gansje: (Gansje)

Saturday was International Women's Day, which Sheryl Sandberg on down acknowledged via Google Doodle, but being busy with work and family things, it took me a few days to write this. Bear with me here and please forgive lack of flow. I actually wrote a much longer post that included a bit about how we inhabit three bodies, but I removed it to spare you all the longest read in history. I'll post that later, maybe.
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Dear Google Doodle: To celebrate International Woman's Day, I have my period and am swollen up like a balloon. Seriously, the scale says I gained 4.5 lbs between this morning, when I didn't have my period and now, right here now at 8 pm, when I do. But don’t worry.  I’m not about to confuse biology with pathology, unlike my old OB/GYN, who bought into the idea that having periods themselves is a pathology and persuaded me to get a Mirena IUD because I didn’t want worse periods with the Paragard IUD, did I? When the Mirena could take them away entirely? Now I bleed every two weeks. Thanks, doc.

One woman I know got harassed online by a creep and another woman friend gets harassed in person on what seems like a weekly basis. A few months ago, I stopped to help a man in a wheelchair who dropped something, and when I gave it to him, he grabbed me and tongued my cheek while making, “mmmmmm” sounds until I was able to disengage myself and stalk away. We often get paid less than our male counterparts for equal to more work. I work far harder and longer hours than L. in an industry that pays on average a great deal more than his field, but I make a lower base salary and only a little more than he does after bonuses. I have reason to suspect that men at my current level at my office make about $10K more than I do. Only men in my office have been promoted to Director. Young women get rabid about their rights to represent themselves online “any way they want,” which is fine and well within one’s rights of self-expression and presentation, but apparently “any way I want” means conforming to standard 20th century male-informed constructs of “appropriate” female sexuality (i.e. pouting and taking selfies in the mirror while wearing little t-shirts and thongs), never once seeing that they're not representing anything but what males classically have held steady in their gazes, and some seek to victimize. How is it fully representative of your freedom as a woman to present yourself unironically as something for men to consume?


I remember in a class in cultural models and cognitive anthropology that I taught at Penn, I had my students construct models of human relationships to get at concepts of kinship, and at some point in the discussion, one young woman said, "I definitely want to get married. Who wouldn't want a man to take care of her?"

Wow, that's one expensive “Mrs.” degree you have there, sweetie… not to mention one hell of a misconception that being “taken care of” instead of entering an equal partnership gets you anything but in one mess of trouble later in life.

We have two female friends caught up in what really seems to be an abusive relationship with one man, but his drunken abusiveness is obscured and confounded by the lifestyle they choose to lead and the heteronormative 1950’s gender roles they choose to inhabit and defend vigorously. Why is it, friends, that when a young woman loudly and publicly defends her right to self-representation, it’s frequently over her right to be treated poorly if she wants, or her right to be reduced to a sexualized caricature, and rarely her right to earn the same wages that men in her position, in her company, earn? Why is it never to be promoted or to be given new intellectual and financial opportunities?  Countless women who came before – even their own mothers – fought and worked tirelessly for their daughters’ future right to choose their vocations, avocations, and ultimately, their own financial fate, apart from their husbands’. Who would have thought that *at home, scantily clad, posting pictures of themselves on the Internet, deriving self-satisfaction and personal validation from virtual wolf whistles*, would be one of the things they actively chose?


Except it’s easier and more immediately rewarding to choose to fit yourself to a stereotype than it is to actually try to swim upstream. There’s that, of course.  It’s been made much easier by the structure of the Internet to perform female subjugation as an apparent (but never, never actual) demonstration of freedom.

Oh, but I’m sorry. It’s International Woman’s Day, and here I am talking only about North America, where we at least have the ability to choose whether or not to represent ourselves as sex objects, as opposed to other countries where if you think you have a choice, you’re sadly mistaken. You may think you’re choosing to get firewood, but no, you’re actually choosing to be someone’s sex object and site of violent political demonstration. You may think you’re riding a bus with your male friend, but actually you’re just a sex toy to use mercilessly and then discard, torn, like a spent condom.

International Women’s Day indeed. Too little, too light, too shallow. We’ve made so many inroads and then allowed them to be backfilled because feminism as a movement was deeply flawed. Instead of taking the lead on challenging the constructs of race and class, we instead allowed feminism to implode, allowed it to become an outmoded, rather silly notion with which no one wants to identify. We don’t need to reclaim our rights to dress as we please and post photos online, or to be in an abusive relationship, or to get married and let our husbands support us. We need to reclaim feminism. And in so doing, we need to claim humanism – the idea that in essence we men and women are all the same, and that any differences we experience are inculcated by culture and social pre/proscription. We do not need to perform our sexuality online to challenge societal female norms. That fruit hangs far too low. We need to perform our humanity by simply striving to achieve all that is possible within our social reality, and we need to actively support any people, particularly those of marginalized genders, who struggle, and are blocked, from doing the same. But instead we all tread water, either using heteronormative constructs of femininity to keep us largely afloat, or allowing ourselves, like I do, to slip under water occasionally because we're trying to stay afloat while carrying "it all."

Thanks, Google Doodle, for reminding me that we still need our own day and that ultimately it means nothing. I needed that.

gansje: (Gansje)
Q1: How many times do I have to nicely ask the children to play downstairs so I can work?
A1: 4,500,209,128.

Q2: How many times do I have to scream at the top of my lungs telling them that no, nothing they need from upstairs to play "cat and ninja warrior" is at all important enough for them to race like herds of elephants up the stairs and then start screaming all over the upstairs, and they are DONE and they will GO THE HELL DOWNSTAIRS NOW!!!!!!"
A2: Apparently, only once.

E 1, Kids 0.

Goddammit.
gansje: (Gansje)
Today was full of simple pleasures thanks to my wonderful L.

It was a bit of a hectic morning. Children had to be moved along through their paces, sick teen had to be looked in on, and even though I'd taken the day off, I ended up working all morning putting out the endless tiny fires that keep popping up in relation to the largest study I'm directing. It's a behemoth among the other merely large studies I'm also directing, and there are some dozen of our staff engaged in all its moving parts. Every study material must be passed through two levels of legal review and one level of IRB review. There are four different committees on the pharma's part engaged in the project too, and two brand teams. Directing it and conducting the research is basically a full-time job, and I have four other of these studies to direct too. Plus I have to finish two financial aid forms for Adam (FAFSA and something for private universities). Plus I have to... and then I also have to... you know how it goes.

L is taking Jo and Hen to Pittsburgh this weekend to see his mom and if the roads are better by then, he'll leave with them on Friday, which for me is scheduled solid from 10-6 just with work for this one project. We won't be able to be together on Valentine's day, and he's seen how hard I've been working, so he asked me to take a day off on the 12th for a surprise! I did, and although as I mentioned that our day got encroached upon by work regardless, L told me I should wear a dress and heels, at 1:30 he drove me downtown to our special area of the city (where we spent a long, beautiful Christmas break once, where we spent time on one of his summer visits when he still lived in Rhode Island, and where ultimately we got formally engaged) and took me to the Cassatt Tea Room. Here are pictures someone else took, but I didn't take any pictures, so you have to have someone else's imagery:

http://www.kathyylchan.com/blog/2013/7/31/philadelphia-afternoon-tea-at-mary-cassatt-tea-room-of-the-rittenhouse-hotel

We sat in that very spot though of course the view out the floor-to-ceiling windows was decidedly less springlike, and we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly, all carb-avoidance be damned, just for one day. The tea was perfectly brewed, and the bread used for the tea sandwiches wasn't stale at all where the crusts were trimmed. We had the room mostly to ourselves, too, so it was extra-beautiful. The whole experience simply slowed down time for me, and we had beauty and serenity for a couple of hours. It was perfect.

