Kiss5Tigers

The 5 Tigers represent the big things in life. This blog is about facing them.


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Facilitating

Today I had the opportunity to facilitate a DBSA support group. The regular facilitator was out of town.

It went well, I thought. Though we had many more people than usual.

Usually there are about 6 of us, today there were close to 15 people, many of them new. That is really a LOT of people. I didn’t have performance anxiety but I was concerned about the size.

Additionally, the reading today was a story from African folklore. We had 2 black ladies from the US, and a black couple from Africa. I was like, this will either be really good or really bad. And it was a mixed bag. The black ladies stayed, the African couple left. I hope they weren’t offended. I can’t help what the material is, I just facilitate.

I did notice a few people were less involved than usual. A few people passed on responding to questions, which also doesn’t usually happen. We read the lesson out loud, a few people passed on that too.

After the lesson, I asked a couple of the regulars how they felt about the size of the group. Mostly, the response was negative. Too many people. Especially for my folks with social anxiety, just too much. I want people to be comfortable. I can’t suggest the group will be that big every time, but how can we make people feel safe to share.

I think, when there are more than 10 people, we should consider breaking the group up. I could take half, and the regular facilitator could take the other half. That way, people would feel more comfortable opening up about their stuff. I have texted this idea to the regular guy, we’ll see what he says when he gets back.


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Trying Things

Trying bulletproof coffee for the first time. I like my coffee black so this is without sweetener. Mostly tastes greasy. I might prefer regular coffee. But I am trying to be low carb at least, trying for keto at home but it’s hard. I can think of all kinds of things to eat, but they involve crackers, so . . .

Yesterday I had my first poke bowl at a place called Below 40. It had salmon and crab and was so good. I was full most of the day. I was of course hungry again by 6 but that’s pretty normal. Going to try another one of their signature bowls next time. My friend K who I went with had a custom bowl made. Hers had greens instead of rice. I might try that the next time.

Slept on K’s new sofa this weekend. So comfy. What a process it was getting that sofa! First problem was getting the old sofa out. We got it to the truck no problem. Getting it into the truck was a different story. While we were trying to wrangle the thing over the tailgate, a fire truck pulled up to check a nearby hydrant. The firemen came over and put the sofa in the truck for us! Very helpful. Unloading it was pretty straightforward. The staff at the store loaded the new one for us and we got it off the truck just fine. Then came getting it through the door.

We turned it one way, didn’t fit. Turned it the other way, didn’t fit. The feet were in the way, the curve of the back was in the way, the whole thing didn’t fit by only an inch or two. A neighbor named Gary came by. He helped us turn the thing a few different ways but his girlfriend showed up and they had to get to a concert. Then Alan and Ty, some neighbors from upstairs showed up. Alan actually took the sliding glass doors off the tracks to get the sofa in. It took him over an hour, things were so stuck by paint and dirt. Who knew the track to a sliding door could get so dirty? Who even thinks of cleaning such a thing? Then the guys lifted the sofa over the porch railing and into the living room, and they put the doors back. Ty said he’d take a bottle of Crown for his efforts, but Alan doesn’t drink so K will get some money for him.

We went to an estate sale yesterday afternoon. I bought a copy of a book called “The Birds’ Xmas Carol” by Kate Douglas Wiggin. I bought it for nostalgia reasons, but it’s got an inscription dated 1913. The copyright says 1886 but I think that’s just the copyright date, not the publication date of this issue. I mentioned it to K, and a man near us kept going on about how much the book was probably worth. I don’t care about the value. It reminds me of my grandmother.

I also saw a pretty pink glass rabbit dish that reminded me of her. It made me think of the chicken bowl she had that always had hard candy in it. It was a milky blue color. The bottom was a wicker basket and the lid was a nesting chicken. You lifted the chicken off to get to the treats. Speaking of candy, I remember her buying ribbon candy at Christmas and Peeps and Easter. Grandma would eat a whole Peep, just popping the whole thing in her mouth. I never liked them myself, not a fan of marshmallow.

