Archive | December, 2013

When OCD is Not a Joke! (OCD #1)

31 Dec

Many, many of us with OCD tendencies joke about that!  Our name appears to be legion.

But what happens when OCD crosses a line and is not a joke?  What about when you cross the line from sometimes going back into the kitchen to make sure, one last time, that you turned off the oven and wind up in a place where OCD immobilizes you for hours?  What then?

What happens to those whose OCD becomes life-dominating, keeping them from much productive activity?  

I am still new enough at this journey to say “I don’t know what happens then . . .”

Our beloved son has OCD, along with autism.  The autism is manageable, even endearing.  The OCD . . . well, I wish I could jerk it out by the roots. 

The OCD has only recently become unmanageable.  Our son will get on a perseveration (obsessive thought sequence) that will spin him into an emotionally volatile state.  He doesn’t seem to be able to move from that state, regardless of consequences imposed.  

He gets to a place where he believes some injustice has occurred, with him being one of its victims, and he can’t let it go.  He becomes angry about events that are real enough, but on which he has placed an interpretation that would not occur to most of us.  

So it is not schizophrenia, as schizophrenia operates in a fictional world.  Our son’s world is real enough–it is just that his interpretation of it makes it unbearable to him.  I believe his autism contributes to the OCD interpretations.  That is probably why it is hard to “logic” him out of them.

His autism already makes it difficult for him to perceive the world the way most others perceive it. And his autism makes it hard for him to trust anyone, even his mother, who tells him his perceptions are not accurate and should be set aside.  

I am working with his special needs college and his psychiatrist to help him.  There doesn’t seem to be a standard protocol for this yet.  As a Christian, I just have to term it “life in a fallen world” and stay in prayer about it.  There is definitely not a “one size fits all” solution for this, much less a magical solution that can occur without a lot of hard work and effort.  

I guess, with each successive generation, we are just one step further removed from Eden and the perfection God created.  The genetic mutations seem to become more and more pronounced.

I know some things that will not change.  I will not stop imposing consequences for sinful statements our son makes, even when OCD-driven.  I can’t.  I have seen the fruit that grows in far too many families that “cave” and allow their special needs members to drive the family agenda because it is “easier than fighting the tendencies.”  Sure it is easier.  But, ultimately, deadlier, too.  

We had a family friend who died a couple of years ago after a lifetime of letting her OCD daughter control her by way of threats to cut herself or commit suicide.  Now that fifty-ish daughter, who has never worked any job for long, is all alone in this world.  Her brother and her father (the parents were divorced) are, quite understandably, not able to help her in her world, in which she thinks saying, “I will cut myself if you don’t do things my way” is a legitimate option. Her story has always been heartbreaking but is totally so now.  

I will not allow my son to take our family into such territory.  Something I say to him every day is “I do not live in OCD-land and I am not going there with you.”  Sometimes I add that it would be a waste of my time.  It would.  But it would also be unkind to him, ultimately, to let him dominate me in such a sinful way.  Whether it seems sinful to him or not, it is sinful to cave in to such impulses.  Man was not created to live immobilized by perseverations.

No, there is a better way.

And we will find it.  So help me, God!

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Our Noisy Planet!

31 Dec

Our Noisy Planet!

There are over six billion of us on planet Earth right now and we are speeding toward seven billion. Two countries have more than a billion people, China and India. One of those two is growing faster than the other. Due to the forced birth control policies in China for the past generation, their population rate is growing more slowly than India’s.

That said, the planet has gotten noticeably more noisy in my lifetime. I have to be careful to not refer to some ideal Victorian past that never actually existed (at least outside of a handful of very rich families in Britain and the U.S.), but I think I can accurately say that, in my childhood, a neighborhood of houses like ours ($300,000 homes of around 2700 square feet) would not have dealt with noise complaints very often. Now our community newsletter is constantly reminding us to remember that we are not out on a farm somewhere out of everyone else’s notice . . .

Some of us have more sensitive constitutions by nature and can be easily derailed by someone else’s noise level. That doesn’t make that other person a villain, but it does make life interesting for us . . .

For example, I have long noted that I cannot handle the staccato barking of dogs in my neighborhood. And, thankfully, there have only been four times that that was an issue since we moved here 23 years ago. Three of them were at the same corner home, which probably has a built in dog house to attract dog owners as buyers!!!

There is currently a dog there that mostly howls, rather than barks, when sirens start or when he gets cold in the night (he is seemingly left outside 24/7, even in the coldest weather, and since I did ask our animal control people to investigate that and nothing changed over there, I have to assume that no animal cruelty laws are being broken). Thankfully, the howling doesn’t get under my skin the way the occasional barking does!!!

