About luckyotter

Recovering from C-PTSD due to narcissistic abuse from childhood. I was married to a sociopathic narcissist for 20 years. Proud INFJ, Enneagram type 4w5. Animal lover, music lover, cat mom, unapologetic geek, fan of the absurd, progressive Christian, mom to 2 Millennials, mental illness stigma activist, passionate anti-Trumper. #RESISTANCE

Quarantine drive.

It’s easy to get bored during quarantine.  One thing that doesn’t put myself or anyone else at risk of becoming ill, but gets me out of the house is driving.  As long as I don’t get out of the car, and make the drive the destination in itself, all is good.

Driving along I-26 eastbound into upstate South Carolina during lockdown was strange to say the least.   Neon signs overhead nagging me to “STAY HOME” and hardly any cars out on the road, in spite of the glorious spring weather.   I rolled down my windows, took a deep breath, and let the wind whip my hair around.  I turned the hard rock station all the way up, and just coasted along the highway, taking in the view.  I had to be careful not to speed, something I tend to do whenever I listen to music while I’m driving, especially when there’s practically no one else on the road.

Since the purpose of the drive was relaxation (and boredom relief),  I only took these two pictures.  I liked the juxtaposition of the nearly flat savannaesque terrain near Campobello, South Carolina looking northwest toward the Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina, only about five miles away.   Things were a lot greener and hotter in South Carolina than they are up in the mountains, that’s for sure.   One hour away from my house, and it feels like summer.

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Unemployment Hell

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Two and a half weeks ago, the concept of having to apply for unemployment was the last thing on my mind.   But like most other “nonessential” businesses, the company I work for closed their doors until (or if?) this pandemic passes, and told us we could apply for  unemployment insurance.

I would have preferred to go in person and sit down with someone who would file my application for me, or at least walk me through things.  But they closed their doors to the public too, so I had no choice but to either call and apply over the phone, or apply online.   I don’t feel comfortable doing stuff like this online, so my first instinct was to call.  I tried to get through to the Customer Service number I was given, but I kept being kicked off after I selected “Ask a question about your claim” (the closest option to waht I was trying to do).  I wasn’t even being put in a queue, just rudely being kicked off and told to “call back later.”  I tried several more times and the same thing kept happening.  Have you ever been so frustrated you felt like crying?  Well, that was me at that moment.

Muttering a string of four letter words, I opened my laptop and went to the unemployment site.   I had to attempt to set up my account four times before it “took.”  Because of the incredibly high volume of applicants, I kept getting error messages or even being kicked off the site before I could even select a password.

The online form was dreadfully confusing, hard to navigate, and badly designed.   When I finally finished filling out everything (or what I thought was everything), and hit “submit,” I wasn’t even taken to a reassuring “Thank you for your application” or “You’re done!” page.  It just took me back to the questionnaire homepage again, as if I’d never filled out anything.  Was I in the system or not?  Did it go through or not?  Did I miss something? I decided to check my email and see if any sort of confirmation was sent.   Nothing.   I tried to call the number again, hoping to get a live person who could confirm whether or not my form went through.   But I was just booted off again, after hearing the “high call volume, call back later” message.  Why wasn’t I even being given the option to hold for a customer service agent?

Aggravated, I kept checking my email.  I logged back on the site, and kept getting error messages (I found out later this was due to the site crashing due to being overwhelmed by applicants).  Finally I got back in, and saw nothing on my homepage indicating whether I’d applied or not.   I decided to call it a day:  maybe I’d have better luck the next day. I needed a drink.

The next morning, there was an email waiting for me.   It said that in order to receive benefits, I would need to fill out a job search form.   I knew for a fact that layoffs due to Covid 19 were exempt from this rule.  I know for a fact I selected the correct reason for unemployment (layoff due to lack of work: Coronavirus).  So why was I being asked to provide this information?   Besides, who would be hiring?  And this was a temporary layoff, not permanent.     Maybe my form got changed somehow?  Also, how could I tell if my form even went through?  I needed help.  I felt like I was banging my head against a concrete wall.

I dialed the customer service number, and even though it was early in the morning,  I still got kicked out without even being given the option to hold.   I went to Google to search for any other possible numbers.  The first one was just the same number I’d been using.  Then there was was a fax number.   The third one was no longer in service.   I tried the fourth number, which was not for claimants, but for employers.   I decided to call it anyway.  Maybe I’d at least get a human who could put me in the queue or transfer me to someone who could help me.   Overriding their system somehow seemed like my only option.