Well, I am off to my Artists Way group. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!


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Running Out of Unemployment

I’m at a bit of a scary place, financially.

I’ve been off work since December and collecting unemployment. It’s not very much money but I can live on it, especially since I have some savings.

However, I have just requested my last unemployment payment. I am now out of benefit money.

I am looking for a job, but it’s hard to find one that pays well. I make good money working for the government, I don’t expect to make as much in the private sector, but I’d like to make more than 50% of my government pay.

I am going to start the process for peer support counselor certification. The first stage is only $75 and I’ve got that at the moment. Getting the certification for billing Medicaid is another $650 but I really need to have a job as a peer in order to qualify anyway. It requires something like 3000 hours of practice, which is about 18 months of full time work.

Of course I will re-file for unemployment. I did work for about 3 months so I may qualify for another award. Anything could happen.

I am stressed about money, but it could be much worse. I have my cats and my art, I can go to support groups until I have a job, I can volunteer. I have friends and good roommates. I just need to find a job, either one that pays well or one I can leave without remorse when the government calls me back.


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Making Decisions

Oh, there is such a difference between what is my vocation and what is my avocation.

Or to put it another way, between how I make money and what my heart longs to do.

I love my job. I enjoy helping people. I’ve had such a good experience so far, made friends, traveled. I get paid pretty well when I’m working. I would be very happy to do this job for a long time.

When I’m not working, I attend support groups. Because I am doing well, I often get to facilitate. I enjoy facilitating. And I think I’m pretty good at it.

Thing is, with my job, I can’t commit. My job calls me away for months at a time, which is not conducive to mental health work. So much mental health work is about relationship and I would have almost no notice to put the relationships on hold. Not good for the other person.

Today I spoke to Nikita. She is the group coordinator at the facility where my support groups meet. I work with her in a lot of ways. I have suggested support groups that we need (eg. one for senior citizens since we get so many over 70’s that need a different kind of support). I am helping her set up a meeting for facilitators. I feel like we are peers more than I am a consumer.

Nikita told me that Texas passed legislation where peer support specialists can bill Medicaid for their services. That would mean, I could maybe support myself as a peer specialist. And I would like to do that very much.

Of course I would have to be certified. There are required classes and a certification board. And it costs money, which I only have because of the job.

So now I have to make a decision. I can start the process, but eventually I’ll have to either commit to the government job or commit to being a peer specialist. At the moment I can’t do both. Though at the moment, I am not working so I might as well pursue it. At least as far as I can.


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Peggy McIntosh’s Invisible Knapsack

I am doing some work on internalized racism. As a white person, I benefit from a system that keeps other people downtrodden. I just never thought of things that are true for people of color (POC).

I feel weird talking about white privilege because I am not a privileged person per se. I am female, middle aged, working class to poor, divorced, no college degree, etc. I don’t see myself having a lot of opportunities so I struggle with the idea that I am privileged.

But I am.

I couldn’t have listed the ways, but a woman named Peggy McIntosh could and did. She listed 50 ways she is privileged by skin color.

Some of them seem a little silly, like being able to slap on a skin toned bandaid and having it more or less match your skin tone. Nowadays that people choose Smurf bandaids or emoji ones, blending into the skin doesn’t seem like that big a deal. But it’s like medicine assuming the male body is the standard, first aid assumes caucasian skin is the standard.

Make up is another similar situation. You’d think manufacturers just realized people come in darker skin tones. LA Girl had the darkest tones I could find in a cursory search. Most companies had a wide range of paler tones with a few mid-range browns. But I have seen some gorgeous very dark skin on ladies and they deserve to have colors that suit them as much as I do. Make up is a political issue.