After, he gathered our coats and then told me to put my hand in my left coat pocket. Inside, I discovered a little pouch containing gorgeous smokey quartz earrings I'd told him I was going to buy as a gift for myself after my workload lightened.

I really don't know how to express my gratitude towards and for my husband in words. I just don't. *Tearing up a little*

After, we went home and I got sucked back into work for just a bit. He went shopping, I tried to put out more fires, and then we went to the second of the trips L had arranged: Nerd Nite! We drove out to a post-industrial, newly gentrifying, hipster-soaked part of the city (Fishtown, for those of you who are interested), and listened to a few Valentine's Day-inspired talks by, first, the guy who wrote, The Geek's Guide to Dating, followed by a printer guy who works with a locally-famous astronomer and artists to combine tech and art, and last by a woman of uncertain association with Laurel Hill Cemetery, who spoke very engagingly about Victorian death ritual and custom. She redeemed the evening's lecture series -- the other two guys weren't terribly skilled speakers, shall we say. We had really good vegetarian burgers/sausage, beer and free coffee and enjoyed ourselves immensely. We left just as the snow started, and we walked back to the car, the snowflakes falling swift and sharp, pricking our faces for a moment, then melting.

My L creates islands in time. I don't know what I'd do without him.

<3.
gansje: (Gansje)
Let's see here... [livejournal.com profile] sabotabby gave me C.

Something I hate: Cancer. Fuck cancer and everything to do with it.

Sigh. Hard to continue after that.

Something I love: The cello, and pretty much anything played on it. My current favorite: Zoe Keating http://www.zoekeating.com/

Somewhere I have been: Canada! We had a beautiful honeymoon in Montreal and Quebec City, and we can't wait to go back.

Somewhere I would like to go: China. It's not at the top of my travel bucket list, but it's on there.

Someone I know: [livejournal.com profile] chanaleh!

Best film: Oh lordy. Do I say Casablanca,Citizen Kane or do I admit to secretly loving Casino Royale? Decisions, decisions...

If you want a letter, just say so!
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In other news, I did a great job of presenting at a meeting in Parsippany, NJ. I won't bore everyone with details, but everyone was highly complimentary and very excited about sociolinguistics thereafter, and the room was absolutely packed. People kept coming up to meet me afterwards like I was a celebrity or something. I bombed at this same meeting four years ago when I was new to my job, so even though on the grand scale of things having presented so well isn't that big a deal, it still feels really good.
gansje: (Gansje)
30 minutes snatched away from work for myself, prior to going downstairs to ride the bike and trick my body into parting with a few fat cells... what, oh what to write about?

- I just returned from temperate California in time, basically, to turn back around and travel again tomorrow! This time, I'm off to beautiful Parsippany, NJ. I know, it's a traveler's dream come true. I will stay in the gorgeous Parsippany Hilton, surrounded by marketers and market researchers promoting themselves. What's not to love? And I myself will give a fantastic talk about how one can use sociolinguistics to answer all manner of research questions. Whee!  At least my colleague, C, will be there, and we'll have a little fun together. Less fun than we would have had if she were not in her first trimester of her second pregnancy and throwing up pretty much constantly, but still, we'll enjoy each other's company.

- California was very enjoyable, by contrast. My friend and colleague P. and I presented our research at Amgen, and it went extremely well. I really do get very excited about it when I can use my findings to help marketers think creatively about patient education and, especially in the oncology realm, to get them to promote survivorship programs, and free-up funds to make copay assistance available to more people. I WILL rework the system, dammit!

Warning: discussion of cancer patients' needs and getting them some help )
The brand team was absolutely delighted with my bid to rework the system in this case. One man in particular paid extremely close attention and was highly interactive. At the end of my presentation, he invited me back in March to speak to a much larger group including advocacy professionals. As she walked us out, the client who contracted with us told us that that was her boss and that she'd never seen him pay attention to any other marketing research presentation before. He's apparently a "fiddle with his smartphone and leave early" person. So it's lousy that he's a jerk, but the implicit compliment is pretty nice to have received.

- Otherwise, it was actually quite a hard trip. The flight to Phoenix on Thursday was delayed by 45 minutes because a broken seat had to be documented (and the man who had purchased said seat on the plane was bumped to another flight without the rest of his family, which was pretty lousy for them all, I'd imagine). The turbulence on the trip was constant and regardless of altitude, it couldn't be avoided, which meant that there was no drink and food service on the flight for five hours.

Time to rush off the plane... )
Once we finally rolled in, P. and I decided to collapse, so I got room service (and the very strange man who brought me my food rubbed my arm/sleeve -- nubbly fabric! -- and I ushered him out because eww, that was slightly awful), and then more oddities occurred the next day, but that is a tale for a different time. I've taken more than 30 minutes and I need to spend some time with L and pack for tomorrow's trip!
gansje: (Gansje)
Blah. Sick instead. But I will dance all over the living room again one day, dammit! I couldn't swing any alone-time yesterday, as I had a lot of work during the day, and I had the kids all evening while L was at his jewelry making class (I'm excited about this, as he has artistic talent he's never really explored before, and it's a really nice thing to see him having fun with it), and then as soon as he got home with groceries, I had to make a dish for our minyan potluck lunch. I made this:

http://simpleprovisions.com.au/2012/07/09/chickpea-feta-and-parsley-salad/

and it turned out marvelously. Hopefully I didn't accidentally contaminate it with my germs and poison our minyan with this cold. That would be... bad.

Shit. I just realized I was supposed to buy a dessert for a second potluck tomorrow night. I just totally blanked because I felt so shitty as I left the office. And now it's Shabbat and I really shouldn't buy a dessert, but I can't bake anything either... this is a problem. See, this is for a reunion of Adam's b'nai mitzvah class, and it's being convened by one of THOSE friends. You know? The friend who was the Perfect Parent, and who was always Involved in every school event, and who only ever got in touch because she wanted one of the following:

1) a donation to her favorite charity
2) you to work for her latest political enthusiasm
3) your kid to play with her kid, who has no friends
4) you to send your kid to her parents' summer camp (like, they literally owned the camp)
5) you get the picture.

That friend. I have always referred to her as my "very expensive friend." She is a schnorrer for Causes So Good You Cannot Say No, and Then You Regret It Later When She Ignores You Cold In Other Social Settings (TM). So now her synagogue, which used to be my synagogue, fired our old rabbi (who married L and me, and whom we absolutely adore) for, basically, not being peppy enough, and hired a new, peppier "young but appeals to the aged hippy crowd" rabbi with a guitar and a tambourine. Very Expensive Friend (let's call her "VEF") is hosting this reunion of the kids in Adam's class before they all go off to college and only connect, like, daily through snapchat and their respective tumblrs and never see each other again in the flesh. Which is a lovely thought, don't get me wrong. And I agreed to go because Adam wants to see a few of his buddies (girls, most likely, knowing my son, lol) and I would like to introduce L to a few of the other parents I connected with and then lost touch with over the years. Just, sigh. I know very well I'm not exactly on VEF's A-list of friends. I don't know that I even make B-list. And she makes me feel guilty for not being as involved in Adam's elementary, middle and high schools as I would have liked to be had I not had to work my ass off to keep the power on and food on the table and such.

