Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Sound of One Hand Typing

I had my carpal tunnel release on Wednesday. My dad was gracious enough to pick me up at 6 a.m. and take me to the clinic. This allowed Melanie to get Eddie and Peter to school, Beegy to my mom’s, and herself to work. It was an outpatient surgery, and I was on my way back home before 10:30. Not bad. I had been told that I would have a choice as to whether or not I was put under, but apparently I misunderstood what exactly was meant by this. My choice was between being “sedated,” where I’m asleep through the surgery but able to breathe on my own, and being fully anesthetized, where they have to stick a tube down my throat to do my breathing for me. The choice was easy. I chose to be sedated. (Cue The Ramones.)

I was wheeled into the operating room around 7:30 a.m., give or take. I had the full hospital gown on, and it all seemed like a much bigger deal than I had anticipated. The anesthesiologist started asking me what I do, which led to me talking briefly about my dissertation. I quickly felt my head swimming and knew the conversation was just a ruse to distract me as he put me to sleep. I almost called him out on it, but I was gone too quickly. It’s kind of funny. I don’t quite remember waking up, but I vividly remember going to sleep. This is the opposite effect of my surgery in 2007. Then again, my surgery in 2007 was on my left foot instead of my right hand, so I guess I should expect quite opposite results. (Cue laugh track.)

After waking up, they made me stick around for an hour or so. My hand felt mildly sore but otherwise didn’t hurt, which was a pleasant surprise. I thought it might be whatever drugs they had me on at the time, but honestly, the pain has been minimal. I haven’t even been taking the pain pills they prescribed me. I rarely take pain pills I’m prescribed, because I rarely to never feel a need for them. I guess I’m lucky in that regard. Before releasing me, they gave me all the warnings about not making any big decisions over the next 24 hours, not eating too much for the next 12 hours, and not driving while on pain pills. They directed most of their warnings at my dad, as if he would be the one caring for me. They then wheeled me out to my dad’s car, as if I had just had a hysterectomy or something. Like I said, it all seemed very overblown considering what had happened. Even though I felt completely normal mentally and in my stomach long before I left the hospital, I followed their medical advice and had only soup for lunch, limiting my decision-making to choosing broccoli cheese over other flavors. Approximately 9 hours after surgery, I threw caution to the wind and ate a few tacos and other assorted items for dinner. No complications. (Cue applause.)

Since the day of my surgery, I have been taking things easy. They told me not to lift more than three pounds until I’m given explicit permission from the doctor at a follow-up appointment. I’m also supposed to keep my hand elevated as much as possible, which means I’m usually walking around with my hand raised as if I’m greeting everyone I see. I’m also supposed to ice my hand several times a day. For these reasons, I find reading and watching TV to be the best activities I can engage in. It’s been kind of nice. I’ve gotten online a little bit, but typing can be somewhat awkward because I’ve been mostly typing with my left hand. Sometimes I employ the ring finger on my right hand. This blog post is actually the first thing I’ve typed where I’m pretty much typing normally, using both hands and the “correct” fingering. I was told that I could probably resume typing within a couple of days if I felt up to it. I was leery that I would, but it actually doesn’t feel that bad. (Cue murmurs of surprise.)

As for my fingers themselves—you know, the ones that went dead back in June—they feel the same. Tingly and numb, exactly as they felt before the surgery. They say it can take months to regain sensation. I don’t know why it takes that long, but I’ll have to be patient. The doctor did say that it’s possible the surgery won’t actually help matters. That sure would suck. Of course, he also said that in extremely rare cases, surgery only makes it worse. Having had the surgery, part of me wonders if it makes any sense for me to do this to my left hand in another 10 days. My left hand has always felt so normal compared to my right hand that it almost seems insane to bother doing something to it. But I suppose it’ll stand a much better chance of fully recovering precisely because it’s not so bad. And that makes me as happy as a cute and cuddly puppy. (Cue swooning and shouts of “awwwwww!”)

I have photos. Yup, they gave me some internal pics of my wrist, both before and after slicing my transverse carpal ligament—or flexor retinaculum, for all you Latin buffs. In the first photo, you can see a kind of white film that stretches across the center of the frame (just above what appears to be something like the head of some nail clippers but which is actually a surgical instrument holding my wrist open). In the second photo, that white film—which is actually the ligament—has been severed. Enjoy!



Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Post What Precedes Surgery

In approximately 12 hours, I’ll undergo carpal tunnel surgery on my right hand. I thought I should type up a quick blog post before my right hand becomes temporarily unusable. I have some mild anxiety, though it’s not about the procedure itself. It’s the uncertainty of what to expect afterward. I’ve heard it can take at least a few weeks to begin using your hand again, but when I scheduled my surgery they told me I could be fine within a couple of days. That’s a big difference. Part of me feels this urgency to do everything I might possibly need or want to do online before I’m effectively one-handed. I had all these blog posts I thought about writing, but I simply haven’t had time. I’m now racking my brain, trying to determine what else needs to be done before it’s either impossible or too difficult to do it. So, yes, I’m experiencing apprehension, but it’s for lame reasons. It’s like when you go on a trip and you worry you’ll forget something important and not remember it until the very moment it’s too late. It’s a kind of looming unease. That’s what I’m feeling.

In almost entirely unrelated news, my gig as a stay-at-home dad (which is largely what I am at this moment in my life) has resulted in my spending a lot more time with Creegan. Initially, I had a hard time, but I think we’ve both gotten into the rhythm of it all. There have been numerous times when I’ve thought I quite enjoy what I’m doing and maybe it’s what I should’ve been doing all along. It’s not a very realistic thought, for about a thousand reasons—the fact that I’m really only alone with Beegy for 4.5 hours per day, the fact that I’m primarily taking care of only one child during that time rather than three, the fact that I’m not dealing with babies who are in constant need of attention, etc., etc., etc.—but the point is that things are going well enough for me to have such irrational thoughts from time to time. That’s good.

I’ve gotten into the habit of driving Melanie to work two or three times per week so I can have the car. This has enabled me to do things with Creegan that keep us both entertained and sane. But I’ve actually been surprised how much he resists it. He never wants to go places, even though we have fun once I can get him to go along. We’ve gone to the nearby mall, which has a carousel. We’ve gone to the library a few times. We’ve gone to parks and nearly been eaten alive by greedy geese who can’t get enough Wonder bread. We’ve gone grocery shopping (which isn’t fun, exactly, but it helps the time pass). Creegan has adjusted very well to his brothers being gone a good chunk of the time. I’m very grateful for that. It’s a bummer that after I have surgery, I probably won’t be able to drive for a little while. Our little outings will have to be put on hold. Beegy will probably be fine with that, but I worry about myself.

I thought I would briefly take a moment to share one of Beegy’s linguistic quirks. He’s had it for a long time, but I don’t think we’ve written it down anywhere, so this is my rectifying that. Creegan pretty much always uses the word “what” in place of “that,” at least in certain sentence structures. Although Beegy will correctly say “give me that car,” he will mistakenly say “give me the car what’s red.” Instead of saying “is that the game that Peter was playing?”, Beegy will say “is that the game what Peter was playing?” Rather than saying “Dad is reading a book that’s scary,” he’ll say “Dad is reading a book what’s scary.” You get the idea. I don’t know how this got started, but it’s been that way as long as I can remember. Eddie and Peter also had a linguistic quirk, but it’s greatly improved by now. It started with Eddie, and Peter simply followed suit. They would reverse “ask” and “tell.” Or, rather, I’m not sure that they even would use the word “ask” all that often. So, instead of saying “go ask Mom what we’re having for dinner,” they would say, “go tell Mom what we’re having for dinner.” Or if Melanie asked Eddie what the best part of his day was, Peter might chime in, “Tell me what the best part of my day was!”, when he really wanted Melanie to ask him the same question she had asked Eddie. You can see how this particular quirk can cause a lot of problems. Thankfully, I think it’s pretty much gone, although just a few days ago I heard Peter use the word “tell” when he clearly meant “ask.” So, who knows. I’ll have to tell Melanie if there are any other slip-ups what she’s aware of.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

People Making People

My 3-year-old asked today, “How do people make people?”

I’m all about being open and honest, but only in ways that can be understood or appreciated given the age of the person asking questions. My response was, “Well, mommies have stuff inside their bodies, and daddies have stuff inside their bodies, and it’s all super, super tiny, and when it’s inside a mommy’s body, it can start to grow and turn into a baby!”


How’d I do? For what it’s worth, he just kind of laughed at everything I said like it was all silly.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Feeling the Spirit

Introductory note: I often share my thoughts on spiritual and religious matters with an online Facebook group dedicated to discussions about and relevant to Mormonsim. It is a group to which I’m particularly attached. Meanwhile, my blog is often silent. I figured I might as well share some of my Facebook musings on this page. It will liven up my blog and also help me to retain more of the thoughts that I’m having. What follows is something I shared on Facebook today, modified ever so slightly.

What does “the Spirit” feel like?

Suppose you’re reading scriptures, and as you do, you begin to feel motivated toward goodness. A pleasant kind of stirring arises within you. You feel more inclined to love and do good. Are you feeling the Spirit?

I think many Mormons would say that if we feel those things while reading the scriptures, it is the Spirit. Yet if we feel those same things while listening to a rock song or watching a Hollywood movie, many of us would not immediately say that it’s the Spirit. Is that fair?

