Trying to raise my kids the best I can

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The quote-unquote Sleep Study

For years I've seen the Craigslist ad for a sleep study that pays a lot in Boston. For $7,500 all you have to do is live at their facility for a month. Suh-weet, right? Well, getting away for a month was never an option for me until now. So now that the opportunity arose, I jumped on it. They did a pre-screening over the phone which basically consisted of asking me if I was healthy, if I have any mental illnesses and if I was suuuuuure I was healthy. I assured them that I am (even though I have bipolar). I figured I was doing us both a favor by keeping that little secret. They just needed to be able to tell their fellow scientists that these experiments were done on healthy individuals. I was just telling them what they needed to hear. Meanwhile, I'd collect my $7500 and since I'd be sneaking my medicine in a slit I cut in my bra no one gets hurt.  No harm no foul, right? I am invited in to learn more about the study in-person and take more in-depth exams.

The facility is in a hospital. I meet with two men in a small conference room. The tone takes an ominous turn and that is when I learn that this is not actually a sleep study. This is one of three things but none of them is a sleep study. Either A) It is a study to see how much a person would do for $7500 or B) It is a POW torture study to get data for our military or C) It is a screening process to find new FBI agents. If you pass, they will offer you a job.But it is definitely not a sleep study. (If this Craigslist post is removed it will prove it!)

They seem to be trying to scare me out of it. I understand they are trying to weed out the fickle before they invest their time and money into you. They say everything slowly and with a serious face. You must have an IV in you the whole time. Because of the risk of infection the site must be changed regularly. They show me the catheter that goes in your arm.  Huh. That's kind of weird. Not sure what that has to do with sleep but OK.

They pull out a yellow envelop and slowly draw out the 8X10 picture inside, as if they were handing  me my secret agent assignment. It shows a picture of the room I will be staying in. A cold, small, hospital room with a bed, a desk and a computer. I can't leave the room for the entire month. They dim the lights in the conference room we are, at the moment, speaking in, and tell me that this is the light setting for the entire month. Wow. Depressing. Oh, and the lights will be fluorescent. I'm imagining that there will be a low humming-noise in the background at all times. Kinda reminds me of Chinese Water Torture. OK, this is not what I was envisioning at all. I was envisioning a ward of a dozen of us guinea pigs. All about college age. Playing chess together and watching TV and having a royal good time. Will I have social interaction? I ask. This would be critical given the setting or I could go crazy. They said that a nurse would come in regularly to monitor my vital signs and before bedtime someone will be supervising me so that I don't fall asleep early (because I will be sleep deprived). They said that I could interact with that someone as much or as little as I want to.

I ask the three most important questions for me. #1 Can I get online?  Answer: No.  Hmmmm.  OK. That's gonna make it harder, but I'm still up for it.  #2. Can I talk on the phone? Answer: No.  Hmmmmm... Also going to be difficult. But they tell me I can write letters, so I guess I'll survive. #3. I can exercise, right?  Answer: No.  Whaaaaaa?  Are you serious?  I try not to act too outraged as I mull this over but this is really a deal breaker for me. But I just spent an hour getting here and my curiosity is piqued so I'm just going to pretend I'm still considering it and hear what other craziness they have planned.  ...They did not disappoint. The reason that exercise is prohibited is because they have to measure your body temperature at all times and they want it to remain steady. You can't even do Tai Chi or excessive stretching. Okaaay. This is getting weird. And... duh-duh-duh.. They will be measuring your body temperature the entire time... rectally! They pull out a freakin' telephone cord and say that this will be up your ass the whole time. Freakin magic-jack in my butt for a month! This telephone cord literally has a plug that goes in the wall. I don't even see anything on the end that would measure a temperature. It's just a plain old gray wire. This is when I decided that it is not a sleep study. I seriously looked around and wondered if this was some sort of joke. Am I on TV? A show called, What People Would Do For $7,500? But I played it cool. I was dying to hear how much further they would take this. Sure, sure. Magic-jack in my butt. Got it. No big deal. Although, a part of me is nervous that I will be on that TV show and I am going to end up looking like a total idiot.

