If you’re looking for a charity to donate to, I’ve included links to the donation pages of the charities listed under each category. Most of these originally were posted as part of my 2016 holiday wishlist. Abuse and Sexual Assault 1in6 National Coalition Against Domestic Violence RAINN Animal Rights ASPCA Antisemitism ADL Capital Punishment National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty Civil Liberties ACLU Disability Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund Environment/Science Clinton Foundation EarthJustice GreenPeace NRDC Union of Concerned Scientists Human Rights Human Rights Watch USA for UNHCR Women’s Refugee Commission Islamophobia CAIR Journalism ProPublica RSF LGBTQ Human Rights Campaign Lambda Legal SPLC Trevor Project Poverty Alabama Arise Clinton Foundation Racism Black Lives Matter Mexican American Legal Defense Fund NAACP and its Legal Defense Fund SPLC Reproductive Rights/Feminism Center for Reproductive Rights Clinton Foundation EMILY’s List Guttmacher NARAL National Abortion Federation National Organization for Women Planned Parenthood She Should Run Women’s Refugee Commission If you have any suggestions for this list, please let me know.

Charitable Shortcuts

The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts: Murder and Memory in an American City by Laura Tillman My rating: 3 of 5 stars I don’t know how to explain my feelings toward this book. It is an extremely compelling story, but the writing quality is poor. There seemed to be no real outline or backbone to it. The purple prose only highlighted this flaw, as did the repetition of unimportant things and the lack of refreshers given for details that seemed more important. If all you knew about the case was the manner in which Julissa, John Stephon, and Mary Jane died, then it would seem impossible to feel bad for John Allen Rubio and Angela Camacho, but what happened to them within the justice system is awful for other reasons. This is a case where a man with a severe mental illness (paranoid schizophrenia) and an intellectual disability (IQ in the low 70s) and a woman who had a shared psychosis with this man because of her own intellectual disability (IQ in the 50s) end up imprisoned, and, for him, end up on death row, but the writer is busy talking about superstitions & personal fears. It’s almost like she doesn’t completely perceive the gravity of the situation, the level of injustice that’s going on. As lovely as it is to learn about regional cultural beliefs, I was more concerned about the fact that this man who should be in a hospital will probably face lethal injection. The writer could only view this as horrible once she met Mr. Rubio, but it seems like anyone with a basic sense of compassion would figure out after learning about his background. Instead, she was oblivious to it, which made her seem callous. It made the whole book feel callous. Also, the stalking of Ms. Camacho’s family was a bit disturbing. I understand she felt that she needed to hear from them for her newspaper article and her book, but her behavior was quite creepy. I’m surprised that they didn’t issue a restraining order after the second or third time she showed up outside the woman’s front door. The writing honestly reminded me of what you’d find in an essay by a bored, uninformed student who waited until the last minute to do an assignment. I have a hard time believing that this is something the writer was encouraged to get published, at least in its current form. I have no doubt that she has talent, but the fixations on pointless details within the work are distracting and annoying. I wish she had explained more about Rubio’s mental health than how a superstitious grandmother convinced her to throw away a perfectly good pair of tennis shoes. This wasn’t her memoir. This wasn’t even a memoir for the building. It was an unfocused work of nonfiction that was rather disappointing. View all my reviews

Review: The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts: Murder and Memory ...

via Instagram “Shortly after John’s arrest, and his diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia, he was put on several medications. He told me he was taking Prozac, for depression, Benadryl, and Risperdal, an antipsychotic. This made it hard for me to know what an unmedicated John sounded like. He said he had occasional visions, what some might call hallucinations, but these days he tried to ignore them, a self-preservation technique schizophrenics sometimes use to deal with an illness that can be manageable but is never curable. He said that the two years following the crimes, the visions were much worse, and his sincere wish was to die and join his children in heaven. “I did not get the sense that John was trying to manipulate me, but I’m not a psychiatrist.” How is it ethical or moral to execute a man with severe mental health issues? How is it ethical to put him in a prison and not a hospital setting?

The man described is on death row, which bothers me.

