Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Sleepless in Salt Lake City

I was concerned back in January after talking to one of Bevin’s caretakers in Salt Lake City. She told me that Bevin had been having trouble sleeping. She got up in the night and wandered through the home, slamming doors, stashing things in closets. One night she had even managed to go outside and set off the alarm. I had always thought of Bevin as a girl with an infinite capacity to sleep, so this development surprised me, alarmed me. To me it was a sign of Bevin’s underlying anxiety. And also probably related to the fact that she was always in a group situation, really didn’t have down time. The caretaker told me that she had never seen her in “veg” mode--resting with a blanket over her head. This is often what Bev does when she’s in group situations and gets overwhelmed. That made me think that she really didn’t have a chance to be in quiet places or alone where she was living. I wondered whether her increasing anxiety, that had to be the cause of her sleeplessness, was related to this.

I heard from Pam, her stepmom, that East Side had put Bevin on something to help her sleep. When I picked her up in Salt Lake City last week, I was given a bottle of her “sleeping” medication. I decided to give her the pills--until I figured out more about what is going on with her. I can’t remember whether I gave her the medication the first night, but I know that I did the other evenings until Saturday night. I decided not to give her the pill but gave her a Benadryl instead. I only had four or five pills left, so I thought I would just stop giving them to her and see whether she could sleep without them.

Bevin’s behavior can be alarming when she has what I think of as an anxiety fit. For some reason, sometimes related to something that has happened but often pretty mysterious as to origin. her emotions run out of control. She begins running around, slamming doors, throwing things off surfaces, flushing the toilet, and making a peculiar “puffing” face. It’s amazing how quickly she can move and how little she responds to any verbal cautions. When she was smaller, she could be restrained when she acted out. But now that she’s older, that’s harder to do. Often I take her walking or driving in the car to help her calm down. Because that’s what needs to happen, she has to somehow get out of the rage of anxiety and back to quieter, calmer place. Bevin’s “normal” self is cheerful and rather cooperative.

Over the past six months or so when I’ve spent time with Bevin, her anxiety fits have been the exception rather than the rule. Occasionally they happen when she is getting ready for bed. She is most vulnerable to losing her cool at times of transition or at those moments of chaos that happen from time to time in a group or family situation.

Bevin woke up last Sunday morning, after her night without the “sleep” medication in a vulnerable mood. She lost her calm by the time she got out of the bathtub--usually a relaxing experience for her. I had a difficult time getting clothes on her. I let her go out and get in the car without getting shoes on her. I was just glad she wasn’t naked. We drove around for a little while, and then I brought her back and gave her breakfast. But I could tell she was still anxious. So I spent the day driving. We drove from 10:00 or so until 5:00. She is always pretty calm when we drive. She loves to drive, and I do too. So we’re a great pair. We drove to Whitbey Island via La conner, took the ferry to Port Townsend, drove back via the Tacoma Narrows. I could tell when we got back she was still on the edge. And she lost it when I tried to get her ready for bed. She started running around, pretty much naked, and I couldn’t calm her down. I also wasn’t inclined to go driving again. I knew that I had to get her calmed down in the house. I herded her downstairs where there were fewer things to throw and clear from surfaces. I finally cleared out the bathroom and blocked the door until she sat down. Finally she let me sing to her, rug her back, and finally put her nightgown on. Eventually I coaxed her into bed.

I had given her the “sleeping” pill before I tried to get her ready for bed, beginning to wonder whether the behavior was related to not taking the pill.

She woke up the next morning a different person. She was cheerful, funny, cooperative. And remained so for the whole day. We drove a little, but mostly we worked around the house, went for a walk. And she watched Barney, an old favorite from childhood, on the TV. I gave her the pill again last night, and she’s been Bevin the charmer all day again today.

Obviously I also began researching her “sleeping” medicine--trazodone. It turns out that it’s an anti-depressant, in particular used for anxiety and prescribed some times for sleep problems. It is one of the drugs that has been noted as problematic in teens--causing sometimes thoughts of suicide etc. Obviously taking her off the medicine quickly is a problem at this point. I’m left wondering about next steps here. Maybe this is just the thing to help her manage anxiety. But I also wonder how much of the anxiety is biological and how much contextual. I’m thinking that I somehow need to get to ground zero with Bevin, to figure out where she is, before I can begin making good decisions about her future. I can’t imagine putting her into another group situation until I have a sense of just what her emotional, physical situation is.

I did refill the medicine and found a doctor to see her this Friday. I want to begin working on a plan to figure out who and how Bevin is at this point in her life. That has to be the first step here.

Will she also be sleepless in Seattle? Or can she find her way to a calmer self? I just don’t know.

