Don’t call us, we’ll call you

May 25, 2009

Book Review

the curious

I’ve decided to offer my first book recommendation.  While I was visiting Neal’s family in Alabama, I picked up this book and read it in just a day or two.  It’s a very quick read, and an incredibly unique one at that.  The narrator is a 15-year-old boy with Asperger syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism.  I have done a fair amount of research on Asperger and autism in my efforts to help my grandfather understand one of our relatives, but it was quite interesting to get a narrator not really describing what the condition is (in fact, he never even names the condition), but rather how he experiences it.

So if you don’t know much about Asperger, or you want to glimpse it from a non-textbook perspective, give this a read.  I ended up feeling that the author (Mark Haddon) did quite a masterful job at creating a world that, though not emotion-less, was somewhat emotionally ambiguous.  It probably won’t leave you happy, but it won’t really leave you sad either.

*Disclaimer: the f-word is used a number of times, along with a few other curse words.


May 20, 2009

“Grandma make it better”

I’ve been back in the transcribing business for the last few days, trying to finish these interviews so I can get on to the data analysis.  Today I’ve been revisiting my 19 July interview with Bryant Carter.* He was nearing 40 and in and out of jail/prison his whole life.  He was one of my favorites because of his rich and honest way of describing his childhood, even recreating conversations, voices from his past.  I am particularly struck by the story of his strong, black grandmother.  Could a better person have ever been born?

Here’s part of her story, in Bryant’s own words:

My grandmother raised me and mostly practically the whole family, rest in peace.  She deceased now, but that’s who we looked for, towards, you know. At the time, my mother wasn’t . . . she was young and then on top of that, my mother had a addiction.  So uh, growing up, it was just like my grandmother took responsibility of me and my sister, my older sister.  Then, you know, as time went on, my grandmother took on all of us, including my cousins and you know.

How we was raised, we wasn’t really into father. The father figure . . . cause my grandmother was my mother and my father.  She took care of all the grandchildren.  She had 13 kids of her own.  So it was just mainly my grandmother, you know, just trying to carry, you know, the whole . . .

I mean, she know what we do out there, but in her eyes, we couldn’t do no wrong.  You understand me, she didn’t see us in no type of way.  My grandmother understood and she talked to us. She talked to the way.  Grandma asks us, she tell us where.  She did things that nobody ever do. She understood, you know.  And she sat down and talked to us and she knew that, you know what I’m saying, we was goin the wrong way.  She asks why, you know, explain to her what did she do wrong. You know, but it wadn’t nothing she did.  She raised us good, it wadn’t nothing she did but she, uh, it was just. There was too many of us, she couldn’t.  She did everything in the world she could do, but it was out of control, you know what I mean.  But hey, you gotta house full, you know.  You saying about 15, 15 to 20 of us in the house, you know.  All of us didn’t live there but we might as well have lived there. Because that’s all we, that’s all we knew. Aunties and uncles, some of ’em was good parents and stuff, but then they didn’t know how to raise no child like my grandmother raise a child. They raised us with, with belts and whoopins, you understand me. She did that every now and then, you know, “go out there and get me a switch.”  But we had to dang near, you understand me, we had to dang near, uh, we hadda, I mean, it’s unquestionable what we had to do just to make her whoop us with a switch.

Grandma make it better. Mama couldn’t come close to it.  Mama gonna whoop you.  That’s who we loved, my grandmother.  She was there when nobody else ain’t there, you know.  Hard times. Like now, she, you know what I’m saying, she . . . “Grandma, I need you, I’m in trouble,” you know.  “I’m gonna pray, babe.”  “I need that, I need praying.”  She uh, made sure.  She’d say, I ain’t got it, but I’m gonna try to get it.  You know, she had it, you know.  And she did whatever she had to do to get us outta here.  And she did what she had to do to try to keep us outta here, outta trouble.  You know what I mean, it was her life.  She used it.  To her last breath, she used it, you know. And um, I gotta say, my grandmother, she was special, she really was.  She was a special person and she is.  I, I, you know, I was tellin you, there’s no wrong we done in her eyes.  She know we messed up.  She know we did wrong.  “Stand up and try it again,” that’s her word, you know. “You tired yet?”  “Yeah, I’m tired, momma.”  “Well, you say you’re tired, you know what I mean, let’s try it again.”  My mama, she messed up.  Before you even mess up again you know, momma always say, “You know you’re gonna mess up again.  You know you’re gonna do that.”  That wadn’t my grandmama, you know.  That was a special love that she had for us, I guess.  Yeah, that, that was a special love my grandmother had.  Yeah, it, there wasn’t no looking back, with each and everyone of us.

Watching her, you know what I mean, she seen three generations pass in front of her before she died in ’03, you know. That’s love; that was a blessing.

*Name changed, as always.