“You know how I don’t like to describe people or the things they do as evil? What she wrote was truly evil.” That was how I described Amanda Lauren’s essay describing an ex-friend’s life with schizoaffective disorder and that friend’s death to my mother. I had already ranted to my father and complained on social media. I couldn’t tell my mom that this total stranger was happy her mentally ill friend was dead. I knew that if I told her that that I would break down. Each time I’ve thought about what was written, I’ve had to stop myself from crying or screaming or begging to be taken to the hospital because my mind starts going down the all too familiar path of my-friends-and-family-would-probably-be-happy-if-I-died-too. It was probably a path that “Leah” was familiar with as well. There was always something about her that wasn’t quite right. Lauren’s essay is narcissistic drivel at best. Her friend wasn’t living up to a standard that she expected of her, so she wrote her off. She could justify this lack of understanding by saying her friend failed her.  “Leah” didn’t clean her house, so she was undeserving of respect. “Leah” didn’t have steady relationships, so she was undeserving of respect. “Leah” was a cam girl, so she was undeserving of respect. “Leah” had delusions, so she was undeserving of respect. “Leah” pursued her crush and failed in a job Lauren secured for her, so she was undeserving of respect. “Leah” had body image issues, so she was undeserving of respect.  It didn’t stop at her friend’s failures. The friend’s parents also failed her. Because “Leah”‘s parents didn’t magically cure their daughter of an incurable disease, they failed their daughter and failed Lauren because now she had to deal with their daughter’s erratic behavior. Every struggle “Leah” went through was actually harder on Lauren because the world is apparently all about her.1 Lauren’s lack of compassion was horrid, but her choice to use a platform like xoJane during Mental Health Awareness Month to publish a tale highlighting her ignorance was almost worse. This is a month when mental health patients, caregivers, advocates, and healthcare providers try to educate others. It’s a month to become more considerate of the day-to-day struggles for mentally ill people. Lauren and xoJane could have explained what schizoaffective disorder is, how it impacts people who have the issue, and why they behave the way that they do. They could have explored the actual suffering of “Leah” and not focused on the self-involvement of Lauren.  I can’t understand how a parent would let their child go on like this. Clearly, she was suffering and severely ill. If her disease were physical, would they have let her deteriorate to that point? Schizoaffective disorder is a chronic illness. It is sometimes considered a spectrum disorder because it involves overlapping symptoms of schizophrenia and mood disorders like depression and bipolar disorder. It is not as well understood as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or depression because it isn’t studied as often and is less common; it is seen in 0.3% of the population compared to 1.1%, 2.6%, and 6.7% for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression, respectively. It isn’t well recognized by doctors or therapists; a lot of patients with it are diagnosed with a mood disorder or with schizophrenia first. It impacts men and women at the same rate, but, like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, men typically develop it earlier than women. It can be treated, in most cases, by self-management, medication, and therapy, but people who have it are at risk for substance use disorders, suicide, attention deficit disorder, and anxiety disorders. Schizoaffective disorder is caused by genetics, brain chemistry, brain structure, stress, and drug use. There are two types of schizoaffective disorder: bipolar and depressive. If the person has mixed or manic episodes, they have the bipolar type; otherwise, it’s the depressive. Unlike other situations, it’s actually better to have the bipolar type. Having it is less likely to result in suicide than having the depressive type. It is considered by some mental health professionals to be more severe than mood disorders, but less severe than schizophrenia.  Because it is classified alongside schizophrenia as a psychotic disorder, it is more difficult to find providers willing to treat it. And treatments may be harmful to patients. Or they may not work.  In my case, I have had many therapists “pass me off” to colleagues. I have tried multiple antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and antipsychotics. I’ve had many that didn’t work. Most have caused weight gain, including two that caused gains of fifty pounds or more. I’ve had seizures as a result of one medication. I’ve had a variety of less severe reactions to others. I even developed a temporary medicine-induced case of hyperthyroidism. Eventually I was switched to a high dose of an antidepressant, somewhat regular therapy, and self-management.  I will always have this disorder. My parents can’t make it go away. Medicine can’t either.  But I can cut people like Amanda Lauren out of my life. She thought “Leah” was toxic because of her issues, but, from my perspective, it was Lauren who was toxic. Yes, there were negative behaviors exhibited by “Leah”, but she was only behaving that way because of her illness. What was Lauren’s excuse? Why was she so petty, so judgmental? And why did she feel the need to cast herself in the role of victim? Why does she feel no shame in her words?  I don’t understand how one person can be so selfish, petty, and cruel. As those are personality traits that can be traced back to parenting, I wonder why her parents let her attitude deteriorate to this point. Shouldn’t they have done something before their child became this remorseless beacon of hate? Photo credit: Cameron Bathory via / CC BY Updated: May 21, 2016 at 7:42 pm: Changed link to essay to one from as the Google cache link has updated to the “apology” by Jane […]

