Me, Myself, and the Voices in My Head

A place to ramble and maybe make some sense about a thing or two.

Archive for the category “Disabilities”

Watching and waiting

I’ve been cruising the Facebook pages of some of my friends from where I used to work and it seems like the majority of them have been complaining about the new process to reapply for their jobs.  Supposedly it’s taking them a long, long time to get through all of the screens of questions they have to answer.  Some are also complaining about the difficulty in uploading documents that are required for reapplication.  Many are complaining about how the salaries for what they’ve been doing for so many years is much, much less than they would consider working for today but they’re glad their salaries will be grandfathered in when the transition is over.

Me?  I’m still waiting to hear about my formal ERO complaint.  Still very upset over what happened and that the person who violated my right to work and discriminated against me had the gall to admit it to an ERO counselor.  And I’ve filed complaints with the Department of Justice and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  Just trying to cover all of my bases.

But, time will tell.  Sooner or later they have to acknowledge the filing of the complaint and they have to do something about it.  The ball is in their court now.  I’m just going to wait and see if they’re going to do the right thing.

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Greetings from Depressive

Hi.  I’ve been around for quite a while but haven’t had the opportunity to actually post anything here myself.  I’ve been trying to keep me from being noticed but when things get really hectic or stressful or disappointing, then I just can’t stop from showing up to practically ruin it all.

Oh dear.  I see you looking at what I’m writing and you’ve got that weird look on your face.  It’s the same look that my family gives me when they can’t figure out what’s going on or when they think I’m just trying to hide something.  Usually I am trying to hide something — myself.  I don’t like me being here and I don’t like it when I come around just out of the blue.

I guess I should explain.  If you’re a long-time follower of this blog, you already know that I have bi-polar disorder (along with some other absolutely fascinating issues that can cause havoc at any moment).  Now, for those who don’t understand bi-polar disorder, it was originally called manic-depressive disorder.  This is when your brain — or, rather, my brain — decides that it wants to do something different for a while without my consent.  I can either become extraordinarily hyperactive, hyper-vigilant, hyper-emotional.  Just pick a “hyper” and it’s on the list.  This is my manic phase.  This is when Manic appears and keeps me from sleeping for long periods of time (days) or has me obsessing over certain things that need to be done and I can’t stop doing them or I end up listening to the rest of the voices up in my head arguing because they’ve decided that since adrenaline, their favorite drink, is on-tap that they’re going to join in the fun.

Manic and I get along well at times but we do have problems when Manic gets OCD a little over-excited instead of its usual state.  Then I can be in big trouble.

But today, I’m here.  Well, I am always here but the specific “I” that is writing here is Depressive.  I am the one that can take any happy moment from extremely ecstatic to morbidly horrifying in seconds.  I have the ability to just wander up while I’m hearing good news and start whispering all the things that are either untrue (whether they are or not) about it or about how everything from that moment on will go horribly wrong.  And I don’t shut-up easily, either.  I’ve been around for ages and I’ve learned all of my defense mechanisms against me.  Even the medications are having problems with me now.

My favorite one was when I was ordered to a psychology group for manic-depressive people and the class leaders said, “If you just think that you’re happy, you’ll be happy.”  They repeated that a lot.  I raised my hand and asked them how that could be possible especially when I was incredibly suicidal?  Was I supposed to be happy about being suicidal or was I supposed to picture rainbows and kittens and cotton candy and hope that the suicidal bit would pass?

They kicked me out of the class.  Seriously.

For a while I’ve been puttering around here reading what’s being written and critiquing things.  It’s one of the things I do.  I also keep bad things at the forefront of my mind.  The whole ERO issue, for example.  Today I got my paperwork that the informal stage is over and I can now file for a formal hearing.  However, I keep reminding myself that I (1) only have 14 more days left to do that, (2) that I have no idea how the whole process works, (3) that I could really use a good attorney to help me, (4) that I’ve been referred to a really good attorney who wants to help me, but (5) the attorney costs $300 per hour that I don’t have and that leaves me sitting and staring at the paperwork and going back to #1.  And then I start it all over again.  See how much fun I am?

I’ve seen celebrities who have bi-polar talk about their different extremes with cute little names for them.  I don’t do that.  I am a part of me that is the whole me and nothing but the me.  Remember, even the voices are mine.  There are just too many of them at times to not give them their own grouping.

Well, that’s enough about me for now.  I have a prior engagement (I think) with PTSD.  We hang out together a lot.  Of course, I’m glad that I have Celeste who helps me keep myself from overly freaking-out when I get this way.  I’ll probably be around for quite a while longer because there’s so much going on that I have to get involved with and I’ve not seen my therapist for almost three weeks so the environment is just how I like it.  Moody, sad, stressed, and down.

And thanks in advance to anyone who types anything positive about what I’ve written about myself.  But I’m going to be completely honest with you — it’s not going to matter for a while.  When I’m here and this far out in front of myself, it takes a lot longer to get me back with the rest of the crowd.  And I don’t mean to be snappy or make anyone think I’m ignoring them.  I just enjoy screwing with my emotions enough so that I don’t want to do anything.  Well, sleep is always fun.  But I only do that when I don’t need to be doing it.  Like when the medication makes me do it.  Or if there’s a ton of things I need to get done and I fall-over on the couch or the bed and doze for, oh, say, three or four hours.  Tonight I’m going to try to make myself get some sleep because I’m really tired just from being me today.  It won’t work the way I want it to, but I’ll still try.

