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Website Tracking & Some Solutions

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What Does Google Know?

I’m not big on New Year’s Resolutions. But this year, I think I’m making one. To follow the recommendations listed at the bottom of this chart and use as few of the things as possible attached to Google.

Yes, it will be a pain changing my email address, but that’s why I have one already in Germany that I’m paying for. Why have it and not use it? That’s just silly.

What’s silly, to put it very, very mildly, is something like CISA being passed by the government as a rider on a budget, somewhere it has no business being. And to continue to let companies like Google use our information when we have some means of controlling it. But we can’t control it unless we know what they’re doing. Many, many thanks to Conosco for putting this infographic together.

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Rules, Allies, and Friends

I have been trying to stay out of the debates going on in the M/M Romance world, but they are bleeding into other issues, some of which don’t necessarily belong in the book world but in a larger sphere. That’s why I wasn’t sure I should post this here or on my other blog. Maybe I’ll put it on both, just to keep my bases covered, so to speak, because it does have to do with both.

Because of one person weaving a fantasy world which she portrayed as real, hurting a lot of people in the process, a lot of other authors (and people in general) seem to be coming forward and verifying their authenticity. I find this a little disturbing. What this person did was wrong. If you want to create a fictional world and play around with it, write a book. Don’t lead people on that they’re real people. That’s just hurtful and mean, even if it wasn’t intended that way. I was in a group on Goodreads where something very similar to this happened. The sad thing is the group is still running, and people that were in the group when it happened are still there, which means, to me at least, that they are willing to overlook the hurt that the moderators caused. Whoever the moderator(s) are/is.

The other thing I feel about this is that it’s completely different than having a pseudonym as, say, a gay man. It’s easy for one person to say, “I’ve been homeless, I’d never lie to people just to publish for the money.” That’s really easy to say, because you weren’t in that person’s position. People have their own reasons for doing things. Unless you’re that person, you really don’t know, and you can’t presume to answer for them. In other words, you can’t condemn someone for assuming a pseudonym/persona, because you don’t know them, and you can’t speak for them. Your reasons may be fine for you, but you can’t just apply them across the board to everyone. Yes, some people may have felt betrayed, but was anyone actually hurt?

Bear with me here. Around all this happening, a post came out by Anonymous. I didn’t know all of this was going on when it was going on. As I understand it, this person was upset at the way that gay men were being portrayed by white, heterosexual women in M/M Romance. I may have gotten that wrong, and I apologize sincerely if I did. I also believe that it had to do with objectification of gay males. This was/is a huge, huge post/issue, and hasn’t died down yet. I feel uncomfortable even mentioning it, because I followed some of the debate after it happened, but I don’t really feel qualified to comment on it.

What did happen, for me, because of it, was that it made me hesitate further to write a review of a book that I was already hesitating to write a review of, but I am going to after I write this post, because I’m tired of caring what people think of it. That’s not true–I’m tired of caring what people think about what I think of the book. My feelings about the book are my feelings, and they don’t have anything to do with what anyone else thinks about it. But more on that in the review, not here.

What has come up, again, in some posts, is “rules” about being an ally. Personally, and this is just me, I find things like this really offensive. It’s like the time (I wrote a post about it) when there was an article saying that “allies were doing it all wrong.” My gut reaction is, “fine, deal with it yourself, then.” It’s an immature reaction. I know that, but maybe it’s just in my nature to rebel when being told what to do. To me, it’s sort of like being given rules for being a friend. Because, after all, in a way, isn’t that sort of what it’s like?

Not being a friend like a casual friend, but being a friend like a good friend. If you have a good friend, you don’t speak on their behalf about what they may or may not think about an issue. You don’t assume all your friends are the same and agree with your point of view on how they should behave and act. You don’t assume they all have the same sexual tastes and orientations. You accept the fact that while you empathize with them, they are still different people from you; they are their own person. They have rights that should be respected by you, just as you expect your rights to be respected by them. Don’t expect them to be perfect, just like you don’t expect them to assume you’re going to be perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. A person doesn’t objectify their friends.

