Don’t call us, we’ll call you

February 3, 2015

THE house

Filed under: Family, Personal — Tags: , , , — llcall @ 12:00 am

Back in July 2013, when we were first working on our move to the National Forest, I wrote about some of the first things I was smitten with when we checked out this house. From the first moment I stepped out of the car, I loved the strong piney smell, the little hill in back (for sledding, I thought — but alas, extreme drought), the garage that could be a painting studio, and the proximity to the park and library. What I didn’t mention at the time was one of the things that made me feel most at home:

tinfoil window

That’s our neighbor’s window, one of the first things we see when we walk out our front door. And it has foil covering it. Be still, my beating heart.

Perhaps I should explain, for those who have never lived with me. I like darkness, especially when I’m sleeping but also when I’m awake. So as often as possible, I made it a habit to cover my windows in tinfoil. While roommates tolerated it, my parents weren’t too thrilled with the idea of me covering up their front-facing windows for all the neighborhood to see. Probably after a brief rant about being a slave to others’ expectations, I resigned myself to the bits of sunshine and street lights coming in at all hours.

But my heart truly swelled when I saw our new neighbor’s window. Here was the place for me. Tinfoil on the windows, abandoned toys in the front yard, random traffic cones in the driveway — and no apologies necessary. I’ve always had modest tastes and prefer functionality over appearance; two (of several) reasons “the O.C.” was far from a natural fit for me.

After living here for a year and a half, and officially becoming the owners in December, I have found so many more things to love. In no particular order:

  • No lawns! Ain’t nobody got time for lawn-mowing!
  • No trash collection. Neal and I always sucked at remembering to take our trash out in time, so being able to take it to the dump at our convenience is a relief.
  • Three steps up to the front door, and none in the house. My parents’ house has other virtues, but three separate staircases in a split-level is not one of them. Stairs are not my friend, so one story was a must on my list.
  • Only 964 square feet means when I call out for help, I can be heard anywhere in the house. Not to mention the bathroom is so small, it can be cleaned in a jiff, provided we can motivate ourselves to get started.
  • Between living on the “shady side” of town, so-named because the sun sets behind our mountain early in the day, and having several large pines shading our house and property, we don’t even need tinfoil on the windows.

This truly is the house for me.

February 2, 2015

Privilege

I wrote this back in July 2014 and I’m not sure why I never posted it. So, here.

“Would Lindsay be able to help me with this?”

I recognized the voice immediately, even though he was an exceptionally soft-spoken man. Or perhaps it was because of his gentle tone, not in spite of it. There’s no shortage of booming voices in this mountain town and we hear a lot of them at the Resource Center. My heart swelled just a bit that Greg was back and asking for me. Although he wasn’t one of my usual clients, I had spent several hours with him over the last month: finding job postings, applying for insurance, and seeking prescription assistance after his employer unceremoniously dropped his health insurance.

It was the latter appointment that was most memorable. As I began filling out the paperwork with the contact information I was beginning to know well, I asked what specific prescriptions he needed help with. He slowly pulled out a packet of carefully folded prescription receipts, drug usage information, and two business cards for his doctor and therapist. He placed each one on my desk, smoothing them out one-by-one. When he was finished, he held up his hands in a gesture to calm me and said, “Now, don’t jump out of your chair or anything, but they say I have . . . I think it’s called paranoid schizophrenia. The medicine is for that.” After a pause, he added, “But I’m not going to hurt you.”

There was no fear in me, just a sudden ache. Can you imagine feeling that you had to make that disclaimer every time you sat down in someone’s office? Several responses crossed my mind in that moment, and I almost blurted out, I’ve been locked down in a jail before – you got nothing on that! But I finally leaned toward him and said, “I’m so glad you came. I think we can help. And I’m so glad you’re seeing a counselor to help you through this. Keep going.”

Over the next hour, I filled out the paperwork, made calls to several pharmacies, and verified the needed prescriptions and costs. I sent him home with a promise that I would personally check on the progress of his prescriptions, even though my job generally ends at the paperwork. There was something about the anxiety in his request that made me want to give him some extra assurance.