And….*sigh*….Husband and Youngest Son keep coming in to check and see what I’m doing (occasionally led by Celeste who knows something’s wrong).  It irritates me because while I appreciate their worry about me very, very much I also don’t like it because they have their own things to worry about and I don’t need to be getting in the way.  Plus I don’t like people trying to read over my shoulder when I’m writing or reading something out-loud.  And that’s not “Depressive” saying that — that’s just me.  So I’ll go for now, but we’ll meet again.  Don’t know where; don’t know when.

Can we say “discrimination?” I thought we could!

*Insert loud screaming in frustration noise here*

Well, I just heard from my Equal Rights counselor regarding my long “quest” to find out why I wasn’t reappointed to my job and to try to get it back.  I still have another phone call coming from her when she receives the message of whether or not the person she is dealing with has the right to reappoint me or not.  At the moment, however, I couldn’t give crap one if they try to reappoint me to my old position.  There’s no way I could possibly stand to work for these people after what I was just told they said about me and my disability!

So, quick rundown before I have to go grab another Xanax.  The main Equal Rights Officer I worked with last year to get my reasonable accommodations to have Celeste come to work with me stated that I had proven that I had a disability and with all the letters from therapists, doctors, co-workers, and the trainer of my service dog that I had proven the need and should be allowed to bring her with me.  My assistant Cadre Manager signed-off on all of the paperwork and sent me a memo stating how in the future I was to notify her when I was deploying with Celeste and the rules/regulations that I would have to follow for having her in our field offices.  Basic stuff, all approved, all signed, and copies (both physical and electronic) are saved for my records.

Then, the counselor contacted my Cadre Manager and his assistant to speak with them on why I wasn’t reappointed to my job.  He stated that he’d heard my name but didn’t know who I was.  He also stated that he knew that there were issues last year with me bringing Celeste and problems at the office (which there weren’t any from her, just from others who wanted to pet and play with her) and that she was not a “service animal” but was a “comfort dog.”  Really??  Since when did he become so educated on what constitutes the difference between a SD (service dog) and an ESA (emotional support animal)??  And this is a man I’ve only ever spoken to once since I started working for him in 2009 because he never returned my emails or phone calls and I always had to go through his assistant.

And speaking of his assistant, she was very quiet throughout the interview.  I have her signature approving my request for reasonable accommodation but she told the counselor that all of that was handled at headquarters by the ERO officers.

I was right!!  They were discriminating against me when they didn’t reappoint me.  The Cadre Manager stated that my “comfort dog” would cause a problem and I couldn’t be deployed or retained because of it.  Also, he said that he had to drastically reduce the number of people he had employed but he only released two people in my section.  I guess all of the people who I trained last year will be able to go on to have full employment and success now.

I’m not expecting to get my job back because he said he’d be happy to write a letter of recommendation for me (which was the easy-out option given if they weren’t going to keep me) and I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t want me back anyway now that I know what I know.  But, I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.

I’m shocked.  I’m flabbergasted.  I can’t believe that someone would be so bold to basically state outright that my disability is the reason they didn’t keep me — especially since this is a FEDERAL position and there are FEDERAL laws to protect the disabled.

You can be sure I’ll keep things updated as more info comes in.  However, for anyone who thought I was just uselessly chasing a dream, I’m not upset and I’m not going to dance around with my tongue sticking out and my fingers in my ears saying “I’m right and you were wrong!”  I’ve always had a tenacity to grab hold of something and see it all the way through to the end, regardless if I’m right or I’m wrong.  I’m glad that I have that now because I have proof that I was right this time.  And anyone who feels that they’ve been wronged should be brave enough to stand-up for what they believe in and fight for what is right.  I hope I’ve been a good example.

Now I need to try to relax before I pop a vein in my head.  That would kind of make going on to a formal complaint process difficult.

Tired today….

LONG day….  Took Harley to have her yearly “shearing” at the groomer.  She grows so much hair during the winter you could almost make enough wigs/toupees for those little hairless dogs.  Then they wouldn’t get so cold all the time.  We also went to our favorite gaming store and sold them a few items for store credit.  Just some old books that we didn’t like but that their customers will love buying.  And the credit can stay there until the next Warhammer 40K tournament or when we need to buy something for someone’s birthday, etc.

Also started shopping for a new phone since mine is having battery issues.  I first went to a store run by the company with whom I have my service.  They said that they don’t make stupidphones anymore.  I said that I knew he was lying because (1) I’d seen an ad for one and (2) there were some hanging on the wall in the store.  He, of course, wanted to show me every smartphone in the place but I told him I wasn’t going to pay a bunch more per month for the privilege of having a phone that can do a lot of things I can’t afford for it to do nor would I use it for them.  I guess I should have also taken a photo (the one “fancy” thing my stupidphone can do) of all of the basic phones we saw at a large electronics retailer in town as well.  And if I wanted a smartphone I could get it there for even less than the service company was advertising!  But, no, I did not replace my beloved stupidphone.

When Harley’s grooming appointment was over, we went to pick her up and I asked the groomer to grind Celeste’s nails so that I won’t have to clip them for a bit.  Celeste was a show dog before she became a service dog but you would have thought that no one had ever touched her feet before when she started trying to escape from the groomer.  Fortunately, the lady had a great attitude and just chased her around the grooming table, keeping one paw in her hand at all times, and got it done.  Another of the ladies working there asked me if she could know why I have Celeste and when I told her she was thrilled to hear someone else has a service dog for psychiatric issues.  I gave her my name and number and the name and number of Celeste’s breeder/trainer because the lady and her husband are trying to get a service dog for him to use.  I wish them the best of luck because I know that Celeste has helped me more than I could have imagined!