Some things about noises and noise levels are cultural.

Some are individual.

For example, I have long heard that the gentle rhythms of Baroque music are the rhythms that most mimic the human constitution. Since I love Baroque music, I am onboard with believing that. However, I realize that that is also an example of Western European thinking that may not be shared universally by all of the earth’s inhabitants.

The above musical selection is a folk rendition of a standard old hymn with words by John Bunyan.

What I like about it is the way it starts with the tradition of earlier music (including the music written during the Baroque era) and riffs a bit onward with it. The unexpected syncopation, especially that provided by the ancient instrument playing an alternate tune in the background, delights my senses. The drumline is just regular enough to not be frightening–walking along the ledge without falling over the edge. There are several times the drums thunder an alternate five or six beat rhythm, but they always resolve to the time signature of the piece, with a bit of syncopation thrown in for excitement.

To me, that is brilliant music–knowing the rules of good music composition and mostly honoring them. Breaking them here and there, but only temporarily. Keeping everyone, literally, on the same sheet of music, even as riffs occur on one instrument or another.

My taste in music may seem tame to some and wild to others, but that is where I am right now, as the unique individual God created me to be.

How does this relate to noise levels around us?

Well, for me, I can hear music composition rules in our movements, too. I never studied dance, but I am willing to believe that ballet dancers probably hear music composition rules and rhythms in almost everything.

In our home, for instance, my husband moves slowly in 4/4 time. I have been told that I used to do the same until I lost weight. Now I often don’t make noise at all as I move around. I sometimes even startle people that way.

Our son, on the other hand, is typical of many boys, especially special needs boys. He moves in 3/4 time, but with an erratic third beat. It never falls exactly where I expect to hear it. And it is often accompanied by a crash as he closes a door harder than I expected, or drops something, or opens a door too hard and hits the wall with it. We have built many doorstops into our life since he joined us in 1992, but have not been able to keep up with putting them everywhere they are needed.

And, see, that is something in which awareness goes a long way toward contentment. If I didn’t realize he moves differently because he is made differently, I would be constantly trying to change him into 4/4 time, which I expect would be impossible.

Instead, I have learned to enjoy the knowledge that he is here with us, crashes and all. If all else fails, I clip on the headset and turn on music like the video above!!!

In a world of so many people and so many noises, there is certainly a time that someone’s noise must be altered. There are noise ordinances for a reason, after all. There is a time to say something, to tell someone they must alter their noise level or face consequences.

May we be wise in discerning when those times occur and when other situations dictate that we should remain silent and try to accommodate others, even when their noise makes those of us with sensitive constitutions feel restless and nervous.

Written for a friend of mine, facing loud, constant, erratic bangs in Papua Indonesia on New Year’s Eve!

Thanking God for Broken Relationships . . .

27 Dec

In reading and writing about an attitude of gratitude this Christmastime, I saw something very interesting that was written about estranged relationships (and, no, I don’t remember who wrote it, but this is a paraphrase, not a quote so I will go with it . . .).

The writer said that, at year’s end, we may look back and see some relationships/friendships that we used to have that have ended.  

We grieve those.  

But they also show us that we had a deep, real relationship with that person in the past because if we only had superficial relationships all life long, we would not only never grieve for lost relationships, we would not even miss them!

I like that way of looking at it.  

And I will add that, before we do this assessment, and move on, we had best make sure that our own conscience is clear about not causing the end of that relationship.  If we caused it to end, we owe someone an apology, whether or not the relationship ever is renewed.  

And then, even if the other person chose to walk away from us, with 100% of the responsibility for the relationship ending, did we at least try to fix things from our end?  Did we tell the person we missed her and try to reconnect?  If so, our consciences are clear and we need to realize that people will walk away from us all life long, even after deep, real friendships.  It just happens.   

Grieve it, move on, be older and wiser.  

Life on a fallen planet it like that.   

My Weight Loss Journey – by Mary Martin

26 Dec

This is an old post from when I was about halfway through my weight loss in 2012. Love the before and “progress” pictures.

savage taste

I had breast cancer four years ago.  Although I have spent a career as a naval officer, my weight had crept up just prior to my diagnosis and the steroids given to me with my chemotherapy caused me to balloon an additional forty pounds.  I spent the next three and a half years trying to figure out how to lose my excess weight as painlessly as possible.  I tried various things, but never stuck with anything for long.  I was beginning to wonder whether I could become a candidate for bariatric surgery and just give up trying to control my weight by way of diet and exercise.

