I’ve been trying to write a post about turning 25 for weeks and it hasn’t been happening.
(By the way, I turn 25 tomorrow!)
Every year, I have a minor existential crisis before my birthday. It’s just a fun little tradition I do. (Drives my family and friends nuts, but I think they’re used to it now.) I freak out that I’m getting too old too fast, that I haven’t done enough, that I’m not good enough—but I also get excited, too.
I expect to wake up the day of my birthday every year and experience some cosmic shift in the universe where I will feel different, have the clarity I’ve been ambling after for years, finally attain maturity, and understand who I am and what my purpose is.
It hasn’t happened yet, but I’m still hoping it will on Friday morning when I wake up, because it has to at some point, right? Just statistically speaking?
my 21st birthday, the height of my maturity
I never give up hope that one day everything will just click together and make sense. I’m hanging onto the dream that one day, I can take a deep breath and say, “So that’s why.”
The last few weeks, I’ve been psyching myself out over the fact that I’m officially a quarter of a century old, as if 25 is so much more significant than 24. Although tomorrow I will be able to rent a car *AND* run for the House of Representatives. (My Congresswoman is up for reelection next year. Should I run against her? Linford 2017?)
A quarter of a century means I’m eligible to have my quarter life crisis. (Declaring you’re having one before 25 is so morbid, people lambast you when you say you’re experiencing it at 20, I learned several years ago.) And boy! The confusion of “what do I do now?” with my treatments makes me feel eligible for a crisis.
So between all of that that, a meds change I went through at the end of August, the season change affecting my POTS, my brother moving out (we miss him, even though he’s close), and going back to school—I’m a bit of a mess.
I’m experiencing the highest highs and the lowest lows.
And it’s hard for me to reach out beyond my parents and my therapist. Sometimes, even though writing is hard, it’s easier to post a long, sweeping public release on my blog than it is to text the people I love the most that I’m sincerely terrified, not just ALL CAPS NERVOUS ALL THE FEELS. I’m trying so hard to change. I’m trying so hard to learn why this is. At least I know I’m not alone in being this way. Thanks for that, Tumblr.
source: lordoftheinternet on Tumblr
Changing and growing up is the worst. And even if in the grand scheme of things, I’m still young, I’ve got plenty of time, I feel like the Big Cosmic Clock is ticking. It’s scary. And fear doesn’t mix well with chronic illness, especially when you’re predisposed to have heightened levels of adrenaline running through your body.
I’m learning. Even when I don’t want to, my therapist is holding me accountable to learn more about myself every week, even the weeks when I walk in to her office exhausted and ask her to do all the work so I don’t have to. “But what fun would that be?” she usually says back to me.
I’m choosing to have faith in the people who tell me everything’s going to be OK, even though making the choice to believe isn’t easy. Usually, when they have Ph.D.’s and M.D.’s after their names, I’m more inclined to believe them. I’m hanging in there. Therapy helps. My support system helps. Long, long baths with Bath and Body Works aromatherapy products help. Music helps. (I’ve started listening to Laura Stevenson, and she’s some kind of wonderful.)
Exactly 10 years ago, my mom took me along with her, her siblings, their spouses, and my younger cousin Zach on a 10 day cruise to the Baltics. (My dad was slated to go but had to work so I scored his ticket instead. Thanks, Dad!)
It was the vacation of a lifetime: we spent days walking through gorgeous, timeless cities, I got to try my hand at photographing old buildings, we stuffed our faces at the 24/7 all you can eat buffet in a very American fashion, I spent hours in the cruise’s pools, and it was something I will never forget or stop cherishing.
It’s also something that I’m so glad happened exactly when it did; because while my POTS was undiagnosed, I was in a good place. I was physically fit, I could manage long walks and I could survive on less than 10 hours of sleep a night.
Right now, my health is a little rocky, and sometimes I get a little down about if and when things will get better–so I hold on to the fact that, “hey, something amazing happened at exactly the right time.” I remind myself that as a teenager, even without the power of diagnosis and treatment, I was strong, had a perfect experience, and it brings me comfort when it’s hard to stay optimistic about when I’ll feel better.
Because as a teenager, I had so much strength. I’d even go so far as to say I had energy, in a POTS-y sense. The energy that lets you wake up without hitting the snooze button, that is.