I had a friend, born and raised LDS, who once told me he had never “felt the Spirit” while reading scriptures. My initial reaction was to think, “Really?! You’ve never felt anything positive while reading the scriptures???”

My knee-jerk reaction was eye-opening to me. I realized that I was ready to interpret any positive emotional experience that takes place while reading the scriptures as a manifestation of the Spirit. This led me to wonder if our attributions of feeling the Spirit are based largely on context and not, or at least not as much as we typically think, on a particular quality of feeling. Yes, we associate the Spirit with positive feelings, but it’s the presence of positive feelings within a certain context that generally impels us to say, “That is the Spirit I feel!” I think of people who walk into a Church History site and report feeling the Spirit so strongly. I wonder if they really feel anything different from what they’d feel if they were to walk into a very quiet library or a place associated with importance and grandeur, such as the White House.

This probably sounds cynical. I don’t take it that way. I’m personally of the opinion that we need to close the gap we insist on seeing between what is spiritual and what is natural. I’m content to say that a person can and sometimes does feel the Spirit when listening to good music or visiting Yellowstone National Park or whatever. The more important question in my mind is what the implications of those feelings are. (Is Yellowstone National Park the only true and living national park on the face of the earth? Is Led Zeppelin “true”? The answer to the latter question, by the way, is yes.)

This is not to say that the Spirit cannot be discriminated from positive emotions in general. I’m glad that at least some people encourage us to tease the two apart, to learn to discriminate between them. And I myself have had experiences where what I attribute to the Spirit is something much more profound than “positive emotion.” I’ve felt a kind of electrical current running through my arms while giving a blessing. I’ve felt what I consider to be “pure intelligence” flowing into me, in a situation where something was made known to me in a way that didn’t seem emotionally based at all. Instead, it felt like something became obvious even though it wasn’t something I did deduce or could have deduced. It wasn’t even a feeling of certainty or confidence, it was something much more immediate and apparent than that—like looking out a window and seeing that it’s raining outside. It was just obvious, and nothing like a hunch or even a strongly held conviction. I’ve also felt what I consider to be the Spirit attend me as I’ve spoken at times, resting atop me as it were, and I’ve felt it physically depart at the very second I finished what I felt inspired to say.

But you’ll notice I’m able to describe the above experiences. Maybe not perfectly, but I’m not at a complete loss. They are familiar feelings and experiences—sensations of electricity, the state of something being obvious, etc.—just manifest in unusual ways. I don’t know if it’s good to insist that the Spirit is something entirely unfamiliar and unlike anything else. If it were, how would we even know what it is? How could it inspire us to do good if it had nothing in common with love and happiness and other positive emotions that aren’t necessarily manifestations of the Spirit? Or maybe it really is the case that any positive emotion we experience is a spiritual manifestation, and it’s just that sometimes it’s coming from the Spirit, and sometimes it’s simply the beauty of our own divine spirits percolating up through the flesh. I don’t know. Food for fodder.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Potpourri No. 39

Individually wrapped, single-serving portions o’ life…

Transition Complete
We’ve now been living in Utah for about two months. It has taken these two months to feel completely moved over. We got our Utah bank accounts, our kids have started school (see below), Melanie has a local job (also see below), our address is updated with everybody who matters, we have Utah voter cards, driver licenses, library cards, primary care physicians, etc. This week we put the finishing touches on our move by affixing a new set of Utah license plates to our vehicle. I think that was the last thing that needed to be done, and we’re now as Utahan as you can get. It’s almost as though we never left. It may seem silly, but seeing our car with Utah license plates really did feel like the icing on the cake (or the nail in the coffin, depending on how you look at it). It’s a bit surreal, and it really does make things feel more official. However, the thing I’m most excited about is probably the library cards. As I’ve said a few times before, Utah has a couple of great library systems (both city and county), and I feel so empowered to have a library card here. I kind of feel like I just inherited thousands of books. It’s awesome.

