Don’t call us, we’ll call you

August 31, 2012


Filed under: Incarceration research — Tags: , , — llcall @ 11:20 pm

I was so naive about how long these revisions would take me. At 9:30 this morning I said, “I’m not doing anything else until I finish this paper!” I thought two, three, four hours max. Instead, I looked at the clock at 8:00 pm and realized I hadn’t eaten all day! (I can be kind of a workaholic.)

But I finished the revisions! And I’m very happy with how they turned out. Now I just have to write a letter to the reviewers describing my changes . . . after dinner.


August 30, 2012

Thankful(ly revising)

I spent most of the day working on my revise and resubmit. (Thankfully, my neck is much improved, though still rather achy). I planned to just bang it out yesterday, but that didn’t happen — too many interruptions. And then I thought I would finish today, but Addison definitely had other plans. It is hard to stay focused with so many distractions going on around me. Neal is always telling me that he has no idea how I even force myself to do it — for no pay, no glory, no particular purpose except to finish things I’ve started.

But even though it was rather slow-going today (sometimes it seems harder to revise a paper than it does to write it in the first place, you know?), I was really filled with such a sense of excitement and gratitude. I love my work. Sometimes I love having done my work more than I love doing it, but still, I am blessed to have found such a true passion in life. Something that I could read, write, study, ponder FOREVER and still find new questions I want to ask and problems I want to solve.

And this paper, this really is my baby. Even more than my thesis. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my thesis too (even though at the moment it is little more than a vague memory that I can’t even remember the title of), but this paper is a practitioner-focused piece, which has always been my priority. I want the work I do to impact the way incarcerated people live, work, learn, and are treated. Not in an eventual, trickle-down sort of way, but now, tomorrow, YESTERDAY! And this piece will do that far more than my thesis. I have already been able to discuss the ideas and recommendations with dozens of financial educators around the country who are beginning to work with incarcerated individuals. Even though academic articles in general are read by about 1.6 people, this particular journal has a wider readership because it maintains its focus on helping practitioners do their jobs better.

So even though about 50 times today I thought, WHY am I doing this? Why am I  going back and forth to my computer and wracking my brain about financial capability theory, only to be interrupted every three seconds by getting Addison water and putting her on the potty and listening to her bang on the door while calling out for me? (It was Neal’s care time, but I guess she was bored with him.), I am thankful that I get to do this work. Thankful that I found what I love, that I continue to love what I chose, that I still have the mental capacity to do what is required, and that I can get my laptop to lay sideways just so and still keep my neck at rest while I work. Everyone should be so lucky.

August 28, 2012

A child’s prayer

Filed under: Family — Tags: , , — llcall @ 12:36 pm

As I briefly mentioned before (in the midst of the Neal-Lindsay grudge match), Addison isn’t too keen on bedtime prayers. Or prayer in general. She’s doing better — she is no longer crawling up the walls halfway through — but more often than not she still gets time-out threats before the prayer is over. The only thing she does really well is her enthusiastic AMEN! finishes (though it would be better if they were always at the end instead of halfway through any prayer she deems too long).

My niece Evie, on the other hand, is a master prayer, even at two and a half. She’s so persistent in showing her gratitude for the things around her that she actually opens her eyes mid-prayer to look around for more things to be thankful for, which led to one of my favorite moments of late:

Evie: Heavenly Father, thankful for the food. Thankful for our family. [Looks around] Mom, what’s that?

Rish: [whispering] Grammy’s water bottle.

Evie: Please bless Grammy’s water bottle be filled with water.

Ha! I’m pretty sure this is one of those stories that I’m gonna be telling when she’s a teenager.

We sure as heck loved spending time with my cutie nieces earlier this month. Just in time — before a little nephew comes to crash all the girly fun!

August 27, 2012

A neck sequel, shorter

My mom called me from work to ask how my neck was doing. “Pretty good,” I said, surprising even myself. But then I remembered I had already taken two pain pills, so I probably shouldn’t have been so surprised.

