Saturday, August 25, 2012

Did I just read that?

"The microparticles can keep an object alive for up to 30 min after respiratory failure."

So apparently scientists can now bestow life on objects? Fascinating.....

Friday, August 24, 2012

SPD and Fibromyalgia

When my sister called today to say we were right and her son does have SPD, my first thought was, "What?!"--I misheard "STDs."  (The kid isn't even one yet!).

SPD is Sensory Processing Disorder. With SPD, a person (usually a child, and usually a boy) either gets too much or too little feedback from their senses, processing the sensory input "wrong" and leading to sometimes bizarre behavior to either get more or avoid sensory input.

SPD happens in all the senses, and not evenly. Where one sense might be hypersensitive, another might be undersensitive, leading a kid to run constantly or speak too loudly but refuse to eat most foods and wear most clothes.  The "broken" sensory input can come in from any of the "standard" (taught in elementary school) five senses: taste, touch, smell, sight, or hearing; or from the "other" senses, which have big names that are actually more confusing but which are, in essence, the sense of where your body is in space (movement, balance) and the sense of where your body is in relationship to itself (where your limbs are, what angle your joints are bent at, is your head tipped to one side, etc). I suspect there are other senses that aren't on the standard SPD list, like pain. Pain is a sense--it's not touch or taste or smell or sight or hearing; it's not you-in-space or your-body-connected. And yes, it interacts with the other senses, but so do smell and taste, and sight and hearing, and touch and taste.

SPD is normally diagnosed in boys and is not considered genetic. It is often associated with autism because ALL autistic children have SPD, but in reality, not all children with SPD have autism (like all bipolar people sometimes are depressed, but not all depressed people are bipolar).  SPD is also extremely common among profoundly gifted people (and some people theorize is related to their intelligence: they take in and process more information than "average" people). One theory out there is that profoundly gifted people are often diagnosed with Asperger's or HFAutism because they actually have SPD and the disorders get confused with one another often. (Aspies, for example, don't like to be touched without warning. Neither do people with SPD, but that doesn't necessarily make them Aspies.)

SPD is newly on the radar--so much so that doctors and psychologists won't touch it, and many don't believe it exists. It has to be diagnosed by an occupational or physical therapist, and those are the people who most effectively treat it.

The "newness" of SPD is one reason I think people don't think it's genetic. There's not enough data to go around. Plus, it would be hard to collect data because it would necessarily be self-reported, and adults who have "always been this way" would not necessarily realize that not everyone was processing the world the same way they are, especially if they grew up and adapted and became fully functional adults. (Like that old question, what if I see blue the same way you see red--there would be no way to tell because the label is stuck to the color as you see it, not as everyone necessarily sees it.  "Normal" is what you've always experienced and can function in--not necessarily what everyone is experiencing).

I, personally, DO think it's genetic. Why?

Because I'm pretty sure my kids have it, my sisters kids have now been diagnosed, and, as I got reacquainted with dozens of my maternal cousins this summer, I discovered that MANY of their children have it, too. Many of them, from different families.

The thing that struck me when I got home from one of these encounters where we all went, "Oh, your kid, too? How bizarre that we each have one or two kids like this...." is that this is also the family that has huge numbers of women with fibromyalgia.

Fibro runs STRONGLY in my family. Almost shockingly so.

Then I started thinking: Fibro is a disorder where your senses collect information and then process it "wrong", turning normal sensation into pain. Nobody knows what causes it, but everyone agrees that fibro is heavily influenced by hormones.

So my theory is that fibro and SPD are the same thing, but that fibro is processed through female hormones (that's why you see it primarily in women) and SPD is processed through male hormones (which is why you see it mostly in boys).  Either way, your body's senses are processing information in a "wrong" way (primarily through hypersensitivity in fibro) and you are forced to adapt or medicate to survive.

