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Oct 22
2009

A QUIZ - A Good Writing Exercise.

Posted by Catz in Untagged 

Catz

For once I am in the mood for a quiz (see from Charmed, Nita, OS), since recently I seem to have lost my will to write, which is a bad thing.  I keep on thinking of really good ideas to blog about, but usually only at 3am in the morning... and I tend to forget in the mornings.  So, let me try to free my creative spirit by contributing my 10 cents to this quiz:
(Sorry about the line spacing problem - can't seem to fix it...)
1.  What was the last thing you put in your mouth?
Honestly?  My finger.  Why, you ask?  Well, the thing I put in my mouth before that was water, some of which dripped onto my finger and I didn't have a serviette handy.  Before that, it was spicy chicken pizza, left-over from last night. 

2.  Where was your profile picture taken?
I honestly have no idea.  No - wait, I remember!  Well, I don't know where it was taken, but I remember that I got it from a series of stunning photographs that a dear friend sent to me shortly before he went on early pension.  I wonder where he is now?  He was going up to Malawi to open a bio-diesel factory as part of a really good project to help a local community on a long term basis.

3.  Can you play Guitar Hero?
No.  I can, however, sort of play the guitar, and I'm hot on the piano.

4.  Name someone who made you laugh today?
Genuinely?  As in not pretend-laugh?  Well, now... my husband has not had a chance since he went to work before me...I spent two hours in a governance meeting...it has just started to rain...  Not much to laugh about at this moment, but I'm sure it will pick up later.

5.  How late did you stay up last night and why?
I didn't check, put probably between 12h00 and 02h00.  Why?  Well, that's about the usual time I go to sleep.  If I sleep any earlier, I wake up at 02h00 or 03h00 and can't get back to sleep.  In actual fact, I did wake up just after 03h00 this morning and struggled not to strangle myself in insomniac frustration until it was time to get up - when I was promptly ready to fall asleep again - typical.  I usually read or listen to Jimmy Hendrix.

6.  If you could move somewhere else, would you?
Suprisingly for those who know where I live, that is a rather difficult question to answer.  I have lived in beautiful places in South Africa - Graaff-Reinet in the Karroo, Jeffreys Bay - spent a lot of time in Knysna and Wilderness.  A far call from where I am now.  However, my happiness never depended on where I lived, but rather on how I lived.  I am living in one of the most ugly places in this country, but I am happy.  I've bought a lovely house on a large plot with oak trees that are almost 100 years old and a house built in 1902.  I have 11 cats and many other assorted animals who I can afford to give the best care.  I have a job that pays well and is more secure than most at the moment.  I'm living a lifestyle that I am comfortable with and married to my best friend who I know I can trust.  So I guess where I live is not high on my list of priorities at the moment...

7.  Ever been kissed under fireworks?
I'm not sure - I think so, although if I can't remember, there couldn't have been much of a spark (pun intended). 

8.  Which of your friends lives closest to you?
My husband and cats.

9.  Do you believe ex's can be friends?
Most absolutely NOT!  If I were to bump into my ex-husband, I'd probably get arrested for assault.  If my husband and I were to bump into his ex-wife, especially now, we would be jointly arrested for torture, mutilation and murder.

10.  How do you feel about Dr. Pepper?
I plead ignorance.

11.  When was the last time you cried real hard?
I tend to keep it in.  Not the most healthy way of coping, I'm sure.  I think the last time I seriously cried was while trying to help my parents and sister earlier this year.  The last time I dribbled a bit was a week or so ago when I was reading something from the S.P.C.A. about an animal being euthanised due to the owner's neglect.

12.  Who took your profile picture?
Refer to point 2 above.

13.  Who was the last person you took a picture of?
I'm not sure... I think the last photo was of one of my cats or my garden.  Otherwise, if referring to a person, probably my husband or Abraham, the man who works for us.

14.  Was yesterday better than today?
No, yesterday was awful.  Try finding out that you jointly owe about R170 000 from 10 years ago that an evil bitch of an ex-wife decided to not tell you about?  If it were not for 10 years of interest, it wouldn't be so bad.  But yesterday was rather depressing (understatement).  Today I'm getting used to it.