But also, here's the real reason? She invited the new peppy rabbi with a guitar. Which means that this isn't just a pleasant reunion of old friends. This is an Ask, my friends. Maybe I'm jaded, but there is only one reason VEF ever invites anyone (especially L and me) anywhere, and that is to donate money. This is a move to get several families to rejoin our old shul. So sigh. But Adam wants to go, VEF was kind enough to invite Joanna and Henry, and L thought it would be nice to have something social to do on Shabbat. And they live a quick walk from our house. So ugh. We should go. But I don't want to sit through a three hour long guilt trip about why I should rejoin Mishkan when we're really happy at our minyan at GJC...

My wonderful L, who is sitting across from me in our living room, has just pointed out that I am sick, and we actually do not have to go, and laughed maniacally with me. I knew I married that man for a reason. Not only does he find me excuses to avoid thinly veiled sales pitches, but no one does a better maniacal laugh. No one. Well, except maybe [livejournal.com profile] flw, but those guys are practically brothers, so.

Of course, if I'm this sick tomorrow, I'm not going to the minyan potluck either, which is a sad day.

In other news:

Jo's OCD is at bay and she's snuggly and huggy and doing much better that way, and is only asking for the password occasionally, but now her eczema is totally out of control. I'm convinced her anxiety is playing "whack-a-mole" with us. It really feels like it's some kind of entity that comes out through her skin, and if we don't let it do that, it just pops out in OCD thoughts/fears. BTW, last year when it was still available as an online serial comic, I ran across and read Adam Bourret's, "I'm Crazy," about OCD. It really helped me understand what OCD was -- little did I know at the time that we'd be dealing with it head on. For those of you who are curious, here's an excerpt:

http://books.torontoist.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/crazy_2.jpg

It's now a graphic novel. I would buy it to support the artist, but it has some images and storyline that would scare Jo, I think, and she has amazing radar for what we don't want her to see and would find it immediately. Anyway, very helpful.

Other news continued: I had a talk with Adam's father about paying for college and inferred from it that a) he does not intend to get a job to at least make ends meet (he is a lawyer, after all! A lawyer cannot be expected to take a job that is not in the law! Even after 2.5 years of unemployment and not exactly looking for work very hard! Unless it is in your ex-wife's field! Because anything SHE can do is obviously something YOU can do without training and BETTER! No, I'm not bitter? Why do you ask if I'm bitter?) and b) he does not intend to contribute to Adam's college because he has shot through over $100K in "savings" (old friends, you remember whom he got that money from) in 2.5 years, despite being a trust-fund baby and getting quite a bit of money from his mother every year. And despite having signed a divorce agreement stating that he agrees to pay half of all college costs not covered by his mother. Wot the hell. E will step in and fill the gap. She always does!

L is FURIOUS. Like, threatening lawsuit furious. But luckily for Adam, when signing up for the PSAT, the SAT, and AP tests, he arbitrarily chose his father's address as his permanent address. That means because Rich and I share custody equally, that Rich can fill out the FAFSA and Adam at least can benefit from his father's continued unemployment somehow. This is at least one good thing. Adam has been very upset with his dad for not bothering to look for work for 2 years, and only looking half-heartedly now. He's a really responsible kid and he's having a hard time wrapping his head around his father's inherent irresponsibility.

Henry continues to be Henry. He's been very into Legos lately, which warms the cockles of L's heart, and he seems to be more active lately, instead of entirely addicted to Minecraft, which is great. If I never see another Minecraft farm animal again, it will be too soon. He's also reading VOLUNTARILY (thank you, Diary of a Wimpy Kid author! KEEP WRITING!) and he has learned to wipe his own butt, meaning fewer yelps of parental distress and discarded pairs of Angry Bird underwear. Hey, you have to embrace the small victories.
gansje: (Gansje)
A while ago I realized that unless I spend a little time each week with my therapist, I'm not going to be able to maintain my own sanity in the face of all the stresses I've been under: over-work, worry about finances vis-a-vis Adam's college costs, Jo's OCD (which is much better this week, thank God!), and some things that had been challenging to L's and my relationship. It's all too much at once. So finally, after a few scheduling misses, I went back to see D. after a year and a half.

She's an excellent therapist, though she mostly just listens and lets me make my own connections and discoveries. For the first fifteen or twenty minutes, I just filled her in on how everyone was doing, and we slid into talking about Jo and what CBT exercises she and I can do together. She suggested that since Jo is so active, we act out at her strange thoughts together -- punching them at the end -- and since she's artistic, we draw her fears and then crumple the pictures up and throw them away, or we sculpt them and then mold them into happier figures. D. is great.

Then she sat bolt upright, which is D.-speak for, "warning, changing topic," and said, "All right. What are you going to do to take care of yourself during this time?" This, honestly, is what I was there for, but it was still a bit of a shock to have to think about myself instead of trying to puzzle out how to manage the latest crisis. What AM I going to do to take care of myself, anyway?  Hm.

It took her the remainder of our session to pull it out of me, but we landed on a plan. One hour of every day will be all mine, apart from everyone else, inviolate. I am to leave the house (weather permitting) when I need to, and while I'm still awake enough to be productive for myself, instead of spending all my productivity on work and at home with the kids. We decided -- I decided -- that I'll spend 30 minutes of that hour exercising, and then I'll go to Starbucks or some other coffee shop to nurse a cup of tea and write.

So welcome to my first writing half-hour. I started a poem, but I haven't written one in almost three years. The opening lines were too flawed to keep, so I landed here, but at least it's a start. I have to remember that I'm not writing to produce art right now. I'm writing to reacquaint myself with the act of writing seriously -- with contemplation and the art of finding something to describe in stillness. I should also reacquaint myself with the art of not starting out paragraphs with the word, "so." Just sayin'.

Before I sat down to write, by the way, I danced. Jo and Henry are with bio-mom, Adam is with bio-dad, L was working out downstairs, and there's about a foot of snow outside, so dammit, I danced all the hell over the living room to some sultry jazz. Oh yes. I think I can do this. Well, I can dance, anyway. And if you like, please give me a writing prompt! Maybe I can get this writing thing off the ground too.
gansje: (Me)
Today I presented reports on two separate studies in a four-hour period in front of no fewer than 20 people per group, on less than 5 hours sleep. And I rocked both presentations. Oh yeah.

Apparently, and without prior knowledge, I also made a new type of martini. I call it a "stealth martini" because apparently it doesn't affect one at all until roughly an hour after consumption, at which time it pounces and numbs the entirety of the upper portion of your body and your left arm. I'm not entirely sure how I made it with these properties but I'm not complaining. *Falls over*

We are sans all three children tonight. Parents of pre-teens and teens will know that this is not a bad thing. We really needed this tonight, L, me and the stealth martini.
gansje: (Me)

Last night L. and I went out with new friends we want to get to know better. It was a nice night out after spending the whole day managing the kids.

We discovered that Jo has been getting only a very scant 2-3 or 2-4 hours of sleep a night. Her anxiety is back to a fevered pitch and she's waking anywhere between 1 am and 4 am after only falling asleep at 11 pm (bedtime is at 9, but she requires a 1 hour bedtime ritual and then requires one of us to sit there in the dim light with her until she drifts off, which can take anywhere from 5 to 60 minutes. She sometimes sleeps until 6-8 am, but this is rare anymore.  We also discovered that during this time, she has been going downstairs to get on the computer and getting on Youtube, where she trundles around aimlessly, of course finding videos that scare the living shit out of her, because she has always had a preference for the morbid. So now she's terrified of "Jeff the Killer," adding this meme to her pantheon of fears to build into her anxiety and OCD.

Honestly, I just feel completely cut off at the knees. We're installing Net Nanny or something similar, but the anxiety is like "whack-a-mole" and as I have learned through bitter experience, it will resurface somewhere else. I know it's certainly treatable and we are working on getting the right treatment plan into place (in fact I just left a message for one of the psychiatrists recommended to us and will call another shortly), but right now things feel very out of control.

