Success.

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I do a lot of public speaking to professionals and random ‘average’ people in the community, talking about my clients’ experiences, about drugs, about harm reduction, and about anything and everything related.

Our area is working towards implementing supervised consumption services (“safe injection sites”) so the topic has gotten really contentious and I’m never quite sure what I’m going to encounter when I’m asked to speak. Still, if you invite me I’ll show up.

Generally, I get a lot of positive feedback – people thank me for giving them some facts or info, they tell me they learned something new, and they were happy to have the opportunity to ask questions. I’m proud of this – if I can nudge someone towards empathy or a bit of understanding, I’m making life better for my clients bit by bit. I also really enjoy public speaking, so spending 2 hours talking about my people and having it be well-received keeps me motivated at my job sometimes when things are difficult.

My talks are usually a mix of facts – gathered through our local public health unit – and anecdotal stuff. I put out some numbers, I talk about how it feels to go through withdrawal from opiates, I talk about the facts behind safe injection sites, I talk about poverty and mental health and a lot of other stuff. I generally try to think about what I can say to people to make my clients’ lives easier – like, if you knew THIS about my clients, perhaps you’d be kinder to them or at least not shitty.

I know the facts because I attend an ungodly number of meetings throughout the month. I know the anecdotal stuff because I’ve tried to listen to clients over the years, I have a coworker who has told me about his own experiences (and I am grateful he shares), and through observation, too, while I’m out in the community.  I also read a lot of work-related things in my spare time.

It’s really rare for my clients and other ‘vulnerable’ people to get to hear me speak in a formal way – for a bunch of reasons. Often I’m talking in places that aren’t welcoming to them, they  don’t have transportation to get there, the timing isn’t good, there’s a lack of support for them to show up, and really, I’m not sure how interested they are in hearing about their own lives over a series of 100 bleak powerpoint slides.

But still, I figure it’s my chance to advocate and educate – so when I talk, I try to channel my people – talk about their concerns, about their experiences, about the things they tell me.

Last week I did a presentation at the library and it was open to anyone who wanted to come. It was a small turn out (many of my friends came, which was cool, and my beloved husband got to hear me speak too!)

A few days later, a guy staying at one of the local shelters came up to me at an outreach location and asked to speak with me for a minute. I don’t know him, he’s not a client, but I recognized him from seeing him around from time to time.

He said he had been in the audience at my talk and was really impressed. He thanked me for talking about the complexities of drug use and addiction and treatment (how people don’t ‘fail’ at treatment, treatment options fail people). He thanked me for talking about all of it with a good sense of humour – like how I compared my daily coffee consumption to meth (they’re both stimulants but only one has any real negative values assigned to it). He also said that he learned a lot about what’s happening in our community.

Listen – – that 30 second interaction meant more to me than hearing from any Executive Director or otherwise ‘powerful’ person, of any agency, anywhere, ever. I am really glad that I have so much opportunity to advocate for my people and I totally believe in what I do, but to hear that I’m doing a good job from this person kept me flying high for a solid week. He felt heard by me, and felt like I represented him well, and that’s really all I want out of my job.

New Things.

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My friend Jo gave me 4 little tomato plant babies that I’m now growing in the yard. Coffee was kind enough to pick up some giant garbage pails and drilled holes in them for drainage. I put in some stakes and, well, we’ll see what happens.  3 of the 4 plants (I think) are “indeterminate” which I now know means they have the potential to grow to insane heights and produce loads and loads of tomatoes.

While I was visiting my friend Lena, she introduced me to her Aerogarden and, unsurprisingly, there is now an Aerogarden on my kitchen countertop. As of this morning, it is working to germinate some “heritage greens” (lettuce) seeds and I am really quite excited. I decided lettuce was a good choice since, around the time that it’s edible, the tomatoes in the garden will be doing their thing – and I can eat some delicious salads and sandwiches. Once winter rolls around, I’ll switch the indoor garden over to cherry tomatoes, maybe. (Or weed. Apparently Aerogardens are very good for growing weed.)