My neck is definitely much improved from early last week, but unfortunately, it’s still causing me a ton of pain. I’m trying not to be disagreeable, which last night meant that instead of moaning to subtly try and wake Neal, I quietly left the room, grabbed a bag of Cheetos, and turned on Masterpiece Classic (I’m watching Little Dorrit for the first time — anyone seen it?). A bag of Cheetos at 1:00am (well after bedtime teeth-brushing) is about rock bottom for me — that’s how seriously I take dental hygiene.

I just can’t seem to get a handle on this new neck situation. It’s different, opposite in many ways. Left side instead of right. Throbbing/pulsing every 4-5 seconds versus a more dull, consistent ache. Feels better after sleep whereas usually my pain has been worst in the morning. Feels worse after walking.

There’s a few upsides though, for Neal:

  1. We’re finally at the problem-solving stage. (Ever since I taught Marriage Enhancement and read Fighting for Your Marriage, I have been adamant about separating problem discussion from problem solution, i.e. Neal, a problem-solving junkie, has to demonstrate that he has listened to and sympathized with my discussion of the problem before he can start throwing out potential solutions or experimenting with his own brand of treatment.)
  2. I’m much more tolerant of Addison watching TV than I usually am (as evidenced by her watching Mulan FIVE times last week).
  3. I have been willingly taking pain meds and sleeping pills, which is always a dream come true for Neal.

And for me:

  1. Masterpiece Classic guilt-free!
  2. Having a legitimate reason not to leave the house.
  3. Sympathy kisses from Addison — I definitely don’t take those for granted!

August 23, 2012

A neck story, ridiculously long

Filed under: Chronic illness, Personal — Tags: , , , , , , — llcall @ 9:25 pm

Monday, August 20

  • 2:00pm Tweaked while getting out of bed; try to keep moving
  • 2:30 Twinge of pain getting worse
  • 3:00 Movement = torturous
  • 3:30 TENS unit
  • 3:50 Rub
  • 3:53 Change positions, every 3.5 minutes
  • 4:20 Ice
  • 5:00 TENS unit
  • 5:30 Can’t move down, up, or to the right
  • 5:35 Warm shower, rub
  • 6:00 Ice
  • 6:30 Rub
  • 7:00 Rub some more
  • 7:03 Keep changing positions
  • 7:30 Fresh squeezed lemonade (unrelated to my neck, but my mom tends to make me my favorite drink when I’m really down and out)
  •  8:00 Repeat the foregoing all evening and half the night

Tuesday, August 21

  • 9:20am Rub, moan, sigh
  • 10:00 Walk around the block, slightly faster than tortoise-pace
  • 10:20 Lay down, moan
  • 10:23 Change positions
  • 10:30 Mope about missing last pool party of the summer
  • 11:00 Moan, rub
  • 11:30 Rub, moan
  • 12:00pm Ice
  • 12:30 Warm shower, rub
  • 1:00 Lay down
  • 1:03 Change positions
  • 1:10 And again
  • 2:00 Make appointment for therapeutic massage and medical evaluation
  • 3:00 Rub
  • 3:30 TENS unit
  • 4:00 Protect neck from Addison’s exuberance
  • 4:10 Put “Mulan” on to avoid excessive interaction and movement
  • 6:00 Rub, moan
  • 6:30 Breathe easier as pain begins to subside
  • 10:30 Fall asleep at a reasonable hour