I can also be assured that there will be a crayon in my skin color. Crayola used to call it Flesh but in the 60’s they renamed it Peach. In the white enclave where I grew up, I wondered why they didn’t call it skin color. But just like we learned some people have orange hair (hi, redheads), we learned that some people have brown skin. Then we played with a whole range from mahogany to sepia. We called them black people but we didn’t use actual black to color them, just like we were called white people we didn’t use actual white. Decades later Crayola would release collections of skin toned crayons for use in classrooms.

But there were other more serious benefits of whiteness in the list as well. Things like, if you feel you are not respected as a leader, you don’t have to question whether skin color has anything to do with it. I might question if it’s because I’m a woman, but I know truthfully it’s because I’m not in the habit of leading. I don’t have to think about whether it’s because I’m the wrong color.

I don’t have to teach my child about systemic racism because it impacts her physical safety. She has issues with being safe so that I’ve bought her a taser, but that has more to do with being female and naive than any other reason. I might have to teach her that young men have agendas they don’t disclose, but I don’t want to teach her that all men are jerks. Black parents pretty much do need to teach their children that all cops are jerks. Not because individual police officers are never racially sensitive, but because in a pinch, enough cops will react more strongly to a POC than to a white person. Enough to be deadly. Just watch the news. (Aside: A policeman is not your friend, he is there to enforce laws; it happens that many of our laws are unfairly slanted against people of color, drug possession laws for example; therefore a cop doing his job is enforcing racist ideals.)

One that really struck home for me is, as a white person I can expect to be able to arrange my life so that I interact almost exclusively with other white people. My first thought is, why would I do that? But truly I have done it without trying. My roommates are white. My daughter is white. I went to a gas station today, staff was white. A few of the customers were hispanic but most were white. I went to my support group, facilitator is Bengali (she has told me this), but the group was white. Called my doctor’s office, receptionist I spoke to is white. Doctor is from India but I didn’t need to speak to him personally. Went to a book store, the barista was black, one customer was Asian, but pretty much it was a bastion of whiteness. I don’t even think the books were penned by POC. The magazine section had mostly white faces, and I don’t think I saw an issue of Ebony or Jet. I think I have one black friend right now, three Asian, and one latinx. I am in a white ghetto even though Dallas is a multicultural city.

How can I expand my contact with other races and ethnicities? I don’t feel like I can just suddenly start showing up at events. How do I express interest without being a mere tourist, a consumer of culture? I went to a few powwows with a friend of mine years ago and I’d love to go again, but I am not first nations myself. I don’t feel like I can just barge in. I worry about being a weeaboo, that is, a Japanese wannabe. I love so much about their culture and it is not mine. How does that even work? I mean, I’m not French but if I followed French culture nobody would bat an eye. Someday I will go to Japan, but for now I just read and study the language. I figure if I go there, I owe them the courtesy of knowing some words. I may be bad at it, but I tried. This weekend I’ll go to North Texas Irish Festival. There probably won’t be many POC there. I’m not avoiding them but I won’t organically just run into them.

So I am working this out, one way or another. I want to be better than I am. Not that I’m bad, but there’s always room for improvement. Unpacking this knapsack is hard, but carrying the weight of it is killing me. Got to make the effort. I thought we were past a lot of racism, but the more I look around, the more I see we are not.


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Brrr. Well, For 4 Days, Because This Is Texas

It’s cold. It’s so cold, the dogs are sleeping on my roommates. It’s so cold, both cats are sleeping next to me, under a blanket. It’s the “under a blanket” part that is unusual.

It’s so cold that I have a blanket over my lap because my feet are chilly. It’s just plain cold.

It was colder today in Texas than it was in Connecticut. Probably the only place colder is Alaska, where several of my friends are working.

Ah, I wish I was working. But that’s another matter. That’s just because I live better when I’m working. Of course, last time was such a good experience, I was quite spoiled. I would do that again, it was that good.

The regular facilitator for DBSA Monday afternoons is gone for the next 2 weeks so I’m taking over for him. I actually like facilitating. I want to get the peer support specialist certification so I can lead more groups. That would be wonderful. Then I can figure out how to get paid for doing it.