Ready to steal that boat in Stockholm and claim all of Sweden for myself
Our 10 day cruise was more about exploring than relaxing. Each day was long and grueling on my body. We walked for miles and I kept going and going (not without complaining–I was 14, mind you, it was my right) but my body held up for the most part.
Tallinn, Estonia was the most unexpected dream of a city. We walked the furthest and up the most hills that day, but the view was worth it.
The prettiest view of Tallinn, the most underrated city in Europe. I’d walk up hills to see this again.
The interesting thing now is that I can look back and pin point all of the different signs of POTS. Even though I slept plenty every night, the fatigue was extreme and draining–I couldn’t understand it. I tried to fight it in the car as we drove through cities like Gdansk and St. Petersburg but I *had* to nap to keep my sanity.
This was the first photo I took in St. Petersburg–early morning with sleep still in my eyes from dozing in the car on the way to the cathedral. It was beautiful and perfect.
I remember trying to walk down steps of a museum and feeling a complete disconnect from my body–I felt like I was back on the cruise ship while it swayed with the waves but I was on solid land. I was familiar with this vertigo, it happened all the time when I was exhausted. I had my arms out on either side of me like a toddler learning to walk while I made my way down a large, red carpeted staircase. I wonder what the museum guards thought of me.
I remember the intense dehydration I’d experience–and how I was never satiated. I would fumble with foreign money, apologizing over and over as I haphazardly flung coins at cashiers in gift shops while grabbing whatever water bottles I could find (which all turned out to be seltzer.) (My apologies, all of Scandinavia!)
After our visit to the Sibelius Monument in Helsinki (that’s my aunt in the brown shirt!), I went to a gift shop and rather than buy a souvenir, I almost ran over fellow tourists in my search of hydration. I was a woman on a mission.
I also remember the crazed feelings of panic I’d get from standing around for too long. A few years ago, I noticed that I get mild to severe panic attacks in museum settings due to tachycardia from standing, the sensory overload, and overcrowding. I can’t imagine or remember what my tiny, 14-year-old brain who had NONE of this information back then felt.
I FLIPPED out while touring Peterhof, home of Peter the Great, in St. Petersburg. There were so many people, so many rooms, so many paintings–my brain, my body, my ANS, couldn’t handle it. I still managed to love it though–the insane gold rooms and overly ornate furnishings, what’s not to gush over?
There were SO many signs back then about POTS–but even through those signs, those symptoms–I was kicking POTS’ butt.
I was the most excited about being in Copenhagen. My family is fairly Danish and I researched Denmark up, down, left and right before we got there. Visiting the Amalienborg Palace was thrilling.
One day coming back from the boat from our excursion, my cousin and I were craving cheeseburgers and knew we had to get to the restaurant on the top deck before they closed at 6 to order them. Knowing it’d take too long to wait for the elevator, we ran up 10+ flights of stairs in 15 minutes before close to get them. No cheeseburger has ever tasted so good.
My designated walking shoes for the trip gave me blisters the first day I wore them so I threw them out and tackled miles of Europe in flip flops. If that’s not a feat (puns!) of the body, tell me what is.
The GORGEOUS city of Gdansk, Poland is the one where I tore my feet up. It was worth it and I’d do it again for those colorful buildings and beautiful church.
When we returned to the cruise ship every day, I went swimming and perused what the boat had to offer me. I hardly took any extra naps… aside from the ones in the car rides.
My cousin Zach and me, chillin’
When we got home from Europe, I crashed for days and when I was awake, talked about nothing else except for My Big Trip for months. (It’s 10 years later and I’m still talking about it.) (I also eagerly watched High School Musical 2 which had come out while I was overseas. Hey. Just putting the era into context for you–2007 was a magical year.)
But it was more than a really good trip–it was a huge physical accomplishment–especially now that I have the context of what my body was going through.
In a very Disney Feel Good way, I’m proud of myself for getting out there every day and walking, discovering parts of these beautiful cities–even if I did do embarrassing things like break down and cry in a train station on the last day because I couldn’t decide what I wanted to eat. (The stereotypes about girls are true–we don’t know what we want to eat. Especially when we’re 14.)
Chillin’ with Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid in Copenhagen on my last day
I was so lucky to get to visit seven different countries in just ten days–several of which I have ancestry from. I’m so lucky that my health, while not perfect (it never has been), was as good as it was for those seven days.
