A Million Little Pieces….

There has been a little family drama around here the past 2-3 days because we informed the “kids” we were selling our house and moving to Savannah, GA. My hubby will be 65 this coming February and we are getting tired of cleaning all the snow off our driveway in the winter. He is also the one who gets the wood and tends to the fire. In fact, he does alot of the work around here because he won’t allow me to do it. Whereas, I think that is awfully sweet of him, I am still capable of hauling wood into the house and just may be good exercise for me, but he refuses to allow me to do it.

As you all know from my past posts, my husband has a mentally disabled 18 year old, who has been out of our home for almost a year now. He is autistic, ADHD, PTSD, ODD. All things we are not professionally capable of handling on our own. Last year during one of his violent episodes, my hubby called 911 and after the police talked with not only him but us, they decided to take him down to a mental facility. After being there a couple of days, we had a meeting with the therapist who was handling his case. His anger was still extremely apparent and so we decided it would not be safe for him to come back to our home.

We found a facility who would take him and work with him. It was a residential mental hospital for kids his age, he was 17 at the time. My husband is retired military and we live on a fixed income. However, we had some money in savings and we had been using that for his care prior to him being put into a mental hospital (therapy appts, medication, and other alternative treatments, none of which were working.) When we found out the insurance would pay for care we were very much relieved but a copay of $900 per month was a stretch for us. Since his mother is no longer living and his grandfather, who also passed away, left him some money, we contacted an attorney to see if we were able to use some of the inheritance money for his care. Absolutely! In fact, that is what the inheritance money can be used for, his care.

My husband is not the executor of his estate, my step son’s aunt is so we contacted her. We informed her of the situation and how dire it was and from speaking to the experts, it was the best thing for him. In fact, they continually told us why had we waited so long to get him the help he needed? Our only answer was, we didn’t know the extent of his disability until a jr. high school principal gave us the information to get him tested. We then did what they suggested, weekly therapy, IEP for school, medication. Unfortunately, the medication was only for his ADHD not his autism anger. (We had no idea they had meds for such and his doctors never told us).

My step son is extremely stubborn. What should have taken 2 months in the mental facility, took him 5 months because he refused to listen to anyone, including all the doctors he was seeing. He had to be refrained physically several times because he lost his temper, destroying an office. He was given a shot which knocked him out and when he awoke, he was restrained to his bed. It only took them a few times to do this before he realized he needed to start following the program. Each week, my husband and I made the 2 hour trip there for family therapy sessions and the 2 hour trip back. It wasn’t until he got a new therapist who specialized in autism, that he finally started getting it. She used smell therapy, sound therapy, poetry, and music to dig deeper into his psyche. We did role playing during our therapy sessions, and we finally started seeing a light in a very long and dark tunnel. He did extensive work on dealing with the death of his mother and all the anger he had pent up inside over it. This was the thing that bothered me the most. And by bothered, I mean always brought me to tears because I can not imagine the pain he was in having lost his mother whom he was very close to, well as close to as was possible, because she worked nights and did lots of traveling once she found out she had a brain tumor. Regardless, this was his mother and he would never see her again.

But he did the work and when we went in for a therapy session, he informed us on how he had worked through it. In fact, one of his assignments was to write a letter to his mother. He showed it to us. He not only wrote a letter to his mother which was 2 sentences long, but he wrote me a letter as well which was 2 paragraphs long. He explained how he wasn’t very happy with me when I took away his shot ’em up videos but now he understood why I did that. He told me he loved my cooking, and how, because of me, he loved to read, and he missed me. I cried when I read it and I gave him a huge hug and thanked him for it.

Everyone hates the step mother no matter how nice she is or no matter what she does for her step kids. He actually thought it was my fault for us moving out of California and living in Colorado. I had to remind him how it was his father who wanted to be closer to his mother, his other grandmother, as she was getting up in age and he wanted to spend whatever time she had left on this earth with her. Of course that didn’t happen because as everyone hates the step mother, well, she hated me too, didn’t know me, but hated me. There is nothing I can do about that, I am me and if you don’t like me, I’ll move on. There are plenty of people on this good earth who do like me and it’s not my problem, it’s theirs.

