Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Bloggy Giveaway Carnival

I guess the giveaways have me coming out of blogging retirement.

I've never heard of Bloggy Giveaway Carnival until I started following this wonderful woman's blogs. From her gentle wisdom and humor, I've learned quite a thing or two and all this week, I've been entering giveaway drawings from that Carnival like a fiend.

Here are my favorite giveaway contests I've entered so far:

Penny Raine's:

Stop the Stress book package

Be sure to check her other Bloggy Giveaways too. Highlights are:

Your pick of a book from Living on a Dime

Fields With God eBook (A gorgeous Nature Study book)

Bible Journal

Teaching Science and Having Fun ebook

Get The Bean:

This is a the blog of a new online store selling my favorite love-hate relationship thing coffee! They have lovely photos depicting the different parts of the world that the coffees come from, and a schnazzy look and feel. Stop by their blog to win a Pound of Coffee.

Friday, January 19, 2007

My love-hate relationship with caffeine

In my never ending chase of sleep and wakefulness, I seem to have developed a hatred of my need for caffeine to get through the day. That photomicrograph of a caffeine crystal is beautiful isn't it?
When I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder nearly two years ago, I had tapered my caffeine use to drinking one good size mug one half-caff/half decaf in the morning and the rare diet cola when I was out with family. Sometime around the time I met my husband a year and a half ago, the coffee habit had started to drift away to nothing and my caffeine intake consisted of occasional imbibing of tea, cola and dark chocolate. Though I complained back then of poor sleep, somehow I wasn't grabbing the external chemical stimulation of good ole C8H10N4O2.
Over the past several months sleep became a chore and the afternoon pick-me-up of a cold Green Tea evolved to Diet Coke to share with Dave while we were out running errands. Eventually a few times a week thing became a suggestion from Dave to just go ahead and add coffee to my morning routine again.
It's not the same. What was once a morning quiet time ritual of gradually meeting the day is gone. The coffee ritual is different when I roll out of bed exhausted and still half stoned from my medications at 2 in the afternoon. To swipe the cobwebs of sleep out of my brain, I gulp the stimulating chemical of caffeine into my system, resentful of the bitter brew I had once enjoyed without such need. I want my simple enjoyment of coffee back. Drinking coffee at 2 in the afternoon screws up my desire to get back to a normal sleep-wake cycle given the 6 hour half life of the chemical in the body.
My search continues for a better, gentler way to wake up a medicated woman with bipolar disorder and insomnia in the "morning" without interfering with the end of the day desire for sleep. Perhaps I'll stick to chocolate.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Chasing sleep and staying awake

Chasing a restful night's sleep seems to be a never-ending quest in our house. Dave and I both have difficulties sleeping. It seems that sleep problems are par for the course for those of us living with bipolar disorder. Right now both of us are living in a nearly upside down clock. Dave is a complete night owl. While I tend to head to bed around midnight or so, he is up much later. We both tend to get up around the same time though!

Looking over my old blogs from Myspace, it seems that my struggles with sleep have been around for as long as I can remember. Last fall I had a sleep study done with all the wires of an EEG, mic and video (the technical term is polysomnography). It took months to chase down the results because my family doctor (recalling this without the report in hand) just assured me that I wasn't about to die suddenly from sleep apnea and didn't have restless leg syndrome and nodded, yes, she'd fax the results to my psychiatrist (who'd requested the family doc make the referral in the first place). Weeks later at the psychiatrist's office we get the sleep clinic to fax the report directly, skipping the inefficient family doc. We find that I have subclinical sleep apnea. Which basically means that I do stop breathing during my sleep (4 times during the 6-hour study), but not often enough for clinical intervention (people with severe problems stop/wake at least that often an hour). So what's this sleepy and moody woman to do?

Well, for the past week, it's been an increase in dosages of my medications. While my mood definitely has improved, the length of my waking day has decreased to approximately ten (count 'em 10) functional hours. I also don't like the glued to my bed feeling in the mornings that seem to keep that day short. Declaring the hours to be functional is stretching it, too. I have housework backed up, but the dark of the evening is not when I want to be moving around energetically doing the perky-er housekeeping. So, each day I go to bed earlier praying to wake at a decent hour in the morning to get a head start on the things I want to get done.

While winter tends to be a good season for me, unlike many people dealing with mood disorders, I don't like completely missing the daylight. The sunlight-colored lamp Dave and I use in our computer area helps, but again, with the short day, it can only do so much.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

On being an Asperger's man's tourguide into neurotypical land

I find my job as the wife of a man with Asperger's syndrome, my role is often that of explaining just how the "neurotypical" world works. I am his "Native Guide" in this "Strange Land" that he finds himself literally stumbling around in. (I say literally because his autism involves gross and fine motor coordination issues.) It's not uncommon to catch Dave backpedalling his way out of an uncertain social situation with the phrase, "Whatever is appropriate to your culture." While this might seem to a great catch-all that anyone could use, it throws off the new brother-in-law when he is asking Dave if he wants a lemonade at a family gathering.

