Friday, August 31, 2012

It's Just a River in Egypt

So, I have this thing (condition, disorder, Biblical plague, vampire curse). It started after I got mono about 10 1/2 years ago. Basically, I get these flare-ups of symptoms anywhere from 1-3 times a month during which I'm really weak, prone to fainting, get low fevers and swollen glands, sore throat, pain all over my body but mostly in my hands and feet and I lose control of my hands. In my early twenties I saw a lot of doctors. One said it was an auto-immune disorder based on some bloodwork. Another said the first doctor was nuts and the bloodwork unimportant and it was fibromyalgia. Still a third suggested I was hysterical and needed to just chill out and let my then-fiance do all the hard-thinkin'-work (only saw that jackass once). At that time it seemed slightly romantic to me to lay abed and take medications that did nothing other than make me fat and keep me from being able to drink, but now that I have kids and responsibilities (and thus a definite need for the occasional glass or two of wine), it's just inconvenient and embarrassing. So, I just pretend it doesn't exist.

Fibromyalgia? What fibromyalgia?
It's pretty easy to ignore when I'm alone with the kids, but interacting with other humans presents a problem. The children tend not to find it out of the ordinary when Mommy suddenly needs to spend 20 minutes laying on the ground (heck, they do it themselves for fun all the time), but adults somehow find this behavior strange. This morning I was unloading the dishwasher and I started to see spots and my knees started to buckle, so I laid down on the kitchen floor for a bit. Normally, this is just something that happens on occasion, I lay there for a few minutes and then I get back up again and go about my business. Today, however, unfortunately Dylan was still home and came in to the kitchen to find me chattin' up the lost Cheerios under the kitchen cabinets.

Dylan: What on earth are you doing?!

Me: Oh, I'm fine. Just taking a break.

Dylan: On the floor? Why?

Me: Oh, you know when you're reaching up to the top shelf of the cupboard and you start to feel like you're going to faint? That happened, so I just need to lay down for a little bit. I'll be fine.

Dylan: What are you talking about? That's not a thing. People don't do that.

Me: Yes they do! One of my friends from the mommy board, Susie...Mc...Suserson says it happens to her all the time and it's totally normal. She runs marathons and runs her own cloth diaper business and she's a rheumatologist besides, so she should know (the nice thing about having a lot of Internet friends is that I can totally make up people and give them fake attributes that support my side of any argument and Dylan can never verify their identity).

Dylan: Go lay on the couch! You are not okay.

Me: ...

Dylan: Go on!

Me: Give me a minute...I can't get off the floor...

Dylan: Sigh...

I've totally got this.

Vigorous exercise also pushes the limits of my denial, but, of course, I am determined to do it. That half-marathon ain't gonna run itself, am I right? This particular flare started yesterday morning. I woke up with that tell-tale heaviness in my limbs and that soul-crushing fatigue that hearkens back to the colicky newborn days. "Nah," I told myself as I struggled to close my hands around the waistband of my running shorts to pull them up, "I'm just tired. I didn't eat well enough yesterday. I'm probably dehydrated. I'll just have a glass of water and a spoonful of peanut butter and I'll be fine."

I started out at a slow jog and my limbs felt a bit shaky, but I told myself they'd warm up. It was then that I remembered a story told to me by a real Internet friend and fellow mother runner who is similarly afflicted with mystery weakness/pain/fainting/fibromyalgia/you better not tell me this is in my head or I'll punch you in the soon as I can get up off the floor. She was out running with her double jogger (have I mentioned she's also a badass?) and she felt pretty crappy that day, but the runner's high beckons like a siren's song and so she went anyway. Well, at some point along her run it became clear that she couldn't push through it anymore...when she fainted...on the sidewalk...alongside her startled children...and had to be rescued by a good Samaritan who was passing by.

The depths of my denial being as immense as my hubris, I thought, "Oh, that won't happen to me. I'm just going on a short run and besides I don't have the jogging stroller."

Then a few steps later, "Man, these shoes are so crappy. They can't even hold my feet in place anymore. I really need to get new running shoes. I bet if I go get new running shoes this weekend, it'll be fine."

And a few steps after that, "This road is so uneven! Someone needs to come re-pave it. Obviously my legs wouldn't be buckling if the road were smoother."

And yet a few steps after that, "Okay...there is a decent chance I'm going to fall on my face running down this hill..."

Eventually, I admitted (temporary) defeat and dragged my sorry butt back to our yard where Dylan was waiting outside with Ry for the school bus. He took one look at me and sighed and then helped me up the porch steps.

So...yeah...that's where I am today. I can't maintain my grip on the steering wheel so I can't drive the children anywhere and I have to make good friends with the dust bunnies under the couch every few minutes. But you know what? I'm going to do some yoga this afternoon and then we're going to hang out with some friends who are kind enough to come to us and I will adjust my expectations for the next couple of days. Because this thing is real, despite my best Cleopatra act, and it's going to push me down every once in awhile, but it will never, ever defeat me.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Dear Dr. Satan (For Reals This Time),

Here's what I really wrote to Dr. Satan in our for reals appeal, in case any of you are interested in comparing and contrasting:

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing on behalf of my son, Rylan Dittrich-Reed, to file an appeal against a decision by badscaryinsuranceguys and Dr. Satan (yes I am omitting their real identity) to cut my son’s ABA therapy hours with Sara Gilbert, BCBA from 30 hours/month to 10 hours/month. This decision occurred on August 10, 2012. Dr. Satan claimed that 30 hours of ABA therapy a month were no longer medically necessary for Rylan because he had made progress in some of his goals and because he claimed that some of the goals Rylan is working on are “social skills training” and thus do not qualify as medical therapy. We aim to prove that these claims are patently false and that it is medically detrimental for Rylan’s ABA hours to be cut so drastically.

We challenge, first of all, the very idea that any portion of ABA therapy is considered an “educational” service. This is an outdated idea that is no longer accepted in the medical community. In fact, in May 2012, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management ruled that ABA itself is a medical therapy not an educational service and thus should be covered by insurance. They made no distinctions about which parts of ABA should be considered “educational” and which should be considered medical. They declared that the entire course of treatment should be considered medical. This sets a powerful precedent that all insurance companies should follow. If the federal government recognizes ABA as a purely medical therapy, how can any insurance organization find otherwise? To do so is to blatantly ignore modern therapy standards for autism.

