Don’t call us, we’ll call you

February 26, 2012

Mommy update: 32+ years

I spent the first 20 months of Addison’s life trying to figure out why our transition to parenthood was so. darn. hard.  Traumatic, even.  Somewhere along the line I started joking that “we make parenthood look like a 10-car pile-up,” and a lot of days it felt 100% true.  On the surface, there are some obvious reasons: nine months of postpartum depression.  My pre-existing physical limitations.  Neal’s deep and abiding need for schedules, routine, and sleep, jeopardized at every turn by our little lady.  Still, those reasons (and many others) did not seem to explain just how completely having a child had altered and complicated our lives and relationship.

And then, on October 19, 2011, I had an epiphany.  Introverted mom + introverted dad = extroverted child = mental/emotional/relational chaos.  I know it was October 19th because I did some quick literature searches to see if this formula had been researched before.  Had anyone studied parents’ positions on the introversion/extraversion scale relative to each other and their child as predictors of successful transition to parenthood?  The short answer is that I could not find any on-point studies (but there is some evidence suggesting that introverted women struggle more with the transition to parenthood).

I have to note that a lot of people would not peg me as particularly introverted, mainly because I have a lot of friends, but trust me, I am.  I know this because (1) I’ve spent at least 25 years in near-constant self-analysis (only an introvert with too much time on her hands would do that craziness day in and day out); (2) the loudest voice in my head is always saying, “I just need time alone to reflect on . . . “; and (3) I took an online quiz: 70% introverted, baby!

Once I had this epiphany, and now that I’m recording it, I find it positively shocking that I didn’t realize the hugeness of this earlier.  Instead, I fixated on the concept of selfishness vs. selflessness.  Children require a lot of selflessness.  We’re struggling with having a child.  Ergo, we are selfish rather than selfless.  But that just did not compute because I know my own impulses, and without a doubt they tend toward helping, alleviating suffering, etc. even at some cost to myself.  And I know Neal, a guy who came to my aid on a daily basis when I was quite ill after we had been on only one date (that he did not even consider a date; he was a confused young man).  Oh sure, we have our selfish impulses like anyone but it just could not be the defining factor in our difficulty.

And it wasn’t.  Now that I’ve contemplated this introversion factor for the last several months, I see how fully it explains the struggles we were having.  We are two people who don’t just like, but need time alone to stay happy/functional/bearable.  And when you have a child, especially one with a seemingly-unquenchable desire for interaction, alone time is in short supply.  Our relationship worked seamlessly as a twosome because we always had time to be alone and together, but tag-team parenting made that impossible for awhile.

Mostly-relevant detour: Back in 2003, I started a year of volunteer service as an AmeriCorps VISTA.  This was full-time work with a just-above-poverty-level living allowance in not-so-cheap Washington, D. C.  I was having trouble making ends meet, so I did what was at that point the unthinkable: I applied to be a part-time, live-in babysitter to a toddler and newborn.  I quickly learned to love how completely in-the-moment young children are.  There is no yesterday or tomorrow, very little contemplation and no agonizing.  I needed a healthy dose of that in my life and it was truly refreshing . . . for a few hours a day.  But 8, 10, 12 hours a day with my own little babe — my brain, and often my mouth, were regularly protesting.  I need silence.  I need time to think.  I need time to situate this moment in the context of my life!  So October 19th was a great day, the day I finally realized there was no use framing this as a selfish/selfless issue.  The need for solitude is one of the most core things about me, present for as long as I can remember, even in seemingly-interminable nights of laying awake as an elementary-schooler “processing” life and the world.  That core has had to bend and shift with parenthood, but it just can’t or won’t be displaced no matter how much I adore my little girl.

I have to be honest, this was a harrowing lesson to learn in the midst of so many women who appeared genuinely enamored with motherhood and all its aspects.  Some women I met talked about their toddlers being among their best friends and some expressed how much they loved having a little appendage to do things with.  I really wanted to feel that way, but there was still that voice in my head screaming for solitude and silence.  And I especially didn’t feel that way during those crazy fall months when our formerly sweet girl was, ahem, a bit of a nutcase.  Which is one reason why it was more than a little frightening when at my conference in November, I had an impression and consequently made a decision that I was going to be a stay-at-home mom for awhile.  I mean, I already was a stay-at-home mom to a great extent (Neal and I are stay-at-home people from the get-go), but I was still undecided.  And that indecision was sort of liberating!  I picked out some PhD programs and thought about starting one in a year.  I almost applied for a job in San Francisco that was just tailor-made for someone with my background.  And I just generally assumed that I couldn’t do the stay-at-home mom thing for any great length of time.  Until November, when I changed my mind, and stopped thinking about all the other possibilities.

