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Sleeping in the Breezes!

14 Jul

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Last night Noel and I slept in the breezes. Our son chickened out and slept downstairs, till we could get the air conditioning fixed this morning, but Noel and I just opened our almost ceiling-to-floor windows and slept in the breezes. Things were pretty still till about 4 AM, but nevertheless we stayed comfortable in our room, despite the temperature in the hallway outside our door creeping up to 84 degrees F.

With the advent of air conditioning, we so seldom sleep in the breezes anymore. When we lived in Germany in the late 1990’s, our non-air conditioned apartment was above a bakery and a butcher shop (both sources of intense heat) so we left our windows open on three sides of the building all summer long! They were not screened either (no mosquitoes in Germany).

We even once went camping near Pisa, Italy in a pup tent (at U.S. Army Camp Darby), with some incredibly refreshing breezes every night except one when it was so still we pulled our sleeping bags out under the trees. Stifling!

Fun memories of fun times.

In more recent days, our son and I spent some vacation time over the summer with my parents at their lake cottage (since sold). We slept on a futon in their screened porch (this was when my son was still a little guy) and very much enjoyed sleeping in the breezes (is there any better way to do that than in a screened porch???).

Then, three years ago, my brother and sister-in-law built a screened porch on to their house and our son got to christen it by being the first person to sleep there overnight. What an enviable position he was in. He especially liked being able to awaken every morning as the sun was rising and see the horses across the street hanging over their fence, ready for breakfast. Lovely!

We did *not* get to sleep in the breezes in June when we stayed in St. Ignace, with our hotel balcony overlooking Lake Huron, as the Michigan Upper Peninsula mosquitoes were big as birds and twice as tenacious that month! How I longed to leave our sliding screen door open to the breezes, but it was not to be.

We all love breezes and probably most of us love sleeping in them. But it is such a rare occurrence in modern times . . .

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Shame, Part II

29 Apr

Shame, Part II

I used to love this song by Sonny Bono when I was a teen.

I think all of us occasionally face people in life whose way of gaining control involves mocking others.

It may not even be a personal thing.  It so often is not.  That person feels so diminished, so voiceless that she mocks someone else for the attention it brings!

Or . . . someone can honestly hate something about us that is not evil.  She just hates our laugh, or the way we stand, or the way we bounce up and down when we get excited . . .

Whatever that characteristic is that gains us mockery, if we are not sinning, we need to just let the mockery go.  It doesn’t diminish us.  It diminishes the person who sees the need to be a mocker.  People get that.  Oh, yes they do.

I was stunned not long ago when someone who has been a close friend for years made an age joke at my expense in front of a crowd of people.  In fact, I was so stunned, I asked for clarification.  And, yes, it really was about 55-year-olds acting in an “age appropriate way.”

Just what is that?, one might ask.  Her take was that we should be slow and sedate.  At least slower and more sedate than I am, apparently.

Well.

I don’t think, with my tendency toward ADHD, that is gonna happen.  And I don’t think I am gonna try to conjure it up to please my friend and her definition of age appropriate behavior.

Sometimes ya just gotta let it go.

I trust that anyone in that crowd who laughed at me will reconsider when they see me living in integrity toward them, despite the jokes at my expense.

If not, mockery can function as an awfully good filter, to show you who your true friends are!!!

 

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Instagram and Being Part of the In Crowd!

24 Apr

Instagram and Being Part of the In Crowd!

Using Instagram as a symbol for the deep human need to be included.

I so identify with the author’s description of the end of his senior year in high school.  I had lots of friends but was never in a clique.  I did much better at one-on-one relationships, and I still do.

When it came to walking down the aisle at graduation, it turned out even my three best friends had someone who was more of a best friend to them than I was . . .

I was class valedictorian and I walked with a virtual stranger, another person left out after everyone paired up.

See how much we desire to be included?  I can remember that time vividly, almost 40 years later.

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When Families Facing Autism Also Face Isolation . . .

16 Mar

When Families Facing Autism Also Face Isolation . . .

I remember one of the sweetest compliments I ever received came from a female admiral in my Navy community who, seeing Joey walking on the beach with Noel and me during a Navy “wetting down” celebration, told me how much she admired us for bringing him to as many events as we did.  

She said there had been children with autism in her extended family and they were kept hidden, out of the public eye. 

We couldn’t do it any other way.  I am a fairly social animal!!!

Even when Joey had a hard time handling gatherings like this wetting down, we would just take a half hour off and go walking down the beach, hand in hand with him.  

Ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

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Dear Diary . . .

14 Feb

Dear Diary . . .

My perfect Valentine’s Day has downsized over the years. It had to do that, because I have been married to a frugal guy for almost 25 years and . . . when we marry someone, we inevitably change each other. That seems to be one of the reasons God instituted marriage in the first place–to smooth off the rough edges.

