Friday, October 13, 2017

Communication About Pregnancy and Parenting

Hey! Long time no write!

To be honest, I feel a little bit that blogs have fallen out of favor, at least for me. I used to write to keep in touch with friends and family, and now there's seemingly too much social media available for that and I gave up on blogging a bit because I felt like people probably didn't have time for that.

Today, however, I had a topic I wanted to talk about that is too long for Twitter or Facebook, so . . . I'm BACK! And PREGNANT. For the first time. At age 36. Yep. Even before we were really trying to get pregnant, we got all kinds of "advice" and "requests," which are already pretty weird. Now at almost 34 weeks pregnant and still fascinated with the psychology of things (for those unfamiliar, I had a 3.97 GPA in my BA in Psychology; I freaking love psychology and ongoing research), I wanted to write about my insights. I think lots of people really don't think about these things and there's a bizarre culture surrounding how we talk about parenting and pregnancy. Here we go!

Bias warning: This is only my introspection and you're welcome to disagree; my hope is by discussing this, it will help everyone's overall communications on these topics.Most importantly, I hope that we can learn to be okay making our own choices for ourselves and knowing that mistakes are going to happen and that's alright too.

Pregnancy and Parenting Advice

Pregnancy and parenting advice is a little bit strange for several reasons. Like many types of advice, it is often unsolicited. However, most advice is given knowing the audience. For example, my husband and I are very comfortable with one another since we've been talking to each other for 21 years and love and respect each other. If we notice something, we speak up to the other without waiting to be prompted. It goes well probably 88% of the time, and the rest of the time could be attributed to having a bad day or some deeper issue. It's the same with friends! I have friends I can say anything to and feel pretty safe and some friends where I know to keep my trap shut. We know our audiences; we learn what causes drama and what doesn't. What makes parenting and pregnancy advice weird is that people give it without knowing their audience. At ALL.

I should start by saying that both my husband and I are very proactive learners. If we want to know something, we take classes and read books (yes, multiple), and we even go so far as to track down the research and check out its methodology and look for multiple supporting or non-supporting sources as the case may be. We're thorough.

At first, when I received unsolicited advice, I was like, "Oh! Maybe I'll learn something new!" But, I find that most of the time, unsolicited advice is for the benefit of the giver, not the receiver, and is often actually more of a judgment and demand rather than actual advice. :} It's truly bizarre. I don't think people even realize that they're doing it.

Examples of unsolicited advice/requests I've received that falls into these categories:
  • "Children shouldn't play video games." (I grew up on educational video games and am grateful for all my father taught me about computers because it's definitely made me a more capable person and an extremely valuable employee. Also, video games are a wonderful storytelling medium. I even wrote a huge report on several studies on video games and their impact on children while getting my BA, and the research all pointed to children developing more skills they can't or don't get elsewhere, including genuine teamwork skills far better than those developed in forced groups in school.)
  • A 3-page critique of our baby registry from someone I've only spoken to in person twice. (My husband, Jesse, and I noticed that after the critique was received that said person didn't even buy anything from the registry. I spent over a month creating that registry based on heavy research, really painful digging through reviews and options, and deep introspection about what would make our lives easier since we'll both be working and can't afford daycare and will be essentially handing off our baby to each other throughout the day. I even carefully evaluated what kinds of things we could "wing it" with and dug through our house to find out if we had alternatives or variations that would work. Even tried to keep prices low because I hoped that if other people wanted to help us out, it wouldn't be an insane request for help. The person who wrote this critique had no idea how much work went into it and never asked.)
  • Asking for our child to be named after someone we didn't know for most of our lives.
  • Telling me what vitamins and supplements to take through my husband.
  • EDIT (added this one as an after-thought because it's ridiculously common): The "I-bet-you-forgot-you-are-having-a-baby-and-it's-going-to-be-challenging" type of advice. Usually, this emerges when you're not talking about the baby but about yourself. In my case, it's been "Man, I'm looking forward to being able to walk around normally with my body after I'm done being pregnant," or "I'm looking forward to no longer having nausea," and just talking about concerns within your own body. People have this bizarre tendency to, instead of showing sympathy or empathy or just listening to you vent or sharing in your hope to return to having control over your own body, say things they clearly think are clever such as "Except you'll be walking around with a baby." :> Or, "Except then you'll have a puking baby." It always comes in as a smart comment like they think you've forgotten that will happen or never stopped to think about it. We didn't forget; we're not talking about that right now. And I think about it all the time. Of course, paired with these comments almost always comes some form of advice. Even if it's good advice, I have to say that (and this is just for me) if I'm not talking about the baby that's already consuming so much about my life already, I'm not really interested in talking about baby stuff right now. I wanted to talk about me. :} Talking about pregnancy symptoms isn't an opening for advice or talk about the baby. Even further removed is talking about things not related to the pregnancy at all and people still managing to use it as an opportunity to give advice.
Obviously, these are pretty intrusive examples and certainly aren't all of the ones we received. The advice I want to give for better interpersonal communication is this:

1.) Know your audience and know yourself. Do they actually need your advice? Is your advice just an opinion you want to thrust onto others? Will it be welcome? And, are you doing this for yourself or really for the other person? Be honest in this assessment. It's okay if you just want to chat about things, but take a step back and realize if you're creating a situation in which someone's options include agreeing with you or feeling uncomfortable because they disagree. Know if you're looking to feel needed versus if the other person really needs you.

2.) Depending on the relationship, it's probably better to wait to be asked for advice. And, if you are asked, only answer the question asked. Someone coming to you for advice should be honored by respecting that they only asked you about one thing. This is not the same as permission to open the floodgates and give them all of the advice that you've been holding back on giving. :} You may be eager to help, but refer back to #1.

3.) As written about so eloquently by Amanda Palmer in her book, be aware of the difference between an ask and a demand. If you're asking, that means "no" is an acceptable answer. I know some people think of a "no" as being rude, but it's actually a person's autonomous right. In my case, when I've been asked and said no it's because I didn't want to argue and I knew I didn't need the advice because I'd already done the research and hard work and made up my mind for myself. That's a healthy way to be, so I hope that instead of perceiving it as something rude that perhaps you can see it as healthy and have trust in whomever you wanted to give advice to. Of course, it's our responsibility on the receiving end to try and be nice about it. :}

4.) Check your information first. Just because you think something is true doesn't mean that it is, and blurting out something that isn't accurate creates more drama than it solves. Before you have a knee-jerk reaction to someone saying something about parenting/pregnancy and feel the need to "correct" them, or before you offer requested advice, think about the sources of where you've obtained your information. Is it up to date? Was it really true? What proof do you have? Have you really done the research? If it's only your experience, know that you're working with bias (and your needs may not be the same as the needs of the person you're giving advice to). And, if thinking about all of these things seems like too much for you, maybe it's better to refrain from giving advice? Maybe.