Add to this that thanks to inclement weather, we'd been trapped in the house with the kids for four out of the past six days. First we got snowed in on Thursday; then Friday was too cold to take them outside given Jo's eczema; then Saturday we did manage to get to synagogue, but it was Shabbat and we really couldn't do anything with them outside the house and they refused to go play in the snow. Then Sunday was an ice-storm, followed by rain and then followed by a playdate with Jo's friend who also has some significant special needs. We knew we were getting ourselves into trouble but there was just nothing else to do with the kids.

Jo's friend came over and just GAH. Lawrence had had to work earlier that day, so I'd tried to play with the kids then, but this devolved into a long and complex crying jag on Jo's part over a) my having taken away the random Youtube searching that is exacerbating her anxiety and obsessive, intrusive thoughts, b) our refusal to buy her a cat now that she is no longer very interested in the dog ("I just feel that if I have a cat, then I will have the two best kinds of pets and then I won't feel the need to ask for other pets..."), and c) my telling her that when she is all grown up and has her own apartment and her own job and can take care of an animal by herself, then she can get herself all the cats she wants, but nothing else that urinates and defecates is coming inside this house except to visit, period. Her response, between sobs: "It's when you say "never" that I get upset, Ellyn! I feel like growing up is such a long way away and I'll never get a cat when it's the most important to me!" *Huge tears welling up and spilling over her eyes and down her cheeks like waterworks* So there was then much talk about her needing to demonstrate over the course of years that she can maintain attention, responsibility, etc. to care for the cat herself, because Daddy and I have enough to do with our jobs and Muppet and her, Henry and Adam. I got exactly nowhere except that now she thinks that she'll have a cat in a few months if she just occasionally feeds the dog and lets her out.

*headdesk*

So there was this all morning instead of the fun craft-time I had arranged to keep them both the hell off the internet all day.

Then Jo's friend came, so I set them both up with craft-time at the kitchen table while Jo nattered on about having OCD and so they couldn't go online, and then Nora (the friend) got panicked and wanted to use the internet, so I had two of them plus Henry trying to negotiate about computer time. I calmly did the dishes and did not give in, and then they all settled down but started screech-singing. I already had a headache from dealing with, "I feel like I never have anything good happen in my life, I want a cat so much! I would cry from happiness if I had a cat!" all morning and now this. I told them to please stop, I couldn't take the shrieking, and while Nora politely stopped and Henry wandered into the next room, Joanna came over to me at the sink, and eyes aglow with happiness and mischief (honestly, she was just being mischievous, not defiant, exactly), started shriek-singing even louder, right in my face. This prompted Nora to start up again too, so I bellowed for them to be quiet. They did immediately quiet down, but this episode scared Joanna, and for the remainder of the day she kept asking for the passphrase that would tell her I wasn't an alien.

Things went their normal way after that, with all three kids in the basement shrieking song lyrics at the top of their lungs

Now during all this, Lawrence was upstairs. I had told him to go rest a bit because he worked all morning. However, I thought he also had more work to do, so when he didn't come downstairs for nearly 2 hours, I didn't want to disturb him. So for about two hours, I managed the kids' constant attempts at negotiating computer time ("well, if I can do X and Z, then maybe I could do X of Y and Z of Y, right?") and requests for food (Nora's mother placed her on a diet and she constantly tries to wangle food out of everyone else). He finally came down and took over, but copped to having intended to spend 10 minutes on SimCity but accidentally spending 1.5 hours. I get it, this has happened to me, and frankly, if I could have hidden from the kids, oh man, would I have hidden.

Finally, around 5:00, Nora went home, and Joanna was calmed down enough from her day that she wanted to study Hebrew with Lawrence (she's embarrassed that Henry, who is three and a half years her junior, knows way more Hebrew than she does). So this was nice, but my nerves were just shot and I could not rejoice. There was no joy in Mudville.

Lawrence took the kids to Shasta's after that and I tried to calm down and couldn't. I knew this was not a good scenario for the remainder of the evening, but I was well and truly blasted both by Jo's anxiety and all the shrieking peppered with Very Lawyer-ly Negotiating" for hours and hours.

So here is where I was a shithead. We went out to dinner with our new friends and at some point mid-dinner (after three margaritas had finally kicked in -- I have no idea what they put in those things, but it isn't alcohol, that's for sure) Lawrence mentioned that he spends an inordinate amount of time on SimCity, and I quipped that yes, he's on SimCity while I'm watching the kids.

Our friends' faces registered momentary horror. UGGGGGHHHHHHH.

It was not good, my friends. I am a bad wife. I do suck. I really do. My poor L. I hate that I embarrassed him and I'm worried these people think I'm a terrible, terrible person.

Ugh, ugh, ugh. I stink.

gansje: (Gansje)

Awake again, too agitated to sleep, I suppose. I've been utterly slammed with my own work, and today found out that a contractor (we hire contract linguists, amazingly enough) spent nearly all her time going to parties, visiting friends and family, and training for a half-marathon instead of working on the project I hired her to work on. Plus she misinterpreted very, very basic directions and the analysis plan, and turned her head-scratchingly odd answers to the client's rather straightforward questions extremely late. This means that over the next two days I get to read 65 doctor-patient conversations, twist her existing slides into something meaningful, and create a host of new slides that actually answer the client's questions.

I'm so burned out and, honestly, mildly depressed. I've been working 60-70 hours a week for a month and for much of the last 3 months as well. I'm trying so hard to spend time with L and feel connected, but it's very difficult to feel connected to anything or anyone right now. I feel incredibly guilty for having so much work and neglecting him. Add to that ambient worry about Jo and how we're going to manage her medication around Shasta's refusal to give Jo any of her current meds, and Shasta's tendency to lose Jo's meds. And then on top of that, a sudden resurgence of my insomnia. It's not good.

At least I've not been entirely consumed by work. L and I have had some wonderful time together, and we've spent a lot of time talking, which makes things feel better. Yesterday was mild enough that we took the dog on a nice, long walk through the neighborhood, along a walking trail and back. We got our Chinese food for Jewish Christmas, and today we visited some historic homes in Fairmount Park, which we both enjoyed very much. Last night, we went bowling for an hour, and had some fun (despite my being a dreadful bowler -- L tried patiently to help me with my game, but my ball was just too heavy for me, and I proved to be hopeless).

But the best times have been those we've spent talking. I love hearing about what he's thinking, what's happening for him at work, and trying to think conundrums through with him. He loves his consulting work so much, and sharing it with him today over lunch made me very happy.

He also discussed and made some suggestions about my own work, which was unexpected (it's usually so specialized it's hard for anyone to help with it) and extremely helpful.

So as rotten as the work has been, there's been L, and that, at least, makes everything a good deal better.

Thank God.

Dec. 16th, 2013 10:34 pm
gansje: (Me)
I took Jo to the (fabulous, love, love, love her) psychologist today, and she let me stay in the session because I'd called ahead to strategize; I didn't want Jo shutting down over fear that Dr. Lipshutz was an alien replica, so I asked to sit in on the session as long as Jo was comfortable having me in the room. I wanted her to feel safe and protected.

Jo did marvelously through her session and told Dr. Lipshutz everything that's been bothering her, answering her questions freely. And Dr. Lipshutz, for her part, was amazing, never once looking nervous or concerned, which reassured Jo that she was just Dr. Lipshutz and nothing but. She was warm and kind and inscrutable. L said tonight that he would not want to play poker with her, and I heartily concur.