I could go on, but does that make sense? Why does there have to be a list of rules? To me, that’s insulting, and doesn’t show respect. It’s like saying, to be my friend, you have to do this, this, and this. Unless an ally isn’t supposed to be a friend? I know I can’t be friends with every gay man out there, or everyone in the LBGTQ world, but if I consider them a friend, and treat them as I would a friend, doesn’t that work? Sure, there are plenty who may not like me. Fine. There are plenty of people I may not like either. But I don’t like the notion that to be worthy I need to jump through hoops. Friends just don’t do that to their friends.

The other thing is, as a white, heterosexual female, it does make me uncomfortable when there is someone posting a lot of pictures of semi-naked or naked young men in provocative poses. A lot of it depends on the intent. Sometimes, if it’s just a picture of a guy, it’s okay. When they’re blatantly sensual photos, it bothers me. To me, that’s objectifying men. Just as if it were pictures of women, I would say that’s objectifying women. But if it’s a gay man posting the pictures, I’m not going to protest it. I’m just going to avoid it. Because if I did protest it, I would be labeled all sorts of things. Truthfully, if it were a straight man posting pictures of women I found objectionable (most likely I wouldn’t be his friend in the first place), and I complained, I would also be labeled all sorts of things.

Maybe part of the problem is living in a world of technology where so much is unknown, and people can pretend to be other people. People can spin tales, invent whole groups of other people. I hope those people are in the minority. I hope.

I know this is somewhat rambling, and I am sometimes frustrated that when I feel passionately about something I do have difficulty writing brilliant, concise posts that just sum everything up in a flash of wit. I feel strongly that if people comported themselves online in a manner that they did offline, it would solve a lot of problems. If being an “ally” means that I have to conform to a set of predetermined rules as opposed to behaving in a manner where I feel like I’m trying my best to be a decent human being, then maybe I’ll just be something else and not bother with having a word for it, and continue to treat people as if they’re all decent human beings who deserve to live their lives the way they want to. Because love is love, and no one has the right to take that away.

“But She Seemed So Normal”

I hate these words. Especially when it comes to teen suicide. “She was at the top of her class.” As if that’s enough reason not to kill oneself, right there, correct? What reason could someone at the top of their class possibly have for killing themselves, they have everything going for them? “She seemed so normal.”

It makes me cringe inside, want to beat the walls in frustration. Why don’t people understand? Just because someone is at the top of their class, just because things seem fine, it doesn’t mean that they are fine.

What classifies as normal? Who judges what is and isn’t normal? People with no understanding of depression? People who have no real memory of how real and immediate the problems of a teenager seem when you’re a teenager? Much less if you’re a teenager with depression?

As a teenager, you don’t have a lot of control over your life. You can’t vote, you live at home, your parents hold the reins. It’s difficult if you’re a so-called “normal” teen (whatever that is), much less if you have depression, or identify as LBGTQ, or don’t fit in to any other of the myriad ways one is expected to in high school.

People are shocked when someone they thought was “normal” commits suicide in high school. Because the person was hiding a lot. Trying to fit in. Possibly afraid of the stigma of whatever issue they’re trying to deal with. “Why didn’t they talk to anyone?” Some people lament. Maybe they did, but no one really heard them. Not that it’s anyone’s fault, per se, but sometimes others don’t want to hear. They don’t want their images of “normality” shattered. “Not normal” is scary; it takes people away from the expected into realms of the unexplored and leads them into the uncomfortable, where things are difficult to talk about. But the difficult needs to be talked about. The uncomfortable needs to be delved into.

Teenagers today have it harder than they did when I was a teenager. Not only do they have all the issues I had to deal with, they have social media, a whole new wonderful world of torture. And those who use it for that purpose know how to do it well. And as for all of this zero-tolerance for bullying? According to the students I have talked to about it, that’s laughable. Bullying is alive and well on our K-12 campuses.

