EDD Hatred Level Escalates; Awesome Book; Religious Past

Today was a day that was mainly frustrating and exhausting, for personal reasons.

In addition, yesterday I gasped with joy as I opened my P.O. box.  A beaming, glowing ray of light fell upon the envelope from California EDD.  The angelic chorus sounded.  For a brief moment, the world was so very lovely.  Finally, finally after hours of fruitless phone calls trying to get through, several e-mails begging for a response, with only maddeningly robotic (and clearly deceptive) “we will get back to you within 48 hours” automatons to appease me…  FINALLY!!!!!!!  My claim forms for my extended benefits had arrived (in case you haven’t yet read my previous post on this subject, I am now owed several months’ worth of retroactive extended unemployment benefits, prior to my getting a job.  Sat down recently and tallied up the amount owed from the day that I filed.  Turns out I’m owed in the vicinity of a little over $5K at this point, which would take me 1/4 of the way towards accummulating the $20K I recently found out I need to pull out of my bum to get this house so that I can then start the whole fun part of seeing what’s involved to use it for transitional housing purposes to take in other homeless women/children (that’s a story for another post, but soon, I promise).

Ripped open the envelope to find… a (second) “approval” notice letting me know that yes, I am eligible for extended unemployment benefits (well, duh, same exact notice I already received waaaaaaaay back when this crap saga started)…

There were no claims forms included.

None.

Zilch.

Aaaaaaaaaand………… yeah.

Seriously.  I know they’re backed up because CA is now like the poster child mascot of insanely skyrocketing unemployment rate states (OK, besides Michigan), but what the eff?!?!?!?!?!

WHERE are my UI benefits?  With those I could at least start the process, combine those with the money I have on me now and I’d be $6K down, only $14K to go.

* * * * *

In other news, stumbled upon this book called I’m Perfect, You’re Doomed, by Kyria Abrahams.  She was raised in the same religion/cult/whateveryouwannacallit as I was (won’t reference it here, you’re welcome to look it up if you like, but if you’re a reader and a devoted member of this religion, I’d really appreciate you skipping the part where you leave me comments telling me how wrong I am about the organization, wrong for leaving, assuming you know everything about me, assuming you know everything about your own religion/cult/whatever, assuming you know everything period, etc.)

I read the first couple of pages and identified so strongly with it (plus it’s hysterically funny – the chick has mad sarcasm skills, which is kind of my M.O. too, so I liked her right off the bat) that I had to stay up all night reading it.

It really brought back waves of memories for me – I left the organization at 18 when I moved out of my parents’ house, although while staying with them they insisted on dragging me back, which I put up with to the best of my ability… zoning out, which I’ve perfected the art of.

Kyria really got the language and syntax and feel of what it’s like growing up as a member spot on.  Many of our experiences were alike – particularly the one where she swallowed a bottle full of pills in a failed suicide attempt and her parents ignored it, didn’t drive her to the hospital, nothing.  Left her to either get over it or else face the consequences of her actions and die.  That struck me so because I had such an eerily similar experience – at 14, in a fit of hopelessness, I impulsively swallowed a jumbo bottle of Tylenol (yeah, go ahead and laugh – but ODing on Tylenol causes liver failure, it turns out!)  My family’s tenant found me in the bathroom and called my mother, who blithely told him “have her stick her finger down her throat”, hung up and drove to Palm Springs with my sister for the week, leaving me to be sick and/or die while said tenant, also a member of this religion, shrugged his shoulders and went back to bed (turned out I was just in agony all night and the next morning.  Nothing major.  I was lucky.)

Now, clearly I got over the whole idea of death after that… agony like that made me decide it really wasn’t in the cards for me.  Nope, never trying that again *shudder*.  But still, it was scary.  And finding out that there was someone with a childhood so similar to mine – let alone her writing a book that is breaking into mainstream literature! – was kind of an eye-opener for me.

The last part of the book is the darkest.  This is where our life experiences varied more (and Kyria admits she has some medical/mental issues such as OCD, etc. that didn’t help with some of the more naive/destructive choices she made in her desperation).  She married super-young to someone she had nothing in common with, as children with our upbringing are wont to do (no premarital sex, and no secular “dating”.  “Dating” = “Marriage”).  She was, unsurprisingly, miserable, and started cutting, using drugs, and sleeping around to escape her marriage (adultery is the only valid and accepted reason to divorce, in this religion).