It had been several weeks since that visit and I hadn’t seen Greg. I wondered how he was: if his prescriptions were holding up while he waited for new insurance; if he had found a job that he could actually afford the gas to get to; if he would feel comfortable seeing me again after having to lay bare so much of his medical history the last time. “Would Lindsay be able to help me with this?” was just exactly what I wanted to hear. It meant that he believed me. He believed that I was glad he came. He believed that I would help him.

Back in January when I was stressing that my teaching hours would be reduced, I had no idea that another opportunity was waiting just around the corner. But not just any opportunity; this is an opportunity 17 years in the making. See, when I was 17 years old I received my patriarchal blessing, a blessing of guidance and direction that all Mormons can receive. Over the years, one line in particular has followed me: “You will have the privilege of working among the people in the communities in which you reside.” It would be difficult to quickly encapsulate how this statement has influenced my life. When I was young and naïve, I thought the community I would work in would probably just be THE WORLD. Or maybe that would be too broad, maybe just the whole United States. I wanted to move to Washington, D.C. as soon as possible so I could start working on changes in the “community.” Apparently my teenage brain read that line as “You will change the world! No big deal.”

Even when I decided to narrow my vision and worked with some legitimately community-based organizations (book donations for struggling schools, domestic violence shelter, teen mentoring), it never felt quite like the realization of that promise. Until now. I’m not exaggerating when I say that nearly every single day of work at the Resource Center, I feel an overwhelming sense that this is precisely the fulfillment of that long-ago promise. This is the community. This is the work. This is the privilege. I have people like Greg to thank for that.

February 1, 2015

December: Read

Filed under: Books, Personal — Tags: , , , , — llcall @ 2:51 pm

Even though most of the year went quite awry compared to my plans (I only managed to Organize, Cook, and Travel on schedule), I was determined to stick with the program in December. Mostly because curling up with a book is just the best.

Of course, if there’s no spreadsheet involved, it’s like it didn’t happen so:

2014 Books

The last four or five were in December, so I’m calling that a success (although I read most of The Secret History in November and In the Dark Streets Shineth is really brief, so don’t be too impressed).

While we’re on the subject, I want to show you my favorite thing about my Books spreadsheet:

Books 1998

 

Since I’ve been using the same one since 1998, when I open it, that image is what greets me. It may not seem all that interesting, but for me, it serves as a very important reminder. I can read books again! I’m so lucky! 1998 was one of the sickest years of my life and even though I had a lot of free time that year, in general, I had neither the mental focus to read nor the arm strength to hold a book. Instead, there was a lot of Jim Rome radio show and televised baseball games. No offense, but I’ll take reading any day. I think me and December and reading have a long-standing engagement.

So, have you read any of the books I read in 2014? Which did you like best? What’s on your 2015 reading list this year?

(Also, can you sense the sickness/insomnia here? Two posts in one middle of the night.)

August – September: Nest

Since I knew back in March that things weren’t going to go according to the plan, I was pretty open to any emergent theme by the time August rolled around. Neal was, of course, lobbying for more organizing/decluttering. But it didn’t seem to quite fit all the things we had in mind, things like trying to buy our house, going forward with our foster/adopt plans, and of course, organizing.  And then it came to me:

Nestverb. To build or occupy a nest: settle in or as if in a nest. To fit compactly together or within one another.

The genius of Nest was that it described both the actions I would take and the overall purpose of what we were trying to do: to build our home and family, so that it fit, and we could settle in happily. As the month went on, I realized I could just as easily accomplish it when I was cleaning the house or making needed home-buying phone calls as I could when I was holding a sick Addison in the recliner. (She even held my hand for about 17 seconds — so thrilling!) It was all nesting.

To that end, these are some of the things I did in August and September — before the grieving paralysis struck:

  • Attended the county foster orientation (to say it was not the best experience would be a huge understatement)
  • Got a referral for another foster family agency, attended their support group meeting, and decided to go with them
  • Read several books on transracial adoption and other adoption topics (while serving on jury duty for a murder trial, which of course, I was not selected for since no prosecutor ever would select me with my history and bleeding heart)
  • Cooked and froze a new batch of food for my work lunches
  • Agreed on a purchase price with our landlord
  • Researched the heck out of how to buy a house without the help of anyone with real estate knowledge (this was our landlord’s strong preference)
  • Started our mortgage application
  • Cleaned, organized, decluttered far less than Neal was hoping!
  • Took Addison for a mommy-daughter San Francisco getaway instead

Nest. It was such a peaceful theme. I’ll have to come back around to that one sometime.