Even working within badscaryinsuranceguys' narrow definition of the “medical” portions of ABA therapy, Rylan should certainly continue to qualify for 30 hours/month of ABA with Sara Gilbert, BCBA. He displays self-injurious, aggressive, destructive and disruptive behaviors that meet all of badscaryinsuranceguys' guidelines for medical necessity. These behaviors are outlined both in Ms. Gilbert’s notes that follow and in the data logs we have collected on home behavior. Not only does Rylan display such behaviors, but we have seen a marked increase in these troubling behaviors since his ABA hours have been cut. He is slowly losing control and it is painful and terribly frustrating to watch since it never should have happened to him in the first place. 10 hours/month is obviously not sufficient to maintain the progress he had made in conquering these behaviors.

In addition to the increase in self-injurious, aggressive, destructive and disruptive behaviors, we are also seeing extreme regressions in positive behaviors. Rylan was showing remarkable progress in feeding behaviors with 30 hours/month of ABA therapy. He was picking up his own food and feeding himself and beginning to use utensils. I realize badscaryinsuranceguys does not believe feeding to be a “medically necessary” skill, but I contend that it must be considered as such when his feeding behaviors have regressed to a dangerous level. For many meals, he is now refusing to eat at all and we are forced to physically open his mouth and insert the food. He would never be displaying such a major regression if his ABA hours had not been cut. Obviously, it is medically necessary to eat and 10 hours/month of ABA is not sufficient to maintain his progress in this area.

It is difficult for me to imagine any circumstance under which 10 hours/month of ABA would be considered sufficient to maintain progress for any autistic child. This recommendation flies in the face of mountains of current research on ABA all of which concludes that the more hours of ABA a child can receive especially in the crucial early intervention period, the better the outcome for the child. I refer you to Vismara & Rogers’ “Behavioral Treatments in Autism Spectrum Disorder: What Do We Know?” (Annual Review of Clinical Psychology: 2010;6: 447-468), “A comparison of intensive behavior analytic and eclectic treatments for young children with autism” (Howard, Sparkman, et. al., Research in Developmental Disabilities, 26, 359-383, 2005), and Sallows & Graupner’s “Intensive Behavioral Treatment for Children With Autism: Four-Year Outcome and Predictors” (American Journal on Mental Retardation, vol. 110, no. 6: 417-438, Nov. 2005) just to name a few. I could find no respected scientific evidence that a mere 10 hours/month of ABA is effective for an autistic child to maintain progress in any of their behaviors.
badscaryinsuranceguys has ordered Rylan a medication assessment and individual and family therapies at the (omitted name) center in lieu of the 20 hours/month of ABA services they are cutting. We have complied with this order. We had an intake evaluation for individual and family services on August 20, 2012 and a medication assessment with Dr. Saint (not her real name, but it should be), a very well-respected psychiatrist who works for the center on August 28, 2012. The social worker at the center expressed reservations over enrolling Rylan into individual therapy as this service has not been proven to be effective for children with autism and as Rylan is completely non-verbal and only 3 years old, they were not certain how they would communicate with him to attempt to make progress (the only method that has been proven effective in Rylan’s case is ABA therapy and the center does not offer ABA). The social worker and Dr. Saint both agreed that Rylan has excellent family support as my husband and myself have been actively involved in his care and taken the time to educate ourselves on the most effective treatments for autism both in and outside of the home and they did not think family services were necessary for us, but Dr. Saint agreed to recommend us for such services since they were ordered by badscaryinsuranceguys. Dr. Saint found that Rylan does not need medication, but rather that continuing ABA therapy with Sara Gilbert, BCBA at the rate of 30 hours/month would be most beneficial for Rylan’s self-injurious, disruptive, aggressive and destructive behaviors as well as for his overall development and suppression of distracting and dangerous self-stimulating behaviors. She wrote a letter to that effect that I have included.

Rylan's pediatrician, Dr. Awesome (again, not his real name, but by golly he is awesome) has also written a letter ordering 30 hours/month of ABA therapy with Sara Gilbert, BCBA and identifying this level of service as medically necessary for Rylan to maintain progress. I have enclosed this as well.
As all of the medical professionals who have actually evaluated Rylan personally have found that 30 hours/month of ABA therapy is medically necessary for him to maintain progress and be able to function without endangering himself or others, I urge badscaryinsuranceguys to consider the overwhelming amount of data we have been able to compile to this effect and restore Rylan’s ABA therapy to 30 hours/month with Sara Gilbert, BCBA. On a personal note, you cannot imagine the pain of watching your beloved child slip away from you in a few short weeks and watching all of the progress he, you, and others have worked so hard for so long to attain quickly regress. Rylan has a history of regressions that we have battled mightily against and any change in his routine can bring on behavioral regressions that last for months and take many, many hours of both therapy and “homework” time to counteract. Unfortunately, this misguided decision has caused such disheartening and troublesome regressions for Rylan and as his parent and advocate, I find this completely unacceptable. Thus, we are appealing this decision and will continue to pursue restoring Rylan’s rightful therapy hours as long as it takes.

Thank you for your time and the consideration of our appeal.

Megan Dittrich-Reed

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

La Mancha List Part 1

Coming up utterly empty on blog topics today, I considered a post on my conspiracy theory about a dust bunny breeding colony engineered by the people at Swiffer (Swiffer: so evil, so effective), one on my daughter's intense love of experiencing the world by rubbing random (and often foul) substances into her long hair, and one on this weird thing I have behind my knee that kinda hurts but is most likely a spider bite and not the deadly cancer of the behind-the-knee-area that WebMD assured me it was.

Um yeah, so clearly not much bloggable material going on in my life right now (see "Dear Dr. Satan" and "Righting the Redneckery" for reference for my, "Thank God my life is boring right now!"). Anyway, so I turned to some pals, one of whom gave me the idea for a bucket list post (thanks Tiffany!). Only we're not calling it bucket list because that puts the emphasis on the inevitable end of the list (chattin' up the Grim Reaper) instead of the fun things you get to do before that. Some call it a life list, but I'm calling it a La Mancha list so I can have the immense pleasure of singing "The Impossible Dream" in my most dramatic voice complete with chest-clutching and hand gestures every time I read the title ("This is my QUEST! To follow that STAR! No matter how HOPELESS! No matter how FAR!" and no I'm not going to post a video of myself singing it...unless you send me a bottle of wine to drink first).

