Homestead: 1.) A house, especially a farmhouse, with adjoining buildings and land. 2.) The home and adjoining land occupied by a family. 3.) an ancestral home 4.) Where you lay your heart. Thanks for stopping by the homestead!

Waiting to Exhale….

No, this isn’t a nod to that Waiting to Exhale, though some times over the past 16 months I have felt a bit on the verge of a good Bernadine’s Rage coming on. What? I loves me some Angela Basset, especially when she’s ranting about a cheating husband and throwing expensive clothings out the house. Just to be clear- lest anyone think my partner suddenly became a philandering, rich, well attired scallywag- MY Bernadine’s Rage was more geared towards all this Lead Poisoning business and the seemingly unfair manner in which everything transpired last year. My Bernadine’s Rage was ignited every time another person told me (or I heard through the grapevine) that I was making a big deal out of this because “we all grew up with lead,” and “you’re still nursing your child? it’s not like she still has lead poisoning or is retarded,” and “when are you going to go back to work? you need to be a productive part of society again now that your daughter isn’t lead poisoned,” and “you can’t save the world, Jess,” and “F*&% You Enviro-Nazi!” and “Oh that’s just Jess being overly dramatic, you know how she can be. Her daughter is fine.”

The funny thing about rage is that it can be the perfect motivator for change, and change I sure have….for the better of course. I have no other choice but to be better; for myself, my family, and for this amazing little girl who teaches ME every day how to be a better person. Admittedly, most of the rage that fueled up inside me eventually lead to a deep depression and/or anxiety attacks for me. But through all of that, I stayed focused on what was important and worked very hard to get this stupid lead out of my daughter’s body. And guess what? It worked, because now we can sit here in our new lovely home and finally feel safe and secure that at least our home will not poison our child. Even with all the testing we did here before moving in, I still have been nervous that something wasn’t going to be okay. That lurking in some corner would be that one thing that would turn our lives upside down again. That because of all the unpacking and lead dust on all our things from storage, this would negatively impact my child. That no matter what we did, we would never be able to really get our daughter’s lead levels down because “we live in an old city afterall.” But…..

WE DID IT!!!!!!!

We got to that number that I’ve been wanting to see since Dec 3, 2012.
We are now at a 2 for our BLL.
Yes, it is not a 0 which is where any person would want to see their Blood Lead Level, let alone a parent like me who just wanted lead to not be a freaking issue anymore.
But considering where we started 16 months ago at a 15, and even just where we disappointingly (to me) were just four months ago with a 4 . Well, today I am damned proud that we were able to get down to a 2.

So what do all these numbers mean?

I get asked this all the time, and I think depending on who you talk to you will hear a different perspective. However, the CDC states: “Experts now use a reference level of 5 micrograms per deciliter to identify children with blood lead levels that are much higher than most children’s levels” and “Until recently, children were identified as having a blood lead “level of concern” if the test result is 10 or more micrograms per deciliter of lead in blood. CDC is no longer using the term “level of concern” and is instead using the reference value to identify children who have been exposed to lead and who require case management” and “In the past, blood lead level tests below 10 micrograms per deciliter of lead in blood may, or may not, have been reported to parents. The new lower value means that more children will likely be identified as having lead exposure allowing parents, doctors, public health officials, and communities to take action earlier to reduce the child’s future exposure to lead.”

Got all that?
Yeah, I didn’t think so either.
It can be confusing-ish, but here’s what you should know if you have children, are planning to have children, are pregnant, or planning to become pregnant- whether or not you live in an old home:

“In America today 1 in 3 children under the age of 18 has had a blood lead level of 2.5 or higher in their lifetime”
- from Lead Safe America

Just because lead was “outlawed” in 1978 does not mean that it was eradicated and has just gone away. In fact it’s quite the opposite. Old homes with old windows and old, old, old structures are deteriorating (duh because that what happens with time) and all those lovely old paints are chipping, peeling, and poisoning our children. It also is still being used in products from lipstick to dishware and in a LOT of children’s products- most of them “made in China.” You would assume that this couldn’t happen today because we know that lead in any content is not safe, but it is. So please everyone be aware, get educated, and make good choices for you, your family, and ALL of our futures. Also, check out and support good organizations doing the tough work of advocating for all of us with work like the film MisLEAD. Consider donating, time-money-resources to Tamara Rubin and her Lead Safe America Foundation.

In our case, our child was poisoned due to our “gut rehabbed” home not being so greatly gut rehabbed. The major culprit was the improper way that the building owners/property managers never updated duct work, porches, interior stains and ledges, and NEVER tested for lead -because they’re not required to by law. Our entire basement was still lead paint and we had GFA from the basement, therefore we had all been breathing in lead dust for years. Not only are we lucky and thankful that our daughter is as healthy as she is and that I had zero complications in pregnancy, but so far it appears as though her high lead levels have had minimal effects on her development.

Here’s a funny thought for, oh I don’t know- EVERYONE: How’s about some laws are put in place that if you purchase an old home/building you have to test for the presence of lead and are required to remediate it properly. How’s about we get some federal and state funding to help building and home owners do the right thing? How’s about we have something more in place than just some stupid photo copied pamphlet on the “dangers of lead poisoning” if you rent a home/apartment in Chicago? How’s about the Healthy Homes Initiative actually helps create ohIdon’tknow HEALTHY HOMES!! Grrrr

So here’s the part where I talk about Waiting to Exhale for the past 16 months…..

Just so you know, its difficult to really live when you’re constantly holding your breath and waiting for the other shoe to drop…. And I love shoes…and I have a LOT of shoes…..so there was a LOT of dropping…. Since we got that phone call on Dec 3rd, 2012 I have been holding my breath under a strong current of fear- for my child’s health and future, for my health and future. I’ve been too nervous to take deep breathes just in case all that lung power was needed to fight for my child- it was. I was too scared to celebrate and expel with full lung capacity all the small victories of the past year, just in case something else was lurking around the corner it was. TREPIDATION, THY NAME IS JAM. Mind you, I did not waste time in fretting or in unnecessary manifestation of false fears or circumstances. When you’re basically homeless with a toddler, you don’t have time for that nonsense. As my British Nanny would say, “Well you sure did get yourself into a dither now didn’t you?” Yes Nan I did, I sure did. And that’s okay, because that coping mechanism allowed me to keep on going, keep on fighting, keep on holding my breaths.

And now, now I can breathe again.
And it feels good.
And I feel full.
And healthy.
And safe.
Our lives can finally start again and get on with it already.
The only alarm I hear is that of my partner hitting snooze 20 times before finally dragging himself out of bed.
My glaciers of apprehension are melting, along with this stupid Midwest winter.
My unease with being back in this city is still there but isn’t the first thing on my mind.
I’ve gotten more deep healing sleep in the past two days than I have in 16 months.
I can start really planning instead of just reacting and surviving.
(For the record I have a love/hate with “survival mode” living. It is both necessary for the immediate and really just not a lot of fun for the long term)

Before I Get On With It Already, I would like to stop for just a bit and be proud of myself. Yep, just little ole me. I have been a brilliant motherfucking human being and mother through all of these past 16 months. I have always kept my priorities in line while trying to navigate some pretty rough waters by myself and with my partner and family. A day did not go by where I wasn’t “working for the greater good of my child.” There is still (and always) work ahead for us as parents, that is the nature of parenting, but maybe it won’t be so fucking god damned shit stormed scary-as-hell hard, ya know? I’m not saying that I’m some all encompassing, holier-than-thou, Mother Theresa, Mommy-Martyr; cause honestly everyone who is a GOOD PARENT can claim that title. But for what we have endured as a family; and what I’ve had to watch, witness, experience, process, and creatively filter for my child- I should get an award….or at least a big hug the next time you see me….or maybe a taco dinner and strong margarita….or a haircut….or a massage….or at least a high five ;-)

Yes, I have some pretty big decisions and possible big shake ups and changes ahead for me personally, but now I can do it without this constant fear that our home is going to harm our child. Until you’ve been in a situation like ours, where the one place that is supposed to keep you safe from all the bullshit out there in the big bad city world, fails miserably- you don’t know and you can’t judge. I don’t know if I’ve expressed it enough or if I can even eloquently write about yet, but what this situation like ours has changed in me is something profound. The past 16 months have simultaneously totally altered me as a human being, a woman, and a mother AND it also allowed me to really and truly get back to who I really am inside and be a kid again with my little girl. Through all the tears and pain I found laughter, love, and trust in myself that I AM ONE HECK OF A GREAT MOTHER and I love with everything I am. That’s actually how I’ve always been; but somewhere between horrible bike incidents, break ups, loss of jobs, changing friendship dynamics, becoming a mother, leaving a great job, and stupid lead poisoning- I started to feel some of that which makes me, me fade away.

