Tuesday, November 24, 2015

This Thanksgiving, I'm thankful that the medication seems to be helping

G is 8-years-old, and I have to remind myself, when he is being a pain-in-the-tail, teasing, annoying, talking about poop every 29.5 seconds kid, that medication will not change that.  Sometimes it is hard to tell how much of a kid's weirdness is actual, potentially diagnosable problematic weirdness and how much is just being a kid.

I sat with a class of 8-year-olds at a theater performance today.  It was a nice reminder that all second graders, and not just my kid, 1. can't sit still for long, 2. talk very loudly about all manner of random sh*t, and 3. look like ragamuffins.

We are at 2 weeks of Celexa use for G's actual, diagnosable weirdness.  So far, so good.

What I noticed almost immediately after beginning it is that he started falling asleep without his verbal repetitive loop of worry, even when he doesn't take melatonin.  He began the medication on a Monday.  On the following Friday and Saturday nights, he fell straight to sleep and didn't wake during either night.  He has stopped freaking out over every single thing.  If something gets moved, he expresses his displeasure, but he just says it.  He doesn't scream it or cry or otherwise throw a tantrum.

I have noticed that he is saying, "I love you" more to me than he has in a very long time, which makes me wonder if he was just so busy trying to contain worry that he couldn't bother with affection and communication.  That makes me sad.  And it also makes me very glad we took the steps we did.

I wish I could say that I am without worry over him, but I can't.  He has had a runny nose, so my mind immediately went to, "He is allergic to the medication," although nasal drippage is not a side effect I can find anywhere in the literature.

He threw a gigantic fit the first night we gave him the medication, which had me convinced that he would end up homeless, schizophrenic and suicidal, and that worst-case scenario remains at the back of my mind.  I think he thought he would take the medicine and wake up a different person. He kept asking, "Will I still be me?"  He and I are now taking our "brain" medication together every morning, which I think helps him, as did the realization the next morning that he was the same.    

He got a haircut today and didn't cry afterwards, which had started happening with great regularity and led me to start whacking at his hair myself to avoid an actual salon.  He would have preferred to leave it longer, in his eyes and untouched by the stylist, but he was ok.

I don't want perfect or spectacular or amazing.  I'm thankful that my kid, for right now, is doing ok.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Beowulf, bombings, and history

I have been studying the Angles and Saxons as I prepare to teach Beowulf in the spring.  It has been far more interesting to study this as an adult than it was as a teenager.

In the wake of the ISIS bombings, I have found myself thinking on Beowulf and what life was like for people during that age.  I think Thomas Hobbes' phrasing says it best:  "nasty, brutish and short."  The short part was a blessing, it seems to me, given that they were people who only barely survived given any normal, uneventful day, but who were also regularly faced with intruding hoards of violent barbarians with whatever system of protection they had overturned and dismantled.  Disease and wolves lurked at every turn as well.

How many people in the Middle East and Africa live like Angles and Saxons every day in this modern world, I ask myself.

Somehow, it has been helpful for me to know this, to remind me that the upheaval in the world is not new.  It is not unique to 2015.  It has always been this way.  There have always been barbarians.  There have always been people savagely killed.  Knowing this has given me some strange comfort.  Life continues, even if it is without you....or me.

The difference is that in modern life I know, I am reminded almost constantly, of the nastiness, brutishness and shortness of others' lives.

During the spring semester, I am also planning to teach 1984, so I have the idea of a society in which there are no rights swirling in my head, where every decision is rooted in fear, thereby stripping people of their ability to think, to feel, to be who they are.  Sounds a bit like Beowulf---a people living in fear---and yet one was written in 1000 AD and the other in 1948.

In an effort to stem fear, we turn to absolutes.  This is the right way; that is the wrong way.  Even something as seemingly absolute as "Thou shall not kill" isn't really absolute, is it, at least in my non-God understanding of life?  Would it be absolutely wrong for a Syrian father to kill someone in an effort to save and protect his child?

I cannot say it is absolutely safe or unsafe to bring Syrian refugees into the US any more than I can say it is absolutely right or wrong to do so.  I cannot absolutely classify Muslims as terrorists when I see so many school children (or moviegoers or grocery shoppers) in the US  being held captive or being shot by non-Muslim gunmen who are mentally ill or harboring a grudge against whatever it is they harbor a grudge against.

There are degrees of terrorism.  Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Nigeria suffer extreme degrees.  The US, at least at this day and time, suffers to a lesser degree.

Parisians were attacked by fundamentalist Muslims, but Muslims are regularly attacked by fundamentalist Muslims.  Muslims are not dangerous, but I very much think fundamentalism can be. Even if it is the Christian version.
Especially if it is the political version.

Fear is tyranny, and it is why terrorists utilize it so effectively.  The amygdala is the most primitive system in our brains, which is why it is our automatic "go to" response when we feel threatened.  It takes a considerable amount of effort on the part of the frontal cortex to respond in any other way.