5.) This one applies to all communication styles, but I've gotten a lot more of it while pregnant and it's also a pet peeve of mine. Don't argue and then after you've spoken your mind claim that you don't want to argue to end the conversation, or even worse storm out on the person you're speaking to. Yikes. If you feel like you have to say something to someone, and you want to be truly heard, then the right thing to do is be willing to find out that you're wrong and be willing to listen to the other point of view of the person you're talking to. If you're not doing that, see #1 and #3. No one wants to listen to someone who isn't willing to listen to them, and behaving in this way is one of the most aggressive forms of ignorance I can think of. I have to say, when people use this "communication" tactic it appears that they are afraid of being proven wrong and are bailing to avoid that happening. It makes you look bad as well as making the person you were talking to feel bad. Strive for healthier communication! You can do it! I believe in you. :)

People aren't all bad, though! Which is a segue into my next thought about parenting communication.

Information is Quickly Outdated or Irrelevant

Even with the best of intentions with advice, parenting/pregnancy thoughts/ideas will quickly become outdated. This was a very recent revelation to me. Having been pregnant or actively being a parent does not give anyone the kind of credit that 10 years of software development gives a programmer. You don't graduate to have more experience. In fact, no one knows everything about pregnancy and parenting; let's establish that first. My being pregnant doesn't make me an expert on other people's pregnancy experiences, and someone else having been pregnant before doesn't make them an expert on mine. Not being pregnant or a parent also doesn't necessarily give you an "objective point of view." XD Knowing someone who is currently pregnant and getting advice from them hardly makes an expert either.

What am I saying here? No one is qualified to be giving advice on every topic. Even my doula uses an outdated book, though she is a great resource for most things and is currently going to school to relearn! (In fact, we're lucky because she's doing this for free as part of her education credits.) My midwife knows what she needs to know to be a great midwife, and the sonographer knows what they need to do for the ultrasounds, and the trainers for our classes knew what they wanted to talk about in class but didn't have outside information about other research (for example, our breastfeeding instructor had no information about babies crying because of REM cycles and the apparent need for mothers to be cautious about overfeeding). I think we should all be reasonably able to accept that no one knows everything, and that's okay! And, information you once thought was true and useful may become outdated within a decade or less. Even information that is still true needs to be treated with caution.

A great example is that two of my friends recommended that I get lanolin cream for my hospital bag  because I intend to breastfeed. I didn't know anything about lanolin, but I figured if two of my friends were recommending it then it merited researching and potentially adding to my list. There are still semi-recent studies that show lanolin is very helpful. However, the additional information I discovered through my own research was that lanolin can sometimes include pesticides. Even when it doesn't, it comes from sheep, and in my personal experience sheep can actually be pretty disgusting animals and though I'm sure it goes through some cleansing process it still sounded gross to me. With this lead-in from my friends, I could find more recent research that shows that breast milk itself and other alternatives are just as effective or more so than lanolin. This is great news, as it reduces potential risks to the baby. Obviously, lanolin worked just fine for my friends and their children are okay; nothing about this new information disputes their experience or invalidates their feelings about it. It's just that there's now new information that's available for me so that I can make my own informed choice. I'm going to avoid lanolin and try one of the alternatives.

Also, the experiences people have are not universal. Those who tell me it's important to have children be outside alone even as toddlers, for their development, don't seem to recognize that it's not an option where I live. All of the people who recommend this raised their children in places that had secured yards or farms, and they knew all of their neighbors. I don't have a secured yard, I live directly on a street where I've witnessed a few collisions from my window (and people speed all of the time even if they don't crash), and in this day and age I'd almost definitely get contacted by CPS. I'm not saying I want to coddle my child or be a "helicopter parent." (What a horrible, judgmental term, btw.) I'm just saying I have to do what's right for me and my situation. Of course, someone out there who might read this may be screaming internally that children must be watched at all times. Notice that these points of view are both opinions and not facts, which makes them even less relevant. Though I don't have any research within my grasp at the moment, I'm fairly sure it's safe to assess that these two different sets of children, raised differently, could still grow up to have just as happy and fulfilled lives as the other, just as children who are breastfed versus formula fed will all be okay. Love is probably the most important thing, I think. And even that is only an opinion! If you live in a war zone, that's obviously not going to be true for you!

I prefer to be optimistic and believe most people's intentions are good. :) Especially those with prior experiences of things they feel went well with their own children hope to pass that on to loved ones. And, they likewise hope to avoid things they felt were negative experiences. Once again, I think communication can be improved by not taking it personally if someone has a different perspective than you. In my case, I choose to honor many things that I perceived to be good experiences between my father and myself, or my in-laws and myself and their kids. At the same time, I also want to branch out and try new things with my husband, create our own traditions, and find out what works best for us and our child. After all, just because it works well for other people doesn't mean that it works well for everyone.

Not a Dichotomy, and Not Mutually Exclusive

Some people I know have a tendency to get butt-hurt over silly parenting/pregnancy things. In some cases it's data that's changed that they refuse to accept for reasons unknown to me, and in other cases it seems to be that they become defensive. In any case, the type of arguments about parenting/pregnancy that I'm talking about emerges usually because some expert source has supplied information to the masses and, based on personal experience (which can be very valid!) someone develops the notion that the two ideas are mutually exclusive or are a dichotomy. These are logic fallacies, and I encourage folks to take a step back and think about why they are getting so upset over these things . . . because most of it is really trivial.