Hopefully tomorrow will be relaxing.  I know Husband can use a nice relaxing day after working hard all week.  And Youngest Son is now home from school so I’ll find plenty of chores/activities for him to complete!

We’ll see what happens now….

Today I got a call from an EEO/ERO person regarding my previous “quest” to find out why I’d not been reappointed to my employment position.  She asked a lot of questions; I gave a lot of answers; I forwarded a LOT of emails; and she said she’d be making some phone calls and would get back in touch with me.

I have no idea if it’s really going to make a difference or not.  This has been such a stupid thing that I almost don’t care which way it turns out.  But, note that I said “almost” in that last sentence.  I’m still very proud of the work I did with that agency and believe that I still have/had many years left to help others.

If nothing else, it gives me one more step towards closure.  Who knows what will happen?

Just my typical Type-A/OCD self — have to see it through all the way to the end regardless of the outcome.

Seeing crooked….

Hate it when it’s incredibly hot outside.  Hate it even more when I don’t realize that it’s going to be very hot outside and accidentally wear dark-colored clothes which just help absorb the heat that my black car doesn’t take from the sun.  Fortunately, with Husband driving, I can either crank-up the air conditioning or hang my head out of the window.  Celeste doesn’t hang her head out the window like other dogs and prefers the air conditioning (and not having to see her “mommy” looking like an idiot).

Today I had to travel across the state again for my eyes.  This time I was there for low-vision occupational therapy.

Yeah, I was like you.  “How do you do visual occupational therapy?” was the first thing through my head when I heard about it.  Actually, they have you try to read a lot of different items in many different sizes, try-out different types of light sources, determine how much functional vision you have, and make more suggestions on how to improve or adapt your current vision to what you need.

Unfortunately, there’s not much they can do for me regarding my night blindness and decreased vision when driving.  That’s just something that I’m going to have to learn to live without even though I prefer being an independent person.  Relying on someone to take me places just drives me crazy and I hate having to bum a ride from friends.  I’m very thankful that Husband understands what’s going on and isn’t bothered by taking me places at night (well, not yet at least).

Fortunately with my desktop computer I have a large monitor and it makes it easier to see.  When I’m on my laptop, I can increase the print size and make things easier to read.  They showed me a special flourescent lamp that has a nice blue-tinted light that is very even and doesn’t have a “hot spot” like an old incandescent bulb has.  When we tried a regular desk lamp and one of the flourescent lamps, I was able to read much more and even smaller print with the flourescent one.  It’s not up to 20/20, but it’s better.  Now I’ve got to find some to put in the house so that I can enjoy reading my books like I used to.  I can still apply for audiobooks through the state’s library for the blind, but I hate having to listen to them and not being able to start and stop when I want like I can in a printed book.  Some have suggested an E-Reader, but I prefer the feel and smell of a good old-fashioned book.

What surprised me the most today though was how the therapist helped me find a “sweet spot” in my vision.  She noticed when I was having difficulty viewing certain items that I would shift it until I could read it more clearly or I would shift my eyes rapidly as if searching for something.  I’ve always had issues with that.  I would use my right eye for reading and seeing up close and  my left eye for distance viewing.  Anything in the middle is a toss-up.  The therapist had me look at her face (focusing on the center of her nose) and describe what I could see.  I knew she had hair, eyes, a nose, cheekbones, and a mouth.  She asked me to describe what I saw and it was all there but blurry.  She then pointed at different places along the sides of her face and asked me to focus there and tell her what I saw.  There was one place where her eyes disappeared; another where everything was so blurry if I hadn’t already seen her I wouldn’t be able to tell where some features were.

And then, it happened.  She pointed at a spot to the left of her eyes, causing my eyes to shift to the right.  Suddenly, not only could I see her face but I could also see the color of her eyes and the darker ring around the outside of her irises which I’d never noticed before.  We couldn’t pinpoint whether it was my right eye, my left eye, or both working together that made the difference, but just shifting my vision about four inches to the right made things so much better.

She gave me a bunch of worksheets with practice lessons to help train me to look at things “crooked” so that I’m using the “sweet spot” of my vision.  She also showed me with a light meter how much I need to be able to see more clearly and we tried different light sources again.  The blueish flourescent lamp was the brightest and now I’ve got to find somewhere that sells them.  I want floor models in the living room & bedroom and a desk version I can move about the house and take with me if I’m gone with work or on a trip.

I’ll be going back for another session sometime in the near future.  I have to look at Youngest Son’s schedule for the summer since he wants to get a class out-of-the-way this summer so he won’t have to take the class during the school year and free-up a period for something else he wants.  But I can tell already that learning to look to the right to see something is a trick that’s going to be really hard to teach this old dog to do.  Wish me luck!

They’re back! Voices in charge again!!!

Aha!!  The voices in my head are still going at it.  Oh sure, it’s been a few days since they last ranted like this, but I think that’s just because they’ve been saving it up for a nice explosion.  One where not many people come out happy or unscarred.  One where the majority of people who read this won’t give a rat’s ass and others will either be embarrassed, offended, or so confused they won’t know which opinion to choose.