If I have to go to the bathroom during the sleep period I can't get out of bed. I have to call the nurse and use a bed pan. I can just hold it, I tell them. No. No. We don't want you to hold it. You must go or it could keep you from sleeping. Jeez this is stupid.

The older man pulls out a bunch of papers and says that the younger man, who I've been in contact with, sent me this via email and did I read it thoroughly?  Well, younger man did not email that to me, but I didn't want to get him in trouble so I covered for him. Yes, I received it. I only had a chance to skim it though. He discusses the risks. The chance that the iron pills they give me, to mitigate the blood loss from all the blood tests, might give me an upset stomach. The tape holding magic-jack in my butt for a month might cause irritation. The glue that holds the electrodes on my head might cause irritation. I'm onto them! They are presenting the lamest side-effects so that the guinea pig will think to them-self, That's not that bad. I can deal with an upset stomach or a small rash on my bum. But what they neglect to tell you is that you will mostly likely have nightmares and hallucinations from the sleep deprivation. That there is a decent possibility of you going genuinely insane temporarily and a small chance of you going genuinely insane permanently. Well, I'm not stupid and I'm not falling for there reverse psychology. I know what this study is all about and they can't fool me.

They emphasize to me, over and over, that I am free to leave at any time. I can, say to them, at any time, that I've had enough and I'm free to walk out of there. I will even still get paid! I earn money every day for being there and a bonus at the end. I theorize that they are emphasizing now my free-will, but once you are there and they have invested so much into you they will pressure you to stay.  "Just a little longer. You're almost at the end!" They will say. And I bet you the daily payment is a pittance. Maybe $25. The bonus is where the real money is.


Having explained the basics of the study they ask if I am still interested in pursing this. I am! I lie. There is a 500 question psychiatric exam to fill in with a scan-tron sheet for my answers. They leave me with the test. I probably should have left at this point. It took me an hour or two to finish the test. But this was almost a contest of wills at this point. They were trying to scare me off and I wanted to see how far they would go. Plus I could still undergo a one-night sleep study for $250 just to make sure I will qualify - to make sure I don't have sleep apnea or Periodic Limb Movement Disorder. What's that? A disorder in which you twitch as you fall asleep and sometimes it wakes you from your sleep too. Ooooooh. I have that. But I don't tell them that. I wasn't going to do their study anyway. I can still get $250 for them to tell me that I don't qualify. 

I ace the psychological test. I know I did because I can see through all their questions. Sociopathy and traumatic childhood (Not sure what either has to do with a sleep study), ability to get along with people and tendency for volatility. (Important for a sleep deprived person not to attack their medical personnel). Introvert or extravert? (Extroverts would have a hard time completing this study.) Bipolar. "Has anyone every told you, you eat fast?" That indicates mania and yes I have been told I eat fast when I'm manic. I fill in the circle that says no. Lots of questions about your sexual appetite - another indicator of bi-polar. No, of course, I am perfectly normal sexually. Nothing weird here. ha ha. Do you believe that dreams can be signs or a message? I do happen to look for signs and messages in my dreams. But I'm not stupid enough to think that a hallucination in a sleep-deprived state is a sign. I answer no because I know that's what they need to hear. They ask a few questions twice, in reverse, to make sure you are reading carefully. They also have rows of true and rows of false with a few exceptions so that you are not blindly trying to get the right answers. The only part I mess up is the questions about money. I answer that, no I am not worried about money and I am not in need of money. That sort of thing. After I turned it in I slapped my forehead. I needed to indicate my need of money so that they knew they could motivate me with it when the study got hard.

I did end up passing the psychological test. I get to come in for a one hour physical exam and one hour psychological exam. I get twenty-five whole dollars!! (Barely covers the cost of going in). But what could they do that would take two whole hours?! Surely some anal probing. I just had to find out!