One example: one of my friends rolled her eyes at me because I mentioned concern about blankets in a crib with a baby and SIDS. This is something that, if you're seeing a doctor/midwife about your pregnancy, using a pregnancy app, or reading any pregnancy books, you're going to get slammed with information about. In her experience, her baby was cold and wouldn't stop crying until he had a blanket. She felt, seemingly very strongly, that this meant that the SIDS concern about blankets was stupid. But, the two things aren't mutually exclusive! You can be aware that blankets can be a suffocation hazard and be aware that you need to keep your baby warm. My immediate thought was that with SIDS, they're concerned about loose blankets. Swaddling, therefore, would be safer if your baby needs to feel warm and safe. So, maybe that will work well for me since my baby is going to be born in winter. Her judgmental reaction was so off-putting, though, I just didn't say anything. :} I know that while she had a strong reaction, it doesn't mean she's going to be losing sleep judging me over that. That's not true of everyone, though, and this still creates a very negative communication experience.

As for dichotomies, some people treat information like light switches with two possible outcomes. With babies, parenting, and pregnancy, they seem to believe things are very simple. Either the research is right, or it's wrong. No room for middle-ground. No room for exceptions or confounding variables. What a scary way to live! I think it goes without saying that things are not true in every instance. There's usually exceptions to the rule, sometimes many exceptions to the rule. That doesn't make it invalid or not worth thinking about. It's a bad habit many people have about many things. It's infested our view of politics, bigotry/racism, and so many other hot issues in addition to all of the little ones. It's contagious because our brains like to have things simplified, but it doesn't make it right. In fact, it makes it harder to hear each other and understand what other people are saying if we try to think of everything in dichotomies. The nature versus nurture debate is the most obvious example! Why are there only two options given? Why are they considered opposites from each other? It's a non-argument; you can't have one without the other, and it implies that only two options for perceiving parenting. If you're thinking in dichotomies, I encourage you to question that line of thinking because the dichotomy you're visualizing is probably a fabricated construct.

Gender Language

Last, but definitely not least! Although you might think this is about over-gendering babies, I actually think people worry too much about that (I never wanted to look like Barbie, but I loved Barbie dolls; I loved looking in magazines but never felt the need to look like or be like the girls in magazines; there are plenty of strong women in video games and have been for a long time. If you didn't find them, you're not trying.). I'm actually talking about how fathers are treated.

My husband was very lucky, along with his brothers, to have his father as a stay-at-home parent. His mother was the breadwinner in his family, and it sounded challenging as there were few fathers during that time period doing what he was doing. Today, I would argue that more fathers are involved in some way or another with parenting. More fathers have access to information they didn't have access to before. Yet, in literature (even literature received from our birthing classes and community programs), they write about fathers in a demeaning way. The writing implies that men are inherently stupid about parenting and need help every step of the way to bond with their child. Obviously, it's challenging. A mother can breastfeed and a father can't, for example. But it's upsetting that fathers are treated as outside people instead of equal partners in parenting.

Each parenting relationship with children is going to be unique and different. My thought here is that we just need to change the narrative to be less presumptive. The narrative where mothers inherently love their children and are giving and fathers have to be taught how to be emotionally available and not kill their children because of goofing off and being irresponsible and silly. This narrative is dangerous. My biological mother never loved me; she was abusive and horrible. I went to various resources for help (a school counselor, the police, and a community program receptionist for abused children), and because she was a mother, all of them laughed in my face or couldn't believe she would do the awful things that she did. Ironically, my mother-in-law who is very sweet was accused of abuse because she rushed her boys to the hospital when they were hurt. :p Argh. Anyway, if anything was perceived to be wrong with me, it was assumed it was my father's fault, but he was the good parent. Even after long days of working hard, he'd stay up to make extra time for me. He was the one who read with me. He was the one who wrote educational programs to help me with areas I was struggling with in school. He was the one who made sure I had things that I needed and noticed my love of music and encouraged me to pursue it by buying me instruments and showing me midis. I spent a ridiculous amount of time correcting people about their assumptions in regard to my family.

Of course, gender can't be treated by individual experiences either. On this topic, I feel an increasing importance in making no assumptions about either gender and keeping that in mind with literature for forthcoming parents.

I'd also like to see more inclusive options available for fathers. There are many online baby groups and apps, but the weirdest thing about them to me is that there's no option to sign up as a couple. I can do that for my shopping list app; why can't I do that with the father of my child? Why can't we both receive information about our growing baby on a regular basis? Why are men not allowed onto the forum with women so that they can understand concerns about pregnancy and how to support their partners better? Or, maybe your partner isn't a man. At any rate, the partner should be included in some way and have the same access and ability to share accounts and experiences and polling, and right now it's geared toward the mothers only. Yet, there is a lot of literature that talks about the exclusion of fathers/partners. Let's stop talking about it and do something to fix it!

Alright. That's all of my thoughts on that. I think everyone has to make the best decisions for themselves and I dream of inclusiveness. I know people want to support each other, and sometimes we're just misguided in our efforts. I know I have been myself, so I certainly don't blame anyone else. It's tough. Hopefully this blog will help someone think about communicating differently and maybe even improve your relationships with others. It's important to be honest and open as well as respectful.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Music Production Laptop

I know, I know. I'm not writing blogs as often as I'd planned. I have to admit, when I made up my mind to work on music I thought it would happen a lot faster, as it did when I was in high school. Back then, I really maximized my resources and was fine with the little bit that I had. Now, my imagination is pretty grand and I find it difficult to put my music out into the world when I know it could sound better. So, I've been struggling in a familiar place of wanting to make something, but being stuck needing money to create my dream, and ironically the means I have to make money leaves me with very limited creativity time. Heck, even with working from home, it leaves me with very little time, period! But, I have a good job, a wonderful family, and a few nice supporters. :) Yay!

So, as long as I move forward slowly, that's still progress. I remind myself daily that no one starts where they end up, and that's okay.

I also had a problem where the nice old production computer my big bro gave me suddenly died and wouldn't wake back up. EEK! But, playing with it taught me a lot about what I really wanted in a music production computer. I need portability, so I can record in places with different acoustics and not have to move giant instruments to the computer; I could bring the computer to them. And, likewise, I could bring a laptop to other artists for collaboration.

So, I saved up, sacrificed some things, and found a laptop that while not advertised as being for music seems perfect. On December 24th, I finally acquired my music laptop! Even better, it's very equipped for making music videos, so that's something I will try to accomplish in the future. Huzzah! One milestone reached!