Things are just stupid all over and I have no idea why.  I hate chaos and disorder except when the disorder is created by me.  Then it just looks like disorder to others but I know where everything is and I don’t want anyone touching it.  But the past few days/weeks have me remembering more in the continuing story (which I’ll get back to soon) and watching things happen that just have me shaking my head in disgust and frustration.

Example:  Husband read a post by Half-Sister on her Buttleaflet account.  She made a comment.  He replied to the comment.  Nothing offensive, just an opinion.  She called him an asshole and de-friended him.  So what?  They’re adults and can do whatever they want.  What I thought was strange was that she did the de-friending after calling him an asshole and that prevents him from seeing it.  He didn’t know that she’d responded until I was on my account and saw what was posted.  Not that either of them care, I’m sure — they’ve never gotten along for a laundry list of reasons (some I know and some I don’t) and I don’t think either one feels slighted and/or vindicated by the actions.

So it seemed strange to me when I was reviewing my account online today and found that one of my Sisters-in-Law had de-friended me.  This was weird because quite a while ago we’d had a bit of a difference of opinion regarding something I’d posted somewhere and what she typed to me hurt my feelings.  I let her know how I felt and she replied and I realized that we were both reading way too much into things (which we both admitted) and mutually apologized to each other.  Just recently I’d been seeing posts from my niece but nothing from her mom.  I thought maybe she was just being unusually quiet recently and had even received an email from a mutual friend wondering if she was okay.  Now I know why I’ve not seen anything.  Am I sad?  A bit because we were close in age and had a lot of things in common and always have enjoyed each other’s company.  But, if that’s her choice, then I have to respect it.

So, all of the voices are now trying to get me to continue with the retelling of my story (’cause we’re getting to some of the juicy parts) and argue over whether or not being able to contact family members online is a good thing or a bad thing and lamenting over yesterday being Mothers’ Day and not hearing from Eldest Son.  He sent a brief text, but that’s all.  I don’t want a parade or anything like that but he doesn’t call or return messages anymore.  He didn’t say or do anything for his step-father’s birthday and the last time I sent him info about what Youngest Son was doing he seemed disinterested.  I always take his calls, regardless if I’m at work or in an appointment.  Just as long as answering my phone won’t cause a dangerous situation (like when I’m driving) I answer because I worry about him being far away from home.

But is it “home” to him?  He lives closer to his biological father and paternal grandparents who give him everything he wants.  I see him for maybe a week around the Christmas holidays when I pay for the Amtrak tickets to get him here and back.  He should be graduating from college soon and I certainly don’t want to miss that, but I can’t get an answer out of him when I ask when he thinks he’ll be done.  He used to call me for everything — even issues I couldn’t solve for him but he knew that I’d give him my best advice and intelligent options for him to weigh.  Now it’s nothing.  No texts.  No calls.  No emails.  And he dropped Buttleaflet and the other thing with a plus sign after it when he wasn’t interested in it either.

I don’t really know what to think about much of anything anymore.  I make up my own mind and have my own opinions and invariably someone gets offended.  I explain that my opinions are just that — mine — and that anyone who is offended should (1) say something to me so that I understand that their opinion is different than mine and we can come to a mutual understanding that I’ll have mine and they’ll have theirs and be respectful of it or (2) be quiet about it if all they’re going to do is try to shove their opinion down my throat and tell me what an awful person I am for thinking or believing the way I do.  I have seen and experienced a lot of things I’d never wish on anyone else.  I have friends who have seen and experienced a lot of things — some thousands of times worse than anything I’ve had — that they’d never wish on anyone else as well.  We all come from a damaged background in one way or another.  It was different when people lived tens/hundreds/thousands of miles away from each other and only called/wrote every now-and-then.  With the Internet, everyone is in everyone else’s business 24/7 and people don’t understand that sarcasm/humor/anger/despair won’t translate well through printed words.  So we all (and, yes, I include myself in this) jump to a conclusion based on what we see and what we believe that person would say/do/think.

I try to make a point of stepping-back and thinking about what I’ve read and how it could be interpreted different ways.  I’ve been doing that with a lot of things from my past recently, too.  That’s one of the reasons the voices in my head keep telling me to write more and get things down on paper.  It’s not to beg for pity or to embarrass someone else by airing anyone’s dirty laundry.  It’s trying to see things objectively and get them out of my system once and for all.  The voices have been rummaging through the cabin trunks in my brain to clear out the crap and make more space for the penguins (if you’re a Douglas Adams fan you’ll get that reference).

So now that I’ve gotten that mess out of the way for now, I’ll pick up where we left-off in the story.  My parents decided to divorce and the summer between my 4th and 5th grade years of school they took me on a really long “family” vacation.  Then they waited until the summer between my 5th and 6th grade years to actually finalize the divorce while I was away at summer camp.

I talked briefly about 6th grade but it needs more information.  Not only was I again attending a school where my biological father was the principal but his mistress was the school secretary there as well.  Oh joy.  As if I needed further reminders of how much my life was going into the crapper.  But, I was an honor student and was meeting even more people because the school district had two elementary schools and the students from both combined into one class during 6th grade.  Yay….not only did I have the ones who knew me and knew my dad was the principal but I had a whole new set who would look at me as if I was the privileged one because my dad was the principal.

I can assure you that being “privileged” was far from the truth.  Some of my teachers liked me because I was a good student and I worked hard.  Some of my teachers just outright hated me because they didn’t like my father or his mistress or both and were determined to make my life hell and were upset that they couldn’t fail me because I made high grades in all of my classes.

