Personal

Where have I been for the last four and a half years?

Category: Personal
Words: 1309

With the literal dawning of a new year, it’s time to address the opiate-addicted, shoplifting, felony-convicted, chaotic hot mess of an elephant in the room: what all has been happening in my life since 2017.

In June of 2017 we lost our home. The truth is, it wasn’t a sudden thing – though the homelessness was. One day we had a place to live, the next the sheriffs were at our door. Truth be told, between Daniel’s physical and mental health issues putting him out of work from 2012 onwards, and then my own physical health crises and multiple emergent and scheduled abdominal and pelvic surgeries and hospitalizations that began in 2010, we were struggling financially, and struggling earnestlyfrom 2013 onwards. We didn’t have centralized heat. We floated and bounced checks, robbed Peter and Paul to continue robbing Peter and Paul to eventually pay them both off – while still finding ways to help out my mom and brothers. There were times Daniel and I pushed food around on our plates, and then put it on the kids’ plates when they weren’t looking so as to make sure they ate, because there wasn’t enough food to go around. I vividly remember the day I realized I could go to a food bank: while loading up my trunk with donated groceries, I received a call from the county assistance office informing me we qualified for nearly $900 in crisis SNAP funds, and that they would be available the next morning. I could barely drive to the office and park the car in order to go in and pick up the debit card because I was crying so hard.

So there we were on June 15th, 2017, two days after my 33rd birthday: we lost our home. To make matters worse, six months before, I had had yet another emergency abdominal surgery – my sixth emergent surgery, my 14th surgery overall. Around that same time I was switched to a medication that, in rare instances (usually in elderly patients), caused severe short-term memory loss. It happened to be. So we were homeless, and I felt and acted like I was losing my mind for several months during a hard physical recovery (also a hard mental recovery, because that surgery, which was a vertical open surgery, just absolutely shook me).

June 2017 – June 2018 would be a blur of staying at my mother’s apartment, then with a friend, then in motels, then losing Alyssa and Ryan to foster care. This was when Daniel and I fell apart and nearly lost each other and ourselves. But we were still standing (barely). In January of 2018, after finding out we were living in our car, an online friend offered to let Daniel and I come stay with her, her husband, and her two children. You know how they say the road to hell is paved with good intentions? Indeed they are. It was around this time I was becoming addicted to my prescription pain medication (Oxymorphone), and my emotional addiction was jacking up my physical tolerance. She was becoming addicted to whatever opiates she could get from family and friends, and then from me. She was also, like me, severely depressed. And her depression was manifesting as neglect of her family and home, as well as hoarding behaviors, so Daniel and I walked into a huge mess that we cleaned up and continued to keep clean during the three months we spent staying with her and her family.

Two addicts living together will never end well, and our situation was no different. We spiraled individually as well as together. We were the worst possible type of person for the other. We left abruptly when she lost control of her emotions and pulled a gun on us. Admittedly, the I began the verbal confrontation over opiates, but she pulled out a gun. At no point did Daniel or I threaten her or her family. When the gun came out, we packed and left, and with the exception of getting our cats the next day, we never looked back. I got in touch with her once to wish her well, and that was that. She wrote a lot of untrue things about me on the internet – things I have not bothered to read in detail, because to be honest at the end of the day I know who I am, and people who care about me know who I am, you know? I do hope she is getting to and staying in a healthier place. I truly do wish her and her family well. Addiction is an ugly beast.

In April of 2018, when Daniel and I came back to Lancaster, we ended up at the Water Street Rescue Mission. In June of 2018, I broke a minor rule by saying something stupid, and was abruptly thrown to the streets. For next six months I would live on the streets and in motels, with a very small group of people who would turn out to be true friends. Unfortunately I would also run into situationships. I was physically assaulted. I was nearly raped. I ended up catching charges — retail thefts (shoplifting) — because we were stealing merchandise to steal to pawn shops in order to have money for motels. I’m not proud of what I did, but I will say that I do what I had to do to put a roof over my head when the weather is getting cold and I had nowhere to turn.