15.  Can you live a day without TV?
Well, considering that I haven't watched TV for about a year, I suppose so.  Nothing personal, I just don't like TV.  There is so little time to talk in the evenings that I don't want to spend that valuable time sitting numbly behind a black box.  Fortunately my husband has the same feeling.

16.  Are you upset about anything?
Yes.  Refer to 14 above.

17.  Do you think relationships are ever really worth it?
Most definitely.  Not all relationships are often pleasant, but one always learns something new.

18.  Are you a bad influence?
No - I tend to keep to myself, so don't get around to influencing people badly - or otherwise, for that matter.

19.  Night out or night in?
Definitely night in.

20. What items could you not go without during the day?

Husband, 11 cats.

21.  Who was the last peson you visited in the hospital?
My sister (does a mental institution count)?

22.  What does the last text message in your Inbox say?
"Thank you for your opinion and comment.  We value your input."  I have no idea who it is from.

23.  How do you feel about your life right now?
Not bad.  I'm happy at home and I'm expecting nice challenges at work shortly.  I've just about made peace with myself.

24.  Do you hate anyone?
I don't like the word hate... but read no. 9 and 14 above to find out 2 people I REALLY don't like.

25.  If we were to look in your facebook inbox, what would we find?
A message from my sister and one from a freak asking me where I live.

26.  Say you were given a drug test right now, would you pass?
For illegal substances?  Yes.  For other drugs?  No - I've got a headache and took some paracetamol.

27.  Has anyone ever called you perfect before?
Well, my husband keeps on telling me that I must never change who I am, so I guess I'm probably perfect for him.

28.  What song is stuck in your head?
"Permanent Monday" - I don't even know who sings it!  You know the one... "Every time you go away, it's a permanent Monday", etc., etc.

29.  Someone knocks on your door at 2:00am, who do you want it to be?
Someone who has just flown over from the UK to personally present me with ten million pounds for winning a competition that someone else entered me in for!

30.  Wanna have grandkids by the time your 50?
No.  Since I don't have children, I won't want grandkids. 

31.  Name something you have to do tomorrow?
Go to work.  Oh, and attend my team's year-end function.  I'm really not a team function type of person...  And probably swop the cat food for sensitive stomachs with that for sensitive skin that my husband accidentally bought, although I'll have to go to the vet for that.  Wanted to go today after work, but it's still raining and I don't want to get soaked.

32.  Do you think too much or too little?
Waaay too much.  I don't think that's healthy.

33.  Do you smile a lot?
I think so - however, I hate to say that I sometimes smile simply because it is expected of me, but don't we all?  I think I smile genuinely on a fairly regular basis, though.

34.  Do you think that the people you are tagging are going to answer with the truth?
Why not?  Anyway, I'm not really worried about that, since this has been a nice exercise to get me to write a little bit, even albeit with prompts and not spontaneously.
 
 
Sep 02
2009

Spring and COMPLIMENTS!!

Posted by Catz in Untagged 

Catz
I have just realised again how nice it feels getting a compliment – the day has just begun (OK, not just begun, but it is still early) and I’ve already got four compliments on the skirt that I’m wearing today. It must be a really nice skirt (probably why I bought it in the first place)! It is rather unique, down to my feet, with a lot of embroidery and texture and unusual layers and colours. It has been sleeping away the winter in my cupboard and today’s the first day it has emerged to greet the warmer weather.
 
I wonder if the compliments are due to the fact that it is a really nice skirt, or rather due to the fact that everyone at work is so used to seeing me in my winter “uniform” that the change in my attire is striking. When the cold weather approaches, my urge for creative dressing migrates for the winter, with the result that I live through winter in a range of near-identical denims and jerseys.
 
So, two things to consider: Firstly, warmer weather is on the way and I can start enjoying my more eccentric, creative sense of dress. Secondly – giving a compliment really goes a far way to making someone else feel nice without much effort. Try it out on a couple of people and I’m sure you’ll have more happy faces around you today. Actually, here’s a good idea – phone your wife / husband / lover and give them a compliment. I am sure it will make their day that little bit nicer.     
Aug 17
2009

A WEBSITE worth visiting

Posted by Catz in Untagged 

Catz
There are so many examples of where quackery, pseudoscience and just plain stupidity (all variations on the theme of the inability to think critically and independently) has cost people not only vast sums of money, but lives. Look at the tragic example of Gloria Sam, who died – from eczema – at the age of 9 months. My one cat gets eczema from time to time. I take him to the vet, he gets some cream, and the eczema is gone in a matter of days. How can a child DIE from it? Answer – her father was a homeopath and decided to "treat" her with homoeopathic preparations, which actually means the condition was not treated at all.
 
