Don’t call us, we’ll call you

October 29, 2010

Pictures for the Weekend: My baby’s a bully

Filed under: Family, Personal, Pictures for the Weekend — llcall @ 10:00 pm

It had to be said.  This is just one of the things we learned from our trip to California.

It started with steamrolling baby Sarah:

Then there was the great binky caper:

Poor Baby Evie.

But perhaps Baby Madeleine is the only one that will be permanently damaged:

Thanks for “sharing” your toys with us, Maddie.

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October 28, 2010

Every . . .

Filed under: Family, Motherhood, Personal — Tags: , , — llcall @ 10:42 pm

45 minutes — how often Addison woke up on Tuesday night.

20 minutes — how often Addison woke up last night.

Is it teething?  Hunger?  Digestion issues?  Who knows.

We do know one thing from our observations the last few nights.  Now that she can sit up and crawl around with such ease, she seems to be startling, and then instinctively rolling onto her stomach, getting on hands and knees, and sitting upright . . . all in a matter of seconds.  Once sitting, she opens her eyes for a second, looks surprised, and then bursts into piteous tears and screams.  It would be really funny if she weren’t so distraught about it (and it weren’t happening multiple times per hour).  We get a little frustrated at times, but from her perspective, I can see how distressing it would be to be minding your own business, sleeping softly, only to find that you are suddenly sitting up for no apparent reason.

So two questions:

  1. Will you pray for sleep for us???
  2. Do they make little baby straightjackets (ones that preferably strap to the crib mattress as well)?

October 26, 2010

Every once in a while . . .

Filed under: Personal — llcall @ 10:00 pm

I feel freakin old.  Like yesterday when I was looking through our new ward (our church congregation) directory and saw one of my high school buddy’s younger sister.  Mind you, she was like 6 years old when he and I started our freshman year at BYU.

Like in my last student ward, when I was visiting teaching someone that looked awfully familiar to me, but I couldn’t figure out why . . . until her younger sister came to church one week and energetically exclaimed, “You used to babysit us!!”

Like when people say, you’re only as old as you feel, and I think, Crap, I feel 72.

October 25, 2010

Unfinished business

Filed under: Motherhood, Personal — Tags: , , , — llcall @ 6:01 pm

Now that I’m back on my home turf, some people have pointed out to me that I kind of left the blogosphere hanging on a couple of issues.  For those who read “Across the Catwalk” and guessed that I was “Em” or the first-person narrator, you’re correct.  When I first wrote it, I thought that would be self-evident, but initial readers told me all kinds of compelling reasons why they thought I was “Julia.”  That’s quite a compliment, as you’ll soon learn.

But, of course, since it’s a true story, I could only really be one of them.  This story also has a happy ending, although I wasn’t certain of that when I wrote it.  “Julia” and I resumed our college careers after a couple of very long years.  She received BS, MS, and MD degrees; did humanitarian medical work in India and China; and beat cancer three times, all before we turned 30.  I can safely say there is no one in the world quite like “Julia.”  You don’t know joie de vivre until you’ve met her.  Someday, when I’m a better person, I will be a little more like her and little less like me.

***

And from even further back, I promised to tell you about my completed “project” when I had time.  So here goes:

Once upon a time, I decided to pump enough milk so that Neal could feed the baby a bottle at night and I could get some much-needed sleep (or rather, Neal and my midwife decided this was the plan, and they were so so brilliant!).  And then I thought it would be a good idea to pump enough to stave off infection because it quickly became clear that I was producing far more milk than baby girl was consuming.  While I was at it, I planned to store a little extra for date nights . . . you know, because we would magically get better at going on dates after we had a baby.

So I pumped twice a day, until one day Neal said the milk in the freezer was getting a little out of control.  I estimated that there was roughly one hundred ounces in my reserve, but as I started to count and organize, I realized I was a little off . . . by like 350 ounces.

Without even realizing it, I had pumped and stored 450 ounces.  Neal wanted to get rid of it because the baby would never drink it all, but anyone who has ever tried breastfeeding or pumping knows that the very idea is simply blasphemous (I would’ve made him sleep on the couch for the very suggestion, but well, if you don’t sleep in the same room to begin with, that has very little meaning).  That stuff ain’t easy to come by and it is precious!  Luckily, my mom mentioned that there were human milk banks to serve needy infants, which makes sense to me now but I had never heard of before.