Part II
The exam


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The future of the Republican party

I remember back in 2004 when George W. Bush won his second term. The post election coverage was fixated on the one group that seemed to push him over the edge. This was the "morality voter" another way of saying "The Christian Right". I should state here that it was exactly the "morality" factor that influenced me (and two other peers that I know) to vote for Bush - because there was one or two Supreme Court justices on the line. Because of the key that the morality vote played in the election, a Christian group I had always admired, Focus on the Family, was absolutely flooded with political money (in the hopes that they would replicate this achievement). It branched off a political arm and have since taken a nasty turn away from their roots as Jesus followers, in my opinion.

Here we are in 2012 and I have been closely following the news to see what group played that pivotal role in this election. There isn't a clear cut answer, consequently it didn't get the same coverage as 2004. Overall we can easily see that Hispanics and young people voted Democrat. But let's look at some other factors.
  • The undecided women - every time they started to lean Republican a nincompoop would say something controversial about rape!* Not to mention substitive issues like "equal pay for equal work".
  • In Ohio there were two interesting phenomena. #1 The blue collar, auto union workers went for President Obama. This is the interesting part. In the debates Obama and Romney were disagreeing about what they have said on car manufacturer bailouts. They both basically said, "Look it up." "Research it." "See for yourself."  Well apparently they did because in the weeks before the election there was an uptick in the search engine hits on Romney's 2008 Op Ed Piece "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt".
  • Black voter turn out in Ohio was higher in 2012 than 2008. That is fascinating to me. They must have really gotten the message that this election was tight and critical. I think everyone got that message. Here in Massachusetts I stood in a line for the first time in my 26 years of voting.
So what does the future look like for the Democrats?  It's important to note that the young people of today are not turning Republican as they age. In my opinion, this is very much dependent on the gay marriage issue. Even Christian youth are breaking off Democrat because of this issue. That's the Republican base!

More importantly, is the increased Latino population. This is a big deal because this isn't just a theoretical "oh, there's more Hispanics in every state". No, this is Texas is on the verge of turning Democrat. And when that happens there is no more Republicans. Ohio won't matter, Florida won't matter. Pensylvania won't matter. It will be mathematically impossible for the Republicans to win. And to add insult to injury, if Puerto Rico's vote to become a state gets ratified that means 7 more electoral points for the Democrats.

I am absolutely, positively convinced that if the party doesn't come center they will continue to lose.

I have been fixated on post election coverage, to see the response of the Republicans. Will they see the error of their ways? Will they at least agree to compromise for the sheer sake of getting votes? The answer is no. I have watched and read and watched and read and the answer is no. They say no on Fox news. They say no on CNN. The say no in newspapers. They say no on the radio. Many even say that they moved to far to the middle in this election!! That they need to go back to their core values. They are committed to their beliefs and unable to see that by not changing, they risk losing everything. (And, they are lucky they didn't this time around. The House that they "won" was technically won by Democrats in the popular vote.) Mike Huckabee on the Focus on the Family radio show said, and I quote: "I think there were a lot of Christian people who simply stayed home for reasons that I can't figure out." As if that were the reason they loss. And that, merely getting out the Christian vote next time will change everything. These people are living in the past. 2004 to be exact. They are closing their eyes and hoping things don't change.

I vacillate between disappointment and joy as I watch this unfold before me. On the one hand I want to bang my head against the wall. It's the very definition of insanity! Doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome. On the other hand, as a Democrat, I am filled with joy, knowing that we have the next election in the bag and as many more as it takes for them to change. The next election will not require the tipping point help of women, black and union voters. No, the increase in youth and Latino voters will be plenty.

The Republicans are going to have to navigate this difficult process of welcoming new voters while alienating old ones. Specifically, it will take the gay marriage issue to gain youth voters and immigration to gain Latino voters. It's been done repeatedly in the United States before. Just two generations ago Republicans had to give up their discrimination against black people. It can be done again. The Republicans will rise again.







*


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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

I told my pediatrician I'm not vaccinating

I used to be an ardent proponent of vaccines, but I've been hanging out with crunchy people for years and they wore off on me. So, finally, here I am, "on the other side". Mostly because my pediatrician poisoned my child with acid reflux medicine and a naturopath healed him. So my trust of conventional medicine - wavering in the first place- took a major nose dive.