Phew.  So that was all just background (can you believe it?!).  Background to explain this shift I’ve experienced over the last couple of months.  I have always loved and adored Addison, but suddenly I love and adore the time I spend with her too.  She’s much easier now than she was six months ago.  And I love the developmental changes we are seeing almost daily.  And it’s good to be able to reason with her, to see that she is beginning to understand what is expected of her, and sometimes trying to comply.  And she’s starting to get that she has a “sick” mom that has to spend more time reclined than upright — sometimes she even sweetly kisses me and says “better” (though other times she yells an impatient “Wake! Wake!” in my face instead).  But I suspect the biggest factor is my new perspective: I’m all-in now as a stay-at-home mom.  I’m not thinking about ways to change the situation in six months or a year.  I’m fully invested in this configuration, at least until she starts school.  But I’m also acknowledging that my all-in requires ample alone time, and probably another stay-at-home parent to split the day with.  It’s a pretty tall order, but we’re slowly making it work.

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February 25, 2012

(Not) Getting Things Done: Processing, part V

The culmination of my “git ‘er done” year is that I want to fully implement the  Getting Things Done system in my life.  So I’m going to document the stages I’m going through over the next few weeks (before 2011 really ends).  I previously posted about CollectingProcessing, part IProcessing, part IIProcessing, part III, and Processing, part IV.

I said on February 8 that I only had one “processing” post left in me.  Things were humming right along and I thought in a few days time I would be done with my initial processing.  And then I got tired and a little bit sick and stuck in my own head (the sheer number of blog posts between then and now is a tell-tale sign).

So I’ve stalled in the physical processing department.  Seriously stalled.  As in, those file boxes I moved to the middle of our room were there for two solid weeks, until Neal finally moved them to the hallway earlier this week (oddly, he felt that we should be able to walk around in our room).  And my once-empty inbox is overflowing into Neal’s space and onto the floor.

I’m not gonna lie — I’m a little disappointed.  I had all this momentum and I gave myself a March 1 deadline, and I thought I was finally going to feel supremely organized.  But good gracious, I’m tired!  Most minutes that I absolutely don’t have to be up and about, I’m curled up in bed staring off into space or writing something.  I have to keep reminding myself that I’m doing some other hard work: mental processing.  It’s not as obviously productive (just ask Neal) but it’s still valuable.  Really, processing is about as apt a description for my inner life as any I can think of.

I’m not giving up.  Far from it.  But I’m acknowledging that there’s nothing magical about March 1.  I just need to keep on truckin’ and I’ll get there eventually.

February 24, 2012

Baby update: 2 years

Filed under: Family, Motherhood, Personal, Videos — llcall @ 11:55 pm

A two-year update while she’s still two.  Miraculous!

Stats:

25 pounds, 13 ounces (she was 23 pounds, 3 ounces at 18 months)

31.5 inches standing up, 33 inches laying down (she was 31.25 at 18 months)

She’s holding steady at about the 40th percentile for weight, but her height gave our new pediatrician pause.  In fact, he had her remeasured a total of 5 times in different positions just to sort out whether he should really be concerned.  Apparently two years is the point that they start measuring kids standing up, but he said that can be misleading because it assumes that a child is standing up straight.  In any event, 33 inches is probably more accurate, which puts her in the 25th percentile, but 31.5 inches may more accurately reflect how tall she looks — still shrimpy — which puts her in the 5th percentile.  At this rate, she may end up as tall as 5′ 3″ (according to the Baby Center calculator), but perhaps still look 4′ 11″ 🙂

Anecdotes:

(Since it seems like she’s past the “Firsts” stages and her “Likes” and “Dislikes” are so many and varied, even from day to day, I think I’ll just record some anecdotes to illustrate where our girl is at.)