Once he finally got ‘it’ at the hospital, there was still much work to be done. My husband and I are not mental health professionals and they suggested he go to a residential group home where he could learn some life skills and prepare him for the outside world as well as continue extensive therapy. We agreed and hoped they could find something our insurance would cover. Unfortunately, they do not cover residential facilities so it was one of the cheapest facilities we could find, with the help of his therapist. It is non profit so all the money spent goes to a good cause. He has been there since July and has made lots of progress. We are so proud of him. He finished high school in November and will graduate in May. He is learning how to apply for jobs, he is on mood altering drugs and is learning how to live a productive life. Yes, things were going very well and in the right direction, until we told everyone we were putting our house on the market and moving to Savannah, GA. That’s when the shit hit the fan.

The aunts don’t want to pay for his housing anymore. They want him on state assistance so he has money in his inheritance for “his future”. What they aren’t getting and neither is my step son’s sisters, who have now taken an active interest in his care, is the money IS going for his future. His future to lead a productive life without living in a group home, which by the way is the best place for him to be because he is around others who are like him. He feels less than when he is around only normal people including family. His one sister called us today and said she wanted to take control of him…really? And what experience do you have besides being a nanny to two children who were autistic and a little bit of research? When my husband asked her what her plan would be if he suddenly had a melt down and started beating up on her two babies, her answer was, “I’ll handle it when it happens.” Sorry, you need to have a solid plan in place as to how you will restrain a 6’4″, 200 + lb kid from beating all of you to a pulp.

Everyone thinks they are an expert when it comes to my step son’s mental illness. Not one of them ever attended a therapy session with us. Not one of them ever came up, in the four years prior to him going into a mental facility, to take him to the movies or do something with him. Not one of them cared enough to help us out when we needed it most. Now, I’m the bad guy and guess what, “it’s none of my business.” Really?? I was the one living with him for the four years prior, I am the one who has been by my husband’s side while this has affected both of us. I was my step son’s biggest advocate, helping him with this school work, helping his dress for a school dance. I was there when a girl broke his heart. Sure, I blew up at him at times, what Italian doesn’t raise her voice, and this is where we are not professionals to handle his illness.

I feel bad that my step son is going to be ripped out of his group home where he is making such good progress because people who don’t know shit about his condition are worried about spending his money on his future. We know the money isn’t an unending well. But we were also hoping and we encourage him on a weekly basis when we speak to him, the money would last until he finally got enough knowledge to go out on his own. He isn’t going to get the help he needs by living with his family. Hoarding runs rampant in my husband’s kids lives and my step son also has that problem. We don’t need him going from an environment that is clean and tidy and teaching him not to hoard to a house that has crap all over it. That isn’t healthy for him nor is it a smart decision on our part.

There are a million little pieces that affect this situation. It isn’t just one. With the professional care he is getting now, they are addressing the majority of them because they know what they are doing. We love our son and want the best for him. Ripping him away from a situation where he is thriving is not the selfless thing to do, it’s the selfish thing to do. We aren’t abandoning our son because we are moving to GA. We want to enjoy what little life we both have left, and if that is being selfish, then so be it. We are exhausted fighting with people who have no clue as to what is happening in his life. And I’ll be damned if we will allow them to ruin all the work that has been done this past year because they are worried about his inheritance. If push comes to shove, we will involve the lawyer we consulted with last year to finally put an end to all this bullshit.

So, yes, go ahead and hate me. I’ve been told I’m not your children’s real grandmother anyway, so keep poisoning them, it’s what you all do best. After all, you had a good teacher. I know you all blame me for your brother not living with us anymore, and you know what, that’s okay. Because I stand behind my husband and his decisions. I will keep advocating for your brother as well, because he deserves to have the best care he can possibly get. He didn’t have it for years because everyone was in denial. Well, our eyes are all open and for once, we are doing what is best for him, not what is best for you all. He is the important one in this situation, so get over yourselves!