Sadly, my DAW is another $500-$525 (depending on where I can purchase it from). Right now, I have $270 saved up toward that objective, so we're well on the way! In the meantime, since my laptop is more portable, I'll hopefully be able to carry it around and work on notating my music in MuseScore on the go instead of just when I'm not exhausted and still have a moment in my office. This is nice because it will allow me to move to my piano, or hang out with my family in another room while they do other things, and so on. For me, this is a pretty huge achievement. The best part? It cost less than the desktop computer I had been looking into getting originally. Like, nearly $1000 less. Yowza!

Therefore, while there are no new stories, art, or music posted right now, I am still progressing in the right direction behind the scenes. :) Thanks to those who have supported me thus far. We will keep on trucking along! Never give up! =^--^=

--Jessica / Dream Senshi

P.S. Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

"Baseball Cap" by Jesse T. Jones

"Baseball Cap" 

By: Jesse T. Jones

WARNING: This poem is not G/PG-rated. Parents/authority figures, please read through the poem to determine if it is appropriate for your child/dependent/person-you-are-currently-responsible-for before sharing it with them. Thanks!


This is my baseball cap, I got it from my dad
This is my baseball cap; it's blue, white, and red
This is my baseball cap, I got it when I was ten
I wore it all the time, back then

This is my baseball cap, I wore it at eleven
I wore it when we won, fourteen to seven
This is my baseball cap, I wore it at twelve
I wore it with my friends, laughing at ourselves

This is my baseball cap, I wore it at one and three
I wore it as I climbed grandpa's apple tree
This is my baseball cap, I wore it at one and four
I wore it while I worked at the grocery store

This is my baseball cap, I wore it at one and five
I wore it every day, when I was still alive
This is my baseball cap, I wear it as I'm dead
I wore it when I put the bullet through my head.



This is a poem which was written by my husband, perhaps to be put into a collection of short stories and poems we have written at a later date. If you enjoy this, or things we've done like it, please consider being a patron at http://www.patreon.com/dreamsenshi . Patreon allows fans to help artists create more by donating a small amount each time an artist creates something. :) You control how much you pay entirely! Donate as little as $1 a month, reap behind-the-scenes and other benefits from your favorite artists! Check it out, even if you don't want to be our patron. Perhaps there's someone else out there you can be supporting. :)

Hope this poem gave you feels. Happy Halloween!


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Call Centers - Abuse

This is going to be a serious conversation, folks. If you're here for the fluffy kitties or music, then I'm sorry. I need to say this, and it's dark enough that I don't really care to put it to song at this time. We're going to talk about violence.

I work in a call center. I'm the dreaded person you have to call to when you need help with your issues. I do it because I genuinely enjoy helping people. Whenever people ask me about what I do for a living, I immediately feel the need to apologize because . . . let's be honest: who enjoys calling in to call centers? And it's a double-whammy for me because I work in insurance; most people hate insurance too. I think just about everyone has negative connotations with customer service because we can all think of a time when we've had bad customer service.

The problem is  . . . we feel like it's our right be angry. Okay, sure, it's natural to be upset when we are violated in some way, and emotions are hard to deal with. I definitely don't think people should try to ignore or suppress their feelings. We have to figure out how to resolve them, and that can only be done by being aware of them and facing them.

I think we can all agree that someone walking into an office building with a shotgun to threaten the receptionist to get to whom they want to see is a wrong way to resolve feeling upset. That actually happened at a former place of business I worked at a call center for; the result was that we were no longer allowed to give out addresses or even the city we were in, and we were told to lie about the weather outside because we didn't have the resources to protect us at our call center. Isn't that nuts? We've also had to have security guards on alert because of very serious death threats and other violence that people said they would come to the office to commit. And, some of said people have actually come to the office, so these are not empty threats.

Physical violence is something that we know to be extreme and not okay. Self-defense is one thing; attacking people is another. I think we can also agree that attacking people physically is not productive. If the person can fight you back, then your attack is futile. If they can't, you're a bully and that person isn't more likely to do what you want or to have "learned their lesson." They will just be violated by you. If your end goal is anything honorable, it should be to have an issue resolved so that you are no longer violated. Obviously, violence won't resolve your issue, though some people make believe that revenge is justice. It isn't. It's just revenge and makes you worse than the people you've hurt. And, those people that get physically hurt aren't always in power to help you stop being violated anyway.

Let me allow you in to a secret: in customer service, I would love to always tell you the answer that you want to hear. That would make you happy, which means that I can feel good about my job and knowing that I made you happy. But, I can't always do that. We have rules we have to go by, like in every other job. And, before you say, "That's why I ask for a supervisor," our supervisors have rules too. We have to obey government and state laws that govern our workplace, the work itself, and rules laid out by everyone above us. And no, you can't talk to the CEO. Does the CEO at your job take calls? No? I didn't think so.

Okay. So, why do people think it's okay to use emotional violence?

I hope that anyone who has read this far really stops to think about this. People know it's bad for children; how many people aren't aware of the uproar on MySpace or Facebook when a child or teen commits suicide? This type of violence is also called psychological, mental, or emotional abuse.

We, as a society, seem to think it's okay to use verbal/emotional abuse to get what we want or to let off steam. It is NOT. It is the same as physical violence (I have littered some links to studies throughout this blog; read or google your own, but be aware of the consequences of actions). Because it is less tangible, we struggle to regulate it. This is in combination with the cultural thing where feeling hurt and emotional because of being abused is somehow unacceptable. People are even cowed into believing that they can't allow their bad feelings of being hurt by emotional abuse be a "burden" to friends and family who could listen and help them heal. And, if you think that I'm overreacting because I just work in a call center, I was physically abused growing up for years . . . and trust me, I went to the police and I went to school counselors all to no avail. This is a real problem. One of them didn't even want to discuss it, it made her so uncomfortable. Even the man I married struggled with this at first, and he loves me. People are uncomfortable dealing with these kinds of feelings or hurt and are even less comfortable committing to assisting with them because it is difficult to prove. So, people can get away with a lot of emotional abuse; that doesn't make it okay. Also, it's very upsetting that the rules favor the customers when it comes to emotional abuse; customers can abuse all they like, and that's supposed to be part of one's job. Even the research on abuse in the workplace is focused on co-workers and supervisors, but not customer abuse. Because of this, there is higher awareness within organizations, but customers tend to feel like they are always right and are not responsible, no matter how badly they behave.