I eventually remembered that I had previously lost fifty pounds via portion control (about fifteen years ago) and had actually kept it off successfully for around a year and a half, until I slid back into sloppy old habits of consuming large portions…

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Even Cowgirls Get the Blues . . .

26 Dec

Even Cowgirls Get the Blues . . .

I reread my post from Christmas Eve today, with the intent not to delete it, but to seriously edit it.

I left it as it was.

It was a slice of family life, of exhausted family life on Christmas Eve. It presented us, warts and all.

In the midst of talking about an attitude of gratitude, I was griping about families taking us for granted by not exhibiting an attitude of gratitude.

See what I did there? Reciprocated the feeling. If they take me for granted, I get to complain about them . . .

And, in human nature, that happens. But it is also important to remember that, in Christ, we have overcome many things. Human nature can be one of them.

By His power, His resurrection power. Not by our own puny efforts.

So . . . while we all gripe sometimes, we also are in that “already, not yet” tension that is life in Christ on a fallen planet.

We have to self-talk and remind ourselves that everything that touches us comes through the hands of a loving God. Even feeling taken for granted by our families.

That doesn’t excuse lack of action on our part. If we don’t tell them that we feel taken for granted, they will never figure it out by themselves.

But it does mean we rejoice as we realize that we are in Christ and, in Him, we have all things.

I will leave my post up, as it is. It will encourage someone else who is struggling.

And, in the end, I got where I needed to get. Back to the feet of Christ our Lord!

If I Am Gonna Be Your Beta Tester, You Have to Be Willing to Pay Me . . .

26 Dec

Has anyone else noted recently that the American public seems to have become the de facto beta tester group for every new software or application that is issued?

I am not merely talking about the healthcare.gov fiasco, although that is the most famous example of a software that was sprung on the public well before it was ready for prime time.  

I am talking about inefficiencies in softwares and apps that leave me, a non-programmer, shaking my head and wondering aloud why programmers couldn’t see what is obvious to a casual user like me.

Today my cause du jour is the Amazon Prime application on my iPad.  When I put a movie or television show on my watchlist, it is not intuitively obvious whether that show is free, with my Prime subscription, or whether it is an extra charge for an actual purchase of that movie.  

That is okay, if a bit inconvenient–I can figure that out when I go to play the movie and only have a preview available, not the movie itself.  If I have been anticipating a particular movie all day and find out at that moment that it is not free on Amazon Prime, that can be a disappointment, but it is a very First World dilemma to face and I acknowledge that . . .

The next step, however, is totally baffling.  When I play the preview, there is no option to purchase the film at that time, from that spot on the Amazon Prime app.  Wouldn’t you think they would put in a toggle switch with either “continue to purchase” or “return to watchlist” as options at this point?

In fact, I have found no place on my Amazon Prime app where I can purchase movies.  Seems I have to leave the app and go to the Amazon website.

How inefficient.  That is not even worthy of the early 2000’s, honestly.  

And again, how First World of me!

But if you are trying to be cutting edge in the world of technology, if you are telling reporters you are going to start delivering packages by drone . . . at least get your movies app up to 2013 standards.  Or get out of the way . . . as you will be run over.

I could go on but I have lots of softwares with which I need to interact as a current job seeker.  Yup, the state of Virginia jobs data base (list of commercial and government jobs) allows me to upload a resume, but it won’t mark my entry in their data base as complete until I enter my job (and education) histories by hand.  So I have been painstakingly entering more than thirty years’ worth of data on myself over the past two weeks.  And not being surprised that their software can’t translate my resume, like some commercial softwares can, because states can’t afford cutting edge technology like these other bad boys, including Amazon, supposedly can!

In my years of military service, I first functioned as a beta tester for an information management software (mostly a data base to keep track of multiple questions that might be asked about the same situation) that was being built by and for our military in Germany.  It was standalone for our site, back in the days when the military let sites develop their own softwares which subsequently were not usable by anyone else (since there was no Internet yet, either).  I would tell programmers what I needed the software to do for me, they would build it to my specifications, and I would test it.  Even though we didn’t have the term beta tester back then, I was one!

Later, I worked for almost a year for a market research company, managing entire projects for them, start to finish.  It was not my favorite part of the process (because their programmers were usually working under the gun with a deadline looming as they wrote code) but I tested my own surveys before they went live.  How well I remember having programmers who were not well paid (so therefore sometimes were just as baffled as I was about how to fix things that didn’t branch correctly into the next set of questions) sitting with me at 3 PM trying to fix things that were to go live at 6 PM.  With management standing there saying we were costing them money if we didn’t hit the ground running at 6!!!