I started my Valentine’s Day at 2:45 AM. I had intentionally set my alarm, going to bed at 10 PM so that I could get up and watch “Woman of the Year” with Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy on Turner Classic Movies.

They did not disappoint me! I love that pair. Sad that their relationship never was based on the sound marriages they portrayed in their films, but their onscreen pairing certainly made a strong case for enduring marriage (and for forgiveness within marriage).

In “Woman of the Year,” Ms. Hepburn is portrayed as more the selfish, unreasonable partner who needs to change.

In “Adam’s Rib,” which I saw again earlier this week, Mr. Tracy is more the selfish partner who changes by the end of the film.

So they balance!

As do Noel and I. Two imperfect people, bonded by Christ’s love as well as romantic love.

After the movie was over, I crept back up to bed, only to find my husband already awake. He had fallen asleep in his recliner early last night while I was at Bible Study. He was slowly waking up for the day.

We lay there, talking for almost an hour before I drowsed back off to sleep and he got up.

What a precious time. I always think of the early morning quiet and darkness as velvety and intimate, not frightening like darkness can be at midnight when you are rushing a child to the emergency room or when you are lost on the road somewhere.

Such a good time to share your hearts in ways that belong just to the two of you, never to be shared on a blog.

This morning, when I finally got up, I scrambled us egg whites and served them with leftover blueberry scones I made for our meal at Bible study last night. It was a good enough treat. We don’t need heartshaped donuts!

Tomorrow night we will attend a Valentine’s party at the home of friends.

And, with that, I am content, having found a place to belong in a world that sometimes seems frighteningly random.

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Healthy Beverages!

21 Jan

Healthy Beverages!

I have just passed the one year mark after my 100 pound weight loss. That means that I have sustained the loss for a year. Actually, I lost ten pounds more.

In a recent online discussion of healthy beverages, I asserted that I have learned to drink only coffee (usually black) and water. My motto is to drink no calories, with the very occasional latte an exception to that. Not bad for a woman who used to singlehandedly keep Starbucks in business by picking up two venti lattes at a time . . . with full fat milk. I would do that 3-4 times a week, too. Imagine the calories. Imagine the cost.

Eating healthier ultimately turns out to be eating cheaper, too. Even when I buy K-cups for my Keurig and go through up to eight of them a day.

My husband has recently tried to introduce flavored waters into our repertoire. I say no, and here is why. I am not trying to be a spoilsport or an ascetic (people who gave things up just for the sake of living with minimal comforts in their lives). I just find that . . . I get thirsty after drinking flavored water. I am not sure what the sucralose (sugar substitute) does but it leaves my tongue hanging out for water, just as sodas used to do when consumed at picnics on hot days in my youth.

It is clear that high fructose corn syrup was a highly addictive substance for me (there is mounting evidence that it is for most of the human race). I am thrilled to be free of it. I am also pretty sure that if I had a Coke tonight, I would be craving another one tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day . . .

Water, water, water. Whether bottled or from the tap, whatever your philosophy, whatever your pleasure, water is good for you and good for me.

What happens to people when they don’t get enough water? We don’t have to go to Third World nations in need of wells being drilled to see the answer to that.

Look no further than West Virginia last week when a chemical used in washing coal was inadvertently released into much of the state’s water system, resulting in a white, fizzy substance pouring forth from faucets in the capital, Charleston, and elsewhere.

Look to the areas that went through the polar vortex two weeks ago and had frozen and sometimes burst water pipes.

When there is a water emergency, suddenly we are sizing up bottled water supplies in stores and rushing trucks in with more. A lack of water is a serious thing.

On a much more minor scale, I have recently noted that my occasional dizziness (inner ear related) gets worse when I am dehydrated. For instance, when I go to choir practice on Sunday afternoon and stay at church for four hours after forgetting to bring a bottle of water. I don’t usually drink from drinking fountains (at least not during flu season) so I have to remind myself to find a glass in the church kitchen and fill it with water. Or I will find myself suffering from a spinning room by the next morning.

It makes perfect sense. If there are bits of calcium or something getting caught in my inner ear channels, water will move them along. Passages in the body need to stay hydrated in order to get things to where they need to be (usually outside the body).

So . . . in conclusion, I hope to convince many to drink more water and to consume fewer other beverages (except plain coffee and tea). I think it is an easy step to take to better health.

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Slippery Slope: How Private Schools and Racial Segregation Can Go Hand-in-Hand

20 Jan

Slippery Slope: How Private Schools and Racial Segregation Can Go Hand-in-Hand

A thoughtful article.

