Don’t call us, we’ll call you

March 28, 2012

Cousins

Filed under: Family, Motherhood, Personal, Videos — Tags: — llcall @ 5:55 pm

Neal and I had different ideas about the key purposes of our move to California.  He thought we should come so that Addison could grow up close to her cousins (perhaps in lieu of siblings).  But I was sure we were coming so that we could more easily have another baby.  I am willing to concede that he was more right than I was.  And it appears his plan is working since Addison saw this picture a few days ago and sweetly proclaimed:

“COUSINS!”

Although we live a good two and half hours away from her two little cousins, she is clearly growing attached.  These two videos probably say it all . . .

I love watching Addison’s face in that second video.  She is just constantly thrilled to be playing with Ayda and Evie!  Which is all the more reason to be thrilled that . . .

Cousin #3 will join us in September!!!

Chris and Rish are hoping for a boy this time around, but how fun would it be to add to this gaggle of girls?!  Ultimately, I’m with Ayda, who is praying for “six baby boys and six baby girls.”

March 26, 2012

Ah, childhood

Filed under: Family, Personal — Tags: , — llcall @ 10:52 pm

I found a little notebook from childhood that at some point I intended to be my journal.  There was exactly one, undated entry.  So much for that . . .

But I’m glad this one journal entry survived, even though I have no sense of when I wrote it.  Maybe 10 years old?  In case you (or I) can’t read the scan, it says:

Yesterday my brother woke me up very early — 7:30 golly jeepers I was tired.  He wanted to watch TV.  What a dumb thing to wake me up for & I played Nintendo the whole day.  My brother is very mean sometimes.  I wish he was kind.  It was boring playing Nintendo.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if I could have another day where my biggest problem was being bored with Nintendo (old school Nintendo, by the way).

March 24, 2012

Still recovering . . .

Filed under: Chronic illness, Personal — Tags: , , , — llcall @ 9:44 pm

From my trip.  So, of course, I’m spending my bed-ridden time planning more trips.  (I don’t get it either.)

Today I saw someone post a map of the states they had visited, and I thought that in addition to my very long list, I should have a pictorial representation.  I color-coded it by decade to get a rough snapshot of when I visited each state.

Clearly, my 20s were rockin’ since I managed to hit 34 states!

Looking at it by decade gave me a new game plan (Neal will be thrilled).  Rather than knocking them out in one year on some crazy-long roadie (this last trip convinced me I would die.  Literally.), a better goal is to try and finish up in this decade.  Seven states in 8 years doesn’t sound so tough . . . and Addison will be sleeping through the night by then, right?  RIGHT?!!

Even though the fall-out from this last trip really got me down for a few days, I find that I can’t go very long without planning a trip in my head.  It’s like breathing to me.  Or crack.  One of those.

March 23, 2012

Pictures (and video) for the Weekend: Potty training

Filed under: Family, Motherhood, Personal, Pictures for the Weekend, Videos — Tags: , — llcall @ 7:29 pm

I mean, dancing.

Apparently, this is what she does when we’re not looking.  Maybe if we actually started potty training her, as she has repeatedly requested, she wouldn’t feel the need to sneak off and dance.

March 22, 2012

A week of firsts

Filed under: Family, Motherhood, Personal — Tags: , , , , , — llcall @ 8:11 pm

Addison: Guess what?

L: What?

A: Cake!  [Singing] Happy birthday . . .

It’s either her first joke, or she’s ticked she never got a birthday cake.

***

First explicit distinguishing between wants and needs:

L: Do you want more water?

A: Need! Need!

Now that she’s figured out this magical word, she suddenly needs a lot of things.

***

First present progressive verb usage:

A: Gramps showering.

I had no idea I was going to get so excited when she started conjugating verbs, but my heart burst with joy just a little bit.

***

First picture that makes her look tall:

Courtesy of Robin-Elise Call

Don’t worry, it’s just the angle.  See . . .

She’s that itty-bitty thing down at the bottom, taking in some contemporary art at UMOCA.