After punching in a series of numbers in their menu, I finally was put on hold and told to wait for an agent.   After about fifteen minutes, someone picked up.  I told him the problem I was having getting any help from a person, and he was able to put me in the queue for claimant customer service.  That felt like a minor victory.

I knew it would be a long time before anyone picked up.  I had heard about how many people weren’t able to get through, or having to wait in excess of an hour or two to speak to someone.   So I grabbed a book to read as I waited.     Now, I have a smartphone and not a house phone, and because I live in a valley, sometimes the reception here is so bad I only get one bar or less.  Calls sometimes get dropped.  Even when I don’t get disconnected, at least half the time, the other party’s voice breaks up and fades in and out, so I have to keep asking them to repeat themselves.  Being a person who has never had a great fondness for speaking on the phone, it’s infuriating to me when that happens.

After the guy put me in the call queue, I was met with dead silence.   Did the call get dropped or not?  I would have welcomed some bad music right then just to reassure me my call was still in the system.  My phone was showing I was still connected, but was I really?   Finally, after five or ten long minutes, a recorded voice came on saying the call volume was very high and suggested I call back later.   Hell no, I wasn’t going through that again.  But at least this time, I wasn’t being disconnected after the “call back later” message.   So I waited. The message came back on again.  It repeated itself every five minutes or so.  I read my book.  I put it on speaker and went to grab something to drink. I read some more.  I logged into my application to see if anything had changed. My application was showing up, and I was still being asked to provide proof I was looking for a job.

I waited THREE AND A HALF HOURS before an agent finally took my call, but I would have waited all night if I had to.    My agent couldn’t help me unless I gave her my username and password, because without that, she could not see my application.  After she logged in, she told me that I had filled out everything correctly, and the “job search” message just meant I still had to submit a confirmation that I was available for work every week, but did not have to actually list potential employers.  There had been absolutely no instruction on how to do this nor was this requirement made clear.  So the agent walked me through this step, which turned out to be easy, but there was no way I could have known I had to do this, or how to do it.  She did say that my employer hadn’t submitted my “separation information” yet, but when I called my employer, I was told it had been submitted and that I should just wait.

I was certain this was going to be another problem, but yesterday morning, I checked my bank and a direct deposit had been made.  However, the amount I got was miniscule, less than half of my normal salary. Closer to a third.  It’s not nearly enough to live on, but at least that particular hurdle has finally been overcome and I can worry about other things, like how I’m going to pay my bills or if me or anyone I love is going to get sick with this thing.

A great nation we no longer are, if we ever were. We’ve now surpassed China and the virus’s spread shows no sign of slowing down or flattening out in this country. In the meantime, we get to see all our institutions collapse. It’s surreal.
I can’t believe we’ve come to this point, but here we are.

There’s not a lot we can do, except take care of ourselves the best we can, pray, and be there for one another. Try to stay well, and heed the words of Samuel Jackson: “Wash your hands, stop touching your face, and stay the fuck at home.”

The Great Toilet Paper Famine of 2020

Even the worst things in life have a humorous side, and the Covid-19 pandemic is no exception.   The Great Toilet Paper Famine of 2020 is probably the most obvious.  What is it with humans, at least American humans, and toilet paper anyway?

Enjoy this collection of memes.

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Statewide Stay at Home Order and Cheap Gas.

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Like many other states, my home state (North Carolina) just ordered a statewide Stay at Home mandate until April 29th.    I got temporarily laid off due to the coronavirus (I do not have it) more than a week ago, for two weeks.  Obviously now that’s extended.  I’m glad to be getting the stimulus check (though it should be for more and it should be recurrent, like Canada is doing) and I also applied for unemployment, but I’m having problems with their website and also don’t understand why they’re still requiring proof that I’m looking for work.  That’s just stupid under these circumstances, for obvious reasons.  My boss thinks so too, but she thinks they just haven’t updated their site, which could be the case.   I tried to call but it’s not possible to get a real live person to help you.  I almost pulled all my hair out yesterday in frustration.