During all of this time, my opiate addiction continued. But I did not turn to street drugs or needles.

In November of 2019 I found a shelter in Columbia, Pennsylvania. They took me in. They were a godsend.

And on January 19th, 2019, I was arrested on an outstanding bench warrant for a retail theft. The secure bail of $10,000 was ridiculous considering I stole $51 of merchandise from CVS, but the 88 days I spent in jail were eye-opening: the women I met, the stories I heard, the pieces of broken lives I saw. And, I consider January 19th, 2019 to be the day I got clean. The very day I was released from jail, April 15th, 2019, I made arrangements to go to rehab. On May 1st, 2019, that’s what I did, and I would spend eight weeks in two different rehabs, going to individual and group therapy, and starting Suboxone medication-assisted-treatment. I will be three years clean with no slips in just a few weeks.

I was successfully discharged from rehab in June of 2019, and after spending two months in the Lancaster shelter Daniel was at, then spent a few months sharing an apartment with one of the two true friends I made while living on the street for six months, T.

On December 13th, 2019, Daniel and I moved into a house together, along with a roommate, J. J shared the house with us until July 3, 2020. We’ve opened our home since then to T and to another friend, Z, but since October of this year our house has once again been ours.

Alyssa and Ryan were reunited with us at the start of the COVID crisis, on March 20th, 2020. And in October of 2020, full physical and legal custody were returned to us. COVID has been horrible for so many people and for our economy, but for us personally, COVID has been a blessing.

I did attempt to go to school at the start of COVID, but mentally I wasn’t ready. The breakdown I had this past October was in the works last year. I was put on academic probation, but I am going back to school this coming spring semester – aka in a few weeks.

I know there is a lot I’ve probably skipped over, but in a nutshell, this has been my life for the past four and a half years! Feel free to ask me anything in the comments.

♥ Jenn
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2021: Year in review

Category: Personal
Words: 166

2021 was a pretty slow year, with the most action happening in the summer and fall. COVID-19 is kind of making weeks run together, and I can’t believe we’re going into our third year of it.

January: organized my kitchen, celebrated three years clean from opiate abuse.

February: discovered 1000-Lb. Sisters.

March: burned a decent amount of calories playing Beat Saber!

April: promoted the importance of vaccines, cut my hair. Dan turned 39. We managed to find a local carnival, so Ryan had an opportunity to get out of the house for a little while (Alyssa wasn’t interested in going).

May: Dan graduated HACC with his Associates Degree, and was accepted at Millersville University! ♥ I pierced my tongue.

June: I turned 37. We rescued a tiny kitten Daniel fell in love with and named Muninn. He inspired us to officially foster. I did a few more piercings.

July: We opened our doors to rescue and foster cats and kittens. Ryan turned 15. I did a few more piercings…

August:September: More rescues and fosters. More losses, this time to Coccidia.

October: I checked myself into a psychiatric facility for a voluntarily inpatient stay for severe depression and suicidal ideations. This was after two years of unsuccessfully fighting depression on my own, plus a toxic roommate situation that was dealt with, but that I still needed to deal with the mental effects of. I came home with the caution to “transition back to daily life gradually” warning echoing in my ears, only to find two litters totaling eight kittens within mere hours of my release. In the middle of the month, my mother came to stay with us for what we thought would be a few days, up to 2-3 weeks. It ended up being five weeks, but we used the time to rekindle our relationship, so it was good. ♥ No cat losses that month! Alyssa turned 17, and got her first job.

November: Four losses due to failure-to-thrive, which isn’t uncommon for second-surge litters of kittens. My mom dealt with some apartment drama that I was unfairly blamed for. Thanksgiving was low-key, and me being out of my Abilify meant I barely participated, though the food was delicious (thank you, Daniel!). I cut my hair short.