There was an instance, however, where people felt I was being given too much privilege during my 6th grade year.  Previously I mentioned that I began playing the flute in band in 4th grade.  When I finally made it to the middle school where grades 6-8 attended, my father said that he was going to try to get me into the beginning band (7th grade) because I’d already had band experience.  He also knew that I was going to be bored to death in the 6th grade music class because I’d already learned to play the recorder and the keyboarding part of the year would be equally as boring since I’d been taking piano lessons since 1st grade.

One afternoon, my father told me to bring my flute to school with me the next day and I would be allowed to play with the woodwind class.  I happily entered the classroom the next day and was excited to get back to playing.  The band instructor said that it was “Challenge Day” and we would have to play a section from the book to see who would be placed in which chair based on our performances.  The students in the classroom had already been playing together and were in their “chairs” so I was told to take the last seat and would play first.  I played the piece from the book (which was the exact same book I’d already completed in 4th grade) and did better than the person next to me, so I took her chair and moved up the line.  This continued over and over again.  Each time I would play, then the next student would play, and then I would be moved up another ranking by taking their “chair.”  Finally, I had moved all the way from last chair to second chair.  This is when I got really, really nervous because the person in first chair wasn’t just the child of my 6th grade science teacher but was also a boy.  I’d not played against a boy before and I’d heard that he was very, very good.  He took lessons from the same piano teacher I had started with in our new town and if he could play the flute half as good as he played piano I knew I had no chance.  I was so nervous and I actually made a mistake while playing the same line that I’d been playing all day.  He, however, played it perfectly and remained in the top spot.  I was humbled and highly impressed at the same time.

I didn’t even get to finish the week.  Word spread quickly of what I’d done and how I’d nearly unseated the top player in the class.  How dare I, just a simple 6th grader with 2 years of previous playing experience, walk into a classroom of older children who happened to live in a district that didn’t allow them to begin band (in school, they could have taken private lessons though) until they were 7th graders and do so well?  How could this happen?  Who would allow it?  After enough teachers and parents complained, my father wouldn’t allow it.  He yanked me out of that class faster than I could think possible.  He tried telling me it was for my own good that I stayed with my “regular” classmates but I knew better.  He was always trying to be popular with everyone and if someone said something negative about me being in band, he took it as a personal assault on his character.  It never mattered if I excelled at something — if someone said or even thought anything negative he would immediately stop me from doing whatever it was so that people would think highly of him.

And it just wasn’t in school that he did this.  He enrolled me in golf lessons at the local country club.  I wasn’t the least bit interested in playing golf the way he was.  He bought himself the newest Jack Nicklaus “Golden Bear” clubs and made sure that he was seen playing with anyone he thought could get him viewed in a more positive light.  I had a teeny kids’ set with a 3-wood, a 9-iron, and a putter in a vinyl bag.  Yeah….that was going to get me into the LPGA someday.

I suffered through the lessons and one day went with him to play a round at the country club.  I’d never played all 18 holes but he wanted to be sure he was getting his money’s worth out of my lessons.  As predicted, he did much better than I did on every hole (and he had me teeing-off from the men’s tee instead of the women’s).  Every hole….except one.  There was one hole that had the longest par 5 on the front-nine and from a short kid’s perspective seemed to go straight up instead up a sloping hill.  I got there in par — a feat I was never able to reproduce but I was thrilled.  My father did not fare as well.  It took him more strokes to complete the hole than I’d made but he was still ahead in the game.  It didn’t matter to him.  That wasn’t even the last hole on the front-nine.  He was angry.  No, he was pissed-off in a way I’d not seen for quite a while.  He was shocked that I beat him on that hole.  He couldn’t fathom the idea that a young kid could get lucky (with a bit of training) and make a par on that hole when he couldn’t.

Immediately, he said he was done and didn’t want to play anymore.  Just like a spoiled child, he took his toys and said I couldn’t play in his sandbox anymore.  He wouldn’t finish the entire game.  He wouldn’t finish the front-nine.  He never asked me to play again.

So, with my broken family and the semi-acceptance of “friends” from school and church and my mother’s depression and ranting at me as if I was the cause of everything evil in the world, what was I supposed to do?  If no one was happy seeing me or wanted me around, why should I be?  But, I wasn’t quite ready to give up breathing yet.  Summer was coming and my favorite thing was just around the corner — summer camp in Mississippi.

I escaped to Mississippi by begging my mother to take me a day earlier than usual and spending the night in the nearest town so that I could arrive very, very early the next morning.  All of the campers were allowed to pick the cabins they wanted to stay in, the hobbies they wanted to learn, and the bible classes they wanted to attend.  But, all of those were first-come, first-served.  If you weren’t there early enough in the line, you didn’t get anything you wanted.

I needed this to be a good summer.  She agreed and we went early so that I could be one of the first in line.  I knew that my second week I would get pretty much anything I wanted because they would allow me to pick my cabin/hobby/class before the others would register so that I could help show people around the camp, answer questions, and make sure that parents were comfortable leaving their kids.  I even had one father who, when he heard the name of my hometown, demanded that I look-after his daughter ’cause she’d never been away from home and anyone from where I was from had to be “good people.”  I said that I wasn’t a babysitter and that she’d be fine but we were going to be staying in the same cabin so at least she’d have a friend from day one there.  We actually got along and had a blast that week she was there.