OK, slightly different from me – I never dated boys from my congregation.  I didn’t want to.  Was never interested.  There were, as she points out in the book, very few prospects, and I never felt like settling for a pale shadow of the real thing, just so that I could have sex or play house.  I knew even then that I wasn’t wholly and completely invested in my religion.  I think to some degree, I was always looking for the time when I could bolt.  I was attracted to men and dating and life outside of my super-narrow, controlled little world.  I saw hypocrisy and abuse everywhere I turned; not only in my own family, but in others in the congregation.  To have admitted so would certainly have meant trouble for me – even complete shunning from all I knew, including my own family.  So, when I turned 18, I simply disappeared.  I didn’t take any of the complicated channels that the heads of the congregation, or “elders” pretend are mandatory.  I refused to be labeled, refused to be shunned, I simply up and left and nobody ever questioned it.  Nobody ever really wondered where I’d gone or why, or what I was doing.  Nobody cared to investigate, they just made their assumptions and moved on with their lives, zealously preaching to anybody who would listen.  One more fallen angel.  Oh, well.

On the few occasions my family dragged me back this year, I was generally regarded with unease and suspicion, which amused me more than anything else.  You could tell it was in everybody’s mind that I must have turned into some little Satanic whore (paranoia and fear are big there).  Nobody knew anything for sure, and I didn’t volunteer any information on that score, neither confirmation nor denial, even when prodded, but some form of “sexual misconduct” was widely assumed, it was quite obvious.  After spending several years away, I had come more to grips with the knowledge that these people didn’t truly have any claim to me or sway over my life (in stark contrast to the certainty I had held in my childhood, that they could ruin me – or rather, that they could have God ruin me).  Now, to a degree, I enjoyed being the boogeyman, responding cheerfully yet bluntly when I spoke at all and seeing the awkward shifting and furtive glances at my outspokenness, my complete and utter lack of “spiritual” thoughts and goals, at least as far as they define such.  I had always been something of an oddball, even when a child.  I was disarmingly perceptive and never quite took things at face value as much as I “should” have.  I had opinions and ideas of my own, questions even about things in the Bible that made me uncomfortable or curious.  I was mildly bothered by the idea of “proving” a scripture by reading another scripture.  To some degree, I wanted to look at and hear all points of view before coming to my own conclusions.  This was highly frowned upon in the organization – looking at outside points of view was considered falling prey to Satan.  We were only to accept what we were told at face value by the heads of the organization, all mere men who were supposedly being “inspired” by God.  Chastised often for this moral failing, I did what I could to sublimate it, bury it, bend my will and conform.  It was embarrassing to be scrutinized and looked down upon.  It was embarrassing to be different within the organization, and also to be different outside of it – in school, and at work.  But, when it comes down to it, I was never the conforming type.  Now, I can find humor in my role as fallen, sinful, devious skank-ho; even relish it a little.

It wasn’t always like this.  It took a lot of struggling and therapy.  And reading Kyria’s book brought a lot of it back in a flood; despite the barbed humor which had me laughing my arse off, the feelings and pain beneath it were refreshed.  I don’t think anybody who breaks free from that kind of past ever fully gets over it.

Anyway, it was just kind of crazy and surreal seeing that there was someone else like me; someone who fought back (although sometimes in different ways) and got up the courage to leave.  We both had to learn to live in the real world – you’re not prepared for it at all when you come from that background.  You’re taught to fear the world, flee from it, dangers lurk everywhere ready to pounce on you.  In an interview, Kyria made a point that struck me as all too true – you are told by your family, your friends, your fellow congregation members that life isn’t worth living outside the organization.  That if you leave, everything will go horribly for you because you’re defying God, slapping him in the face, and being punished for it.  The irony, of course, is that initially that does often happen, your life does go sort of wonky – but not for those reasons.  It’s not difficult so much because the real world makes it difficult and you are being punished.  It is difficult because, never having lived in the real world, you have no idea to go about it, and have to start from scratch, teaching yourself and painstakingly learning through trial and error.