January 17, 2015

October – November: Grieve

Filed under: Personal — Tags: , , , , , — llcall @ 1:59 pm

I’m temporarily skipping over August and September in my chronicle of my 2014 monthly themes. (If you’re keeping track at home — which is probably exactly no one since I barely am — here is January, February, March, April-May, and June-July).

You could probably guess from my posts here that my October and November monthly themes were utterly hijacked by this emergent one. I grieved and I studied my grief. Earlier this week, a former student shared this article on Facebook and it reminded me of so many of the things I’ve learned about grief. These are a few:

Tell people what’s going on with you. At worst, they’ll speak platitudes and tell you that your kid needs you to be happy and you’ll nod. At best, they’ll share their pain and some part of it will be just exactly how you feel right then.

Don’t equate letting go of the person’s “things” with letting go of the person. Do take a picture of said threadbare things and cry a little before turning them over to Neal for decluttering.

Take that final trip; make the extra visit. It will cost less than regret.

Go to the same sushi place that you used to go to; order the same eel roll, even though it was her favorite, because you always liked it too. (Just don’t wear mascara when you go to said sushi place.)

When you see family and friends, bring it up. Don’t let it be the elephant in the room, even though some mistaken impulse makes you think that’s a safer path for them and you.

Do contemplate the “stages of grief,” but don’t mistake them for actual “stages” that proceed in a linear fashion. While you’re at it, don’t assume anything in life proceeds in a linear fashion.

Even if you meant to do it months ago, do send a card or letter or pictures to the family. Maybe it will be just the right time, when they feel the outside world has stopped grieving with them.

Excise the word “closure.” It slips into the mind and out of the mouth sometimes, but it’s an illusion, and a bad one at that: “people understood that they didn’t really want to achieve closure after all. To do so would be to lose a piece of a sacred bond.” (from Patrick O’Malley’s “Getting Grief Right“)

Write in the middle of the night, as needed.

November 23, 2014

Pictures for the Weekend: Family pics 2013

Filed under: Family, Personal, Pictures for the Weekend — llcall @ 9:09 am

 

 

You guys know I’m all about the lofty goals. I like to git ‘er done. For the last six months I’ve been aiming high with this one: share family photos taken last Thanksgiving before this Thanksgiving passes.

Four days to spare. Boom.

IMG_2524 resized1 smaller4 5 IMG_2430 re IMG_2390 re IMG_2461 re IMG_2483 re IMG_2486 re IMG_2540 re IMG_2553 re IMG_2621 re IMG_2368 re IMG_2577 re IMG_2611 re

Thanks for the fantastic photos, Cat Palmer!

 

November 21, 2014

Evaluating my load

On a regular basis, my friend Steph’s blog posts make me reflect on my deepest values and whether I’m living in alignment with them. The one I read today on the loads we carry was no exception.

She shares the story and metaphor that Elder Bednar spoke about in his talk Bear Up Their Burdens with Ease in last April’s LDS General Conference. He talks of a friend whose truck veered off the road and got stuck in the snow. Ultimately, the only way he was able to get back on the road was by filling his truck with firewood.

“It was the load of wood that provided the traction necessary for him to get out of the snow, to get back on the road, and to move forward. It was the load that enabled him to return to his family and his home.”

Stephanie’s post quickly brought me to tears because I have been trying to jettison one particular part of my load over the last few weeks. Suddenly I felt guilty.

Am I not appreciating my opportunity to serve?

Am I thinking too much about my own busyness and obligations when the other people I serve with also have obligations?

If I’m able to pass off this particular responsibility, will I be robbing myself of some of the “spiritual traction” I need to keep progressing?

I wasn’t immediately sure of the answer to those questions. Hence, the momentary worried tears.

It’s hard to imagine that somehow stepping back from that one particular responsibility would seriously impede my progress when I have so many other things stretching me right now. At one job, I’ve spent several hours working with just one particular student, helping her think through ways to avoid divorcing, something she and her husband have been considering for the past year. At another, it’s been a roller coaster of emergency home visits, domestic violence, and children telling me they’re starving. (One of those incidents happened on my birthday; I didn’t feel particularly festive after this child lifted their shirt to show me how skinny they had gotten since my last visit.)