Another tragedy is the needless deaths of children caused by parents jumping on the anti-vaccination bandwagon and not getting them vaccinated against avoidable diseases. 
 
Then you get various other farces – just read Language Girls post Witchcraft, muti or magic? Oh, and EgbertFly brought the Internet rumour to our attention that Eminem has died in a car crash.
 
What we need is more champions for truth who debunk these various forms of stupidity. More people who value logical, critical thinking and the application of science and evidence. More skeptics like Brian Dunning, the author of the website Skeptoid: Critical Analysis of Pop Phenomena.   
 
He researches various pseudosciences and provides his findings in often very amusing articles. As noted on the website, he researches consumer frauds, urban legends, useless alternative medicine schemes and conspiracy theories. His articles are available as podcasts, but I prefer the written articles – allows time for re-reading and letting the information sink in.
 
I found a good definition of pseudoscience on wiki: “…a methodology, belief, or practice that is claimed to be scientific, or that is made to appear to be scientific, but which does not adhere to an appropriate scientific methodology, lacks supporting evidence or plausibility, or otherwise lacks scientific status.”
 
He provides research and evidence (or lack of it) on modern contentious issues such as the usefulness of detoxification and homeopathy, New Age energy, whether or not cell phone radiation is dangerous and so on, as well as the classic old legends such as the Mothman (a “prophet of disaster”) and whether the devil walked in Devon, and then just plain crazy stuff, including a conspiracy theory that reptilian beings called Reptoids live in extensive tunnels underground and control our governments. He addresses each topic objectively instead of setting out to disprove it before investigating it. 
 
He also gives advice – for example, “How to Be a Skeptic and Still Have Friends”. And believe me, when you read the comments on his articles, you quickly find venomous rantings from those whose theories he has debunked! What I find amazing, though, is that you genuinely get “believers” of the craziest ideas possible, a case in point being the reptilian conspiracy theory! My mind boggles to think that some people can be so blatantly gullible!
 
Anyway, love it or hate it, this site is well worth a visit!
Aug 17
2009

Where IMAGINATION beats TECHNOLOGY hands down!

Posted by Catz in Untagged 

Catz
One of my all time passions is reading. I devour every scrap of words in my environment. I will read literally anything, even the back of detergent bottles (I know, that’s sad). This passion started when I was very, very young. By the age of ten, I had devoured the entire Chronicles of Narnia. Then it was not one huge book, but separate ones which I borrowed from the library (imagine that!). It was very frustrating that one or two books were missing (The Horse and His Boy was one of them, if I recall) and those days there was not easy Internet access or Amazon.com (*gasp*)! However, interruptions and all, I wallowed for hours in the world of Narnia. My imagination was boundless and my senses alive.
 
Around the same time, I discovered J.R.R. Tolkien’s world of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. (Incidentally, he was a close friend of C.S. Lewis, the creator of Narnia. Another interesting fact – he was born in Bloemfontein in the Free State.) Once more, I spent many, many happy hours under the almond tree, my imagination in over-drive.
 
When I heard that both Chronicles of Narnia as well as The Lord of the Rings were being released as movies, I was excited. At school, it was considered nerdy reading these books – now all of a sudden they were cool! My enthusiasm was short-lived – dying completely when I subjected myself to above-mentioned movies. After my imagination and creativity had spun realistic other-worlds, it was impossible to come to terms with the high-tech special effects of the movies. A technological feat, no doubt, but nothing compared to what I had created in my head. 
 
I just hope and pray that the media never gets hold of C.S. Lewis’ Cosmic Trilogy (now that’s something!).  I was shocked to hear that they were thinking of creating a movie of Tolkien’s Silmarillion, but I think that fell through (too complex and probably not in demand for popular consumption). There are some instances where technology just cannot outdo imagination.
 
