Thursday, November 07, 2013

Downsizing

I live in a cinder block cave. The three bedroom apartment we now live in has cinder block walls, and a bit more than one-quarter of the square footage our house did. The master bedroom is only a bit smaller than the one we had before, and one of the bedrooms is about the same size as the smallest bedroom we used to have, although it has more closet space. The final bedroom is about the size of a walk-in closet. There's barely enough room for my middle daughter's bed and shelves. We put her dresser in the closet so it wouldn't block the outside window. If we could get her to keep her room clean, it might seem bigger than it is.

There is a small closet in the living room that is plumbed to hold a small washing machine. It's barely big enough to hold the washer, and close the door. I had to get new hoses, with 90 degree connectors, to get it to fit, though.

 There's a spot for a gas dryer, as well. Outside on the porch. I've hung clothes outside to dry, but never taken them to an outside dryer. Its' pretty well protected from the elements by the upstairs balcony and a dividing wall, but I think I'm going to get a tarp to cover it, with winter coming along. There's also small storage room, just off the back porch, opposite the dryer. Trust me when I say it's packed to the ceiling.

 The kitchen has taken the most adjusting. It's tiny. The refrigerator (standard size), sink (two basin) and oven/stove are butted up against each other, wrapping around the corner the sink sits in. On the other side of the stove is a counter top about the size of a movable chopping block. That's it. No more built in counter space.

 To cope, we've gotten creative. There are, thankfully, plenty of cupboards that go nearly to the ceiling. There was also room for us to stack a few large storage buckets in one corner, and put in a freestanding shelf against the wall, opposite the stove. We've also turned an aquarium stand into a microwave stand. Putting the cut-out from a sink installation on top has given us a bit more counter space. The bread-machine lives under the microwave, on the floor.

 Parking is weird, too. It's been many years since I lived in an apartment, and at least those had assigned parking. Not so, here. There is resident parking, but I'm not guaranteed to have a space of my own. There are a few parking lots adjacent to our complex, but the one that's closest to our apartment is shared by the football stadium. Every time there's a home game, I have to move our van so the university can sell the parking space to some rabid football fan for $10.00. I also can't get to my apartment easily because the close down the street that runs in front of it. All the better to control access to the game and sell the almighty football tickets.*

 In spite of how different it all is, we're getting used to it. The university shuttles are reasonable, at least during the day, and the city has free public buses. The routes and stops are a little screwy, but we're coping. The kids have made friends very quickly, the neighbors are nice, and I love my classes. My wife and I have both found work. It doesn't pay as much as we really need it to, but at least we're employed. All in all, I'd have to say my life is pretty good. Busy. Weird, when compared to our old life, but good. Now if I could just find more time to update my blogs, regularly.

 *In case you're wondering, I really don't like American football. Yeah, it's nice when the college team wins, but to be honest, that doesn't happen very often.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Running Scared

In case you didn’t figure it out, my family is moving to another city so my wife and I can finish school. We’re quitting our jobs, trying to sell our house, packing up the family, and moving into a three bedroom apartment. Neither of us has a job lined up or any idea how we’ll keep up with our rent and utilities if we don’t get one, although my wife has an interview set up. I’ve never done that before. I’ve always had a job during a move. In fact, the only time I’ve ever moved as been because of employment, not in spite of it. I’m scared witless, but for a reason I can’t fathom, we’re going through with it, anyway.

The security-craving part of my brain is going ape-shit. It’s like I’m talking to myself, “Self! What in heaven’s name are you thinking? You’re acting like an idiot.” The adventurous side of my brain is saying, “Wow! Think about it, Self! You’ve freed yourself to work on music full-time!” I can’t decide which one is screaming louder.

I can dream pretty well: releasing and marketing a solo piano CD, playing clubs and coffee shops, setting up a piano trio/quartet with some other students, getting involved in the local arts scene, teaching and doing something concrete with music therapy. Maybe I’ll write a book or create an online course.