Now, in no particular order, I present the first 25 items of my La Mancha List ("And the WORLD will be BETTER for THIS!"):

1. Run a half marathon: I am actively working on this one right now, though I am still in the huffing-puffing-wheezy phase after a mere 5 minutes out. I may or may not be pursuing this goal expressly to not be beaten by my 52 year old mother who has run a few and who just got a friggin' medal in a 5k a couple of weeks ago. What can I say? I get my competitive nature from the aforementioned medal-winnin' badass.

2. Visit Italy: Yeah, I don't really know a thing about art or history, and am excited to visit for the sole purpose of eating massive quantities of Italian food, drinking massive quantities of Italian wine and laying on the beach. I wear my shallow nature proudly.

3. Touch each ocean: ...except the Arctic...because I am not a polar bear

4. Live outside the U.S.: I may have gotten this idea while watching "House Hunters International" 4 items in and I'm already losing credibility as a semi-serious adult...

5. Get something published.

6. Get something good published: a very different (and less attainable) goal from the previous one. A well-received novel rates a bit higher than a Craigslist personal ad in my esteem.

7. Tell Rylan's story: I keep sitting down and trying to write a book just about Ry, but I just don't feel like I know him well enough yet to do his story justice. I'm hoping he'll learn to communicate better at some point and then I can write it - or he can do it himself!

8. Do a triathlon: This one is inspired by early memories of watching my dad do...I think the San Pedro triathlon. While I have a troublesome memory of asking, "Is Daddy going to die?" during the swim (my dad's more of a bike/run kinda guy), I also remember being really proud of him when he finished. I am enough of an egomaniac to want to inspire that kind of pride in my kids...I just have to learn to ride a bike without feeling like I'm pedaling a warp-speed death machine first...

9. Raise chickens...
10....and/or miniature goats...

11....and/or giant tortoises
12. Get an advanced degree: By the time I figured out for sure what I wanted to do (which actually I knew in the first grade but was too chicken to pursue such an "impractical" career for several years), I had two kids (one with special needs and a demanding schedule) and no money so the whole going-back-for-my-Master's thing is kinda on the back burner for the next few years at least, but I realized awhile back that it is something that I really want...and then this weekend I sat at a table with my Phd candidate husband, a law student, and an MBA student and realized that if I even want to hang with my smart friends, I should probably do something semi-academic and soon.

13. Learn to enjoy a professional massage: Other overtired overworked moms probably want to kill me right now, but I had a coupon for a free prenatal massage when pregnant with Pippa and I let it expire...I hate being touched by strangers. I'll put up with it when the stranger is a medical professional, but I end up just feeling bad for masseurs, manicurists and the like for having to touch other people for a living and I don't really want them touching me. But this is clearly dumb so I'd like to get over it.

14. Save enough money to send Pippa to college and set up a possibility fund for Ry: Right now our savings account contains roughly enough to send one of my kids to 15 minutes of Little Gym (make that 5 minutes), but once this grad student stipend nonsense is over, I want to become a super-saver. And we call it a possibility fund for Ry, because he has so many possibilities ahead of him! He could need 24/7 adult care, or he could need to attend Harvard Medical School. Either way, he'll need some dough.

15. Make friends outside of the Internet: I'm actually working on this one tonight (if I don't chicken out) as I'm attending an open house put on by our local Holistic Moms Network chapter. I am an introvert, but I don't want to die early and I keep reading all this crap about extroverts living longer, so I guess I better make some friends who live outside of my computer already.

16. Get more ink: This ties directly in to the "get published" goal, because I made a bargain with myself that my next tattoo has to be bought with proceeds from something I've written. Past Megan is a jerk.

17. Teach my daughter to love her body: I think it's pretty safe to say Mr. Boog "Pants-Optional" is probably not going to suffer from body issues, but I worry daily about raising a body-confident daughter. I didn't like my tiny-boobed, no-waisted, giant-thighed body until after I'd had two kids and saw how strong it was. I never want her to feel like hers is inadequate because it doesn't look like someone else's.

18. Make jam from fruit I've grown

19. Build (okay supervise the building of) a truly kick-ass treehouse for the kids (and/or me): When we were in Savannah, Dylan and I saw the absolute coolest most intricate pirate ship treehouse I've ever seen. It was AWESOME and I couldn't help but wish I was a kid and that was my treehouse. I want the kids to have a great treehouse like that...even if Boog probably won't care about it at all...

20. Do beta testing for a Sims game: Ermahgerd, that really is my Impossible Dream right there.

21. Write a play and see it performed: I actually have an idea for a two-person play and it will preferably be performed by my good buddies TiaMatt. The nice thing is that even though the main character is 30ish, I can take the next 20 years to finish it, because by the time Tia's 50ish, she may actually finally look 30ish ;).

22. Learn how to take a decent photograph: Anyone who's seen my Facebook page doesn't need this one explained.

23. Learn how to dress myself and attempt to care about it: By this I mean learn how to wear the appropriate fashions, not learn how to button things...although...

24. Learn how to decorate my house and attempt to care about it

25. Write a cookbook

Well, those are my first 25! The next 25 will probably appear the next time I can't think of anything better to write about. What's on your La Mancha lists, folks? Think about it and then go out and REACH that unreachable STAAAAAAARRRRRR!!!!

Sunday, August 26, 2012


I am going to say something now that may very well get my chick card revoked, but I feel like it needs to be said...mostly because I have nothing else to blog about today and I told myself if I don't blog I'm not allowed to play the Sims tonight:

I don't get Pinterest.

I know, I know, gasp! Shock! Horror! I have had numerous friends attempt to explain to me exactly what is so addictive about the whole thing, but I really don't get it. As far as I can tell, most of Pinterest pins consist of recipes, craft ideas, and cool things people saw around the Internet. I like recipes. Crafting mystifies my clumsy ass, but I like cool things. But...why do I need to get these things from Pinterest...?

I fully admit I am a crotchety ol' Luddite...or at least I'm possessed by one that wants to yell at every person it sees on the street with an iPhone, "Darn kids! Quit clickety-clacking on your cellular telephone devices and go read a book!" In general, I am annoyed by technology (an incredibly stupid position for someone who has a blog, you know, on the Internet, but I never said I was a logical Luddite).