I didn’t realize how much I appreciated my job until now.  Not only because of the income, which I need (unemployment pays HALF of what I earned and it’s not nearly enough), but also because I’m getting stir crazy laying around the house.   When I’m not busy, my brain starts turning on itself and I start ruminating and worrying about things I have no control over.   I start imagining all sorts of crazy things.  I’d like to spring clean the house, top to bottom, but even though I have the time, I’m simply not motivated, not yet anyway.   Maybe soon I will be.   The stink in the fridge is starting to get to me, so I’ll probably start with that (and get it out of the way first, since cleaning refrigerators is the grossest household task I can think of).

It was very warm today (actually hot) so I went out for a drive and just looked at the spring flowers and blooming trees.   But as of Monday, it will essentially be against the law to be out for any reason other than buying necessities.  But I’ll go nuts if I can’t take the car and just drive, at least.  How is driving around spreading a virus?    It’s not as if gas is expensive either.  It’s the cheapest I’ve seen it since 2003.  Just for fun, here’s a list of gas prices from 1978 to 2017.

Speaking of low gas prices, I took these photos this morning.

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The silence, lack of traffic, and lack of necessary provisions (like toilet paper and pet food) in the stores is very surreal and creepy.  I feel like this is what it must have been like to live in the Soviet Union.   It’s hard to get used to this new lifestyle, especially after Monday when staying at home becomes the law in my state (we already are on curfew).

It’s too easy (especially under this current administration) to weave conspiracy theories about the “real” reason all these lockdowns and mandatory quarantines are happening, but the fact is, we haven’t done enough.   Trump may want everyone to “go back to work,” but these restrictive measures are necessary to stop or slow down the spread of this dangerous disease.

Look at the bright side.  Has there ever been any other time when you can sleep late every day and sit around the house doing absolutely nothing and know that you’re helping to save lives?  You can enjoy being lazy without the guilt!  And if you’re an introvert to whom social distancing comes naturally, can you recall any other time when wanting to be alone was not only socially acceptable, but your civic duty?

 

I just got temporarily laid off but it will be okay.

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I knew it would happen, but I wasn’t sure when.

It happened to me today.

This morning I got a text from my job, saying the owner decided to close for at least two weeks, and possibly longer.  Of course, this throws me into the category of people who are panicking that they soon won’t be able to pay their bills.  I’ll be okay for about a month or so, but after that?   Well, all I can say is I hope things return to normal by then, even though that’s probably unlikely.

Nothing will ever be the same again.  Not here, or anywhere else in the industrialized world.   This pandemic is a worldwide crisis, and America’s seven or eight decades as leader of the free world is over.  The proverbial chickens have come home to roost, the piper must be paid.  Our entire monetary system looks to be in freefall.   In fact, I’m pretty sure American style capitalism itself is collapsing, and I’m far from the only one who believes that.   Unregulated capitalism was never a sustainable model as it always collapses into fascism and brutality.   It happened to the Roman Empire and was followed by a thousand years of dark ages defined by widespread ignorance, short brutal lives of constant toil, and a feudal economy.  It happened to Weimar Germany and every other regime where unfettered greed and inequality ran rampant.   We are now standing on the precipice of a new dark age — or a rejuvenated society that works for everyone.

We were not even remotely prepared for this pandemic.  We were already too weak internally to withstand it, a house of cards ready to be toppled over by the first gusty wind that came along.

We must change — or we perish.  

Positive change and revolution has never happened without a lot of pain and suffering, and even death and bloodshed, occurring first.  The immediate future looks like nothing we have ever experienced in this country since at least the Great Depression, but I think we will arise from it stronger, more self sufficient, more community minded, and more compassionate to our fellow human beings than we were before.  Perhaps the United States of America as we knew it won’t return, but that may not be a bad thing, if we emerge from it better human beings ready to build new and better institutions out of the rubble left behind by an outmoded system that encouraged and rewarded only greed and exploitation of the most vulnerable.

So, back to my immediate situation.  I know a lot of you must be experiencing layoffs and closings too.  I know a lot of you too are wondering how you will pay your bills, your rent, your mortgage, and avoid becoming homeless.   On top of that, we have to worry about staying healthy and not contracting this virus, or spreading it to others.

I see this as a time families and friends must come together.  But since not everyone has family or a large circle of friends they can count on, I think we’re also going to see communities come together and figure out ways we can all help each other.