At my first job in a call center, no matter what kind of emotional abuse we endured, we were not allowed to hang up. I'm sure some people reading this are already trying to justify that in their minds. "Oh, but most of your calls aren't that bad," and "We all  have rough times at work." The fact that we accept this culture is the problem. And, there is no justifying it. It is persistent over time, and it hurts. Do you know that I literally stayed on the line with people for 4 hours at a time, sometimes 2 hours after my shift was supposed to have ended, being emotionally abused? Granted, that wasn't every day, but it was regular. Unsurprisingly, I didn't feel bad when I left that job.

Today, my work is far more reasonable, but the emotional abuse is still there and it is regular. I'm there to help, and I will do everything that the rules allow for me to do. I will even challenge rules I think are bad and risk my professional reputation because I believe it is the right thing to do. I take my responsibility to be respectful seriously; I don't want to be an abuser either and I know it doesn't help. I know that most people in customer service don't take everything that seriously; trust me, that's frustrating to me too. They make it harder for me to help people who are relying on us. And, like all slackers, they make our supervisors and supervisor's supervisors create rules that are obstacles for the folks who are genuinely trying to do good work. But the thing that kills me inside daily, makes me sparkle a little bit less, that makes others resentful and give up on trying to be good employees, are the emotional abusers. The people who call in and think that it's okay to yell and scream, ask tasks that they know are impossible, or refuse to help the customer service representative to help them and then act indignant about it. And, it's not just our civilian customers. In fact, other professionals tend to be the worst. :( It's really upsetting.

No one is perfect. We all make mistakes. And, I'll even give kudos to the person who calls me up and vents and says, "I'm sorry. I know it's not you specifically, but I'm just so angry about the situation!" Hey! You have a right to be angry, and I appreciate that while I'm there to take on the onslaught, you took the moment to realize that I'm a human being with feelings. To the person who calls up to do nothing more than be a bully, though . . .STOP. I think so many people justify it as, "I'm calling in to fix my problem that you jerks messed up, so you deserve what you get," and then they go on to allow nothing the other person tries to do to help them to be good enough and are abusive the whole way.

And, this emotional abuse really does hurt! We don't talk about it in the office because, again as a sickness in our culture, we think it's "not professional" to have feelings. That is . . . so messed up on so many levels that I don't even know what to say about that aspect of it yet. But, I have seen people get off a call where you could hear the person on the other line across the ROOM yelling at them, and they go to the bathroom in tears to try and hide their pain and suffering while they do what they can to recover, scared to return to the phone and be abused again. Multiple people. They never say a word, but they suffer. I don't tell others, either, for that matter, because I'm scared of losing my job or having people think less of me, like they did with my other abuse. And guess what? They aren't any better at their job afterward, bullies. If anything, they're worse because they are shaken up. If you don't want us to screw up, then stop creating a hostile work environment! No one works well under those conditions. Even worse, some of those people feel the poison of that emotional abuse and take it home with them. They bottle it up to keep their families safe, but the hurt just festers and festers. Sometimes, despite best efforts, it spreads, and that's the worst. :( Or, good people just quit. I've thought about it recently. In fact, I almost called my supervisor this morning because I was in tears. Thankfully, it came at the time of my first break so I had time to talk to my husband and calm down.

Go out there and look up psychology studies. Nothing supports this kind of behavior for conflict resolution. If you are emotionally abusing anyone, you are just as bad as the person who threatens to come in with a shotgun. Acts of emotional terrorism are not okay. They don't make you cool. They don't make you tough and more empowered; it rarely changes anything except for riling other people up to behave just like you and create more acts of emotional terrorism or break people down so that they're not functional anymore. We do have to stand up against being violated, but that isn't the way to do it.

I know it isn't easy, especially with movies promoting the notion that this kind of "justice" is amusing and cool. All that I can ask is for everyone to stop and think. Before you yell at your kids, your co-workers, your employees, or your loved ones . . . before you say something negative of any kind, think about the repercussions. Think about how you could do it more productively. Work at it; it's not easy. I've struggled too. When people don't listen, it makes it hard and it's easy to feel like the only option left is violence, physical or emotional. There's no real resolution in that, though. And, if something isn't working, the only thing to do is find another way. For every person, that other way might be different, but I encourage you to find it.

There are things I could personally request of our customers that I think I would be perfectly justified in asking (and I'd love to blog some things to help folks understand more about what we do), but all that I am going to ask for is the most important thing: Please, recognize that emotional abuse isn't okay. Realize what a monster it turns people into. Stop accepting it. And, if you have any suggestions about promoting this change, then put them in the comments!! Let's share the thoughts, ideas, and support, and spread them! That's all I'm asking for.


Friday, August 23, 2013

"Believe" - MuseScore Draft

So, last month I had been planning on drawing and/or writing stories on here as filler. Then, I had some mental breakthroughs . . . I got courage, and I started working harder. My big brother gave me his old music production computer until I can afford the one I've been dreaming of. This all really changed everything!

In the past few weeks, I started plowing through the software on my brother's computer, getting familiar with it and wanting to record directly from my keyboard. What I discovered is that isn't really my style. At least, not until I have my music notated. I know many people I admire do it entirely the opposite way; they play it, record it, and worry about sheet music later. Quite likely because I am playing all of the parts myself right now, my mind can't contain it until it's notated. So, I chose the instruments (roughly) that I want to use in the fancy software on the old production computer, and then I've spent all of my time cramming in MuseScore, my favorite notation software (it's free and SO fast and easy to use). I was amazed! Once I knew what I wanted to hear from the fancy instruments (although, I may change my mind about them . . . there's so many options!! GAH!), between that and hearing the song in my head, it spilled out so easily. And so, I have the rough midi draft of "Believe" available below.

I was going to start with a different song, one that I was sure would be very well-received, but this one was insistent. I heard it every time I woke up, as I was falling asleep, in the shower . . . It demanded to go first. :} So, it shall. I hope you like it! And, though I am scared of it, bring on the constructive criticism. * hides behind a boulder * Although, I'm going to say before you can, yes I know the sound isn't leveled. I left this intentionally rough because when I port it over, I'd just have to redo all of the work again. So, meh. BUT, that being said, any ideas on what needs more or less would be good. I'm considering taking down the percussion during the chorus a notch, but we'll see.

I hope you listen all the way through and check out the lyrics! For your convenience, I have also added them below.