And yes, I highly recommend all of Scandinavia + its environs to visit. Even with POTS.
Because you can have symptoms and still have the trip of a lifetime, one that you’re nostalgic for every day, even 10 years later.
I want POTS to have the same recognition and funding as MS, as Parkinson’s. I want every disorder that affects and take so much from so many to have adequate funding for research.
I want it so badly that I’m willing to do what I hate most in the world—
In the middle of June.
So, will you sponsor me?
I know a mile doesn’t seem like much, but I currently do about 15 minutes of cardio every day on my recumbent bike—and walking a mile will be a huge challenge for me.
One of my cardiologists told me, “You will never enjoy exercise, your body was designed to hate it.” I suffer from excruciating back pain when I go walking in addition to tachycardia, sweating, joint pain, weird tingling sensations and general grumpiness. (Tell me you wouldn’t be grumpy if everything in your body hurt.) But the statement this makes: that I’m doing what I can, that I’m on my way to recovery every day, and helping Dysautonomia International in the process? Let’s do it, man.
It would mean the world to me if you could spare a couple of dollars for Dysautonomia International—I volunteer what I can to this amazing organization that changes lives, and if you could help us continue what we do with a donation—I would appreciate it so much.
Last April I went to the mountains (well, the valleys) of Utah, where I spent my childhood summers for some R & R with family.
And then I got violently ill.
I went to Utah to recharge. I started up Round 2 of TMS last October and even though things were going well in treatment, I was struggling. Things came to a head in January when I felt like I was being crushed under the weight of dysautonomia, relationships, treatments, plans for my future and my own fatigue. Every part of my body and soul was tired.
Mom suggested that I needed a change of scenery for a while. The best place she could think of was Utah, a place where I could be surrounded by family as it’s where the majority of our gigantic family is concentrated. She made the plans for me and I was set to fly out the second week of April.
my view of the Rocky mountains from the airplane
I was beyond excited to go—I was nearly crying on the plane with my face pressed up against the window staring at the Rocky Mountains topped in snow. I hadn’t been back to Utah in almost 11 years since my grandma’s funeral which has been weird for me—as a kid I spent anywhere from one to six weeks there in the summers.
picking pinecones with my mom’s dad, Papa, in Logan, Utah as a tiny one
Traveling was nerve racking. It was only my second time flying alone and first time flying with my POTS diagnosis. My parents insisted that I make use of as many disability accommodations as possible—and that included having someone push me in a wheelchair from check in to the gate. I felt embarrassed (did I really need it?) but it ended up being a huge help.
During the flight, despite staying hydrated and doing everything to keep my blood flowing, I was dizzy and dealt with more heart palpitations than I’m used to. (I usually have less than a handful a week—I had about five that day). I was optimistic though. I was determined that I was going to be good—great, even.
But once I arrived—literally, that night—I got sick. I ended up having three IBS flare ups in the 10 days I was there and they sent me through the ringer. They lasted all night and required me to spend at least the next day or two recovering.
My aunt and cousin each went above and beyond taking care of me when I was with them. I was showered in Gatorade, saltines and chicken noodle soup which was heaven. They were perfect hosts.
What worried me the most is that my flareups were unlike any other IBS flareups I’ve had in the past. (I’m skipping details because I already hate mentioning IBS but I’m working on moving past that—the rational part of my brain is rallying me to work past the shame because why be embarrassed about an illness I inherited?) Anyways.
When my stomach doesn’t act as usual, when my flareups are different than my version of normal, my mind begins to spin out of control.
I was Googling possible things it could be, possible complications—it wasn’t altitude sickness. It wasn’t anything I ate—I was eating carefully, and even when I did eat something close to a trigger food (like some fries), my stomach held out that night. Could it have been a reaction to local water? (If that was even a thing?) Was it a reaction to the fatigue I felt from travel? Was it anxiety about being away from home?
What was happening? Why was my body doing this? Did this mean my body and Utah, my literal ancestral homeland, were no longer compatible? Would I ever be able to come back to my family without getting violently ill every three nights?
And would I be able to get home without getting sick?
I was terrified. And we all know that fear is awful for illnesses.
Utah looking generally beautiful
my extended family is outrageously fantastic, I’m slacking.