Friday, February 23, 2007

An inappropriate friendship?

I’ve been going through Bevin’s discharge paper. Interested to learn just a little bit more about her “inappropriate” friendship with a girl at her group home. Bevin has always been one to form friendships--her ability to do that has often left me meditating on the nature of friendship. But that’s another story.

Here’s what was “inappropriate” about her relationship with her most recent friend--according to her discharge papers. They were cuddling and, I take it, touching each other. Though who knows what that means. Given the structure of their lives, I suspect that it was mostly cuddling, holding--a head on a shoulder. . . . .

Now Bevin doesn’t have any ability to contemplate her life. So I’ve been thinking about what she knows about friendship, love. I’m not sure of the total range of her patterns for friendship, love. That’s how she lives her life--according to patterns. And my concern about this has a good deal to do with why I am bringing her to Seattle. I don’t know, can’t know, that much about the details of her life in Utah, the patterns of her existence there.

Here’s what i do when we’re together, my pattern of interaction. I cuddle with her. I hold her in my arms. I stroke her back, her hair, her hands. And I have this strong sense of how she takes to this touching. She opens herself. I know she hasn’t had much of such physical comfort in the pattern of her life. A person should have this. The luxury of touch from one who loves you.

I’ve often worried about her sexual vulnerability. To those men/boys in her environment who don’t understand, but could still hurt her. To those who do understand, and would still hurt her.

I hadn’t thought about a friendship such as the one i read between the lines in her discharge papers. How would she know this was “inappropriate”? Was it? In the world she was in, where did she find the touch that she longs for. How do we decide what “should” be?

I find myself with more sympathy, than judgment.

Thursday, February 22, 2007


Bevin and I arrived in Seattle this afternoon. Settling in. . . . . . .

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The adventure begins

Friday was my last day at work until May 21. I leave tomorrow to drive to Utah. I'll pick Bevin up at 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning. Burn her bridges.

And then the adventure begins. I am so looking forward to bringing Bevin to Seattle.

Friday, February 09, 2007

My eddy in the global economy

Recently I’ve been attending to my own eddy into the global economy. I was given the job at my work of “mentoring” a new doc team in India, charged with supporting and documenting Adobe products that are being engineered there. Unfortunately we didn’t have a stellar beginning. Too late. Every decision tactical--and a bit late at that. Never quite got ahead of the curve. . .

For the past week (and this continues next week), we’re hosting our new writing manager (pretty much “all” of the doc team in India) from Bangalore. Welcome to Adobe, our group, corporate America.

I just did a google search on Bangalore. I’ve been hearing all week from Guru of the virtues of Bangalore. He’s definitely a home boy. Grew up there. Proud. Silicon Valley of India. Educaton. English spoken in the home (an important point for a writer writing in English for an American audience. Interestingly, he couldn’t tell me the population of Bangalore. The internet tells me it’s somewhere between 5 and 6 million--a pretty big city by American standards. Certainly he finds our mild 50 degrees of the past week cold. He did let me know that my love of driving would be difficult to maintain in India.

I’ve been putting off making a judgment about Guru. He arrived in the middest--never a comfortable moment. A minor crisis on his first day. Perhaps his name is a harbinger?

It’s an interesting puzzle to put together a picture of a person conjured up from a time zone discrepancy of 13.5 hours. I’ve learned that folks in Bangalore work late. That means that if I’m on e-mail by 7 in the morning, I have perhaps 30 minutes of real-time e-mail with my colleagues in India. If I send an e-mail at 7:00 a.m., they’re answering my message at 8:30 p.m. These global conversations demand patience. I send a message in the morning. I get my answer (if my friends in India are attentive) 24 hours later. In this world of instant messaging, an abberration, a frustration, a chance to contemplate.

I have been working with two folks in India--I realized with chagrin today that I’m not even sure both work in Bangalore. Does one work in Noida? A female project manager who knows almost nothing about writing. But she’s clearly competent, proactive, fearless. She is always pressing at the edges, moving folks forward, forging into a space with a meeting, a suggestion, an action item. Since she knows nothing about docs, I’m as often dismayed by what i face when i fire up my e-mail in the morning as I cheer. But I do cheer. She is smart, active, accessible, flexible. No matter how often I have to pull her back, press her in another direction, I find her a pleasure to work with.

And then there’s Guru. After a week, I’m left cautious in my estimation of his prospects in the company, and a bit sad. I like him. He’s clearly accomplished in the world he inhabitants. I’ve learned that competent tech writers are far scarcer in India than engineers (and pretty much all competent tech writers, and even more editors, aspire to management). He has some six years of experience with such tech companies as HP. I do believe, after a week in discussion with him, that he is well informed, competent in his sphere. But I fear he is too accommodating, too deferential, too cautious to succeed in the situation he’s in.