Doctors and “bandys”

I remember when I was researching vaccines and deciding what we wanted to do about them, one nurse said (in an off-handed way), “Oh, it’s so much easier the younger they are.  When they’re young, it’s just a brief pain, but the older they get the more wounded they are by it.”  Well, at her two-year check-up, I saw firsthand what the nurse was referring to.  Addison had to get a finger prick for a couple of blood tests.  She sat on Neal’s lap completely serene, just watching what was happening.  She could see the blood and the nurse asked what color it was, and she calmly replied, “Red.”  But the minute the nurse released the pressure and grabbed for the bandage, it was like the end of life as we know it.  Addison was distraught.  Inconsolable.  Deeply wounded.

On a daily basis she asks for a “bandy” (ever since a cut about a month ago), but holy cow, she did NOT want the nurse to put a band-aid on her today!  And now her bandaged middle finger is completely useless.  During lunch I handed her a cup of prune juice and said, “Two hands,” as I always do, and she looked at me with real pain and murmured, “Bandy.”  A few minutes later I thoughtlessly put her cup on the right side of her tray, near her bandaged hand, and again she looked up at me, held up her hand, and said, “Bandy.”  Nothing would do but to move her cup to the other side of her tray since it would obviously be impossible to use her wounded hand.  I could tell that we needed to debrief this trauma, and so I asked her if she got hurt at the doctor.  She replied:

Hurty.  Tears.  Sad.

Complete with her signature earnest head-tilt.

The earnest head-tilt

Speaking of her earnest head-tilt, I probably need to explain this one for posterity — we see it about 20 times a day.  Like any good toddler (oh shucks, Baby Center now officially terms her a preschooler — I’m not sure I’m ready for that!), Addison always wants one more of whatever it is that she wants.  If we tell her one peanut or one cookie or one bite, it’s always an immediate, “Two!”  Unless she’s really serious about it, then she busts out the earnest head-tilt, raises a finger, and gently says, “One more.  One more,” as she shakes her head.  The earnest head-tilt is her unspoken way of pleading: No guys, seriously, this means A LOT to me.  And I’m not gonna lie, it’s pretty darn persuasive at times.  Especially for her daddy — a total softie!

Wired to learn

Sometimes I’m completely surprised by the things she is understanding about the world, and how she picks up things I’m trying to teach her so quickly.  When I was taking my graduate human development class (oh I miss that class and its hours-long philosophical discussions!), I remember us using the phrase “wired to learn” so often — that children’s brains are wired to learn so many, many things in such a short amount of time.  But to watch it in action is still astounding.  Here are some examples from the last couple of months:

