Sunday, May 27, 2012

Summer Madness

The world has gone mad.
It's the end of May, I'm sitting just a mile shy of the border to Northern Ireland, and the sun is shining.

The real sun.

Not a mass hallucination from our light-starved brains.
Not a nuclear explosion detonated to shake us from our upcoming fiscal treaty referendum apathy (our government will try anything, and the posters aren't working).

Just our nearest, coziest, star doing what it's meant to do in the summer.

Acres of alarming, doughy flesh is being exposed to the clement conditions in celebration of this unseasonable sunshine.
(And that's just mine)

The gravity of the situation cannot be over-estimated.

I have the kettle on for the four horsemen of the apocalypse, because it would be rude not to make them a cup of tea when they arrive bearing gifts of war and pestilence.
I fully expect a plague of locusts to march through our newly dry boglands (although they won't hang around as they will no doubt swarm off across the border to Newry  to do a bit of shopping when the exchange rate is so good).
My wellies and raincoat weep with neglect at the back door.

The country is filled with pale creatures, sniffing about like terrified, par-boiled rabbits in case the shiny thing in the sky starts to cackle with laughter and boom "The sun? In the northern hemisphere?  In Summer?  You must be MAD! Take a good look, boys and girls.  Barbecue yourselves like pasty little Irish kebabs while you can...because you will never see me again!  Mwahahahahahaha!".

But that's not where the summer madness ends.

This summer we are able to allow Finian to play outside the house without constant supervision (by constant, I mean being no more than 3 feet from him wearing fully primed nikes and a lasso at all times).
Now we can trust him to potter about between the swing, the car and the trampoline without absconding like a convicted criminal from a low-security Irish prison (which happens with tedious regularity).
I can actually sit outside and read a book while keeping an eye on him, or go indoors and peel the potatoes for dinner while watching him through the window.
This time last year, if someone had suggested this would be the case, I would have pointed skywards and said "the roundy thing up there is frying your faculties".

So it looks like education works.
Who knew?

The world has gone mad, but the madness is pretty great when we have to protect ourselves from with an SPF 50 instead of Prozac.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Oops, I Did It Again

If I was pottering about in a giant field with one small hole in the middle of it, guess what would happen to me?

No prizes to the person snoozing at the back of the class who guessed correctly that I would be helpless to avoid falling in.
(You can go back to sleep now.)

Let me explain.

I was in a bookshop the other day, one of my favourite places on the planet to be.
While normal people were happily browsing through the Hunger Games, or picking up the latest vampire bonkbuster, I was  furtively scanning the science section wearing my dirty mac of nerdiness.

I am afflicted by a fascination for all thing sciency, but tragically do not possess the brain power to make any sense of it.
I think it's partly the hope that life, the universe and everything can be explained with a zippy little equation, but mostly it's that I just like science.
It's just unfortunate that I feel the need to hide my physics books beneath copies of Hello magazine in case someone asks me a question and my brain explodes.

So I was leafing through a book about neuroscience, and how plastic and surprising the the cauliflower between our ears is, when I came across an entire chapter dedicated to autism.
The author discussed  the mirror-neuron theory, which I had never heard of before and the more I read, the more it seemed like the answer to everything.
I was frozen in my tracks, like a geeky little rabbit hypnotised by headlights.

A  few years ago I learned the valuable lesson of avoiding most books concerning the 'A' word, as they tend to lead to a cascade of speculation, blame, and false hope.
I learned to accept and embrace my gorgeous little boy for all that he is.
But I was sucked in like a big, suckery sucker and quickly stashed the book beneath my Woman's Way as I legged it to the checkout.

I allowed a little seed of hope to grow in my belly and hushed the little voice that whispered if this stuff is true, how come you never heard of it??

I read the book (which is actually very good, but don't ask me any questions on it), and figured that the great god Google in the sky would know all the answers.
A quick search showed that although the theory showed some promise, the findings couldn't be reliably replicated so it has joined the other legions of Autistic Red Herrings (which is a retirement home for bewildered theories, some madder than others).

I had done it again.
I had fallen down the magic rabbit hole of searching for a reason for my son's Autism, when I know that the reason doesn't matter and is just a waste of time and emotional energy.
My time is much better spent loving every quirky minute I spend with him and dealing with his problems, rather than falling down autistic rabbit holes (they exist, OK?).

It's surprisingly hard to stop living in the future though, maybe especially as a special needs parent, when fears for our child's future welfare walks every step with us.

As part of managing my depression, I have educated myself about mindfulness, which re-trains you to live in the here-and-now and to deal with the overwhelming intrusive thoughts that characterize depression.
It's harder than it sounds, but is worth the effort (even for non-loonies) as it helps us to see that life as it is now is just as it should be.
I also get this perspective by going to the gym, when my intense focus on breathing and rep-counting hush the intrusive thoughts until the endorphin rush kicks the low mood out of the playing field.

It's a nice way to feel, as opposed to wanting to chew your own leg off.

Except in the length of time it took me to read a chapter in a  (science, shhh) book, I forgot all this.

As my fellow loony Britney said "Oops I Did It Again".

It seems like a million years ago since I got excited about identifying a single cause (and ergo a treatment or  even an ohmygod cure) of Autism, and it annoyed me that I was sucked back into that state of mind so neatly, so quickly.

There's a fine line between optimism and delusion, and you can't walk it when you're tumbling down a rabbit hole.