Never mind that management didn’t give the specs to the programmers till 9 that morning because the client could not decide what she wanted on the survey.  Oh, no, it was not management’s place to tell the client that a well-written survey could not possibly occur between 9 and 6!  It was our job to make it happen.  And when I let things get by that did not branch correctly, by not following every possible answer that could be given to every possible conclusion in the survey, we would have people who were responding live on the phone that evening when suddenly the software would glitch up and not continue (like Obamacare!).   

I remember hearing yelling, being told how much it cost in dollars to lose live people who could not finish the survey and had to be replaced with others.  Or to have to shut the survey down during the time it was supposed to be live in order to troubleshoot a glitch.  Those angry statements directed at me were true!  And I was the person who was held responsible, back in the days when people still held others responsible for nonfunctional software!!!  

For me, that job was so high stress that it lasted less than a year before my husband and I decided I was only going to work part time for the Navy reserves.  

So, yes, I have earned my chops as a beta tester, both early on and in later Navy projects.  But I have also gotten into the annoying expectation that, when I test someone’s software or app, it is a job for me and I should be paid for the beta testing.  

Just serving notice to the developers of software and apps . . . if you are not cutting me a check, I am not planning to do your job for you!!!

Performance-based Parenting

24 Dec

I serve a perfect, all-knowing Saviour, but I am a work in progress and will be one until the day I depart this earth.

One thing I am struggling with right now is the idea that an attitude of gratitude is hard to teach to one’s offspring.  

I don’t necessarily think that is an issue restricted to special needs offspring.  I have seen enough examples of the “most entitled generation ever” to say that many of us have not been able to teach the concept of “attitude of gratitude.”  Or maybe not all of my generation even tried . . .  

I know that my special needs son needs to catch this as an attitude of the heart, not as an externally imposed rule from me.  I also know his college, which is a Christian school for special needs people, is aware of the need to convey this concept in a heart-to-heart way.  So we all keep plugging away at teaching it . . .

Where I think I have failed in the past is in not realizing that if I accept dismissive behavior directed toward me by my son, I am disobeying the part of God’s Word that says children need to be taught to respect their parents, and actually to treat every human being with dignity.  

It is subtle, this whole issue.  I certainly imposed consequences for blatantly disrespectful language or actions.  

What I didn’t see coming until it was in my rearview mirror was the tendency to hand me a “to do list” for which appreciation is never shown, but with a new list of demands being issued when the old list is finished.  

I spent my childhood trying to find one minute in which I felt I had completed enough actions to be considered a good daughter.  I now find myself spending my motherhood doing the same, in relation to my child.  I am measuring my parenting by whether I can ever get to the point where I have completed the “to do list” of things my kid wants done for him.  And the answer is . . . I cannot.  

There is so much wrong there, at so many levels.  Relationships should not be defined by what others do for us.  We all know that.  Or rather, the only relationship that should be defined by what others do for us is that of employer and employee.

But what makes me saddest is that I have not conveyed the idea of an attitude of gratitude.  I don’t often hear “thank you” when we cross one thing off the “to do list.”  Actually, I usually just hear that one thing being replaced by two more requirements.  And I know they are only requirements because I allow them to be.

I know that getting mad and pushing back will not solve this.  We cannot legislate an attitude of gratitude.  Sitting down like a mule and saying I won’t do anything more for my family won’t cut it either.  Nothing that is being asked of me is abnormal for family life.  It is just all being asked in a way that takes me totally for granted.  

I did just declare a moratorium for Christmas Eve and Christmas.  I will not acknowledge any requests till the 26th.  I am exhausted, ten days after my son arrived home from college.  We have been to two malls, the Navy Exchange twice, a thrift store, three special restaurants, the doctor, a beauty parlor (for haircut), and the grocery store that has six packs of Coke.  That is not factoring in all of the requests to jump up and find things for him at home or to do things for him that he has not yet mastered for himself (that is probably the special needs part–and, in all fairness, he is working on self-help skills and is making great progress).  

So, for those of you who have never lived with a special needs person, that may be an eye-opening rant, although I know we all have our own responsibilities in life and many, many of us live in a sacrificial way within our families.  

I just realize that it is a two-way street.  If we are nothing but sacrifice, then our children become nothing but takers.  

And, if my parenting is to be performance-based at all, I should at least take God’s view of my performance, which is that I should convey righteous standards to my child, not teach him to be a taker all life long.  

I take the point and . . . I run to my Saviour once again, to be found fully sufficient in Him and in His righteousness, while I walk this earth in fear and trembling, living and learning and growing and always knowing I fall short, but that in Him I have everything.     

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