Overall the whole session made me feel infinitely better: it turns out that Jo hasn't exactly been seeing the words she claims to have seen, but is picking them out of shadows and reflections, not unlike the way we lay back in the grass and try to find out images in clouds. This, apparently, is the difference between hallucinations and visualizations driven by intense anxiety/panic. Jo also admitted to "rule following," which starts out as a belief such as, "If I don't eat all my dessert, I'll go to hell." This leads her to finish her dessert even if she's full from dinner, which relieves the feeling of anxiety, and then reinforces the anxiety and the behavior (and which we absolutely don't want on any level). So there we have the "C" -- and with this and the set of beliefs and fears Jo was describing, it became very clear to Dr. Lipshutz that it's most likely OCD, related to puberty and intensified, awfully enough, by Jo's asthma inhalers, which we knew can cause anxiety, but not in this way, to this degree. We have a very nice choice: breathing or a bit extra sanity. Nice.

That's not to say there aren't any environmental factors. It also came out that Shasta has been saying extremely hateful things about me again, as well as telling Jo I'm not L's wife, but his girlfriend, which is very confusing for Jo. This could be causing her added stress, particularly as Shasta has also been mocking me and encouraging Jo in doing the same (such as encouraging her to laugh at me, and discrediting her fears at my expense). This same behavior caused Jo insomnia the last time it went on in earnest, and I can't imagine it's causing any less conflict now. Jo and I are very close and love each other a great deal, and her mother demands her to prove her loyalty and love for her by betraying me. I know from experience that this causes Jo a great deal of anxiety, and can't possibly be helping her. [livejournal.com profile] lostasia, you called it.

So, the diagnosis: OCD, complicated by albuterol derivatives and Shasta's unyielding need to cling to fury and punish everyone near her for her own misery. Dr. Lipshutz and I sat together discussing next steps for a bit while Jo sat in the waiting room reading a kids' magazine about foxes and worrying that Dr. Lipshutz actually might be an alien and might be abducting me, but I came out and she asked me for the pass-phrase, and all was well. She even did a little happy dance. <3  My baby.

Next steps are to meet with one of the psychiatrists Dr. Lipshutz recommends and probably start Jo on an SSRI, which have been shown to be very effective for OCD. L will take Jo to her pediatrician on Wednesday and see about a different kind of asthma treatment, if possible. And finally, we'll both meet with Dr. Lipshutz on Thursday and learn some CBT skills to practice with Jo at home. The best part: OCD is highly treatable, and with intensive therapy and SSRIs, we'll be on our way to making Jo feel like Jo again. It was a stressful experience and I was worried about what the outcome of today's visit would be, but ultimately it was encouraging and I feel much better about Jo's future.

Unfortunately, the rest of the day was highly stressful too, from waking up to the lovely strains of the iPhone email alert telling me that an old consulting client needed data I analyzed some two years ago. I don't even know where data I analyzed last month is, much less data from two years ago. I knew that given my current schedule and workload (60-70 hours of work a week for the next two weeks), I'd forget unless I found it immediately, so my first bleary moments of pre-coffee wakefulness were spent tracking down, zipping and emailing huge data files. Then Jo called -- she and Henry had stayed with their mother's visiting family over the weekend and Shasta apparently didn't feel like driving past our house on the way to the school (our house is oh, I dunno, ON THE ROUTE SHASTA TAKES TO THE KIDS' SCHOOL) to pick up their backpacks, and Jo was panicked that her mother would be upset, so I drove to the school and dropped off the kids' backpacks. Then I ran back to the house to finish up a recommended study plan, then remembered I hadn't had breakfast and managed to make and eat it, though doing so took approximately 35 minutes between panicked phone calls from colleagues needing help with study planning and data interpretation.

Then I ran to McDonalds and got Jo a Happy Meal so she had a fun lunch and toy and would be full and also happy and might open up more for the psychotherapist. I took her to her session, came home, answered emergency questions about a study design, hopped on a series of client calls, and finished a few more slides for a project on, ironically, asthma inhalers. I didn't have any time to process anything until L got home, and then I admittedly let him have it, because Jo also said that Daddy had told her that I killed her gecko (I accidentally got 10 or so crickets in its cage, which apparently can stress them out -- can we please find a pet for Jo that doesn't match her in its propensity for anxiety?), and Shasta had mocked me for it (she told Jo that maybe the "U Pay" in the gecko tank that she imagined were really crickets arranging themselves into a threatening message for me). So I took my anger at Shasta out on L, which was unfair. We made up, but things were tense there for a few minutes.

We made up, there was beef chili had for dinner and dishes done, and food put away and martinis made and drunk (which is why I can be quite so open about having been awful to L for my own anger) and more slides made. As I said, a stressful day overall. But though I know it'll take us a long time to get Jo's care right, I'm hopeful. She isn't hallucinating, OCD is extremely treatable, and she may not even need treatment beyond adolescence. We caught it early, and Jo trusts Dr. Lipshutz now and was really open to some of her "early CBT" exercises. I think Jo will be okay despite a really miserable disease. If one SSRI is bad for her, we'll find another. And CBT may prove extremely helpful on its own. Finally, we have a great support system, of which you all are an essential part. I, for one, wouldn't have made it through the weekend without you, and I'm infinitely grateful.

<3
gansje: (Me)
Okay, we're getting a plan together.

Today I called both Jo's psychologist and her psychotherapist. Thank god, the psychotherapist got back to us. She spoke to L and said that we should strive at this point to keep Jo as calm as possible, and the ER should be reserved for a situation only in which Jo is unable to calm down and is suffering greatly, or if she is in danger. She also doesn't like the way the ER's in our area handle child/adolescent mental health intake -- they would just give her Risperdal and refer her back to her provider (Dr. Lipschutz, the psychotherapist, to whom L spoke) or they would admit her, which is terrifying and triggering. The earliest she can meet with Jo is Monday at noon, so I took that appointment. She then gave us the names of two psychiatrists who she thinks are fantastic. However, the most fantastic cannot see us until January, so he provided us with the names of 5 other psychiatrists he thinks are equally fantastic. I explained to my immediate supervisor, who is a decent human being with 4 kids and most of a PsyD and a Master's in Clinical Psychology what was going on and he gave me a secret day off on Monday. This means I can devote Monday to calling all of these doctors to find one who can see her. This leaves us without treatment over the weekend, though, so Dr. Lipschutz (who was so goddamned comforting to us both over the phone, god) told us if she is very distressed over the weekend, we are to take her to the ER. I plan on the ER at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, because they're just amazing over there at pretty much everything, and are responsible for other Jo miracles, like clearing up her eczema, and Adam miracles, like helping me through his Asperger's rages. But no ER unless things are very, very distressing to her.

Being a behavioral researcher and unable to leave pubmed.org alone, I found the following extremely comforting article: http://bjp.rcpsych.org/content/201/1/4.long You can read just the abstract and the discussion section. It helped us feel better a lot, especially since Jo has no other features of schizophrenia. Even if this is an early sign, catching it early like this means much better outcomes. And it may be freaking nothing at all, as our dearest friend [livejournal.com profile] flw spent the better part of oh, all morning, trying to tell me. But it could be a feature of anxiety and thus incredibly treatable. I really hope so.

And I cannot wait until this fucking horrible year which has come along with so much tragedy and bad luck for us and those we love so much is over. Oddly, just a few days ago I looked at the calendar and thought, "just a few more weeks -- I wonder what the fuck else can 2013 deliver?" Now I know. Good lord. Fuck you, 2013.
gansje: (Me)
It has been one hell of a night. And it's just keeping on being a hell of a night.