Six years later, and I’m still nowhere near done learning to adjust.  I don’t think I completely ever will be.  But… it’s a start.

Interview Finally Posted!!! Also, Ingrid and General Direction of tGGtH

Well, I’m only three days late with it, but FINALLY figured out how to post the CBC interview with Jennifer Westaway:

I sound very nervous and am talking about a mile a minute, haha.  I got some super sweet comments from Canadian readers, and now I have to set about answering all of them (I like to personally respond to everybody)!  So, if you’ve left me a comment at any point this last week, I’ll have probably responded to it by tonight.  Really.  I swear.

Things have been a tiny bit crazy, there may be problems getting the house and I may need to come up with about $10K more than I currently have, within the next two months, in order to get it.  This means that I will need to look into selling the few remaining possessions that I have, including my antique 1934 baby grand piano, Ingrid… I dumped much of my furniture at a thrift store, but put her and a few other items in storage when this thing began.  I used to think that she would be the one thing I would never be willing to sell, and it breaks my heart to make the decision, but this is my dream house and I need to really take a serious look at what is most important to me and my long-term happiness.  I suppose I could always find another piano… but houses like my Victorian simply don’t exist around here, and I really am head-over-heels in love with it.  At the same time, I could get another piano but not another Ingrid; musical instruments have a sort of life and personality to them and I will miss her terribly.  I imagine she’s quite disappointed at being stored in pieces in the dark for the past few months, and will be even more disappointed that I’ll never play her again.  Or perhaps it’s just anthropomorphization.  In any event, I probably won’t make much off her (nobody is buying pianos at the moment; instruments that would have cost thousands a couple of years ago are going for mere hundreds or even being given away for free on Craigslist now).  I have a few other things that I suppose can go – a book collection of thousands of books (which also breaks my heart) and several hundred DVDs – it may be well over a thousand now, I didn’t really keep track when I was collecting them.  I used to work for Blockbuster Video, can you tell?  In any case, not very good resale value, but perhaps it’ll be something.  I also have the Dodge Ram that I inherited from Bill when he committed suicide.  It’s about 10 years old, and only worth about $2500 max, but it’s something.  It’s currently hooked up to the trailer, but perhaps if I eventually find a month-to-month rooming situation that works to my satisfaction, I can sell it.  I also have a fair amount of vintage clothing left, which I used to sell a lot of, so I’m thinking of starting to sell off the nicest pieces.  Still, not much of a resale market for vintage with this economy, but I’ll do whatever I can.  I will NOT lose this house.  I CANNOT.

I’m also gonna have to take a hard look and figure out exactly where I want to take tGGtH at this point.  I feel like I’ve veered off the original intent, which was survival tips and advice and resources.  I seem to be posting more and more personal stories about my daily life, which I’m not ENTIRELY averse to, but somehow I feel like perhaps I might eventually come off as whining about my life, when the original intent of the blog was to help others.  So I may want to start including more topical/homeless news/tips/links to resources type postings.  Thoughts or impressions?  What I want most out of this thing is to help others even in a small way, and also do my part to put the issue on the map.

Also, just curious… any of you guys think I could ever pass as an advice columnist?  The idea recently came to my attention and I find it somewhat intriguing, although unsure as to whether I may be the type.

Onwards I forage – to the comments!!!!!!  :)

The Bangs That Ate The World

Yesterday, I decided I should probably dye and trim my hair, since it was getting a bit out of control, and I want to continue looking presentable at my new job.

Luckily, my very first “official” job was at a beauty salon – I ran the front desk. I was twelve. I made friends with one of the hairdressers, L., and she has been cutting my hair on the cheap and/or free for the past 12 years. Touching up my roots presented more of a challenge… I thought it might be pushing it just a little too much to try coloring it in the bathroom of Planet Fitness, or the community college locker room. First of all, it’s about an hour-long process; second of all, it smells of unholy chemicals. At some point, someone would probably notice me, and I really don’t want random strangers to be aware of my existence or location at the moment.