I do have to give a shoutout to my own church and its academy. I haven’t done an exact count, but the academy seems to be approximately 50% non-Caucasian, with students who are black, Asian, and Hispanic all there. And the most popular ethnic group nowadays–those beautiful kids who are of such a mixture of heritages that you couldn’t even classify them if you wanted to do so!

That, my friends, is heaven.

We are advantaged here by having the military as the great integrator. In our area, we host all five military branches. People are comfortable with those of other races because they learn to be comfortable at their government/military jobs.

I suppose a place like Jackson, Tennessee (in the article) isn’t advantaged like we are with a working environment in which people of various races get to know each other well.

But our church also reaches out to all ethnic groups and has a low enough tuition for the private school that it is more easily accessible for members of ethnic groups who might be the first in their family to consider private education. It is a sacrifice for everyone, but it is one that an increasing number of African-American, Asian, and Hispanic parents are choosing at our school . . .

Band of Brothers and the Liberation of the Camps

16 Jan

Last night, I saw the penultimate episode of Band of Brothers (episode 9).  It affected me in a way I can almost not put into words.  

After Easy Company parachuted into France on D-Day, fought their way across France and the Netherlands into Belgium for the Battle of the Bulge, stood off with the Germans in the Ardennes Forest for a winter, protecting Bastogne while being encircled by enemy forces as the other U.S. forces withdrew from them (that was the gist of the Battle of the Bulge for them), and fought on into Germany, they encountered the worst thing of all . . .

On patrol, they accidentally stumbled on a Jewish work camp. This was while the Russians were in the process of discovering death camps like Auschwitz on the other side of the Reich. The footage in Band of Brothers is unreal. The work camp guards had fled that morning, in advance of the American arrival in the area. They had burned some huts, with the prisoners trapped in them. They had mowed down as many prisoners as they could before they ran out of ammunition. There were already corpses stacked in piles three feet deep that had been left in trains on the tracks in that camp. They looked to have been dead for days, if not week. There were dead bodies lying (and swelling up) everywhere. There were the walking dead, awaiting the American GI’s at the fence or lying in bunks, unable to get out of them.

The Americans broke down at this point. These brave 20 year old soldiers were openly weeping for the first time in the series. The segment is called, fittingly, “Why We Fight.”

The next thing we see, the American General Officer in that area has declared martial law and is sending the well-dressed “respectable” German townsfolk from the town right outside the camp into the camp to remove the bodies for a decent burial. One of these “decent” women catches the eye of a GI who had earlier gone into her house looking for supplies. He had thrown the photo of her German Army officer husband on the floor and broken it. And this was before he knew about the atrocities with the Jews. As he catches the eye of this lady, in an expensive dress, picking up rotting remains of humans that many Germans did not even acknowledge as human, he just stares, with the knowing look of a young man who realizes that she and her husband have knowingly profited from this misery. For many Germans may have been ignorant of the Final Solution, but if you were ignorant half a mile from a camp with the stench of death hanging over it 24/7, it was only because you didn’t want to ask questions!

I was so undone by this segment that, for one of the only times in the 23 years we have lived here, on half an acre with no curtains over our backdoor and the lower parts of our breakfast nook bay windows, I got up from the den chair, at 2 AM, with a feeling of panic because I did not have a working lightbulb in the light on our deck. I feared evil eyes looking in at me as I sat and watched the movie. And how silly was that, when we have lived this way every night for 23 years, in a fairly safe neighborhood, and rarely turn the decklights on, even when they are in working order?

Yes, this segment literally sent me into a panic attack. I suspect it does that for others, too. I understand from German friends who talked freely to me while we lived in Germany, that it was a complex time and many were afraid to speak up for persecuted people lest their own young families be ripped apart. But isn’t that how evil thrives–when everyone is too afraid to call it out as evil? Good lessons for us all in this segment, lessons from World War II and the generation of giants who fought it.

P.S. This segment probably singlehandedly gains an R rating for the series with a gratuitous sex scene in the first five minutes, as peace is breaking out. The woman never shows up further in the story and her tryst with an American GI has nothing to do with the plotline. She is just there so the producers could say, “See, even HBO can do R-rated material.” Which is kind of sad, because the violence would have gotten it an R-rating without that. And now I cannot unreservedly recommend the series to my Christian brothers without telling them to advance past the first five minutes of episode 9, to avoid the topless woman. Just saying.

What Have You Done for Me Lately?

16 Jan

Okay, I am really venturing onto dangerous territory this week.  More than once.  Ha!

I have many young friends but I am going to say this–I think the generation currently in its 20’s and 30’s (is that just one generation?  I can’t keep track) is the most entitled generation ever.  

Some of my friends will know straightaway that this doesn’t apply to them.  Even if we joke about it.

Some will know that it sometimes does apply.  And we may joke about that, too.  