Some people think that the anti-bullying campaigns think that it’s preventing children and young adults from learning how to deal with these things on their own. I say those people didn’t have to grow up in an environment with social media, and the amount of viciousness that exists in schools today. I don’t remember the amount of hatred that seems so pervasive today, and I had my fair share of bullies. They were mean, but it wasn’t hate. If you broaden that out to statements made by adults on social media, you see a lot of hate there as well. It’s not a huge surprise it exists on school campuses.

But back to suicide. There are many, many reasons some teens feel hopeless enough to attempt it, and it’s tragic when they succeed. When the attitude is, “but they seemed so normal,” it’s no wonder that they hesitate to find people to talk to. At that age, trying to fit in is important to many kids (there are those who are brave enough to say “to hell with this” and find their own paths, and kudos to those kids), but there are some who aren’t, or can’t. They’re desperately trying to be “normal” and hide how they’re feeling, when in reality they need someone to tell them that what they’re feeling is normal, and it’s okay, and to please find someone to talk to them. It’s okay to ask for help, it’s not a weaknesses, it’s a sign of courage.

Being a teenager is hard. Really hard. It’s confusing, and sometimes things do seem like the end of the world, or that you’re stuck and there doesn’t seem like any other way. But wait. There is another way. And I know it’s not a huge consolation to hear it, but things do get better. There aren’t a lot of times I can say that with certainty, but when you’re in high school, and so much of your life is out of your control (you can’t even vote yet!), things really will get better. Find someone, anyone, you trust, and talk to them. Go on a walk. Give yourself time. Call a hotline. If there is ever a time to procrastinate, this is it. Make contact with someone. There are people who will help you, people who care about you, because you are important. Don’t ever forget that. Repeat it to yourself. You are important. You matter. You make a difference.

Normal is relative, and sometimes, being “normal” really isn’t all that important. Being safe, being loved, being accepted for who you are, and finding people who see the things in you that matter–those are the things that are important. Be who you are, not who others want you to be. You are your own “normal”, just the way you are. Your normal may be weird and funky, or depressed and odd, or whatever combination of things you can come up with, but that’s who you are, and don’t be ashamed of it. Let your flag of who you are fly, and be proud of it. There is only one you, and you are irreplaceable.

 

The Hidden Curriculum of Social Media

For those who don’t know, the term “hidden curriculum” refers to the things in everyday social life that are hard for people on the autism spectrum to pick up that others just do unconsciously. From the perspective of a person with autism, these things are “hidden” because they simply don’t see them. It’s not out of willfullness or stubborness, they are social cues that are too subtle for them to read.

While I’m not on the spectrum, I feel like I have had a full run-in with the “hidden curriculum” of social media lately. I’m a casual user of Facebook. I don’t know the ins and out of it. I don’t “poke” people. When I share posts I credit the people I shared them from, because in my mind, that’s the proper thing you do. You give credit to the people you’ve borrowed something from. I remember enough from Pinterest a couple of years ago to know people were up in arms about not giving credit there.

I don’t know how “tagging” works. But, apparently it’s a pretty darn big deal. Enough so that it warrants warnings like this from people: “I have to say this far too often: don’t tag me in any post not specifically related to me and don’t add me to groups. Both acts earn an unfriend and block.” Now, “not specifically related to me,” that seems perfectly fair. And adding to groups? That would be downright rude. “Both acts earn an unfriend and a block.” Wow. That’s wielding power in the Facebook world.

Maybe it wouldn’t have been such a big deal if another author hadn’t PM’d me personally. “Could you please stop tagging me when you share something I’ve liked? If I wanted to share it on my timeline, I would, and tagging makes it show up there anyway unless I go in and manually untag myself.” Now, again, that’s not an unreasonable request–except I had no idea I was “tagging” anyone. I have no idea how that works. But then it comes to the almighty timeline. I replied that I didn’t know how that worked, apologized, said I just wanted to give credit. Now, she was nice about it, but then there’s just that little bit of ambiguity where 70%+ of language is non-verbal so you’re really not sure what the tone is. “FB can be SOOO confusing about what it does sometimes. It ought to come with instructions!” Now, does that mean it does come with instructions and I should have read them? Or that it really is confusing and it should be easier to figure out?