  • One day Neal came home and he was wearing a hat.  He was headed up to take a shower and Addison sort of looked at me with a queer, almost-chuckle and said, “Daddy shower.  Hat off.”  It was so fun to see how her little brain was working — she knew something wasn’t right!
  • Neal witnessed another interesting breakthrough just the other day.  Addison had the broom (sweeping is fun; here’s hoping this attitude lasts to teenagehood!), but she was intent on getting something else.  She kept pointing at a cupboard.  Neal thought she was saying pan, and got the dustpan out.  But she was still unsatisfied.  She kept saying a word, but he couldn’t decode it.  Finally, she stopped and said, “Baby,” and gestured at the broom.  He finally put the pieces together: she wanted a little miniature broom that is usually attached to the dustpan.  Recounting the story probably makes it sound far less exciting, but the point is that instead of escalating to anger because she could not communicate what she wanted, she went down a different path to try to explain and describe what she was after.  Music to a parent’s ear, no?
  • I’m never really sure when she is capable of learning certain concepts.  But one day when she was mixing up her singulars and plurals (e.g., “one books”), I stopped to explain.  I thought it would be the first of many explanations and that over a period of months, she would correct her usage.  But lo and behold, right after I explained it, she said, “One eye.  Two eyes.  One book.  Two books.”  And she’s basically had that plural form down ever since.  (Other plural forms still need work like child/children or woman/women.)
  • I’m still a little bit stunned at how fast she seems to be picking up her letters — I thought that would take another year or so at least.  She can identify A, B, C, F, G, H, I, J consistently and has started to sing her own version of the alphabet song. (Note to self: must find sneaky way to get this on film, since she usually gives me a no when I specifically request to film something. )  And then today in the car, seemingly out of nowhere, she spelled her name: A-A-A-S-O-N (or how her name would be spelled if her name were Aaason, which is pretty cool too, right?).
  • One thing I’ve learned about myself is that I hate being whined at — NOTHING pushes my buttons more quickly.  I realized I just had to start nipping it in the bud now.  So what I started to do was to mimic her whining: this is how you’re saying it and this is how you say it without whining.  (By the way, I learned quickly that some people find whining at your kids quite disturbing after doing this in public.)  We wanted to teach her to say, “Help please, Mommy/Daddy.” Overall, we’re seeing some good results from it.  After a few days of relentless reminding, she finally started saying, “Help please, Mommy” before whining.  Hallelujah!  (The next step is to teach her about relative urgency, since she often uses the same frantic “help please, help please” for I need you to draw me a cat and Something’s gone wrong because I’ve suddenly unzipped my pajamas and am holding my diaper in my hand.)
  • Even though we taught her a few basic signs, she had long since stopped using them.  But somewhere along the line, she seems to have realized that (1) her signing is adorable and heart-melting and (2) she might be able to get things she wants if she strategically busts out the signs.  So now, on occasion, in addition to the aforementioned earnest head-tilt, she’ll slowly rub her tummy and say, “Pleeease.”  I’m kind of the stickler in the house so it doesn’t really phase me too much, but Neal (the softie) and my mom (the how-can-you-not-give-her-what-she-wants, she’s-so-cute Grammy) will often yield to these adorable pleadings.
  • She is so totally aware of her routines that she’ll immediately halt the proceedings if we miss a step.  One day I forgot to turn on the rainstorm [her bedtime white noise] and by the time I went back in, not even 30 seconds later, she was already standing up, furiously pointing at the boombox.
  • Speaking of routines, she is even serious about her play routines.  When Neal asks her, “Does Addison need to be tickled?”  She says, “Yeah,” while quickly laying down, completely motionless on the floor — apparently, this is tickle position.
  • A week or two before her birthday, I was trying to teach her how old she was going to be.  After explaining it, I asked, “How old are you?”  To which she replied, “Two olds.”
  • Addison has begun to tell simple stories.  Well, one anyway.  We hear about it at least ten times a day, a testament to her love of Buzz Lightyear and Woody: “Buzz fall.  Arm broke.  Woody help.”  (She is describing a scene from the first Toy Story in case you haven’t seen it 40 times like Neal has.)
  • I love that we’re starting to have conversations not just about what she sees but what she thinks about, like this recent one during a diaper change:

A: Rhino!

L: Did you see a rhino?

A: Nope.

L: Did you just think of a rhino?

A: Yep.

Words and phrases

In early January, Neal started to compile a list of Addison’s words.  I had obviously been keeping some haphazard lists in my previous baby updates, but since he is working on his own daddy blog, he wanted to keep a real master list. About five days later, he abandoned that cause — she was just learning too many words too quickly!  We can definitively date back to 9 January when suddenly she could repeat back pretty much any word she heard (although it took a couple more weeks to conquer the missing three).  But these are some of our latest favorite words and phrases:

  • Nice — Neal taught her to say this with a certain expression so I’ll have to capture it on film for full effect.  But she now attaches it to many things: “Nice mommy” (that’s my favorite); in response to me lining up some canned goods in our grocery cart: “Nice!”; “Darth Vader nice” (someday she’ll learn the truth about nice, not nice, and eventual redemption).
  • Ome on (for come on, usually accompanied by a tug of our hands) — I love it when she drops her consonants a la the final scene of Waiting for Guffman
  • Ninny (for naked/nakey) — she’s really cute ninny, especially when she’s running around yelling, “Ninny!”
  • Lax Lax (for relax) — at this stage, I start to realize what I really say to her because she repeats it right back.  This is apparently my refrain as I put her to bed.
  • Own lip tuff — she’s kind of obsessed with “lip stuff” as we call it around here.  So imagine her delight at getting her own Buzz and Woody lip stuff for her birthday (hopefully, this will reduce the frequency with which I find chunks missing from my lip stuff).
  • Sowy — sometimes I worry that we make her say sorry too much (mostly when she accidentally drops her spoon or falls down and apologizes for it) but having her acknowledge the reality of other people’s feelings is one of my highest priorities.  Some days she struggles with it, embarrassed to look at someone and say sorry.  But sometimes she gives the sweetest, sincerest apologies I’ve ever seen, like once when she said, “Sowy, Daddy” while stroking his hair and face.