March 21, 2012

Escape

Filed under: Motherhood, Personal — Tags: , , , , , , — llcall @ 5:00 pm

Before I went downstairs to eat lunch this afternoon,  I quickly grabbed something from my Read/Review pile (a GTD suggestion) to entertain me.  It was a 1960 article from the Mississippi Valley Historical Review called, “Some Themes of Counter-Subversion: An Analysis of Anti-Masonic, Anti-Catholic, and Anti-Mormon Literature.”  When I read the title, all my life problems suddenly became crystal clear: I read things like “Some Themes of Counter-Subversion: An Analysis of Anti-Masonic, Anti-Catholic, and Anti-Mormon Literature” as entertainment.  It wouldn’t be a problem if this was actually entertaining, but no, it’s not (no offense, David Brion Davis).  It is exactly what it sounds like — a careful examination of nativist literature from the 19th century, published in a reputable historical review.

I sorely need a little fun in my life, a little escapism.  (Oddly, I started a similar journey almost exactly one year ago.  I guess it didn’t take since I’m back at it a year later.)  I’ve been thinking about this over the past week as I watch Neal pull out his novels, turn on his computer games, or flip on the television during his free moments.  He just escapes . . . in a way that completely eludes me.  I think about what I do when I have free time: I read and I write.  But I don’t read escapist things (see above) and I don’t write to escape my life, but rather to analyze and understand it.  Thinking about this topic over the past week (when I have dearly wished I could do something fun and escapist — without getting out of bed!), it has sort of collided with that Steinbeck quote I keep mentioning: “Nothing good gets away.”  And I’ve realized that one of the reasons that I don’t escape is that I’m too mindful of not letting any good ideas get away.  I’m reading some random Facebook link and instead of just enjoying it in the moment, it sparks something, and I suddenly feel this added sense of responsibility to capture and preserve that spark, that something good.  This is one of the reasons I have a love/hate relationship with Radiolab: I love their thought-provoking inquiries into every topic under the sun, but good heavens, what am I supposed to do with that many interesting sparks in a 55-minute period?!

Now I’m going to confess something that only a small handful of people know about me: once, I escaped.  Like really escaped.  In the six months between the time I had my miscarriage and the time I talked publicly about it, I basically acted like a totally different person.  While I previously scoffed at Neal’s computer games, I suddenly began to play them . . . for 16 hours straight.  I mean, not every day, some days it was only 12 or 14 hours.  I went from humoring Neal by playing Civilization twice during the summer of 2008 to being obsessed with playing it every minute of every day.

If only that were the worst part, though.  There was more.  Much more.  I started watching The Bachelor.  Perhaps watching isn’t the right word; maybe absolutely obsessing over is more fitting?  I had never watched more than a few minutes before, and I have never seen an episode since, but in that six-month period, I not only watched the show but I read blogs about the show.  I searched for online news about the show.  I frequented RealitySteve.com to find out all his insider info about whether Jason would choose Melissa or Molly.  I watched a totally inane two-hour YouTube video by said Reality Steve about the Jason/Melissa/Molly triangle.  I was one sick puppy.

If I were still stuck in that weird Reality Steve/Bachelor obsession, I probably wouldn’t look on that time quite so fondly.  But after it sort of naturally ran its course, I realized how important that experience was for me.  I don’t remember truly looking down on people and their escapist impulses (in all their varieties) but I certainly perceived them as different than I was.  Prior to my miscarriage, I could be experiencing something painful or difficult but still be able to (and usually want to) talk about it and analyze it in a way that sometimes belied that difficulty.  People told me that about myself . . . that I didn’t naturally turn away from painful situations but rather hunkered down to examine and dissect them.  I think, no, I know it was sometimes unsettling to the people around me.  (This tendency was in large part a deliberate choice made following my freshman year of college and my first round of therapy, but that is a story for another day.)  Encountering an experience that was so profoundly painful as my miscarriage was, an experience that I couldn’t figure out how to speak about or cope with, that left me with a single-minded need to escape was probably one of the most productive things that could have happened to me as a human being trying to understand other human beings.  I learned a new empathy for why people need and want to escape, the purpose it serves, why it can be essential at times.