I wish I had the time, resources, and expertise to test this theory. It would be a big deal to the world of SPD and fibro, opening doors of looking at things in new ways that hopefully would add insight that could lead to treatment. It certainly would be a groundbreaking study in both the SPD and fibro worlds! We certainly have a big enough family to actually do a legit genetic study--it's my mom's family, and she was one of 7 children (each of whom had 3 or more children, and most of those children had 3 or more children) and has over a hundred first cousins. There are well over 300 people in my generation in this family--just first and second cousins--and almost all of those 300 had 3 or more children. I wish I could get them all together, explain SPD and Fibro (both of which often go undiagnosed, so I'd have to explain it all in detail), and say, "How many of us have kids like this? How many have fibro? Can we trace the genetics somehow?"


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Did I just read that?

"Knox confirmed early Tuesday morning that police released Serenity around 12:30 a.m., to her maternal mother, Howell, 20."|head

Is there any other type of mother? A paternal mother, perhaps?

Monday, August 20, 2012

What good is a dry marker?

My kids invariably leave the lids off their markers. So we end up with tons of dry markers sitting around. I used to gather them up and throw them away.

But no longer!

Lately, the favorite game is taking dry markers to the bathroom sink. They fill the sink with water and float the markers. Pretty soon, little rivulets of color are snaking through the water, making beautiful patterns.

Because our bathroom sink is white, the only color in the water comes from the markers. They've learned more about mixing to make new colors than they ever did with paint. And the mess goes down the drain when they're done.

We noticed that if you float a marker long enough, the tip turns white. But if you leave it out to "dry" for a while, the color usually returns--and the marker is no longer dry. It is once again useful for coloring on paper (provided you still have the lid somewhere).

So now I keep a container full of dry markers by the bathroom sink so the kids can play whenever they want. No more wasted markers.

Friday, August 17, 2012


Looking for jobs for Tim, applying here and there, and I'm finding a lot of stuff like this:

"Master's preferred from a regionally accredited institution.... $12.55 - $18.84 an hour." There is no way to pay off student loans for $12.55 an hour. Tim gets more than that per hour as an on-call manual labor guy breaking down sets for a theater every other week or so--and that doesn't require a Master's degree.

Or qualification include: "Moderate to deep understanding of the vocal music landscape in the US; Experience in non-profit development is a plus...This is a volunteer position." No pay? For a moderate to deep understanding of the vocal music landscape in the US? I mean, really? That takes 10 years to develop. Plus they want programming/web skills.

Another job wanted someone who was a professional accompanist on piano, professional voice teacher (all voice parts for adults), live event producer, vocal ensemble music director, and artistic visionary who could conceptualize and design performances ("from 10 minutes to full evenings"). There might be someone who can do ALL of that. Usually you'd hire 3-4 people for that job, especially since it was an arts college looking--you'd think they'd know to get experts in each of those fields.  Oh, and you don't even get to be faculty--this is merely a staff position, like some schools hire a vocal coach to help students prepare for performances. Just staff. No chance for advancement. 

Not very encouraging, is it? No wonder most of the musicians we know are either moving home or going back to school. The work opportunities available to musicians are looking pretty dismal right now, demanding lots of expertise for little to no pay--probably because even the experts are looking for whatever they can get.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Musicians in society

I've been reading "Mr. Langshaw's Square Piano: The Story of the First Pianos and How They Caused a Cultural Revolution" by Madeline Goold.

It's an interesting book, more about the life and training of musicians in the 1750s-1810s than it is about pianos.

The training of musicians back then was not too far different from now--musicians trained with teachers until they were deemed masters, and then they tried to get jobs.

And it wasn't an easy thing to do, partly because of the social status given musicians. Social status at that period in England was much more stratified than now, but it struck me that musicians still occupy the same social "space" as they did back then.

For example, Goold writes that it was "an era when professional musicians were regarded as menials; Mozart had been required to sit below the valets in the service of the Archbishop of Salzburg. In England, musicians ranked as tradesmen; Lord 1755, advised: 'Nothing degrades a man more than performing on any instrument whatsoever.'" (p 168).While it isn't considered degrading to play any instrument whatsoever nowadays, but it certainly only elevates him artistically. Nobody considers bassoon or oboe players to be socially "It".

