Thursday, April 24, 2008

Of Happy Madmen & Radio

(Hubby, unbeknownst to me until I was set to publish this, has already posted his thoughts on this -- but I'm not about to scrap my work! Plus, he has his own comments; and they're really only on part of the article.)

This past weekend, on our way back home from Wisconsin, hubby and I bought a stack of vintage Radio Guide issues. This is the story of just one article...

Happy Madmen, by Lorraine Thomas is the "sensitive" 1938 "educational" piece published in the weekending October 15, 1938 issue of Radio Guide on the how the "modern miracle" of radio is working wonders for America's 400,000 mentally ill.

It begins:
You don't say "insane asylum" any more. The polite and proper term is "state institution." But call it what you like, the fact remains that there are 400,000 or more patients in America's 397 homes for the mentally ill.
So first Lorraine tells us what's polite and proper -- then, with, "call it what you like," she dismisses any need to do so.
Four hundred thousand men and women, some violently insane, some merely teetering on the thin straight line between sanity and the lack of it -- but all of them hopelessly caged, locked up, barred from all but the remotest contact with "the world outside"! Four hundred thousand people living out their lives in rigid routine, living by a clock that has no meaning for them, marking off the endless days on a calendar that has no hope -- that's the picture.
(Wow. There's some compassion!)
But perhaps I shouldn't have said that. It used to be true, but things have changed a little.
Yup, because of radio.


One wonders if "a little" change means anything to people so hopeless, to people who find no meaning in clocks...

But the article asserts radio does wonders.

Lorraine does not.

She tosses out phrases like "mysteriously unbalanced people," and expresses such contempt I, at least, have to wonder if she is capable of any compassion at all. But then maybe that's why she was sent to survey the (as she says) self-described nuts on their radio program favorites. Perhaps cold and removed helps one facilitate surveys. Or maybe I'm to believe that the "several hundred patients" she interviewed drove her to her demeanor.

Some notable quotes:

"Most of the patients like Gracie Allen, all right -- but not because they feel any strange bonds of sympathy or understanding. They think she's nuts, and very, very funny."

"Very few patients like Amos 'n' Andy, and even fewer like Major Bowes. According to this critical census, Amos 'n' Andy are monotonous, dull, old stuff. As for Major Bowes, he's insincere, he's mean to the amateurs, he's not polite about ringing the gong, and he always says the same old thing in the same old way. 'All right, all right.'"

Radio Guide's Survey Of Sanitaria Reveals That People Who Are Mentally Distressed Favor The Following Programs:

Burns and Allen (CBS), H.V. Kaltenborn (CBS), and Guy Lombardo's Music (CBS).

I guess we know what the "C" in CBS is for.

While this article is supposed to extol the virtues of radio programming for the mentally ill, some of the stories seem more than a bit misplaced. Even crazily so.

While the story of Mrs. Diggs has its, "Oh, aren't the crazy charming!" value, it leads to a different place...

Take a look at Mrs. Diggs. Mrs. Diggs is a Negro, a man, who considers himself the most beautiful white woman in the world. He says he has letters from President Roosevelt, Will Hayes, Lindbergh and Joe Louis telling him so. What's more, he's the mother of all the white people in the world. "Mrs. Diggs" has other delusions too. At times he thinks he's Henry Ford, Rockefeller, and Edison rolled into one. He always insists he's the richest person in the world. About radio he was at first a bit dubious, until I pointed to a receiving set. Then he smiled knowingly, and acknowledged, "Oh, yes, the radio. I invented it."

You mightn't think such a delusion could be very dangerous, but that's where you are wrong. One can never tell about such things. There's another patient in this same hospital who had an even more fantastic delusion. This patient knew a lot more abut the radio than the case just quoted. This man was a radio fan. He wrote letters applying for a job to all the Hollywood radio stations, and once he even won an amateur contest. One morning, while listening to KHJ, he heard one of the popular songs of that period, "There's a Ring Around the Moon." To most of us, that song is no more important than any other -- but to Mr. Radiofan "There's a Ring Around the Moon" carried a very special and important message. Mr. Radiofan considered himself uniquely gifted person, and one of his secret talents was putting rings around the moon. Therefore KHJ's broadcast of the song could mean only one thing: they were sending out an SOS to him -- KHJ needed him to come down and teach them how to put a ring around the moon. Mr. Radiofan lost no time. He ran up a $27 taxi-bill going from Santa Ana to Los Angeles. Asking the taxi-driver to wait, he went into the studio. Soon talking with the secretary of the man in charge of employment, he asked for his job -- the job that was waiting for him. Impatient at the questions he was asked, he suddenly took out a knife, opened it, raised his arm and stared menacingly at the terror-stricken girl. She screamed, an announcer ran into the room -- and was stabbed in the throat. Before the maniac was finally overpowered, another bystander's scalp and clothing were in bloody shreds, and the announcer had bled to death. The real tragedy in this story is that the boy's death was so unnecessary: Mr. Radiofan was a paroled patient from a midwestern institution.
I think the real tragedy is Lorraine's article.