When I think about those situations, as well as my ever-present stretching as a mother (to Addison and if things go according to plan, two more kids next year) and a chronically ill person, I just can’t imagine that asking to be released from this one additional responsibility would be evidence of shirking opportunities for growth and service. But then again, I prefer ALL the foregoing activities and demands, even the heart-rending ones, to this one particular responsibility, which comes least naturally to me. Is that evidence that it’s the one that will produce the most “spiritual traction”? (If it doesn’t drain every last ounce of me first, of course . . . )

How do you evaluate your load? How do you know when eliminating something will increase your progress, and when it will hinder it? And most importantly, how  do you evaluate MY load? Ha!

October 30, 2014

A study of grief

I feel a little bashful writing about Kaila again. When I wrote about our last day in the sunshine, I thought it was just my own small remembrance in my little corner of the internet. I think of this space as a place where I’m talking to myself, current and future, and about 30 or 40 others who know me well. What I didn’t realize is that by putting in a link to one of her memorials, my post was being shared on that post. (The workings of the interwebz are still a mystery to me).

Within a couple of days, I had a few hundred hits coming from the memorial post. I felt a little embarrassed, exposed. I didn’t want it to seem, especially to her family, that somehow I thought her death was about me and my pain. But as a few people reached out to me because of that post, I realized that other people were aching to read about her, talk about her, hear anything related to her in the same way I was. My post meant something to them; feeling exposed is okay in pursuit of the greater good of connection and catharsis. Also, the fact that the most action my blog has seen in several years was because of her made me proud to have had a friend that was so beloved.

***

When you have a history of serious depression and are faced with a tragic event, your husband is pretty much willing to do anything you want and your mother is biting her fingernails waiting to see if this will push you over the edge. Your irrepressibly joyful 4-year-old, on the other hand, will wake you up each morning with, “Are you still sad about Kaila? Can you play with me today?” I’m not immune to that tugging at the heartstrings, but the answer for a couple weeks was, No, not today.

It may be strange, or even pretentious, to say that I am deeply affected by death, but it’s hard to articulate it any other way. (I am highly sensitive, after all.) I remember feeling the same way around the death of each important person in my life: life must stop completely. Anything less would be a betrayal of all they meant to me. So I kind of closed up shop for a couple of weeks. I worked some, but took days off, came late, left early. I let some things slide in my online classroom, thinking I would just have to settle for sub-par reviews this semester (though as it turns out my students and supervisor have been amazingly supportive). One night I even hid in a vacant classroom at church during an activity I was supposed to be responsible for; I just couldn’t face real life responsibilities.

Four things filled those suddenly cleared-out days: thinking, crying, reading Daring Greatly, and watching Psych. During those first couple of days, I was convinced that I should stop fostering such deep relationships. I have put a lot of effort into cultivating close family and friend relationships and sometime in the middle of the night on September 25th, I decided that that was a terrible way to live. I should stop that immediately! Because the pain. Oh dear God, I could never live through this pain again! Of course, I instinctively reached out to several friends, probably strengthening those relationships — very counterproductive when you’ve decided that the safest thing is to cut all ties with other humans.

I don’t believe it was coincidental that I was reading Daring Greatly for my online book club at precisely this time. Though not a perfect book, it was the perfect read to remind me to lean into the vulnerability inherent to human relationships. Even if I successfully cut ties with ALL THE PEOPLE, I would still think about them, probably frequently and beyond all reason. (I know this because for years Neal has been telling me I need to just forget about an old friend. He’s very subtle: “She doesn’t want anything to do with you! She’s cut off all contact with you!” Still, every November I think anew about sending her a birthday card.) The book also helped me recognize and face head on some shame I was experiencing related to “survivor guilt.”

We had only barely started watching episodes of Psych (I never caught it in its original run), but it will always have a special place in my heart now (although it might have earned that just from Dule Hill’s tap dancing alone). I would wake up, open up a browser to log into work, and promptly start crying, at which time Neal would call it a Psych day and turn on episode after episode. It was strangely effective in increasing my productivity. I’m still trying to understand how my brain works — Neal has some theories — but I think it is almost always in at least two places at once. If one of those places was Kaila’s death, I was darn near paralyzed. But if one of those places was Shawn and Gus, I could manage to accomplish some of my work tasks.