Wednesday, August 22

  • 1:30am Jerk up to see what Neal is yelling about
  • 1:31 Realize that Neal is sleep-talking (this is not unusual)
  • 1:32 Realize that every nerve in my neck is screaming in pain from hasty movement
  • 2:00 Moan loudly enough to wake up Neal, as punishment
  • 2:10 Realize that moaning is fruitless, sigh
  • 9:20 Wake up  in extreme pain
  • 10:00 Walk, rub
  • 10:30 Put on neck brace to immobilize
  • 11:00 Wander aimlessly, thinking about pain
  • 11:30 Rub with numbing gel
  • 12:00pm Warm shower, rub
  • 12:30 Count the minutes until massage
  • 1:00 Mope about missing second last pool party of the summer
  • 2:30 Medical tests of muscle inflammation and symmetry
  • 3:00 Deep, deep tissue massage, FANTASTIC!
  • 4:00 Cry (inwardly) because massage is over
  • 4:10 Results of testing: left side of C1-C7 = jacked up
  • 4:30 Praise massage therapist, enjoy renewed range of motion
  • 5:00 Mope about renewed pain, expense of treatment
  • 5:10 Rub
  • 5:30 Lay down
  • 5:33 Change positions
  • 6:00 Persuaded to dig into my secret stash and take narcotic pain reliever (prescription, of course)
  • 6:30 “I feel funny . . . Why is this happening to me?”
  • 6:33 Remember I just took an opiate
  • 7:00 Feel awesome, move my neck up, down, to the right just to prove I can
  • 7:05 Cook eggs, toast bread in the oven
  • 7:10 Call Neal down to show him I used the oven, proclaim myself “Superwoman”
  • 8:00 Sit up without pain
  • 10:00 Narcotics wearing off
  • 10:30 Rub
  • 11:00 Lay down
  • 11:03 Change positions
  • 11:30 And again
  • 12:00am Rub
  • 12:05 Take sleeping pills
  • 12:30 Get up, take more opiates
  • 1:00 Blog about taking opiates, remind myself to stop taking opiates
  • 1:30 Go back to bed
  • 2:00 Minor hallucinations, or else Neal was repeatedly whispering my name just to mess with me

Thursday, 23 August

  • 9:20am Pretend I’m still asleep to avoid breakfast duty
  • 9:30 Rub
  • 10:00 Read to Addison
  • 10:20 Lay down, moan
  • 10:23 Change positions
  • 10:30 Think about taking opiates again (disregard 1:00am note to self)
  • 11:00 Rub
  • 11:30 Ice

Laying it all out like that, I realize I haven’t changed a diaper in four days. Definitely a record.

I also realize how far I’ve come since that fateful day in April 2006 when my neck first got irreparably jacked up.

This is where said neck-jacking-up occurred, on a highway in Tennessee. Despite this being arguably the most pathetic picture of me ever taken (I’m collecting my belongings in a boot for crying out loud! — a very cute boot, I should add, given to me by Rach, of course), I love it. It just cracks me up to think about. Did someone (Neal or his dad) just snap a photo? Or did I kneel down and pose, saying, Hey, someone should definitely take a picture of me since I just got out of the hospital, haven’t showered in a couple of days, have vomited multiple times in the last several hours — actually there’s probably some in my hair, better get a close-up too! Sounds implausible, which is probably why it’s pretty close to what actually happened.

These last few days have made me remember those days when my whole life revolved around my neck. Braces and medicine and physical therapy and more medicine and x-rays and MRIs and no sleep and rubbing, always rubbing. And later a surgery or two, or seven.

In the spring of 2008, I had what was supposed to be my last surgical procedure for a long time. They were going to go in and burn some nerve branches, and they said at my young age there was a good possibility that this would be a permanent fix. But in just six months I was both pregnant and in pain. There wasn’t much to be done because most of the treatment I had received was not compatible with pregnancy; my doctor told me I had permanent arthritis in my cervical spine and I needed to start thinking in terms of liveable pain. (Now I know liveable pain, but still, with each new ailment, it is hard to accept that you are now at the liveable-pain stage: there is no cure waiting in the wings to be discovered.) He said I should come back when it was either no longer liveable or I was no longer pregnant.

A couple of months after that pregnancy didn’t take, I met with the other (more aggressive) doctor in the practice and he had his own treatment plan. So in February 2009, I had what I now know was a fantastically successful surgery. After the initial period of recovery, I had such good pain relief that I started to wonder if my neck might have really healed (mostly), rather than just be temporarily numb.

Then just a few months ago, in May, I was finally feeling better after nearly three months of overwhelming fatigue when I started to notice some tell-tale signs. Rubbing. Tossing and turning. Trying to get the pillow in just the right position. Headaches. More rubbing. I had thought if the damaged nerves were regenerating it would be a gradual process, but in under two weeks I hit “the point.” I was pushing Addison in the stroller on my way into Home Depot and thought, Wow, my neck doesn’t even hurt right now. That’s always a tipping point — when I start to notice the times my neck doesn’t hurt rather than when it does. I could tell that without intervention I would be in unliveable pain territory pretty quickly. I read Relief at Last to overview the latest research since I had last been on the hunt for pain relief. I started walking five or six days a week. I got back in touch with my Utah doctor to discuss the feasibility of having a repeat procedure — he was ready to go this summer on my trip up there, but I opted to try gentler (and cheaper) measures first with the possibility of surgery next winter or spring. He kind of thinks me and my “gentler measures” are lame, but since he gave me 3+ years of a better quality of life than I could have expected, I can’t fault him too much.