Pictures:

What she did on her actual birthday — tried on Daddy and Mommy’s clothes!

This picture just kills me -- she looks sooo old. Please tell me it's because she's wearing a man's shirt?!

(Her now infamous help pleases on full display.)

A sneak peek at her birthday celebration:

Nice things: Emails from friends

Filed under: Motherhood, Personal — Tags: , — llcall @ 5:56 am

I got the nicest email recently from a very good friend.

Thanks for the pep talk. Thanks for everything. You really are very nice and helpful for me as I try to grow up. I keep putting off adulthood; thank you for inviting me into it with care and patience.

Predictably, I teared up a bit while reading it.  It means a lot to me coming from someone I care about so much.  She thanked me for being and doing exactly what I have hoped to be and do in my friendship with her.  It doesn’t always happen that way . . . you know what I mean?  Where what you are trying to communicate comes across precisely as you hoped it would.

It was also poignant because I thought about Addison and how it would mean everything if someday she could say the same thing, that I have invited her into adulthood with “care and patience.”  That’s the goal, I guess, summed up quite simply.

February 22, 2012

Head punchers

Filed under: Family, Personal — llcall @ 3:00 pm

A blog post this basic sitting in my drafts folder since 2010?  Seriously?

I was delighted to discover these old family pictures (probably through my sister-in-law Robin-Elise, family archivist extraordinaire).  I’m still hoping to capture a picture of Addison in this position.  This is a family tradition I can really get behind (unlike some), but so far, she doesn’t appear to be a head-puncher.  Maybe with time . . .

(By the way, that’s little Skylar on the left and little Neal on the right.)

February 21, 2012

Moments when I know Neal and I are just right together:

Filed under: Family, Personal, Personal Finance — Tags: , , — llcall @ 6:42 pm

Neal, wistfully, while thumbing through a free issue of Consumer Reports:

If we were rich, I would totally get a subscription to Consumer Reports.

February 20, 2012

Neal’s Sacrament Meeting Talk: 1 January 2012

After I posted my recent talk in Church, Neal gave me permission to post his talk, despite the fact that it was not as carefully crafted as he wanted it to be (but that’s not really his fault since he had a sick baby and a sick wife in the days before).  But it was still wonderful, says this unbiased president of the Neal fan club.  I have to say, though, that probably more than mine, his was one that you had to hear in person to get the full effect.  There’s a great joke midway through, but it doesn’t really come through unless you are looking at his full beard and nearly shoulder-length hair.  And he actually cried — a lot — and he never cries so there was just a certain poignancy to all his words.

I want to explain a little about the journey that I took as my wife and I named Addison, partly because Elder Ballard opens his own talk with similar thoughts. He explains that for about six months, his mind had “repeatedly focused on the subject of the importance of a name” as several great-grandchildren had come into his family. He says that each “received a special name chosen by his or her parents, a name to be known by throughout his or her lifetime.” He explains that it is true in “every family, and it is also true among the religions of the world.” I want to extend that little introduction he gave into an analogy that has helped me to think about what it means to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and how my little family right now is a microcosm of the gospel family that God invites us to join.

When my wife and I were expecting Addison, we would sort of haphazardly flip through name books, maybe pick a page and run down a list. You know . . . Amberly, Ambrosia, Amelie, Americus, Anemone. It all seemed kinda silly and just whimsical at first. And you learn that people are actually naming their kid “Aurelius.” But I also learned that Lindsay actually recorded the names we’d talk about, and would bring them up periodically in later months.

“So,” she’d say, “do you still like the name Sophie?” I’d look at her blankly until Lindsay pointed her finger at the word on a notebook page dated two months prior. “No, not really,” I’d say, sort of perplexed at what must have been going through my head on September 13. Not that I had anything against the name Sophie, I just couldn’t recall any special connection to it. Then she’d say, looking at her notes, how about “Edith,” and how about “Olivia,” and how about “Emma?”