As Neal and I are contemplating new questions about our future — adoption? foster parenting? foster-to-adoption? — I am increasingly convinced that I need to figure out this escape thing a little bit better.  Even in a best-case scenario, adoption and foster parenting are usually difficult and full of waiting.  Wouldn’t it be great if during those hard times and long waits I could occasionally relax and escape instead of thinking all. the. darn. time?!

I guess it’s time to buckle down and really concentrate and figure out this fun/escape thing . . . or does that sound totally counterproductive?  Clearly, I’m new at this.

March 20, 2012

Oliver

I’m not really sure if this is going to be Oliver’s story or mine.

My first job working in D.C. was as an intern at D.C. Prisoners’ Legal Services Project, an organization that “advocated for the humane treatment and dignity of all persons convicted or charged with a criminal offense under DC law who are housed in prisons, jails or community corrections programs” (this organization no longer exists in its original form, but the mission is still alive and well).  My daily work consisted of reading letters and requests for assistance from incarcerated men and women, mostly in D.C. but also from around the country.  Most of the time I couldn’t help them at all — we did not deal with parole or criminal issues, the most common requests for assistance, but only civil issues relating to their incarceration.  Even with regard to civil issues, we were seldom able to do much for those seeking help (for example, getting peanut butter into the commissary, a surprisingly common request, was outside of our purview).  I wanted to help but our opportunities for doing so were frustratingly limited.

Looking back, I see that for someone with no previous legal experience I was given a surprising amount of discretion in what cases to pursue.  I was most drawn to assault cases, and Oliver’s most of all.  I can’t remember why I was so set on pursuing Oliver’s complaint, because I received multiple letters per week alleging similar incidents, but I was determined and asked my supervisor within minutes of reading his letter if we could go investigate his assault claim.  The facts, as he presented them, were these: on 17 February 2002 he was arrested and brought to D.C. Jail.  Following processing, he was placed in a cell in Northwest-3 around 3:00 am.  Shortly thereafter, the officers on duty let two other inmates into his cell, claiming that the inmates were going to clean up some vomit, although there was nothing to clean.  The two inmates, who allegedly had a mop and a knife, began threatening Oliver and his cellmate and demanding cigarettes.  The two inmates then proceeded to “violate the civil rights” of Oliver and his celly.

To understand what really happened, you have to know that when a male prisoner talks about having his civil rights violated, he is usually talking about rape.  You never use the term rape.  In fact, I never heard anyone at the jail use that term, even though in fifty other ways I could tell that is what they were trying to communicate to me.  Even though it is very hard to prosecute rape cases on the inside, I still wanted to try.  I was 22 and full of social justice rage, and Oliver said he had some evidence and I just wanted to go meet with him and see if, against all odds, we could hold someone responsible for this terrible thing that had happened to him.

You cannot typically make an appointment to see an inmate.  You usually just show up and hope they are not getting medical treatment or locked down.  The day I went to meet Oliver, sometime in May 2002, turned out to be his 19th birthday.  I had met some incarcerated men before, and many, many since, and he is still among the most gentle, soft-spoken men I have ever met.  He answered all my questions, but he didn’t offer information spontaneously.  Over a one-hour interview, I learned that he had first come to D.C. Jail as a juvenile, a 16-year-old, charged with possession of marijuana with intent to deal.  Before being fully classified, he had been in cell blocks with much older men and had his “civil rights violated.”  It was impossible to determine how many times he had been raped, but my gut was that it was a lot.  He was neither tall nor short, neither big nor small; he was just average and soft-spoken and I couldn’t imagine him being menacing, which isn’t necessarily a good thing when you’re jailed with much older and bigger men.  I can’t remember what specifically was said, but I know there was this moment after he told me it was his birthday where we just looked at each other and thought about why we were so close in age and in such different places.