I take things I shouldn’t too personally sometimes, but between that and the other post, my first reaction was just anger. The people I consider my FB friends are mostly authors, and a very nice group of them. But things like this start to show a difference in the fan/author chasm which isn’t usually so wide. In my experience, none of the authors generally act superior or more important than the fans. After all, we buy the books that support them. I consider it, generally, a really nice group of people. But I’m not in the position where I’m posting things that are being reposted. I’m not the popular one. I’m just the fan. No one would care if I posted statements about tagging and unfriending, because I’m just a fan, not an author. So who cares if I unfriend and block someone?

So there is an unequality, a “hidden curriculum.” I’m not as important, even though that isn’t mentioned. Now, I certainly do not mean this to all the authors I know online, but when it really comes down to it, it’s true. Isn’t it? I don’t even know. I just know that when a timeline is more important than a real human being, I think some priorities have gotten a bit askew. And it hurts me to say that. Because it’s blown a hole in my idealized little online Facebook world.

In the meantime, I’m not going to repost anything from individuals, only the organizational group pages. Or my friends. Because gods know I don’t know what I’m doing, and gods forbid I accidentally tag someone. I think The Republican War on Women is not just going to block me and throw away the key on me. I’ve been blocked, without having a chance to explain myself, and it hurts. I have blocked people. People who have bullied me IRL. Not because they tagged me. Put things in perspective, maybe? Or maybe it’s just a hidden curriculum that will continue on. I’m sure there are people who do things deliberately, but then again, there are people like me who do things accidentally because they don’t know what they’re doing. But, off with their heads.

It’s really made me take a closer look at the niche I felt comfortable in, and I realize I don’t feel as comfortable anymore.

To Those Who have Lost a Loved One

Miranda John William Waterhouse, 1916

Miranda
John William Waterhouse, 1916

W. H. Auden

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

Mental Illness Doesn’t Discriminate, but People Do

I just left a group I had recently joined, under the impression that people who were intent on erasing the stigma of mental illness would be, well, more open-minded. I am a somewhat naive person in some respects; I will admit that. Possibly because I’m hopeful. Possibly because I’m gullible, to an extent, and I want to believe the best of people. Especially ones trying to erase the shame associated with mental illness because, after all, it’s not something a person can help.

I was surprised, then, to find a posting after the shooting at the recruitment centers, describing the shooter as having an “extremist personality” and one of the women who’s daughter had bi-polar saying, “her daughter didn’t act that way.” I was furious. And very disappointed.

I responded that if the young man hadn’t been Muslim, this wouldn’t even be a topic of conversation, and apparently the idea of mental illness being a stigma was based on race and religion, not the reality of mental illness, which doesn’t tend to pay attention to those lines. It doesn’t discriminate. And as for the woman whose bi-polar daughter not acting that way, I said knowing one person with mental illness is knowing one person with mental illness. If we were all the same, one pill would magically cure all of us and yay, the world would be a happier place. But it doesn’t work that way. We are all individual chemical factories with unique brain chemistries and genetic predispositions. That’s why there are so many drugs out there that don’t work for so many different people, or cause paradoxical reactions (the complete opposite of what they’re intended to do).

I said I didn’t want to be associated with people claiming to want to erase the stigma of mental illness, selectively. What do they think society is doing to them? Exactly what they were doing and patting themselves on the back for. Oh yes, “Extremist Personality,” my therapist pointed out, isn’t in the DSM. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, which is what the United States uses to diagnose people. I should note the DSM-V has been highly criticized. Which doesn’t have anything to do with this. I asked how do they expect to change things when they are being so close-minded themselves?