“They’re fine, I suppose, as names go.” And I’d peer at her page. “Did I really say those?”

The thing is, I hadn’t gotten serious yet. To me, Lindsay’s bump was still so far removed from a baby, it was hard for me to imagine just how real she would be in just a few short months. Lindsay was much more attuned to the little creature in her tummy . . . she kicked, she turned, she gave Lindsay indigestion and horrible rashes, and she kept Lindsay company during night, after long night, as Lindsay lay sleepless and hurting in bed. I still feel guilty that I wasn’t awake more during Lindsay’s suffering, to help alleviate her pains; but I know also that Addison and her mom grew close in those nights, and that Addison was a healing presence, one to combat the sometimes despairing darkness. I think back on it now, and I see a microcosm of the battle between good and evil in that experience; I see Joseph Smith’s struggle in the Sacred Grove, and the saving grace of God at the end of it.

But for a long time, I was either too busy or too oblivious to really contemplate the miracle that Addison would be, and in fact, already was. And frankly, I hadn’t thought very carefully about the power of names.

Near Christmastime, about a month and a half before Addison was born, the accumulation of my negligence spilled over the edge, and Lindsay told me, in no uncertain terms, to get in the game. She had her own anxieties about naming, and needed my help. For her, a particular obstacle was how to determine a name for someone who must have already had a name in some form, in the eternities. Do the names of this life supplant others? And is the name that we choose to give our daughter one that she’ll have forever, millions, and billions of years from now? If we name her wrong, will it be a curse?

It makes me think of a passage that probably all of us have read, whether two years ago or fifty:

‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy;

Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.

What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,

Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part

Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet;

So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,

Retain that dear perfection which he owes

Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,

And for that name which is no part of thee

Take all myself.

To Juliet, Romeo’s name is an “enemy,” and it makes her question the very value of names. She claims that without the title “Montague,” Romeo would still be the same person. She cries for him to “doff” his name, to shrug out of his family history, as though it were a label that could be easily removed.

But the play does not end with the two teenagers changing their names and running off to live happily, and anonymously, in Tahiti. No, if anything, Shakespeare’s play is an illustration of the power of names, and how a name can guide a person’s trajectory in life. In naming Addison, I wanted that power to be used for good.

I went to the Oxford English Dictionary, and began researching different principles that Lindsay and I had discussed, starting with the idea of “Grace.” I followed a string of articles, from “grace” to “salvation,” from “salvation” to “salve” (S-A-L-V-E), from “salve” to “salvia,” which is Latin for “to heal,” and which is also another name for the plant “sage,” which has been used medicinally for thousands of years as a treatment for nearly every ailment. I compiled a 40-page document tracing the etymology of each of these words back as far as history records them, and submitted them, with a suggestion for a name, for approval from my wife.

I gave this stack of pages to Lindsay and she said something like “you’ve got to be kidding me;” and banned me from any further use of the Oxford English Dictionary until my semester of school was over. But my suggestion passed her muster, and our little girl became “Addison Sage Call.” Our salve, our healer, our light in the dark, since as a medieval saying puts it: “Why should a man die, whilst sage grows in his garden?”

In naming her, and then again while giving her a baby blessing, I promised all of these things to Addison . . . not as something rigid or confining, but as an available blessing from her Father in Heaven, voiced by her earthly father, should she choose to accept and live up to it. You might also say that by naming my daughter, the healer, the soother, our Addison Sage, I set up an agreement not just between Addison and God, but between myself and God . . . that I know God has given me the opportunity to raise a child in order that I become a better person, and that if I can rise to the challenge, then she will be an agent of healing and grace for me, just as her name promises.

Elder Ballard describes taking Christ’s name upon you this way: that “you that have entered into the covenant with God” should strive to “be obedient unto the end of your lives.” It sounds daunting, perhaps even stringent, but I think God offers the name of Christ to us with the same affection and tenderness that I offered a name to Addison.

We always hear that being parents helps us to better understand God’s purpose and his joy in his creations. Well, my process for naming Addison was the best I could do to articulate my love for her, my hopes for her, and my desire to protect her with a reminder of what she is capable of. It was the best gift I could think to give her. Our Heavenly Father, I think, feels similarly, and gave His Son to us, both in body and as a name, as a way of showing his love, expressing his hope, and offering protection.