But, I mom ramble.
Simply put, the past 16 months have been a cluster-butt-fuck and I am really truly finally looking forward to moving onward, upward, and forward. I deserve it. My daughter deserves it. Our family deserves it.

For today though, we enjoy our small victory over lead and go treat ourselves to a Hot Doug’s lunch and visit with a dear friend at his frame shoppe (and pick up our awesome framed goodies).

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Thanks for reading.
Thanks for your support, love, and encouragement all these many 16 months.
I look forward to having more fun here on my blog and in our lives!!

Hellos from our SAFE Chicago Homestead,
Jess

We Are the Stories We Tell….

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My Current #MomBrag share is that my 2 year old now creatively colors in the lines…..

This is just one part of my story as Teacher to my amazing little girl I love so much ;-)
For better or worse / ultimate cheese factor or not, I have been a bit inspired by the TV series True Detective and it’s writer Nick Pizzolatto’s interviews on writing the show. Perhaps it’s because of my flare for the dramatic (thanks theater degree), or my love of the long narrative (and 6 years of managing an inde bookstore), or my experience in live storytelling in Chicago (and on the radio), or that I really needed to be inspired by something lately that didn’t have to do with being a mother (as lovely as it is)…but I found just a simple statement from the TD writer, “We are the stories we tell ourselves…” to be a jolt I’ve needed for a long time. Yes, the rest of his statement includes a more dark interpretation of how we should be careful of the stories we tell because blah, blah, blah gloom and doom etc. That’s not what I got out of what he said.

First off, I thoroughly enjoyed the show and think that a.) it should have been longer than 8 episodes (duh who didn’t want that) and b.) regardless of where the writer and the series goes from here, it’s been fun to watch a show that came the closest to (what I think) reading a pulp, noir, weird fiction-ish, short story feels like. Perhaps its because the last book I read was Gone Girl (which seems like a forever ago now), but this show really encapsulated for once what it was like to turn good writing into a great visual narrative. Now, who I am but just an ex public radio working/theater educated/used to be well read bookstore managing literary invested citizen of Chicago so my opinion doesn’t carry much “weight” in the greater scheme of things I suppose. So take my thoughts/expressions here at whatever value you choose, but I do know of which I speak because of my background/love of all things books and reading and literature and weird fiction and curiosity and life and art and love and theater and storytelling etc.

So yes, I REALLY liked the series. I was fine with the ending. I didn’t think it had a “come to jesus” moment at the end but more of a “gain some humanity moment and allow yourself to finally feel” for the Rust character. I didn’t need it to take a supernatural full occult spin with the Carcosa/Yellow King themes- it was amazing just to see those things being referenced in a well received show. As a woman I was fine with the female characters, once I realized by episode 2 what their purpose was- it was not a show about them- and I don’t always need a show to have some fantastical representation of female strength and power, though I do have hopes for the next season with 2 lady detectives, yes! In regards to “issues of race” around the show, again I wasn’t looking for this show to give me some moral non-stereotypical representations of race; which guess what it didn’t. It was one story, just shy of 8 hours of screen time revolving around these two main characters, The True Detectives, and “getting their guy” while also getting pretty changed themselves in the end.

Moving forward…..
Moving back to me…

The whole “We are the stories we tell ourselves…” and I will further add to that
“…. and others” really hit me hard in my guts and my brains. Not so much in my heart, that’s reserved for more romantic ideas of my story. For reals though, my mind has been swirling with ideas and thoughts and thoughts and ideas since reading this statement from an interview with the TD writer. Sure, it’s a simple idea that honestly I’ve heard before from so many of my people in the storytelling gang here in Chicago, online, and across the country; so it’s not a new concept to me. For some reason though, it just happens to ring so much more true for me write right now, during what is still an unsettling chapter in my story. So much has happened the past 15 months, heck the past 4/5 years, and yet here I am still in Chicago living out my story.

Using the word “still” above is very much intended to impart some level of “ugh” and “dread” from me to you. I have tried in earnest to leave Chicago 3 times since 2004. It is now 10 years later and here I am. Not only can I “not quit this city” it would seem, but to reference another TD theme, I also seem to be living in that circular crushed Lone Star can top / time wrap / always living the same story thing. However, do not mistake this statement for any type of regret, I do not live in regret at all. In 2004 I stayed for a boy, even though I had two very big opportunities on either of the US coasts (NYC and LA). In 2010; I tired to pack it all up again, but having just gone through a major break up, finally secured decent work with insurance after being unemployed for 18 months, and not ready to leave everyone yet…I stayed. And then I got pregnant. And then came the awesome job. And then came leaving the awesome job to pursue being an awesome mom for a while. And then came the lead poisoning….and our wanderlust, traveling, challenging, but adventurous lifestyle…. for 12 whole months. Now, I am/we are back here in Chicago till either there’s a big change in our family dynamic, a big opportunity for mom to take care of the family, or something else that I can’t creatively come up with quite yet.

But I digress on my Chicago story, because the truth is I knew what I was getting into coming back here and I have to be okay with it. For my daughter’s sake/sanity/growth/ development; and my own. There are “worse places” to live, I know this. I also know how absolutely horrific the winters are, how isolating our financial status can make us, and how stupidly difficult it seems to be just to make some other mom friends -which is a whole other topic I’ve been talking with my few other (lovely and wonderful) mom friends that I do have- and am very thankful for always. I’m not here though to write about how sad, isolating, depressing, and downright challenging life in Chicago can be for someone like me. I’m not even interested in reading about my own woe-is-meisms.

What I’ve been most interested in is Changing one’s own narrative…. Changing my narrative to be more precise. Which is way, way, way more than just “changing my attitude,” (as I’ve been so nicely reminded by others). It doesn’t have to do with just “my attitude” or “my outlook” or “perspective,” though I won’t argue that those attributes for self sufficiency and possible happiness are important. I wish changing my narrative was as easy as just breaking things down to a “victim/non victim” “letting go vs living in the past” or “taking control vs being taken advantage of” or “hurt/loss/pain vs change and growth through process” or “light vs dark” “good vs evil” “sanity vs insanity” “maturity vs immaturity.” Those are all easy concepts to see, understand, feel, and change.

If we are the stories we tell ourselves, then my current narrative work lies in two stories:

1.) Give an ending to the painful/complex/nuanced/confusing PLOT TWIST that occurred last year when multiple what I thought were important, meaningful, long term friendships were abruptly ended. This has been something that has keeps me up late at night and rudely jolts me awake in the morning; trying to figure out the hows-what’s-whys. It is the first thing that pops into my head during my meditation practices, and it lives in my chest-back-neck-throat during my yoga work. I’ve tried to deny that this lives in me, but it does. Actually, it’s only gotten more deeply imbedded in my psyche and my muscles since moving back here, because simply put- I don’t have a lot of mom friends and am terribly lonely and sad. I thought my only choice was to let go and just work on me, but it’s not that simple. I thought maybe I just needed more time to process everything, but I’m not a fan of inactive ways of working through things. I thought after getting a much needed and deserved apology, that everything would just be “okay,” and it’s not. It’s not because I miss my friends. I miss sharing my life with them and them with me. I miss having more people around my daughter, that I honestly thought would be there forever, as silly as that sounds.

Which leads me to 2.) Writing the next BIG STORY of MY LIFE as JAM.

