Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Autism, Thunder Shirts, and a French Bakery

Learning, learning, learning

No more blues for me.  The clouds have lifted.  Today I learned about Thunder Shirts.  What are they?  They are weighted vests for dogs who experience anxiety over thunderstorms, but they are used for other anxieties as well.  Check google, and write in "Thunder Shirts."  Apparently they exert enough pressure on nerve endings to calm dogs who get anxious over hearing thunderstorms.  A friend of mine, who volunteers at a hospital here, told me about a therapy dog who was brought into the hospital, but as the storm clouds appeared outside, his owner said, "I'll have to put on his thunder shirt."  I have to admit, I was surprised.  But when I heard this story, I remembered going to a lecture by Temple Grandin, the renowned expert on autism, who has Asperger's, when she discussed using a squeeze box to calm herself down.  Weighted vests are used for kids with autism, especially those who have sensory problems as the pressure calms them.  So here is a connection - - - with animals too.

We all have times when we feel ill, or sad and what we want to do is to cuddle up with a comforter (very good name) or a blanket.  And we do feel comforted.  Think of the little kids who drag their "blankee" around.  And the blankets that are made and sent through Soldiers' Angels for our troops in Afghanistan especially are appreciated.  I did make blankets for the soldiers in Iraq, but lately have not, busy, thinking of other things, but the Thunder Shirt information reminded me to begin that project again.  Making a blanket and sending it through Soldiers' Angels, or other organizations is something we can do, and I can do again.

Reading about a French Bakery in our area peaked my curiosity.  Yes, it was 20 minutes away, but I wanted to see what it was like and to sample their baked goods.  Not only did the  pastries look delicious, my husband and I decided to have lunch there.  And, I had an omelet served in a baguette  and sealed at one end with soft bread.  The omelet is filled from one end.  I learned that it is a specialty of the Alsace-Lorraine  region and in the past was served to sheepherders who, having been sent off by their wives with this lunch-in-a-baguette, would have a hot, tasty lunch at midday, with the steam from the omelet softening the bread inside.  I learned this from the owner's wife.  The French bakery was welcoming, with gracious hosts, cloth tablecloths and napkins, bottled water at the tables, and French pop music playing softly in the background.

My mood lifted.

What do you do when you get "the blues?"

Friday, August 24, 2012

Blogs and Blues

Topics I cannot write about:  

I have entered the late summer doldrums and have run out of ideas, plus experiencing a touch of the blues.  I have one of these weird personalities--too sensitive which goes along with reflexes that react too strongly to everything.  Cannot pump gas from a gas pump without jumping when the handle clicks off.  Cannot open a biscuit can without flinching when it pops.  Cannot watch a scary movie without closing my eyes, or if at home, leaving the room.  So, when it comes to writing a topic on my blog, I self-censor many of them because I do not want to hurt any ones' feelings.  For example:

Topics I cannot write about:

1.  politics (too many friends are liberal/progressive)

2.  feminism (women do not "have each others' back") --  women who think nothing of having an affair with your husband;  feminism and the whole sisterhood thing is superficial.  The blog I will never write "What ever happened to sisterhood?"

3.  getting older and aches and pains and ageism (I do miss the "second look")

4.  my family, too personal

5.  face lifts and the whole beauty thing (might write about this)

6.  losing my faith and why

7.  missing, missing, missing the relatives and friends I have lost

It helped to write this list.  Are there topics you avoid writing about in your blogs?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Putin vs the Punk Band -- Kafkaesque (characterized by surreal distortions and usually by a sense of impending danger)*

A few weeks ago I wrote about the quiet protests in Moscow, where writers and others silently marched to protest Putin's crackdown on dissenters and his questionable re-election.

Despite threats of heavy fines and more for any demonstrations, vocal or otherwise, not sanctioned by the Putin government,the  all girl Russian punk band, "Pussy Riots" demonstrated their opposition to the Putin regime by performing anti-Putin lyrics in the Church of Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow.  For example:  "Virgin Mary drive away drive away Putin."  The group which has been jailed since March, has just been given their sentence--two years in prison after a trial which seemed like something out of Alice in Wonderland.  The presiding judge read the verdict which noted the defendants
shape of their heads, and emphasized their "mixed psychological disorders, including, "individualism, stubborn expressions of opinions and unwillingness to cede positions." Although this seems ludicrous, other business leaders, attorneys, have been jailed after trials using trumped up charges to imprison them.