During lunchtime, all of the campers would get excited about mail call.  Some kids were shipped items they’d forgotten from home.  Some kids got care packages from their families as if being in the middle of the forest prevented them from obtaining decent food.  (We got decent food, and lots of it!)  Some would get letters from boyfriends/girlfriends back home but most never received any.  I usually didn’t get mail because it would take 3 days to get there from where I lived and by the time a letter would arrive I’d either (1) have already been able to call home on the weekend (’cause campers weren’t allowed to call except in emergencies during the week) and found out everything or (2) I’d have left after the second week.

This year, though, there was a letter for me.  I was stunned.  The Camp Director enjoyed teasing the kids by pretending there were things written on the outside of the envelope, usually the gooey-eyed type of phrases people thought that people in love would say to each other.  It always got a big laugh and usually helped whomever received the letter he chose to play with feel better.  My family and I were good friends with him, so when he saw this letter I became the target of his humor.  It was funny and I proudly walked through all of the applause and laughter to receive my letter.

It was from my father.  This was very strange.  And it wasn’t handwritten.  He’d typed the envelope and the letter.

After lunch we had a mandatory 30-minute “rest period” in our cabins so that our food could settle before the swimming pool would be open for the afternoon.  Yes, we had a huge lake there but it was much safer to swim in the pool!

I sat on my bunk in the cabin and read the letter.  I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  I still have the letter somewhere in my house.  I’ve packed it away with other important items but made sure that I’ve put it somewhere where I won’t casually find it but also where it will remain for a long time because it was a great turning point in my life.

My father typed a letter to me saying that (and I’m paraphrasing here) he knew I’d be having fun at camp; that he hoped that I got to be in the classes I wanted that summer; and, oh by the way, that the day I’d left for camp he and his mistress had traveled to Arkansas and gotten married.  He gave a half-assed excuse for not inviting me or letting me know about it before I left for camp and that I should be prepared for them (him, her, and her 2 kids) to pick me up at the end of my second week.

I don’t really remember much after that.  I was shocked and hurt.  To think that he purposefully didn’t want me to know what was going on was the worst.  I can only remember them coming to pick me up in his diesel Chevette and me being crammed into the middle of the back seat between her kids (both of whom I was older than by many years) for the 8-hour drive back home.  No stopping except if they wanted to stop.  No eating anywhere except where they wanted to eat.  It was if coming to get me was a huge chore and not an attempt to help mend any wounds or begin to create a family.  I couldn’t stand it.  It still makes me ill to think about it.  I was ignored the whole way back and dumped-off unceremoniously at my house.

“Well,” I remember thinking to myself one day around that time, “this is it.  Mom’s mad because she’s divorced and has me to take care of on her own and Dad’s being a jerk as usual except he’s rubbing it in my face with his new ‘son’ (step-son, actually) that he’s always wanted.  What’s the point anymore?”

I went to the church camp sponsored by our local church that summer as well.  Fortunately, they drove a bus to get us out there and back so I didn’t have to suffer either of my parents’ unwillingness to deal with me.  I tried to have fun and I remember our group of girls (we were divided by age and gender) doing well on contests, but there were many who didn’t want me in their group.  And I dreaded every day having one or both of my parents showing-up to give me some additional news that should have been told in person but was just haphazardly typed-out in a letter.  It didn’t happen and I don’t think I could have stood it if it did.

Well, poop….looked at the clock and all of my time is gone again.  The voices are still trying to cram words down my arms and to my fingers on the keyboard but I’ve got errands to run.  Need to get things done or Husband will be irritated that I stayed inside all day again.  I know he says he’s not but I also know that it does upset him because I used to be very outgoing and my disabilities are not getting better.  Maybe in the long-run this “therapy” I’m trying with these posts will help.

Still banging my head against the wall

I was hopeful a few days ago when I received a response from one of my elected officials regarding my concerns about why I wasn’t reappointed to my old job.  They sent me a nice email:

April 18, 2012

Dear [Me],

I have sent the enclosed correspondence about your situation to [Governmental Agency Acronym].  The enclosed copy is for your files.

If you have any new, relevant information, please send it to:

Name and address of possibly underpaid staff member
Office of Desperate to be Re-elected Official
Mailing Address to “Local” Office

Or

Fax number that no one uses anymore because of e-mail and the Internet

Please be assured that we are continuing to work on this matter and will contact you as soon as we receive a response.  If you have received this message by email, it is not possible to reply by email.  Please contact my office by phone, fax, mail or online via webform on our website at webaddress.PLEASE-vote-for-me.gov.

Again, thank you for contacting me.  Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of further assistance to you on this or any other issue.

Sincerely

Quite odd that if they can send me an email that I can’t send another in return.  I thought that was how email worked.  All these years using the Internet and somehow I missed that.

Anyway, I opened the “enclosed correspondence” to see what it had.  Here’s what I found:

Dear Sir or Madam,

The purpose of this correspondence is to inquire about non-reappointment of [Me, but with my name in all capital letters].

[Me] contacted [Desperate to be Re-Elected Official] out of concern for this case. Her current mailing address is [none of your business].

Her email address is [also none of your business].

Her date of birth is [REALLY none of your business]. I have attached a signed Privacy Act Release Form for this case. (NOTE: The Privacy Act Release Form had all that info on it, so why waste time in a “letter” repeating it?)