So, I’m going to be using my downtime from work to spend a lot more time blogging, just like I used to a few years ago.   I used to write in this blog at least once a day, sometimes as much as four or five times a day.    Some of you may remember that.  Although I don’t blog for the money, this blog is monetized, so if I can boost my hits by writing more often, that also helps me make an income, small as it may be.   It’s going to be the only job I’ll have for a few weeks, and possibly longer than that, depending how long we are locked down and businesses are closed.

I’m also thinking of getting involved in some sort of volunteer work in my community.  I am sure it will become necessary.  I want to feel useful, and give back to my community, and help others who may be even worse off than myself.

A lot is going to be demanded of us in the coming days, weeks, and months emotionally, physically, financially, and even spiritually.

So instead of feeling dread for this time away from work in which I probably won’t be getting paid, I’m actually feeling excited for the opportunity to get involved in things I always wished I had more time and energy for before.

It sure beats just sitting around worrying about things I have no control over, such as how bad this pandemic is going to get, or how dystopian life may soon become.    These are times we are called to be the best we can be and find strength, empathy, and creativity within ourselves we never knew we had.   These are the times we will be forced to slow down, abandon the rat race, and focus on the things that are really important in life.

 

The silver lining of the coronavirus pandemic.

Just as the aftermath of the Black Plague of the 14th century opened the door to the Renaissance and the Enlightenment,  the Coronavirus pandemic could pave the way for positive changes that will improve the lives of future generations.

This article is wonderful, and gave me hope.

Coronavirus Will Change The World Permanently. Here’s How. 

Spring is here!

This beautiful tree graces my backyard.   I love this time of year!

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How’s everyone holding up in this pandemic?

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It’s scary what’s happening around the world with this Coronavirus pandemic.  It doesn’t seem that America is handling things well at all.  Not nearly enough tests are available, the entire pandemic response team no longer exists (thanks, Trump), many people can’t afford to get tested or treated, and of course there are the constant lies from our own government about COVID-19.  There’s also just a lot of misinformation being spread around, as there always is in a crisis like this, but that makes things even worse than they need to be. Misinformation ranges from nutty conspiracy theories all the way to “it’s not as big a deal as the media makes it sound.”  It certainly is a big deal, but we can’t believe everything we hear either.  It’s best to stick with trusted sources like the CDC or WHO for pertinent information about this pandemic.

I haven’t seen any toilet paper fights yet (except on video), but it is hard to find in the stores!  I should be okay though.  What is the deal with toilet paper anyway?  I hear bidet sales are up, and America may finally be catching onto an idea that is both more sanitary and better for the environment than toilet paper.   I’ve stocked up on a lot of rice, beans, spaghetti and peanut butter.  Not exactly exciting, but they are nutritious and will last a long time without taking up a lot of space.

I’m not under quarantine yet, but it’s likely my workplace will close soon too, as it’s “nonessential” work.   My son self quarantined:  he was here a couple of weeks ago, and on his last day felt a tickle in the back of his throat.  When at the airport, he coughed and they wouldn’t let him board the plane!   He was okay after that, and managed to get a flight the next day, but decided to quarantine himself after that for two weeks.   I’m trying not to worry about how I’m going to pay my bills should we go under lockdown or should my workplace close.

Like everyone else, I’m trying to practice social distancing (not too hard for an introvert like me!) and a lot of handwashing and using hand sanitizer.  I’m also attempting to avoid eating out, and learn to like cooking.

I wonder what’s going to happen.  The trajectory doesn’t look promising; there are no signs that it’s going to “flatten out” here in the USA.   I don’t want to speak of my fears of what could happen and put that out there.   I’m just taking things one day at a time, and trying to remain calm.   It’s incredible how we can be an advanced society one day, and revert back to Black Plague like conditions mere days later, scrounging for food and toilet paper.

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Coronavirus cases worldwide.  The US trajectory shows no signs of “flattening out.” 

I’m impressed with Italy, which has been very hard hit due to its elderly population and a lot of tourism (which has now stopped, of course).    People are dying so fast that families can’t even hold funerals for their loved ones.   And yet,  Italians still know how to find joy, even though the situation there must be terrifying.   I’m sure most of us have seen the video of people singing out their apartment windows in the midst of mandatory, nationwide lockdown.