Of course, I already thought that incarcerated individuals were no less valuable than I was.  Of course, I already thought that I had been blessed with an easier, more privileged life situation than so many of them.  But I don’t think I really knew it until that moment with Oliver.  His half-smile to shake off the pain of being locked up on his 19th birthday.  Both of us ultimately just staring at his handcuffs because there wasn’t anything else to say.  In that moment I felt in such a profound and visceral way how valuable he was, how worth loving, how worth helping, how worth caring for.

And then I had to leave.  I got on the hour-long metro/bus ride home and just cried.  Wept.  Sobbed.  Bitterly.  I knew there was nothing we could do, nothing I could do.  There was not enough evidence to make waves about the February assault.  And it had happened three months before.  And even if I could identify the guards and the inmates that had perpetrated that assault, there was all that past damage.  Fundamentally, the damage of being a 16-year-old child, still trying to stay in high school but dabbling in marijuana use, thrust into a man’s world of rape, assault, murder, hard drugs. I could never undo all that.  It was too much.

I wandered around the D.C. streets for hours that evening (which is saying something if you know my disdain for all forms of exercise), crying and thinking.  Could I really do this type of work?  Or would it always be too much?  More than I realized at the time, I was asking a fundamental question about what I was capable of.  Could I look at people and love them so immediately and so fully, and still accept the ultimate limitation — that I could not really help them?  Or just as bad, that the help I could offer would be so wholly insufficient to alter their lives in any meaningful way.

The question of what I am capable of was not answered that day (and it has been further complicated by changing physical and emotional limitations).  But another more significant question was settled in my mind and heart.  That day ten years ago, in D.C. Jail, I found God once and for all.  I had been raised to believe that there was an all-loving, all-knowing God, but looking at the world around me had continually challenged that belief.  But that day, in a way I can never fully express, I knew there was a God who knew and loved Oliver.  And I knew He taught me to love Oliver in an unforgettable, eternal sort of way even though our paths only crossed for a few short weeks.  Even a decade later, I can’t write about Oliver without seeing him in my mind and feeling the same feelings and crying similar, though less bitter, tears.

I think about Oliver a lot when I contemplate my life’s work.  I would give a lot to know more about his story, but that’s not exactly the way these things work.  Even so, I am grateful that he wrote that letter to me and that we met on his 19th birthday and that, for a few brief moments, our stories came together.

(Still Not) Getting Things Done: Processing, part VI

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, Processing, part IV, and Processing, part V.

Still not getting things done, but thinking about possibly, maybe getting things done again.  Someday.  Maybe.  That’s real progress, people!

I keep thinking about the closing line from that John Steinbeck letter I mentioned yesterday: “Nothing good gets away.”  It’s reminiscent of a line I have always loved from Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption: “No good thing ever dies.”  They are, of course, referring to such heady things as love and hope, but I’ve been puzzling over related questions while processing my old stuff.

I have been quite a pack-rat, endowed with such tendencies by my parents and grandparents, perhaps farther back than I even know.  When I was in college, I kept every page of notes, every paper, every scrap that someone wrote a note to me on.  I kept a lot from high school, junior high, and elementary school too, but I got much more organized and deliberate about it in college.  Though I’m committed to letting a lot of this stuff go, it still pains me a little bit to lose things that were once an important part of my life, even if only for a moment.  I have to keep telling myself that even if there are good things in there, I have either made them part of my life or I haven’t.  And the things that I still need to learn will come back around.  Nothing good, nothing really good, really important, really essential gets away, right?

Luckily, there have been at least a few things that were easy to toss.  If I was too bored to look at something for more than four and a half seconds, forget about it.  Like all my notes from Accounting 200 and papers that begin, “In many ways Western civilization during the High Middle Ages was innovative and progressive.”  Thank goodness for these inane things that give me sense of making real progress, even when I still have 5 or 6 boxes lining the hallway.