According to [Me], she was recently not reappointed to her [old job title] position after almost 8 years of work without personnel or performance issues.  As she has not received an answer from [Governmental Agency Acronym] regarding the specific reason, she believes that it is due to the fact that she has obtained a certified service dog to assist her.  I have attached the email she forwarded to our office where she quotes the letter she received from [Governmental Agency Acronym], as well as her signed Privacy Release form. (NOTE: Didn’t they already say they’d attached this?  Who writes these things??)

I respectfully request that your office give each and every due consideration under the law to the request of the constituent. Please update me by email about the status of this application or the reason for this denial so that I can inform the constituent.

Best regards,

Name of possibly underpaid staff member

So, the letter was off and now all I had to do was sit-back and wait for an answer.  My attempts at getting a straight answer from supervisors (and, I thought, friends) didn’t work.  My attempts at going through the Equal Rights and Equal Employment Offices had met with little fanfare and, as of this date, still no response.  Now I was going to get somewhere!

Today, an email arrived from the political official’s address.  Inside I found:

April 20, 2012

Dear [Me],

I have received the enclosed correspondence from [Governmental Agency Acronym].  The enclosed copy is for your files.

Please feel free to contact me in the future if I can assist you with any other matters of federal concern.  If you are receiving this message by email, please note that it is not possible to reply by email.  Instead, please contact my office by phone, fax, mail or online via webform at http://www.I’m-getting-very-desperate-to-be-reelected.Give-me-some-money.gov.

Again, thank you for contacting me.  Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of further assistance to you on this or any other issue.

Sincerely

Okay, a stock response with a quick flip of the ol’ web address where donations are happily received.  But, it had only been 2 days!  I knew something was fishy.  The government never works that fast.  Not for regular taxpayers like us, anyway.

So I opened the attached “response” and here’s what I saw:

Good Morning [Possibly Underpaid Staff Member],

Thank you for your recent inquiry about [Me].  She is concerned about not being reappointed as a [old job title and acronym for it].  On behalf of the [Actual Name of Governmental Agency and Acronym], the following is what I can share at this time.

March 24, 2012, marked the end of the current appointment period for all [old job acronym].  We were asked to evaluate our current work force needs based on [Governmental Agency Acronym]’s mission. This required making some difficult decisions.  Clearly we had people who had contributed to our mission for a long time and were good employees.  However, our current and projected staffing needs meant we needed to create a more nimble organization, which required making some very hard choices.  At this time, it was determined per the Stafford Act and your Conditions of Employment, to allow [Me]’s appointment to expire.  {Me] is free to apply for an appointment within another Cadre.

Once the new [New Job Title] program (what the [old job acronym] program used to be called) is accepting applications, the non-appointed [old job acronym] (your constituent in this case) could apply.  The details of this are still being worked out, and we will keep you posted.  I hope this helps and let me know if you have any additional questions.

Best regards,

External Affairs Specialist, [Area for which I used to be employed]

Hmmm….something seems familiar.  Why, yes!  That whole second paragraph was nearly identical to what they’d sent me previously (and you can check my prior posts to verify it)!!  They didn’t even change the word “your” before “Conditions of Employment” in order to make it read correctly!  They completely avoided the reason why I was asking for clarification and simply whipped together the same old spiel they’d been given to placate those who weren’t rehired and sent it.  And the Desperate to be Re-Elected Official’s staff didn’t even bother to check that it wasn’t an actual response to my actual question before slapping the Official’s name on the email and sending it to me.

Oh, sure, it looks “better” with them saying that I can apply when the new program opens.  However, those who were reappointed also have to apply and if they’re hired, they don’t lose their accrued sick days and their pay could go up but cannot go down.  Those of us who were not reappointed have to start from scratch, regardless of how much experience we have, and lose all of the sick days we’d saved working over the years.  So, technically, someone who had just been hired prior to the “reappointment” period who was retained could be making twice what I made and have no experience but if I get rehired to my “old job” I’d have to start at the bottom of the salary tree again.  Yeah…that sounds really fair.

I immediately went to the website of Desperate to be Re-Elected Official and left them a nice message that what I got was a whole lot of nothing that I hadn’t already sent copies of to them.  And, no, this person will not be receiving my vote in the election — even though this fiasco had nothing to do with my previous intentions to not vote for them.

Oh well….  I’m still on the hunt for answers.  Yeah, I may be just banging my head against the wall, but it’s better than sitting and wallowing in self-pity or wondering what I did wrong (which was nothing).

Interesting information intake

Today I sat down, against the protests of some of the voices in my head, and watched a videoconference from the organization with which I used to be employed.  I wanted to hear about their new goals for the future and how bright and rosy everything was going to be now that the riff-raff hadn’t been reappointed and were no longer employed.  Of course, it was easy to listen-in since the government has promised and promised to be more transparent and the video teleconference (VTC) was held on the Internet and not behind a protective firewall.

As all of the participating VTC locations were signing-in, I did see two disabled employees on one of the cameras.  One utilizes a wheelchair and one had a service dog with him.  This gives me hope that the entire organization wasn’t looking for a way to remove those with disabilities in order to be come a “more nimble organization.”  Now I know that I can just focus on the region which determined that eight years of experience, training, and qualifications weren’t enough because I don’t know many with disabilities from there that are still employed.

Anyway, I heard a lot of interesting information in this meeting.  In a quick summary — even if you were reappointed to your job, that doesn’t mean you still have one after the end of the year.  Those who were reappointed were extended until 31 December 2012 but if they don’t remember to reapply for the new program (or just decide they don’t want to apply for it) then their job is gone.  And when they reapply, they do have some preference because they’re currently working and are already qualified for the job, but if they don’t apply early enough or aren’t really qualified enough they might not keep their job.  And there are over 3,000 vacancies that they need to fill in addition to the appointed positions that are currently filled.  So if a bunch decide they don’t want to play by the new rules or don’t qualify for their jobs, there will be even more positions available for new people — or new “old” people, like me — to take.