PS Searches returned nothing on such a murder at KHJ; but I did find this 1931 KHJ aircheck of Bing Crosby.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Allison Bottke On Setting Boundaries With Your Adult Children

An interview with Allison Bottke, author of Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children: Six Steps to Hope and Healing for Struggling Parents.

The book comes out of your own personal experience with your son. Please tell us about that.

ALLISON: For years I really thought I was helping my son. I wanted him to have the things I never had growing up. I love my son, and I didn’t want him to hurt—but sometimes pain is a natural result of the choices we make. For a long time I didn’t understand the part I was playing in the ongoing drama that had become my son’s life—I didn’t understand that I didn’t have to live in constant chaos and crisis because of his choices. When I chose to stop the insanity and start living a life of hope and healing my life changed. It’s a feeling I want other struggling parents and grandparents to experience. I want other parents to know that change is possible when we choose to stop the destructive cycle of enabling. And we can stop it. I know, because I’ve done it.

How can we determine whether we are helping versus enabling our children?

ALLISON: Helping is doing something for someone that he is not capable of doing himself.

Enabling is doing for someone things that he could and should be doing himself.

An enabler is a person who recognizes that a negative circumstance is occurring on a regular basis and yet continues to enable the person with the problem to persist with his detrimental behaviors. Simply, enabling creates an atmosphere in which our adult children can comfortably continue their unacceptable behavior.

You say there are two separate yet intrinsically combined things going on when we look at the pathology of enabling our adult children, what are those two things?

ALLISON: #1. We have the issue of the dysfunctional child himself—the product of our enabling. Most often, we are dealing with adult children who have no concept of healthy boundaries as they pertain to their parents and grandparents. Many are dealing with addictions to alcohol, drugs, sex, pornography, gambling, and more. Some of these children are involved in illegal activity, while others have been in and out of jail numerous times. Some are abusive to us. Some have jobs while others do not, most have extreme financial challenges. Others are still living at home, and some have even moved their spouse or “significant other” into their parents’ home with them. Many have been in and out of treatment centers, most often at the urging (and cost) of their parents. While we cannot change the behavior of our adult children, we can change how we respond to their actions and to their choices. We can, and must, begin to establish healthy boundaries and rules.

#2. Then, we have the issue of our own personal health and growth (or lack thereof.) For many of us, we have spent years taking care of, bailing out, coming to the rescue, making excuses for, crying over, praying for, and otherwise focusing an unhealthy amount of time and attention on this adult child, that we have neglected our own mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health. Many of us have neglected other family members as well, as the adult child has taken so much of our energy. Some of us are now experiencing severe financial ramifications from having enabled our adult child. Others are finding their marriage falling apart as tempers flair and situations spiral out of control. What is it inside us that makes us respond in such a way—that makes us enable our adult children?

You say the main problem with dysfunctional adult children isn’t the choice they make or don’t make – but something else entirely. If their choices aren’t the main problem, what is?

ALLISON: Our biggest problem isn’t about our adult child’s inability to wake up when their alarm clock rings, or their inability to keep a schedule, or their inability to hold down a job or pay their bills. It’s not about their drug use or alcohol addictions. It’s not about the mess they’re making of their life. The main problem is about the part we’re playing in stepping in to soften the blow of the consequences that come from the choices they make. The main problem is us. Instead of praying to God to stop the pain, remove the difficulty, or change the life of our adult child, we must rise up and pray for something entirely different. We must pray for the courage to look deep in our own heart and soul—pray for the strength to begin a journey that quite possibly may change our own life—and pray for the wisdom to make new choices in our own life.

What does this book accomplish that other books on the topic do not?