Mental Health in America

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I wrote a post on the American Justice system a few months back after attending a court session on my nephew’s murder.  It is appalling! Well, unfortunately, I have now had experience with the Mental Health system in America.  After I tell you my story, you will most likely agree with me as to why we are having so many mass shootings in America.  Tell me you work for the Mental Health system in America and I will tell you to find a different job because you are helping no one.  Sorry to be so blunt but from my experience, it’s true.  It’s all about money.  They don’t care about the patient.  They just drug them up in hopes it will help or so they don’t have to deal with the patient.  So, the pharmaceutical company is making money as well, thanks to the mental health workers. Continue reading

Feminist/Psychoanalytical Criticism Analysis in the novel Ceremony

By Lucy Cafiero-Ahl

In Leslie Silko’s novel, Ceremony, there are many symbols that are connected to womanhood and seem to relate back to Ts’eh, the universal feminine principle of Creation. Although Ceremony is a tale about a man, Tayo, it is also a tale about two forces, the feminine life force of the Universe represented by the female figures of Ts’eh, Laura, Grandma, Aunt Thelma, and Corn Woman, as well as the death force of witchery.  By using Feminist criticism and Psychoanalytic meaning, I hope to show how females in Native American culture were symbolic and played an important part in shaping Tayo’s life, circumstances, and recovery.

In the novel, Ceremony, Silko writes of the trauma Tayo experiences throughout his life and how he triumphs at the end.  By delving into all the feminine forces throughout his life, Silko teaches us about the female powers which influence him.  Tayo’s mother, Laura, who fell victim between the Native American and white cultures.  Her alcoholism eventually leads to her death.  His Auntie has reluctantly taken over the care of Tayo.  She believes in her Christian faith rather than her Native American upbringing. His Grandma, the matriarch of the family is wiser than everyone believes and offers Tayo advice from time to time.  Te’sh, a symbol of Corn Mother, loves Tayo like he’s never been loved before. She teaches Tayo ritual offerings and the healing power of many plants. She is a key figure in helping kill the witchery in Tayo.

According to Tyson, “In some North American Indian cultures, gender variants played valued roles in the community, such as healers or performers of sacred ritual functions, because gender variance was associated , as it is in many cultures, with sacred power” (pg. 107).  Tyson goes on to say “…the ultimate goal of feminist criticism is to increase our understanding of women’s experience, both in the past and present, and promote our appreciation of women’s value in the world” (pg.114).

Before Europeans came to America, Native American women and men had specific tasks that were defined by gender.  While the duties were different, the work was equally valued and roles balanced (Waterman, 2013).  Men were responsible for hunting, warfare, and interacting with people from other tribes so they had a more public role whereas women managed the internal operations of the community and the household.  Women usually owned the family housing, all the household goods, gathered the food, and raised the children (Pearson).  In Silko’s novel, Laura, Auntie and Grandma represent the matrilineal inheritance of their clan. According to Buhle, “Mothers shape not only their children’s individual characters, but collectively the personality structure of their entire society” (pg.141).  “If a child does not have a sense of belonging it [becomes a weakness]…that weakness the child will have in later years, in times of great need and difficulty” (Anderson). Tayo was not only abandoned by his mother but by Auntie as well due to her attitude towards him.   Grandma seems to be one of the strong influences in Tayo’s life as well as in his recovery.

Grandma is a very wise old woman.  She has been around for a very long time and has seen the changes in the tribe throughout the years.  She is the representation of the old ways, holding a deep respect for traditional spiritual beliefs and practices that were handed down through her own family.  After Tayo has a dream about Josiah, he wakes up crying.  He is shaking and doesn’t think he is going to make it through.  He wants to tell Auntie that they need to take him back to the hospital.  Grandma, who has been sitting by the stove with her eyes closed, slowly gets up and shuffles over to where Tayo is lying in bed. She sits on the edge of the bed and holds his head in her lap.  She starts crying with him saying “A’moo’ho, a’moo’ohh over and over again” and then she says, “I’ve been thinking all this time, while I was sitting in my chair. Those white doctors haven’t helped you at all. Maybe we had better send for someone else” (Silko, pg. 33).

When Auntie returns home from grocery shopping, Grandma suggests they call the medicine man.  Auntie disapproves because she is afraid the gossip will start again and she doesn’t want to deal with it.  Grandma insists because she feels Tayo can be helped by going back to the old ways and doesn’t care if people will talk.  Grandmothers were considered teachers and their role was to not only protect but also to guide others with respect to their own responsibilities (Anderson).  Grandma does this by silencing Auntie when she protests, and the medicine man is called.

Native American cultures have long considered the female figure one of reverence and power.  In fact, male-dominated politics in First Nations communities are largely the result of the Indian Act of 1876, which crushed First Nations women’s official involvement in governance.  This was done by replacing men and women who participated in the diverse traditional systems with exclusively men as chiefs and councils (Anderson). However, the communities that fell outside of the Indian Act, were more apt to retain the older systems in which women continued to hold power (Anderson).