And then Monday happened, a minor “tweak,” and I’ve been darn near unliveable pain ever since. I barely get up, even though it is at least as painful to lay down. I wince at Addison’s every exuberant hug, even though she’s trying to help: “I kiss you neck, then feel BETTER!” I would kick myself for not just having had the surgery this summer except that my current pain is on the OPPOSITE SIDE of my usual pain. How maddening is that, right?! The doctor I saw yesterday said the muscles on my left side are seriously inflamed and asymmetrical (pulling too far left — as in, muscle pull should be no more than 50% one way or the other, and my C5 left side reading was at 758%. [Even though I don’t totally understand all the tests, it is good to be able to tell Neal that I am 758% less capable of changing diapers than I was four days ago]). The poor test results were clear enough that the doctor wanted to get some immediate x-rays to see if/how my spine was being affected. But of course, while he was talking and showing me graphs and diagrams, all I could see was dollar signs: $$$$.

What is the moral of this ridiculously long neck story? My neck may be as jacked-up as ever despite tens of thousands of dollars worth of tests and treatments? Opiates would be my best friends if not for that pesky addiction thing? I should get an extension on my revise and resubmit since non-neck-related thoughts have no place in my brain right now? I need another pair of cute (and serviceable) boots?

No, the moral is this: One day (hopefully soon) I will look back on this post and be grateful that my whole life doesn’t always revolve around my neck.

(At least that better be the moral.)

August 21, 2012

Brain dumping again

We’re back from ALL the vacations now. We have been for a week, and oh, what a week it has been! Activity days; Primary Board dinner; teaching Relief Society (women’s organization at church); Neal teaching Elders’ Quorum (men’s organization at church); cleaning out an infestation of moths, ants, and spiders in our kitchen; watching the Olympics and Project Runway episodes I missed. (Clearly, it’s a tough life with DVR!)

Not many people will appreciate these pics of the clean kitchen, but I will always treasure them!

Last week, I told myself, was for catching up on all those mundane tasks I let slide for a few weeks: bills and insurance forms and budget updates and laundry (coincidentally, all things I could work on while watching said DVR). But this week, I’m supposed to be back to hardcore work. I’ve got a revise and resubmit on one of my academic papers due September 1. I’m trying to help my parents get their rental house rented by September 1. I’m planning a one-day family reunion on September 1. (Is it just me or is that too many things on September 1?) Then I start teaching my online class on September 10.

Neal and I worked out a new caregiving schedule yesterday, on account of a difference of opinion (perhaps a Parenting Ref post waiting to happen, Neal?) about how to handle “naptime” (always in quotes; there’s no actual napping going on), and I thought I was ready to hit the ground running today:

  1. Read my scriptures
  2. Go for 20-minute walk
  3. Morning hour with Addison
  4. Start on article revisions

Instead it went more like:

  1. Roll out of bed and lay down in kitchen while coaxing Addison to eat oatmeal
  2. Get back in bed
  3. Surf the internet
  4. Start new book
  5. Surf the internet some more
  6. Blog

You’re all caught up now.

But really, the reason why this day has been far less than lackluster is that it was preceded by a rough night of sweating (no AC at my parents’ house — we’ve moved downstairs for any bit of relief from the recent 98-degree temps!), itching, and thinking. And what I realized in all that thinking is that it has been almost two months since I wrote something really pour-my-heart-out meaningful and truly self-expressive. That’s a long, freaking time for an over-sharer like me!

At the end of June, I devoted an entire day to only writing — I didn’t even open Facebook, dang it. I was committed. It was going so well that I spent most of the next day writing as well, and then the next. I probably wrote for a total of 30 hours in those three days. I wrote a preface to my therapy series, and then covered all of couples counseling, and the round of therapy the summer before that. And it felt so freaking good. I think I finally figured out how to talk about this thing that I kept thinking about but ultimately shying away from. I got to a place of almost-clarity about how to write more of my personal history, something that I feel quite compelled to do pretty much immediately.