But what do you do when the people claiming to try to make things better for people with mental illness, and I should add that at that point, it was only a few people who were agreeing with this anti-Muslim sentiment, hardly the whole group, are spouting the sort of nonsense that some people do against any person with mental illness, that keeps the stigma alive? I should have not left the group in a huff, I should have seen if what I said actually made a difference. I was hasty, but I doubt what I said made a difference. Because people’s beliefs are ingrained, and that’s the sad thing. “We don’t want our children with mental illness to be stigmatized, but if you happen to belong to a religious group we normally label as terrorists, don’t expect any sympathy?”

We need a lot more love, and a lot less hate.

p.s. I realized I should add an addendum here. I met some really great people in the group, and I hope they know who they are, because I still communicate with them, and I really admire them and what they are doing, so it isn’t as if the experience was a loss–hardly. I learned a lot about schizophrenia, as well, which I didn’t know much about. It was this one exchange that upset me.

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Post-Partum Depression

I think it’s very important for women to understand that if you feel depressed after the birth of a child, you aren’t alone, and that there are people for you to talk to who understand, and that, possibly even more importantly, there’s nothing wrong with you. You’re hardly alone. I know just from having depression that it’s easy to feel isolated and alone, and when I was really depressed, it was all I could do sometimes just to take care of my cat. Taking care of a baby? I can’t even imagine. But there’s hope, and there’s help. Post-Partum depression is understood better than it was before, and recognized as something legitimate and treatable, and something that isn’t the mother’s fault. It just happens. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad mother or you’ve messed anything up. It’s just something you need to talk to someone about.

I saw this poster at the gynecologist’s office and then found it online, because I think it’s something really important that often gets overlooked and I wanted to post it here. It’s from WellMama and I think they did a really good job.

WellMama

For people out of this immediate area, I also found a website called Postpartum Support International at:

http://www.postpartum.net/

This is quoted from their resources page:

“Postpartum Support International has many resources to help families, providers, and communities learn about the emotional and mental health of childbearing families. If you are not able to find what you’re looking for in the blue menu on the left of your screen, there are three ways to find more options: You can do a search by typing keywords in the search box at the upper right of your screen; access the whole website site map HERE to get a listing of all pages; or contact the PSI office for assistance at psioffice@postpartum.net or 503-894-9453.”

They have links to other webpages and it looks like a good site to check out.

So reach out and find some help, for you and your baby, because you’ll both feel better, and you’ll both be happier, and because it’s just so much nicer knowing that you’re not the only one that feels that way.

Big hugs.

 

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@Wit’s End

I just became aware of a really awesome and very necessary project on GoFundMe–@Wit’s End. It’s a web resource for parents to find the necessary mental health care and treatment for their children by entering in the type of issues their child has, and the web page matches them with appropriate agencies. It’s truly awesome! Tricia Slavik is the creator, a mother trying to help other parents.

This is the link to help fund this project:

http://www.gofundme.com/wit-send

Here’s an example of the interface:

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And this is what the creator, Tricia Slavik, has to say about it:

@Wit’s End will be a first of its kind resource for the millions parents who struggle to find appropriate care for their child suffering from a mental illness.

Finding help for a child with a mental illness is challenging at best and heart breaking always.  I conducted a national survey in which 87% of parents say “it is difficult or impossible to find appropriate care.” 17,100,000 children in the US have had or have a mental illness  – that number represents 34,200,000 parents. Parents desperate to get their children help.

Did you know that only 1 in 5 children with a mental illness receives treatment?  I want to change those unacceptable statistics;  I want to do it before one more child ends up in prison, addicted or hurts themselves or someone else.

Read the new Children’s Mental Health Report from the Child Mind Institute here.

Why I Took the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) off my Page

I like to put services that I think are helpful, or quotes I really like, on the side of my page. I had NAMI up as one of them. Because I’d never really needed to use them before and thought they were a useful place. Until I needed to use them. Now, they may be good at getting things done on a large level. I have no idea. I do have to note that their page does have some good resources, so I’m not throwing the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak. There are a couple of reasons I’ve taken them down I feel I need to mention, though.

