Life has been running rough: Change the sparkplugs

I am trying to adjust to an empty nest and a NEW nest.  After ten years of managing a step-kid with Asperger's and bipolar and other issues, the young man has gone to live with his bio-dad.  Is this the best thing for the kid?  Not likely, since bio-dad is a wife-beating, kid-punching mess wrapped in a cloak of fundamentalist Christian-college-dean-righteousness.  However, the "boy" is18 and taller than me and has been trying to kill me or himself on and off for years so, yanno, I figure it is someone else's turn to deal with butcher knives pointed in their direction.  And bio-dad wanted to take him in and remains convinced that bio-mom and I are the root of all evil.  Truth be told, I pity them both.  And yet I am happy to be slowly getting over the PTSD symptoms of living with a kid who sneaks up on me with weapons. 

It is hard for any parent when the last kid leaves.  When you have functioned as a major part of that kid's brain for many years?  I am slowly coming to realize that I now have brain space available that I did not have for years.  I think I thought my brain had just gotten smaller, lol, but lo:  Part of it was just sublet out to a kid who really needed it.  This is a little like discovering a big, secret room in the house you've always lived in.  Kind of cool.  Kind of spooky because I wonder how I didn't see it for so long.

And of course there are ghosts.

SO today, for the first time in a long time, I noticed my brain doing what it used to do a long time ago.  Tricksters, said my brain.  Tricksters and archetypes.  Tricksters and masquerades . . .masks. . . . Carnivalesque.  Theater.  Trickster gods with two faces.  And hey, that means that the bit-part actors in the middle of your rough draft have something to do with the goddess who is problematic and the magic that is problematic and . . . hey . . .

Also:  Magic always has a cost.  Heroes always pay the price.  Are tricksters ever heroes or do they have to transform to be heroes?  Because tricksters generally like to leave the tab for someone else to pay, right?

SO, anyway, this may mean nothing to anyone besides meself, but it was nice.  To have room in my brain to play:  Nice.  And after a stroke, Lyme's, and fibromyalgia . . .well.  I mean, I was worried that I couldn't ask the questions anymore.  But I can.

As for the nest:  Of course I still worry about my adult step-kids.  Both of them.  Because I love them.  But after only a month I am starting to see that the nest isn't actually going to be empty for long; I still have the stuff to fill it up.

In other, unrelated news:  Brunson the puppy is six months old and continues to most resemble his mother the purebred Belgian Malinois.  His ears, however, are the shape of his Briard ancestor, and his eyes are small and that's where you can see the mastiff/bull terrier influence.  But don't ask ME where he got the long wing-y hair on his butt, lol.  Yes, I am worried that he will turn out looking like a Belgian Mal with a Briard butt.  I'll love him anyway.

And now, to try to catch up on the lives of people I am fond of via Livejournal.

Isn't it funny when bad news is good news and good news is bad?

So after many doctor appointments and enough blood drawing to feed everyone in those "Twilight" movies, it seems I have Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.  This is good news because it is good to know what is wrong with me.  It's bad because there is no cure, you just live with it.  It's good news because I can stop telling myself I am crazy/lazy/lame/stupid/a hypochondriac.  It's bad because it isn't going to go away with some self improvement plan like it might have if I was crazy/lazy/lame/stupid/a hypochondriac.  Despite the sort of mixed bag of good and bad, though, for me it is ultimately good because knowledge is a good thing.

I am supposed to reduce stress.  As much as I love our son, his moving out at the end of September will help with that.  No matter what one does, living with a person who is both autistic and bipolar is NOT good for stress levels.   It's time to let other people try to help him navigate his life and for me to take a role I am looking forward to very, very much:  The Mom who no longer has to scold, coach, clean up after and get mad at him.  I want to be the "Here grown-up son I bought you a sweater, do you want a cheeseburger?" Mom now.    I would like to stop being his executive functioning.  I would like to just be his friend.  Please and thank you.

I think starting to write again --without expectations -- will help with stress  as well.   

I am on a million vitamins.  My favorite is the subliminal B12.  Or is that bilingual B12 . . .  Anyway it tastes like strawberries and chalk.