***

Life went on like this, doing the bare minimum for survival and job maintenance, until two things happened: a beautiful dream and Kaila’s funeral. It wasn’t what you might call traditionally “beautiful;” there was all the strange randomness inherent to dreams: several layers of leotards that Kaila wanted me to try on (she gave me many clothes over the years, so that’s not as weird as it sounds), a microscope and spare set of glasses that she begged me to store for her in my sock drawer until she got back. As in real life, there was SO MUCH laughing as I tried to determine why exactly I needed to store her microscope in my dresser. I woke up from this dream, slowly, very slowly. It was cold and dark and 5:00 am, but I felt warm. Like I’d just been for a visit to North Carolina. Like I was soaking in the sun at Duke Gardens. I could hear her unrestrained laugh all over again.

I knew that I had to attend the funeral but when the day came, I didn’t want to get out of bed. I have a great respect for the power of that public farewells, but this was the hardest one I’ve ever attended, at least in part because it was preceded by a 3-hour drive to get there. I know plenty came even farther, but man, it’s just awful to drive that far for an event you wish in the worst way was not even happening. As I walked in the door of the church building where her service was held, we were greeted by a poster-sized picture of her, a truly stunning picture I had never seen before. In what felt like a very violent reaction, I turned around and buried my head in Neal’s shoulder. It took me a few minutes to reemerge and greet her family. The funeral was more or less a series of these sudden sobs and leaning on Neal, but it was incredibly important. I think I left at least some of the pain there. The next day I graded 45 papers with no Psych-crutch to get me through.

***

I’ve often thought what would happen to all my online accounts, social media, chat programs if I died. Should I make a list of all these applications along with my passwords so that in the event of my untimely death Neal can delete each one? (Please tell me I’m not the only one that ponders this at least quarterly . . . ) That’s been one of the distinct things about losing Kaila in comparison to all the elderly people I’ve said goodbye to: she’s always there. In my phonebook and “most recent texts” list. On gchat, Google+, and Facebook. When I log into Skype, and on this mysterious “People” page that my laptop created on its own apparently based on who I seem to have the most contact with. Her pictures and contact info still show up everywhere. My first instinct was to delete her from all my various contact points. I took her out of my phone, but felt a pang of guilt as if I was trying to erase her. I decided to leave things as they were, but have questioned that decision after a couple of times seeing her in my contacts list while at work and experiencing sudden waves of nausea. That instinct to cut all ties with people was wrong, and I think it’s just as wrong to bury all the things that remind me of Kaila even though that feels entirely logical at times. But how selective should I be in what things I keep around? How much control should I try to exert over how often I’m reminded of her? I hung the program from her service on our hallway tackboard, which in a 964-square foot house is one of the most frequented spots, and so far it is doing a beautiful job of reminding me of all the love, light, and happiness that was part of my relationship with Kaila.

***

I can’t only give Brene Brown credit for helping me through the turtle-hiding-in-its-shell phase. In my music-as-therapy efforts, I put on R.E.M.’s Reveal on the drive home from a client visit. I got to “I’ll Take the Rain” just as I pulled into our driveway and predictably broke down in tears. I seem to come back to this song periodically for its reminder: rain and shine, a package deal.

I used to think
As birds take wing
They sing through life so why can’t we?
You cling to this
You claim the best
If this is what you’re offering
I’ll take the rain
I’ll take the rain
I’ll take the rain.

***

I never did finish anything I wrote about my Grandpa or his death in 2011. I regret that now, both because he was a remarkable person that is so dear to me, and because I feel compelled to study my own grief to know how to get through what lies ahead (I think of this post as the real beginning of that study). The morning of Kaila’s funeral I found out my Grandma was quite ill; she was diagnosed with terminal cancer 6 days later. This cycle of grief is just beginning.

October 20, 2014

I’ll take my board.

Filed under: Family, Music, Personal — Tags: , , , , — llcall @ 4:31 am

 

 

Last trip of my June – July: Travel months . . .

On my drive back from L.A. after my momentous Hawaii trip, I turned on NPR as usual. After basking in sun and sand for a week, catching a ride to the North Shore in a convertible, swimming with a freaking sea turtle(!), I thought I ought to get back to thinking about things. Trying to keep my finger on the pulse of every current event. Learning and stuff. Preferably every second.