I kind of understand how it must feel.  We have kind of put you guys in a position where you are on the hook for our social security, and now our health care, without any guarantees that both of those systems will not bankrupt before you need them.  We are like a giant generational Ponzi scheme.  Not at all cool!

We were probably the last generation ever that wound up richer than its parents’ generation.  Then there were too many of us Baby Boomers and too few of you and . . . that just doesn’t sustain (do the math!).  

However, there is way to tiptoe around these realities with good will prevailing between us all and there is a way to crash like a bull through the generational china shop.

In general, when we can help you financially, we jump at the chance.  Even when we are not your actual parents, but just a couple of surrogates enlarging your world and your financial situation.  However, no one likes to be taken for granted.  We all like to feel that we belong in this world–that we are appreciated as people and not just as wallets with legs.  

So . . . you can play the game, or not.  

What is a good way that we can tell when you have chosen to not play the game?

Well, when we get laid off and you suddenly change your relationship with us might be one way!

That said, though, my main concern this week is not finances, but rather the fact that we may be inadvertently teaching you that envy and jealousy are okay.  

You see, we all get envious/jealous at some point in our lives.  But when I was young and found that happening, I would examine my heart and work on myself, with God’s help.

I am afraid nowadays we may have passed along the message to you that it is justifiable to feel envy toward others and that we totally understand if you let your envy harden into bitterness.  

Think not?

What happens when your children don’t receive as much attention as other children at church, Bible study, or playgroup?  What do you do?  What do we counsel you to do?

In general, no one is going to have all the same friends as another person.  You and each of your friends have a different network because you are different people.  If you have an older couple in your life who adore your kids, you are blessed.  Please don’t compare yourselves to others and get upset if you find another family that has two older couples loving on their kids!!!  Don’t plot to have your kids compete with the kids of another family for attention.  That is a lot to put on your kids.  Enjoy the friends you have, especially if they dote on your kids!

And don’t mope about uneven amounts of attention given by adults to other adults either.  The same thing goes.  We are all in different networks.  We also all have different personalities and so no two people will ever get the same amount of attention in the same situation.  It is statistically impossible.  

For example, I got a huge amount of attention the year I lost 100 pounds.  It was like everyone in my life became my cheering section. As outgoing as I am, I was constantly reporting to close friends, casual friends, and even perfect strangers the number of pounds I was down!

I think I got more attention that year than all other weight loss folks I have ever known put together!

But . . . I have a summer birthday and, ever since high school when I realized that birthdays are often celebrated by going out with friends, I have had spells of regretting that I was born while school is out and most people are concentrating on their vacations.  I have had one self-catered birthday party with friends (when I turned 40), one party at my best friend’s house when I happened to be visiting on my birthday, and one surprise slumber party when I turned 18 that still makes me giggle because there is no greater way to create shock than to plan a surprise party for a person with a summer birthday who doesn’t even have the concept of celebrating with friends!!!

So . . . see how that works?  I got dollops of attention for my weight loss but have bypassed the birthday parties that many others take for granted.  And every one of us has things like that–areas where we have received abundance to an overflow and other areas where we can feel somewhat left out at times.  

When we feel left out, let’s not institutionalize that.  Let’s find the parts where we can count blessings and feel grateful.  

Otherwise, we risk having an attitude of “what have you done for me lately?” coming across in our relationships and poisoning them.  

For truly, we are responsible, working with God, to find our own happiness and to live in our own state of contentment.  

If we don’t do that, it is not something anyone else can do for us, even loving surrogate (or actual) parents.  

The Damage that can be done by People without Knowledge of History

14 Jan

This is going to be dangerous territory.

There are some ideas that you cannot call out in the U.S. without people who hold them realizing they are being called out for holding those ideas.  

You can call it a “conversation” if you wish, but if you have talked with said individuals numerous times and have found it to be like hitting your head against a brick wall, then you doubtless are aware that this is not really a conversation.  

Sometimes you just have to say things plainly and . . .if people hold other views and feel their views are being attacked, well, that is actually true.

You see, not all ideas are equally valid, no matter what we say about free speech.  You have a right to say it.  But just saying words does not gain you validity, nor followers.  You have to know what you are saying and be able to back it up.

People who have not studied history have the same right to free speech as the rest of us.  But they also have the right to listen to others laugh at them when they say silly things, due to not knowing history.  

In the marketplace of ideas, laughter is a valuable thing.  We don’t need to suppress speech.  But we do have to research what we are saying if we hope to have our speech be respected.  

I have a friend in my age group who has been a valuable person to help me understand how some folks in younger generations look at the military in the U.S.  She has helped me with that because she holds many of the same views as our younger generation generally does.   

The military is regarded, nowadays, as an unaffordable luxury.  What are we protecting, after all?