We put [livejournal.com profile] emmabovary's idea to work (thank you!!! <3) and selected a password with Jo. Jo decided on a pass-phrase (which I should keep to myself in case she ever questions if I told it to anyone else) and then she needed me to use it not two hours later. She also went to the psychologist (the rotten one, but at least there was some therapy of some kind) and reported when she came home that she now thought the psychologist was an alien because while Jo was telling her about her thoughts and beliefs, the psychologist had a "weird look" on her face. I explained that she probably had a look of concern for Jo. Whenever someone makes an unfamiliar face now, Jo immediately suspects them of being an alien.

At bedtime, she lay down in her bed while I started storytime, and then she looked over at the tank that (used to, prior to its unfortunate expiration) hold her gecko. She asked me if I saw "U Pay" written in it. At first I thought she was seeing letters (from the titles of two books behind the tank) magnified in the glass, but when I went to look, I couldn't see anything at all. She was scared of it, and I moved the tank. Then she told me that she'd seen the words, "kill Jo" in her mother's car's rearview mirror on Monday (thank you, Shasta, for not telling us, good lord), and the word, "Die" written in our basement (she said that Lawrence had seen it too and thought that probably another kid she plays with had written it for some reason). She also told me that she'd seen a sign outside SuperCuts when I took Henry and Adam for their haircuts last month. The sign said, "You're Next," and she believed it referred to her imminent demise.

I rubbed my face, thinking, "God, please don't let this be child-onset schizophrenia," whereupon she said I'd never made that face before and demanded the pass-phrase.

She also has a rather juicy cold and is coughing a lot (we just gave her cough medicine, so here's keeping our fingers crossed she sleeps through the night) and she asked me just before I ran downstairs to tell L we have a problem, "If I get scared in the middle of the night, can I wake you up to sit with me?" Which has been a behavior we thought had finally passed last year. What Jo means by sitting with her is sitting in her room while she takes several hours to fall asleep and then several more after she wakes when you tried to tiptoe out. Which, given our current needs for sleep and my current mental state, is very bad. She's already woken once and L sat with her from 10:30 - 11:30.  I know more is coming and I'm taking that shift so he can sleep -- he has a meeting in Princeton tomorrow and needs a lot of solid sleep.

Guys, I'm scared. I'm really scared. Can I wake you up in the middle of the night to sit with me? 
gansje: (Me)
This:

  high-anxiety

Lawrence says that he has never seen this movie. This will have to be remedied.

So, life feels a little like this right now. As you all know, Jo has always been a very anxious kid. For the most part, though, her anxiety has been centered on rather rational fears and concerns, like, "Will mommy be able to take care of herself?" and "I want a dog SO BADLY, I HAVE TO HAVE A DOG, WHEN ARE WE GETTING A DOG?"  Kid concerns. Perfectly normal, but for the intensity and duration of the fear, and consonant with standard old, garden variety anxiety. But over the past months we've seen a shift in the content of her fears and the intensity of the accompanying panic that is frightening. First, a few months ago while on Youtube, she saw a chain letter someone had pasted into a comment that said that if the reader didn't pass along its message immediately, then in 266 days, the reader's mother would die. Jo became extremely anxious and couldn't stop thinking about this chain letter and its supposed consequences. She said that the intrusive thoughts happened constantly, but over the course of two to three weeks, she seemed to let go and be happy Jo again.  At the time I was very concerned about OCD, but the psychologist assured me that because there was no compulsive behavior accompanying these obsessive thoughts of her mother dying as a result of a chain letter, her fears could be chalked up to simple anxiety. And honestly, excepting its intensity, I saw Jo's fear as being completely normal for a kid her age.

But on Thanksgiving she said that she was scared L and I were really aliens, and since this Friday night especially, the intense fears have come fast and furious. Frighteningly, they are increasingly less age appropriate and more OCD-like. "Ellyn, I'm afraid that you and Daddy are aliens and the real you was abducted, and I'm scared because I'll lose you," and "I'm worried that my food is poisoned," are her latest fears. At first I tried telling myself that maybe Shasta told her that she's trying for additional custody and maybe that was so unsettling to Jo that she's expressing her fear, but since she can't really handle the idea that she's scared of being with her own mother more often, the fear is coming out in this very freaky, "aliens abducted you and replaced you with other aliens who look just like you" way. It would kind of make sense. But then she started with being afraid to eat her food and offering it to us to taste it for her (thank you, Jo, for using us as your tasters -- sigh). That is just pure OCD, right. there.

So we're calling the psychotherapist (not the psychologist, who didn't think this was OCD) tomorrow and hopefully we can get Jo the care she needs without Shasta blocking us.

Part of me feels very calm about all of this. OCD is very treatable. We have a dear friend who has it, and I just learned from a work colleague that his wife has OCD. These are two successful, smart, lovely and loving women, and while the condition plagues them more rather than less at times, they both cope well, and it's certainly not the end of their ability to function happily and well in the world. Honestly, if I could choose someone for Jo to be like, I'd happily choose our friend with OCD. I know that once we all get over our hesitation to put Jo on appropriate medication (L, Shasta and I were ALL very hesitant to start Jo on an SSRI for her simple anxiety disorder alone), Jo will be just fine with a combined CBT and SSRI approach.

The other part of me is deeply upset. Jo comes to me to tell me all of these fears, and she tells them to me for hours at a time. She knows they're bizarre but she can't be reassured at all. As I told L, I'm VERY glad she comes to me with her terrors and tells me about them -- it would be horrible for her if she hid them from us, and we'd never be able to get her the help she needs unless she did tell us. But it's also very triggering for me, and my own anxiety (which often has me feeling quite irrational) is through the roof. I'm scared for her. I'm scared for us. And her fears are so dark and strange for an 11 year old girl that it seems like reality is bending. When she tells me these things, I feel like I'm falling through a swirling vortex, entering the Twilight Zone, where dolls tell you they're going to kill you, or little girls get lost in other dimensions behind walls and floorboards. Honestly, I am terrified of the things she tells me, though I certainly won't stop her and I will continue to encourage her to tell us when ANYTHING is bothering her. Because over the past few days even very simple differences in day-to-day things will trigger her (she became terrified that L had been replaced with an alien two nights ago because he'd been smiling -- we had just snuck in a quickie while the kids were downstairs, and then just as we finished, there was Jo knocking on the door, and he had a post-coitus look, so boom, alien fears) I'm afraid to do anything different at all, lest it trigger her fears.

And I'm ashamed to admit it: I flinch inwardly every time she comes looking for me, because her thoughts upset me so deeply, and just as she talks about wolves or animating in her Aspie way, which is to say on and on for hours if allowed, and without understanding when other people can't take it anymore, she goes on about us being aliens to the degree I want to run away. But of course I don't: she needs me to talk to about it, and I need her to tell me what's going on in that head of hers if we're going to get her the right treatment and know it's working. But this unsettles me so badly. I don't want her to have OCD. I want her to have a nice, happy, uncomplicated life. This is all frightening and unfair, and insofar as it dovetails with my own deep-seated terrors about my own anxiety getting out of control, it's incredibly nervous-making. I also am just beside myself at how kids ALWAYS seem to reserve illness -- even mental illness -- for holidays and weekends. It's been a terribly long weekend. Right now she's acting as calm as can be, zooming all over the house in her way, making very beautiful things with the sewing kit I got her for Hanukkah. Why this now? Why Jo?

Sorry for the sad post, guys. Everything else is really, really good. My work is great -- more on that later. Henry is his own happy self, and Adam got admitted to his two safety schools, and we're just waiting to hear on Texas at Austin, Berkeley and UC Davis while he preps his applications for Case Western, Wisconsin at Madison, and Michigan. Just, right now, Jo's thoughts are towering over everything else and things feel a bit dark. 
gansje: (Me)
A few things are on my mind right now, so it must be time for an LJ post, right?