It’s a long process to become a milk donor, and rightfully so, since it’s particularly for fragile preemies (many preemies can’t digest formula very well).  I started the process with the San Jose milk bank (there isn’t one in Utah) in July with a phone interview, then a 15-page written application, sign-offs from my midwife and the pediatrician, and finally, blood tests (it turns out Mormons make awesome donors because of our “clean” living ways).  In the meantime, I was also able to donate milk to a local infant whose mother was unable to breastfeed, but desperately wanted to.

I finally sent the milk donation to San Jose in late September, and it felt so worth all the effort.  Seven hundred ounces later, I like to think that I helped some little preemie develop a nice pair of Popeye arms and thunder thighs.

October 22, 2010

Pictures for the Weekend: Did you miss me?

Filed under: Family, Pictures for the Weekend — llcall @ 5:47 pm

I thought so.

(I’ll talk to my agent about getting back on the blog-posting wagon.)

October 12, 2010

Short story: Across the catwalk, 2000, 2004

Filed under: Personal — Tags: , — llcall @ 10:00 pm

A few people have already read this (well, actually a number of people have, since a previous version was published in BYU’s literary journal, but only a few that I actually know).  I always ask them to tell me which girl they think I am and why.  Every response has told me something about myself.

Across the Catwalk

“Hello.”

“Answering the phone today, are we?” Julia asks in a sarcastic tone.

“Absolutely.  Between the hours of eleven and twelve anyway.  ‘Lucy’ starts at noon though, so then the phone comes off the hook.”

“Are you still in bed?”

“Where else?”  I can hear Julia clicking her tongue and I can see her shaking her head in pseudo-disappointment.  “Oh, like you aren’t!”  I shoot back defensively.

“As a matter of fact, I’m not,” Julia proclaims, brimming with feigned pride.  “I made it all the way out to the couch by 10:30 this morning.”  I try to heft my free arm out from under my enormous down comforter in order to clap for her grand accomplishment, but somewhere in the middle of my mocking gesture it feels too heavy.  I am powerless to stop it from dropping back to my side.

“Forgive me if I don’t bound out of bed and do the dance of joy; I’m a little tired this morning.  So, what’s up, Juj?”  I try to sound enthusiastic about this morning’s conversation, although I know it will be the same as yesterday and the day before yesterday and the day before that.

“Well, not much really.  I woke up super hungry and…”

“Yahoo!”  I interrupt.  “Waking up hungry’s the best.  Remind me again what hungry feels like.”

“Well, usually I’d be jumping for joy too, but I’m fasting today for a blood draw this afternoon.  The good doctor said that if I ate anything this time, he’d be forced to keep me overnight under constant supervision.  He says that I keep purposely trying to sabotage the test results.  As if!”  Julia says in her best Clueless voice.  I never get tired of that impersonation; it’s one of those timeless things, like Disneyland and The Beatles.

“Oh, hey, before I forget,” I begin, sounding more excited than usual, “I found the funniest picture from Girl Scouts stuffed in an old notebook.  We’re at the beach house and everyone is wearing their tiny swimsuits and I’m dressed in, like, full body armor…those faded olive green jeans I used to have and a long sleeve shirt.  But get this, I’m carrying an umbrella.”

“And you wonder why I used to make fun of you so much.  You were such a freak when you moved here.  Well, you still are really.  Wasn’t that the weekend that we made Melanie wear her underwear on the outside of her clothes?”  The mental picture that came back to me made me start to chuckle and Juj could never resist playing for a laugh.  “I think that was also the time we spray painted our…”

And so we started to play the memory game for the thousandth time because sometimes, that’s all we’ve got.  And probably all we’ll ever have, I usually think to myself.  As Juj rambles on about the ‘old days,’ I have trouble focusing.  I miss seeing Juj tell these stories face to face.  Her eyes are so big and expressive.  Her head softly shaking back and forth when she laughs.  Her bouncy hair always in that same disheveled bob.  I remind myself for the thirtieth time that she doesn’t have hair anymore, but somehow Julia is not Julia without that coarse brown hair.  Some days I can hardly remember what she looks like.  I can’t believe it when I remember that the last time I saw her she was visiting me at school from a couple hundred miles away.  Now she is just a baseball diamond and a catwalk away and they won’t let us get closer than a phone call.  Mom used to say “life is never fair” when I was a kid, but I think that if she’d known how unfair it would turn out, she might never have said it.  It doesn’t matter anymore; I don’t need anyone to tell me of the inequities of life.  I want out as it is.