I can frighten myself pretty well, too: how are we going to pay the rent if we can’t make a decent wage, how can I get a job given how scattered my schedule is, how will this effect my two youngest daughters, let alone my other children, how will I deal maintain the connections I want to maintain in Salt Lake and Tooele if I’m living in Logan, and so on. What if this makes us homeless and I have quit school?

I admit it, I would love to play the house husband, work on my music, and let my wife work as the full-time bread-winner. She’s planning on it, but she has a few classes to go to finish her degree, and I don’t want that to go by the wayside because of fear. It’s not fair to her or to our daughters. Either way, the adventure begins this weekend.

P.S. If you’d like to help us move, show up Saturday morning and help us load the truck. If you’re in Logan, you can show up at Aggie Village and help us unpack. Any help is appreciated.


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Upheaval

Last semester went well. Surprisingly, I got straight “A’s” for the second semester in a row and have a current GPA at USU of 4.0. Anyone who knows me from childhood has either fainted or reported me to the FBI to find out exactly when I was replaced by an alien doppelganger. I can sympathize with them. While I’ve never been overly stupid, good grades and I never got along when I was younger. I think it was all the boredom and skipping classes in high school, but I’m not ruling anything out.

To put things in perspective, though, I’ve only been going part time. I’ve also been at an extension campus with rather small class sizes. This is all about to change. In about a month my wife and I will be moving to the main campus so both of us can finish our degrees. We’ve put our house up for sale, started getting rid of our excess stuff, and generally been making a mess. We’re moving with into an apartment about half the size of our current house. I’ve been telling everyone it’s like we’re losing our basement.

Miraculously, I’ve saved enough money to fix most of my teeth. I’ve been visiting the dentist every other week for a while, and it’s not quite over, but should be in a couple of weeks.

To make things more chaotic, and here’s the scary part, as you know, I had surgery on my hands:  bilateral carpal tunnel release. Not fun. Needless to say, that has slowed things down on the move, at least for my part. My hands are starting to feel better, though. That’s the good part.

The effects of such personal upheaval are an increase in personal and familial stress, increased orneriness, and general feelings of hate, fright, discontent and a fair amount of humility. It could be humiliation, though. I’m not sure.

 

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Through the Carpel Tunnel

 Two days ago I had bilateral carpal tunnel surgery. Not very fun, you can imagine. I have splints on both wrists, I can't grab anything without pain, and I feel generally miserable. 

I decided to take a week off from work so that I can more fully recovered from surgery. Yes, the doctor said that it would only take a few days before I could get back to work, but I chose to take the week off. My boss isn't happy about that, but I can't make any mistakes with this surgery. Being a pianist and a small time guitar picker, I simply have no choice. The surgery has to work for me. I lost my ability to play the trumpet to Bell's palsy, I'll be damned if I'm going to give the rest up to carpal tunnel syndrome.

While lounging around and being waited on hand and foot for a week sounded like a good idea, the reality is far less appealing. The humiliation of needing help with the toilet, and just about everything else, coupled with sheer boredom, and was pretty much put it damper in any kind of fun I might be having.

To fight the boredom, I'm talking to my iPad in an attempt to do something productive, like update my blog. I'm using a dictation program to post this. Not being able to use my hands very well, I'm coming to appreciate both a touch screen and voice command. Dictation programs being what they are, I'm using the touchscreen to edit it as much as I am recording.

Fortunately for me, days of slicing your hand wide-open for this malady are far behind. For me, it was a very small incision by my wrist. I've only got a couple of stitches in each wrist. What I do have is a severe case of body odor. I really need a shower, but my wife seems reluctant to pursue the inevitable sponge bath. She acts like she's tired, but I really think it's avoidance. You know, the "Not tonight, dear. I have a headache." kind of avoidance. After a few more days of intense stink, she may give in. 

If my boss thinks about things from that perspective, maybe she won't feel so bad about me taking the week off.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Why I Hate Sociologists and Why We Need Them

I’m taking an Introduction to Sociology class this year. I actually took this class many years ago when I was working on my first Bachelors degree, but that was back under a “quarter” system, and I didn’t want to worry about translating those credits to a semester system. Besides, it was just more convenient for a required credit for my second degree.