1. They have launched a campaign to lower the number of people with mental illness in prison. This is a well meaning campaign, and I signed up as someone interested in following it. But things came up with another issue, 2., which made it clear that they weren’t quite thinking the whole thing through.

2. I was trying to seek advocacy for a friend with depression involved in a court case where the people involved have no understanding of mental illness, and, I feel, are mobbing her. I thought, “I’ll call NAMI. They’ll know what to do.” I was very wrong about that. They told me: “NAMI has no attorneys on staff and doesn’t have the capacity to provide advocates for individual cases.” They went on to say, “If your friend thinks she is
being discriminated against because of her mental illness, then Disability Rights Oregon might be able to help.” This was the state office of NAMI, and they said they forwarded my request to the local office, where the man here was on his honeymoon. That was on June 8th, so that’s a heck of a long honeymoon. There’s a caveat in here that I’ll explain in a minute.

3. I wrote them back, saying that if they really intend to keep people with mental illness out of prison, wouldn’t a system of legal advocates in the court system be a really good way to go, that way they’d keep people with mental illness from ever ending up in prison in the first place? Cricket. Cricket. No response. Because that’s the right way to go about it, IMHO. How are people with mental illness going to be kept out of prison if there isn’t an independent intermediary in place in the legal system to help them advocate for themselves to all the people who haven’t a clue about mental illness or how being locked in jail/prison without treatment is so damnably detrimental? Not to mention inhumane, unethical, and whatever else you care to call it. It’s a bit like shutting the gate after all the sheep are gone. Let’s wait until they’re all in the neighbor’s yard, then go get them. It’s too much work to fix the pen. What we  really need are advocates in the courts. I am very, very convinced about that, and NAMI’s non-answer was disturbing and sad.

4. I recently joined a group and found out how far-reaching NAMI’s non-involvement in personal cases goes. What the cost is in terms of lives lost. If they aren’t going to help people when they really need it, they shouldn’t call themselves the National Alliance on Mental Illness. They should call themselves a government action group and be done with it. To me, an Alliance is something that helps other when they are in need, not something that turns its back on people when they are desperate and at their wits’ end, and the cost is someone’s life, literally. And the effect that loss has on the entire family and circle of friends of that person. The demoralizing effect on other people with mental illness (and their families) as they see or hear of another person like themselves who succumbs to their mental illness because of lack of treatment, or lack of treatment facilities, or just plain lack of understanding.

5. The Office of Disabilities Rights refused to help as well, because it’s a Family Law case, and they don’t get involved in those. I don’t particularly blame them, because that would take up all of their time. I used to work for Protection & Advocacy, in California. I replaced NAMI with Protection & Advocacy, a nationwide, federally mandated organization who helps people with disabilities, and families with children with disabilities, on cases involving SSI/SSDI, Special Education law, and matters like that. I think they are an important organization, and I know they made a difference where I worked. Like every other federal agency, they are underfunded, but they do the best they can. If people have problems because schools aren’t adhering to their child’s IEP, or someone is having problems with Social Security over SSI payments, they’re the ones to go to. So even though they couldn’t help in my particular case, I still feel they are a good organization well worth putting up on my page for people who need help with those things. Because there are a lot of people who do need help with those things.

Treatment and recognition of mental illness is something that is sorely underfunded in this country. Probably many countries. Yes, there are many people with mental illness in prison, but why does no one look at why they’re there and not in treatment facilities? Why does no one question the fact that courts are woefully underprepared to deal with people with mental illness, treating them as if they are stupid and deliberately defying them? Truthfully, I believe they would rather work with drug addicts than people with mental illness–you can put addicts in treatment with timelines that fit into court schedules (I won’t go into the issue of addicts with mental illness). Mental illness doesn’t just “go away” to suit people like the Department of Human Services, or lawyers, or judges, just to make their lives easier. Mental illness isn’t “convenient.” Just because it’s an invisible disability doesn’t mean it isn’t there. The whole foray into the court system makes it worse. Adequate mental health care shouldn’t be a struggle, it should be a right.

Which is why we need independent Mental Health Care Advocates in the courts.