I only embrace new annoying forms of technology if they replace other older more annoying forms of technology. For example, I love Facebook and e-mail because they allow me to pretend like the telephone doesn't exist (I am actually considering making the outgoing message on my voice mail something along the lines of, "Ring, ring! What's that sound? Are my cookies done baking? Facebook me if you figure it out"), but I don't text because it's annoying in the same way that the telephone is annoying: everyone you know can reach you at any time they want and there's nothing you can do about it. At least in the days before answering machines, caller ID and cell phones you had plausible deniability. "Oh, you say you called me last night? Sorry, I was out at the soda shop sharing an egg cream with someone much handsomer and more interesting than you. Try again tonight." Now the best you have is, "Uh, I dropped my phone in the toilet?" which your friends clearly know is a lie since you're probably using it to watch Youtube video parodies of Lady Gaga songs sung by Sesame Street characters while you're talking to them.

Um, so that was a very long way of saying that while I like to cook, I have never figured out how looking on Pinterest for recipes is any easier or more enjoyable than leafing through one of my many cookbooks or, if worse comes to worse, simply googling, "cheap-ass recipes that don't taste like crap" and thus it doesn't meet my superior annoying technology criterion.

Another reason I suspect I don't understand Pinterest is that I'm missing that crucial female gene that controls things like the apparently ubiquitous female ailment known as "baby fever" (I have kids, yes, but I never felt any sort of wild feverish longing for offspring), affinities for purses (I have one. It holds my stuff. I don't understand. Help.), Channing Tatum (redneckface), Katherine Heigl movies, and the all-important female pursuit of "crafting". I'm not being snarky here as I wish that I did possess that female gene. It would keep me from feeling like I'm back in middle school reading Little Women alone in my history teacher's classroom at lunch whenever a group of pals starts discussing Coach's latest line (do they have lines? I don't even know how to speak purse), "Magic Mike" or bento box lunches. I might as well hang a sign around my neck reading, "Socially Deficient Dork: Talk to Me About Video Games and My Secret Naughty Dungeon (s& Dragons) Past".

I also don't mean to disparage those who craft (or make crafts? I'm not sure what the approved nomenclature is here). I admire the heck out of my creative pals who can make useful things beautiful and who can take a Salvation Army chair, 2 scraps of fabric and some leftover paint and make something I would spend $300 on (you know, if I was a real grown-up and ever had $300). That's not what I'm talking about when I say I don't get crafting. I totally get making things that you need or that enhance your life. What I don't understand is making things that nobody has ever needed in the history of humankind and spending money and time to make them.

For example, one time on a crafting show, I saw a woman take a piece of burlap, spend a good 5 minutes unraveling the edges, spend a good hour or so (edited, obviously) stringing beads onto the unraveled burlap and tying knots in it. Can you guess what she was making? A placemat? A table runner? The world's scratchiest and least useful poncho? Nope. It was a bowl cover. You know, a bowl cover. Who could live without a good burlap bowl cover? I know when I see an uncovered bowl, I am overcome by the inappropriateness of it all (look at the way those sides gleam in the light! And that drop of sauce just about to spill over the edge? It's indecent!) and thank God I have that square of beaded burlap I spent $15 and 2 hours making to throw over the whole mess. Okay, yes, obviously I know it's probably meant to keep flies and such out of your food, but had this woman never heard of tin foil? Plastic wrap? Or the eco-friendly and economical dish towel perhaps?

Oh, and I have to include here a video that did not come from Pinterest, but which, to me, epitomizes the idea of the "useless craft".

Yeah, you could cut up an entire series of perfectly good books to make a box...or you could just put your stuff in a regular box and sell or donate your unwanted books to ME. I promise I'll give them a good home. I did at least find it amusing that the books she murdered were the A Series of Unfortunate Events series. A series of unfortunate events sure befell those books, ba-dum-bum.

Basically what I'm saying is that craft projects fall into two categories for me: 1. Things that look awesome and useful but which my clumsy, easily-frustrated, easily-distracted self will never be able to reproduce and oh-to-hell-with-this-I'll-just-buy-it-on-Etsy and 2. Things that no one needs and which might be expensive and/or borderline sacrilegious (NOT THE BOOKS!) to reproduce.

So, let's review here: I am 100 years old and secretly (well not now, I guess) hate technology. I am not a real girl (I'm more like Lars), and I am too clumsy, cheap and minimalist to craft. That about covers why I suffer from Pinterest disinterest.

What I should probably do instead is create a site called "Megterest". It would consist entirely of screenshots of funny stuff happening to people's Sims, clips from "Game of Thrones" and "Parks and Recreation", podcasts of people talking about how much they love running, and coupons for free wine. That's how I would get people to visit it. All of my friends would be whispering to each other behind my back, "Gee, that new site Meg set up is full of a bunch of boring, dorky crap, but man...those free wine coupons!"

Speaking of which, if you find free wine coupons on Pinterest, re-post them on Facebook, okay?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Conversations with a Robot

When Dylan and I moved into our house in 2007, we argued over garden plants and paint color (what exactly is wrong with a bright orange living room anyway? We live in Tennessee, for God's sake. Come the redneck zombiepocalypse, an orange-painted living room will be the equivalent of the animal blood over the doorframe thing during the plagues in ancient Egypt), but we were on the same page about one thing: we were going to keep our monthly expenses low. I don't know how many of you have lived on a grad student stipend, but "living" is a generous exaggeration of what you can do with that amount of money. I didn't have a job lined up when we arrived, so we wanted to make sure our monthly liabilities were as low as possible. To that end, we eschewed such modern comforts as cable or satellite TV and smart phones and, much to the phone company's dismay, got the cheapest cell phones and cell phone plan possible with no data, texting, or whatever other fancyschmancy phone thingys I don't know the name of because my household is living in 1995. We also downgraded from the cable Internet we had in Davis to DSL...and that brings me to today's tale of frustration and futility...

About a year ago, our Internet started to slow down. Suddenly, pages were loading line by line and images were taking a good 5 minutes to appear if they showed up at all. I had a brief moment of nostalgia for the good ol' dial-up days (Oh my God, do you think that hunky hunky boy whose e-mail address I creepily stole from his best friend has answered that 1000 page survey I sent him? I wonder if he got the super subtle reference to him I made under number 96: who's your dream date? Oh teenaged Megan...I kinda want to take you out for ice cream and then drive you to a back alley and beat some sense into you). Nostalgia lasted about as long as it took me to realize I could no longer load my mommy message board (White people problems! Holla!) and then it quickly gave way to a wrath equal to that of a toddler who's caught Mommy eating the last of the Thin Mints behind the freezer door...not that I've ever done that...