So, if you like this as a midi, please consider becoming a patron for me at Patreon. You'll get a free copy of the official song once it's released as well as more secret background information about it if you're a patron! And, being a patron doesn't have to cost much at all. You can be a patron for $1 for each piece I create or less (you set the max you are willing to pay per month!). So, check out my patreon account here: http://www.patreon.com/dreamsenshi

Believe by Dreamsenshi



"Believe" lyrics:

It's alarming how while
I had meant to feel nothing at all . . .
I give you all I can.
I don't know what to do . . .

Do you harm or beguile?
I shouldn't think on things so small . . .
It's not part of my plan,
or all I thought I knew.

Because I've learned not to believe
in faerie tales.
Who are you to come and undo
all the pain that I've gone through?

If I try to believe,
you will break my heart . . .
So, I'll just imagine . . .

. . . Your disarming smile.
You make me the belle of the ball.
Not ashamed of who I am.
It's too good to be true . . .

Because I've learned not to believe
in faerie tales.
Who are you to come and undo
all the pain that I've gone through?

If I start to believe,
you will break my heart.
So, I'll just ignore . . . that . . .

I know I can't stay,
even if danger weren't in the way.
I just wish this dream could be
forever.

It's charming and futile.
I fear I . . .am starting to fall . . .
Moth to the flame of this man.
My heart beats only for you.

Because I long to believe
in faerie tales.
I want to be free and undo
all the pain that I've gone through.

I need to believe
you will hold on to my heart . . .
 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Music Computer

As anyone who has been reading my last few blogs probably knows, I've been saving up to get a music production computer so that I can record my music and finally get it going. I've been posting stories in the meantime, but they really aren't primarily what I want to do (even though I love them!). So, I had reached out to my brother to actually apologize for being stupidly busy and not spending time with him more often in the past year. :( I felt bad, because my big bro is a really great guy. After explaining to him what's going on with Terinati and I, he responded back excitedly about his own music projects and that he had an old music production computer I could  use until I can afford the one I'm saving up for! :D

So, Mike came over yesterday and we set up the old computer, and it's amazing-sauce. Seriously. I can't believe how awesome things sound on that machine, even with cheap $10 speakers. I've got some work to do now. =^--^= I am one lucky kid sister! This couldn't have happened at a better time because on my personal computer, the hard drive is going . . . which means I will more than likely need to replace that before I can afford the new production computer. 

The good news is, MUSIC SOON! Sooner than would have been possible otherwise. I'm really going to work hard to get some demos so you guys can see why you'd want to be a patron of mine (if you're not a patron already). Also, I will have to show you some of my brother's work, because in my humble opinion, he is far more talented than myself and deserves to be heard. :) Maybe we'll even make music together (that would be one of the greatest things ever, I think). Only time will tell though.

There's a lot of work ahead of me, to be sure, but this knocks out a big obstacle. I do have a goal list, but it is quite long and complicated, so I don't think you'd be interested in that. :} I will keep you posted so that you know I haven't fallen off the face of the earth! I'm so pumped right now. Every time I woke up last night, I had songs in my head . . . and they finally have a really good place to go. SQUEEE!

SOON!! =^00^=

Monday, July 29, 2013

"Everybody Dies"

The following is a mock children's book. If you enjoy it and would like to see more things like it, or more things like this, please consider becoming a patron at http://www.patreon.com/dreamsenshi .


"Everybody Dies"

Written by Jesse T. Jones

Illustrated by Jessica P. Jones



PARENTAL WARNING: Not intended for use with small children or impressionable adults. For entertainment purposes only.








There's something I'm going to share with you










That I've come to realize










No matter where, or when, or who you are,










Everybody dies.








Your favorite musician








Is likely very close










To dying of something terrible











Like suicide, or overdose.










If you have a hamster,












Or a kitty or a pup,












Some day they will play dead,











And never get back up.









Your grandma and your grandpa










Could bite it any day











So tell them that you love them



Before they go away.









Every time your parents drive










While talking on their phone











They raise their chances even higher











Of leaving you alone.











At any time, night or day,












Anyone can die









From burglars, terrorists, and nasty storms










Or possibly things falling from the sky.












So before you go to bed tonight, know that this is true:











Every person must die some time; tonight it might be you.




--

If you enjoyed this children's book parody written by Terinati and DreamSenshi, please consider being a patron here: http://www.patreon.com/dreamsenshi

You can also purchase a PDF or book of this story as a gift for yourself or someone else on Blurb.com here: http://www.blurb.com/user/store/Dreamsenshi





Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Self-Doubt and Poop Cakes

There are so many things that I've considered writing about in my blog lately!

First, I had a major breakthrough about my perceptions of things. I think most people know that it's bad to live life feeling obligated to follow the philosophies of others. We need to do what's right for ourselves. What is less obvious (or at least was less obvious to me) was that I could create my own obligations built entirely on fear of the potential reactions of people without even knowing what their actual philosophies are. For example, now that I own my own house and there's so much repair and cleaning up that it needs, I was constantly feeling inadequate because we don't have the funds  or the time to do the repairs or the gardening. I had been feeling miserable because of hundreds of things circulating in my mind like this, so getting out of that trap was beautiful. I'm me! My house isn't perfect and I'm a bit sloppy! But, I'm also a cute kitty! YAY! =^..^=

It was so beautiful that I wanted to create more! Share more! I went on a mission to go through my old things, apparently dated all the way back to the 1990's, pulling out old songs and poetry and stories. I was feeling especially secure after posting my last blog didn't kill me, and because I checked and saw the crazy high number of views I had on this blog (clearly, I should write about nothing but ninja crafts to have a successful blog). In searching, I found some real forgotten treasures from my past self. But then . . . I also found a LOT of really bad stuff.

Most of these things were never meant to be shared. I didn't even actually like them myself, but I created them as a form of catharsis. They helped me to feel better; I could probably have ignored them, but there was more.

The worst were the things I thought were "okay" at the time of their creation, but really were like a brick to the face of anyone who experienced them. At least, that's how it seems in retrospect. Back then, I felt so invisible and had a dark problem I couldn't tell anyone about for reasons that would make this blog too long if I explained them. Essentially, this recipe of my life created a situation where I was desperate to express myself and be heard, but couldn't be honest. This recipe makes poop cakes out of everything, and that's how I'm going to refer to those pieces of work going forward. :} They are so bad that they are poop cakes.