Medically, it is the best thing for my son to not get vaccinated at this time in his life. His immune system is shot (lol). He is severely allergic to eggs and dairy. Most vaccines are incubated in eggs. The one vaccine I was considering giving him was the whopping cough/tetunis one. But after a little research, I found it contains dairy! Looking back on his 2 month shots - he cried non-stop for 24 hours. I didn't think anything of it at the time, but now I'm racked with guilt.

He is ten months old now and hasn't been there since his two months appointment. Truth be told, I'd rather never bring him for a check-up again. But I need her for referrals and medicine. so whatever. Plus, I didn't want them to accuse me of medical neglect. I have yet to navigate the legality of all these decisions. So I dragged my butt there and prepared myself for the angry speech. Which was about as bad as I thought it would be. I told her that I wasn't doing it somewhat flippantly light and she was like, "you giggle but it's not funny". I TOTALLY giggle when I'm nervous. So I tried to put a sober face on then.

I had to refrain myself from debating her and just nod. I couldn't bite my tongue though when she said that 250 people got the measles in a recent outbreak. I looked at her with fake incredulousness and said, "there were 250 unvaccinated kids?" Knowing full well that most of them were vaccinated. And she was like "well, not kids, but people" Totally proving to me her ignorance. I wish doctors would educate themselves on both sides of the issue. Then she transitioned into "That guy got sent to jail" which was a terrible transition because I"m thinking the guy who brought the measles virus in town? But I eventually figured out she was talking about Andrew Wakefield, of MMR vax study fame. I wanted to be like, "that's a witch hunt" but instead I made a mental note to look into it further since I'm not really informed on that.

Finally she ranted a little about Jenny Mcarthy and how she can say what she wants without getting sued, whereas she-herself would get sued if there's a vaccine reaction. And in my head I'm like because that's bull. If something went wrong the government insurance program would pay up and that would be the end of it.

So, I thought that went pretty well considering. I should get a sticker for keeping my mouth shut.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Spanish Church

I visited my friend's Spanish church this week. I had a wonderful time and may even go back sometime.

The first thing I noticed was that everyone was dressed up. American churches tend to be more casual. In my church it's a mix, but it's kind of neat how many of us show up in Patriot jerseys on game-day. The second thing I noticed was the number of young men. Not just present but participating. In all my years and in all the dozens of churches I've ever attended in my life I've never seen that before. Clearly they are doing something right.

It was completely in Spanish but the Pastor's (adult) daughter translated the sermon on the mic. It made me think of xenophobic Americans who complain about the occasional Spanish translations. They gladly extended grace to me and my non-Spanish speaking. And not just a little sign or a "press two for English" either. An all out translation- interrupting the sermon every. single. sentence.I felt a little bad for her because it seemed like a lot of pressure to come up with a translation on the spot like that in front of all these people, many of whom spoke both languages. Especially because there were a lot of names that she has probably never had to say in English ever before in her life: Elijah, Elisha, Manasseh, Reuben, Ishmael, Ephraim and Esau. And yes, every one of those was mentioned.

One of the worship songs was salsa style which was fun cuz I kind of felt like I was in a club. But I was in the house of the Lord. Which is kind of what the house of the Lord should feel like sometimes. I appreciated when the song lyrics were projected because I could at least sing along even if I didn't know exactly what they meant. There was one that had a word like, "Guerrilla" in every line and I was so curious what that meant but when I look up that spelling on Google-translate I get nothing.

The pastor was so excited about the word. He showed us the scrap of paper he had written the sermon on and instructed us to be sure to write down what God tells us so we don't forget. The message was so long, he said, it had to be broken into two parts. Next week is on Elijah and Elisha. This week he talked about the special inheritance that the firstborn gets. How the firstborn male gets 2/3rds of his father's money and land. He told the story of how Esau sold his rights to his younger brother Jacob. He told how Reuben blew his chance at his inheritance by sleeping with his step mother. And how God led Jacob to reverse the inheritance between Joseph's sons Manasseh and Ephraim. My son's middle name is Manasseh (named after Joseph's son in the Bible). I was inspired to go home and tell him the story of Joseph. So I did. When I said that Joseph had a son he named Manasseh, which means "God has made me forget my troubles" he was like, "That's my name!"