“…that was just the best,” Juj chuckles as she concludes her reminiscences.  “Hey, Em, I’ve gotta go.  I didn’t realize what time it was.  I’ve got a date with the needle.”

“Give him my regards.  You know what…don’t. I’ll see him soon enough myself.”

“Okay, b…later.”  Juj tries to cover her slip, but I know what she was going to say.  She doesn’t want to be the one to break our no-goodbyes pact.  She doesn’t want to remember that there are such things as goodbyes.  Especially not permanent ones.

 

***

 

“Hello.”

“Hey you.”

“How in the heck are you, Juj?  I was just going to call you, but…”

“Sure you were, Em.  Do you even know how to dial on a touch tone phone?  You know my Mom saw your Mom at the store yesterday.  Your Mom is spreading this horrible rumor that you actually got out of bed this week.  I just thought that I should let you know, so that you can stop this before it gets out of hand.”

“Cute.  Real cute.  Not only did I get out of bed, but Wahpidi and I went for a brief stroll around the cul-de-sac.  I wanted to stay out longer but Wahpidi was just getting so tired.  I was heading for the catwalk to revisit our hobo days, but he practically begged me to turn around.”

“So you’re still referring to your wheelchair as if it were a living thing?  And you wonder why they make you go to therapy, you freak.”  I love it when she calls me that, feels like old times.

“Oh, you should talk, you’re the one who announced in your Homecoming speech that you were delivered to your parents by an alien spaceship from the Planet Vulcan.  You were wearing the most hideous lime green excuse-for-a-dress I’ve ever seen.”  My grin is getting wider and wider as I remember how funny she looked next to the other girls in their maroon, navy, and black formals.  “And anyway,” I continue, “you were the one who came up with the hobo idea.”  We both laugh for a few minutes, thinking about how much trouble we got into for dropping all that garbage in the catwalk and pretending we were homeless.  You just don’t mess with the richest-city-per-capita-in-California like that, unless you want to become eleven-year-old criminals.  We never did clear out everything; we left some miscellaneous booty underneath one of the loose bricks, promising to come back periodically and maybe even bring our kids sometime to tell them about our hellion days.  It seems farther away now than it did when I drove cross-country for college.  And the days of making promises seem even farther.

“Okay, so maybe I came up with garbage caper.  But at least I wasn’t the one who burned the lamp shade in that motel room, lit Ryan’s pine tree on fire, and burned all the plastic forks at Girl Scout camp, you pyro!  And come to think of it I never tried to staple my hair to the top of my head so that it would stay ratted during the ‘80s dance either.”

“You know that would’ve worked, if…” I am interrupted by my alarm clanging from across the room.

“Time for your meds, is it?”  Juj knows it well enough.

“Yeah, it’s time to pick my poison.”

“Go take your Prozac, you need it.”  She always tries to play it off, but we both know it’s true.  I turn my head and look at the bright orange buffet that hugs my bedside.  Pick my poison, indeed.  I ceremoniously breathe out before swallowing my handful of pills.  I flip on the TV to check the SportsCenter highlights while I wait for my pain pills to kick in.  When the umps make a bad call, I shout at the television, imagining that I can change the outcome.  Really, I don’t even think I can change the outcome of my own life.  But I never give up, on the Red Sox at least.

***

“Hello.”

“Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday, dear Emma, happy birthday to you!”

“I thought that we agreed that you’d never sing in my presence again,” I laughingly respond, when she finally finishes her off key “and many more.”

“So, tell me, what exciting things do you have planned to celebrate the big one-nine?” Juj asks with genuine excitement in her voice.

“Oh, well, where do I start?  First, I thought I’d do some resting and then some TV watching and then, just for a change, I’ll probably rest some more.  And if I get really ambitious I might just go downstairs to watch the Laker game so that I can actually read the score off the bigger screen.”

“Whew, it sounds like your day is booked solid.  Do you want me to get off the phone now so that you can get started?”

I pause for a while, pretending that I’m really giving it some thought.  “Well, since it’s ‘Andy Griffith’ hour, I guess we can talk for a little while.”