I think when all this is over, we are going to learn some hard lessons and change the way we live.  We will relearn such old fashioned concepts as community and being good neighbors to each other.  We will learn to appreciate the simple things again.  Most important, we may come to value empathy, compassion, and service to others again, over the greed and selfishness we have come to lionize in recent decades, and with any luck, this will spill over to our government, if we don’t become a dictatorship first.

Do Americans Understand They’re Torturing Little Kids? (article by Umair Haque)

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Adan Galicia Lopez, 3, was separated from his mother for four months.  Credit…Victor J. Blue for The New York Times

This article by writer Umair Haque was written back when the border crisis situation with its family separations and caging of children was a big story in the news, and was still able to shock us.  While we don’t hear much about it anymore (many people assume the problem has been resolved), these acts of mental, emotional and physical torture have not stopped, and in fact they have increased.  The family separations and torture of little brown children from places like Honduras and Guatemala has continued unabated.  The reason they are no longer reported is because they no longer have the same capacity to shock, as the Trump regime ups the ante and keeps us in a constant state of chaos and uncertainty as he continues to build his dictatorship.   Under this cruel and barbarous administration, we have become inured to the heinous.  Acts of cruelty that would have been front page news four years ago have become normalized to the point it they no longer considered newsworthy.

This article isn’t an easy read, but it will bring back the horror we once felt when we first learned about what was happening to these children, by putting you inside the mind of one.  ICE and Border Patrol, two arms of Trump’s neofascist regime, are not merely  immigration enforcement agencies (which are necessary);  under “King” Trump, they have transformed, and one of their new goals is to shatter the minds of children who aren’t lucky enough to be born white.   Why? Because they can.  Trump, as a malignant narcissist, has easily observable sadistic tendencies, and those who work for him are required to be as cruel and compassionless as he is.   Trump’s immigration czar, the odious, dead eyed Stephen Miller, is so sociopathic I could easily see him as a serial killer if he did not have the connections to power that he does.   To this regime, nothing matters except power.

We have become the bad guys.  Maybe we were never that good.

We cannot forget. We cannot stop caring.  Once we do, all hope for a brighter future is lost.

Do Americans Understand They’re Torturing Little Kids?

Voting early.

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I didn’t realize there was early voting in my community until I drove past the library today and saw all the campaign signs and a big sign that said EARLY VOTING.

I had a few minutes to kill, so I figured why not?  Next Saturday early voting ends and there may be long lines, so why not do it now and avoid the lines and crush of people later on?  I didn’t have to wait at all.

I’ve had my sights set on Elizabeth Warren for a while now, so that’s who I voted for.  If Bernie wins the nomination though (which it appears he might), I certainly will vote for him.  I’m not crazy about Bernie and think he’s too old, but I like many of his ideas and he’s definitely better than Trump.

No matter who gets the nomination, I will vote for them in the general election. Biden, Bloomberg, Bernie, Mayor Pete, ANYONE.  I’d vote for a cat flea over Trump.

But for now, in the primaries, my choice is Warren.  I’d love to have a woman president and she conveys a level of empathy for everyday working people that I find appealing and refreshing in a political climate that has become cruel, selfish, and heartless.  I think Warren has a much warmer, more folksy manner about her than Hillary Clinton did.   she’s relatable.

Sadly, I don’t think this country is ready for a woman president yet.  Maybe it’s ready for a Democratic socialist like Bernie Sanders who will give us things other advanced democracies have like universal healthcare and free college.  His agenda sure beats a fascist dictatorship, which the Trump regime is quickly turning us into.   It’s scary and it’s stressing me out something awful.   It probably won’t matter much for me, as I probably don’t have that many years left anyway.   But I worry about future generations. There’s no future in this country for our youth should we fall further into fascism.  There’s no future for anyone if we don’t put a stop to Trump’s destructive deregulation that is threatening our access to clean air, water, food, and quality of life. I hope it’s not too late to turn things around.  This coming election may be our only chance.

In the general election, make sure you Vote Blue No Matter Who, if you want the lawless criminal Trump out.  I have never wanted anything more in my life.

We can’t forget about the Senate and House either.  We MUST flip the Senate, and keep the House, or democracy is doomed.   Even if Trump should win, we’d still be able to impeach and remove if we have both the House and Senate.  Anything less than that will not work.

After voting today, I proudly affixed my “I Voted Early” sticker to my rearview mirror, as you can see above.