Not Mama Jess. Not Partner Jess. Not Anxiety Jess. Not Panic Attack Jess. Not the Reluctant Lead Poisoning Activist Jess. Not the Pity Party Jess. Not the wish I had money so I could take care of myself Jess. Not “When do I FINALLY get to go to King Spa” Jess. Not “Can I please just get a break or take a little vacation” Jess. Not “Can we get another date night seeing as how we’ve only had ONE since before our daughter was born” Jess. Not this now super greying, only able to get Medicaid for myself (luckily my daughter’s father is forced to get her decent insurance because of the ACA), can’t put my daughter in classes that she could really use, lonely, sad all the time because I have very little mom friends, isolated in basic poverty because my “partner” can barely make ends meet with his all-the-time consuming job, isolated, still trying to unpack our home without any help from anyone, wishing more family would take an active role in our lives and HELP, wishing I had more creative success, jealous of others and their happiness and relationship success, done with all the lead BS from last year, angry that things just can’t seem to work out for me…person. NOT THAT PERSON. This story is not going to be for THAT PERSON. That person needs to go away because she is helping no one and she is NOT FUN AT PARTIES.

This story is for the future me. For THE FUTURE of my daughter, and hopefully for any future little me’s that may want to join us…even though we only have so much time little guys and gals, so if anyone out there is going to expand our family it should happen kinda-sorta within the next 3,4,5 years tops ya. This story is for the future creative me who is desperately aching to JUST DO SOMETHING ANYTHING PLEASE!!!! Ahem, pardon me. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to truly create from myself and not just for or with my daughter. I mean for crying out loud, I started this blog as a means to get things going for me as a creative force. My goal and dream with both this blogspot and my full site was to really get something going ya know? Now it’s just turned into my bitching post of everything that is wrong with society, the city we live in, my personal life, with hints of how amazing my little girl is. I swear that’s not all that I am. I used to be a really happy, fun, outgoing, lively, energetic, excited, creative, woman. Now. Well, let’s just say that I never expected to be in this part of the story where my whole identity is wrapped up into being a mom and figuring out how best to get my two year old to wean, start using the potty, and sleep in her own bed. I’m not ungrateful that I have gotten to have all this time with my darling daughter, minus all the stress of last year, but it would seem that I am ready for this SAHM chapter to come to a close as well.

If I’m going to continue being real here, like I have time to be anything else at this point, I don’t know that I am cut out for this: Stay-At-Home-All-The-Time-And-Neglected-By-My-Supposed-Partner-So-Where-Do-We-Go-From-Here-Because-I-Have-To-Do-Full-Time-Childcare-And-Any-Job-I-Get-Will-Have-To-Work-With-Me-Because-My-Supposed-Partner-Cannot. I’m okay with not just “being okay” with this kind of life story. Who would be happy in this? Surely, noone I know. Which is probably why most of my friends here have nothing to do with me beyond FB and Instagram likes and comments. Also, to not make this future story turn me into a huge asshole, I have to be fair and say that I don’t think either one of us thought things would end up this way. Yes, when you become parents you expect there to be sacrifices, challenges, obstacles and such THAT YOU WORK THROUGH TOGETHER but….what we have here folks is a failure to communicate for fear the communication will lead to separation. And I know, no good-caring-loving-thoughtful human like us enters into this kind of emotional, social, and moral parental contract thinking they’re not going to stay together. But those chapters have yet to be written, they are merely storyboard ideas written in pencil. We will see if that chapter heads to the ink press….

In the meantime, I am going to start working hard again on those things which made me, me BEFORE my daughter was born. Embroideries, sewing, storytelling, writing, drawing, painting, collecting, yoga, meditation, getting my hair cut, pedicures, time with friends, homemade pizza, not being a slouchy grey haired sad faced girl all the time, maybe a fricken beer every now and then sheesh, dancing, cooking, securing a good job so I can have decent insurance and stability for my daughter and I, reaching out to MY FAMILY who makes an effort instead of focusing on those who excuse away their lack of involvement in our lives beyond stupid FB. In my future story, I’m going to have a chapter where the character reminds us that it’s not over for you at 37. You have a whole (hopefully) 50/60 years to live, and look at the amazing life you’ve lead thus far. Yes, that is what I’m going to try to focus on starting today, starting now, starting with the writing, editing, and sharing of this blog. For this is the story I am telling myself and now others…..

Thanks for reading.
Hellos from our Can Anyone come watch my kiddo so I can finally unpack my home after 3 months, ugh Homestead,
Jess

Adjusting Back To Life in Chicago: The Rainy Day Rocketship Edition

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Our Art Rocketship is ready for Blast Off!!

Nothing says Welcome Back to Chicago! like the worst winter ever… Or at least it seems like it to me in my now 15 years of being in the Midwest. Thanks Chicago, global warming, the universe, weather conditions for making my already wonky transition back home here even more le ugh/le sigh/le bring on the Seasonal Affective Disorder in a major way. But ugh, I bore myself talking about the stupid weather here. It has been a harsh winter all across this city and most of the upper US (and some of the southern states as we’ve seen), so I don’t have to complain more about how I am so very very ready for spring. If for anything just to get us out of the house more and back into this city we have to live in for the next three years.

Till those perfect days happen (again and more please) I really try to make the most of being indoors, because I’m sorry but there’s only so much tolerance and fun for going outside to play in the snow, especially when it’s like A Degree, like 1, like singular- buh. OVER IT! Anyways, like I said I try to make the most of being indoors and with our big move out of storage, we have been “gifted” an obscene amount of cardboard boxes. YAY!! Fun for us!!

The plain and simple cardboard box really is this crafty mama’s BFF right now. So first up on our agenda was obviously the all important Rocket Ship, le duh. I called ours the Rainy Day Rocket Ship because it was actually raining the day we made it (of course it was) and I’m tired of referencing this stupid snow and winter and snow and cold. Plus, rain = spring to me which = flowers = warmer weather =looking ahead = staying positive = we can make things different for us here = I can love and trust this city again with my child… Whew.

Got all that? No pressure or anything on Chicago to, oh I dunno, make me totally and completely love and trust it again or anything. But those big adult thoughts/feelings/ contexts are for later. For now, we talk about the awesome Rainy Day Rocket Ship we made while still doing our nanny work a couple of weeks ago. We used our 8 weeks of “Art Gallery” play to decorate the ship with all our different masterpieces :-) Thankfully both the kiddos were really into helping in just the right capacity… Like 10 mins max and then they went to train for their space ride in the playroom while I finished up the engineering of the space hats (also made out of cardboard) and added the multicolored strawed rocket boosters. I have to gush, it came out pretty awesome looking- AmIRite??? Of course it was all about the build out, the process, the fun in the doing, more than the result.

Fun.
A word I’ve been tiptoeing around, dancing with for a while.
Not because I’m some grumpus who hates having fun, but because everything around us has just been so hard difficult challenging serious for what feels like a forever. Which is fine, we’re parents. Things are supposed to be serious, intense, gross, loving, wonderful, and all that. And it’s also supposed to be fun right? I mean, isn’t that why I chose to leave a good work opportunity to stay home and raise have fun with my daughter? Well, before everything went all katywompus and we had to leave our home….

Enough of that though.
That was the past.
This is the present.
We are in the now.
And the now is not too bad.
Sure, we could stand to have more $$ coming in and maybe less stress/tension just trying to get by, provide, or even secure decent insurance for my daughter and I.
But if that’s the “worst” we’ve got right now, well then that’s not so bad.

Yes, there is actually a whole LOT more going on than just this. Our family is a bit more complex than this and so are adult relationships, as I’m learning….. But I’m not prepared to share anything about any of that. I guess why even “share” any of this at all, eah? There are plenty of my mom friends who don’t feel the need to write out everything from silly little play time DIY creations (case in point the faucet extender I made out of a shampoo bottle, pictured below) to major upheaval in relationship dynamics, but they are not me and I like to write and share. So here we are, me writing/sharing and you reading. How we doing so far?

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The main purpose of this particular post is just to give a glimpse to those who are curious as to how life with a now 2 year old is going. Especially while trying to adjust back to a city I still don’t want to live in but have to enjoy being in for a while for our daughter because she doesn’t know any different and loves to say “Goodnight Chicago” every night before she goes to sleep to the solar system that’s projected on her wall. Again, I say whew. It’s also for me to vent a little without divulging too much personal information because while things are in fact great for our daughter, they are not for me. Which is okay, I’m the adult and I can and have to handle this.