First and most importantly, my dear friend J made it through her sixth cycle of chemo to shrink her tumor, and so she just had her mastectomy Wednesday morning. Other friends and I have been helping out as much as possible with cooking, taking her to chemo, cleaning, etc., so on the day before Memorial Day, Lawrence and I made enough chilled salmon, kale lime ceasar salad and dill sauce to feed a small army, Adam and I bought tiramisu and a loaf of bread, and then we all brought it to her for a holiday celebration at her home. She had another friend there, as well as her son and her son's friend, so we all enjoyed each other's company. At one point in the evening, she and I were talking and she confessed she'd fallen the day before and probably broken a rib so she was worried her oncology team would delay her mastectomy.  And on that Thursday, she'd had a frightening EKG result too, and there was a possibility she'd need to be taken off of Herceptin (which has some cardiac side effects). Other monoclonal antibodies have similar side effect profiles, so this is not a great development, to say the least.

The whole scenario is terrifying for her, perhaps more so than it might be for someone who prior to diagnosis knew little about cancer treatment and options. She told me she is just overwhelmed, spent, done. She keeps treating her cancer for her family, but she's so very tired and doesn't want to continue at all. It's completely understandable; she's been through so much from the side effects of chemo and from working a stressful job throughout treatment.  But J is ordinarily so uniquely able to find a silver lining for every moment of life. I'd expect such a sentiment from myself or anyone else, but to hear her say she's spent and would give up if she felt she could is... hard.  I understand intimately and deeply based on where I was twelve years ago. To know she is as frightened, exhausted and terrified of medical intervention as I was then fills me with a sadness I can't quite convey or address. I love her a great deal and it hurts very much that she's suffering to this extent.  When we talked I just listened and held her hand and told her I understood, she is perfectly entitled to feel everything she's feeling, and whenever she feels that way she should call me and I'll listen and if she wants me to, I'll find something to lift her spirits. But I felt then and still feel a pain for her I can't possibly tell her about, or anyone for that matter, not only because it's wrong to share anything with J but comfort and anything else she asks me to share, but also because it's beyond me to do so. What I am experiencing is more a sensation, color and shape -- a kind of dark, chill hollow, really -- than an emotion to which I can attach words and in so doing adequately describe it.  If there were anything isolatable about how I am feeling about it, I would have to say I'm feeling helpless, I suppose, because there is nothing I can do to make her pain and fear go away.  Lately, I'm finding that there are a great many things I can't fix and make better, which, I suppose, is our lot in life to discover.

Also in the (much less upsetting) category of "things I cannot make better," a former professor and old friend just published a paper that is very interesting, and, at least in terms of conclusions and implications, stunningly inaccurate.  So she posted a short National Geographic piece about her article: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/06/130605-neandertal-neanderthal-bone-tumor-penn-croatia-science/?fb_action_ids=672887629394200&fb_action_types=og.likes&fb_source=timeline_og&action_object_map=%7B%22672887629394200%22%3A176594532506493%7D&action_type_map=%7B%22672887629394200%22%3A%22og.likes%22%7D&action_ref_map

Reading it, I was thrilled for her until I got to the last two paragraphs, in which the anchor author (not her, but some other muckety muck) is quoted:

What the bone showed was that at least one Neanderthal suffered from a fibrous dysplasia, a benign tumor characterized by areas of abnormal growth in one or several bones.

"Most cancers affect people when they get older," says Frayer. "And most Neanderthals and earlier populations died before they got old. So this was really exciting to see."

Oh dear. This contains two inaccuracies. I mean, the first is visible right there in the two paragraphs, no need for prior knowledge about fibrous dysplasia.  Fibrous dysplasia is not a cancer. But that could have been a misattribution -- it's not as if National Geographic is a very... um... credible scientific publication, shall we say.  It's well known as sensationalist. It's sort of like the "People Magazine" of scientific inquiry. Plus, Janet wouldn't have let something like that slip into her paper. She's more on the ball than that. She'd study a disease well if she discovered it in a sample, and then report on it accurately. Right? Right?

So I looked up the actual paper, here: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0064539

I was disturbed to read the conclusions section, which does contain the second, main inaccuracy I was concerned about -- age of onset.  Fibrous dysplasia is not just not a cancer; it's also not a disease of old age. Average age of onset is somewhere in the first decade of life with progression across adolescence. The fact that the disease was found in a rib that matched up with an adult rib implies that the disease was present in an adult, which is notable for the fact that this adult must have lived in some severe pain since childhood, since fibrous dysplasia is painful. This in turn could have some implications for understanding how Neanderthals managed illness, since there is a higher likelihood that this lesion came from an individual with multiple lesions across the body than an individual with just one lesion site. If this is so, then lesions were likely also to be in the individual's facial bones, femur, tibia, humerus and/or spine. Of course Janet can't speculate on the likelihood that this individual had more physically challenging lesions than just one localized to the rib, lacking the evidence of a complete skeleton. That would be terrible science right there.

But the whole argument that this specimen's value lies in its rarity due to lack of pollution as an etiology (cause) and the fact that one doesn't usually find older specimens... well.  Wrong on both counts. First, fibrous dysplasia not a disease of old age, and progression as extensive as the disease present in the sample can certainly happen by mid-to-late adolescence (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17501668) Second, no one knows what the etiology of fibrous dysplasia is. There's no evidence that shows that a congenital mutation associated (but not fully correlated) with the bone lesions is caused by pollution. None. Zip.

It's clear from the article that Janet did some good research on the disease state. How could she have missed these two points? Did the anchor author throw his weight around and insist that the conclusion section reads as it does, reflecting the stupidity he displayed in the interview he gave to National Geographic? Did he write the conclusions section and send it off for review without Janet's final edit and sign off? That's possible. J. (my friend with breast cancer, above, not Janet) wrote the conclusions section to the paper we just wrote together (abstract accepted at ASCO, and damned if I can remember what journal we submitted the article to, oops -- but it was accepted first submission!) because I didn't have time to write the whole thing and it made the most sense for her to do it.

I don't know why I'm bothered by this, other than I'm quite fond of Janet. When I was working on my PhD, I sometimes had to bring Adam with me to the museum where we had most of our classes, and when I did, Janet would often come to my rescue, snuggle him up, and take him with her to her lab to "play with her old bones." It's a wonder the kid has no interest in paleoanthropology, honestly.  I guess I'm a little embarrassed for her, and feeling disappointment in general that my paleoanthropology kin aren't so great at scientific rigor. It brings back some feelings that some of my physical anthropology education was a sham; I used to get very up in arms about the teleological phrasing used to describe evolutionary processes, and even more upset that after making this point I was on my professor's shit list, and this could have contributed to the nasty inter-departmental politics that deprived me of my PhD a few years later.  Actually, what I think it really might be is anger over losing out on my PhD to political games with people who make stunning mistakes like this. Also, I'm upset that these mistakes happen within a larger context of, for want of a better term, "complete nincompoopery." I mean, that paper made it through peer review and NO ONE CAUGHT THAT EFFING ERROR. Really guys?  Really?