As a student of history, I see that mindset as myopic.  Tragically so.  

But it may take another world war to turn that mindset around.  

My friend has often made statements about the military not having a right to an opinion about what she calls “other entitlement programs.”  Yes, she will say, “You have your entitlements like the commissary and Tricare, so you have to keep quiet about the entitlements of the rest of us.”  

Really?  So when you serve 27 years for it, as I did, it is still regarded as an “entitlement”?  

So when the government signs your paycheck because you work for the government, it is the same as when the government signs a welfare check?  Have we told the President and the Congress that their paychecks are “entitlements”?

I totally get it about not treating welfare recipients as pariahs.  But that does not mean they earn their checks in the same way the military does.  You don’t turn it around and elevate the self respect of welfare recipients by lumping them in with the military, for whom we have traditionally held the highest respect of all.  

In an era of limited resources, it would go far toward healing some of the U.S.’s divides if people would at least act appreciative of the military while asking them to take 50% of the budget cuts (note:  the military is not 50% of the budget, but we are regarded as having more discretionary dollars than Medicaid, Medicare, social security or welfare).  

I totally get it that most of our Senators and Congresspeople have no military service, for the first time in history.  So they can’t really appreciate us unless they are students of history.  Sometimes they try to give us lip service.  Sometimes they don’t bother.  

I totally understand that most people sleep through high school history classes and some even do that in college.  But . . . I entered the military with a very sparse knowledge of history and just started reading . . . It is amazing what history books, even good historical fiction, can do for you!  I always loved history.  Now I have a pretty broad background in it.  

There is no excuse for not understanding the Cold War or what the U.S. did to preserve freedom in World Wars I and II.  There is no reason for anyone to not tell a Viet Nam vet “thank you for your service” with full understanding of why that phrase matters to him.  

And, more recently, our next “greatest generation” that gave the strength of its youth in Iraq and Afghanistan needs to be praised and encouraged, not lumped in with welfare recipients as “entitlement folks.”

It is important.  Very important.  

Band of Brothers and PTSD . . .

7 Jan

I bought our family (well, myself) the HBO Band of Brothers series for Christmas this year and just started watching it three days ago.  I watched the second segment (about D-Day) last night. Wellmade series.  I especially like the interviews with real Easy Company survivors at the beginning of each segment . . . and the listing of medals awarded to Easy Company men for D-Day which came at the end of last night’s segment.

While watching these airborne men parachute into France on D-Day, amidst anti-aircraft fire and flak, I reminded myself that what was a glorious sight to me would have been an event that produced some serious PTSD in its participants.  Only back then, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) was not called that.  It was called shellshock from World War I onward. 

Nonetheless, one could not have been there, amidst planes getting shot down and crews burning to death, and emerge unscathed, even if not one bone of one’s body was broken.  It was the kind of scarring of the soul that would remain forever.  

And, you know, God built us that way for a reason.  We can’t pass through life without scarring of our souls.  Some of it does last forever.  That is not to be regretted, really.  

Much of it is related to learning.  It is one thing to participate in D-Day, for the good of a greater cause, and quite another thing to participate in a painful situation that has no purpose.  Only, since we tend to be so unthinking in our actions, we can spend our lives participating in painful, purposeless situations until the consequences they bring force us to think them through. 

A friend made me laugh the other day by telling me that she learned, at age 5, to not produce backwash in her drinks while sharing them.  She learned this by way of being laughed at by older people who caught her doing just that.  At the time, she didn’t even know what backwash was, but by the end of that day she had a hypersensitivity to producing it that continues till this day.  Kind of a minor PTSD, as it were.  So much embarrassment attached to an incident that she is guaranteed to learn from it–to always react in a hypersensitive way to that situation for the rest of her life. 

Haven’t we all had something happen like that, something that produced lifelong learning in some trivial area just by being so utterly embarrassing?

I remember the days when I was just starting to need glasses, around sixth to seventh grade. Part of my nearsightedness revealed itself to me when I realized I could not see things normal people could . . . but that happened over the course of months, not instantly.  

One day I walked into the girls’ room at my junior high school and saw one of my cousins in there.  She was changing clothes, but I could not tell that from where I stood.  I thought she was wearing a flesh-colored shirt and I strained to make out what it looked like.  As I squinted right at her, I remember to this day her exact words:  “My God, you lez . . .”  No offense to my lesbian friends, but she said that to me in front of half a dozen other girls.  My cheeks burned bright as I realized my mistake.  

To this day, I have difficulty looking at another woman’s chest, even when she is trying to show me something she is wearing there.  Again, a minor PTSD.  A learning incident that became tied to painful and uncomfortable feelings of embarrassment.  