But, this punk rock band has gotten more attention, and perhaps as Gary Kasparov, the famous chess champion and journalist said, who himself was roughed up and jailed after answering questions to journalists in front of the court house, "It may take a punk band to bring world-wide attention to Putin's crackdown on dissenters." 

There's more, though, Madonna, who at a recent concert in Moscow said, "Nadia, Katya, and Masha, I pray for your freedom.  The Russian Orthodox church is involved in all this and see the women as "devils."  "War has been declared against the Orthodox people," said a top church official.  And. . Madonna is being sued for 10 millions dollars by some Russian activists because she came out in support of gay rights in her August 9th concert in St. Petersburg. 

Kafkaesque describes this.  See above definition. *Second College Edition:The American Heritage Dictionary.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Autism: One more post.

Several months ago, I entered this short story in the Trifecta contest.  I am re-posting it as the story reflected some of the stories I heard from families with  kids with autism.

Red Car, Blue Car

Red car, red car, red car; blue car, blue car, blue car. The small blonde-haired boy bent over the toy cars, intently arranging them in the same pattern again, and again. As his mother watched, her face a mixture of fatigue and questioning, she asked herself the same questions she had asked herself so many times. Why the intense fixation over certain toys; the meltdowns, screams over unseen terrors; no response to hugs, so many unfixable behaviors, and most difficult of all, no words, just sounds and small grunts to indicate desires.

As she watched, an image came to her. There is a deep, dark space between us; his thoughts cannot reach me. I cannot comprehend what he wants, what he thinks, how to help him.

The past few years came rushing back, their joy at having their first child, but as time went by, the realization that something was very, very wrong. Tests, doctors, therapists, psychologists, always searching for answers, a way to make Matthew whole, but there were no answers. Her marriage slowly disintegrating from stress and lack of attention. Her husband away at work for longer and longer hours.

As she watched the cars being lined up, her small son seemed to take no notice of her. She tried crossing that deep, dark space again. "Matthew, Matthew, where are you?" He looked up. "Mama?" he said.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Autism Ribbon
Autism Logo
The Puzzle of Autism

Odds of a child becoming an Olympic athlete 1 in 28,500.  Odds of a child being diagnosed with autism: 1 in 88, with 1 in 55 boys.

Normally, I do not write about personal family things, but today, after watching the Olympics and seeing this latest stat in one of the ads, I am moved to write about autism.  I  have four grand sons, one has autism.  Three of the boys are doing well.  But. . .autism breaks your heart every day.  There is no cure and the effect on families, emotionally, financially is enormous.  Relationships suffer, families sometimes break apart.  Siblings bear the burden as well, sometimes becoming very compliant in order not to create more trouble for parents.

Yes, much is being done.  Technology will help kids with autism.  Awareness by the public is important.  My grandson is mainstreamed, so this means that teachers and students have to be very tolerant as he struggles with the challenges of learning every day.  The little things that do not bother regular kids, the lights, the bells, the noise, the frustration of trying to keep up with other students and not being able to fully understand.  And there is always the bullying.

My regret is being older.  I feel I need more time and energy  to help more.  Meanwhile, everyone in our families, including three sets of grandparents, do what they can, which includes: specialized classes and lectures, technology, researching on our own.  There is always the search -- please give us answers -- but there are none.

I appreciate all my friends and family who forward information about autism and their moral support.  Autism is a world-wide problem and affects families on all social strata.  Perhaps there will be answers someday.  Meanwhile. . . .

Thursday, August 9, 2012

China vs U.S. and the Olympics

The emphasis on the State vs the individual is glaringly made clear during these Olympics.

China's goal was to win more gold medals than the U.S., and the pressure on their athletes during this final week is enormous.  Liu Xiang, the star Chinese hurdler, was an example.  He fell during the 110 meter hurdles.  Just before the start, the Chinese broadcaster said, "Liu is not as perfect as he used to be" referring to his injuries during the Beijing Olympics four years ago.  So, with that perhaps ringing in his ears, Liu fell early in the race.