SO that is my health update, and since I have done like three posts in a row on my health, next time I will write about something else.  I promise.


Well hey, it wasn't hormones at all!

After my last post blaming everything on my ancient hormones I feel almost guilty now because they were innocent bystanders.    It was actually a stroke.  Yes, seriously, I had a stroke.

I know, I can't believe it either.  But the MRI says that I had a small stroke in, um, my cerebellum.  THAT would explain the vertigo.  Ah, the cerebellum, the part of your brain you fail to appreciate until the world becomes a blender.   Sorry, cerebellum . . .I appreciate you now!  You have my full attention.

I got to ride in an ambulance, which would have been cool had I seen any of it, but I had a towel over my face the whole time to fight the blender effect.  I got to have Valium in an IV, which is a very mellow experience . . .mellow as in "Stroke?  Cool, whatever, man."  Oh and I got to have an MRI, which was interesting because the Vallium was putting me to sleep and that made it hard to hold still because I was nodding off in the MRI machine. 

But mostly I got to lie there and think "Me?  A stroke?  I can't have a stroke!  I'm too young!  My blood pressure isn't that high and my cholesterol isn't great but not bad enough to take medicine and nobody in my family has strokes!  Strokes are for old people!  Strokes are for really, really old people who listen to big band music and can't program the VCR!  Wait . . .nobody has VCRs anymore . . .I'M OLD!!!  I HAD A STROKE!!!

Yeah.  Stuff like that.

The doctors and nurses were quick to point out, that it was a minor stroke and because of where it was located  I was very very lucky/had a guardian angel/someone was looking out for me.  Which is hard for me to accept, not because I am not grateful, but because if that's true then what does that say about the poor schmuck who has a stroke in a place that screws up his life in major ways?  What, that person didn't get a guardian angel?   Nobody looked out for them?   No, I'm afraid I don't believe that.  It just is what it is.  My naughty blood clot got stuck in a fortuitous place. 

So the vertigo is 99.9% gone but I still feel a tiny bit . . .wobbly.  There goes my career on the balance beam.   But mostly I am trying to get what is left of my brain around the idea that I actually had a stroke.  Me.  A person who doesn't polka and knows how to install programs on a PC and can even text.  A little.  Okay, kind of slowly, but still, I can text.  I just didn't expect it.  A stroke.  Really.  Me.

Anyway, now I have to take another pill, and go see a neurologist, and my regular doctor as well.  I'd be bummed about all that except I can still actually take a pill, call the doctors, and even get myself to doctor's appointments.  And, somehow, when I think of it that way, I'm kind of excited to do those things.  So, cheerful agnostic that I am, I am grateful.  Just not specifically grateful.  But yanno, I figure that, if one day I discover I should have thanked somebody by name, well, I'll be very happy to do that. 

It's one of the hard things about being human, isn't it?  You don't know who to write your life's thank you cards to.

Being fifty-one

As almost anyone female and close to my age knows, hormones are the supreme guerrilla fighting force of the human body.  When it is time for them to go, they do not go quietly, they lurk and suddenly surge forward and attack,, then melt back into quiet, and then lob bombs at you.  And my hormones?  Well, they are crazy-eyed, wild-haired molotov-cocktail-throwing maniacs . . .Hell no they won't go.   So I have had the migraines and the night sweats and the hot flashes and the blues and such, but a couple days ago my hormones seemed to try to blow up something BIG.

I was just getting off my motorcycle when I felt light-headed and dizzy.  I felt fine before that.  I managed to get off and then it got bad.  I've been dizzy before.  Really dizzy, even.  This was like my head was in a blender.  That's the best way I can describe it.  I managed to stagger to the porch before I had to give up and sit, then lie, on the cement.  Holy buckets!  I could not open my eyes without the ground spinning so fast I couldn't see individual objects.  I was bathed in cold sweat, nauseous, freezing cold.   And to be honest, for the first time in my life I thought I might be dying.  I mean, I figured it had to be a stroke or a heart attack.  I have never felt that bad in my life.  Broken bones and busted eardrums and that sort of thing were a walk in the park compared to this.