So, I took the plunge, went into the salon early, gave a brief synopsis of the situation, and begged L. to let me put my color on there while she worked on her previous client. She lent me a cape and told me to have at it. Crisis averted.

The end result of my little beauty splurge yesterday is the monster ’60s bangs you see swallowing my face above. I love them. I’ve done it once before and it was fun, gave me a completely new look. Sometimes I need something to hide behind. Bangs are great for that.

My two youngest sisters are in Europe with their mom – currently, they’re spending time in Italy. There are no words for how much I envy them. The 17-year old has recently found herself a girlfriend, I’m so happy for her.

On a whim, Aishwarya and I drove out to Hollywood yesterday to see Sunshine Cleaners at the only California theatre in which it is currently playing (goes wide release on 3/20). We were early and it turned out, the theatre was right across the street from Amoeba music store, a place which holds decidedly complicated memories for me. Aishwarya had never been, so, underestimating the power of said memories, I dragged her in. Of course, it all hit in this massive tidal wave of emotion as I browsed through racks of thousands of used DVDs, and I was overwhelmed by incredible sadness and pain, so that sucked in general.

The movie was great, touching and funny. I knew going in that it was a dramedy about sisters who start a crime scene cleanup business, so I knew parts of it might remind me of recent events, but I wasn’t expecting the opening sequence, in which a man walks into a sporting goods store, asks to see a 20-gauge shotgun, and promptly sticks it under his chin and blows his brains out right there. I suppose it hit a little bit too close to home for me.

Also hitting close to home was Amy Adams in a role that just wrenched my gut. At one point, she says, “I’m good at getting men to want me… not date me or marry me… but want me”. I wanted to start bawling right there. I know the feeling. I suppose the initial shotgun incident started me off thinking about my biological father. I started thinking about how he didn’t love me and bailed out when I was 2, and how that kind of set the scene for my life and relationship history with men from there. Out of 7 relationships, not one has loved me. It’s difficult being with someone for months or even years, yet never once hearing “I love you”, from even a single man. Some men say it to women, even if it’s not true. I didn’t even get that. In my case, my men couldn’t say it because it wasn’t ever true. You start wondering, if someone can’t love you after six months, or a year, or two and half years – perhaps you really are unloveable. Or why a man who openly despises cheating and cheaters – an “uncheatable” man – somehow managed to cheat only on you. You think, if you’re the only one this uncheatable man could see himself cheating on, if you somehow drove the nicest man on the planet to cheat on you, there must be something really, really wrong with you. If you bared your soul and dared to become more intimate with each other than you ever thought possible, really exposed your guts and got up the courage to open up facets of yourself that no one had ever previously seen, and he still couldn’t love you, then no one could. Someone asked me for 3 wishes recently, and I gave them – one for myself, two for homeless people in general, and all the time my fourth, overwhelming wish was silently screaming, unbidden, pulsing like a siren, underscoring ever word that I actually spoke: “I want to be loved. I want to be loved back!!!!!”

So, of course, that sent me spiraling along a line of similar negative and sad thinking, which is on the whole, you know, kind of the opposite of what I’m going for. Sigh. What can I say. I’m human. It happens.

Anyway, the original point of my post is that I have awesome new bangs, The Bangs That Came From Outer Space And Devoured The World. Lovely, aren’t they?

Disney Recap and Rant Against Supreme Court

Like I said, even the homeless can go out and have fun for free or on the über-cheap. I refuse to let my non-housed status, or any traumatic experience, define me. Disneyland was a nice change of pace for my birthday yesterday. I went on Space Mountain (my favorite!), Pirates of the Caribbean (of course!), the Haunted Mansion, Indiana Jones (my other favorite!) and… Splash Mountain.

I concede that the decision to ride Splash Mountain last, at nighttime, in the cold (followed by ice cream!!!!!), was probably one of my less stellar brainpower moments, and possibly even conclusive evidence of legal insanity.

Soaking wet and shivering, I decided that it was probably time to head back to the trailer for a warm change of clothes. After careful consideration, I have chosen to post a photo of my journey down Splash Mountain, as my face is so contorted (even beyond it’s usual grotesqueness, haha!) that I doubt anyone would recognize me anyway. Sorry for the poor quality:

Still not sure which one is me? Well, in the sea of happy, shiny people, I’m the one whose face is about 82% tonsils:
Still, a fun day. Thanks to Dwight for going with me, and for the Jack Skellington plushie – just what I wanted for my birthday! Something completely impractical, frivolous, and squishy!!!