There is very little I can do except learn....

*by listening to what secularism has meant to "others" in Paris and how this can foment anger.

*by learning about Molenbeek in Belgium.

*by seeing why Syrians are fleeing their country.

*by being reminded of other victims of rampant genocide and how that played out.

Since I am going to die, by the hands of terror or natural causes, I hope I have compassion in my heart when it happens.  

Sunday, November 15, 2015

A cat family again

Last Saturday we became a cat family again.

D's sister's cat had a litter of five, and we took two of them.

N wanted to name them Puff and Dory.  D and I liked Narf as a name.  By the time we arrived at my SIL's house to meet them, we had landed on Fozzie and Finny.  

By the time we were in the car heading home, we had decided on Slippers for the one with white paws.  Once we got home and saw how skittish the other one was, we opted for Skits.  And those have stuck for a week.  

They have adjusted very well.  For the time being, we are keeping them in the main part of the basement, but once they have been front de-clawed we will allow them to have the run of the house during daytime hours.  

I had a bit of an ethical dilemma about the front de-clawing.  I am of the mind that if I am offering a home to an animal that might otherwise not have a home, de-clawing is just a part of the trade-off (for the cat). We front de-clawed Gonzo and Shanks and never let them outside.  Slippers and Skits will be the same.  (I very strongly feel that it is wrong to declaw a cat and then let them outside where they cannot protect themselves).  

A friend of mine is a vet, so I when the cats were still gestating I asked her about it.  It had been 17 years since we had declawed Gonzo and Shanks.  Maybe vets no longer declawed cats as a general rule?  Given D's reluctance to even get these cats and G's sensory issues/worries, she felt like declawing would be a good idea for our family.  I trust her opinion.  

Plus, she said, technically, neutering and spaying an animal is not "natural" but we do that, so the whole "leaving animals in their natural state" is a slippery slope argument anyway.  

(I also rationalized to myself how many people circumcise their sons, which could be tantamount to declawing cats.  I opted to avoid circumcision for my sons, so I'm putting away any cat-related guilt.)

It has been enjoyable for the kids to see how much fun kittens can be.  After having very old cats, you forget how hilarious little ones are.  They are chaotic and in the process of destroying all of my artificial plants, but I'm used to beings smaller than me who mess my stuff up.  

Parenting makes cat ownership a walk in the park.  



G playing with Skits

Friday, November 6, 2015

Dear son, I'm the OCD tree....you're the nut

Imagine you get a new picture and hang it on your wall.  You like the picture.  You wanted a change.
But every time you walk in the room, your picture is no longer a picture.  It is a giant, hot pink elephant that is engulfed in flames.  It isn't dangerous;  it will not harm you or burn your house down. You just cannot ignore it, no matter how hard you try.  Everyone else sees your new picture and enjoys it.  You cannot enjoy your picture because it refuses to just be a picture.  It is now a disturbance and may feel that way for weeks.  Or forever.

Imagine you are doing your work.  Out of your head pops the "Waiting for someone to call me back" blob.  It sits on a stool near your desk and throws tiny spit balls at your forehead.  They don't hurt.  The blob doesn't speak or make mean faces or feel threatening, really.  But your concentration sucks because of the spit balls.  You can't ignore the spit balls.  They won't stop pinging your forehead.

When I was a child, around age 10 although I could have been a little older or a little younger, I remember doing the following:

*staying up every night until after my parents went to bed and checking all the locks on the doors. I didn't disturb my folks.  They probably didn't know I was still awake, but I was.  When I heard them breathing deeply and/or snoring, I'd come out of my room.

*I had to have one ear covered in order to sleep (after checking the locks).  It was even better if I could put a cotton ball in my ear and then cover it with the sheet.

*If I called a friend, (in the days before answering machines), and no one was home,  I let the phone ring a hundred times.  (It occurred to me that I might be elaborating.  Maybe it wasn't a hundred.  It was probably only 50.  But then I decided that allowing the phone to ring even 25 is probably excessive.)

*As a teenager, if I went out and used hairspray or styling products on my hair, I could come home and go to sleep.  But the next night, if I didn't change my sheets, I could feel the hairspray and styling products on my face when I put my head on the pillow.  I could not sleep on those sheets.

Over time, my symptoms, my oddities, changed.

What I can only assume is happening to G is that he is confronted with inflamed elephants and hairspray sensations and pinging spit balls, and he can't cope, so he cries and shrieks and throws tantrums.

The added issue is that he is egosyntonic---he doesn't see this as a problem, even though it is a problem for our family.  This is why CBT doesn't work for him.  CBT only works if the person sees a concern/problem and is motivated to address and change it.

The psychiatrist is hopeful that because I have had a good run with Lexapro, G will have good results with Celexa.

I very rarely have "Please, God" thoughts, but I am very much hoping that however G can be helped, healed and supported, he will be.  