“So guess what I’m having my Mom drop off at your house today,” Juj asks, sounding like she can hardly wait for my guess before blurting the answer out.

“Well, let’s see, it is my birthday and,” I slowly begin, trying to drag out the suspense as long as possible, “often on birthdays people tend to…”

“Okay, okay, I can’t take it anymore.  Just let me tell you,” Juj finally interrupts.  Juj can never keep anything to herself for longer than a couple of minutes.  She doesn’t know what secrets are.  “I looked all over my room, well actually, my Mom looked all over my room until I finally found your official birthday hat.  You know the one Christine and I made for you for our special ‘70s flashback birthday celebration.  Do you remember which…”

“Of course I remember.  Are you kidding?  That was the best birthday ever.  Didn’t it say ‘Spank Me’ on it?  I remember that one lady at Olive Garden who came up to me and said ‘Do they call you Spanky?’ and we all just sat there like ‘what?!’  That was just the best night ever.”  I can’t help smiling as I remember the details of my sixteenth birthday.  I remember how perfect the night was.  How I thought that if I never had another birthday that great again, the memories of that night would be enough.  I really believed that once.

“Yeah, dinner was great, but the Land of the Lounge Lizards was even better.  We finally forced you to go to a dance and find out how much fun they were, and every time you moved the pin holding up your bell bottoms came popping out…” I can hear Julia huffing as she tries to stop laughing.  As our laughter winds down, we ease into a calm silence.

“Em, when my T-cell counts get a little higher, promise me that we’ll go out and celebrate and you’ll wear your birthday hat.”  Juj has a quiet hopefulness in her voice, not her usual blatant defiance.

“I promise,” I say, hoping that she will believe me.

***

“Hello.”

“What’s up, girl?” Juj questions, leaving little time for an answer before continuing.  “Have you been keeping your phone unplugged or what?!  I’ve been trying to call you for like ten days.  I really needed to talk.”  A pang of remorse shoots through my body when Juj says those words.  She hardly ever wants to talk and I promised myself I would always be there when she did.

“Sorry.  Last week was pretty bad and you know me, always trying to cut myself off from the human race whenever I’m feeling crappy.”  I have to use words like ‘crappy’ because Juj can’t stand ‘suicidal.’  Perennial optimism is her creed; I think how much like my Mom she is.

“Anything in particular happen, or just general badness?” Juj questions, probably praying that I don’t get too somber all at once.

“Actually it all started out kind of funny.  I went in for my draw on Tuesday morning and Verna wasn’t there…”

“I thought Verna worked every morning.”

“I know, so did I.  But they have this new girl, still wet behind the ears.  Usually I won’t let anyone touch my veins but Big-V, except the good doctor said I had to get the blood taken by noon, so I was trapped.  Anyway, she is sticking around in my arm and she says that she’s sorry, but they’re all collapsed…”

“Even your money vein?”

“Yep.  Even my beautiful money vein.  So finally, she gets out this little pump thing with a needle attached and sticks it into the top of my hand and starts pumping.”

“Ow! That is harsh.”

“I got my payback though.  It hurt so much and it just kept throbbing as she kept pumping and the room started spinning and the next thing I knew I was staring at her shoes and yacking my guts out.”

“No way.”  Juj starts to laugh and I can hear her head gently hitting the phone.  “You puked on the new girl.”

“All over her little, white Keds.”

“Now tell me again how a week that starts out like that could get bad…”

“Well…the blood work came back.  IgM skyrocketed.  IgG plummeted.”  Julia is silent, which hardly ever happens.  I think she realizes that our joyous reunion has just been pushed back indefinitely.  I hope she does anyway, because that’s not something I can tell her right now.

“That sucks,” she finally says.  The resignation in her voice makes me want to cry.  Juj was not meant for sadness like this.  Juj was not meant for any kind of sadness.  I suddenly flashback to that picture from when she was named ‘Spartan of the Year.’  Nate and Michael were hoisting her up on their shoulders and we were all standing around looking up at her in collective awe.

“As long as we’re sharing bad news, I might as well tell you that the chemo was a bust.”  This quiet statement abruptly shakes me out of my memory.  I know the words but I can’t seem to line them up in my mind.  I feel the blood rush out of my hands, as the phone slides down my cheek.  I quickly grab for the phone; I feel like I have to hold on to something.  I try to think of something funny to say.  We both like to laugh when we should cry.  All I can think is how scared she must be.  Juj has so much fear of death and I have so much fear of life.  I always think that together we should be able to get through anything but somehow we just end up in silence, lost in uncertainty.  I cannot even see her face.