All that to say, God allows PTSD in order to reinforce learning by way of consequences that solidify it into our minds and souls.  Since God did not create war, there are many learning sequences there that are reinforced by PTSD and are also so major as to disrupt one’s life forever.  They are related to our minor learning sequences of life but are on such a major level as to be in a whole different league than the ordinary situations we all encounter.

Military PTSD has produced a whole new area of study which will be ongoing for years as we try to find some relief for those whose souls are completely scarred by the brutal things they have seen in warfare.

When People with OCD Won’t Let Grudges Go . . . (OCD #6)

7 Jan

People with OCD can be drama queens . . . but so can the rest of us.

People with OCD can have trouble letting grudges go . . . but so can the rest of us.

This is where OCD starts to cross into “normal” behavior and make us a smidge uncomfortable.  

Do lots of us have a smattering of OCD?  I think so.

From watching my son with new eyes this Christmas vacation as he is home after four and a half months at college, I am pretty sure that he finds it difficult to exist with a low adrenaline level.  So he “thrill seeks” as they say.

This would make him a “drama queen” in the parlance.

I am actually pretty fortunate that he does that, not by way of alcohol, drugs, or sex addiction, but by way of living in his own head.  Only that is painful in another way . . .

Far as I can tell, he comes up with his grudges against people out of thin air.  He will describe something that someone at the college or associated with the college has done that he feels is an affront to his dignity and . . . I just won’t see it.  

Or it will seem as though it comes from a parallel universe he has set up, with different rules for behavior.  People will have no idea that they have offended him because they won’t know the rules in his parallel universe.  It is as though he wrote a script for a play and treats other people as actors in his play who got their lines wrong . . .

He has a thing for honorifics.  Whom he should call “Mr.” “Ms.” or “Miss,” as opposed to those whom he addresses by first name.  And this part of his parallel universe has driven several powerful grudges he has developed at the college.  

If I thought that addressing the honorifics issue and defining it specifically for everyone in his world would actually help him cease being a drama queen, I would speak with his school’s administration about it.  But I am fairly certain that, even if they got the honorifics sorted out with Joey, he would have a new “drama queen issue du jour” by tomorrow.  It’s what he does.  

I don’t know how to get him to stop holding on to an “issue du jour” any more than I know how to get him to “reconcile” with people against whom he holds a grudge for reasons totally invisible to them.  

I pray that our brainstorming will help us with this part of OCD, too.

And . . . maybe in the process we will find some relief for supposedly normal Christians who develop grudges against others and say that they cannot find a way to let them go.  

It’s worth a try.  I have known many people stuck in hatred they said they didn’t even wish to carry.  I know it is not pleasant to carry bitterness and vitriol, even for a little while.

Maybe we can find help for us all.  

 

When People With OCD Feel Compelled to Interrupt (OCD #5)

6 Jan

A couple of days ago I wrote about when people with OCD overshare.  I threw the issue open on my Facebook page and discovered that many parents deal with not knowing what to do in the situation.  Not too many of us have found coping mechanisms that work (other than waiting till our child is old enough and responsible enough to be at home alone, then just leaving when they start that behavior . . . and not answering when they dial the cellphone!!!).  

This is never meant to be an “us vs. them” forum.  No one asks to be born with OCD.  They are not the enemy.  I am coming out of the closet on this issue in order that we might encourage and be encouraged.  Our children with OCD also need to be encouraged . . . We will work together to help them!

I am also convinced that people with autism/OCD will ultimately solve the riddles of autism/OCD, so we must continue to involve them in the conversations.  

Notice that I mentioned that the people who have thus far dialogued about OCD and oversharing have all been parents.  To me, that is telling because, especially when children with OCD/autism are young, parents may find themselves isolated, as the only people who interact with their child on a regular basis (except for teachers and others forced by the law to interact with them).  There is a reason for that.  Well, more than one reason, but let me throw this one right out there because it is another elephant in the room . . .

Many people will not voluntarily interact with a person with OCD.  Because of the fact that they get going on a session of sharing and don’t stop till they have overshared, many people find them odd and off-putting.  And sometimes people with OCD can actually cross a line into criminal oversharing (sharing sexual fantasies that have no part in normal human interaction and may actually be illegal, depending on the age of the person who is being forced to listen).    

It is totally understandable that people who want to keep their head straight would flee at the sight of someone who overshares like that.  The idea is not to build a world where oversharing is tolerated.  It is to help our children with OCD learn how to not do this.  The goal is to teach them where the line is drawn, then create in them a strong desire to not go over that line, regardless of what their OCD is telling them to do.  

A related issue that has come up a lot in our chats on Facebook is the actual topic of this post (sorry for the long sidebar discussion!).

What do we do when our child with OCD constantly interrupts our every conversation or activity?  I throw this one out there as one on which we have made some progress in my son’s 21 years but not as much as I need us to have made.  