My current text has driven home a fundamental issue for me, my love-hate relationship with sociologists, and sociology. Don’t get me wrong. I’m doing pretty darned well in the class. I’ve aced most of the assignments and exams I’ve had so far. I just have a problem with calling some of what sociologists do “science.”

Sociology is the only branch of science I’ve encountered that claims it’s okay to let your own feelings influence the research. That’s not science. It’s activism masquerading as science. To be fair, many do social research and pay attention to the data. Most of this is done through surveys or observation. Some is done by extrapolating data from other people’s research, like census data.

Allowing themselves to become political activists, sociologists weaken their credibility. Some of them, especially conflict theorists and feminists, come off as angry, arrogant psychopaths. I suspect some of them are. Some of the conflict theorists and feminists are also socialists or communists. Conflict theorists, in particular, idolize Karl Marx and his writings, even if they aren’t communists. These facts alone destroy their credibility with almost any conservative, most moderates and a few liberals as well. They openly want to change the way societies work.

On the other hand, conservatives love functionalist sociologists. To a conservative, the functionalist perspective seems the most scientific and, I admit, it does seem that they keep the most emotional distance from the topic. At times, this seems like a fa├žade, though. Functionalists are interested in the roles that different groups play in the larger society, how they contribute to the culture at large. That includes how the poor support the rich and vice versa. The subtext is that they are interested in keeping the status quo, even if it means some people get screwed by the system.

There’s a fourth approach, interactionists, that’s interested in the way each group relates to and influence each other. That may seem a little touchy feely, but they don’t have nearly as dramatic political agendas as the others do.

I hate all of these approaches. They each have an agenda that colors their research and destroys the notion of what I think science means, the detached search for knowledge. The data should take precedence over personal interest. To me, that makes sociology inherently flawed as a science.

In spite of my own disgust with this approach, they aren’t always wrong. Functionalists have been very good at explaining how different social elements work, and how each social class contributes to the society as a whole. Interactionists have done very well in showing how members of one group can be assimilated and/or otherwise influenced by another, and how they recruit new members. Conflict theorists have shown the inherent battle between social classes over resources, and liberties and feminists have shed light on the difficulties and unequal treatment of women and the poor. In spite of their particular, often conflicting, agendas, taken together, they paint a more comprehensive picture of how society works. When we step away from the rhetoric of extremism, the data paints an interesting picture and, depending on your politics, not a very pretty one. But that’s a matter for later posts.

Of course, you’d expect to read something like this from a moderate, wouldn’t you?

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Freudian Commando! Go!

For a few months, now, I’ve been taking the bus to work. I’ve not become King of the Bus People, but I have been adapting to bus culture pretty well. I’m not sure I want to become King of the Bus of the People, though. I don’t want that kind of responsibility. I’m just happy to read books or play with my iPad while the bus drivers do their thing.

The bus has actually been quite a boon for me. The drive times are about double what it would take in a car, but it’s saving me quite a bit in gas money. My work gave me the bus pass, so I’m not even paying for that.

The long drive time has been good for school, too. During the drive, I can study, so it’s really not wasted time. Only one of my textbooks is of the super-heavy think hardback variety. The rest are light paperbacks or ebooks so, I don’t often have to weigh my backpack down very often.

Riding the bus in winter has some unforeseen downsides, though. The cold is the most obvious. I’ve adapted by wearing heavy clothing, a heavy coat with hood, and gloves. Not so obvious is a side affect of wearing heavy clothing. Like everything else, they are subject to the laws of gravity and try to find the lowest point possible. Having greater mass than lighter clothing, they have an easier time of it. My coat, shirt and gloves have no problem, though. They rest on my shoulders and hands quite nicely, thank you. My boots are secure around my feet and ankles. My pants and underwear? Not so much.