I am really pushing for a geriatric group, though we should no doubt call it something else. We’ve had several people who were over 70 come through, and they are dealing with end of life issues that could be addressed separately from the rest of us. I mean, younger people (and I am younger in this situation) don’t really understand in a visceral way what it feels like to deal with your body slowing down or facing mortality. Well some do, some are facing those issues, but not most of us. It’s not that older folks don’t belong in a general depression group, it’s more that they have issues a typical group is not prepared to understand. And being understood is the biggest thing any of us get out of peer-led groups. I know this because we all say it.

Tomorrow is Mardi Gras and I am meeting a friend for early dinner of pancakes. Yep. I am knowingly blowing my keto, but every once in a while that’s okay. Plus I’ve wanted pancakes for a while now. Fat Tuesday indeed.

I sent out a round of postcards, St Francis of Cape Fear, to a list of mailartists I found online. I have heard back from a few past mailings. I hope to hear from some real mail art / fluxus type people, not just the arty-crafty folks. I love the work the arty people do, but fluxus is more within my aesthetic and ability. I am working on developing my eye more. I need to draw, that would really help. Drawing is pretty basic to almost all art.

I am out of Lamictal. I called the pharmacy to refill it and got a message that 2 scripts were ready, I just assumed the Lamictal was one of them. I was wrong. So I called the pharmacy again and was told that there isn’t a renewal available. Now I have called the doctor’s office, but I don’t know if they got my message. I’ve left one earlier today and one after hours since I didn’t hear back from them. I’ll call them again tomorrow. Hopefully I can get back up to regular dose soon. It’s the one that helps manage my mania and I am seldom manic but I don’t want there to be any backlash from missing doses.

Looking forward to tomorrow, Recovery International in the morning, see my daughter, then pancake dinner. Should be a good day.


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Sick and Angry

I am still so sick. This has become a cold, a bad cold, but just a cold. I’ve been blowing my nose for over a week now. How can there be room for this much gunk in my head? My brain must be shrinking. My face hurts from sinuses being too stretched.

I can’t smell anything. Or at least I am starting to smell stuff again but I can’t always tell what the source is. Roommate L was making cauliflower and I could tell she was cooking something but I couldn’t tell what. I suppose that’s an improvement.

As crappy as I feel, a week ago I was taking medicine to feel this good. So I MUST be doing better, right?

We talked about anger in group today. I find that I don’t often feel angry. Part of it I’m sure is that I am medicated into complacency. It’s hard for me to feel big emotions right now, and I’m okay with that. Big emotion seems to make me sick. Part of it is, there just really isn’t that much to get that mad about. And part of it is that I tend to downplay anger. I’m not mad, I’m irritated, bothered, annoyed, perturbed, whatever. It all means angry, I should learn to own it.

What does it mean to own my anger? Well, to know that it’s part of me. It’s probably something that bothers me or where I feel a lack. There’s an issue of some kind that is unresolved and itchy and I’m either unaware or not handling it well. It’s not coming from outside me somewhere, I’m not channeling someone, I’m not possessed, and frankly I’m not that empathic. I am just angry about something and I need to own that. Once I own it, I can work on expressing it better.

It’s very hard for me to say I’m angry. It was the great unspoken emotion in my family of origin. Dad was funny-mean when he was angry, and if you said something, he’d say it was a joke and you didn’t have a sense of humor. Mom’s anger was never taken seriously. I just didn’t get angry. There was always a reasonable response to anything that made me mad so I learned not to overreact and to wait to be told why my feeling wasn’t valid. That wasn’t for all emotions, just for anger.

So I learned not to act angry and I understood that as not being angry. I think I had one fight with my father as a teenager. But being understated doesn’t mean not having feelings. I am not Mr Spock, I am human and I have the full range of human emotions.

So I am learning to accept that I get angry and figuring out what to do with it when it happens. I am growing. Maybe someday I’ll be an adult.