Defined Parameters

One day in June of 2009, I felt the urge to listen to Michael Jackson music.  Even though I owned many of his earlier albums on tape and, in the case of Off the Wall, the original vinyl record that one of my parents purchased in their young adult years, I didn’t have any of his songs on mp3.  Since I don’t have the ability to transfer the tapes and vinyl recordings to mp3 (never been able to get the converters because of cost), I went on iTunes and bought some of my favorite songs. A few days later, he was dead.  I had purchased the songs at relatively low prices, because iTunes has this funny way of charging more for music that they are selling more of.  (It seems like that might deter more people from buying the music than having everything at the same price, except some that might be on sale.)  It was weird how I had felt the urge to listen to his music before his death, but I just figured it was some kind of strange coincidence, which it probably was. On Friday, after I had listened to her songs “Rehab” and “You Know I’m No Good”, and cover of “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” for the umpteenth times, and the Glee version of her song “Back to Black” and of her cover of “Valerie”, I began to wonder when Amy might release more music.  Admittedly, I knew that she had some issues in her career because of her personal life.  Still, I was hoping that there might be news somewhere about when a new album might come out.  I couldn’t find anything other than the old rumors of an album that was supposed to have come out in January of this year.  (Obviously, it didn’t.)   So, on Saturday when I saw the news that Amy was dead, it was, in a way surprising. Like I said, I knew she had had problems with her personal life.  I knew that she’d struggled with drugs.  I knew she’d been in and out of rehab.  I also knew that there are plenty of people who abuse drugs (Keith Richards, anyone?) who don’t die at a young age.  So, even with her problems, I thought that it was possible for her to live a long life.  Sure, it might have been shortened by the emphysema and other problems that she’d developed as a result of her hard lifestyle, but death wasn’t something that I really expected. So, besides the fact that her death was a little shocking to me, I’ve been trying to figure out why it is that I felt drawn to her music the day before her death.  It’s a little freaky, even though it is probably just a coincidence.  Now, I have that weird fear (that I attribute to the OCD) that if I feel drawn to another musician’s music in that way again that they’ll die soon after I have the feeling.  I know that that is absolutely nuts to think, but you have to remember that I am absolutely nuts.  (After all, I am the girl who felt personal guilt over 9/11 because earlier that morning I had this feeling that something bad was going to happen and that people were going to die.  I also looked at the clock every time a crash or building collapse happened.  So, yeah, I am crazy.) Oh well, now that I have proven that I am the weirdest girl from weirdonia, then I guess the only “normal” thing I can say is that people should really listen to Amy Winehouse’s version of “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”, which is apparently only available on the import version of the Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason soundtrack these days.  If you haven’t heard it, you should definitely try to listen to it.  I think it shows how wonderful she could sound and it is one of my favorite versions of that particular song.

Fate Laughs at Probabilities

I understand that you and I don’t usually talk. You’re kind of scary, so that keeps me from wanting to communicate with you. I thought that I would be so daring, though, since I have been feeling a little apprehensive lately. You may not remember, but in 1996, there was a lot of snow. It snowed pretty much every weekend that January. And starting around the second or third week of this, people I cared about started dying. This is something that I would really like to keep from repeating. I wouldn’t have approached you on this subject, but I was told before this past weekend that a friend of our family had died. Admittedly, she was seventy and she’d been battling cancer, but it was still something that I wasn’t really ready to hear. I felt that I might need to take it upon myself, and ask you to please not take any of my other friends or family. I know that the events of 1996 could’ve been a complete coincidence, but 4-5 weeks of snow automatically reminds me of the 7 people that died in a row that winter and the additional death that occurred later that year. Last time, you got both of my grandfathers, two of my great-uncles, my mom’s first cousin (who had 2 kids about my age; those kids would later lose their father as well), and some other family members and friends. The thing that really worries me is the idea that I might lose my Nana. She’s been sick and she’s almost 80, so I know that it’s probably almost “her time”, but she’s the last grandparent I have and I love her like crazy. So, please, please, please, leave my friends and family alone this time. It’s not that I want you to take away someone else’s loved one, but I would kind of like a pass on this event. I don’t think that our family could handle the stress of that kind of death toll again. Besides, the recent skirmish between me and the other family member might result in blood shed or unforgivable words if we’re snowed in the same house for a week.

Dear Death