Last week we were just about to head out for a lunch date when the phone rang – the installers wanted to know if they could come and put our new garage door on. This was unexpected and wonderful timing.  A little over a month ago we had picked it out, we gave them our downpayment, and were told it would be 4-6 weeks before they’d install.  It’s not fancy, it’s not special, but unlike our previous door it is insulated, it locks, I can open it without hurting myself, and it stays open and doesn’t try to knock me out.  Apparently garage doors have improved since the 1960s. Who knew.

I picked up a dash cam for my car and, this afternoon, spent some time running the wire from the camera to the power outlet thingie (it’s not a cigarette lighter anymore, right?) I had originally thought that I’d want it to be hardwired in – there are kits for that – and figured I would try out the camera for a bit before going through that effort. I think, but don’t quote me on it, that I am going to be absolutely fine with it as-is. I managed to hide about 90% of the wiring in the various spots around the car and I think I’ve got it all tucked away neatly enough that I won’t end up accidentally catching it on something. Hopefully. I look forward to endlessly forcing Coffee to watch video clips of me getting cut off in traffic. I’ve already forewarned him that I talk to myself A LOT in the car, so at least that won’t be a surprise to him.

At work, we get a lot of styrofoam crates – some of the medication we dispense is delivered to us in large cooler-sized boxes. I brought one home a few weeks ago and, over the weekend, Coffee was about to hack one up for me. Now I have a fantastic insulated holder for my sous vide setup. Hopefully that’ll make it easier to hold a steady temperature.  Now I just need to find a good 8 hour stretch of time to make bacon.  (Okay, I could possibly try it out on something else. Something less time-consuming. Fine.)

My indoor succulent garden is currently thriving – a combination of me figuring out wtf I’m doing, the increased daylight hours, and … luck.  Mostly luck.  But it’s really nice to wake up in the morning to see some happy plants, check in on each one’s progress (lots of good growth in some cases), and fuss over them a little (but not a lot). I am rather fond of this entire process – no weeds, no interlopers eating my plants, and only a few issues that I’ve needed to solve along the way. Highly recommended. A++, would do again.

Over and Over.

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I just took 5 days off – but I timed it perfectly so that I had 8 days off (with one day of work tucked in the middle, sadly).  The nice thing was that there was a long weekend in the mix, so my beloved husband was home and we were able to hang out together and get some stuff done, too.

As usual, my time off was a mix – visiting with friends, a little trip out of town, catching up on housework (spring cleaning, sort of?), reading a bunch of books, a few naps – and other than a few chores that I didn’t manage to work up enthusiasm to do, I think I managed to accomplish most of what I had on my mental ‘to do’ list.

Once again I’m reminded that I have absolutely no work/life balance.  Once again I’m not sure what to do about it.

Also, I am currently holding some work-related grudges that I can’t quite seem to resolve and, during the time I was away, I didn’t spend any time dwelling on them.  Every time something popped into my head I just nope!‘d that thought right out again.

( Yeah. It occurs to me that maybe I should have spent some time pondering solutions, instead, but I was honestly just feeling good about life and didn’t want to interrupt it.)

At a meeting, someone asked me about one of the work-related grudges (without knowing anything about it – it was a casual, completely reasonable question) and, when I explained a bit of the situation, they looked me dead in the eyes and said, “Honestly, you should just quit.”  .. which.. jeez. They made that statement based on only the visible tip of the iceberg!

Look, I can’t afford to quit my job. I also really like a lot of things about my job – things I wouldn’t find elsewhere…

..except that it was recently pointed out to me that a lot of the things i say I love about my job are things that don’t really apply anymore.

I’ve gotten myself into a bit of a messy situation and, one assumes, I’m the only one who can get myself back out of it. I’m just not sure how to do it, exactly, without fucking myself over, or without fucking over some of the people who work with me.

Pretty sure this is the same post I’ve made repeatedly after every vacation I’ve taken from work. So, y’know, let’s not get our hopes up.

As my friend Jo used to say in their blog:  Patterns will repeat forevermore until you realize the common denominator is you

And The Pollen Sucks Too.

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Oh huzzah, it’s the season where I remember exactly how much I hate gardening! It is simultaneously the season where I see everyone else growing beautiful plants and get jealous! And it is also the season where, like a cat*, I can’t decide if I want to be outdoors or indoors  and so I alternate between them all day long!

Sunscreen. Must add more sunscreen to every bit of exposed flesh.