Just like I now have to handle (with grace) the onslaught of emails, texts, and phone calls from people who haven’t asked me once in the past 16 months how my daughter was doing, but who are quick to contact me to try and get tickets to see Carl Kasell’s last WWDTM episodes. Seriously. This is what I am dealing with, which is whatever. I shouldn’t feel necessary to respond to anyone really. Who knows mayhaps some of these people will read this blog and maybe finally get how effing uncool it is to basically just reach out to me because they want something from me with absolutely not one hint of, “Hey, by the way how is your family doing?”

Meh, such is the life of a once great ex public radio worker I guess. The emails and phone calls and texts will stop once Carl does his last show I hope. And if that’s the worst I have to “handle” well then that’s not so bad is it? I guess it’s a nice gentle reminder of the good work I used to do, and that somewhere out there is some additional good work for me when I’m ready. Such is the plight of the SAHM, turned Traveling Wanderlust Mom, turned into a SASHN (Stay at Someone Else’s Home Nanny), turned back into SAHTTUMHM (Stay at Home Trying to Unpack My Home Mom).

Right now I’m okay with this, because this honestly is enough work for 3 people let alone one person (me) who has to do it alone-ish because the other half has to be more married to his job than he is isn’t to you…womp womp. We have our roles though and our jobs and we are two very loving, supportive, fantastic parents. Which is what we need to be right now. Who knows how things will be in the future. That will reveal itself in time I suppose. In the meantime I am working through my own meditations and yoga practice to continue being not just the best mom, teacher, creator I can be but to allow myself a space and place to grieve and heal. Man, this adult life sure ain’t for the faint of heart, I will tell you that. As any good parent or decent thinking, feeling, loving, living person I’m sure will tell you.

Just like how watching and truly enjoying True Detective is not for the faint of average joe tv watcher heart, especially as evidenced by the reviews coming in from last night’s finale. I guess I’m one of those wyrd (pronounced weird) people who doesn’t need everything to be wrapped up in some pretty fully explanatory glaringly obvious purdy bow. I’ve personally always been a fan of those short stories, pulp fictions and such that left you wanting more and continuing all the connections and connotations in your own imagination. I loved the show and absolutely think they did a great job in just 8 episodes. Mayhaps they can think about doing a 12/13 episode run next go around so that more items can be flushed out and thoroughly explained, but maybe not. For me simply, that show had a lot of balls and a lot of heart. So meticulously designed, crafted, and executed in every way. You can tell because the HBOGO server lost its damn mind last night when the whole world try to watch that last episode, us included. Plus, I completely cried like a hungry newborn baby during the “Rust feels the warm dark and sees the light” scene. Ugh. Ripped. My. Mom. Heart. Out. May no one I ever know closely and personally know the pain of losing a child.

Moving on from all that though is just little ole Mom-Me trying to make some good choices for my daughter and I, even if they’re difficult. Take that at face value. Right now, today, I’m thankful a dear old friend let me drop off my girl at her house so that I could “have a day to myself.” I say this without any sense of pity or woe is me- truly. But I haven’t had this much time to myself in well over 18/months, perhaps longer actually. It’s nice and I am truly grateful. Now, onto the continued unpacking and reshaping of this home of ours…while also dreaming and scheming of course the Next Big Thing I’m going to make out of these cardboard boxes!!!

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Blasting off from our Chicago Homestead!
Jess

If Only

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*People cared about toxic LEAD exposure to children the way they care about how some dudes tackle each other in tight pants with an oblonged shaped ball.
* People got “up in arms” when a family like mine could not hold those accountable for our daughter’s high lead exposure, the way they do over whether Beyoncé is a true feminist icon or if Macklemore deserves to be in the rap game.
* Sherman Willams, lead producers, and other paint companies were held LIABLE EVERYWHERE for their creation, development, marketing (to children), and disgusting lobbying of the lead paint industry; like how a judge in California ruled late last year and continues to uphold his ruling against said companies.
* The laws were set up to actually protect children and families in Chicago instead of just allowing for some arbitrary space to exist where landlords and property owners don’t have to test for lead and provide a safe space, so long as they pass out some stupid photocopied “lead safety pamphlet” and make renters sign a waiver.
*Lead Remediation was a phrase that didn’t instill the fear of too many dollar signs in property owners/homeowners/renters so that everyone could do The Right Thing to properly remove, ahem remediate, lead hazards from ALL homes. All the them. Every single last solitary home where a child is residing.
* Lead paint wasn’t still being used today on childrens’s products…I get at least one monthly recall notice regarding some child’s clothing or toy or furniture that high higher than allowed levels of lead paint. What. The…..???
* The film MisLEAD by Tamara Rubin would get the same kind of traction, attention as some of these other “very important” documentaries.
* Most people didn’t roll their eyes when they start to hear me talk about “our experience” this past year, or try to brush me along by quickly saying “S is fine, she doesn’t seem affected by the exposure at all.”
* I had a good space and place, besides this blog, to talk about all this and get it out and away from my every day.
* We knew exactly how our daughter was affected (or not) by her high lead exposure so that we could plan for the rest of our lives.
* Submissions I entered regarding lead poisoning and awareness, were taken as seriously as some stupid posts about traveling with a toddler or how I made some cardboard tube Halloween Village for my daughter.
* I could write about something other than this experience, my feelings, the uneasiness with which acclimating back to Chicago has
dumped on me- more than the 50 plus inches of snowfall thus far.

If anyone is tired of hearing me talk about LEAD, trust me…it’s ME. I didn’t want to know everything I know now. I also didn’t want my daughter to be the one who suffered for her parent’s ignorance, so of course as soon as we got the call that our girl had a BLL of 15 back in Dec 2012, I began to educate OUR ENTIRE FAMILY….. And anyone else who wanted to listen/read.

Most of my thoughtful planned out writing pieces have not been delivered (to you readers) on the wings of cartoon blue birds flying alongside adorable deers prancing through the woods to magikal education/awareness land. I’ve written completely in-the-moment, raw, real, and honest accounts of what we have gone through as a family since December 3, 2012; and what I have been working through as a caring, loving, wanting-better-than-the-best-for-my-child mama. Is that all I am made up of? I am only the sum of these past 14 months of differing parts? Obviously not. Otherwise I don’t think I would even be writing what I’m writing right now….right? But you see, it’s hard not to feel like now I am only ever going to be the mama of a lead poisoned child who at the scariest moments when everything was transpiring was treated like absolute shite by those she thought she loved and trusted. I suppose that is my still very hurt heart speaking, but it is makes it no less the truth, my truth.

The truth is, a part of me always hopes or believes that something good has to come out of our trials & tribulations – which I’ve seen with my own eyes how other families I know have taken the necessary steps to protect their own families because of us, yay. So when I’ve doubted pressing that “Publish” button because “Nobody reads my blog anyway, I’m not famous, I’m not selling or hawking anything, I’m not giving lifestyle techniques, I’m just another mom with a lead poisoned child that can sometimes put words together nicely,” I ALWAYS hit that Publish button. In fact, when I would doubt myself the most is when I would hit that button faster, because I believed somewhere inside me, that someone would appreciate what I was writing….

I would love nothing more than to refocus back in on my creative self, on my creative life with my daughter. That in fact was my original plan with starting up this blog, linking up on social networking sites, trying to join up with other creative mamas… I would love the time and head/heart space to devote back to how I express myself creatively. All those half embroideries over there in that unpacked box in the corner? Yeah, I’d like to finish them. That (really cute vintage B&W samsonite) suitcase with journals and journals and journals and journals and journals filled with writing? Yeah, I’d still like to get those going too. That additional suitcase of sketchbooks filled with children’s book ideas that I only started a couple years ago when I found out I was preggo? Yeah I’d like to do something with those. All my metal working tools and metal stock sitting atop my jewelry making cabinet that was passed down to me from Columbia? Yeah, I’d LOVE to make more awesome rings and necklaces. All those awesome tattoo sketches I’ve been carrying around for years? It’d be great if I could afford those. Wanting to spruce up my hair color and cut? That’d be nice. And lastly, that huge file folder of all my research on lead poisoning (the history, lobbying industry, current remediating conditions, other articles like the big Mother Jones one from last year) that I wanted to write some kind of piece de Fuck Off Lead!?? Yeah, that’s something I still have my mind on pretty much every time I read another new story of another family experiencing what we have.

If Only I had the time…..