ALLISON: Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children will empower readers with a no holds barred six step S.A.N.I.T.Y. format, stating in black and white the parental behaviors that must STOP, along with identifying new habits to implement if change is to occur. Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children will identify the false conceptions parents believe about themselves and their adult children and will counter each lie of captivity with the truth that setting boundaries is not only a good thing—but a vital part of hope and healing. True stories from other enabling parents and grandparents are woven throughout the chapters. Discussions with and observations from licensed psychologists and psychiatrists are also included.

Is Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children applicable to readers who many not share the same faith journey as you?

ALLISON: Absolutely. As a Christian, I write from that perspective. I personally believe that a focus on God or on your Higher Power is vital in this healing process. However, the book is written in such a way as to appeal to people of all beliefs and denominations.

You say that enabling our children is “a nationwide epidemic with catastrophic consequences.” What has led you to believe this?

ALLISON: There is clearly an epidemic of major proportion plaguing our nation today. This has become obvious to me as I travel the country sharing my God Allows U-Turns testimony and outreach. Seldom does a week go by when I am not approached by someone in deep pain concerning their adult child. It’s not just audience members in conflict with this troubling issue, but fellow authors, speakers and entertainers, some quite well known, who are living in the throes of familial discord concerning out-of-control adult children. It’s happening all over the country to people from all walks of life.

I encourage your readers to tell me what they think about Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children. I really do want to hear reader feedback. They can reach me at: Please be sure to visit our web site at where they will find additional resources for helping them on their road to S.A.N.I.T.Y. Remember to tell a friend in need and help save a life!

Friday, April 04, 2008

High-Five Fridays #12

1) Gracie's re-started her cult again.

These next few may seem to be a "downer", but that's only the case if you don't feel like respecting the honesty and truths which they bring...

2) Bunny's sobering post, Food Is Not A Bad Thing:
Have you ever stood by and watched someone die and not done a damn thing to stop it?

I have. It makes you feel like shit. I won't do that again.
3) Sarah Lynn's honesty regarding her marital communication requires some thought... There's no quote to grab here because it's a process, you know; so read it.

4) Suzy writes What You Just Can't See, which contains an honest truth regarding special needs parenting:
I have been through this grief before. I know that it will fade, and when it does I will feel whole again. And because I know that you can’t mother this way, or live fully this way- I bury it within me.
5) And a high-five to all of you who get your Mother's Day gift free this year -- with Buy One For You, Get One For Mom! We're giving away free copies of Suburban Diva: From The Real Side Of The Picket Fence, by Tracey Henry with purchase. So go get 'em and give 'em!

Want to give high-fives too?
Find out how to give your High-Five Fridays here!

The purpose of this meme is to give high-fives to 5 people, posts, blogs and/or websites you've admired during the week. I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 5 high-fives on Friday. Trackbacks, pings, linky widgets, comment links accepted!

Visiting fellow High-Fivers is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your High-Fives in others comments (please note if NWS).

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Autism & Missed Household Income

Via Tom McMahon and his tip of the hat to Future Pundit, I found this press release from the University of Rochester Medical Center, titled Households with kids with autism likely to earn less, which discusses how out–of-pocket expenses combined with missed income opportunity burden families with autism spectrum disorder (ASD):
When the demographic and educational characteristics of families with children with ASD were analyzed, their average actual reported annual income fell short of the average predicted income by more than $6,200.

“That’s a staggering 14 percent loss,” Montes said. “We presume this may be strongly related to a lack of appropriate community-based support resources and services. This shortage can ultimately overwhelm parents, sometimes forcing them to sacrifice work and income opportunities for the sake of balancing their unique family obligations.”

This echoes findings from another nationally representative study Montes led in 2006: Fathers of autistic children were 9 percent less likely to report full-time employment compared to fathers of the non-autistic population.

“The ripple effect, of course, is that this may be impoverishing some ASD-affected families in the long term. Less savings and less investment make it more difficult to retire comfortably or send children to college,” Montes said.
Personal experience tells me the $6,200 figure is on the low side; but then perhaps it has something to do with the ages of the children involved (kindergarten-age through eighth grade), the age at which the children have been diagnosed, and the which end of the ASD contium they are on.

Allie is now 18, and her official diagnosis of Aspergers didn't occur until just under 4 years ago. Prior to that, for about 4 years, PDD was a diagnosis, along with ADD, learning disabilities and a few other 'incidentals'. Before that? A mish-mosh of possibilities -- and that after years of mud-slinging at me, of one variety or another; something I'll have to get to here eventually. At her age too, we have to consider the 'newness' of the awareness and understanding in autism.

