A TYPICAL DAY – MORE OR LESS

JUST TYPICAL

What is typical? This winter, having some version of that stomach flu that has come and gone twice before and has returned again. It isn’t as severe this time as last time and will probably be gone in a day or two, but it’s really annoying.

It did give me a good reason to cancel the EKG scheduled for this afternoon. I have another appointment with the same doctor in two weeks, so I doubled it up. I will do the EKG at the same time as the rest of the appointment. I can’t figure out why they set it up as two appointments in the first place. Surely it doesn’t take two weeks to read an EKG? Especially not this doctor who can read them as the machine spits them out. He’s that good.

We got a couple more hours of sleep and don’t need to make two trips to Boston.

It’s a typical March day. Cold and gray, with patches of blue. It snowed last night. An inch and a half maybe? It was all white when I first got up to call the doctor. An hour later, it was gone.

Yesterday, we did a family togetherness act and cleaned up the front yard, moving all the wet, half-rotted leaves away from the foundation. It wasn’t a big deal. It took the three of us about half an hour, but it vastly improved the horrible front yard.

I wondered if there was anything we could do to keep the dirt from washing down the hill onto the sidewalk. The answer — to put it succinctly — was “not really.” We would have to build a full retaining wall. Given the rocky rooty ground, that’s a far more massive undertaking than it sounds when you say it. I wondered about one of those metal rim things, but our ground is so unfriendly — the nightmare of finding places to put the stakes for the tepee came immediately to mind. I realized I was having one of those suburban daydreams where you think it’s going to be just like on television. All neat and tidy and the lady of the house can do it without even getting her fingernails dirty.

It was easier when we had grass. Maybe some will grow in the spring. Probably planting some seeds would help, but the dogs would trample them. Never mind.

I have one more doctor to call. There is a package that needs to go to the Post Office.

And, in my spare time, I’m trying to find an affordable DVD player. The one we have is getting old and it’s very slow. But the new ones are like new telephones. They have a million functions I’m sure I will never use. So many that I’m not entirely sure whether or not they also play DVD and CDs. Which is all I want.

New ones function as a play station for video games. They will read any DVD from anywhere in the world, Bluetooth or standard plus any CD from any market. They include WiFi and can do the same things our Roku does. They will run your older movies in 1080p by upscaling the quality of the video. They have the ability to play 3D — assuming you have a 3D television (we don’t). It would improve the quality of our sound system. We have a reasonably good sound bar,  but calling it a “system” would be overstating its capabilities. I think, if you ask it politely, these same machines will also handle your laundry and possibly your bills.

Each one I checked out had some weird quirk that make me hate it before buying it. No red light to tell you whether it’s on or not. No buttons — so if you misplace your remote, the box is useless. Strange quirks which make the screen-saver take over, requiring a full reboot to restart your movie. And there were more. The kind of stuff that makes me crazy. I just want something that will play our newer and older DVDs and sometimes, a CD.

I eventually quit looking. We’ll keep what we have until it dies of old age at which point, I will reconsider what to get next.

As I said: a typical day. Or is it an atypical day?

Is there a difference?

“RAKE” – A WITTY, SNARKY SERIES

The Australian show “Rake first showed on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s ABC1 in 2010. The fourth series started on ABC TV in May 2016. Richard Roxburgh stars in it as a “rake” — Cleaver Greene, a brilliant Sydney barrister typically defending a guilty client.

For Americans, the show is available (all four current seasons) on both Netflix and AcornTV. 

Rake is described as “self-destructive,” but that doesn’t quite explain it. Rake — Cleaver Greene — takes self-destruction to new levels. He is smart, snarky, witty … and a total, social jerk. Everybody loves and hates him at the same time. He is awful so much of the time that not only does he get blamed for what he does, he gets blamed for everything that anyone does.

Richard Roxburgh is the co-creator and star of the show. The character is his, though I don’t think it’s “him” in a real-life way.  Regardless, he’s very hands-on in the series.

Roxburgh is no slouch in the directing/writing/producing categories, His character — Cleaver Greene — changes and grows which is a rare feature on any television series. He is, in the beginning, a complete asshole. A gambler. A drug addict. An alcoholic. Beaten up by thugs more or less daily for not paying the vig on his loans. He has no home or office and works out of whoever’s office is currently not in use. What they call in Australia “a floater.”

As the series progresses, he starts to sort out his life. Although everyone continues blaming him for everything, it becomes obvious his “friends and family” are sufficiently screwed up to not need additional help from good old Cleave. Still, it’s convenient to keep blaming him because that’s easier than blaming themselves … and Cleaver is so used to being blamed, he accepts it. Until he doesn’t.