But no, I said. No! I will not listen to news radio. I will listen to Weezer, dangit. I will listen to songs about going surfing. “Surf Wax America” is oddly prescient about my experience in Hawaii:

You take your car to work
I’ll take my board
And when you’re out of fuel
I’m still afloat

The natural and cultural beauty of Hawaii taught me a little more how to stay afloat. Starting with more music.

DSCN0014

If you talked to me before I went, you know that I said this was probably my only trip to Hawaii so I wanted to live it up. By our third stop, at Haunama Bay (above), I was like, Forget that! I’m coming here every year!

DSCN0024DSCN0028 croppedDSCN0036 cropped DSCN0040 cropped DSCN0041 cropped DSCN0046 croppedteddy'steddy's 2DSCN0065 DSCN0070DSCN0100 DSCN0109 DSCN0135 DSCN0177

My parents participating in a Tahitian wedding ceremony at the Polynesian Cultural Center, which would have been so cute if not for the guy sticking his hand on my Mom’s head
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Samoa guy: The highlight of my Dad’s whole trip. No joke.
DSCN0195 DSCN0194DSCN0202 DSCN0207IMG_0850 will and emThis last pic is courtesy of my cousins Will and Emily, far superior photographers.

September 28, 2014

Our last day in the sunshine

Filed under: Personal — Tags: , , , , , , — llcall @ 3:31 pm

Naturally, when one looks back to such instances today, they may indeed take the appearance of being crucial, precious moments in one’s life; but of course, at the time, this was not the impression one had. Rather, it was as though one had available a never-ending number of days, months, years in which to sort out the vagaries of one’s relationship with Miss Kenton; an infinite number of further opportunities in which to remedy the effect of this or that misunderstanding. There was surely nothing to indicate at the time that such evidently small incidents would render whole dreams forever irredeemable.

There are so few quotes that really stick with you forever. That sort of follow you, haunt you. This one from The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro is one of mine. It comes to me in word and mood whenever I have the vague feeling that I may have left something undone.

Several days ago I found out that my dear, dear friend is no longer with us. It was not a complete surprise to me, and yet, I’m still in shock. Because it was as though one had available a never-ending number of days, months, years right up until the moment that . . . whole dreams were forever irredeemable. It was pointless, of course, but I could’t help searching our emails and chats to see what more I could have done. There’s the exchange just a few weeks ago when she cancelled our scheduled Skype session because a deadline came up. Should I have called anyway? Kept calling? Did she ever reach out and fail to find me at the other end?

But what started out as pointless email searching slowly turned into smiles, almost laughs. A thousand inside jokes flooding back. We were so fun and funny together; I’m sure if everyone knew, they would have turned our relationship into a TV show a long time ago.

***

Those smiles and almost-laughs didn’t last long. If there’s one thing I’ve learned irrefutably in the last few days, it’s this: survivor guilt is a real thing. The pain of loss mingled with guilt has been physically crippling at times. I’m trying out all the coping strategies I had planned on using to deal with the inevitable pain of the foster/adopt process: reminding myself, There is no closure; seeking for it will be fruitless. Watching Psych obsessively for distraction. I’ve been reading, also obsessively, all the online memorials to her that I can find. Her Facebook page has become an impromptu repository for others’ first and last memories of her, all capturing some wonderful dimension of her life and personality.

I also need to create a place to remember (it was one of my cardinal rules). It’s not about the first moments or the last moments, but it’s what I want to remember most: May 29, 2013. Duke Gardens. We walked on bridges and fed ducks. We brought fruit and nuts and sandwiches to enjoy in the shade of a beautiful tree. We sent Addison on “secret missions,” to interrupt young love and ask awkward questions of people on first dates — all in pursuit of a few minutes of adult conversation. We booked it across quiet Asiatic gardens for bathroom emergencies. We laughed. SO MUCH laughing, a stark contrast to the tears and pain that would follow later that day, and in the months to come.

It was our last day in the sunshine.

DSCN9111_resized[1]DSCN9114_resized[1]DSCN9123_resized[1]DSCN9124_resized[1]DSCN9127_resized[1]kaila and addison cropped

Love you forever, Kaila.

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