Tambyrd was there and scared out of her wits.  It isn't cool to see your partner lying on the ground with her head between two railing supports (I was trying to tell my head it really wasn't spinning).   I couldn't talk very well because I was concentrating on NOT SPINNING.  

This all lasted about ten minutes and then, gradually, I was able to stand up and come inside.  I was absolutely freezing for two or three hours after that, though, unable to get warm under two blankets and a sleeping bag. 

Why do I think it was a nuclear hormone attack?  I admit it is a guess, but my blood pressure and blood sugar were all quite normal plus everything after the extreme vertigo/freezing/sweating episode has been pretty classic mean hormone stuff.  Low-level migraine-y and STARVING and tired.  The usual.

The thing that shakes me up is that I was completely incapacitated.  That has never happened before.  I'll be understated and just say that I didn't like it very much at all.  :-(  I plan to go to the doctor but I am pretty sure they won't know what to do or will throw a pill at it to see if the pill sticks.  I don't like pills much.  I never ask my doctor about Lunesta/Plavix/Cealis.  (Though I have been tempted to ask about Omnaris FOR THE NOSE  because the army guys jamming nasal spray up a nose are very entertaining.  Also . . .I did love the "sad bean" commercials for Zoloft, though I never asked my doctor about that, either.  I do wonder how the bean is these days, though.)

Anyway, I will go to the doctor and talk to her about this because it was THAT scary.  Sigh.   Being female . . always an adventure.

"A DIscovery of Witches" by Deborah Harkness

I know a book is really pretty good if I find myself interrupting my partner Tam's reading to read her something from the book I am reading. Yes, it is annoying, I know, but she puts up with me because I am fun. Anyway, "A Discovery of Witches" by Deborah Harkness has had me bugging my spouse quite a lot.

It isn't a perfect book . . .it is a vampire romance of sorts, which is a bit tired by now, and it does lapse into WAY too much exposition in some places, which makes me hear Brent Spiner's "Data" voice narrating. It moves pretty slow in the first half, although I tend to forgive that in a book where much of the early action takes place at a university library. And it is a character heavy book rather than a plot heavy one. This is the main complaint of a lot of Amazon reviewers.

Oh but some of the characters are wonderful! Several secondary characters are so well-written they really deserve their own books. And some of the ideas in this book are truly wonderful, too. And there is tea, yoga, books, cats, castles, knights, more tea, wine, conspiracies, alchemy, and AN OUBLIETTE in this book. Good heavens, what more could you ask for? AN OUBLIETTE!!!! So scary.

Also it has more tea in it than any book I have ever read. Did I mention that?

So if you like fantasy books with real-life history woven into them, and you actually enjoy reading about characters drinking tea, and you tend to enjoy books about people and ideas more than books mostly about action and plot twists, I recommend this book. Some things reminded me a little of Robin Hobb's books (high praise from me): The way humor is sprinkled in,for one. The way you want to bop the main character on the head for being dense at times, for another. Anyway, I do recommend it.

With tea.



(no subject)

The NYTs has gotten really, really stupid.  You know, I started to major in journalism long ago but I decided that it was really a lot of work -- all that research and impartiality and such --  for not much reward. I decided making up shit in my own head was more fun and more the sort of research I like:  research as a jumping off point rather than as vital material with which one HAS to build a story.  But now it seems that journalism is really no different than fiction writing and that journalists at major publications can throw together reviews and articles about subjects they know nothing whatsoever about.   Who knew?  I wonder how much a hack at the NYTs makes these days . . .more than your average fiction writer I bet and the job seems to actually require LESS work . . .

Oh, I'm referring to the review of "A Game of Thrones" at the moment, but I really could be referring to any number of things the writers there don't have a fucking clue about.  

If you are going to publish an opinion about a genre, I always thought  it might behoove you to know just a little something about that genre and its fans.  But hey, clearly not necessary in today's world. 

So happy to know I am qualified to write reviews of mystery books, crime novels, contemporary romance, and reality television for the NYT!  Must revise my resume!