Jul 17
2009

Ode to my beautiful VEHICLE

Posted by Catz in Untagged 

Catz
I was always adamant that I would never waste money on buying an expensive car. In my eyes, my 1982 model Mercedez Benz 200 was perfectly sufficient to cater for all my travelling requirements. In fact, I always believed that I made a huge mistake when I sold my previous car, a 1979 model Toyota Corolla.
 
That was before I moved away from the coast and experienced the roads – and weather – of the Highveld! That was also before I got a promotion which included a very nice car allowance…
 
The old Merc is a real gentleman’s car – it very softly glides along the road, a bit like a boat, especially since the suspension went. The central locking also stopped working long, long ago, but I’m very fond of the car. However, a while back, the driver’s window winder decided to die. While driving, the window would slowly wind down of its own accord. Every time that the gust of frosty winter wind became unbearable, it would be necessary to grab hold of the window and pull it up manually. Imagine – minus 8 degrees Celsius, icy frost on glass, bare winter hands gripping and pulling slippery aforementioned frozen glass… drive for 30 seconds, repeat.  
 
A number of years ago, the air conditioner died. No – the gas did not run out – the mechanism literally died. Kaput. Together with this, the fan stopped functioning. That’s fine while driving on a coastal road – wind down the window and let the fresh sea air in. However, it is not fine when the window cannot wind down and the car has been roasting in the Highveld summer sun for a number of hours. Climb in – BURN, suffocate, no air conditioner, no FAN, window cannot wind down… push it down the bit it allows, stop the car and look around to see which potential thieves have noticed me pulling up the window before optimistically locking the door…
 
And then the steering lock died. Completely. I was stranded inside aforementioned boiling car, without fan, without window that can open, and with a jammed steering lock. It took a mechanic 2 hours to dismantle the mechanism and physically saw through the bar jamming the steering wheel with a grinding machine. He commented that Merc’s have the most effective steering locks, but that they are the most difficult to disable if they malfunction. In the process, he accidentally cut through the radio’s antennae wires, so the radio was dead as well. The ignition is elegantly held in place with a metal cable tie that tends to come loose once in a while...
 
The cooling system is also definitely not well. I have already replaced a water pump (twice, I think), but the engine’s fan just does not want to work. As a result, when driving and boiling in the stiflingly hot car without an air conditioner, or even a fan, and without the luxury of a radio to distract me, periodically retrieving the ignition from the floor while trying to change gears with a broken gear lever and trying not to let my foot slip on the accelerator pedal that fell off (did I mention that?), I watch in alarm how the temperature gauge climbs (at least that works – the petrol gauge died years ago) and eventually have to pull off and let the car cool down…
 
Well, all these events, together with the promotion with the lovely car allowance, helped me to change my mind and buy a vehicle! My oh my – everyone says that the novelty of a new vehicle dies within the first week or so. Not the case with me! It has been more than a year and I still get a thrill when I click the immobiliser and climb high up into my metallic charcoal double-cab with the huge bull bar and roll bar and mags, click a button to automatically lock all the doors, set the temperature where I want it and flip a CD into the player! Maybe I’m getting older, but I don’t fancy roughing it vehicularly any longer!
Jul 16
2009

Don't be so STUBBORN!

Posted by Catz in Untagged 

Catz
I am seeing once more how stubbornness is destroying lives. And I am left helpless on the side-lines, trying to see if there is any way to salvage the situation. And I will probably be very unpopular because of the decisions I may have to make.
 
If you have read my previous two posts, you will probably know that I am talking about the situation with my parents and my sister. In short, my forty year old sister has borderline personality disorder and was/is heavily addicted to prescription medication – mainly pain killers, tranquilisers and sleeping tablets. She lost her job about a year ago and has been living without treatment with my parents since then.
 
The situation came to a breaking point over the past two months (read here and here if you are interested – I do not wish to repeat the story) and we went down to try and help. They are 1 300kms from where I live and work, so it is not easy to pop over and see how things are going. Miraculously, we managed to get my sister into a private clinic for rehabilitation, but her medical aid only covered this for 3 weeks. With the severity of her problem, we knew she would have to have a lot of follow up treatment and support over a number of years.
 