“Remember what it used to be like…” I finally begin to speak.

“When?”  Julia wonders, anticipating what memory lane we will stroll down today.

“When we were alive.”

October 11, 2010

We interrupt our regularly-scheduled angsty poetry . . .

Filed under: Family, Personal — llcall @ 4:23 am

To bring you today’s update:

Addison graduated from dinosaur crawling (one or two slow crawls at a time) to speed crawling.

Said speed crawling boosted her confidence enough to try kamikaze diving off my parents’ stairs.

I curse the day my parents bought a split-level house with 3 separate staircases.

At least 17 heart attacks already.

Must get Xanax.

October 8, 2010

Poetry: Family Home Evening, 2000

Filed under: Personal — Tags: — llcall @ 10:00 pm

Laptop crash + parents’ slow computers + traveling = no Pictures for the Weekend.  I know this will hardly be consolation, but here it is nonetheless.

Family Home Evening

These are the people I see once a week
sitting in a circle of wooden benches
that only I am breaking,
singing of what eyes can say
and dripping with sap.

Occasionally they notice me
choking on the air,
my taciturn disposition exposed
and someone asks
who are you?

A dead-hearted poet,
a muddier of ankle-deep waters,
a reminder of pain;
I am not sure what
they want to hear.

I dream of lakes and oceans,
resigned I ford the
stream of consciousness
to recapture a tolerance
for smoke and emotion.

October 7, 2010

Poetry: Untitled, 2000

Filed under: Personal — Tags: — llcall @ 10:00 pm

When I reread this poem, it takes me back to that day, that moment.  I literally feel what I felt then.  It’s powerful for me.

There’s no figurative in my story

The way I watched my future burn
Obliterating full years
Until even today is a memory
As fall was caught in the inferno.

The embers failed before the final
White was turned to black.
I had to strike another match
To keep my darkness uniform.

I smeared the ashes of compulsory forgetfulness
With these pale hands allowing myself
To disappear into heaviness I have learned to love.
I miss the status quo comfort.

I cannot comprehend happiness for
There is no more numbing in my painful joint.
I have given up on law prevailing and
I reach for the bottle one last time
As I am dropped from the roll of life.

October 6, 2010

Poetry: Dresses, 1996

Filed under: Personal — Tags: , , — llcall @ 10:00 pm

There is such a long, long story behind this poem, which I might tell if this computer weren’t so unbelievably slow, but since it is, I will just say that I wrote it in high school for an assignment in which we had to mimic a famous poem.  I chose Sylvia Plath’s “Tulips.”

Dresses

The dresses are too restrictive, it is Homecoming here.
Look how happy everyone is, how joyful, how excited.
I am learning confinement, slipping quietly into dresses
As the sequins choke these white arms, this neck, these legs.
I have nothing to do with penitentiaries.
I have given my scrubs to the committee
And my identity to the attendants and my body to dressmakers.

They bring me probation in their bright dresses,
Adding panels and snaps to suck out this last breath
And a golden chain to mock this last diversion.
Now I have lost myself; I am sick of clothes—
My green A-frame like a flowing, transient prison,
My once favorite brown and satin winking from the hanger;
Its brightness hooks my skin, little shining straightjacket.

The dresses are too tight in the first place.
Even through the store glass windows I could hear them laugh
Loudly laughing at their faceless victim.
Their laughter talks to my tears, it corresponds.
They seem to praise, though they shame me,
Strangling me with their low necklines
A million motley chains round my tabernacle.

Nobody watched me before, now I am watched.
The people turn to me, the invitation behind me
Where the faces widen with shock and thin with acceptance,
And I see myself, cold, contracted, a newly feathered cap-wearer
Between the eye of the invitation and the eyes of the dresses,
And I have no name but yours.
The vibrant dresses steal my oxygen.

The dresses should be lost in flames.
They are stretching like the elastic of a long rubber band
And I am aware of my size: it is too small for the six
It is too large for the four out of sheer spite.
There are no matching shoes anyway.
The gift I accept is pulsing with love
And comes from a place as far away as sanity.

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