I found all of that very, very interesting.  For so long I’ve heard many who were reappointed gloating over the fact that they still have a job and that those of us who weren’t must have been lazy, stupid, or any number of other reasons for not being as good as they are.  Now to know that they have to reapply for their own job is making many very nervous.

The times, they are a changing.  The “good-ol’ boy” network won’t be around because the people who used to run it won’t be in charge anymore.  A lot of things that people took for granted have been identified and are being eliminated.  Streamlining the program is making a lot of people upset and some have started to say that it’s not worth sticking around through the changes.  If they’re that shallow, let them leave.  The job is to help others, not just line your pockets when you feel like being out because of someone else’s misfortune.

Will I reapply?  Sure.  I have nothing to lose.  I’ll apply for positions I want, though, rather than where they just stick people.  That’s what happened eight years ago when I first started working with them.  I wanted to do one type of job; was told I’d be much more qualified for something else that I really wanted to do; and ended up in a job that I enjoyed but really wasn’t as excited about.  Maybe this will be the way I’ll be able to find my place and use my talents in the best way possible for myself and the people served by the organization.

And, as I said, if I don’t get rehired I don’t lose anything other than a little time applying for the jobs.  I don’t have one now so I can’t lose something I don’t have.  I’m still going to advocate for equal employment rights.  It’s very near and dear to me.  And if all of my questioning and investigating keeps me from getting a job, so be it.  I’m going to do what I think is right for me for a change and not just what everyone else wants me to do.

Search for answers continues….

Ahhh….just when you thought it was safe to come back to the blog, I’m writing about trying to find out why I didn’t keep my job again.  Actually, it’s not so much about why I didn’t keep it.  It’s more about making sure that the reason for my release wasn’t something discriminatory.

Today I resent the email I’d sent last week to the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) officer as well as his supervisor, the Equal Rights Officer (ERO), asking for more information and at least a response of some sort since he had marked my previous email as read but I’d not received anything.  I also received only one response from my Congressional/Senatorial search for answers and completed the Privacy Act information sheet they requested so they could process my inquiry.  Seems odd that one who didn’t respond is up for election and lives in the same town in which I live!  So much for “hometown concern” this election season.

I did receive a response from the ERO supervisor.  I was somewhat surprised until I remembered that if the supervisor receives complaints about employees not completing their duties, they have to do something about it.  Well, they don’t “have to” I’ve discovered, but it looks better on their performance appraisals if they do.  Here is what I received:

Unfortunately, I cannot provide any specifics with regard to your statements and that received from your cadre leadership.  I can tell you that each organization now has an “established force structure” level.  Basically, that we will only be allowed a certain number of individuals in any cadre based upon the number that is established for the cadre.  My own cadre is going through this same situation.

Please let me know if you do not hear from someone by next week.

Not exactly an answer to my question but it does address the fact that all cadres are having to cut-back.  I replied with sincere thanks and asked for additional information as it is received regarding my inquiries as to why a simple reason of downsizing or a referral letter couldn’t be provided so that those who’ve lost their jobs will have an easier time finding new ones.

I then received the following item from a friend who saw it posted on a social media site:

So, [Assistant Administrator Name] graced us with his presence yesterday, and put on a dog and pony show – gist as follows.  1) DAE’s will be assigned to the Region they live in.  2) If that Region is fully staffed, and you are offered a position, it will be as a “surge” type of role.  3) An email will go out in the next 10 days, a package within the next month RE: re-application.  4) We are top-heavy with those in the C3 to E range, so there’s gonna be some payroll adjustments.  5) When asked if they are trying to get rid of people, responded “Some people are taking this the wrong way.”

“Taking this the wrong way” — are they serious?  How else is someone who has worked for years without any issues (and I’m not just talking about myself) supposed to take not being retained in their job?  Yes, it’s a temporary job.  No, you’re not supposed to rely on it for your sole source of income.  I didn’t.  I’m one of the lucky ones that has a spouse who makes enough to pay the bills if I’m not working, but I knew a lot of others that this was the best job they could find and all they had because you’re supposed to be able to deploy at a moment’s notice but no one else will hire you for a “permanent” job when you’re planning to leave any time you’re called-up.  And when looking at the differences between what new employees were making with this organization and what they could make “in the real world,” there’s no denying that people would prefer this job over a “typical” one.  I, however, did it because I was good at it (and I’m not ashamed to say so) and I knew I was making a difference.  And, yes, the money I made helped when there were unexpected medical bills (usually mine and usually caused by the stress of this type of work) or if my family wanted to visit where I was working over the holidays (which helped my morale a lot) or perhaps all of us taking a trip somewhere (which never did happen).

Still no idea how all of this will end and I’ve been looking for something else that fits my personality and work ability so that I’ll have something else to do during the day.  I don’t feel so much as if I’m beating my head against the wall with this.  It’s more like trying to figure out a mystery.  Who’s got the answers and whose buttons can I push just right that might give me some information that someone really didn’t want everyone else to know.  It’s like when I used to be a reporter/editor with the newspaper.  There’s a juicy story in this somewhere.  I’ve just got to figure out where to dig.

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