The Opposite of Autism

I was thinking about the opposite of autism today and I looked at some internet talk about it.  Most of what I looked at were comments made by people with autism.   Many of them said that anti-autistic people would be outgoing and social butterflies, among other things.  Social butterflies?  Not really.  A lot of autistic folks are not shy and in fact are extroverts.  It isn't that all autistic folk lack the motivation to socialize, it is that so many of them lack many of the tools to socialize effectively.  That is a HUGE difference.  Whether one is an introvert or an extrovert is, I think completely independent of one's place on the human autism versus anti-autism scale.

The prevailing thought seems to be that if autism is an extreme on a human brain continuum, then perhaps its opposite would LOOK opposite in terms of most behaviors.  I suppose this would at least be true with some of the behaviors.  So what are some behavioral characteristics of autistic people?  Well that is complex, and certainly all people with autism don't have the same characteristics, but let's take ten commonly accepted characteristics and play with them:

1.  May avoid or lack eye-contact
2.  May not imitate others
3.  May not point or use other hand gestures
4.  May have language issues:  delayed development, hyperlexia, echolalia
5.  May not understand social cues
6.  May have a narrow range of intense interests
7.  May be resistant to change and  love of sameness in routine
8.  May engage in hand-flapping, rocking, or other repetitive behaviors or tics
9.  May get angry or aggressive when overwhelmed
10.  May hyperfocus on details at the expense of the larger picture

Okay, so if you take that straight across, then an anti-autistic person would look like this:

1.  May seek eye-contact
2.  May often imitate others
3.  May excessively use hand gestures
4.  May be gifted with language across the board
5.  May be hypersensitive to social cues
6.  May have a broad range of intense interests and trouble narrowing them down
7.  May seek change and avoid sameness in routine
8.  May sit still often
9.  May be peaceful and slow to anger
10.  May see the big picture at the expense of the details

So there is a simplistic picture of an anti-autistic person.  Except it's wrong.  Why?  Because you have to look at what CAUSES the behaviors.  If there is a big explosion, a deaf person might flinch back because of the bright light and flying debris she sees, while a blind person might flinch back because of the loud sound:  both people engage in the same behavior, but the underlying cause is different.  It stands to reason that   if autistic and anti-autistic people are both impaired by being at the extreme end of a human sensory/brain continuum, both groups might sometimes react to environmental stimuli the same way although their reactions are caused by different experiences.

For example let's take that first behavior: an autistic child may not make eye contact because they don't get a sense of positive human connection through eye contact like most people do.  But if your experience was in fact the opposite of that, if the sense of connection you got through eye contact was very intense?  You might well avoid protracted eye contact just like an autistic child.   Different reason, same behavior.

How about #5?  An autistic person may miss social cues like tone of voice or facial expression and therefore struggle socially with her peers.  An anti-autistic person, however, might struggle with her peers for an entirely different reason:  She is TOO aware of unspoken social cues.  Human beings often behave as if they want one thing, say they want another thing, and actually, inside, want something else entirely.  What if anti-autistic people can read much of this all at once?  How confusing is that?   Such sensitivity might well make for social awkwardness.

It's an interesting thing to consider.  For example, items 7,8, and 9 for the autistic person can all be attributed to their difficulty in dealing with their environment.  If the anti-autistic person also struggled to live in a world set up for "normal" people, then they might well also rely on routine to calm themselves, have physical tics or repetitive behaviors, or get angry, upset, or depressed,

I think there are anti-autistic people.  I think they struggle just as autistic people do to live in a world where they are not the norm.  I think they have not been diagnosed as a class because they have one main thing autistic people do not have:  The ability to imitate "normal" people (#2) for at least limited amounts of time.    And I think that if they were recognized it might help us understand what autism really is and how we can make the world a kinder place for those whose brains do not function within a certain median range (I might be using that mathematical term wrong, lol).

Surely the people at both ends are as valuable as the people in the middle.

The easy life of government workers

Today I saw a rant from a waitress in New Jersey about how government workers get huge pensions at her expense and how they should not get pensions because she does not get a pension. 