Dylan called the DSL company (not to name any names, but it rhymes with Schmay-T&T) and they spent about 45 minutes telling him that nothing was wrong and it was allllll a baaaaaad dream. Shhh, little Dyl-Dyl, ignore the bad phone man in the corner stealing all your money and go back to sleep. When the husband proved impervious to hypnotic suggestion, they agreed to send a technician out. He did some fancy wire-splitting somethingorother and gave us a new modem for free because (and I quote), "The one Schmay-T&T sent you is a piece of crap," and that seemed to solve the problem.

About a month ago, however, the Internet started going out altogether. Every evening like clockwork, it would shut off at 7 p.m. and every morning it would come back on around 10 a.m. This time around, the outages were even more annoying, because apart from mommy message board-type frivolities, we were now also using the Internet in the evenings for Dylan's dissertation work, certain semi-secret writing projects for me, and, most importantly of course, to stream episodes of "True Blood" and "Game of Thrones".

Thus began a series of amusingly futile phone calls to what I'm pretty sure was an Indian robot built from used parts of old flip phones and named John/Brenda/Sam.

First John/Brenda/Sam told us nothing was wrong and it was allllll a baaaa -- but Dylan had heard this story before. The robot's next move was to run the very technical and important beep-beep-boop-boop test during which I'm pretty sure all s/he/it did was surf Facebook and intermittently make beeping and booping sounds into the phone for the next 5 minutes. Surprise! The beep-beep-boop-boop test revealed that nothing was wrong and it was alllll a baaaaaad...yeah...again, my persistent hubby (God bless him) was having none of that, so John/Brenda/Sam's next move was to tell us that our modem was busted and s/he/it would send us a new one for the low low price of $99. This seemed a bit fishy since we'd just received a brand spankin' new modem from the technician last year, but we agreed to give it a shot on the condition that we could send it back if that wasn't the problem.

Guess what? That wasn't the problem.

So a few nights later, Dylan called his ol' buddy John/Brenda/Sam back and, after spending 40 minutes on hold listening to the same terrible elevator jazz song over and over again (seriously, Schmay-T&T? You can't even vary your hold music? I bet you could train another used phone robot to sing a variety of 98 Degrees tunes pretty cheap), John/Brenda/Sam told him it was allllll a...well, you know...and then s/he/it ran the beep-beep-boop-boop test again...and then s/he/it finally agreed to send a technician out for the low low price of $99.

So the technician came out and he did some fancy wire thing and the Internet ran great...until 7 p.m. when it slowed down to download speeds not seen since the Clinton administration.

And thus...Dylan got to spend another evening on the phone with his robot buddy. Here is roughly how that conversation went:

John/Brenda/Sam: Thank you for calling Schmay-T&T! My name is Sam. I am definitely not located in Bangalore. I am also not a robot made from used flip phones. How may I frustrate you?

Dylan: Our Internet has been really slow for the past month and you guys have sent us a new modem and sent a technician out and that hasn't solved the problem.

John/Brenda/Sam: I don't know what slow means.

Dylan: What is this, an Excedrin commercial? How can you not know what slow means?

John/Brenda/Sam: What is slow? Who am I? What is the meaning of life?'s running at 0.3 Mbps...

John/Brenda/Sam: Beep beep boop boop Beep beep beep BOOOOP. Nope, you're currently receiving 1.13 Mbps, sir. Will that be all?

Dylan: No! Listen, I am running your speed test right now and it says 0.3.

John/Brenda/Sam: Well, sir, high speed Internet is really unstable at such slow speeds.


John/Brenda/Sam: 1.13 Mbps is really slow and so through the magic of underground cable gnomes you are receiving 0.3 Mbps instead.

Dylan: Okay...can we upgrade to a higher speed DSL?

John/Brenda/Sam: No, I'm sorry, that doesn't exist in your area. Will that be all, sir?

Dylan: NO! Listen, we can't even load an entire page. We have received 1.5-1.7 Mbps in the past. I need this service so I can work in the evenings.

John/Brenda/Sam: What is evening? What is time? Are we all just grains of sand on a cosmic beach? need to come up with a way to fix this.

John/Brenda/Sam: Well, sir, for $99 I can send you a new modem.

Dylan: What the f---? Were you not listening to me? You've already done that.

John/Brenda/Sam: Okay, well, did you know, for a different $99 I can send someone out to stare at the DSL jack in your wall for 30 minutes, then move a couple of wires and call it a day. How's that?


John/Brenda/Sam: Can I interest you in a new modem?

Long story...well...long...guess who's getting cable Internet? As it turns out, if we dump DSL and our long distance plan (which we keep trying to dump because who needs long distance on a home phone anymore, this isn't 1995, but Jim/Susan/Dave, a cousin of John/Brenda/Sam made from returned DSL modems, keeps telling us that through the magic of unbundling, we'll actually lose money that way) and change our Netflix subscription from discs to streaming (we didn't do that before because our Internet was TOO SLOW to stream), it'll be the same cost. And we'll be getting 12 Mbps. 12. Not 0.3 or even 1.13, but 12. Now, I have no illusions about Schmomcast being much better than Schmay-T&T in the customer service department, but at least I've got a man on the inside. My dad works for them, and he is most definitely not a robot made from stolen satellite dishes...I think...

Poor John/Brenda/Sam is going to be so lonely without Dylan to talk to in the evenings...

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


I finished my course of PT for my patellofemosomethingorother today and I tried to come up with something profound to say about it, but all I can come up with is this:

My knee pain has gone from a 5/6 to a 2 (on a scale of Darn-I-nicked-myself-while-shaving to OMFG-there' least that's the scale I was using). I'm able to squat down and grab a kid, a diaper bag, my purse, the umbrella, and someone's lunch bag that is inexplicably empty of food items but full of markers, empty DVD cases and 3 empty baby food jars (by the way has anyone seen Ry's lunch and/or Disc 2 of Season 1 of "Roswell"? Anyone?) without more than a momentary twinge. I can take the stairs without hugging the banister like it's a long-lost pal who's just offered to babysit. It's soooo much better.