Look, I get it. When I signed up for this parenting gig, they told me at the audition that there was a distinct possibility that my creative self as I knew it then would have to be put on hold for a while… Or that perhaps the creative self would be changed in some way by my motherhood experience. I knew what I was getting into with becoming a parent and so I in NO WAY harbor resentment towards my child for taking some precious time away from me. If anything, I only continue to be inspired and motivated more with every day and moment I spend raising our beautiful little girl. Although it is nice to have a break every now and then and I relish any moment of mom reprieve that I can have when my AuntMom or UnclePapa come to visit and spend time with our girl. So me writing about wanting more time for my creative self has nothing to do with my parenting of the past two years.

However it does have EVERYTHING to do with this lead poisoning business…. This “must move out and be without a home with all our belonging in storage to protect our child business.” This finding out how the world really works, or doesn’t in most cases, business… This overcoming crippling anxiety and depression business…..This losing of multiple friendships/close relationships business….This acclimation back to a city I still love, but no longer trust business…… This 1,000 weight of relationship instability put on my 130 lb frame is as my little girl would say! “Too much.” They did not talk to me about this in the audition. So this as “they” would say is LIFE. It’s unpredictable and messy and gross and lovelybeautifulwonderful, and scary, and challenging and I wouldn’t change any of it. Okay, except for the stupid lead exposure bs, that I would totally change. But everything else, we cool.

Now, if only I had the time, monetary, and family-watch-the-kiddo resources to finally get our home unpacked, organized, and together enough so that my brain could be clear again to either finish up some of these creations just sitting around in old suitcases and boxes OR start up new ones. If only, not everyone we knew was busy hustling to make there own way in this world so that we could see people again. If only this stupidgross winter would kindly pack it up and head to a place that’s a bit more welcoming to its ways, like Antarctica. No really, that would be nice. If only I didn’t have to now go wake up my daughter out of her deep slumber, that she really needs to stay in, so that I can take 20 mins just trying to get our winter gear on and the car started, so that we can spend the day taking good care of another’s kiddo…. But I’m loving the work and the family, so there you go. If only there were magikal elves who came out at night to unpack and organize the rest of our unpacked house…That would be nice.

If you read my previous pieces from the past month or so, I’m happy to report and share that through some regular at home yoga practice, good hard work, and just taking moments to be and breathe, I have totally kicked all those panic attacks of late last year. I knew I would have to for my own sake and my family’s, but I’ve been able to really work through the processing of all these changes on my own terms and in my own way. I’m still really interested in going back to doing some talk therapy again, because therapy why not? But this will be more as a proactive measure vs a must find a helpful solution because this is all just too much right now solution. So there’s that.

To finish out my earlier thoughts from above….

Look I “get it” okay? There’s a whole big crazy, complex, annoying, frighteningly beautiful, complex, totally simple, frustrating, quite lovely, intense, strange, challenging, graceful, clumsy, bewitching world out there. Everyone has a struggle story. Everyone has their goals, dreams, desires, wants, needs that they get to address and play out (if they’re lucky). So I understand the eye rolls, lack of seriousness with which our situation has been perceived by SOME, and general disinterest in something like Lead Poisoning. I actually really don’t see why anyone wouldn’t want to be interested in removing lead hazards for ALL CHILDREN, but most people don’t want to do anything about anything until it affects them personally My concern is that I see my space for activism on behalf of my family becoming smaller and smaller now that we’re in a new home and trying to “settle.” But let me reiterate that just because we are in a new home and (thankfully) our girl’s lead levels are at a 4 -which is just under the “level of concern.” That does NOT mean that this is all over. This will never be all over because I am a loving, involved, caring, active parent and I am my child’s advocate. She needs me to help her learn this world she’s been brought into and protect her as best I can. I take this job very seriously; because I know in just a few short years, I will have to let her go out there on her own to live out her own goals, dreams, and desires in this beautiful, crazy, challenging, bewitching world. After the past 14 months I fully understand that I will not be able to control everything for my child….

What I will never understand is how anyone could have been a close part of our lives, cared about this amazing little girl in any possible way, or maybe they didn’t like me that much anymore but heard of our story…. And for some reason couldn’t be human enough to at least reach out. Or at the very least NOT be completely, totally, and utterly absent. I try to find peace every day with “this part” of the past 14 months, and it is a challenge. It is MY BIG FRUSTRATION CHALLENGE right now as I nest comfortably in our beautiful new home and continue processing everything. I know that I cannot make others care about our family or even take a moment to educate themselves on the dangers of toxic lead exposure in their homes. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop writing, talking, nor advocating for my child. If anything it will only make my fingers weak from typing so much, my voice hoarse from projecting loudly & proudly, and my awaken my inner activist again. strong>IF ONLY I could get others to jump on board with us…..

Thanks for taking the time to read my mom/me musings.

Hellos from Our Most Lovely (still unpacking) Chicago Homestead,
Jess

When You Have a Mother Who is Mentally Ill…. PART II

If you’ve come here to read some more of my words, thank you.
I know I have a tendency to write pretty stream-of-consciousness, free write kind of stuffs; and I can be a bit windy, turning, swirly with some of my points. Usually though if you hang in there with me, I will get there eventually…. I promise. Actually “hanging in there with me and I will get there eventually I promise,” is pretty much my MO as of late.

This post is coming out of a need, desire, drive to transcend this very deep, dark, anxiety fueled, depressive place I can no longer fight and must continue to admit that I am in right now. If you know me, know me; then you KNOW that ideally I am a happy, outgoing, fun, hilarious, sarcastic, honest, open, loving, all-around-good-gal-to-know. I would do anything to help a friend and am a pretty good listener. The past year has not changed me entirely as a person, but it has impacted me greatly.

Of course it has. I mean le duh: we find out our daughter has lead poisoning from our home, put all our belongings in storage and start bouncing around all over the MW and NE United States staying with family FOR A YEAR, I loose not one but three long time (and I thought dear) friendships, due to the natural progression of life I have to let go of previous friend dynamics I thought I had with my old future family because that’s how things are (just really bad timing for my heartmind), my relationship with my daughter’s father is pretty non existent except we definitely love each other as people and are good friends (and he is standing by me with strong support as I work through all this stuff now), the holidays sucked -like chock full of suck so bad- and I’m coming to terms with the fact that my daughter will have very little active family time when it comes to her dad’s family because they all have their own lives. Lastly, we are now in this new home with old stuff that I simultaneously want to “just get rid of it all!” and “No No wait, don’t throw that out and don’t tell me I have to get rid of everything, I need to choose to let stuff go!”

Got all that?
Okay.

So I “get” that we all have our own roads/paths/struggles/trials/tribulations etc. I respect that perhaps another person in this same situation might not feel the need to write all this stuff out and they may not even need to process anything because “life is life and you just need to keep on moving forward.” I am NOT that person. I’m not going to apologize for who I am but instead embrace who I am and this great time of intense melancholia I am living through; and figure this out, work through my shit, come out a better, stronger, and happier version of myself. I have to. I am MOM. My daughter cannot wait around while I try to process, work through, and heal. Nor can MY anxieties become HER anxieties. In just this simple statement and acknowledgement of who I am and where we are, I feel like I am already breaking free of my mother’s curse.

My Mother’s Curse.

I’ve been fearful that I too was going to have schizophrenia (or the bad voices disease) since I was 10. Slowly over the years and with a lot of expensive talk therapy, I have been breaking free of it. When I turned 35 and my daughter was only a month and a half old, I sighed all the sighs of relief because statistically, if schizophrenia is going to come on (in the way it did for my mother) it would have been in the late 20′s/early 30′s range. So at 35, I felt I was in the clear, and could carry on with a normal life. I was also reassured constantly by all my health care peoples, that my percentage was so little that it was nothing to worry about. Has it been a perfect, smooth ride, kind of journey all these years? Absolutely not. Would I change any of it? Maybe little bits for the sake of others who had to “deal with me” and my emotional upheavals, recoveries, and “growth processing,” aka my entire mid-late 20′s and early 30′s. For the most part though, I’ve always come out of every scenario, situation, challenging circumstance a stronger, confident, and more mature woman. Becoming a mother to this amazing little creature is truly the best thing that could have “happened.” Which is why I am so aware, so concerned, so trying to take control of these latest panic attacks, anxieties, and deep waves of depression.