Before I got serious about naming Addison, none of the many names I encountered seemed to particularly matter. I just felt sort of avoidant and haphazard. In a similar way, I don’t always think of myself as a follower of Christ. It’s so easy to just call myself, and let myself be referred to, as a Mormon, an easy nickname, and one that carries no more special import, to me, than many other nicknames. What it seems to mean, both to non-members, and often to myself, is that I belong to a church where I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I dress conservatively, I’m encouraged to be neatly groomed and trimmed . . . to me the term “Mormon” evokes prohibitions, or perhaps historical events, like the Mormon Trail, or traditionally exploitive descriptions like “Hide your children, the Mormons are coming!” But to be a follower of Christ, to define myself as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ, that goes beyond what may turn out to be very temporal prohibitions and definitions. To be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ is, I think, to focus less on prohibitions, and more on blessings and opportunities. It is a focus on the Atonement. The name of Christ is a name that matters, because it is a gift from God.

Elder Ballard points this out in Mosiah, Chapter 5, when we are cautioned to “remember also, that this is the name that I said I should give unto you that never should be blotted out.” So, I shouldn’t hide Christ’s name under a bushel. Like a family name, Christ’s name is ours to keep, to never blot out, to use as a strength and a guide, a compass to remember who we are and what we can become. It need not come and go with each little good action or mistake we make. We are told that we should “remember to retain [His] name written always in our hearts” and Elder Ballard entreats us to think of Jesus Christ, not just as a convenient way to end prayers, but as the man who, as it says in Mosiah, “atoned for all who would repent of their sins,” and who “broke the bands of death and provided the resurrection from the dead.”

And I find some comfort in the fact that we can still take on Christ’s name, not because we are sinless or perfect, but because we seek to repent of our sins, and strive to become perfect. Or, as the sacrament prayer says, we witness a “willingness” to take upon us the name of Jesus Christ. That prayer describes the intersection of man and God — the intersection of imperfection and perfection, with the link being not absoluteness, but continued effort, and continued willingness.

February 19, 2012

Pictures for the Weekend: Valentine/birthday dress

Filed under: Family, Personal, Pictures for the Weekend, Videos — llcall @ 2:28 am

You guys have hung with me through A LOT of wordiness the last couple of weeks.  Here is your photographic reward!

Cheese!

I see a distant light . . .

It's so bright . . . it burns.

Interpretive dance interlude

(I tried to capture the interpretive dance interlude on video, but was simply and gently rebuffed.)

Thank you, Papa and Nena!

(I’m not sure why she sounds so forlorn in this clip, but rest assured, she loves the dress.)

February 17, 2012

“Other compensating doors . . . “

As I was processing old papers a week or so ago, I found this quote I recorded during church a few years ago:

It will free you from the dead ends of your own reasoning.

Naturally I wanted to know what “it” was, so I googled the quote to figure out where it came from.  It turns out it’s from a 1995 talk by Elder Richard G. Scott called “Trust in the Lord.”  I read it on Sunday and the first lines really hit me:

It is so hard when sincere prayer about something we desire very much is not answered the way we want. It is especially difficult when the Lord answers no to that which is worthy and would give us great joy and happiness.

I’m certain I heard Elder Scott deliver this talk live, if for no other reason than my family always went to every. single. session. of General Conference.  Always.  I have to admit that for years I did not find Elder Scott a particularly compelling speaker; I think I tended to tune him out in comparison to some others (like President Eyring, my favorite).  But my feeling has changed in recent years as he has talked more about his family, especially the deaths of two of his children (within weeks of each other) and his wife.  I relate to him more now as someone that has experienced and coped with deep loss, rather than simply a lecturer, which, fair or not, he always seemed to me to be before.

Later in the talk, he says this:

I testify that when the Lord closes one important door in your life, He shows His continuing love and compassion by opening many other compensating doors through your exercise of faith.