December: My mom moved into her new apartment a week before Christmas. Christmas itself was like another day for us, since none of us had any interest in the holidays this year.

All of 2021 felt like most of 2020, and I’m sure most of 2022 will feel like this, too.

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Daniel's 2021 graduation.

Daniel's 2021 graduation

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♥ Jenn
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2021’s top nine Instagram posts

Category: Personal
Words: 151

2021 top nine Instagram posts (kissmykitty)

Unsurprisingly, all but two were cat-related. Then again, the overwhelming majority of my posts are cat-related, so it’s not like I give my friends and followers and random drive-by likers a lot to choose from, eh?

Starting from top left and going horizontal:

♥ Jenn
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Morals, and the lack thereof

Category: Personal
Words: 289

Oddly enough, Netflix’s Dope inspired this blog post.

I’m trying to live a better life these days. Instead of living up to certain standards because it is what is expected of me, I’m instead trying to do the right things for the right reasons. Because it’s your reasons that often matter as much as the actions. Do the right thing for the right reason.

But unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. I’m not always a good person. Case in point: shoplifting. (Though I feel it’s worth noting while I have no qualms about swiping from a corporation, I’d never take from a family-owned shop, or a stranger’s home, or a friend’s home. Even thieves have morals, twisted as they might be!)

Another case in point: Dan’s profession as a professional student tutor at HACC (insert pride here). Earlier this fall he was approached with an offer for $1000 cash, no questions asked, no strings attached, if he took a student’s final exam for them. Sexual favors were also alluded to. Dan, being a much better person than me, said ABSOLUTELY NO WAY for the right reasons: morally, it’s wrong; and also, his career would be at stake.
Me? Forget the morals. I don’t have them as far as the test is concerned. That student could still excel in their chosen career even if they’re not a good test-taker. But I said no for the simple fact that Dan’s reputation, and thus his entire career, would be on the line if what he did ever came to light.

And that, my friends, frenemies, and hopeful friends-to-be, is what makes me a not-so-good person in some ways. I said no to cheating, but I didn’t say no for all the right reasons.

♥ Jenn
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Authenticity

Category: Personal
Words: 74

I can’t emphasize enough how important I feel it is to do the right thing for the right reason. Don’t just do the next right thing (a quote I heard at rehab). Do the next right thing because you want to do what is right. Empty gestures and insincere motions will only carry you so far, and in the end, it isn’t just your actions that matter, but the motivations to take those actions.

♥ Jenn
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It’s your symphony.

Category: Personal
Words: 114

My mom is upset with me for being unavailable to “face the music” when she breaks the news to my youngest brother, A, that the belongings he had stored in her apartment were disposed of. This is taking place tonight, when she picks him up from the airport at midnight (he’s flying in from Job Corps for the holidays).

My reasons for being unavailable are irrelevant. Here’s what is relevant: carry your own damn bag. And conduct your own damn symphony. It isn’t my responsibility to face music that isn’t mine. Besides, she’ll have a much easier time throwing me under the bus if I’m not there to defend myself. *insert eyeroll emoji here*

♥ Jenn
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Burned bridges

Category: Personal
Words: 227

Tonight my mother endured a long phone call with my middle brother, Y. Y is both schizophrenic (delusional / delusions of grandeur) and a complete asshole. The former makes him difficult, but it’s the latter that makes him impossible. In any given situation, he makes himself out to be the hero or the victim. And he is never, ever wrong. And when he is, he simply pretends he isn’t, pretends he never said or did whatever it is he is wrong about, or finds some way to move on from the subject by being offensive and hurtful. I’m torn as to which is more offensive to me, personally: being accused of clogging his toilet with needles full of heroin I never touched, ever; or being accused of selling my body for Oxy. It’s a toss-up, I suppose.

To say Y has burned his bridges with me is the understatement of the year. He may very well end up in a shelter or even on the street before the year is out, and I won’t sleep any less soundly at night knowing I’m all that stands between him and a warm place to lay his head.