And I get to run again! I got to take my first run in about 9 months this weekend. I was only allowed to go for 15 minutes...but I stretched it a bit to 19 minutes. Now, I'm allowed to do 20 minutes twice a week this week and if that feels good (good being a relative term, of course, when I'm talking about an activity that makes me feel like my lungs are going to explode) I'm allowed to bump it up to 3 times next week and so on and so forth until I'm running in the 2016 Olympic marathon (JUST KIDDING).

I cannot express to you how happy this makes me. Running is the only thing that turns off that death spiral my brain goes into when things are rough that says, "You're poor! Your kid is losing services! Your house is falling apart! You're never going to make a dime off your writing and you'll be LIVING IN A VAN DOWN BY THE RIVER!" And...well...we've had some...challenges shall we say lately. This is going to be so good for my mental health!

That is all. I have no entertaining stories to tell today - just a large amount of glee. It is amazing what a (mostly) clean bill of health will do for a gal :).

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Flight Face

There are many, many ways in which to divide humans into two categories (with a bit of grey space in between): males and females, young folks and old folks, Nathan Fillion fans and people with no sense of humor or taste whatsoever (I keed, I keed). Today, I'm going to talk about a dichotomy I've been thinking about recently: fighters and flighters.

The fight or flight instinct is one of the few things you learn about in basic intro psych that actually seems like something normal human beings have (penis envy anyone? The only time I envy the penised is when I'm trying to pee on the side of a hill on the side of a windy mountain road and I fall over and pee all over my flip flops and realize while laying there on the ground, covered in my own filth, that what I thought was a secluded semi-flat spot on the side of a wooded hill is actually part of a trail...I've never zipped up my pants so fast in my life...true story...anyway). We're faced with physical danger, adrenaline kicks in and BOOM, we're ready to either throw down or run away.

In my experience, most people are either fighters or flighters. When you see a Lou Ferrigno-esque fella with a tire iron striding toward you, you either strike a Kung Fu Hustle pose and yell, "Bring it on, Incredible Hulk!" or you take to the hills like Usain Bolt (um, bad use of language here, I'm not saying Usain Bolt is a coward, though, honestly, if I were him I'd go for the flight option as he seems particularly well-equipped for flight...he's also a pretty buff fella, though, and could probably pack a wallop with a nice Chun Li roundhouse kick...God I'm distractible this morning...and full of random references).

It seems to me, though, that it's probably better to fall into the grey area in the middle - choose flight when you have a good chance of getting away, and fight when you have no other option. I doubt most people fall into this grey area, though, as being presented with immediate physical danger doesn't really allow you time to weigh your options. It's called an instinct for a reason - you don't think, you just do. When I asked Dylan whether he was a fighter or a flighter, however, he said, "It depends on the situation. I look at the threat and think about my skill levels and the environment around me and decide whether it would be better to fight or run." This answer leads me to believe that my husband is either:
a. delusional and has never actually been in danger of anything more serious than a toddler kick to the ol' huevos
b. a frackin' toaster or
c. Sheldon from "The Big Bang Theory" (which, amusingly enough, my spellcheck wants to turn into "Big Band Theory"...which I guess would be a show in which Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller are roomies and they clash over saxophone privileges and who's really the bee's knees).

...And with three bizarro references in a row, I fear I'm losing my non-nerd audience, so I'll move on...

Here's a story from my own life that perfectly illustrates the difference between fighter and flighter (much to my dismay I fall into the latter category):

So, I used to work at MagPies bakery here in Knoxville (a truly KICK-ASS bakery in case you're looking for that sorta thing) and I baked in the wee hours with my dear friend, Lindsay. MagPies isn't in a really dangerous neighborhood, but there are generally some shady characters hanging around that part of town in the middle of the night (which should not dissuade you from buying amazing cupcakes there as you won't be visiting them in the middle of the night). One night, probably around 3 or 3:30 a.m., the power went out. It is a bit eerie to be standing in pitch blackness at 3 a.m. (not to mention inconvenient when the power goes out while you're trying to simultaneously run 4 mixers and 3 ovens), so those proverbial hairs on the back of my neck were already beginning to stand up. Then, we heard the door in the hall make this whooshing sound. It sounded exactly like it does when someone opens the door (we later learned it was merely the electronic lock releasing or somesuch thing, but I challenge you to be rational in complete darkness at 3 a.m. on 4 hours of sleep).


Here's where the difference between fighters and flighters becomes painfully obvious. I grabbed my keys, my phone and my pepper spray which were, of course, conveniently stashed 2 feet from my work station (go go Gadget anxiety) and sprinted to the back door. I foolishly assumed Lindsay would follow me and was surprised to see as I ran past her that she had grabbed a pair of scissors and was heading towards the door in the hall. Lest you think Lindsay's a 6'2" female MMA fighter or something, I feel the need to point out that she's smaller than me. I'm 5'3" and 118 lbs., so she's basically the size of a newborn kitten. Nevertheless, this lil' kitten was headed toward the door to battle an unseen foe with a pair of office scissors. It was the most intensely badass thing I've ever seen...but also clearly insane, so I quickly persuaded her to make for the back door and my car (which was of course parked 2 feet in front of the back door...have I mentioned anxiety?) so we could lock the doors and call the police.

Of course, it all turned out fine, but it demonstrated to me clearly which category I am in: I'm a flighter. When danger reared its ugly head, I bravely turned my tail and fled (5 points if you get that reference, plus an invite to the dorkiest slumber party you'll ever attend). All in all, I don't think it makes me a coward. I never back down from a war of words like the one we're fighting with our insurance company over Ry's therapy hours right now. I know my strengths. I have a very good chance of winning those kinds of battles. Physical fights, on the other hand...unless my opponent is either roughly 85 years old and wheelchair-bound or willing to stick to ineffectual counters to the moves I've learned from cardio kickboxing, I don't really stand a chance...which is why I'm lucky to be married to Dylan. If we're hiking in the woods and come upon an angry bear, he can distract the bear by pulling out his laptop to run a statistical model to decide whether it's more prudent to fight the bear or run away and I'll be halfway back to the ranger station by then ;).

 Flight face:

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Adventures in Beetle Counting

P.S. (That's pre-script not post-script. Yeah, that's totally a thing. Didn't you know that?)