Contrary to what some may believe, higher-functioning children can have the least support, both in terms of financial assistance (when funds are low, the monies are saved for 'the worst') and institutional understanding. Not to mention the affects of special needs kids on marriages, families (household and extended), and the diminished social lives of parents, who suffer fools and even larger blights.

All of this affects the ability to work and be there for the child.

I remember, with a shudder, the number of day care centers who asked me to withdraw my child from their center, the number of babysitters to call me at work to tell me they were quitting -- and on their way to drop my daughter off at work with me.

I remember the job interviews, where my working through lunch to leave early was just fine; but by week three they were no longer tolerant. (Plus several other hideous employers which are much longer stories in and of themselves.)

I also remember my shrinking world of support. Friends and family don't have any idea what you are going through; they tire of the out-bursts from the child and the exhaustion of the parent. It's not that they shun, but that they can't grasp the situation. They find it unpleasant and you find them avoiding you, however unconscious the acts. You forgive them their ignorance, but still, your world shrinks and with that, you lose more bits of yourself...

These are but a few such examples of how your career and work are affected by parenting a child on the autism spectrum; seems like a heck of a lot more than six grand, or 14%.

But at least someone is trying to look into the issue.


When I was in grade school, I used to walk to & from school through a woods -- my magical woods.

I knew every tree, fallen and standing; how to read every dappled patch of sunlight for both time and weather; what every animal and bird cry meant, as well as how to follow their tracks and stand back far and quiet enough to avoid upsetting them so I could watch. All the self-taught knowledge of a girl who spent her time there. (Yes, this woods also contains the creek I wrote about.)

Every day spent in those woods was magical, but one day, I stumbled into something I'd never seen before or since. None of the nature books I lugged home on my horse/bike had even prepared me to conceive of such a thing -- not that book reading ever could. Not even photos or video can, really.

I must have about 7 or 8, and wandering about as usual in the woods. I turned down a path, heading for a spot to just sit in when suddenly I was in a flurry of orange & black fluttering petal-wings which caressed and kissed...

Monarch butterflies.

They were not panicked, startled or thrashing; they were welcoming.

Hundreds of them, swirling about in the air. And hundreds more covering the trees and brush, like a living, breathing wall, before me.

I don't know how long I stood there. Each minute was as long as eternity -- and yet not long enough.

I don't recall wondering what it was, what it meant or what the monarchs might be doing; I just remember being filled with a sense of awe -- and blessed to be part of whatever the celebration was. And I knew it was a celebration. They told me so.

I don't think I've ever felt so foreign yet accepted as that afternoon under the dancing, snowing, flutter-falling butterflies.

Later I learned this was part of the great monarch migration. While that knowledge made sense, it neither diminished the spectacle I had been graciously allowed to witness, nor added to it. It simply was, and I had been, for whatever reason, allowed to have the communion, the experience.

I don't recall ever speaking to anyone of it. I'm not sure why not... Perhaps it was equal parts keeping a secret gift that had been given to my heart & the fact that no one really wanted to hear the loner-girl's (continual) stories about the woods.

But I've never forgotten that feeling -- though I'd gladly have it again, just to be sure it has not faded over time.

So reading that Butterflies Are On The Brink, that the intense deforestation in Mexico could ruin the mysterious & marvelous 3,000-mile migration of the monarch butterfly, my heart is saddened today.
"To lose something like this migration is to diminish all of us," said Chip Taylor, KU professor of ecology and evolutionary biology. "It's so truly spectacular, one of the awe-inspiring phenomena that nature presents to us. There is no way to describe the sight of 25 million monarchs per acre -- or the sensation of standing in a snowstorm of orange as the butterflies cascade off the fir trees."
Twenty-five million? Even having seen my hundreds (possibly thousands -- who could or would stop to count?), I cannot really imagine it...

At the link you can see more images; but I swear to you, they do not do the monarchs justice.

Today, my wish for you is to be able to witness such a thing.

My wish for the world is that the monarch survive so that our children & future generations may too.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

An Evening At The Auspie Improv

Today, April 2, is World Autism Day. (The United Nations designated April 2 World Autism Day in November 2007.) While there are plenty of "Autism experts" willing to discuss Autism, I just wanted to share a personal story...