Those works did not come out like real music or a good story. Good music and stories are magic, or miracles. They take something ordinary and change it into something that can be felt in an entirely intuitive way by hundreds, thousands, and maybe even millions of people, if you're lucky. What I had put together was basically an emotional catapult full of ammunition instead of inspiration. It was harsh, immature, and annoying. It was a catapult full of poop cakes.


So, after that humbling and nausea-inducing experience, I went back timidly to work on the stuff I did like . . . and now I find myself questioning everything. "Is this actually good?" "How could I possibly expect people to pay for this?" "I used to have a wealth of experience, but it's been a decade since I worked seriously, even though I've worked. I'm mediocre. A fraud! These are all poop cakes!" "I don't even have a music production computer yet! When I finally save up enough money, what if I'm too stupid to use it?!" "I should get lessons! I can't afford college again. From who? From where? WHY DO THESE WEBSITES SUCK SO BAD?! I NEED THE RIGHT KIND OF LESSONS NOW SO I CAN STOP SUCKING SO MUCH!!" . . .

. . . I've been a tad stressed out over this. :} To compound this, I'm very introverted, which means I've got an extremely limited support group. My husband has been here for me as much of possible, of course.

Then, today, something happened and kind of brought me back down to earth. I'm not sure why it helped calm me down. I think because it was simple. I wrote a quick little story about it, so here it is:

Me: [feeling queasy, having gotten my first patron on Patreon. Moving along with my songwriting/story-writing, but still feeling like it isn't even worth the generosity of this one patron. Having an introversion panic attack and needing fresh air in the office – opens the window for break.]

10 minutes later . . .

Me: [goes to close window before end of break and a relatively larger-than-average, black spider falls off of the top of the window into the little window slot at the bottom] “AHHH!”

Black spider: “AHHH!”

Me: [staring] “. . .”

Black spider: [wiggling its… head or butt at me; it’s unclear when they’re that small, though it was obviously shaking SOMETHING at me.] “. . .”

Me: “Okay, well. Do you want back out?” [starts to open the window again]

Black spider: “AHHHHHHHHHHHH!” [starts climbing to where it will get killed by the window if I keep going.]

Me: [stops opening the window, and closes it again] “Okay. I’ve got to get back to work. We good until then?”

Black spider: “eep?” [settles down on the window.]

Me: “Cool . . . Watch out for the cats.”

Black spider:   .,;00;,.

I'm not sure what it was exactly, but somehow . . . this very tiny bonding experience with this spider I may never see again really lifted my spirits. I know, it has no direct relationship with my talent or my skill level whatsoever, but I think that's the thing. I needed to stop thinking about it so much for a moment, and the weird little guy (or girl?) gave me that.

Sometimes, I'm afraid to say how afraid I am. Self-doubt is seen as weakness, and negative people tend latch onto it as a way to validate that they are better than you. But, I want to be honest. I don't know if I'm good enough. I believe that I can be, but it's horrifying. As much as music is a miracle to me, like wielding real magic, that's a huge responsibility! If I don't do it well, then I feel like I'll disappoint people who are putting their faith in me. But, the way I felt when I was talking to the spider, considering its feelings . . . that sharing moment is what I feel like my music is really about. I don't really connect with people well, so music and stories are my way to reach out and put my love in the world. I'm going to keep trying! On the up side, I've heard people say that you can't be brave if the thing you're trying to do is easy. :}

So, there's another milestone on this crazy journey.

SIDE NOTE: I am managing to get work done toward another story/song/video release in the near future, probably later this month, so I'm not just panicking. :} LOL. I am managing to get some stuff done. And, if you're interested in being a patron of mine because of what you've read so far, you can support me here: http://www.patreon.com/dreamsenshi . I will do my best not to present you with any poop cakes.


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

"Goodbye, Kitten"

I have to resist the urge now to tell you all of the background on this story, even though I really want to, because I promised to save that for my patrons. :} It's so hard! Despite being introverted, once I open up, I do tend to over-share. At any rate, as promised, here is a story. I'm not putting it on Blurb; I figure that I will collect several of my short stories about cats (amongst other things) and put them into one small book of short stories on Blurb that can be purchased upon completion, with illustrations I will do myself. I am also considering composing instrumental music for the stories I write which I can then read to on YouTube. Let me know in the comments if you think that's a good idea! If not, say that too. :) I want honest opinions. I will say that I wrote this short story in 1999, so it is quite old. I make no claims to be a great wielder of words like Peter S. Beagle, but a mere sharer of dreams and feelings.

Before you read, I also want to mention that if you like it, please tell your friends about what I do or subscribe to my blog . . . and then make your friends subscribe too. ;) It has an RSS feed, so you can just add it to yours if you have one. Love RSS feeds. Since Google's Reader is going away, I highly recommend FeedDemon, which is free.

Or, if you really like it and want to help me to create more, please consider becoming a Patron on my Patreon account here: http://www.patreon.com/dreamsenshi . I don't create as much as many others on Patreon do, but I plan to do more. Plus, you can get bonus content! =^..^= And, even the tiniest offering helps. Right now, I'm desperately trying to save up money for a music production computer and am facing the fact that my current computer may have had too much corruption due to overheating and may need a replacement soon as well. D: I'll keep working my butt off toward these ends regardless and keep posting stories for free on my blog as well as other art and music as I go along. And, if money isn't an option for you (I totally get that! I am in the same boat!), then support in the comments is also a huge help because it shows me what you like or don't like and will make for good positive reinforcement in my efforts to share what I have to give with you. =^--^= Hooray for classical conditioning!

Alright! Enough blah blah blah! Here it goes! This story is PG, if you're wondering.




"Goodbye Kitten"

(A story for Penelope)

By: Jessica P. Jones / DreamSenshi

I'm going to die, Mimi thought as she dragged her offering across the floor toward Synthia's bed. The dove hung limply in her jaws with only a few feathers plucked away. So soon. Why so soon? She took a short leap up to the bed and put the bird to rest on a pillow. Carefully, she reached out a paw to fix the placement of the corpse. This is for you, Synthia. Maybe you can forgive me. She curled up on the foot of the bed, legs too wobbly and tired from jumping up to go back down. Her tail swung to wrap around her frail, grey furry body and she placed one paw gracefully over one eye, perhaps in her last pose this life.

As Mimi's soul became distant from the world, all her memories started to come back to her . . .