Despite all of this happening, the days I felt well and wasn’t sick were lovely.
My very first day in Utah, I got to hang out with a cousin who is a fellow chronic illness patient and catch up. We both got to share that “this sucks” sigh with each other and exist in the same space of understanding, with that unspoken “hey, I know you get me because we’re both chronic” even though our illnesses are nothing alike in nature.
I had dinner with two of my cousins on my dad’s side of the family who I hadn’t seen since I was eight. They’re fun and kind and gorgeous and we had so much fun comparing funny things our dads do that they must’ve started together as kids.
I stayed with my cousin Catherine’s family—she and her husband, Jamie, have four kids and they’re all winners. Their oldest son turned 16 and went to his junior prom while I was there. Their oldest daughter (who is an amazing chef) got a brand new crepe pan and I got to enjoy the fruits of her labor my first night there. Their younger daughter and I had deep talks about life plans and books and entertainment and their youngest son and I were both sick—him, with a nasty cold. We watched a ton of movies together. (Disney Channel is SO different now it’s nearly unrecognizable.)
Catherine, Jamie and their family just got back from a trip to Europe and had the most amazing chocolate.
Easter was untouchably perfect, though. We went to church and came home to rolls, mashed potatoes and ham. I harassed my only younger cousin on my mom’s side into coming from school and joining us for dinner (hi, Zach! do you read this?) and immensely enjoyed his company in addition to several of Jamie’s family members who joined. I may have gotten carried away when we started talking about The Office and Parks and Recreation, but that’s not my fault—those shows are just so good.
I got home without getting sick which was a huge relief. I had to cancel a second leg of my trip which was a huge disappointment, but returning to my house, my room, my bed was a huge comfort.
I’ve gotten sick in the same way I did in Utah once since I’ve been back and my stomach has just been pretty unstable—so I’m on the waiting list to see my gastroenterologist (she’s very popular so it takes forever to get in.)
I’m still nervous about what getting sick meant though—
Is my body incompatible with traveling now? Was it food poisoning? Am I in a new era of problematic health?
But at the same time, the trip was good for me.
I conquered one of my biggest fears—getting sick away from home.
So fingers crossed for better health, and I’m so glad for the good time and good days I did manage to have.
A month ago, I had one of those big nights you remember forever.
I’ve felt nervous writing my recap blog—I wanted to do it justice—but I realized I’ve worked myself into so much of a tizzy that I haven’t written anything at all now because I’m in a writing paralysis. (Isn’t it fun being perpetually stuck in your own head?)
So now’s the time to share—forgive me if it’s a bit long, but when you get your 15 minutes of fame, you document it thoroughly, even if it’s belatedly.
Last January, you could say I was a bit distraught about Trump’s inauguration. Thankfully, my uneasiness propelled me into action and I spent a lot of nights with insomnia writing letters to senators and representatives on committees about issues that mattered to me—the Affordable Care Act, disability rights (especially pertaining to education), the travel ban…
My friend and I protested the travel ban at Dulles International Airport on January 29
A few weeks later, his staff got in touch with me and asked permission for Senator Kaine to share my story. I fell over myself saying “yes! of course!” because that’s one of the many (many) reasons I’m open about my life. If anything I’ve been through can help someone else, if my story can be shared to help others for a bigger, positive purpose, then yes, share it.
(I also asked his office to send along a lot of my personal feelings about cabinet nominations to which they kindly obliged. I’ll say this until I’m blue in the face: Senator Kaine’s staff is the best.)
On February 9, during Tom Price’s hearing to become the Health & Human Services secretary, Senator Kaine read a selection of the 1,000+ letters sent to him about the ACA and mine was one of them.
I nearly fell off my bed when I watched the video, my hands were shaking watching my senator, a man who was nearly Vice President of the United States, read my words and have them entered into the senate record.
Throughout my life, so many things I have said have been brushed aside and ignored by countless people in various positions of authority—doctors, teachers, school administrators, church leaders, bosses, group leaders in peer projects… For me, validation of my feelings and experiences from individuals I value is particularly significant and in a very real sense, healing.
I don’t know how much more validated I could possibly be: I was being supported by a high ranking government leader, vowing to take my side and fight for the ACA because of my story and stories like it.
Phrases like “hell yeah!” came to mind. (As well as “suck on that!” to all of the people who have doubted me throughout my life.)