Having a good belt helps with my pants, but the waistband in some of my undies has seen better days. They’re feeling their age as much as I am. After the long bus ride, they decided they were tired of hanging around my sorry butt and started to migrate towards my feet. My Id, sensing this betrayal on the part of my underclothes, started raising all kinds of alarms. “Ahhhgghh! Your pants are falling down! You’re going commando! Someone will see your butt!”

My Ego, trying to calm the Id, said, “No, no, the pants are still on. It’s just your underpants that are going south. Your butt is not visible.”

I tried recovering my underpants by grabbing them through my jeans, but they were having none of it. They just kept up the steady southward migration.

My Id went into full panic mode. “Ahhhh! Naked butt! Naked butt!” After thinking about it for a moment, my Id, being what it is, started thinking, “Maybe it would be fun to flash these people. They might want to have sex with me. I’ll pull my pants down, too!”

Thankfully, my Superego intervened. “No, no. That would cause great embarrassment and result in jail time. You must not pull your pants down.”

“You’re such a killjoy.” Id complained. My Ego was not quite relieved.

Eventually, my underwear cleared the bottom of my butt cheeks. My pants, ever defending my honor, caught them at crotch level and stopped them from having a conversation with my knees and ankles. I’d hate to think what would have happened if I was wearing a dress. Not that I’ve done that. My Id has a mind of its own, though, so I still think of things like that.

As I entered the building, my underwear at half-mast and my backside getting acquainted with backside of my jeans, I struggled to control my brain and act like nothing was wrong. I just needed to get to the bathroom near my desk without raising suspicions that I had become and accidental commando. The fact that my desk is on the opposite side of the building wasn’t helping.

In the end, I got my end covered back up without further mishap. Praise goes to my denim jeans for not joining my undies in their southern migratory pattern. As I sat back at my desk I could only think of one thing: I really need to buy new underwear.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

ADHD: Developmental Challenges and Treatments

This was my final paper for Human Development Across the Lifespan. It deals with the developmental challenges facing children with ADHD, specifically, but I believe it may be beneficial for understanding many children with special needs, similar to ADHD. To be honest, I was was surprised where the research took me, in some cases. It was enlightening for me so, I thought it might be useful for others, as well.

Be warned. This is a research paper, so it is kind of long. References are included at the bottom.

ADHD: Developmental Challenges and Treatments

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, afflicts approximately three to five percent of children in the United States. With a child population of approximately 2 million, an average sized classroom of 30 children will have at least one ADHD child in it. It is difficult for ADHD children to control their behavior, creating challenges for teachers to educate them along side other children in their classrooms. It also increases the normal challenges faced by parents raising them at home.

Although we may see ADHD as something new, knowledge of this as a disorder has been around for over a century. It was first described by Doctor Heinrich Hoffman in 1845. A poet, as well as a doctor, he wrote a book called “The Story of Fidgety Phillip,” containing an accurate description of a child with ADHD. In 1902, Sir George F. Still published a series of lectures at the Royal College of Physicians in England describing a group of children with significant impulse and behavioral problems. He attributed the cause in the group to genetic dysfunctions, not poor upbringing on the part of the parent. Today, these children would easily be identified as having ADHD.

Causes of ADHD
While the cause of ADHD remains unknown, research has shown it is likely genetic and may be linked to exposure to toxic substances. Positive correlations have been found between the use of cigarettes and alcohol during pregnancy as well as lead exposure. (Mick E, Biederman J, Faraone SV, Sayer J, Kleinman S. 2002)

Studies involving brain injury have shown that some children with brain damage exhibit ADHD like symptom, but only a small number of children with ADHD have suffered traumatic brain injuries. Likewise, studies involving diet, especially sugar, have shown no correlations. In one study, where half the children were given aspartame and half sugar, the only behavioral differences found were in the perceptions of their mothers. The mothers who thought their kids were being given sugar were more critical of their child’s behavior, whether the child had actually received sugar or not. (Wolraich M, Milich R, Stumbo P, Schultz F. 1985)