Now, you may wonder what stubbornness has to do with the above. In short, my parents suffer from this affliction – I’m not sure if stubbornness describes it best, but it appears in combination with laziness or apathy. Or perhaps they just do not see the seriousness of problems? They are simply not prepared to acknowledge that there is a problem. They are like ostriches who believe that if they ignore it, it will disappear on its own. And they cannot use money as an excuse for lack of action, since they are quite well off. 
 
My sister was discharged from the clinic a week ago and since then everything started to unravel. I spoke to her yesterday and she was almost incoherent. My parents’ home is not a safe place for a drug addict since they are also addicted to pain killers and tranquilisers (I wish I could do something unspeakable to the specific doctor that introduced these drugs into our household and caused such long term destruction). As a result, my sister is constantly surrounded by temptation. Everyone made it clear to my parents that my sister would have to go into a care institution for a year to 18 months after her rehabilitation, but they are not even taking here to her psychiatrist! She is once more living like a recluse in her bedroom. She has no friends, no work, no self esteem, a serious psychiatric disorder and a house full of uncontrolled prescription drugs – a recipe for disaster and nobody is doing anything!
 
I spoke to my sister’s psychologist earlier. He is also deeply concerned. He, together with a social worker, will be seeing my sister at 13h00. They want to recommend that my sister is a danger to herself and her situation and the environment in which she is represents a danger to her. They have to treat her as though she is capable of making decisions for herself, but she is evidently not. I will extend that to my parents, in fact. They are also lying in bed all day, skipping important doctors’ appointments and not caring for themselves. I asked the psychologist if the social worker has any authority to enforce their recommendation, but someone closely involved or a family member (e.g. sister *sigh*) will have to make a statement in order to take legal action and make decisions for her – in other words, have her declared incompetent (if that is the correct legal term?). 
 
He has warned me that it can become ugly. My father is incredibly proud and likes to be in control, but he is 71 years old and in need of help himself. My parents are being stubborn and selfish by not allowing us to help and not listening to advice. After I spoke to my sister’s psychologist, I phoned my mother to hear how things are going and according to her, everything is wonderful and my sister is so much better. In other words, once more my parents are lying to me in order to prevent me from taking action to help them!
 
What must I do? If I make the decision to take legal action to be allowed to help (my parents would say interfere), I will cause my parents a lot of heart ache and damange my relationship with them. However, I cannot leave my sister to die – in fact, while she was in the private clinic I promised her that I would help her not to fall back into her old lifestyle. My eldest sister in England will also be up in arms, but she is not here to deal with the problems. And what must I do about my parents? They are too stubborn to accept the help which they so urgently need. 
 
Oh dear. My father has just phoned me as well to reassure me how well things are going. He sounds so earnest and concerned that I do not worry. However, as much as I wish to be reassured, I have seen the situation and cannot stop worrying. I will have to rely on the eyes of the psychologist and social worker since I cannot be there myself – I have to work and cannot take indefinite leave, and I definitely cannot afford to lose my job!

Parents, don't do this to your children when you become older.
Jul 06
2009

The suffering caused by IGNORANCE

Posted by Catz in Untagged 

Catz
I have been very, very quiet over the last few weeks. The reason why, is because I have just experienced some of the most difficult weeks in my life. I have been exposed to a kind of horror that has left me feeling helpless and drained, but yet with hope.
 
Where to start? Definitely not at the beginning, because then I would have to fill you in on a good number of years. Perhaps let me start at what prompted me to write my last post on 4 June – my mother landed up in a coma due to an accidental Lithium overdose, caused partly by my sister’s ignorance. In my previous post, I was extremely angry with her and – with good cause – my husband and I wanted to travel down and have her certified and institutionalized due to her psychotic behaviour over the last number of decades and the potentially tragic outcome of her last escapade. 
 