As you can see, Jack is now riding around swinging from my purse:

Huzzah! Anyway, on a more serious note, I want to step off of the homeless topic for just a moment and express how disgusted I am with the California Supreme Court. As of yesterday, it would seem that they are leaning towards allowing Prop 8 to stand (thereby banning gay marriages), although they will not void the 18,000 same-sex marriages performed last year, thereby allowing them to keep their legally married status. By the way, these are the exact same justices that legalized gay marriage last year, prompting the hasty passage of Prop 8 by California voters (by an incredibly tiny margin, I might add!)

So which one is it, Supreme Court? Some gay people get rights where others don’t? There’s going to be a two-tiered system in California for gay marriage?! Honestly, I can’t believe this whole mess. Gay marriage is a civil rights issue, in fact the civil rights issue of our time, it should never have been left up to the people to vote for or against at all. If women’s and black civil rights issues had been left up to popular vote, who knows how much longer it would have taken for them to be granted fully equal legal status, or even if it would have happened at all?

I don’t care what your religion is. Religious objections should never have been brought into it, and yet, the Bible is all I hear quoted from pro-Prop-8ers. Separation of church and state, people. If your religion doesn’t want to recognize or perform gay marriages, nobody is forcing them to. By the same token, it is absolutely unconstitutional to force your religious beliefs upon others who do not happen to agree. Homosexual individuals are harming absolutely nobody. They just want to exist, be who they are, and claim the same set of rights that the rest of us are granted (legal marriage confers over 1,100 more rights than a civil union)! More power to them. They aren’t trying to “turn” you gay, or impose their “gayness” upon you, they just want to live and let live. Hell, I personally have a moral objection to abortion – I think if I ever had one, I would find it difficult or impossible to forgive myself. Do I have the right to foist this belief upon others, deny them their legal right to choice? No. It is their legal and moral right to choose, according to their personal beliefs. I believe abortion is wrong, so I simply prevent unwanted pregnancy. Don’t like gay marriage? Don’t marry a gay person. Freedom of religon is a two-way street. You want protection for your personal Christian beliefs? Then you have to accept that the rest of the nation is protected as well, in that nobody is going to force them to accept your religion, or any religion at all, if they so choose. If your God is really so all-powerful and he has an objection, I’m sure that he will deal with it himself, in his own due time. So leave it up to him and stop interjecting religion into politics.

Look, I have a friend who is gay and in a long-term relationship, who has been counting the days until he can finally marry his partner. One of my little sisters is a lesbian. How could I invite them to my own wedding, walk down the aisle in their line of sight, taking full advantage of the rights I was granted and they were denied, simply because they were born with a different gene than I was? How can I look them in the face?

You make me sick, California Supreme Court.

Happy Birthday To Me.

Well, I’m 24 today. Just one more year until my quarter-century crisis. Eh, maybe I can have it a year early. I’m not one to stand on ceremony.

Heading to Disneyland this afternoon. They have this new policy where you get free admission on your birthday.

Later, I’d like to look into posting a blog about free/dirt-cheap entertainment options that are out there. Besides the daily worries, I occasionally have trouble with the mind-numbing boredom; although I am surrounded by a trailer full of books, sometimes you just need a change of scenery and pace. I think putting some fun into the experience is important, homeless individuals are just as deserving as anyone else to enjoy life a little.

My two best friends took me to the local college’s production of “Guys and Dolls” last night, so that was a bit of a distraction from life. Musical theatre. Escapism at its finest. Nothing like a mob of sexy, sweaty, singing men doing arabesques in zoot suits to take your mind off your troubles (yay!)

By the way, suddenly I seem to have all of these readers sending me encouraging comments on Twitter. Thanks so much to you guys for your support! If you write on similar topics (homelessness, unemployment, etc.), know that I am reading each and every one of your blogs, and linking to them under my “Related Content” section! It’s great to have people out there to reach out to.