Last week, 23-year-old weight lifter Wu Jingbiao, apologized for winning the silver instead of the gold medal, and did this bowing before the TV cameras.  And a younger female weight lifter was referred to by some Chinese newspapers as "One of the countries biggest failures."

Not all the Chinese news media were so harshly critical, some calling for change in the quest for global recognition via the state system of sports and the training and expectation of their athletes.  Some even referred to Liu as "Brave Liu."

Here, of course, we are disappointed when our athletes don't do well, but we all understand that our disappointment does not come close to the disappointment the athletes themselves feel after years of practice and sacrifice.  Adding to that would be cruel, in my opinion, and we do not humiliate these athletes. The puritanical years, where people would be put in stocks with signs around their neck listing their sins, are over.

The contrast between the two systems is stunning.  

These are my thoughts relating to an August 8th article in The Wall Street Journal.

Note:  One day later, August 9th, 2012.  China is now "PR-ing" and replacing photos of Liu's falling with praise for his past successes.  Perhaps they read The Wall Street Journal.


Sunday, August 5, 2012

Marilyn:  Still remembered 50 years after her death, August 5, 1962

Today I am re-printing a short story I wrote about Marilyn Monroe.   

M is for Marilyn or:

The Seven Year Itch 

Joe always hated his name. That is, until he found out that his beloved Marilyn had been married to Joe DiMaggio–imagine that, married to a "Joe;" she must have loved him, he thought. " Joe, Joe, Joe" she would have said, and through time, those words drifted over to him, resonated in his mind and became her words to him.

It was the white dress that did it. When he saw the movie, "The Seven Year Itch," and saw her standing over the transom, her hands holding down the white, accordion-pleated dress, as the skirt blew around her, her red lips parted in a huge smile, obviously enjoying the sensation. She was pure sex and he felt pure lust. He fell in love.

From then on she became an obsession. Her image engraved in his brain. Every photograph, every bit of trivia that he could afford, he carefully collected and displayed. Many evenings at home, he would rearrange his Marilyn memorabilia over and over again--photographs, books, dolls, so many things. His favorite was a Marilyn wall clock-- her legs were the hands of the clock, and some of the positions were quite erotic–his favorite ebay acquisition.

Sometimes, feeling especially lonely and vulnerable, he would stare at his favorite photograph of her–looking sad and lonely too. She understands, she knows how I feel, he thought.
There were times when a very strong feeling would come over him; it was hard to describe, it was as if he became someone else.
He opened his closet door. . . . . . . . .
Time passed.

The door of Joe’s row apartment opened, and a very attractive blond walked out. It was a warm summer evening and she wore a clingy, jersey dress that accentuated her curvy figure. Her makeup was carefully applied, the red lips accentuated into a pout. Was that a mole on her lower cheek? She walked down the street with small, sometimes unsteady steps, and disappeared into the night.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Summer Olympics, continued:

After all the sad and negative news from Colorado, it's such a relief to read about our own Missy Franklin, the 17 year old high school student from Colorado who won 2 gold and a bronze medal, so far.  She is a great example for all girls and all of us.  Missy is a tribute to her own hard work, her parents, and her coach.  Her parents chose not to send her to an elite swimming school or to hire a famous coach, so she stayed in Colorado and honed her swimming skills.  She and her team mates have a good relationship too, which helps.  They have fun; they dance; they enjoy just being there, being part of an amazing time in their lives.

I am writing about an American woman; there are terrific athletes from all over the world, so please add your comments about them.  Of course, our newspapers here in Colorado emphasize our athletes.

I would love to be in the UK now, I have to admit.  Nothing would match being there in person.

Note:  I received a "warning" about using intellectual property without permission, which means photos scanned from magazines and YouTube, I guess.  So now I am bereft; I know how much illustrations add to posts, so I am thinking about how to add a little color to my posts, and unfortunately am not as creative as one of my favorite blogs, "Clay Baboons."  I have a few ideas, though.