I was flying high for the rest of the month, assuming these were my 15 minutes of fame. Then, I got another phone call at the end of February inviting me to be Senator Kaine’s personal guest to the Joint Session of Congress, basically the State of the Union lite.
NO BIG DEAL EXCEPT THAT IT IS (and then my brain short circuited.)
So how do you prepare to attend a Joint Session of Congress?
For me, it involved:
You could say I was a bit nervous…
getting my hair cut
buying a new outfit because I own almost exclusively t-shirts, jeans, yoga pants and a denim jacket
buying makeup to make myself look presentable
spending hours writing, writing, writing because I had to come up with something smart to say
FREAKING out because even though I’d done lobby days with Dysautonomia International, and one of my childhood friends’ father was a congressman, this was so different—
I got to bring my parents to the Senate Russell building on February 28. We arrived in the late afternoon and got to know several of Senator Kaine’s staffers who went over my schedule for the evening.
We talked about how his office works—my family and I got to grill them on what they do, the inner workings of Senator Kaine’s schedules, and everyone was so kind and patient with us. (This says a lot about what they go through on a daily basis—my dad’s questioning is very long, very inquisitive, very thorough.)
What nearly every person said is that constituents’ stories are what drive them to do their jobs. No one I spoke to has a personal agenda or even an axe to grind—they’re doing their jobs to make the country a better place.
I did an interview for a local TV station (I never got to see if they used it, but the reporter and cameraman were awesome), had some snacks (three cheers for free Virginia products—peanuts and Pepsi beverages) and kept trying to think of things to say that would make me sound smart.
Tim Kaine is my new best friend, even if he doesn’t know it
Senator Kaine met with my parents and me for a good half hour—he’s the real deal. He took so much time to ask my parents about how and where they grew up and met, about if they had any other kids (my brother couldn’t come because he had to work, we’ve given him endless grief about this)… and when it came to me, I felt heard.
I explained my journey through Fairfax County Public Schools—I told him how we struggled getting a Section 504. That surprised him, given what a successful school system it is, but we shared some other facts about it, and he really took the information in. I told him about POTS and dysautonomia and he picked up on the blood flow problems of POTS quickly—it was beyond heartening and made me think that he’s heard quite a few medical stories like this before. (I also got to give him a dysautonomia awareness pin which he graciously accepted!)
I’m sharing this not to necessarily convert you all to be Kainiacs (another Tim Kaine nickname we can attribute to John Oliver), but to remind you guys that good members of government exist despite Congress’ terrible approval ratings. Yes, some members are nothing short of disconcerting, but others are fueled by constituent stories and want to stand up and fight. I’ve got some really cool senators for my state–find out if you do, too.
After our meeting, Senator Kaine and I did a tele-town hall, where a software system calls Virginia residents and invites them to join in on a conference call. The Senator gave me the opportunity to again share my story about what the ACA meant to me before he answered people’s questions.
I was nervous and scared but daaang. I did it.
I told everyone how for a long stretch of time in my teenage years, I felt more comfortable in a doctor’s office than I did in a classroom. How I realized early on that it didn’t matter what I wanted to do when I grew up—I needed to choose a career that was stable, lucrative and had good health care benefits, not one that made me happy. I told them how the ACA changed that and gave me hope—it gave me the comfort that I could take extra time in school because I would have my parents’ insurance until I was 26. I could even take time off to work on my health and health only if need be. How it meant I could buy insurance and be my own boss, freelance as a graphic designer, a dream of a job I had in my mind.
I also told them that the GOP calling the ACA into question with rallying cries of “REPEAL!” without a solid, safe replacement had brought all of this crashing down. I’m now terrified that my loved ones and I will lose our insurance and our futures—we all have pre-existing conditions. Will we be OK? Will we ever have health care again?
I told them that I’m an active participant in my health, I follow my doctors’ orders, I’m a big volunteer in my patient community, I don’t take my diagnoses lying down. But for whatever reason, the plans I’ve heard from the opposition party seem to promise that I’m going to be punished for illnesses I did nothing to deserve and have done everything to get rid of but cannot.
I reminded everyone that health crises happen to all of us, and if not us, to someone we love, it’s just the nature of life. Whether it’s a chronic illness, cancer, an accident—everyone needs extra care at some point in their life, and that’s why plans and laws with protection are so important to me.