*                                       *                                       *

Synthia was a girl of about six years when she first met Mimi. Two boys from down the street traded the bright little kitten in a box for two classic baseball cards.The little blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl had never been so full of smiles. She ran home with her box to show her parents.

Despite all the past arguments of having a new kitten in the home while Synthia still had her aged cat, they instantly fell in love with the big green eyes and bold personality Mimi had to offer. The kitten strutted around her new home, not interested in a personal life with anyone else. She admired herself in mirrors whenever she had the chance and enjoyed being brushed by the mother of the household.

But no matter what Synthia tried to do to impress her, Mimi was not interested in her.

"Cmon, Mimi! Play in the nice building I made for you! It's your own little house. D'you like it?" Synthia waited eagerly to see her new kitten's reaction.

"Mew?" Mimi barely gave it a sniff. What a waste of my time. I have better things to do than play with this filthy child. She will only muss my fur.

Certain that the kitten would enjoy the cozy, cat-nip-filled cardboard box with cut-out windows, the girl reached for the small, grey fluff ball. "Please come here, Mimi."

But the kitten was too insulted by the child's efforts. She swatted at Synthia with her claws, folding her ears back and hissing before running off to hide inside her scratching post tower.

*                                       *                                       *

Why did I treat her that way? I should have played with her. All that time I wasted, thinking only of myself, when she was always thinking of me. Mimi opened her eyes again when she heard the door to the bedroom open. Synthia, now twenty, walked in with her purse swinging at her side and her boyfriend close behind her.

At first, Synthia did not notice the cat on the end of her bed. When she saw the dead bird resting on her favorite pillow, she gasped and dropped her stack of books. Her boyfriend raised an eyebrow and made a disgusted noise.

"Oh! What is this? Some kind of sign? Did Mimi do this? She never left these around for anyone else to find. She always kept them to herself," Synthia commented as she drew closer to the bed.

Her boyfriend blinked. "Mimi? Who's Mimi?"

"My, um, my father's cat. I had to leave her here after I started college. But she never has done anything like this. At the same time, it's hard to believe a dove got in here and just died on my bed."

A smile crossed his face. "Really? I could have never been without my cat. She's such a sweetie.She always leaves mice in the closet. Some people say it's a cat's way of showing affection to its owner."

Synthia blinked. "Sign of affection? How silly. Cats don't love people."

You're wrong, Synthia! You're so wrong. But, it's my fault. I made you think it works that way. You don't really believe that, do you? I tried so hard to change your mind. Mimi lifted her head slightly, but found it too heavy and lied back down as another memory overwhelmed her thoughts.

 *                                       *                                       *

"Miaow! Mrrrrow!" Mimi was full grown now, and Synthia was fifteen. After Synthia's brother moved out and the girl's mother was forced to leave because of the divorce and the father of the house was always at work, the feline found herself lonely. She twined and danced between Synthia's legs while the teen worked at the computer, attempting to lure her with a dulcet purr.

The teen reached to gently push Mimi away. "I'm busy now, Mimi. I have to finish this report."

"Meeeeeow!"

Synthia rolled her eyes and turned from her work. "Look, you didn't want my attention before. Why d'you want it now? Are you hungry again? I just fed you five minutes ago. I've changed your box three times today. You don't care if we spend quality time together because you're just a cat. You didn't even care when my other cat died. You know, she took care of you." Swirling around in her chair, she went back to work without another thought.

Mimi's ears folded back and she mewed silently again. Is that what you think of me? That I don't care? Hmph. Of course I care! "Mew?" Synthia? Please talk to me. I made a mistake. "MROW!" Synthia!

"Shh! I've got to finish this. Go torture someone else, Mimi."

  *                                       *                                       *

A soft mew broke the silence and Synthia turned to see the weak shadow of a feisty creature she used to know. Her blue eyes widened and she sat on the edge of the bed. "Mimi? You asleep?" She reached out a shaking hand to touch the soft, unkempt fur. Please don't be dead, kitty. Please.

The boyfriend stood back, watching silently. 

As the gentle fingers caressed Mimi's slowly rising stomach, the cat opened her eyes and peeked out of under her paw to look up at her girl. "Mew." Synthia! It's so good to see you now. She gently bumped her forehead against Synthia's hand.

Synthia sighed in relief. "Mimi! You had me scared there. You don't look very good. Maybe I should call Papa in to take a look at you. This isn't like you at all."

The feline's burning green eyes looked toward the pillow in a suggestive way. The dove is for you. I heard humans say a dove is a symbol for love. She purred softly, then closed her eyes again, resting her head on her girl's hand.

Grinning, Synthia reached out to stroke Mimi's back with her free hand. "So, you did do this for me? You really musn't be well."

Her boyfriend stepped up, hands in his pockets. "Not to be insulting, but your cat looks like she's near death."

"What?"

"Look at her. She must be very, very old. This uncommon behavior is surely a sign of affection, but it is also a sign of change. Didn't your old cat do something along the same lines before she died?"

Synthia bit her lower lip, leaning closer to her cat. "Mimi, you're not leaving us, right? There's so much I have to show you now, if you care to see."

No response. The purring had stopped.

"Mimi?" The woman's face went pale. The feline was barely breathing. "You are, aren't you?"

I'm sorry . . .

"I'm sorry . . . I'll be right outside?" As she nodded to him, he quickly stepped out, leaving the two alone.

Taking paw in hand, Synthia lied down on the bed to be closer to her friend. "I'm sorry I left you behind. You should be angry with me. I held that stupid grudge. Isn't this silly, Mimi? Look how sentimental I'm getting. You're just a cat." She had to stop and think. "Right?"

Mimi was pleased. She knew she was not just a cat anymore. Finally content, she could die. Goodbye, Synthia. Maybe we'll meet again in another life. Don't let the mice take over after I'm gone. She nuzzled the hand one more time before striking her final pose with her head resting gently on Synthia's knee.

Slowly, tears began to come like the beginning of an awful storm; slow at first, then flooding. "Mimi, I love you. I know you know what I feel. That's something special about cats that human relationships never have. We can trust our emotions together." She had to pause to catch her breath. "I'll never forget you."

After a moment of silence, the rising and falling of the grey fur stopped and Mimi became very still.

Synthia sobbed, then leaned close to whisper into the pointed ears. "Goodbye, Kitten."



----

If you liked this story, please consider being a patron of mine so I can keep creating and improving and giving:  http://www.patreon.com/dreamsenshi