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Artistic pursuits....

That might be insulting people who are talented artists, and it is definitely overstating my abilities.

Maybe I should say "Somewhat pathetic but enjoyable attempts at being more creative?"
That seems more accurate.

Creative pursuits aren't a new thing to me, but I'm interested in trying my hand at a wider range of things.  I've been playing piano for almost 4 years, and I've dabbled in scrapbooking and other odds and ends.  Like this:

This is a paper bowl I made a couple years ago.  

I bought a Cricut over the summer and
 have made some cute things for the house.

This is a recent project to use a canvas. 

In September, I took a pottery class.  Used a wheel and everything.  It was very interesting and made me appreciate pottery even more than I already did.  It isn't easy.

Some of the things I made turned out pretty cool.  Like these:

And then there are some that aren't very symmetric or normal,
but I like them anyway
(which is sorta how I feel about my children).

And then there are some that are just laughable failures and will be painted over.  I should be used to
revisions, right?  

This is my post-apocalyptic, rather defective hummingbird.  

It feels nice to have time to engage in these endeavors.  

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

18th anniversary (writing now because we, duh, married on one of the busiest weekends of the year)

D and I married on All Saints' Day eighteen years ago.

We discussed getting married on Halloween, but I knew that would eliminate a ton of family members from attending, which would have been great on the budget but sucky on the celebratory effect.

With regard to our selected anniversary date, we didn't realize the following:

1. We would always forget our anniversary because we think, "Our anniversary is in November," without fully grasping that it is DAY 1.  We don't have any actual time in the month of November to prepare.  As our lives have gotten busier, we have pretty much agreed to forego cards and other such trinkets.

2. We would be so busy with our own tribe of children that actually celebrating our anniversary would be an afterthought.  By the time Halloween ends at midnight, we will have been to approximately 167 Halloween parties, 2 pumpkin tosses, 6 trunk or treats, and a spooky orchestra concert.  In years' past, doing something on our anniversary has been just.one.more.thing on the calendar, and no thank you.

(Hence, the reason I'm posting this now instead of the weekend.)

With regard to marriage, when we started out, we didn't realize a whole heck of a lot more, like.....

*how, in retrospect, the first 4 years felt like play-acting.

*how, in retrospect, years 4-6 were crazy good.

*how our home eventually went from feeling not as homey as our parents' home to the place where we decompress and breathe, and we didn't realize when or how it happened.

*how he and I would begin at opposite ends of a spectrum on issues, meet in the middle and somehow bypass each other.  He is where I used to be, and I am where he used to be.

*sometimes the best you can say about your marriage is that you've simply put too much into it to deal with starting over with someone else, so you suck it up, watch things blow over and move on.

*how usually episodes like the aforementioned are followed by moments when you know this person is a really good fit for you, for a variety of reasons.

*you have to get really good at ignoring a lot, including some of your own stupid behaviors and thought processes that really amount to nothing productive.

*how much of a feeling of pride and success comes with sticking with the same person for this many years and not once having raised the iron skillet over his/her head in the middle of the night.

Really, I don't have snarky comments (ok, maybe just one) about the sports banquet

Last week was N's field hockey banquet.  It was my first such event.

It was very nice, took a huge amount of effort and organization on the part of its coordinators, and it meant so much to N.  She and the other girls were excited and had fun.

Following the meal, each of the coaches gave out awards to their players.  I appreciated N's coach because she kept her awards' delivery short and sweet.  N received "Most Improved Offense."  I don't actually know what that means, but whatever it is, she has improved so I'm happy.

It was at this point that the internal snark came out.  Technically, it is/was not directed at any of the particular coaches; it is/was aimed at all sports players/coaches around the world.  I have had occasions to listen to televised interviews of sports figures, and they are the most redundant, nonsensical things I've ever heard.  It makes Through the Looking Glass and other Lewis Carroll fare seem like ludicity.

At the awards banquet, it took quite a long time to say what might have been summed up in one sentence:  "Players gave their all, gave 110% and rocked it." The Carrie way to have an awards ceremony in under 2 minutes.

The awards took long enough that I played with my phone and seriously considered grabbing my book from my purse until it was over.

But all the while I was having these "please.STOP.TALKING" thoughts, I felt guilty, which is why after we returned home and got the kids to bed, I sent a thank you email to the coach, coordinator and parents of N's team.

Although I grouched about the 3-times-a-week practice and rolled my eyes at all the goody bags and "team spirit" things, the whole point of it was to team- and friendship-build, and the girls loved it.  They are 11-year-olds who thrive on that stuff.

It occurred to me that I should be thankful for the parents and coaches who put the energy into these little things.  Just because I think they are unnecessary and pointless doesn't mean they actually are.  My reality isn't everyone's reality; my disinterest isn't everyone's disinterest.

Especially not my daughter's, who is already talking about next year's field hockey season (heaven help me).