I have actually lost some friends over this one, or had friends remain close to me after we “agreed to disagree” about how much control I had in the situation.  I can remember being told to “get a grip and make him stop interrupting you every time you are on the phone.”  I can also remember hearing, “Okay, now we have just had the usual interruption of our phone conversation.  I knew it was coming–I just did not know when it would happen.”  And, sadly, I agreed with that friend.  I also knew the interruption was coming at some point . . .

With a “normal” child, consistent consequences would eventually stop this from happening, right?  So I must not have been imposing consistent consequences, right?  So the thinking goes . . .

And in a world that had consistent rules that always governed human behavior, that would be true.  Only this is not that world.

I tried two things.  I tried ignoring my child as he interrupted.  That did not work.  He would only ratchet up his volume, higher and higher, until I could not hear my conversation. Remember Glenn Close saying in “Fatal Attraction” the words “I will not be ignored”? Any ideas why I call that film “Fatal Obsession”? She was only an outlaw version of a person with OCD, believing that people around her should be paying attention to her.  For some reason that I can’t explain, to ignore my son for even ten minutes when he was young seemed to totally negate his personhood.  

The other thing I tried was consequences after the fact.  Of course, these were invisible to the friends on the phone or in a social setting with me, who saw me regularly stop my conversation with them to listen to my son’s litany of non-emergency observations.  And, no matter how many hours my son spent in his room as a consequence of his interruptions (oddly, we would mostly have silence in the house then, as he totally understood the need to “do his penance” for his earlier actions), he would not outgrow his interruptions, as one normally expects young children to do.    

What is working better now that he has the fine muscle control to write is to tell him to journal his observations and save them for later. This is not a foolproof method, but both his college instructors and I have noticed it does help his behavior to improve somewhat.  He can spill his compulsions onto paper, confident that a parent or teacher will go over them with him later. Note: Make sure you do make time to communicate with your child with OCD later. The idea of this post is not to teach any of us how to totally ignore our child and the things he finds important. If you are seeking to do that, I encourage you that you need to change, too.

I also have learned to signal to him that I am involved in something like writing by wearing my headset, sometimes even if the music is not on!!!  Yes, I sometimes have to remove it to listen to something he just has to say right this minute, but he has vastly improved in understanding that the headset means I am trying to follow one of my own thoughts to a logical conclusion without interruption.  There were years I could never do that at all!!!

There is much I do not know and, as always, I stand ready to heed instruction from those who have found other things that work or that work better than my own coping mechanisms.  

We need to have this conversation.

When People With OCD Insist on Saying Everything that Comes to their Mind! (OCD #4)

5 Jan

This is my fourth post this week on life with our son’s OCD (hey, maybe I have OCD, too!).  

Something he just said to me tonight astonished me.  I have often wondered why he will not self-censor, even when he knows he will have consequences for some of the mean, hurtful things he says.  Turns out he . . . thinks it is lying if he does not say everything that comes to his mind!  

Wow, that is enlightening about OCD, isn’t it?  Not particularly helpful in coping, but enlightening. 

I can think of numerous times I have seen supposedly normal adults say similar things.

For example, just yesterday a veterinarian friend of mine posted a picture of herself on Facebook, taken while she was stroking a dolphin.  This was a bucket list item for my friend, an almost holy moment for which she had waited her entire life.  Yet one of her “friends” was unable to refrain from posting her disgust that the dolphin was kept in captivity.  

Really?  We can justify timing it so that we share our convictions which differ with those of a friend at the moment in that friend’s life when we can most deflate her and/or publicly humiliate her with our pronouncements?  And we feel very self-righteous as we do this?

Yet, I am almost certain there was OCD involved there, a compulsion to speak that this woman could seemingly not overrule.  

Another friend had just dropped her daughter at college almost a two-day drive from here.  As she posted about it on Facebook, obviously missing her daughter and needing comfort, another “friend” went on a rant about her own time at that particular college, stating that the only thing she ever found positive there was meeting her husband.

Really?  You have to say that now?

If that is OCD, no wonder it is hard for people with OCD to make and keep friends.  It seems as though they constantly choose the OCD over the friends.  There is no contest between them, apparently.  

Yet, of course, there is more at play here than meets the eye.  It is just a question of how we can show compassion without letting someone run us over constantly with a verbal steamroller.  That would not help anyone.

A practical example is a cashier at my local grocery store.  She visibly turned her nose up at a package of shrimp steamed in Old Bay seasoning that I brought to her line one day.  She then actually double-bagged her hands in order to not touch the package as she rang it up.  At first, I thought she had sneered at me and began to wonder what I might have done.  When she put the bags on her hands, I recognized the OCD in play and asked about her reaction.  She readily admitted to having a gag reflex with shrimp.  