[This is a sidenote to be sure, but I keep worrying that the reason I feel so compelled to write some things down now, ranging from my experiences in therapy to my spiritual journey, is that I’m going to lose my mind, either via accident or early onset dementia or something. That sounds ridiculous I know, but when I think about the worst thing that could happen, it is that. Death — oh man, I’m ready for that. Total paralysis — I have already planned out what I would do to pass the time, ranging from Masterpiece Theatre to writing a book entirely by blinking one eye (watch the Diving Bell and the Butterfly if that confuses you). But losing my mental capacity, if I knew that was happening to me (as some people close to me have experienced), I just can’t decide how I would find meaning in that life. Now of course, the chances of that happening seem remote in my early 30s, but I can’t help worrying that this compulsion to record now is a preparation of sorts. It’s happened that way before, from small things like finishing my stats final just before the appendectomy/bed rest knocked me right out, to larger things that I felt like I needed to do just before my health came crashing down during college. Okay, I think that tangent is over, but raise your hand if you think I’m way too morbid . . . ]

Even though I rationally knew that the end of June was the last of that sort of intensive writing I would have time to do for a few months, I think my psyche did not get the memo because that seems to be what it wants to do . . . at 2:00 am. I’m getting the message. I need to plan another day of writing sometime soon (but clearly not before September 1). In the meantime, I’m going to use the rest of this post to say my piece about another thing that has been plaguing me in the middle of the night.


I have written before about my love/hate relationship with politics. But friends, there’s no love right now. I can’t wait for this election to be OVER. I’ve long accepted that politicians bother me — partly because they seem to become the worst possible versions of themselves under the strain of so much campaigning. But the thing that is bothering me most this time around is not the politicians but the citizenry, my friends/family. I see so much name-calling going on, and until this last couple of days I had no idea how much it was bothering me. I don’t think any of the specific people I’m thinking of read this blog, but even if they do, I’m going to give my little plea for dropping the name-calling (hopefully, without offending anyone). Mitt the Twit, Obama bin Laden, and so many more I’ve seen just in the last few days on a cursory glance through my Facebook news feed — how are these helpful? Here I am, an independent swing voter who is still undecided in this particular election — just exactly the sort of person that people who feel strongly about their politics should be trying to reach, no? And I honestly care about what my friends feel passionately about; I want to hear about how they’ve arrived at their decisions, what they view as decisive issues and why. I have clicked on a tremendous number of links over the last several months, exploring what people I know and don’t know think is worth talking about in the political discourse. But attach a derogatory name to someone and it just loses me.

It’s good to write this out as a manifesto for myself as well. I’ve certainly been guilty of name-calling at times, both toward public figures and personal connections. But when I do it, rather than more clearly identify what it is that bothers me about this particular person or their actions, the fault is inevitably with me. I’m taking the easy way out rather than acknowledging someone’s more complex nature and respecting their humanity. If you catch me doing this, on here or in person, I hope you remind me that I can be better than that.


Also, I had a dream about Ryan Seacrest last night. So you can see why the world seems to be turned upside down for me right now!

August 6, 2012

We’re still alive . . .

Filed under: Family, Personal — Tags: , — llcall @ 11:12 pm

If you read Neal’s blog, you already know that. (And if you don’t, get on that!) He’s chronicled a bit of our recent travels, jumping from reunion to reunion around Utah. I may write more about those later (spoiler alert: at one point during my time alone with Addison, I called Neal to tell him, “I AM DONE! I’m JUST DONE!”) but for now, we’re off to another reunion tomorrow morning.

First, some pictures from the Call reunion last week:

Who’s ready for vacation to be over?

(Of course, it’s telling that Neal had only arrived for vacation an hour earlier.)

That’s about where I think Addison hit her picture wall — she had to manually implant her smile.

Thank goodness she’s so cute, so I still loved her by the end of what was a crazy hard week of her acting out (if she got within a two-mile radius of a child, chances are she hit, kicked, or pushed said child) and pushing all my buttons.

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