And I’m left contemplating questions I can’t answer. How much of this is Guru? Why do I respond to Bhavna, despite her innocence of my profession? Why do I worry about him? How much of this is cultural? How much of this has to do with gender? How much is simply transactional, tactical?

I’m far too tired this Friday night to answer this question. But these are clearly questions that are in the center of my work life going forward. Do I have the tools to do a good job here? I am an Idaho girl after all? How did I end up here on this frontier? Never knew this is what I was preparing for. . . .

Monday, February 05, 2007

The aging of ordinary

I just finished reading a blog posted by someone I knew at a distance during my college years. This person went on to become a professor, the professor of my son, and in the end his friend. He now blogs at the same site as Nathan. Jim posted a fine blog on the ordinary.

Here’s a passage from the post that arrested my attention:

                Much about the ordinary world has changed in my life time, though I am not yet sixty. I was born in rural Missouri, and when I was born rural telephone systems were mostly party-lines, phones were hand-cranked, electricity was a relatively new arrival (within 30 years, and often much less), and for many people water pumped by hand and out house toilets were ordinary. Before my children were all born, that had all changed. The order of the world in rural Missouri was very different than it had been. And, as an expatriate of Missouri, I have changed even more than has my birthplace. Today I seldom think about what it takes to get water, and I use my Trio for phone calls, e-mail, and my calendar, wishing at the same time that I’d perhaps waited and bought an IPhone. Though I come from a long line of people who did what they called “honest work,” day-laboring, small-scale farming, blacksmithing, and machine work, I make my living as a bourgeois professor of philosophy.
                Nevertheless, though the ordinary is common, customary, and usual, it is also not something to be ignored. Indeed, we ought to celebrate that things such as vaccination, full supermarkets, city sewage systems, treatments for cancer and epilepsy, public transportation, private cars, mobile phones, cable television, literacy and education are all now ordinary, and all deserve our praise. Our lives are what they are because so much has become ordinary, and we ought to labor and pray that what is ordinary for us becomes ordinary for many more. We live longer and more comfortably because of many extraordinary things that have become ordinary. We know more and have access to more because of other extraordinary things turned ordinary. What was outside of the ordinary has become part of it and is no longer much noticed or noted.

Reading this, I’m left contemplating aging. I remember a childhood ordinary very similar to Jim’s. Setting aside the whole Mormon thing--rural Missouri in the 50s was much like rural Idaho. Jim is describing my experience too. I grew up in a rural town of 350 inhabitants, six miles from the big city of 3000 (doctor, bank, grocery store, library, drug store, Penney’s). If anything, my adult life has pushed to the edge of the new ordinary even more aggressively than Jim’s. I work for a software company, live in a large city. It’s part of my job to play with, and document, changing technology-- Web 2.0, tag clouds, social bookmarks, blogs, flickr, podcasts, WIKIs, and so on. I have a cell phone, a laptop, an IPOD, a Trio is one click away. . .

Over time, this is what I came to resist about growing older: getting frozen at some moment in time, losing vulnerability to the unknown and to change. I knew what middle-aged women looked like and did with their time as I grew up. Once you married and joined the group: you had shorter hair and had it done at Marion’s on the edge of town. You left behind young clothes, young things. Whenever I’ve started to feel stuck, frozen, in my life. I’ve tended to make what I’ve come to think of as a “leap”--and started a new version of my life. I never became the young married woman my mother raised me to be.

In the language of Jim’s post today, a series of ordinaries have been my life. I still resist getting frozen in time. But I do find that I increasingly survey the past with indulgence, fondness, sometimes a sense of loss and regret. I’m thinking more and more that I want to approach life as I’ve always, through this life of change, approached my books. Books are the one continuing thread of continuity in my life. Reading, especially novels, narratives, stories. I have expanded my sense of books. I now listen to as many books (I love my iPOD), perhaps more, than I read with my eyes (which like everything else age).

I’ve always collected books. I keep them around after I’ve read them. I buy more than I’ll every read, keep them on my shelves, hopefully look forward to reading them some day. Love living in their company.

I’ve been contemplating the changes I want to make to my house. And I’ve decided that I’ll build book cases, in the study, in the basement, maybe even in the bedroom. I love to collect. Look back as well as forward. I love the old ordinary, the aging ordinary. I don’t want to lose it. But I hope that I’ll always be open to something new. Looking for a way to build just a few more shelves. Though I do reserve the right to throw some things out.