The show has been ending every year for two years, but popular demand keeps it coming back. Netflix and Acorn both have all four years of the show and a fifth is  (so they say) in production.

We’ve never seen a show quite like this. It’s a comedy. It’s a drama. It’s absolutely not an American  series. It reminds me that however bizarre we think our country is, other countries are — in their own way — equally bizarre, though they have better health care.

This may not be the show for everyone. The language is raw and there’s a lot of sex and drugs. It is a messy show with messy people whose lives are over the top.

Just when you think you can’t stand to see Cleaver screw up his life any more, he fixes something. Does something beautiful for a friend. He’s the most selfish guy in the world … except … he isn’t. Not really. Not when all is said and done.

It’s kind of brilliant, actually.

LIVING WITH MENTAL ILLNESS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

Carrie Fisher was Bi-polar. To her credit, she talked about her condition openly and honestly. She brought attention to the disorder and tried to reduce the stigma associated with this, as well as other, mental illnesses. It’s sad that we need celebrities with diseases to increase public awareness about their given malady. But mental illnesses are inherently hard to diagnose, treat and talk about. So as long as people get educated about them, I guess it doesn’t matter how or why.

Carrie Fisher

I have an unwanted and involuntary expertise in Bi-Polar Disorder. Both my ex-husband and my son had/have the disease (my ex is deceased). Each of them manifested the condition differently – my ex was mostly manic and my son was mostly depressed. One of the most difficult aspects of this disorder is the fact that it can look so different in different people. This makes it much harder to diagnose because there is no one size fits all set of symptoms to identify.

This makes it harder on the families too, who don’t always get the support they need from the medical community. It also makes it easier for the Bi-polar person to deny that they have an identifiable syndrome that requires treatment. This denial is very common in Bi-Polar Disease. Also common is the refusal to stay on medication. These factors just add to the difficulties and pain of the family members.

The families of Bi-polar sufferers feel different from other families. We know that other families’ lives are not fraught with the unpredictability, volatility and often violence (emotional if not physical) that ours are. We seem to be the only ones living on a roller coaster. We feel inferior, ashamed and isolated. Family members, me included, try to ‘cover up’ the problem and cover for the often inappropriate behavior of the bi-polar loved one. I made countless excuses for the actions and absences of my ex. My daughter tried to avoid the issue altogether by going to friends’ houses and never having friends come to ours when Daddy was ‘off’ or ‘acting up’.

When you live with a bi-polar person, you wonder what’s wrong with you that you live like this. You wonder why you aren’t like other people. Your ego and self- esteem suffer. This is particularly devastating for kids. My kids are in their 30’s and are still dealing with these issues. They are moving on from some questionable relationship choices they made in the past because of their lingering psychological demons.

On the other hand, denial and defending are also big parts of life with a B-polar person. While married to my ex, after one of his particularly bad manic episodes, I was advised by psychiatrists to go to a program for abused spouses. I thought that they were crazy. I was in therapy already and I was clearly not in that pathetic category! That label did not apply to me! Of course I didn’t go. I often wonder what would have been different in my life if I had received the support and empowerment I needed at that point in time. I now realize that the whole family needs support and treatment specifically designed to deal with the mentally ill family member. My individual therapy was not enough.

Today, there are claims that too many people are being labeled ADHD or Bi-Polar; that it’s become a psychiatric fad to assign mental illness labels to people and ply them with drugs. To me, it’s better to spread a wide net to catch all the people with serious issues and get them the treatment they need. You’re not going to be misdiagnosed if your behavior is perfectly within the range of normal. Something is going on if a doctor thinks you might be Bi-polar! If it’s not manic depression, then it certainly is something else that needs attention and possibly medication! Sometimes the only way to come up with an effective treatment is by experimenting.

I became very pro-active psychiatrically. My daughter started to have panic attacks at age eleven and I got her on medication immediately. She is grateful to me that she never had to go through the torture of years of horrible anxiety symptoms. She would not have been able to function effectively through school and in jobs without her anxiety meds.

I couldn’t get my ex to stay on meds and get a stable life. But at least I got my daughter on medication early so she had fewer issues getting through life than she would have without my early intervention. At least I have one psychiatric success story to brag about!

SQUARING THE CIRCLE – THE OLD TOLL BOOTHS ON THE PIKE

Circles and squares in squares. What could be simpler? Almost anything. Today, it’s the old toll booths on the Mass Turnpike. They’ve been removed now and they check your entries and exits using cameras and signals. But before that and for years and years, we had toll booths. I have no idea how people who don’t have a tag on their car pay for using the pike. I know they do it, so I assume they photograph the car’s license plate and bill its owners. Something like that!

Squared toll booths?

Squaring the Circle with Squared Squares