Chesterfield also told his son, "piping and fiddling puts a gentleman in a very frivolous and contemptible light...and takes up a great deal of time that might be better employed" (p179). This is certainly an attitude that we (Tim and I) have noticed--often--in our own lives, over 250 years after it was said. I guess some things never change.

A friend of ours is writing his dissertation on band music in America in the mid-1800s, just after the period covered by the book I'm reading, and on the other side of the world. I got a sneak preview of the research (and it's really cool!), and one thing I noticed there that is parallel to England a century earlier is that communities value music as something that elevates them and brings them to a more sophisticated social plane. How interesting, then, that the very same communities did not (and still do not) value the musicians who make the music. They value the results of the labor, but not the laborers. Rather, they actually disdain the laborers, somehow isolating the fruit of their labor from the workers who create it, even while acknowledging not only the value of the fruits of the labor, but also the reality that they, themselves, could not create it.

Back in the day, it wasn't just musicians who were looked down upon. Any tradesman was considered inferior to those who did not have to work with their hands. Brain work was considered superior to manual labor. It strikes me that this is still true today--we value the hardwood floor, but not the man who cut the wood or the man who installed it; we value the fresh produce, but not the farmer who grew it; we value the smooth roads, but not the men who build them; we value large, sturdy houses, but not the men who build them. All of those things give us status socially even while associating with the people who make them does just the opposite.

Bizarre and sad. Why not value the workers, builders, and creators in society?

In our society, we do value the thinkers just like the men in the 1700s did, and we value the doctors and lawyers just like they did in the 1750s, and (oddly, when you think about it), we give social status to the wealthy even if they didn't earn their wealth. We also give status to the famous because our society craves both fame and money, imagining (wrongly) that those things give you both power and happiness.

Interestingly, some of the most famous and wealthy people in America are musicians--and because of their fame and wealth, they are held up as the pinnacle of success and social standing.  But it's not because they are musicians, and it's not because of their talent, even if people claim otherwise. It's because of their fame.

 That leaves most musicians in an odd position socially--most of them are still considered quirky frivolous time-wasters. They are treated as though they are irresponsible. When things go poorly for them, instead of getting sympathy, they get "I told you so" and "if you hadn't been so foolish as to become a musician.....". But if they happen to break through and become famous, suddenly they are the pinnacle of social success and looked to as something akin to the 1750s royalty, even if the day before they were the lowest rung of the ladder, below even construction workers because of the misperception that musicians do nothing all day and then sing at night for hundreds of dollars (at least construction workers, the thinking seems to go, have the decency to earn their wages honestly by using their hands and time to work--as if musicians don't.).

While by the mid-1800s, a few musicians (mostly composers) became superstars (Strauss, for one), most never did. Or do. Obviously, some things never change.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Dreaming of agents

The last few days my energy level has picked up and I determined to fix up some things that needed fixing, starting with the front window sun-blocking screen that came down. I spent all day yesterday puttering around doing tasks that needed to be done in and around my house.

Then last night I dreamed that I was at a party and there were no less than four literary agents there, friends of my cousins and friends, that I was interacting with socially. More than one asked me, "So what do you write?" And when I told them they said, "I want to read that." One even whipped out her laptop and asked if she could download my book and start on it right away.

And I was ashamed because it's not done. Oh, it's written all the way through. And I even know what needs to be done to fix it up (beginning is done, transition to middle needs work but it's only one chapter, middle is fantastic, ending needs less of one character and more of another--all easy, quick fixes, actually). But it's not actually done. And I haven't worked on it for months.

I woke up with the firm realization that anyone can fix up a house, but my work is raising kids and writing. Nobody else can do those things. Nobody can do it for me. Nobody can do it instead of me. This is the work I feel driven to, inspired about, made for, enlivened by.

Now how to fit it in? Inspiration is colliding with practical necessities. If something has to give, I hope I have the courage and wisdom to still do the things that nobody else can do.