Along with the anime obsession, my eldest, Allie (who has Aspergers), is a huge theatre nut. First it was musicals, but it's slowly broadening to encompass all performing arts (as well as set, tech and costume etc.). She's been auditioning and frustrated with not getting any roles, which is rather like most kids in pursuit of the stage; but it's more difficult for her to face rejection in general, and constructive criticism is less than 'constructive' for, as you can imagine, when it comes to acting as emotions and the subtleties of acting them, she's a bit handicapped.

Hubby and I have often made jokes, amongst ourselves, that we should open Austism Theatre simply for the complexities and comedy involved in the very idea. (This prior to Autism the Musical.)

It's not that we don't support her (or others), or believe it "impossible"; but as there are so many occasions in daily life where she's lost in translation that the very notion of acting seems preposterous -- to me, anyway. And wouldn't it be fun to see what an audience does before a performing troupe of autistic actors? We both imagine some sort of Emperor's New Clothes, where critics call it "avant-garde" because they don't know what else to say when they don't get it.

Anyway, Allie joined an improv club at school, and last Saturday, participated in an improv show.

Sitting in the audience, I was anxious. I've spent years noting just who does ad doesn't interact with her (from day care on up, I've witnessed the social ostracization), and this was a social setting -- with a performance. I felt her vulnerability, even if Allie was unaware of it.

Plus, the leaders of the group or club were not teachers, but college kids. What did they know of her special situation, her special needs? With laws the way they are, I'm sure these college kids didn't have access to her file or anything...

But here we were, at show time.

In the first 'round', Allie's team went first in a game of "freeze". Allie didn't tag herself in. But as the evening continued, she jumped in. At times, she was clearly nervous. And awkward. But then she seemed to settle in.

It was a good thing too, because during the second half, she got a doozy of an assignment.

This game was called Party Quirks, and just as on Who's Line Is It Anyway?, Allie and two others on her team were guests with specific quirks that the fourth member had to guess. The first guest was a pyromaniac, the second a human devolving into a monkey. Allie's quirk? She eats seahorses.

Now, unless you've got a fish tank with seahorses, or a bowl of plastic seahorses, what on earth are you supposed to do?

But Allie did a good job. As the third to enter 'the party', she immediately asked where the seafood was. A nice clue.

The 'party host' went on to correctly guess the first two guests, leaving only Allie. He says something about her being a shark. Nope. So Allie, desperate to give him some other clue, yelps out, "I eat horse babies!"

The whole joint cracked-up with laughter.

I felt a bit uncomfortable. It's difficult as the mom who has always heard unkind snickers from others who don't know her, to suddenly hear people laughing at her & the situation for all the right reasons. I laughed along, marveling at the feeling.

Later, in one of the last performances, Allie's team did the old "move genre" game, just like on Who's Line. They act out a skit, and change acting to suit the new movie genre given to them.

It was sufficiently silly, with Allie a bit less vocal and less animated than some of the other performers -- but still in it. Then another movie genre is given, "B Movie".

The other actors remain still, unsure how to act "B Movie" -- but Allie immediately puts her pointer fingers up, one on each side of her head, like antennae, and starts to buzz around the other performers. She thought they meant Bee Movie.

Everyone was laughing -- even the performers. One of the college kids leading the show (in an umpire's uniform, of course), had to get off his chair and exit stage right he was laughing so hard.

I was laughing and crying.

And hubby's got it on video tape to prove it -- audio at least.

One of the rules in improv is that you can't ask for clarification, or say, "I don't know what that is," or "How do I do that?" Allie knew that, so she did what she could -- be the bee in Bee Movie. Again, while the 'regular' performers stood, unsure of what to do (until they themselves were laughing).

Again, a flood of mixed emotions from me, Mom.

How absurd, how wonderful, how delightful to have my daughter the Auspie be the intended comic, worthy of applause and approval! How charming that her misunderstanding could be accepted in the spirit of improv!

How strange to be joining others (non-family, non-friends) in laughing at Allie! How odd it felt, to not bristle, to not want to grab people by the throat and shame them for their cruel laughter (laughter she often believes to be genuine laughter among friends).

How cathartic to laugh away the pain of the normal non-social acceptance of her.

I laughed til I cried; cried while I laughed.

How mind-snapping to be so proud of Allie in that moment -- & realize that often even I underestimate her. Sometimes my momma worry gets in the way.

After the performance, several of the 'cool theatre kids' ran up to Allie and applauded her performance and humor. "'I eat horse babies,' is the best line ever!" one said. And it was all I could do not to cry some more.