What I encountered on arrival at my parents’ home had me reeling. My parents looked like survivors (barely) of a concentration camp. My mother had been out of hospital for over a week, but no one was doing anything to help her or my father, who had totally given up on life, the final straw being the incident with my mother and the stress caused by living with my sister. They had not eaten for ages and had not been able to bath. On our way down to them (about 1300kms from where we live), my father phoned to let us know that my mother had fallen (again) and dislocated her shoulder. I could not believe that my 40 year old, unemployed sister could live in the same house as them and do absolutely nothing to help them, until I saw the condition in which she was. She has displayed psychotic tendencies since childhood and had subsequently become heavily addicted to over-the-counter and prescription medication. She was at breaking point.  My parents were exhausted and stressed and could not think for themselves, much less my sister. 
 
To make a long story short, we managed to persuade my parents and my sister that it would be in everyone’s interest for her to go into a psychiatric hospital for withdrawal and treatment. This was easier said than done, but then the real work started. After these past few weeks, I’m confident that I’ll be able to manage a hotel with ease! Every day we made sure that my parents had at least 3 – 4 meals, starting with coffee and rusks at 7am, breakfast at 9am, tea times, lunch and supper, with vegetables each day and anything we could think of to help them get stronger. I tried to bath my mother. Believe me; it is more difficult to bath an underweight 67-year-old woman with arthritis than it would seem at first! Later, a chair in the shower proved to work much better. Then it was a struggle to persuade my mother to keep her physiotherapist appointments and do her exercises! Every day was a struggle and we fell asleep exhausted each night.
 
Parents, please do your children a favour and allow them to help when it is necessary! Initially my parents were so stubborn and refused to admit that they could not care for themselves. However, after my mother fell again during our visit, my father seemed to realise that we were not going to leave them to die in peace.  We arranged for a full-time carer who now cooks and looks after them. They do not want to consider selling their home and buying a unit in a retirement village yet. I can understand that they want to make sure my sister is well and provided for and I have promised my sister to help her to never fall back into the state in which she was. I am pleased to say that she does realise that the hard work lies with her and I can only give support, not make decisions for her.
 
I must admit that my parents looked like different people when we left. At least they had gained weight and my father is able to drive once more. My parents seem to have hope again. They realise that I phone the hospital, psychiatrist, psychologist and carer and even follow up on my mother's pysiotherapy sessions, so they know they are not alone in dealing with this situation. My sister is coming along very well and is getting excited about her future for the first time in a long time. She has borderline personality disorder and displays psychotic behaviour with delusions from time to time. She is going to need long term help – in fact, it is a miracle she has got this far in her life to begin with. I cannot realise why nobody did anything to help her with her condition up till now. My parents probably had their own concerns and did not realise at that time that there was something seriously wrong with her. In addition, the psychiatric facilities in that part of South Africa are almost non-existent. It is still unsure what my sister’s long term requirements will be, but she will need active support and other people around her who can help her regain her sense of worth.   
 
Anyway, the journey into a new era in my parents’ lives as well as in my sister’s life has begun. It is a shock getting back to work and discovering that life has gone on in our absence. I know that I will need to go down soon again to help with whatever arrangements are required, but I give a sigh of relief that things are in motion.
Jun 04
2009

I am ANGRY

Posted by Catz in Untagged 

Catz
I have been very quiet on MyDL recently – bet you thought I’d disappeared? In actual fact, my usually predictable, quiet, orderly life has been turned upside down and there is not much I can do about it – unless you have some words of wisdom?  
 
I do not wish to go into all the details, but in short, my Mother became very ill, ended up in intensive care in a coma and almost did not make it. This in itself is terrifying – what made it worse is that my parents live about 1300kms from me. What made it even worse is that my sister is a selfish, sick, mad, selfish (did I say that already?), immature, miserable good-for-nothing who cannot stand someone else getting attention, even her own parents. 
 
Aah, I can see you nodding knowingly and thinking that I’m exaggerating - every family has its black sheep - but I am not exaggerating. In fact, we are driving down next Friday to have her certified and institutionalized. She is to blame that my Mother almost died. She systematically overfed her Lithium, a drug my Mother was prescribed to treat bi-polar disorder. Dear sister thought if she gave her more than the prescribed dose, she’d feel better sooner! Lithium is extremely dangerous since the effective dose is close to the toxic dose. One cannot even change one’s diet when taking Lithium since any changes to salt levels, etc., can cause toxicity which can be fatal. 
 