P.P.S. (No, it's not.)

P.P.P.S. (That I know of.)

P.P.P.P.S. Enough of this nonsense! Anyway, I wrote this blog and then I realized that if you don't know what Dylan does for a (sorta) living, then we sound like some seriously disturbed individuals who get our kicks by counting little bugs in the evening. Dylan is a Phd candidate in Evolutionary Biology and his thesis is on blahblahblahsciencewordsistoppedlistening in flour beetles. The rest of this will make sense now...well...most of it...

So, for our 7th anniversary, short on money, time, and ideas, I gave Dylan the gift of data entry. I told him I would spend 5 hours a week counting beetles for him and inputting the data into this Excel workbook he has that is the length of The Satanic Verses (in case you've never read Rushdie, that's a long-ass book...also I might be bragging just slightly by making that reference but only because it took me weeks to get through that monster) until the data was all entered. This was a win-win kinda gift because the sooner he gets all his data entered, the sooner he can do his math-science magic thing on it, finish his dissertation, and get a real job so we can stop living on a monthly stipend that is probably less than the amount Niki Minaj spends every month on dog grooming (that is, if she has dogs...celebrities of her ilk usually have a posse of fluffy yappers, but I'm not actually sure that she does since I just learned of her existence a few weeks clearly this was an attempt by me to appear hip...shut up, I'm only 28! I'm still relevant!). At least I thought it was a win-win kinda gift until he sat me down to train me...

The way this whole thing works is that I look at a picture of a petri dish full of beetleness and I count. This seemed simple enough until I saw the pictures. Here's an example:

Right about now, you're going, "Um duh, Megan, the beetles are those dark spots...(man this girl is dense)". Yeah, I know. The thing is, I thought I would only have to count the dark spots, too, but there are actually other things in there: larvae and pupae, and I have to count those, too, even though some of them are so small as to be invisible unless you zoom waaaaay in and they have this weird sorta in-between stage when they're turning from one to the other and I have thus far not been able to tell what makes the in-between ones pupae and what makes them larvae...and I am almost certainly getting all this science wrong...did I mention I never took Biology?

I did not get much actual beetle counting done last night. What I did instead consisted of:

1. Counting the adult beetles really fast and feeling extremely smug at the speed with which I could come up with the right total.

2. Looking for pupae and larvae.

3. Counting the red, orange, and white smudges I assumed to be pupae and larvae and arbitrarily assigning them to the pupae or larvae column.

4. Adding a few to my totals since I always seemed to come up with a lower total than Dylan.

5. Nodding and saying, "Oh yeah, I totally see that one now" and "Yep, that one was one of the ones I counted. That little mean larva son-of-a-gun. I got him for sure!" when we went over our totals together.

6. Making up beetle-themed parodies of "Call me Maybe" My favorite goes like this:

You are so pale
it's kind of hazy,
but you have skull-face
so pupa maybe?

I realize that doesn't make a lot of sense unless you know what a flour beetle pupa looks like. Here is a picture, but warning: it is not for the faint of heart.

Creepy, right? That is some horror movie level bug-ugliness right there. But anyway, you see what I mean about the skull-face thing...although now I think they might look more like aliens...but then again there is a 75% chance that I just posted a picture of the wrong species' pupae, because in order to get this picture I had to search using the Latin species name of the beetle Dylan studies on the Internets and there is a very good chance that triboleum cornflakeeum is not its actual name (just kidding, Dylan, I hope I'm sitting next to you when you read that so I can watch the vein in your forehead pop out).

The rest of my "data entry" time was mostly spent arguing with Dylan and attempting to distract him from the (very boring) task at hand.

Me: Why the crap did you use a medium that is the exact same color as 2/3 of the things you're counting? What is this, Cheeto dust?

Dylan: No, it's not Cheeto dust! It's soy flour and that was kind of the point of the study. See...blahblahblah science words science words blahblah more science words, stuff I should already know and thus am pretending to both listen to and understand, blahblahblah...that's why I have to use the soy flour.

Me: Oh yeah, right...still...are you sure one of your undergrads wasn't eating Cheetos while they worked? I mean, really, this here? This is a Cheeto crumb. I'm certain. Where's the column for Cheeto crumbs?

Dylan: That's a larva.

Me: No, not that thing, that looks like a piece of someone's scab that flaked off. You should really get your assistants to wear gloves when they work. That's just unsanitary.

Dylan: SIGH...

And later...

Me: Why are you making me use this insane grid line system to count these things?

Dylan: It's not insane. It allows you to keep track of where you are. You count everything in one box and then move on.

Me: I just don't work that way. It hurts my brain. I can literally feel my brain being injured as I look at this grid. I can get a doctor's note if you want.

Dylan: SIGH...

And later...

Me (in desperation and boredom and the beginning stages of an eye-popping headache): So...are these two beetles right here getting it on?

Dylan: Oh yeah! They sure are.

Me: Wow. That is what can you tell me about beetle sex?

Dylan (completely distracted from the task at hand): Oh man...blahblahblah science words science words blahblah (but then he got to the actual interesting part) Male beetles screw first and ask questions later.

Me: What, like frat boys?

Dylan: Haha. No, I mean, they don't care whether their partners are male or female. In fact, researchers have found that sometimes a male will accidentally impregnate a female with another male's sperm that he got on him earlier while mating with that other male (okay, I totally paraphrased that because he used science words to say it but I got the gist of it).

Me: Awwwww, so it's a way for gay beetles to still have babies without surrogates and IVF and all that!

Dylan: No. That's not it at all. SIGH...

Yeah...hopefully I'll suddenly gain the ability to focus on tiny, nearly unseeable objects some time today and will be more helpful tonight or I'm pretty sure he's going to call foul on the whole data-entry-as-a-gift thing and ask for a new pair of running shoes or a DVD instead.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

We Are Warriors!

Wow! I want to send a heartfelt thank you to every friend, family member and perfect stranger who reached out to me yesterday in response to my angry post about Ry losing 2/3 of his therapy hours. Your words buoyed Dylan and me up and got us over that initial reaction of shock, grief, and anger and this morning I woke ready to FIGHT.