Well first off, dear, any government job these days that pays enough so that a person gets a BIG pension requires a lot of education.  Education that person had to pay for and work for.    People with more training often make more money and get better benefits.  That's kind of how it works.  While I will happily admit that being a great waitress takes skill, it is also true that just about any schlumph can sling a plate of hash around.  The same cannot be said for being a computer programmer or a psychologist or an accountant or even a snow plow driver.  So if you want a pension, honey, you usually have to pay up front for education to even have a shot at such a thing.  Secondly -- and can I get this soup heated up, hon -- the vast majority of government workers don't get big pensions.  They get very modest pensions.  In fact, their pensions are often considerably LESS than they would have gotten by taking a better-paying private sector job and putting that extra money in a 401K.   

Seriously, this soup is cold.

One of the funny things I hear all the time is that government workers are inept and lazy.  I've worked at a state job and I can say with some authority that some government workers are inept and lazy.  I can also say with some authority that some farm workers, programmers, cannery workers, hotel maids, janitors, security guards, journalists, teachers, professors, retail clerks, engineers, nurses, managers, administrators, cooks, social workers, and laundry workers are inept and lazy.  Oh, and waitresses, hon.  Some waitresses are really inept and lazy.   Yeah, the soup is pretty cold, just nuke it a little for me?  Thanks so much.

Anyway, my third point, or is it my fourth...well, it doesn't matter.  Government workers are just workers like you and me.  Some are lazy and some are not.  Some are overpaid and some are underpaid.  The point is that all the government workers got together and decided to unionize.  That's something all workers have the right to do in this country.  You could do it, too, Ms. Waitress, if you were willing to fight for it.  But now some states want to take away a group's right to unionize and speak with one voice when negotiating wages and benefits and such.  You see, whether they get pensions or not is something they negotiate over.  What they are fighting for is the RIGHT to negotiate.  You want to make this a fight between overpaid, lazy, spoiled government workers and your paycheck with the taxes taken out.  What this fight is really about is the right of workers to unionize and negotiate as a group.  Do you get that?  They could win this fight and still lose their pensions.  What they want is the right to bargain via union.  Is that microwave in the next town there, sweetie, because I'm still waiting for my hot soup.

I'll conclude my little talk here by saying that I wish all government workers would go on strike.  I really do.  'Cause you have no idea what they do for you every day.  Oh yeah, we could live without some of them, I suppose, but you could say that about any workplace.  I mean, seriously, how often have I come in here and seen YOU standing around yakking with the hostess over there, doing nothing?   But  government workers are sort of the unseen machinery that make so much of life run smoothly.  Stuff you don't even know you need gets done because of them.  But if they weren't doing it, suddenly you'd all be like "How come the world is going to Hell in a handbasket?  I broke an axle on a pothole coming in to work today, my neighbor is out drinking and shooting all the fish in Lake Hashslinger like a damn fool and there are criminals on every street corner.   There's a measles outbreak at my kid's school and nobody's doin' nothing about it.  Three small plains crashed at the airport yesterday and this restaurant is serving food that was outdated two weeks ago.  What happened?"  And I'd be all like "State workers have been on strike for three months, lady,, that's what happened!  Now pass me that can of Raid so I can spray down my cornbread."  Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but you started it by saying all government workers get big pensions.

Excuse me, but what's that?  THAT!  No, soup does not foam up when you nuke it.  Okay, okay, just bring me my bill.

Did I mention that government workers are NOT ALLOWED to take tips, gifts, or perks?  Twenty percent tip my ass.  Why should YOU get a tip when government workers don't?

Oh come on, you think I didn't just SEE you spit in my coffee?

It was a crummy February

But March will be better.  Even though we get snow in Minnesota in March, it is a desperate snow,   It can be a blizzard but it is an angry last gasp of winter.  You can feel it.  The temperature and weather doesn't matter, you can feel the change.

Also I should be healthier now that I know that a dearth of vitamin D has been making me feel awful (along with the flu and a back-thing that made it hard to sit anywhere).

So welcome, March.  I'm glad to see you!