And no, my sister is not a 5 year old who does not know better. She is almost 40 years old and has a Masters degree. However, she is jobless (having resigned (again), claiming that someone at work was bullying her (again)). She has caused our whole family so much pain and grief over the years. I should probably be sorry for her since she has a problem – she is a psychopath. She has absolutely no concept of empathy and the whole world must revolve around her constantly. However, she has overstepped the mark now. 
 
Right – I’m not going to air any more of my sordid family laundry. Rather, to the point – I have a big problem. After the above rant, you will probably laugh it off as minor, but this is very important for me. As I said, we are driving down to sort things out shortly, but someone must look after our cats. In an earlier post, I wrote about my Social Anxiety Disorder. As a result of this, I do not have any friends, merely people I know. I have 11 indoor cats who must be fed for over a week. They are my life and my children – they are my family and my friends. However, I do not know anyone who can look after them. There is no cattery anywhere near here and anyway, my cats are not used to people since they only ever see me and my husband. Our house is cat proofed and they have never been outside, so I can’t (and won’t) just get someone to dump food outside for them daily. Anyway, some of them are on special diets and eat in separate rooms.
 
Now I am sitting here trying to get the guts together to phone our vet’s assistant and offer her R2 000 to come in and feed my cats for nine days. I feel awkward since I only ever see her when I buy cat food, but she is the only person I know who loves and understands cats and I know I can trust her. I am so, so bad at speaking to people, but I have to ask her – there is no one else. Oh dear. I just hope she agrees.
May 08
2009

The Pros and Cons of ANAL RETENTION

Posted by Catz in Untagged 

Catz
Did you know that the phrase “anally retentive” is derived from Freudian psychology? Apparently, it relates to a phase in infanthood which he called the anal stage.

More commonly, though, when people use the phrase “anally retentive”, they are referring to the kind of people who pay so much attention to detail that they start irritating those around them.
 
I somehow think that this refers to the kind of person I am, especially when it comes to language. Of course there are always things like typos and lack of concentration that can explain obvious mistakes, but I feel like getting ill when I read blatantly bad grammar and spelling (although, as per Murphy’s Law, I will probably make a stupid grammar mistake in this post and you’ll all laugh at me!).
 
In support of my suspicion that I am anally retentive, I will present you with the following example, which I am sure was irritating for the poor person concerned. English is not my husband’s first language. When we met, we spoke English for a few hours until I begged him for us rather to communicate in Afrikaans since it was just becoming too painful. Besides, I’m bilingual, so it was easier for me.
 
Anyway, he sometimes fails to grasp the finer nuances of English (and Afrikaans) grammar, so yesterday evening, I spent about 30 minutes saying words and asking him to tell me what kind of word it is – noun, pronoun, verb, adjective, adverb and so forth. I then went over to phrases (subject or object) and then slotted in a bit of etymology, making him figure out the roots of easy words like “retroactive”, “insomnia”, “generator”, “automobile”, etc. I also pointed out that etymology is the study of the origin of words, not the study of insects, which is called entomology – easy to remember the difference since it contains an “n”, same as the word “insect”. Fascinating stuff!
 
I was alarmed to see that his eyes were glazing over and realized that I must REALLY be boring him. I probably have the same effect on colleagues at work who ask my advice about something. OK – so this is definitely the con of anal retention. People can find you boring.
 
However, there is a real pro to this as well. Earlier this morning, I got a telephone call from my dear other half, asking if I would please have a “quick glance” at an important email that he had to distribute. YES PLEASE!!!! There is nothing I like more than fixing documents. I took this mass of co-joined sentences and ripped it apart, shuffling the facts like puzzle pieces and slotting everything into its meaningful place, clearly defined by bullet points. Aaah, how beautiful! 
 
Fortunately my work involves quite a lot of document and presentation compilation, so I get to exercise my anal retention on a weekly basis. However, I think the job I would enjoy most of all on earth would be that of an editor!
May 07
2009

CONSIDER or not – the Autogenic Relaxation Technique?

Posted by Catz in Untagged 

Catz
Once more the Internet has left me with my mouth hanging open at the wealth of information available on every topic under the sun!
 