The medicine man seems to think Tayo needs to relive his memories and to perform a new ceremony to make him well.  According to Freud, “when the mind is confronted with an overwhelming experience, it tends to isolate the memories associated with this experience in specific areas of the brain that are inaccessible to conscious recall…” (Sprengnether).  This ceremony leads Tayo to Ts’eh, a powerful feminine force that ultimately cures him.

Ts’eh is mysterious and seems to come out of nowhere.  She comes into Tayo’s life suddenly and leaves just as fast.  She is a representative of Corn Mother, Thought Woman, and Spiderwoman all in one body.  They met by happenstance, or goes the story, but clearly, it was part of the ceremony of healing. The first night, as he sat eating chili, Ts’eh tells him the sky is clear and the stars are out.  He had been looking for the pattern of stars that Betonie had drew on the ground, and as he looked out up into the sky, the pattern was there.  That night, while making love, Tayo began to heal.  He was afraid he would get lost again, but that didn’t happen.  Tayo found comfort in her.

When he returned to her house, somehow the spotted cattle had come running down the mountain and into her trap.  Even his horse showed up at her place.  The subliminal message here is she has a magnetic powers, like Mother Earth.  Tayo saw this when she told him the cattlemen would not come to retrieve the cattle “she gave him a look that chilled him” (Silko, pg. 213).  When he said goodbye, she told him she would be seeing him and then she disappeared.

Tayo saw her in his dreams, held her, caressed her, his love for her was overwhelming. According to Tyson, “recurring dreams or recurring dream images are the most reliable indicators of our unconscious concerns” (pg. 20). Tayo went back to the ranch and when he walked into his room, “the terror of the dreaming he had done on this bed was gone, uprooted from his belly; and the woman had filled the hallow spaces with new dreams” (pg. 219).

When Ts’eh appears again to Tayo, she is wrapped in her blue shawl, the color being sacred and used to honor the gods.  She gathers plants, teaches Tayo about the gifts from Mother Earth, she is the sacred feminine.  She cares deeply for Tayo, and she gets involved in his life.  She sees every opportunity as one of transformation.  She is magical, almost like a figment of Tayo’s imagination, a ghost.  According to Helene Cixous, “She is more patriarchal and as the source of life, women are themselves the source of power, of energy” (Tyson, pg. 96).

Because Tayo was with a dysfunctional mother until he was four, and then raised by another dysfunctional aunt, he could be suffering momism.  Though the meaning of momism is an excessive attachment to one’s mother, the opposite could be true as well.  During his ceremony, Ts’eh becomes the most important aspect to his recovery.  She shows him the unconditional love of a mother, teaching him many things from sacred plants, to opening up his mind and releasing him from the witchery that consumed his identify.

Silko used many symbols in her book Ceremony to connect to the importance of women in Native American culture.  She uses the diversity of the women and shows the importance of each in shaping Tayo’s life, circumstances and eventual recovery from the witchery that overtook his identity, for “women are themselves the source of power…” (Tyson). In the end, “every evil which entangled him was cut to pieces” (Silko, pg.258).

Works Cited

Anderson, Kim. Life Stages and Native Women: Memory, Teachings and Story Medicine. Winnipeg. University of Manitoba Press. 2011. Print.

Buhle, Mari Jo. Feminism and its Discontents: A Century of Struggle with Psychoanalysis. Cambridge, Harvard University Press. 1998, Print.

Pearson, Ellen Holmes. “American Indian Women”. National History Education Clearinghouse. Teachinghistory.org. Website. http://teachinghistory.org/history-content/ask-a-historian/23931 2013.

Silko, Leslie. Ceremony. New York: Penguin Books, 1977

Sprengnether, Madelon. “Feminist Criticism and Psychoanalysis.” A History of Feminist Literary Criticism. Eds. Gill Plain and Susan Sellers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007. Credo Reference. Web. 16 Oct 2015.

Tyson, Lois. Critical Theory Today: A User-friendly Guide. “Feminist criticism”. London: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2015

Waterman, Stephanie and Lorinda Lindley. Cultural Strengths to Persevere: Native American Women in Higher Education. Naspa. 2013. Shapiro Library. 6 Nov. 2015.