I have reached the age where a Tilly Hat no longer seems ridiculous and is now on my ‘please buy me this’ list.

Fucking plants, growing constantly and wildly.  And a “native plants” garden where every single thing growing looks exactly like a weed. Because it is.  I have a map + photos and I still don’t know what the hell to leave, pull, or suspiciously endure.

I forgot to save up cardboard to put underneath the mulch on the gardens where I am trying to kill off weeds.

My method of gardening involves me going outside, staring at the garden, feeling completely overwhelmed, then heading back inside.  Once I’m inside again, I do something else for about 10 minutes, go back outside, yank a weed or two out, get overwhelmed, and go back inside. Repeat, repeat, repeat.  I can’t see any progress. I think the weeds are growing faster than I can pull them.

And I’m pretty sure I’m going to end up getting attacked by a chipmunk at some point this summer because that little creature is highly displeased with me being in the yard.

Nature, man. Nature.

* Keep your cats indoors, friends. 

Independence.

Published / by violet / Leave a Comment

When I was 17, I headed off to Toronto to live away from my parents, at university. A few months later, my mother died, my father retreated into his own grief to some extent, I was kicked out of school, and I was left to figure out how to live my life as an adult.

I made mistakes. I made plenty of them – some that haunted me for years after.  I knew that moving home to my Dad was always an option, were I willing to give up on the life I had begun to create, but I wasn’t ready to return to living in the middle of nowhere with no job or car and no friends nearby. Visiting home on weekends meant being sucked into my Dad’s grief and simultaneously filling in for my mother (grocery shopping, cooking meals, cleaning the house, doing laundry..)  Instead, I muddled along and made mistakes and solved them on my own or with the help of my friends.  I didn’t want anyone to tell me how to live my life.

I am always somewhat grateful for the hardships I went through earlier in life – at times I have a tendency to romanticize it all. Being independent has its benefits. I made my choices, no one told me I couldn’t do whatever I wanted to do, and in the end, well, here I am. That’s the simple story. I’m a self-made woman, right?

But I also remember that being independent was really hard work – and scary as hell at times. I didn’t want to admit the things that I had fucked up so, yeah, I continued to struggle through it. My mental health was incredibly precarious at times – depression, in particular – and I didn’t have the slightest clue what to do about it.  Looking at myself now, there are parts that are very withdrawn from the potential support of other people because, eesh, the idea makes me uncomfortable.

And so I am sitting with a problem.

The oldest kid still living at home is 18 and, legally and in his own head, he’s an adult. He is determined to be independent, to not rely on his parents, and he is muddling along. Part of me is very proud of him for this – for his determination to take control of his life, figure out what matters to him, and to live based on his own priorities. He is doing well at some parts of life and I am proud of him for many things he has overcome.

But, at the same time, things are not going well on some fronts. There are some concerns about him, about his mental health and general well-being. The school is worried.  There are issues with work and with friends. There are issues within his biological family. All of which is adding up to a not-great picture.

I have always wanted my kids to be well-equipped for the world – to be independent. I have also wanted them to have a solid start to their adulthood – to be prepared for the (many, and unexpected) things that pop up in life. To know how to solve problems, yes, but also to know how to find and ask for help. To be reasonably good at self-care in the sense of getting good sleep at night, eating well, balancing life/school/work, handling stress.

I have wanted to spare them some of the struggles I went through while also letting them handle their own problems as much as I can. It’s a delicate balance. There are normal growing pains associated with become an adult and there’s no way to spare anyone from experiencing them – but there are some pains that can be avoided, I think, if you know to keep your eyes open for them.

I’ll be honest and say that I don’t know what I’m doing here. He won’t ask for help, and is ducking the offers, but I can see things slipping for him. He isn’t capable of full independence but he’s essentially insisting on attempting it as much as possible.

I don’t know how much of this is normal because I have no frame of reference – my own early adult years were independent mostly out of necessity and not choice. I have to work hard, now, to ask for help from anyone other than those closest to me and I have a tendency to believe that I need to solve all of life’s problems on my own.  In other words, I understand some of his perspective – but I don’t quite know how to proceed in the face of his outward unhappiness.

WTF, parenting. This was supposed to get easier, not harder, wasn’t it?