May 16, 2009

Conference Report…and Religiosity

AFCPE conf

This picture is actually from 2 conferences ago, but since this is my go-to outfit for any presentation, I was wearing the exact same thing at the Pacific Sociological Association conference in April (although I’m sorry to admit that my hair looked much worse this time around; even my mom agreed something was just not right about it!).

So I presented about my incarcerated men’s expectations after leaving jail way back on April 10, which means I’ve taken my sweet time in recapping the event.  But I’m happy to say that it was a great success!  This was, by far, the most nervous/frustrated/crazed I’ve ever been about a presentation (for proof, see here, here, and here) because I just wasn’t sure my findings were coming together at all.  Because I didn’t have anyone to really bounce ideas off of this time around, I kept thinking, “Maybe I’m using this variable all wrong! Maybe I’m interpreting this totally inappropriately!”  You get the idea…

I was particularly worried about my religiosity variable (I pray daily, My faith impacts many of my decisions, etc.).  A little background: there is a lot of contention in the corrections literature regarding the impact of faith and religion.  Some studies argue that it is absolutely essential in the rehabilitation process, while others find it irrelevant.  Because I study at BYU, I think I’m much more sensitized to how people will perceive me discussing religion than if I worked at a secular university (there is very good reason for this in the family studies field that I won’t go into at the moment).  So although my findings were clear and robust, with high religiosity being the best predictor of men’s plans to avoid risky behaviors when they reentered society, I spoke almost tentatively, not wanting to seem as if I was focusing on religiosity purely because it confirms my own religious beliefs (the dreaded confirmation bias and all).

Because of this hesitancy, I was extremely gratified by some of the comments from other researchers in the audience.  One academic specifically commented on the fact that religiosity can be a very tricky variable to use in the type of analysis I was doing, but that I handled it very well.  Even more interesting, though, was my discussant’s comments.  He basically called me on my tentativity (how would you actually say that?) and said that my findings were compelling and I should be more straightforward and confident about them.

It reminded me of something very important: despite what some may say or believe, faith does not undercut scientific inquiry.  In my own life, I have clearly seen faith give direction, enlightenment, and vitality to my academic work.  There’s nothing tentative about that.

May 13, 2009

Can YOU teach an old girl new tricks (in the kitchen)?

Filed under: Personal — Tags: , , , , — llcall @ 6:11 pm

Cooking is fun! Look how happy I am! (Perhaps this old girl just needs a chef's hat?!)

Cooking has been on my mind a lot lately.  My aunt Helen is compiling a family cookbook for our Horton reunion this summer.  Some of the people I blog-stalk have posted delicious-sounding recipes.  Neal has expressed interest in me going into the kitchen and opening the refrigerator more than once per month.  I have truly, deeply, honestly intended to become more domesticated during this Spring Break of mine.

So I’ve started looking up recipes online, getting out some old meal planning documents I’ve acquired at some enrichment meeting or other, even checking into some free sources for cooking lessons (see here).  But then I am always hit with this undeniable truth…I hate cooking!  I don’t want to go into the kitchen!

I think I’m seeking some feedback here because 1) I’m not an extremely lazy person and 2) I actually like to learn new things.  But for the life of me, I cannot get interested in cooking/baking/food preparation of any kind.  I would rather clean the toilet, mow the lawn, or wash the car (none of which I actually want to do either).

So if you were in my shoes, how would you start?  Has anyone who reads this little blog ever hated cooking and been reformed?  And if you’re of a more therapeutic mindset, can you diagnose this extreme aversion (try to avoid being too Freudian)?

May 11, 2009

Have you ever thought of starting an anonymous blog?

For those times when you want to say something, but you don’t want anyone you know to think that you are talking about or responding to them.  For times when you want to talk about sad things, but you don’t want people to think that those sad things define your life.

I’ve been having a pretty fabulous Spring term…mainly because INSTEAD of a Spring term, I’m having a 4-month-long Spring break!!  Oh I’ll get to doing some work eventually, just not for the foreseeable future.  I’m basically lovin’ life, watching Cary Grant movies

Charade, one of my faves!

Charade, one of my faves!

dying my hair for the first time ever

This is probably not the best shot from my photo shoot with Auds, but I dig it for some reason.

This is probably not the best shot from my photo shoot with Auds, but I dig it for some reason.

and reading books for fun

Ok, so this isn't really a fun read, but for this one-time history major, it is quite a fascinating gem.

Ok, so this isn't really a fun read, but for this one-time history major, it is quite a fascinating gem.

Having offered proof enough of my good humor, can I also say that today was not a happy day?  I’ve never wanted to avoid the words “mother” and “mom” more than I do right now and it’s impossible.  Freaking impossible!!

I’m sure part of this raw feeling is spurred by my visit to the doctor this week.  A visit in which he spent an hour trying to convince me that all my symptoms (most of which were congestion-related) were pregnancy symptoms and was even referring to “the pregnancy.”  Until, of course, the pregnancy test came back negative and he decided it was an upper respiratory infection.

I think I’ll wrap it up there, hoping that I didn’t say anything that would have been more appropriately said anonymously.

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