The panic attacks and anxiety are new to me. The way that they appear to come on, overtake me, and paralyze my thinking, rational brain is intense for me. It was (note I say was) all encompassing. Like, I couldn’t get out of bed and just stayed in the fetal position crying all day on Christmas and the day after.
Happy fucking Holidays eah? Barf! Then, the panic attacks started two days after Christmas. I couldn’t breathe nor get a grip on my physical body; after just trying to start to unpack and clean the dust off of things. My only coping mechanism was to talk it out with my partner and breathe slowly. Because realistically what else can I do? Up till about 6 days ago, I couldn’t even say the sentence: The worst that happens is that Lil S’s lead levels go up again because of re-exposure to lead dust and we work to get them down. I couldn’t even think this, let alone say this out loud to others without having a full on I feel like I’m having a heart attack and my brain is falling out panic attack. I’m fine to admit, that it’s been bad for me. Not for our daughter, just for me, and my partner who’s had to support me as best he can. He is a good friend to me, which is what I need right now.

Great, so how does this play into the whole “Mentally Ill Mama” thing?
Everything.

When I feel like I’m out of control (even though I’m not), I immediately think “What if THIS is the thing that finally makes me crack? What if I end up like my mom? What if my behaviors negatively impact my daughter? What if my daughter ends up having emotional issues?” What if, what if, what if??? Just FYI, the WHAT IF GAME is not a good place to live and grow a family, I know this and for the most part I do not live in this world, it has just been the past year. This seriously go effe yourself 2013 year I had. The thing is, no matter how much I research, no matter how many times I’ve been told by professionals how non existent my chances are to be stricken with My Mother’s Curse, it still enters my coping process, which is so not helpful when trying to just handle the things directly in front of me.
This. This is one of the most effed up things about having a mother with a severe mental illness and it may be something I struggle with my whole life till……

Good news though. As of today, the panic attacks are lessening and my general mood is getting “better.” The more we unpack and clean and test our house for lead dust and I CAN SEE WITH MY OWN TWO EYES that everything is okay here, the less anxious I’ve become. Which makes sense right? Of course it does. Unpacking, cleaning, and testing our home&stuff is something that is active and is something I have control of right now. Pardon me, but it’s a fuck of a lot to just “handle gracefully,” as was suggested to me that I do by one of my family members over the holidays. They know fuck all about me and my life, so I took what they said with a laugh. A big belly laugh.

So yes, I am feeling better today.
I’m feeling a bit more in control of things today.
I’m feeling less like I’m swinging around my mother’s curse and more like I’ve landed in my own life, and am exactly where I need to be right now, for me and for my family.
I’m feeling strong and confident in my mothering skills and my dedication to my daughter’s health, well being, and happiness.
I’m feeling mostly okay with turning 37 in 3 days. I mean, even with all this stress and a few grey hairs dancing atop my head, I still look pretty young and I have a lot of energy -thanks for my BFF coffee addiction. So I got that going for me….

Actually, I have a whole heck of a lot going for me. I really do. I have people who care about me and my daughter. I have at least two good people who have stepped up as Lil S’s grandparent figures and are active and present in her life. We’ve got a safe and beautiful home with two wonderful landlord/neighbors. I’ve got my physical health in tact and eat pretty darned well. I’ve got a good, loving, partnership with my dear friend. I’ve got an amazing bond/relationship with my little girl. Things ARE GOOD. I see this, I know this.

The nanny job I have for a little while here is helping a lot. Like a whole bunch a lot. Like it really means so very much to my heartmindsoul that these wonderful friends trust me with their daughter and are happy to have Lil S and I in their day- to-days. At first I was concerned that with being still very unsettled in our new home, adding on a full time job may not be the best thing for us, but it’s turning out to be exactly what WE need right now :-) (thank you C for this opportunity, because I know you read my blog). I get to teach Lil S about playing with and helping younger children (which she just loves by the way- especially the feeding part, she loves to feed the baby). I get to teach myself even greater patience and treat each moment with the girls with love, respect, and a calmness I haven’t had in the past year or so. Let’s not forget, I also get to hang out with a cool cutie baby who is the sweetest little soul on this planet. It’s a very healing workspace, which is what I need right now.

All of this makes me feel good about myself, my place in this world, my mothering, our future, and even my current state of melancholia. An old friend expanded my way of thinking about our dips into melancholic times in our lives, to basically pay attention to what is happening within you and around you. These “low” or “down” times are there to inform us about different parts of ourselves, and if we pay close attention -and if you’re lucky to be any type of artist/expresser etc- then something really amazing, profound, and beautiful can come out of such a dark time. To be a complete and total nerd for all things introspective, I hope I’m able to gain a lot out of this period in my life and maybe even get back to my art again now that we have a home.

Eventually I will appreciate where we came from; in regards to all the lead poisoning nonsense, education/truth telling about the state of lead in this country, and helping others through our experience; not yet though. I am still most definitely processing and working through everything from the past year. It’s not going to change over night, I know this. Just as I know my brief respite from panic attacks may be just that- a brief respite. The work and healing starts now, for me and myself and my heartmindsoul. The fact that I can do this, still be present and active with my child, admit where I am weak & struggling, and start to make some jokes about it while doing the work to heal and process; is a pretty good sign that I again have broken free of My Mother’s Curse.

Because the truth is, and my reality is: While I may have a mother with a mental illness, her illness is NOT my life. I do not have to accept nor display weirdo pictures of her. I do not owe her anything more than allowing her to know her granddaughter and get to know me again. I do not have to answer any one of her NINE phone calls in three days (15 phone calls as of today). Yes, she’s just calling to ask if I got the card with the pictures, but because of her illness since I haven’t answered nor returned her calls, her messages get more and more impatient and erratic. Yay! Fun! Which just so you don’t think me the asshole, I’ve already explained to her that we can talk on the weekend. I am too busy with my 7:30am-5:30 pm work schedule and home life by myself M-F, that having chats on the phone are not my priority. She said she understood. And yet, here I am with a full VM box of all of her messages. Jealous? Yeah, I thought so.

Whatever. It is what it is. Just like this blog and these two posts are what they are. I’m doing a follow up list post after I finish this one, just to make my thoughts more succinct for …… myself? You who are reading this? My friends and family who read this? My daughter? My processing? My healing? All of it? Its such a shame that I purchased the domain for “HellosFromTheHomestead.com” as a way to start my own artistic business while incorporating elements of this new motherhood thing and even collaboration with my little human. Instead, it wound up being a a documentation and personal journal of dealing with stupid lead poisoning the past year. Hopefully THIS YEAR will be the year I can pull it all together, turn things around, transcend the lead thing; and get this blog&me working again….

All this and more is what makes me ME. And not just the daughter of a Mother who is Mentally Ill.
Thanks for reading.

Light and Love from the New Homestead,
Jess

***also you should really read this post titled “Why It is Crucial for Women to Heal the Mother Wound : http://womboflight.com/2014/01/18/why-its-crucial-for-women-to-heal-the-mother-wound/

Talk about wow!!!

When You Have a Mother Who is Mentally …… PART I

…..And You’re a Mother to a Daughter
…..And You’re Experiencing Serious Anxiety and Depression

A few days ago, on January 13th, I received a Valentine’s Day card from my mom with some pictures of her and her cats. I immediately threw them into the trash -sorry earth landfill, I just can’t have those photos near me (okay well the card I threw into the recycling bin cause it was paper). It’s fine, more than likely she will never come to our home and expect to see those pictures somewhere. Also, these are the first photos she’s ever sent me, ever. I don’t want them. Seems a bit harsh huh? Or dramatic? Or unnecessary? Or mean, as my mom would say. Everything is either nice or mean with her. If I accept her daily phone calls, let her try to say hi to her granddaughter through the scratchy speakerphone and even scratchier 40 year smoking habit she has, then I’m nice. If I ask her if she’s getting her shots, question whether that neighbor of hers is actually saying he’s gonna rape her (for some reason my mother’s brain is obsessed with rape), or if I put limitations on how often she can call me (I have), then I’m mean.

Perhaps it is mean of me to throw some pictures of my mom who is trying as hard as she can to “be normal” and just send a few “cute” photos of her and her cats. But her high fashion makeup techniques from the 80′s make me cringe, and no offense to the cute kitties in the pics, but it all goes into the trash. Those pictures do not go up on my fridge, I will not be sharing them with my daughter, and I will not be putting them into a frame; because they creep me out. To me, they are not pretty/beautiful representations of a loving, kind, caring mother/daughter relationship.