The pastor talked about how the first in the family to come to the Lord is like the first born and they have a responsibility to lead the rest of the family in spiritual matters. And he said that we should not throw away God's blessing by walking outside of His will. When he got to the tale of the Prodigal Son he said that this was the big revelation he had, or the thing that the Lord revealed to him. And he said that it was that the older brother was "protecting his 2/3rds share" and that contributed to him being so upset about the brother being back.  I thought that was a strange revelation and even stranger the excitement it caused the pastor. But maybe I'm misunderstanding.  There's probably more next week.  Nevertheless it was a good word.

Everyone in the church was just so zealous for the Lord. It was so refreshing. A woman who sang a solo cried during the song and the translator (inexplicably) cried during the sermon. They were just very touched by God. My friend's one year old daughter raised her hand and said hallelujah. (Speaking of which, they pronounce the "j" in that word, whereas English speakers don't. Strangely that is the opposite of how the "j" is pronounced in any other word in those languages). At the end there was an alter call for people who wanted to give their life to the Lord, something I haven't seen in years, since I left the Assembly of God church I once went to. It made me remember why I liked that church so much. There was prayer at the alter (which means the front of the sanctuary). More crying there of course. And then I saw something I've never ever seen before. A little girl - maybe four years old slain in the spirit. It wasn't anything dramatic. She was just laying there. They even put a blanket on her after a little while. Then she got up and ran back to her parents. Skeptics might say she was just copying what she's seen in the past. I'd like to believe it was the Holy Spirit. Either way, it showed just how very Christ centered this church was. It was so refreshing.

At the end everyone invited me to the Tuesday night bible study. Three hours of church is plenty for me for one week. lol. But I can't get the service out of the head. I do want to go back sometime.  


I

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Why protest GMO's?

Perhaps you've seen food products that claim "no GMO ingredients". GMO, meaning Genetically Modified Organisms- those scientifically bred grains and produce that the scientist change to make them "better". Perhaps you've wondered "what's the big deal with GMO's?" Like me, maybe you thought- we've been breeding plants since the beginning of time. What's so different about it now? And perhaps you've even heard about the really good things that's come out of genetic modification, like changing crops to increase disease and pest resistance. I mean, how can you argue with a picture like this?
The centre row of potatoes has been genetically engineered to resist pest attack. The others have not.


So what is the big deal about GMO's? Well, back in 2003 when the human genome was completely mapped out, there were found to be only 23,000 genes. About the same number as mice and only twice the number of worms. What this means is that, clearly one gene doesn't control one protein or one trait. Each gene effects many many different things. So when we change the basic genes of an organism, there are going to be many ramifications that we can't possibly predict. And once it is introduced to the environment it can quickly cross pollinate with unaltered varieties.

The company behind genetically modified organisms has been known for egregious ethical actions. They seem to have no moral boundaries and their motivation behind this biology is far from altruistic. This company is Monsanto. Perhaps you are familiar with their creation: Agent Orange - a chemical used in the Vietnam war that caused numerous diseases in our soldiers. Monsanto makes and sells "RoundUp" weed control. While this may seem like a small market household product, it is actually an enormously profitable farming product. Here's the punch-line: the genetic modification is not about creating stronger crops or more robust crops or crops that produce more fruit. The goal of the modification is simply to resist RoundUp - enabling farmers to use it liberally. More importantly, the seeds are also modified so as to not allow a second generation of crops. The seeds are only good for one year. This makes farmers reliant on Monsanto for their seed supply. Farmers who have no interest in these seeds are vulnerable to seed contamination from nearby farms from wind and animal transmission.  It routinely scares or sues farmers in this situation. One Canadian farmer, Schmeiser, who was sued by Monsanto was accused him of illegally planting their crops when his field was contaminated by a nearby farm. He went bankrupt fighting Monsanto but eventually won after taking them all the way to the Supreme Court. Slowly taking over the seed market is a part of their insidious plan. They regularly buy out seed companies. Is a company like this supposed to be trusted with the best interest of our health?

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