Wow, that spoke right to me!  In that brief moment, I had this vision of what some of the “compensating doors” in my life may be for that one very important door that appears to be closing.  While they are things that  Neal and I have discussed intermittently for years, the pieces seemed to fit together in a new way now that I have accepted other realities of my life.  A sweet calm came over me, reminding me that I will love many other children even though they won’t all be “mine” in the same way Addison (sort of) is.  And for a few wonderful hours, I felt more than mere acceptance but genuine excitement for what the future holds.

February 16, 2012

Newsy

I knew it!  Blogging makes new moms happier, or so says a recent study out of BYU.

Of course, in the interest of full disclosure, I was one of the 157 first-time mothers that participated in the study.  I’m interested to see what else comes out of the data since the questionnaire was pretty extensive and I have now participated in two waves of data collection.

***

Let me also point you to “The M.R.S. and the Ph.D.,” an interesting NY Times Opinion piece from scholar Stephanie Coontz.  It is in part a rebuttal of Kate Bolick’s Atlantic piece from last November called “All the Single Ladies.”  The things about Bolick’s piece that annoyed me were many and varied (I think I have a ranty blog post about it somewhere in these drafts), but one of them is precisely an assumption that Coontz is questioning in her piece.  Bolick seems to assume that the marriage prospects of educated women are dimming simply because “marriageable” men should be better educated and earn more money than their spouses.

Coontz starts her piece by talking about how in the 1950s and 1960s men ranked education and intelligence fairly low on their desired qualities in a spouse, around 10th or 11th, much lower than things like good housekeeper and cook.  But the last couple of decades have shown marked changes:

But over the past 30 years, these prejudices have largely disappeared. By 1996, intelligence and education had moved up to No. 5 on men’s ranking of desirable qualities in a mate. The desire for a good cook and housekeeper had dropped to 14th place, near the bottom of the 18-point scale. The sociologist Christine B. Whelan reports that by 2008, men’s interest in a woman’s education and intelligence had risen to No. 4, just after mutual attraction, dependable character and emotional stability.

So based on recent data, education and intelligence are at number 4 on men’s wish lists.  And should it get higher than that?  Call me crazy but those other traits like mutual attraction, dependable character, and emotional stability are pretty darn important in a successful relationship!  So why, on the flip side, are so many articles by women about how men’s declining education level spells doom for women finding suitable mates, as if there are no other important criteria for their relationships?

I can see I am in danger of veering into rant territory here.  But since I have limited time, let me just say that although I personally am a great lover of formal education, I have serious misgivings about our society’s focus on it and its corollary purpose of making more money.  Someday when I have a chance to write more about the book Shop Class as Soulcraft (I’m vaguely planning a book week in the next couple of months) and multiple intelligences, I’ll record more about why I view society’s focus on certain types of intelligence and certain types of work quite myopic.

For  now, though, let me just highlight a few of the paragraphs from Coontz’s op-ed that I really appreciated:

One of the dire predictions about educated women is true: today, more of them are “marrying down.” Almost 30 percent of wives today have more education than their husbands, while less than 20 percent of husbands have more education than their wives, almost the exact reverse of the percentages in 1970.

But there is not a shred of evidence that such marriages are any less satisfying than marriages in which men have equal or higher education than their wives. Indeed, they have many benefits for women.

In a forthcoming paper from the Council on Contemporary FamiliesOriel Sullivan, a researcher at Oxford University, reports that the higher a woman’s human capital in relation to her husband — measured by her educational resources and earnings potential — the more help with housework she actually gets from her mate. The degree to which housework is shared is now one of the two most important predictors of a woman’s marital satisfaction. And husbands benefit too, since studies show that women feel more sexually attracted to partners who pitch in.

The most important predictor of marital happiness for a woman is not how much she looks up to her husband but how sensitive he is to her emotional cues and how willing he is to share the housework and child-care. And those traits are often easier to find in a low-key guy than a powerhouse.

Oh, you should really just read the whole piece! (I had to leave out a few interesting paragraphs for fear they would trigger some crazy spamming.)  But speaking as someone who met a college drop-out (or a bum, as he likes to say) who, instead of working a “real job,” painted me beautiful paintings and cooked my meals and showered me with ample time and attention, and who, despite having finally graduated from college, would still rather color with our daughter than go to graduate school or get a “real job,” I’ll take this “marrying down” phenomenon any day of the week!

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