After the tele-town hall, I got ready to head over to the Capitol for the grand event. When the Senator’s office heard about how much difficulty I have with standing, they arranged for a senate doorkeeper to bring over a wheelchair and assist me from Senator Kaine’s office to the Capitol.
I couldn’t bring my phone into the house chamber, so this is the only real proof I went
This was the first time I’ve ever used a wheelchair (and the first time I’ve ever even considered using a wheelchair.) My parents were the ones insistent on me using it but I felt guilt for taking it at first—at the time I was having a good energy/health day and I felt like I was somehow gaming the system by accepting an accommodation I didn’t at the time desperately need. But when I thought about the standing in security lines, I accepted.
For those of you unfamiliar with Capitol Hill—the congressional office buildings are connected to the Capitol with underground tunnels and and a trolley system. But even with the tunnels and trolley, it’s a ton of walking and standing. That night, the route to get to the House Gallery was longer and more convoluted with at least three metal detector security check points along the way.
I was feeling great after the town hall. Top of the world, having the one of the best and most memorable nights of my life. And I got to continue that feeling by accepting the accommodation of the wheelchair. If I hadn’t, I would have been sick as a dog, panting, tachycardic, sweaty, confused, shaking. (I know my body.)
How appropriate to have that continued realization that accommodations matter at an event where I represented the ACA as a young woman who’d been living nearly her entire life with chronic illness.
After the labyrinth of halls and security checks, I arrived at the house chamber and got to my seat. I was tucked away in a back corner of the room which I thought at first was a terrible place to sit but turned out to be a huge score—I was next to several family members of members of Congress and got to network by sharing a short version of my story and told them about Dysautonomia International. I also sat 10 feet away from Sean Hannity—that was a huge trip for me seeing as my dad exclusively watched Fox News when I was a kid.
Leading up to the speech, it was hard to make out who was who on the floor of the House—from my seat with a few exceptions, everyone looked like the same old white man. (Sorry.) Thankfully, I had a great view of Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Elizabeth Warren, two of my personal heroes and women I’d love to both see run for president one day.
The speech itself was surreal.
I live for the State of the Union, and even though it was just a Joint Session address, it sure felt State of the Union-y to me.
It was very different to hear President Trump, a new person, a new president, deliver this type of speech–President Obama was the president of my teenage years and young adulthood. It felt foreign to (1) be there in person and (2) witness a president so polar opposite to the one I was so familiar with deliver remarks in his place.
The most challenging part of the night for me, even more so than the physical strain standing up and sitting down repeatedly to clap for respected guests and a couple of issues I agreed with was the deafening applause from the Republican party when Trump brought up repealing the ACA in its entirety because it’s been a disaster, period.
I was seated on the Republican side of the room and getting caught up in their applause was painful. I closed my eyes, willing them not to cry because hearing “repeal of the ACA” leaves my future uncertain, bleak, nerve-racking.
The ACA is far from perfect, but its provisions have given me hope and security:
protection for pre-existing conditions
the ability to stay on my parents’ plan until I’m 26
mental health parity
no lifetime coverage caps
I’m publishing this post after the AHCA was thrown out before a vote. It looks hopeful that the ACA will remain the law of the land for a while, and even if that leaves me feeling a little safer, I still feel the need to advocate for it. Because health insurance is the difference between life and death for millions, my loved ones included.
That’s why this matters.
OK, and just to end this on a lighthearted note–
This is the face you make after you crushed it networking, did multiple interviews, had a great time with your senator, advocated for what matters to you, and feel like you’re on top of the world. NO BIG DEAL.
What I want everyone to get out of my experience is that this all came from writing a letter to my senator. I know that attending a Joint Session of Congress might not be the dream night to other people that it was for me, but it made some waves–I showed up in my local newspapers (and a couple of national ones!) and the issues I advocated for got some light. If there’s something you care about, start writing.
Call your members of congress. It’s scary at first, but it’s not so bad. E-mail them from their websites. Write letters. Fax them online. There are so many services that make these things so easy. If there’s something on your mind (even if it’s contrary to what I’m promoting!), let them know. Be active in your government, just like Schoolhouse Rock taught you.
AND! Please be nice to the staffers! Especially the ones on phone duty!