The most positive correlations seem to be genetic. 25 percent of close relatives in families with ADHD children also have ADHD. The ratio in the general population is only five percent. Many studies with twins show that both twins will likely have ADHD. Each of these factors suggests a strong genetic influence. PET scans have shown a marked difference in brain functioning between a normal child and a child with ADHD, suggesting a neurological dysfunction, not just a psychological one. (Faraone SV, et. al. 2005)

Delayed Brain Development
Recent studies conducted by the National Institute of Health suggest a delay in brain development of children with ADHD, not a total dysfunction. An earlier study found that thickening of the cerebral cortex was delayed in ADHD, specifically those sections dealing with functions such as attention, cognition, language, and sensory processing. This study tracked children over a period of seven years, scanning their brains and regular intervals between age 10 and 17, and measuring both cortical thickness and cortical surface area, both of which mature during childhood. These scans showed a marked delay in the development of these areas. For example, a typical developing child attains 50 percent peak area in the right prefrontal cortex at an age of 12.7 years, on average. ADHD children didn’t reach this peak until an average age of 14.6 years. (Elsevier 2012, July)

Psychosocial Stage 3, the Preschool Years and ADHD
Because of this delay in brain development, children with ADHD will, like other special needs children, be behind their peers in some areas and may experience problems in school, socially and academically. When we consider Erik Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development, ADHD symptoms typically begin manifesting during stage 3, the preschool years. This is a time when children being to exert more control over their environment through directing play and other social interactions. Lacking self-control, such children will try to exert too much influence, meeting resistance from their peers, teachers, parents, and siblings. Lacking impulse control, this frustration is more likely to manifest as aggressive behaviors such as yelling, hitting, or throwing objects.

At this stage, children also begin to physically explore their world, taking on activities by themselves, and developing a sense of independence. Lacking impulse control, ADHD children are more likely to take on activities that are beyond their capabilities and engage in risky behaviors such as crossing the street alone or riding a bike without a helmet. They may also attempt activities that interfere with other people’s plans and activities. Adults who are supportive of the child’s attempts, and try to guide them to make more realistic choices, help the child develop initiative: independence in planning and undertaking activities. Adults who dismiss the child’s attempts as silly or bothersome contribute to the child developing feelings of guilt about their needs and desires. Adults who are frustrated by the ADHD child’s proclivity to respond in aggressive ways may be more likely to resist the child’s efforts at independence, putting ADHD children at greater risk for failure during this stage. (Berk 2010)

Psychosocial Stage 4, Early Childhood and ADHD
As children enter early childhood, they learn to cope with greater academic and social demands. Ideally this is a time to learn more complex tasks such as reading, writing, and telling time. They may also express their independence by talking back, being disobedient and rebellious. It is also at this stage that children develop a sense of morality, recognize cultural and individual differences, and can manage most of their personal needs, such as grooming and hygiene, with minimal assistance.

Because of the delay in development in areas of the brain crucial to this stage, children with ADHD are more likely to have difficulties in the early years. Children who are encouraged to make and do things, and then praised for their accomplishments, will develop diligence and perseverance in completing tasks. They will learn to delay gratification. If they are ridiculed or punished when they are incapable of meeting adult expectations, they will develop feelings of inferiority about their abilities. It should be noted, however, that because development is these crucial brain areas are delayed, the development of diligence and delay of gratification are likely to be delayed, as well.(Berk 2010)

Psychosocial Stage 5, Adolescence and ADHD
During adolescence, children explore their independence and develop a sense of self or personal identity. This transition is marked by a need to re-establish boundaries for themselves in a potentially hostile world. No matter how the child has been raised, this is the time they will choose a personal ideology for themselves. This often leads to conflicts between adults and the developing child, especially over religious, political, and sexual orientations.

Because of the developmental delays of children with ADHD, this stage is often prolonged, well into early adulthood. It is of note that this Erikson noted this same delay in person’s of particular genius. This delay can also be prolonged by the demands of taking a longer time to master certain skills within our highly technological society. It is, perhaps, because of this natural delay, that many ADHD children grow into very intelligent and technically skilled adults. The psychosocial demand for prolonging this stage may coincide with their biological delays.