Yesterday I stumbled onto the topic of the autogenic relaxation technique while reading up on ways to overcome fear of flying. If you’ve read my article about Social Anxiety Disorder, you will realize that my fear of flying is debilitating – in fact, it is the cause that I have not seen my family for a number of years. I REALLY need to see them and must somehow make a plan. Since my irrational phobia always sounds so pathetic, even to my own ears, I was very surprised to discover that there are actually people here on MyDL who understand!
 
Anyway, I digress. What I learnt is quite interesting and seems to make sense to me. I’ll try as best to explain how I understand it. I did not kept a record of the sites that I browsed, although the ubiquitous Wikipedia helped me understand more about how the autonomic nervous system works. If you’re interested in more detail, just go to Google.
 
Now, I’m going to try not to sound boring and scientific, but this is how I understand the autonomic nervous system. It mainly functions subconsciously. It consists of two subsystems, the parasympathetic nervous system and sympathetic nervous system. What makes this relevant is that the sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the “fight or flight” response, which is exactly what kicks into overdrive when I am faced with a situation that may be entirely relaxing for someone else, including something like flying. However, here I learnt something extremely fascinating and new to me – the other part of the autonomic nervous system, the parasympathetic nervous system, causes a "rest and digest" (just got to love that phrase!) response, which is basically the opposite effect of the “fight or flight” response. (Tolerance, please - this is a very simplified explanation.)
 
The autogenic technique teaches one how to influence the autonomic nervous system at a more conscious level so that one can control the activity of the “fight or flight” and “rest and digest” reactions to a greater degree. This is not some weird spiritual or mystical exercise, but a psycho-physiological exercise – you use your mind to train your body. The word “autogenic” basically means something that is generated by yourself – in this case, you are using visual imagery as well as body awareness to reduce stress. This is a well known, acknowledged technique, originally developed by the German psychiatrist Johannes Schultz in 1932. 
 
There seem to be many variations of the technique, but in short, it involves the following. You should make yourself comfortable and try to get into a relaxed state with your eyes closed. Then imagine that your arms and legs are heavy and relaxed – you must not just think this, you must concentrate on actually experiencing the weight and relaxation of your arms and legs. Use your imagination – imagine that you are a rag doll or that your arms and legs are covered in lead, for example (whatever works for you), to actually experience this feeling. 
 
After you have mastered this, imagine comfortable warmth in your arms and legs. Your brain must really TALK to your body, which triggers expansion of the blood vessels in the circulatory system – and your arms and legs start to get warm! At this point, things start to sound rather far fetched, but think of it this way: it is so easy to increase your heart beat by thinking of something scary. Do it now – quickly imagine something shocking or scary or even something that makes you really angry and you will feel your pulse increase instantly (unless you really have absolutely NO imagination!). By doing this, you are using your brain to make your body react – you’re stimulating your sympathetic nervous system, making your pulse increase (amongst other things). If it is so easy to stimulate your “fight or flight” reaction, why shouldn’t it be possible to stimulate your “rest and digest” reaction? (By the way, the sympathetic nervous system is also responsible for sexual arousal. Here it is easy to cause a very visible (more so with men) reaction of using one’s brain to make one’s body react – you guys out there, think about some kinky things that turn you on and see what happens more often than not….)
 
Anyway, back to the process. Next you focus on your heartbeat, then your breathing, then experiencing a warm feeling in your solar plexus, where many nerves come together below your rib cage – something like your “nerve center”. Then focus on a cool feeling of your forehead.
 
By the way, apparently it takes quite a lot of exercise until you can really do this properly and get into a deep, relaxed self-regulating state. However, once you have practiced this, you can then introduce suggestions or affirmations to deal with specific problems you are experiencing, including fear. Some examples – “I am strong and confident while relaxing in the airplane”. “I am in control and calm while checking in my luggage.” You imagine yourself being exactly what you are describing. Get the idea?   
 
Just a quick glance at the Internet indicates that this is actually a very effective, widely used technique. My description above is how I understand it, but read up a bit more if you think what I’ve described sounds fishy. 
 
Does anyone have any experience of the autogenic technique? Would you recommend this as a behavioural technique to assist in the control of irrational fear and phobia? (Yes, I know – always consult the medical practitioner first – but what are your opinions? I’ll consider a disclaimer on all comments!)

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