But you want to know something? I truly grieve for the sweet little boy he once was, and for the decent human being he is clearly incapable of and/or unwilling to be.

♥ Jenn
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It is not my fault.

Category: Personal
Words: 400

For reasons I won’t get into, in October of this year my mother had to move out of her apartment – it was an eviction. She had another apartment lined up to move into, but because the tenant of that apartment refused to leave and was causing a mess of legal issues for the management of that apartment building, subsequently my mother had nowhere to go for several weeks.

So she has been staying with us. Believe it or not, because we’ve all been through so much in the past several years, including a decent amount of therapy, having my mother stay with us for an extended period of time has not been an issue.

It’s what she said to me the day she found out items she had left behind in her apartment had been illegally removed and disposed of:

“When your brother finds out, he’ll never speak to you again.”

He’ll never speak to me? To me?
I’m not the tenant who got behind on her rent.
I’m not the tenant who failed to pack so much as a single box, thus forcing her daughter, son-in-law, grandson, and their friend to hastily scramble to empty the apartment of most of the furniture and leave it up to her to figure out the packing and removal of the rest.
I’m not the tenant who didn’t even rent a storage unit for her belongings until that afternoon.
I’m not the tenant who didn’t even pack an overnight bag, also leaving it up to her daughter to scramble to throw together clothing, toiletries, medications, and supplies and a transport carrier for the cat.
I’m not the tenant who then failed to make an execute a firm plan of action for obtaining the rest of her belongings.
And I’m certainly not the tenant who pissed off the management to begin with, which is surely what drove them to illegally empty out the apartment.
(Yes, it truly was an illegal dumping of my mother’s belongings. The ball on litigation is already rolling.)

But sure, my brother will never speak to me again. Because like I said in my last blog entry, my role for so long in life has been that of rescuer or scapegoat. And even though I now recognize the behavior, it doesn’t stop others from casting me back into those roles.

But this I know: it is not my fault.

♥ Jenn
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Carry your own bag

Category: Personal
Words: 211

For most of my life, really for as long as I can remember, even going back to my early teenage years, for any given bad situation, whether it be an overdue bill, a looming shut-off notice, an arrest warrant, medical issues, familial issues with one or both of my brothers, even the possibility of a family member facing homelessness, etc., I was the obligatory one to step in and take the reins. It was expected of me to be the rescuer, the savior. I’m Fierce, so “Fierce will take care of it”.

And if Fierce didn’t, or couldn’t? Then I was to blame for the situation going awry. Nevermind the circumstances that led to the situation in the first place; because I couldn’t fix it, I was at fault for it.

But no more. Too many years of rescuing everyone around me while letting myself drown + decent therapy has taught me appropriate boundaries. I’m 37 years old, and I am finally in a healthy enough place to say, “I will help you carry your damaged bag, but only if I have a free hand. And if the bag breaks, it is your fault for allowing it to become damaged to begin with. I’m only here to support you in solving your problem.”

♥ Jenn
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I am still standing.

Category: Personal
Words: 175

I am not the same person I was when I shuttered my blog. And when I shuttered my blog, I had no idea I would be shuttering it for nearly five years. Back in those days, I was already beating myself up for going five days without blogging. I couldn’t imagine spending years without a blog.

Yet, somehow, I did. And I am still standing. I am still standing after a lot of changes, both good and bad; and after a lot of trauma, as well as after a lot of, and during more of, therapy and deep soul-searching.

In the last five years I have experienced emergency surgeries, familial strife, both the gaining and loss of friendships, situationships, homelessness, the loss of everything I own, living in shelters and even living on the street, jail, psychiatric wards, rehab, how wonderful human beings can be to one another and how terrible human beings can be to one another, and the shedding of enough tears of anguish to drown the world.

But I am still standing.

♥ Jenn
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