In such a situation, I have to be particularly vigilant and notice that Dave had been drinking Diet Coke, the lemondade is sweetened (he's got diabetes) and pick up on the fact that my brother was only diligantly doing as HIS wife had asked and offering everyone lemonade. Dave, being quite literal thought his supply of Diet Coke was being cut off, and that now it was time to drink lemonade. I had to speak up for him and request that he get his Diet Coke refill.

Dave approaches my world as an anthropologist exploring a strange and confusing place. He exists as a culture of one, as each autistic person has his or her own unique sensory perceptions of the world that make the world a confusing and difficult world to navigate. Finding me as his native guide to explain how the world works from his point of view has been a way to open up his world. Since meeting me, he's visited several fast food places he's never been to before. The prospect of navigating alone the different rules of ordering, comprehending the concepts of one restaurant's value meal versus another's platter and why he should fill his own drink at one place at not another is extremely stressful. In Dave's ideal world, each fast food place would be laid out uniformly as the streamlined Soup Nazi of Seinfeld renown. As such graceful streamlined activity rarely exists in our world, I stand as a buffer between worlds for my love.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Elf hands marker of Autism?

This morning my husband showed me this austistic conjecture of the day blog from '05 about "elf ears" and other possible physical markers of autism. Well, Dave's ears aren't pointy or rotated posteriorly, but he does have long, attenuated hands. As this blogger Susan points out, large hand size is apparently a marker of autism. Throughout Dave's childhood and well into his adulthood he has been remarkably small in stature (another thing common among those with autism). His fingers, though are quite long and graceful and I love them.

Something unusual about Dave that we learned is that he has something called hemihypertrophy. This means that one half of his body grew a little larger than the other, creating a leg length discrepancy that is corrected with orthotics. Is this part of the autism? Did it "just happen"? Is it a result of his mother's alcoholism? Are the autism AND the physical anomalies a result of the fetal alcohol syndrome?

Whatever the case, it's funny when Dave finds Elf in reference to things like this given his Tolkien spiritual path. While he identifies with the spiritual mythos in Tolkien's writings and links himself with the Elven houses, he eschews identifying himself as an elf in physical way like many calling themselves Otherkin do. Yet, when an article like this pops up and with the talk among the autistic forums about autistic genes being atavistic or recalling those of our ancestors, it does make us go, "Hmmm?"

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Creating new traditions after the holidays

As newlyweds, my husband and I enjoyed sharing each others traditions this past holiday season. We are a mixed marriage-- he is a pagan and I am a metaphysical Christian. We created a new tradition for both of us which involved reading to each other. First is was the novel The Handmaid and the Carpenter and later a series of Bible readings that traced the lineage of Christ as part of a Joshua tree custom I had found. As spiritual people we both enjoyed reflecting on the metaphysical meanings of the old scriptural texts and the modern telling of the story as well.

Now that the holidays are over, I commented to Dave that I missed the reading to each other so we have started a new tradition in our home of reading to each other in the evening from our spiritual texts. For me it's a chance to not relearn the scriptures that I have been away from for a long time but have always loved and look at them with my new learning. It's also a time to hear the stories that are close to Dave's heart as he reads me The Silmarillion.


The Fountain and other food for thought

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Image from The Fountain

My husband and I finally got to watch the movie The Fountain the other night and were quite impressed. While the complexities of the triple plot interwoven make it a little difficult to get into in the beginning, the spiritual message and the beautiful imagery make it well worth it.
Like the 1998 film, What Dreams May Come this story uses beautiful imagery to tell a deeply spiritual love story of a man unwilling to part from his wife. These kinds of movies that speak to our hearts and at the same time make us think rather than sell us a little bit of easy pap are few and far between.

Now movies like What the #$*! Do We (K)now!? and The Secret are great movies too, but tend to be somewhat, preachy, especially as they are full of "talking heads" lecturing the movie goer (or DVD watcher as the case maybe). While the information in the latter two movies is great, it's not what moves me or entertains me, nor is it what is going to move the average joe who want to be entertained and perhaps a bit moved. I know that The Secret "offended" my sister-in-law because it neglected to mention Jesus. She will never quite get the message because the message of the Secret will somehow only really get to the people who already know it. It's nice to know that people like the producers of movies like these are making movies like these though.

I much prefer the centuries-long love story of The Fountain have me ask myself what is the meaning of life to the talking heads of new-age philosophers anyday. Even if it is all good soul food.