That’s What Friends Are For
In the last couple of weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to see some good friends that I haven’t seen in years. Last week, Chad (a great friend for about 16 years now) and his wife Crystal (also a wonderful person), along with their three sons (fine blokes, all of them), met up with Melanie (my beautiful bride) and me (that’s myself) and our three sons (delightful little tikes) at Liberty Park (Salt Lake City’s approximation of Central Park). They—that is, Chad and Crystal—even brought us Chinese food. Super nice and super yummy—that is, Chad and Crystal, and the Chinese food, respectively. These guys have been absolutely angelic with us in the past. They are kind and generous and sincere, and it’s humbling to have such wonderful people in my life. We had great and meaningful conversation, not just idle chit chat and whatever. What a treasure. I very much enjoyed my time and am glad I now live where I can see these people with relative ease. Then, this week, I saw one of my best buddies from high school, Jonathan (that’s the name of the friend, not the high school). It’s probably been seven years since I’ve seen Jonathan, but he’s a good guy. He also fed me good food. (How lucky am I?) He took me to Red Rock, a microbrewery that I’ve heretofore patronized only in his company. It was delicious. We caught up on each other’s life and then brainstormed all of our mutual acquaintances from high school to see who knew what about whom. More than one has died, one is in prison. It’s crazy. I was amazed how naturally profanity became a part of my vocabulary in Jonathan’s presence. It wasn’t purposeful, and it wasn’t his “bad influence” because I’ve been around other people who swear more than I do and it hasn’t affected me. It must just be conditioning from when I hung out with him in the past, when indeed I was a much more profane fellow. I’m just surprised that even though three-quarters of a decade have passed since I’ve talked with him, I would so effortlessly and non-consciously revert to old my old ways. But, you know, it was kind of nice, because it just didn’t matter. Friendships like that are hard to come by in these parts.

The Schooling Continues
The school year has started. Most days, I walk Eddie and Peter to school. Usually, Beegy comes with me. I think Eddie and Peter are adjusting fairly well, considering they are both rather shy and anxiety-prone. It’s hard to get much out of them about what happens at school, but I remain optimistic. Melanie, meanwhile, has started her job as a Kindergarten Teaching Assistant. Today was only the second day of normal school for her kindergarteners, but I think Melanie is quite happy. It feels good to her to be back in that environment, and the kids already adore her. She’s been told as much by at least a kid or two. It’s really great to see Melanie so happy with how things are going. Meanwhile, my schooling remains a somewhat nebulous notion. What the hell do I mean by that, you ask? I don’t know. It just seems not quite real, and it is not well-defined at this point how exactly I even relate to my PhD program. Not that my plans have changed. I’m still going to work on my dissertation, but I’m not officially enrolled as a student anymore. I guess it’s just such a change that it feels kind of bizarre. My reasons for not officially enrolling as a student are numerous, but the one that seals the deal is that I don’t have the money to pay for it. So, quite honestly, there isn’t much of an option. All that really matters, though, is that I’ll continue to work on my dissertation and then reapply to school before I need to defend. That should suffice. In the meantime, I’m spending my mornings with Beegy. I feel bad for the boy because he has lost his two brothers (and his mom for part of the day) to school and it’s a monumental change for him. On the first day of school, after we dropped Eddie and Peter off, Beegy began sobbing. It was a different kind of cry than I’ve usually seen from him, and it was clear that it was purely because it had hit him that his brothers were gone. It was heartbreaking. He’s adjusted pretty well since, but I’m no match for his brothers. And it’s hard to remain patient, sadly. I feel like I spend four hours of my day just staring at whatever Beegy is telling me to look at. I can’t divert my eyes for even a second without him snapping at me to keep watching this or looking at that. I feel like a robot, like I can’t even think my own thoughts for those four hours. Sigh. I need to figure something out.

My Hands, AKA The Living Dead
Two months in Utah means it’s also been two months of carpal tunnel. I had an EMG earlier this week, a procedure in which they hook your fingertips up to some machine that monitors the electro-activity in your nerves and then proceed to shock you with a cattle prod at various places on your arm. It actually wasn’t that bad, and the testing was done within a literally literal 10 minutes. The worst part was the hair-thin needles they had to poke into my arm (and neck) to “listen” to my muscle activity. (I used scare quotes, but it was a rather literal listening to, as it was a tiny microphone inserted into my skin that captured noise whenever I’d use my muscles.) The EMG doctor told me I had “moderate” carpal tunnel, just on the cusp of getting to the bad stage. He said that despite feeling much more numb in my right hand, my two hands are basically on par with each other. He made surgery sound like something I should be doing soon, but apparently for him that means “within the next year.” So, I went to my normal carpal tunnel doctor today to discuss the results of my EMG test. We didn’t really do that. Instead, he gave me a steroid shot directly into my wrist (I could barely feel it, thankfully) and I got scheduled for surgery three-and-a-half weeks from now. This doctor told me I had “severe” carpal tunnel and didn’t make me feel quite as optimistic as the EMG guy, but who knows. I was also told my hand might be fine within a couple of days of having the surgery, unlike the three-to-four weeks I’d heard from others. I wish I felt more confident about what exactly is going on, but you know how doctors are. You feel like they are rushing whenever they come in, and it feels like you’re interrupting them if you ask questions. I was confused about the purpose of my steroid shot today. The doctor said it was for my relief, but he also said it would tell us about how well I was likely to respond to surgery. But then I wasn’t scheduled for a follow-up appointment before the surgery, and I was told I’d need the surgery no matter how I responded to the shot. So I just don’t know. I guess you just trust people and let them cut you open if they say it’s going to be good for you. That’s basically my plan for now.