forward to this appointment, hoping it would provide some relief.

Here’s what I learned:

Don’t put all of your eggs into one basket.

That’s a worn out old adage, but there is much truth behind it. The psychiatrist on staff at the Women’s Health Concerns Clinic felt that, due to the fact that I have depression occurring presently as part and parcel of my chronic mental health woes, I am not a good fit for the clinic’s services.

I do not have “textbook” pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) symptoms. Also, in terms of medications that are usually helpful for PMDD, I am already taking a good selection of those recommended for front-line intervention, including vitamins and minerals such as B6, Calcium, and magnesium. There is potentially some room for dosage adjustment, but in terms of there being a supplementary medication trifecta for PMDD, that is it, and I’m already taking all of them.

I am not currently taking the “recommended” antidepressant of choice for PMDD, but the one I’m on now has done so much good for every other aspect of my life that I am extremely hesitant to swap it out for another medicine that might not work so well. Trintellix has helped me immensely. I don’t cry on a daily basis anymore. I’m more open with everybody: strangers, friends, my husband, you name it. I can actually get to work most days. I feel stable, I feel good… most days. Most days, I am an absolute delight – and I love it!

Obviously, I am hesitant to swap out this medication for one that is more “tried and true” for symptoms of pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder. There is absolutely no guarantee that the antidepressants that have been clinically studied for PMDD effectiveness would work as well. In fact, I’ve tried most of them, with little success. So why swap out something that works well, for 20-ish days out of the month, for something that has been scientifically proven to be more effective for PMDD symptoms, but does not work well with my unique chemical composition? It makes no sense.

I’ve talked a lot about medication and I want to address something that I learned the hard way, ages ago:

In mental health, medication isn’t everything, Especially when it comes to more complex conditions. But my efforts to connect with a therapist or mental health counsellor at present have left me feeling even more lost and alone in my journey.

The Women’s Health Concerns Clinic heard my request to connect with a 1:1 therapist or counsellor in the Hamilton community, but did not offer to connect me with any such services. I was offered a referral to a mindfulness group, something I am not sure I will pursue due to the fact that most publicly operated mental health groups take place during the daytime hours, and I need to go to work during the day so I can support myself financially.

Sure, I could take time off work for the group, but doing so may jeopardize my employment and would be difficult to finance at this point, since any hours of work missed for the mindfulness group would constitute unpaid time off.

Desperate, I decided to look into private therapy options, and sourced out a psychotherapist’s website via the Psychology Today web page. This therapist sounds like a great fit, based on her specialties listed on her online profile page. I contacted this psychotherapist and asked about accessing her services. Obviously, private therapists cost money, something of which I am well aware; however, this therapist recommended that I seek to gain a referral to her through my employer’s Employee Assistance Program, which could, potentially, fund up to four sessions with this therapist to see if that would be beneficial for me, and also so I could establish if I enjoy working with her on a 1:1 basis and wish to pursue services further.

Wonderful!

I called up the EAP and explained the situation. The response I received was absolutely gut-wrenching: Because I have a chronic mental health condition, they are “unable” (or, unwilling) to provide me with a referral due to the fact that my therapy goals may not align with their mandate of connecting individuals in need with short-term counselling services.

It would be amusing, if it wasn’t so sad, to learn that even designated mental health support services stigmatize against people presenting with more severe mental health conditions.

What an eye-opener that was

In light of the recent high-profile suicides of wildly successful fashion designer Kate Spade and world-renowned celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, I must point out that turning away a person who struggles with mental illness from suitable services because they don’t fit the proclaimed mandate or envisioned purpose of the service is a very, very dangerous practice.

Anyone reaching out for mental health support should at least be connected with suitable services once they make the effort to reach out, even if the initial service with which they’ve made contact might not be the best fit.

It is highly unwise to tell a person struggling with a chronic mental health disorder that they can’t access services because they have the wrong kind of mental illness.

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Welcome to The Band! We’re so happy you’re here. We are a group blog open to all. We put a voice to the things left unsaid – not for want of a teller, but for lack of an understanding ear. You now have our undivided attention. Please, pull the things kept in the dark and bring them into the light. Alone, we are small, together, we are unstoppable. Join us.