So I guess shooting Janet a little email to point out the error and arm her against any evil academic onslaught would be hurtful and just awful, given the source of my upset, given how proud she is, and given what a lovely person she is. Right? But in all honesty, when I examine my feelings more closely, I do feel very badly for her personally and want to help her out somehow. Maybe nothing will come of it, and that will be good. Just, ugh. Oh, Janet, eek. Maybe I could send her a helmet and a flak jacket?  Maybe I'm the only one who'll give a shit. I mean, there are any number of stunning inaccuracies in the paleoanthropological and physical anthropology literature and we've all been living with them for any number of years, watching them build on each other to the point where the whole field is a teeming garbage heap of WTF.  Like basing the creation of a new genus or species designation based upon a single bone that is slightly morphically different from one already assigned to another genus or species. Many people, myself included, would argue there's no cause for creating a new genus or species designation based on a minor difference like this, as the different shape or size could represent normal variation within a species. This is just one example of the bad science that peppers physical anthropology as a field.

Besides, honestly, it doesn't matter. Paleoanthropology doesn't inform modern medicine, help us create new technologies in general or isolate genetic illnesses in order to treat them. As a field it's just neat and fun, and its main contribution to mankind is getting kids really into science at an age where they've discovered they hate going to school. There's nothing important riding on accuracy and rigor in this field at all, so I'm going to keep my big mouth shut, put aside my latent anger at losing out on an academic career to idiots like this Frayer person, and wish Janet very well.

AND. Speaking of idiots, one other bothersome thing happened this week. My colleague Kevin and I wrote a paper for a pharmaceutical company (Otsuka) focusing on differences by ethnicity ("cultural" differences, sigh) in preference for long-acting injectable atypical antipsychotics for schizophrenia. We honestly didn't expect to find anything based on the sample size (only 20 people with schizophrenia by ethnic group, insufficient stratification of sampling, insufficient designation of ethnicity, leading to poor attribution of ethnicity... and generally I don't like equating American government-designated ethnicity with attitudinal orientation for a whole host of reasons both anthropological and ethical). However, I found that "Hispanics" (I hate that word, jeez) were less likely than any other ethnic group to conceive of schizophrenia symptoms as interrelated and evidence of a single disease. They focused much more on addressing each symptom as a separate entity treatable with separate drugs. Consequently, it made less sense to them to accept a single shot for the treatment of a bunch of different problems. This disease conceptualization lines up nicely with Janis Jenkins's work on "Nervios" as a culture-bound illness in Mexican-Americans.

Everyone who read the paper was all excited and intrigued, and I got a call from the secretary of one Steven Potkin, PhD, who wants to "work with" me now. Great, but dude's field is the neurobiology of schizophrenia, and while I certainly get why he's interested in linguistics generally, and maybe sociolinguistics some, why should he want to collaborate on this sort of thing?  A "cultural" analysis of disease conceptualization and resultant treatment decision isn't exactly the man's field of expertise, exactly.  Still, this was very exciting until it wasn't.  Dude didn't want to work together with Kevin and me. Instead, what he wanted was to present our work at a scientific conference as Otsuka's representative.  Well, no problem. I returned his call, left a message, he never called back, and then to Kevin's any my surprise, he called us, furious, because he had PRESENTED THE PAPER AS HIS OWN and was ill-prepared to answer questions about it.  Fucking asshole.  It's one thing to represent the company's work.  It's another to tell everyone it's your own! And come on, really, is it believable that this guy would out of the blue write a paper on a topic so very far outside his well-established area of expertise?  Really?

Lots of academic asshattery going on lately. Ick.

In better news, being married to L is wonderful, Jo and Hen are adorable and doing very well, and our employers continue to be happy with us.  I had two interviews for another firm where the state-side business model is work-from-home, being that they're based in the UK. I would like this very much. We'll see where that goes.  Another dear friend just got a wonderful job, BFF started seeing someone extremely lovely (though it's yet to be discovered if this one can spell -- not one of the losers she dated for forever could), and Adam made honor roll again and thinks he did okay on the SAT's (and is also adorable, though he would not like me sharing that with you). So, a happy ending to a long and bitchy post.
gansje: (Me)
-- Gotten up with Jo at 4:50 a.m. to dose Primatene for a barking cough that will not go away.  Once we are back from Pittsburgh, off to the pediatrician with her...

-- Made Jo's breakfast

-- Made Jo's lunch

-- Washed all the dishes and put them away or in the dishwasher so that the housekeeper doesn't treyf them when she comes

-- Cleaned up one puddle of Muppet pee because the pampered little thing refuses to pee outside when it's raining

-- Ditto two poops.  I have no idea how a dog this small has so much in her intestines.

-- Gave Jo a Child's Allegra along with a glass of water she spilled

-- Cleaned up the water

-- Gave Jo a second Primatene dose, which she says she swallowed wrong and so regurgitated, along with the partly dissolved pill, the water containing the liquid part of the partly dissolved pill, and some mucus, all over her comforter, which she dragged downstairs.  Somehow she didn't also manage to throw up her breakfast, so I am counting my blessings.

-- Washed said comforter, which led to the following: 
        1.  The discovery that the washer, filled too full of clothing last night, leaked all over the rug in the laundry room (either that or Muppet's been really busy)
        2.  The necessity of standing in the puddle in my bare feet and long nightgown while taking clothes out of the dryer, piling them up on the table down there because the basket down there is full of others of Jo's comforters she has either soiled or which the dog has soiled for her (Or they may be clean.  We use a fragrance-free laundry detergent so as not to irritate her eczema, so I can't tell what stage of laundered they are), and putting the once-fresh, now soiled comforter into the laundry.

Kill me now, please.
gansje: (Me)
Because these are just awesome...






Many thanks to my introverted coworkers for turning me onto these videos.  I have a little crush on this guy now because he reminds me a bit of my L.
gansje: (Me)
I did not refuse to write the manuscript.  What in the world is wrong with me?
gansje: (Me)
The children have a new figurine.  It is approximately two inches high.  Its name is Tom.  Apparently, Tom has already become imbued with a soul.  Tom must accompany one or both of the children everywhere -- the consequences of it not doing so are unclear but apparently very bad.  There is either fighting over Tom or there are small voices piping all over the house, "Tom?  Tom?  Tom?  Tom?  Tom?" ad infinitum.

As you may have guessed, I am responsible for Tom's presence.

I hate Tom.
gansje: (Me)

Yellow Stars and Ice

by Susan Stewart
I am as far as the deepest sky between clouds
and you are as far as the deepest root and wound, 
and I am as far as a train at evening, 
as far as a whistle you can't hear or remember. 
You are as far as an unimagined animal 
who, frightened by everything, never appears. 
I am as far as cicadas and locusts
and you are as far as the cleanest arrow 
that has sewn the wind to the light on 
the birch trees. I am as far as the sleep of rivers 
that stains the deepest sky between clouds, 
you are as far as invention, and I am as far as memory.

You are as far as a red-marbled stream 
where children cut their feet on the stones 
and cry out. And I am as far as their happy 
mothers, bleaching new linen on the grass 
and singing, "You are as far as another life, 
as far as another life are you."
And I am as far as an infinite alphabet 
made from yellow stars and ice, 
and you are as far as the nails of the dead man, 
as far as a sailor can see at midnight 
when he's drunk and the moon is an empty cup, 
and I am as far as invention and you are as far as memory.

I am as far as the corners of a room where no one 
has ever spoken, as far as the four lost corners 
of the earth. And you are as far as the voices 
of the dumb, as the broken limbs of saints 
and soldiers, as the scarlet wing of the suicidal 
blackbird, I am farther and farther away from you. 
And you are as far as a horse without a rider 
can run in six years, two months and five days.
I am as far as that rider, who rubs his eyes with
his blistered hands, who watches a ghost don his
jacket and boots and now stands naked in the road.
As far as the space between word and word, 
as the heavy sleep of the perfectly loved 
and the sirens of wars no one living can remember, 
as far as this room, where no words have been spoken, 
you are as far as invention, and I am as far as memory.
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