My mother used to be beautiful. Like stone cold fox, stop traffic, cartoon wolf whistle kind of beautiful. She had perfect teeth and a small perfect frame, which is why she did a significant amount of modeling and some acting in the mid-late 80′s. It’s also why I grew up in Southern California. She could never do runway modeling because she was only 5’2, but she was Connie Sellica’s (sp) stand in for that TV show “Hotel.” She also got compared to Crystal Gale and Susan Lucci a lot. Actually she was ALWAYS mistaken for Susan Lucci. So that should give you some idea of her outer beauty. For the most part her inner beauty was equally matched. She had a laugh like no one else I have ever met. In fact, she taught me how to laugh from my guts, “Laugh big, laugh boldly, let your laugh be infectious,” she would tell me. I still take those words to heart and am never really capable of a fake laugh.

When I was 10 my mother started “hearing voices.” That’s actually not fair of me to put “hearing voices” in quotes because for her they are all too real and still are a part of her day to day. Without giving the long drawn out history of my mother’s dissent into Paranoid Schizophrenia let me give a quick timeline in my ages of growth:

In 1987 I was 10 years old – Mom had a huge emotional breakup with “the guy she thought could propel her acting career.” Shortly after the big break up, she started “acting weird” and “saying strange things” or asking me “did you just hear that.” She also started taking her problems/issues/stresses out on me with physical/mental/and emotional abuse. I never told any of my family members back in the Midwest because I really didn’t understand what was going on. Also, my “relationship” with my father was strained because quite honestly, he’s not a very good person, so I never told him what was happening when I would have to come visit for the holiday and summer.
11-14 years old- The worst of everything happened during this time. My father stopped talking to me for a while, then he got married and I was a Jr bridesmaid, then he stopped talking to me again. My mother slowly spiraled out of control, always turning to my grandfather for help, but never showing herself completely. I was in Junior High School and dealt with all the normal complexities of growing up poor and going to school with rich kids. For the most part the arts/writing/dance/ and PE classes probably “saved me.” I also took up smoking, drinking, and a regular pot habit by the time I finished up 8th grade….and a pretty stellar skateboarding style. During this time, the voices became louder for my mother, the abuse became more extreme, and I started to try and tell family members what was going on, but nobody listened.
14 & 15 years old- I started at one high school and did not do good in school even though I was smart. I just didn’t care. Why was I going to waste time sitting in a class trying to “teach me” something when nobody would listen to me about my mom. The drug habit expanded in some pretty major ways. Somehow, even with all my non caring, non attending of classes, I still managed to pull out of 9th grade with a high C Average, a love for literature, and a serious interest in all things math and science related. At home, the abuse became more intense and severe but I started fighting back because I grew taller/got bigger than my mom. My mom started dating that same guy who “destroyed her” in 87′ in the hopes that he would kick start her career again. But that ended tragically and she is still convinced he killed her cat and still talks about it to this day.
15 & just two months into turning 16- I started selling some drugs, had parties at our new apartment by the high school I wanted to go to, and made actually some pretty stellar friendships with people I’m still close with. I “fell in love” with a ‘bad boy’ and tried to do any and everything to impress him. Oh god, I’m grossing myself out just writing that. But whatever, I was 15. At this point I was on an almost 2 year hiatus from speaking with my father. And my mother…..was bad. All the time. 24 hours a day/8 days a week. There were rarely any good times and I was so high on trying to just not be in that home with her, that I did any and everything to stay away….till she would leave for work on the weekends and then we would have “rage-ers” at my apartment. I may have done some illegal things from time to time and am so lucky I never got caught. Never not once. It’s almost unreal how lucky I actually am in that regard. I started relying on my friends for help and luckily a dear sweet soul of a guy friend (not boyfriend but a guy who was a dear friend) lived in the apartment building next door, so when my mother would say freak out on me and call me the devil and then beat me in the face with a porcelain green bear piggy bank, I would run next door to my friend and his dad. I am still always thankful for those brief moments of respite.
January 24th, 1993. 16th birthday- A small group of my friends and I were maybe experimenting with some hallucinogens, when my mom tried to take us out for pizza for my bday. “Dude Jess, your mom…has a tail.” was all anyone could say as we all awkwardly tried to eat pizza. Shortly after the birthday, things went from worse to nuclear in every sector of my young life: I was failing at school, I was really sick with mono (that I got from my mom NOT a dude thankyouverymuch), the abuse was getting way way way worse including more household disciplinary tools, and I was beyond “not in a good place.” I can confidently say that I was on a path to dying or killing myself with drugs or getting into some major major trouble with the law. A dear friend reached out to my dad or nanny (my brit grandmother), and some letter writing commenced basically letting them know what was going on and that I needed some pretty serious help and intervention. Which is why in March of 1993, after two years of having nothing to do with me, my father and Nanny flew out to California and basically kidnapped me out of my horrible situation. It really was the best thing that could have been done for me, even though I only ended up living with him for 3 years after that because my dad is my dad and is still not a kind, patient, caring individual. But that’s a whole other story.
From what I remember, my mother didn’t try to fight with the courts too much in regards to my father getting custody of me. She never flew back and tried to make court dates. She did get a lawyer to represent her, but nothing was ever “done” in the courts with regards to my “accusations” against my mother about neglect and abuse. Nothing was ever looked into regarding my “accusations” regarding my mother’s mental state. She was just left out there in Calif to her own devices and I was left to rebuild myself in my father’s new home, a new state, in a new high school, into a new life.

Fortunately, I was in fact able to turn everything around while in the “care” and custody of my father and stepmother. I was able to forge some pretty strong and important friendships and relationships, most of which are still going strong today. I was able to excel in high school but not isolate myself in my studies. I was able to start at a good Community College immediately following graduation from BHS and fall in love with the artistic side of me, forge more of the most important and strongest friendships I still have today, and harness my inner activist so that I could go out and “save the world.” When it became apparent that living in my father’s home was no longer healthy nor productive for any of us- most importantly ME after he beat me senseless and destroyed my room for coming home late- I left in the middle of the night with the help of those good friends I’ve mentioned. I have never spoken to my father since….and that was 1996.

Did I run back into the arms of my mother who magically received the help she needed and turned her own life around? No. No, because while my mother was finally thrown into a facility after causing a scene after my high school graduation, and my family finally could see and admit that something was not right with her, and she did spend some time in a couple facilities getting kinda-sorta diagnosed and kinda-sorta medicated; she still was able to leave the Midwest, go back to California and live away from all of us. The state of mental health organizations back then was that she would have had to endanger herself or others or “do something” in order for us to get her into a facility out there, so we didn’t. And at 19 and having just gone out on my own, I sure as hell was not focusing any attention on her whatsoever considering I had my own life to live and create. It wasn’t until just after my grandfather passed away in January 2001 and my mother refused to come back to the funeral. She ended up leading the Santa Monica PD on a high speed chase with her animals and a jug of wine in her car. It did not end well, but fortunately nobody was severely injured when the car was forced to a roll over stop, not even the jug of wine broke.

Because of that very public incident that also involved her getting her 3rd or 4th DUI, she ended up in jail. Where it was obvious after some time in there w/o any medications that something was a little “off” with her. She finally was able to get diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia and on the Bi Polar Disorder spectrum. She finally was getting some kind of treatment. She wasn’t necessarily getting “better” or more understanding of herself and her disease, but she was able to be in a more controlled setting. A year after the big run around town/jail time/ halfway house, my mother was released to my eldest aunt in Wisco to live out her probation, get help, maybe even start a new life. It IS very possible for Schizophrenics to live full and productive lives if on the right medications and monitored properly. Anyways, she ended up in Wisco, which is where she still is today. For the most part she’s slowly gained a lot of weight because of the meds, she smokes like it’s her job, and she’s only had a few “episodes” over the years….. Till my daughter was born in December of 2011.