Next time I go to a book shop I'm buying knitting patterns.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Internet Down

We had no broadband for five days.

Five.  Days.

Say it slowly and feel my pain.

In a house populated by a stomping teenager ("what do you mean I can't use Google translate to do my Irish homework?? That's so not fair!!"), an almost-12 year old having anxiety attacks in case her Moshi monsters die and an autie kid suffering delirium tremens YouTube withdrawal symptoms, we were in for a rough week.

Having my self-esteem suffer and perish at the hands of over-the-phone engineers in the past, I put off phoning the broadband helpline for as long as possible.
I can change a plug and open a tin of beans but beyond that, my technical abilities implode like a black hole of happy electrical ignorance.  I apologise to all my bra-burning feminist sisters when I admit that I am more than happy to leave all that hammer and drill boy-stuff to...well, the boys.

I held out for 2 whole days.

My children have stumbled on a highly effective method of torture, which coupled with the refrain "are we there yet???" serve to crumble the resolve of the toughest, most battle-scarred  parent.  Eventually, my shattered nerves could no longer withstand the constant chorus of "We're bored!  We're reeeeeally borrrrrred!  We're soooooooooo BOOOOOORRRREED!!!".  
Added to the sad fact that I'm not actually tough, I cracked like an egg.

With trembling hands, and against a backdrop of screeching feral children, I rang the helpline.

I even got to speak to a real human, after several dizzy minutes of having to select incomprehensible automated options.  In my giddy relief at speaking to an actual life-form, I forgot that he was about to eviscerate my self-worth with a torrent of technical questions.

He was especially evil, though.
He lulled me into a false sense of security by asking me to switch the modem off and on.
Easy peasy.
He then asked me to re-set the modem.
Slightly trickier, but he talked me through it and I dared to wonder what I had been so anxious about.
Then he circled in for the kill.
"Is it a short or a long cable?"
There was one cable jammed into the modem, which to my expert eyes appeared... well, cable-length.  And anyway, isn't length relative?  I mean, while it appeared cable-length to me, to a fruit fly it would seem frighteningly long but to a blue whale it would appear really, really short.  I elected to perch on my favourite fence and squeaked "medium".
"OK, I want you to unplug the yellow lead and plug it into another phone socket"
The single grey cable mocked me with it's sullen lack of yellowness.  I informed the engineer of it's lack of sunshiney colour.
Judgmental silence followed.
I willed the cable to change colour but, oddly, it resisted my psychic powers.
"OK" he said slowly "just plug it into another socket".
But where in the name of Jehovah and all the baby lambs would I find another phone socket?  I knew we had some, but their exact location eluded me.  I sprinted around the house armed with my sulky modem and it's disappointingly grey wiring, searching under beds and behind wardrobes for a socket to plug it in.  I could have won outright first place as Worst Contestant Ever in the Crystal Maze. I pictured the engineer rolling his eyes and wondering who allowed this woman out of the kitchen. Finally, breathless and sweating, I found it, plugged it in and waited for the lights to start flashing.

Which they didn't.

"It's still not working" I wailed, shaking, but also relived that my ordeal must finally be at an end.
But there was more.

"I want you to disconnect all landlines and I'll call you on your mobile with further instructions"
But I could take no more.
Shame-faced with defeat I mumbled "my husband will call you tomorrow".
"That might be best".

I might as well have poked Emily Pankhurst and Germaine Greer with pointy sticks while laughing at the silly notion of women breaking glass ceilings and voting and stuff.

I also couldn't help feeling a twinge of nostalgia for simpler, pre-internet days and wondered what exactly do people have against carrier pigeons and smoke signals.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

(Another) Reason Not To Hoover

I was hoovering the carpet today and my thoughts drifted, as they do when I'm faced with nothing more inspiring than biscuit crumbs and dried-in weetabix (seriously, have you ever tried to scrape that stuff off???  You need muscle-bound shoulders and a jack hammer.  Failing that, a new rug).

I thought, this is kinda nice as it's Spring and I'm nesting, just like any other animal.
I had mental images of birds carrying twigs to build homes for their fledglings, and fluffy bunnies doing fluffy things with fluffy stuff.
It was all very pink and frilly in my mind.

Then I wondered, why do humans consider themselves superior to other animals?

Biologically, there is no difference between us and other creatures as we are all driven by our base urges to satisfy our needs to eat, drink and procreate.
We are all hard-wired to survive and pass on our genes.

I suppose humans are more complex, and mused that not many animals require a Sky box to quench their desire for action movies and soaps (with the notable exception of our cat Bella, who enjoys watching pro-cycling with my husband).  We love to be entertained, but maybe that's because we live long enough to get bored, thanks to medicine and our extermination of man-eating wild-life.
Humans get to experience art (thank you, opposable thumbs), use tools (although I'm not convinced the vacuum cleaner has made my life any just gives me less excuses to avoid cleaning), dream, argue about an afterlife (which poor "lesser" animals are suspiciously absent from) and we care for our sick, disabled and dying (most of the time).

But maybe our time would be better spent chasing birds and climbing trees?

My gut feeling is that every living creature on the planet, be it plant or animal, is no greater or lesser than the other...but that doesn't make me feel guilty as I tuck into a steak burger and chips.

I'd love to know anyone else's thoughts on this, but mostly I think I need to ease up on the hoovering.