Now, a lot of people have a specific song that fires them up for a good fight. Personally, I like "Eye of the Tiger", but I use that more for exercise-related challenges. I'll often repeat to myself while running or lifting "Eye of the tiger, Megan. Eye of the tiger" (my other mantra is less family-friendly and extremely specific to a certain hill on the Sterchi Hills trail - cover your eyes right now, tiny ones - it goes like this, "Hills are my bitches and my hoes, they're my bitches and my hoes." Despite identifying as a feminist in my everyday life, I find it to be very effective...but we'll address that particular psychosis at a later date...).

Others turn to the words of great men and women throughout history to give them the courage to persevere.

Some folks turn to this guy:

Others turn to this guy:

Still others are comforted by the words of this guy:

Worthy options all, but when I'm preparing for a knock-down drag-out no holds-barred battle, there is only one man who can spur me on to greatness...

This guy:

If you know who this is, you are either cracking up or going, "HUH?" If you don't know who this is...well...either you don't own a television or you are spending all your TV viewing time watching crap starring fake housewives and Kardashians. Shame on you (oh...but if you're spending it watching House Hunters International, you're forgiven...that crap is addictive).

I know Dwight Schrute probably seems an insane choice for a guru, but hear me out. Actually, hear him out. Below is a clip of the speech Dwight gives to a paper salesman convention in Season 2. Jim writes it for him as a prank using quotes from famous dictators, but the crowd goes wild for it! I think you'll see why and if it's not clear, I'll explain in a minute.

Come on! What could be more inspiring than that?! Okay, are you still uninspired? Then let me explain why this speech resonates with me. Dwight gives this incredibly impassioned speech to paper salespeople and he makes these great (albeit originally extremely creepy) words relevant for them. Every day normal people like you and me are out there fighting. We're not using swords or guns or fists, but we have fights to fight, too. While I am not saying it is easier to fight a physical fight by any means, you do get a boost from adrenaline. It's hard to activate one's fight or flight instinct when facing down a mountain of paperwork instead of a pack of screaming ninjas.

Dwight does this for me. He reminds me that IT IS A PRIVILEGE TO FIGHT! I fully admit to you lovely (hopefully) understanding people that I yell, "We are warriors!!!" in the car before I go to every IEP meeting, doctor's appointment, therapy eval, etc. that I think might be challenging. Is this insane? Very possibly. But it works for me. It gives me the fire I need to fight for my boy with pen and paper and research articles and doctor orders when what I would really like to use is a samurai sword. Somehow I don't think chopping off Dr. Satan's head is going to get Ry's therapy hours satisfying a fantasy as it is...

So, thank you, Dwight Schrute, champion of the mundane warrior. Together we will prevail.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Dear Dr. Satan,

Dear Dr. Satan,

Howdy. It's me. You know, the lady whose son's therapy hours you cut by 2/3. I realize that you probably are still scratching your head since you have the immense privilege of cutting so many children's therapy hours, but let's settle the point by saying I speak for all of those children's mothers, mmkay?

First of all, congratulations. I'm sure snagging this consulting gig for an insurance company was a major boon for you. Way to go. I'm not sure if you were born with no morals or you decided they were worth sacrificing for the extra paycheck, but regardless, good on you. I mean, it's not like you ever have to see the special needs kids whose services you decide to cut. It probably seems like a pretty victimless crime to you, right? Save the insurance company a little money, you make a little money, and the kid gets more free time to spend staring at ceiling fans and licking his sister. Win-win-win.

Secondly, how nice for you that you possess the psychic powers to know that Rylan's therapy hours weren't medically necessary without ever laying eyes on him. Have you considered taking on a third job at a psychic hotline? Because, seriously, I think you'd be really good at it. Actually, come to think of it, perhaps you should take on a fourth job as a lawyer, because you were remarkably good at twisting our BCBA's words back on her and talking over her loudly any time she tried to make a point. I mean, who needs to hear a trained professional (who's actually spent time with the child)'s opinion on the matter when there's a talented psychic like you around?

Thirdly, thank you for the very helpful suggestion that we could self-pay to make up the difference in the hours. You know, that just wouldn't have occurred to me in a million years! I'll just take that extra $2000 a month we have just laying around and pay for his therapy that way. I mean, I was just using it as back-up toilet paper when I forgot to go to the store, but this seems like a much more prudent use of it. Once again, you display amazing insight into the day-to-day life of a special needs family.

Fourthly, I wonder if I could make a small request. Could I have your home address? I promise to keep it a secret from my husband who, I fear, might use this knowledge to drive to your house and, well, beat the crap out of you. Gee, that would be awkward. My intentions are nowhere near that violent. Instead, I would like the opportunity to appeal your decision in a practical way. Yes, I realize, I can fill out all that paperwork and get more doctor and therapist testimonies and wait 90 days, but can we both agree that that just seems like a lot of additional work for poor tired bureaucrats like you. I think it would make more sense for me to drop Rylan off with you so you can observe his stellar undeserving-of-therapy behavior yourself for...oh...a week or so.

This would give you an opportunity to really make your case for how normal and undeserving of therapy he is. I mean, every kid sits at the table for 90 minutes for each meal because they're physically unable to chew any faster and the simple act of bringing food to their mouths is a fine motor task requiring tremendous effort and concentration, right? Plenty of nearly 4 year olds don't talk or play interactive games or have the ability to climb a single stair without falling, of course. And I'm sure it's perfectly normal for a child to sleep only 5 hours a night and wake at 2 a.m. to run around the house and yell, "Ah. Ah. Ah. Da. Ah. Ah. Ah. Gah. Ah. Ah." for the next 4 hours without stopping. I confess this to be the behavior I want you to examine the most closely. In a week's time you will have ample opportunity to experience the extreme uselessness of pillows-over-the-head and closed doors at shutting out that particular register of sound that Ry verbally stims in. Also, if you have children or pets, you will notice how pleasant it is that the whole household gets to wake and experience Rylan's verbal stims together. What a feeling of community!

Lastly, thank you. Thank you for reminding me that there is not a single day that I can rest on my laurels in the secure knowledge that my son's many special needs are taken care of and I can just relax and get to the usual parenting business of helping my kids grow up happy, healthy, and kind. This has been a fight from the beginning and it will be a fight until the end, and I will never, not for a moment lay down my sword and allow soulless mercenary shit-eating vipers like yourself to deny my son what he needs to get along in a world that doesn't understand him.

So, you'll let me know when you'd like me to drop him off, okay?


Pissed-off Mom