Which is a whole other long story, that’s probably best saved for another blog, because the REAL purpose behind me writing is to of course write about myself and my journey and mayhaps inspire others to share their own stories. Before I go on with that though, it’s important to know a few things about me:

1.) I have always battled emotional outburst issues and as much as I don’t want it to be a part of me, it is. My poor previous long term relationship took the brunt of my growth process of working through instabilities mixed with alcohol, which is never a good combination. However, I have learned to work with it instead of against it, especially now that I’m a mother. I have NEVER had a full on emotional outburst screaming/crying/wailing at or towards my child. She has been present for some tears, yes and some frustrations, but I’ve always removed myself from her immediate being because she does not need my BS in her psyche. I am very proud of this fact.
2.) I have never nor will I ever react to my child in an aggressive physical manner. As the saying goes, “The cycle of abuse stops with me.” It has and it does. And I’ve never felt the ‘urge’ to ever harm my child. Ever.
3.) I’ve never heard voices myself. Ever.
4,) I’ve always had abandonment issues, duh like WHO WOULDN’T given the two parents I had.
5.) I’ve experienced periods of depression, but never anxiety nor continual panic attacks like what has been occurring as of late. Years ago, cutting out excessive drinking really helped me big time with any depressive tendencies. And seriously, when you’re in your 30′s and a parent you have no business acting like you’re still in your 20′s.
6.) The past year has challenged me more than I ever thought possible. I have learned to handle loss like a champ and situations out of my control like it’s my career. I’ve been forced and am fine with being present, living in the moment, and letting go of some previously held creature comforts I had- in order to preserve my child’s future and my family’s health. I am a strong, strong woman. But….. Oh but, but, but, but, now that we are in our own home again and I’m finally in a good place to process, now it’s all coming out in these very anxiety driven, depressed, fear filled, worry warting, intense ways.
7.) I can fully embrace the ideas of self awareness, self dependency, and NOT take on a victim like mentality regarding all that has transpired in the past 395 days. But there’s only so much a person can take, take on, live through -before they need some type of assistance to “get on with things,” as my British family would say.
8.) I’m not looking for pity or sorrow or to make others “feel bad” with what I’m writing. If anything I’m looking to transcend this deep, dark, depressive, anxiety fueled narrative I appear to be living in right now. Writing and sharing is one way I do this.
My daughter is everything to me. She is an extension of me. She speaks like me. She looks to me for how to react to certain situations and stressors. This has always been in the forefront of my mind and behaviors with her since the moment she joined us earthside. When I hear others say that “They want better for their kids,” trust me I am the poster child for that phrase. There is nothing I strive for more right now, than to make sure my daughter has way, way, way better than I did each and every day of her life.
9.) I do not have a lovely dovey relationship with my mother. I do not wish her ill and after some intense therapy for years I was finally able to come to terms and let go of all the mental, physical, and emotional abuse she inflicted on me. I know, or at least this is how I handle this, I believe “that it wasn’t really her but was the disease that made her do all of the horrible things she did to me.” I have a good 7 years of early childhood memories as evidence that if my mom could, should would’ve not done what she did to me. But as of today, I do not have a “good” mother daughter relationship with her. I do not trust her. And I do not truly love her as a mother. I love her as a person and I feel sorry for her that she is the way she is, but I do not have a whole kind of love for her. However for my daughter’s sake, I am making efforts to at least allow for some kind of relationship to occur between them. If anything, Lil S having a “different kind of grandma” may help continue to harness the empathy I already see so strong within her little two year old body, mind, and soul. So for them, I let go and I appreciate what brief good times we can have with my mom. My first job though is to protect my daughter and to protect myself, that will ALWAYS be paramount when dealing with my mother.

Whew.
What a bunch a words eah?
If you made it through all that Thank You.
If you’re still interested in whatever else I have to say/write, Double Thank You.

There will be a PART II coming momentarily.
This next part is all about me and my current state of things (anxiety with the new home, old stuff, lead poisoning etc) and how my mother’s illness still informs how I tackle these very real and difficult issues.

See you at the next Homestead Post,
Jess

My Christmas Present to Myself

Perhaps a “better” or more “well adjusted” person would not react the same as I just did. But for once in the past 12 or so months I did something that was 1000% selfish. I’ve been thinking about it off and on for a while now. I had a good conversation with my bestie whilst driving her out to her family’s house last night about it, in a roundabout way. I almost did it last night when I got home after a long emotional day, after a long emotional weekend, after a super long emotional past 8 weeks or so. But, I do not like to react and make decisions while emotional so I stopped myself last night.

Today though.
Today was the day to do it.
Today was my Christmas Present to myself.
Today I deactivated my FB account.
I know, what a stupid thing to feel like I have to declare or write about, and yet here I am doing just that. On my pseudo public blog that I think a few people read from time-to-time and share with others. So yes, I deactivated my account. Took the app off of all my mobile devices. Now I’m enjoying writing about this while my little family settles in for the Christmas night.
Today (Christmas Day) was not a good day for me.

For my daughter: it was magical, there were awesome creative decorations, every part of today was full of whimsy and junk food (because we had no food prep after moving and traveling and stupidly thinking we would be spending the holiday with family), and there were GREAT gifts- like really great- like we are so lucky right now especially given our circumstances. Anyways, the day for her is exactly what it should have been and for that I am thankful and proud of us.

But for me, it was a terrible awful no good day.
In all honesty, it has been pretty rough for me the past few days. It’s very overwhelming being surrounded with all this stuff I haven’t seen in a year. My anxiety levels are reaching epic proportions I never knew possible within myself, because I am SO WORRIED ABOUT LEAD DUST. I keep telling myself that there’s nothing we can do except clean everything as we unpack, try to keep our girl in her “safe clean space” on the front sun porch our our shared (for now) bedroom, and just keep working at it. But. It. Is. So. Hard. Not. To. Worry.

To make matters worse for me, it’s stupid Christmas. Which I thought was going to be so much good-better-exciting-fantastic since we are in our new wonderful home. Instead I’m sitting here absolutely drained from all-of-this. I had hopes for today that we would be spending the holiday with lil S’s family, but of course that didn’t happen. And that’s fine. I get it. Everyone has their own lives and needs that don’t need to include our daughter and Christmas Day. It’s just a day after all. It was a great day for our girl. However, I found myself starting to get angrier and angrier as the day went on and I looked at these gift bags just sitting there with her framed pictures in them. They were taunting me, laughing at me, mocking me and my attempt to do something nice for family. Dumb. I know plenty of people who would completely appreciate a lovely framed picture of our beautiful girl and appreciate some time with us.

But that’s not why I deactivated my FB. I deactivated my FB because people (including me) have become lazy and inactive in each other’s lives. They assume they will just keep up with each other on FB and see the latest pictures and cool links on there. Not anymore. I’m done with that. I’m done with allowing this general malaise of disconnection continue. You want to see a picture of Lil S? Great, you can follow me on Instagram and see pictures at scoutsmama. You want to know how we are doing, how our new house is coming along, how her lead levels are, how my mom heart is doing? Great, you can call or email me. And I can do the same. This is not just a one way street, I know this. I will need to reconnect with those I love and care about in the same way. Great. I look forward to fun phone calls catching up, or sharing photos in an email with those who want to see pics and aren’t on instagram, or of course and most importantly SEEING PEOPLE IN PERSON.

I look forward to getting back into storytelling.
I look forward to reconnecting with old dear friends I have missed.
I look forward to volunteering again.
I look forward to getting our home together this next week.
I look forward to starting this nanny job for a couple months to help get through these cold winter days.
I look forward to having play dates again.
I look forward to having some (badly needed) lady dates.
I look forward to having people to our new home.
I look forward to seeing YOU if you’re reading this. Truly, I do (smiley face)

So in order for me to continue looking forward and becoming active again in my special people’s lives, I have to disconnect the laziness, drama, excuse filled platform that is FB. I didn’t delete it, that would be dumb, but I deactivated it. I did it for me. I did not do it to punish anyone. I want to see if I can truly step away from that very addictive social medium for a while and come back to it with some great stories, pictures, and life to share again. For me this is the greatest gift I can give myself as we are now back in this beautiful cold bitch of a city that I love dearly.

I will also keep writing on this blog for sure and will send out a newslettery type email to those who’ve requested it (there’s so many of you wonderful loves) and to family. For now though, I have a lot of work ahead of me to get this home looking like, well more of a home.

(c) HELLOS FROM THE HOMESTEAD 2013

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Happy Merries and all that.
See you in 2014!!!!
Jess


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