Because of this natural delay, there can still be problems. Early in this stage, peers and adults may see the child as acting “like a child” and react negatively. If adults are too insistent in choosing an identity, “acting their age,” and force closure of the normal identity moratorium early, the child may give up and take on an less health identity foreclosure status. They will be less likely to integrate their sense of self within a diverse society as they enter adulthood. (Berk 2010)

Modern Treatment Modalities
Current ADHD treatments focus on reducing symptoms and improving functioning. They include medications, various forms of psychotherapy, and education. One size does not fit all. The best results seem to be from a combination of therapies. (National Institute of Mental Health 2008)

The Risks of ADHD Medications
Stimulants are the most common type of medications prescribed for ADHD ,and are by far the most controversial. The exact medication and dosage must be individualized, and it is common to try several out before finding one that seems to work, best for that patient. As with all medications, stimulants come with a wide range of side-effects, however. These side-effects, and a general misunderstanding of the causes of ADHD, create additional stresses for parents seeking to help their children, as well as the children themselves.

The most common side-effects of stimulant medications are decreased appetite and sleep problems. Some children experience upset stomach and headaches. A few children may experience slight “tics” or personality changes such as appearing to be without emotion. These side-effects are often mitigated by changing the dosage or using a different medication.

Many people are concerned that using stimulants in this way to treat ADHD may lead to substance abuse and addiction later in life. There is little evidence to support such a claim, and far more that suggests they do not. Children who take these medications do not “get high,” although some report feeling slightly different or “funny.”

In spite of being generally considered safe, there are some rare side-effects that must be noted. Patients with existing cardiovascular disease or psychological problems may have their symptoms exacerbated by stimulants, leading to stroke, heart-attack, or sudden death. A few patients report hearing voices, hallucinations, experience mania, or paranoia even when they do not have existing psychological conditions.
Non-stimulant medications also pose risks, especially in teens. Children and teens who take medications such as atoxometine more often report thoughts of suicide than their peers who do not take such medication.
The long term effects of ADHD medication on development are not known. Some researchers are concerned that administering stimulants to children will have an adverse effect on brain development. (NIMH 2008)

The Benefits of Treatment
Because a combination of therapies seems to be the best approach, removing medication as an option seems counterproductive. The question becomes do the benefits of medications outweigh the risks? There seems to be no consensus within the medical community on this. My own research has shown that many scientists cherry pick the data to support their own theories, while ignoring the rest of the data. In some cases, medication seems to have been the key element that allowed the child to participate in other forms of therapy as well as educational activities.

When a developmental perspective is taken, it seems clear that, untreated, ADHD poses severe and known risks in the long term. Failing to achieve the developmental milestones, as given in the previous examples, creates greater risk for not developing the coping and life skills required by modern living as adults, as well as greater risk for psychological disorders that may lead to physical problems, as well. They may have lower self-esteem and be unable to cope with stress, develop expertise in vocational and leisure pursuits, have healthy intimate relationships.

References
Berk, Laura E. (2010) Development Through the Lifespan (5th ed.). Boston, MA. Pearson Education, Inc.

Elsevier (2012, July). Brain development delayed in ADHD, study shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 11, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120730094822.html

Faraone SV, Perlis RH, Doyle AE, Smoller JW, Goralnick JJ, Holmgren MA, Sklar P. (2005). Molecular genetics of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Biological Psychiatry, 57, 1313-1323.

Mick E, Biederman J, Faraone SV, Sayer J, Kleinman S. (2002). Case-control study of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and maternal smoking, alcohol use, and drug use during pregnancy. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 41 (4) 378-385.

National Institute of Mental Health (2008). Attention-deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) (No. 08-3572). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Author.

Wolraich M, Milich R, Stumbo P, Schultz F. (1985) The effects of sucrose ingestion on the behavior of hyperactive boys. Pediatrics, 106 (4):657-682.