Now . . . how do you have a career in a grocery store if you visibly turn up your nose every time a customer buys shrimp?  But more importantly, how do you have any career anywhere if your OCD is so disabling that you have big red flags all around you as people see you trying to do your job and stalling out while you double bag your hands? 

I have no answers, but only questions.  Questions worthy of lots of research and reading.

My son’s social worker/counselor once told me that Sigmund Freud had done a great disservice to mankind by telling us that things get better for us psychologically if we talk about them. He introduced “talk therapy” and the human race has not shut up since, saying some vastly inappropriate things that should better be left unsaid.  

It does help to talk about many things, but the social worker was referring to some of her clients who had broken the law, crossing lines sexually.  And they seemed to believe that their obsessions and compulsions would get better if they talked about them, if they described them to her.  Not wanting to take a mental mudbath, she told them that no human being needed to be on the receiving end of such dreadful confidences.  She said it was unfortunate that they felt they needed to talk through them because no amount of money would compel her, nor any other counselor, to be on the listening end of what they wished to say . . . 

She made a stand that families dealing with OCD need to make.  Even when the topic is milder than sexuality, OCD pushes people to “overshare” and drives other people away.  

I remind my son of that regularly–that I don’t need to know every thought that comes to his mind and that, in fact, it is cruel to inflict many of his negative thoughts on me as I try to stay motivated to help him go the distance in life.  

There is balance to be found somewhere . . . and I will find it one day, with God’s help.   

When People With OCD Don’t Learn From Experience . . . (OCD #3)

3 Jan

This is my third post on OCD this week.  Having our son with OCD home from college is teaching me many things about myself, some of them pretty ugly. 

I get really, really nervous having him home, now that I have grown used to a more peaceful, more organized, less erratic homefront.  Noel and I have our oddities, but there are far, far fewer difficult moments to navigate when our son is at college, mainly because two quirky people are less labor intensive than three, on a purely mathematical basis.  

But also, out-of-control OCD is its own entity, almost like having a fourth person in the home.  

OCD navigates a path that is predictable in its unpredictability.  This path almost never consists in going in a straight line towards an objective.  It almost never even provides any assurance at all that you ever will reach that objective, regardless of path taken toward it.

I am a far, far less relaxed person when our son is home and I believe my husband is, too.  I don’t like that about us and I certainly don’t like admitting it, but there it is.  

We live almost holding our breath, waiting for the next moment of difficulty, never knowing when it will come or what it will involve, but always certain that it will arrive.  

We almost live in a constant stage of siege, or at least a state of shellshock or PTSD.  

But OCD is like that.  It is cruel and relentless to the people in its path.  I am sure our son would choose to be rid of it if he could.  It is not something he requested and it does not change our love for him nor our determination to help him.  

And my respect for the people who help him navigate his world at college has increased exponentially this vacation, as I have been reminded of what they have been up against these past four and a half months.  Our son has made progress!  And I know it has been earned at great expense to all involved! 

That said, and knowing that I homeschooled more than ten years of our son’s primary education, you can probably see why it is very important to me to stay in touch with other people whom I teach, both in Sunday school and informally at church, Bible study, and online. 

If I don’t get feedback from others, I despair of ever being a successful teacher, after spending most of my life doing just that (even my 27 years in the Navy).  It is easy to forget past results and to begin to feel that I have never successfully taught anyone anything.   

You see, the fact that you can repeat the same piece of information about hygiene, or about a chore around the house, or about an English sentence, or about a math problem to a person with autism/OCD only to go back later and see in his eyes that he doesn’t remember ever receiving any instruction in that area can destroy one’s confidence and determination as a teacher.  Especially when you have taught that same fact/process dozens of times in the past and the instruction still seems to have been for nought.  

That is one reason I am so excited about the hardwon progress our son is making at college. Some things I have taught him many, many times in the past are finally kicking in, under the instruction of others.  Some are not.

But the fact is that we are not going to give up, even if some lessons are never learned.  

Right now we are battling a perceptual issue in which our son believes his dignity and the dignity of the disabled world was slighted.  Whether this actually happened or not is irrelevant–our son perceives that it did and he can’t let go of his perception, no matter how much I try to logic him into a different way of looking at things.  He will agree with me intellectually, then, thirty minutes later, he is back to perseverating on the issue as though we had never talked.  And we have talked, fifty or seventy-five times at a minimum this vacation . . . 

We aren’t giving up.  But I am going to write about this, too, for others are in the same place and there is a richness in pooled resources.  If I speak out, we can all start to speak out.  We can learn techniques that work.  We can encourage each others in areas where we just can’t seem to find relief from the OCD of our loved ones.

We owe it to all of us, especially to those loved ones with OCD! 

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