March 19, 2012

Recent and random

I think I’m still in the “just can’t face it” funk.  Still overwhelmingly fatigued, still fighting some sinus issues, still totally unmotivated to do anything.  I managed to prepare and teach my Relief Society lesson for yesterday, but beyond that, I have done nothing productive since I returned from my trip.  And by nothing, I mean, I have not even unpacked my bags in the past eight days.  Oy, it’s a mess around here!

It’s really disappointing to me — I stayed so healthy on my trip, despite interacting with mildly-sick people right and left, that I was feeling really optimistic about just-me-and-Addison travel.  But if I lose a couple of weeks on the end of every trip, is it really worth it?  Not that I’m giving up altogether, but it’s been a little disheartening.

***

Despite that, I’ve read and watched some interesting things lately.  Here are a few in no particular order:

This TED talk by Jonathan Haidt was quite interesting (though a bit repetitive), going in some entirely different directions than I was expecting.  But for some strange reason, I was particularly captivated by the way he used his hands and how elegant his wedding ring looked.  It made me think I should get Neal a wedding ring, you think?

***

A couple of my friends linked to this lovely letter John Steinbeck sent to his son.  I thought about excerpting part, but there were just so many little gems that I couldn’t choose.  Just go read it!  It reminded me of the first time I fell in love with Steinbeck’s writing, reading the truly stunning East of Eden.

***

Speaking of fiction, this article on the neuroscience of reading fiction really caught my attention.  Even though I am mostly a nonfiction reader and have been since childhood, I really believe in the power of novels and the like.  Sometimes I’ve felt that a fictional account captures a truth about humanity in a more perfect way than any nonfiction version could.  So I was not surprised to read that some studies find that “individuals who frequently read fiction seem to be better able to understand other people, empathize with them and see the world from their perspective.”

***

This Salon article from an ex-con/college professor was obviously right up my alley.  In the opening paragraphs, she references people who were locked up for minor offenses (like possession of marijuana) and had their lives forever altered by incarceration.  This is all too familiar because it is the tragic story of one of the first men I met in D.C. Jail.  I’m going to tell you Oliver’s story some day soon (I’ve started writing it many times) but it’s taking me time since he is still the person I have cried for most in my life.

***

It turns out if I do only have one biological child (which is looking likely), I had her at exactly the right age!  Apparently, 30 is the statistically ideal age for having a child that is “less frail, less obese, taller, and [has] better self-reported health later on in life.”  (I’m not sure what happened with the height, but the healthy-as-a-horse part definitely bears out so far.)

Thanks to Rachel and her getting-a-PhD-in-demography husband Stephen for the info!

March 16, 2012

“I just can’t face it today.”

Filed under: Family, Motherhood, Personal — Tags: , , , — llcall @ 11:46 pm

I may or may not have made that statement every afternoon this week when it was my turn to take Addison.  It’s not a depression thing going on; I’m just so. dang. tired.  Thankfully, I’m not the only one.  Twice this week Addison has told me that she is tired around naptime — and then ACTUALLY napped.  It just about blew my mind. And even the days she did not say she was tired, she has napped with minimal crying, shouting, and clothing/furniture rearrangement beforehand.  Wouldn’t it be amazing if after two months of nothing, we had a napper on our hands again?!

Of course, it’s more likely that she’s just sick and tired from our 12-day vacation like her mama.  This trip to Utah and then Bakersfield was an experiment of sorts.  It was the longest I’ve ever been on my own with Addison with minimal outside help (I’ve done a couple of weeks without Neal before but only with my Dad getting up with Addison in the morning and my Mom helping out after work).  And although I was feeling pretty darn good during the trip, it has hit me really hard.  I didn’t leave the house from Sunday to Thursday and even staying in was very unsatisfying.  I felt too tired to enjoy the things I normally enjoy and so the week has passed really slowly and with some frustration.

I would like to record more about the trip: what went well/needs work in managing Addison, our sleep, the car ride, etc. for future reference.  But at the moment, it just sounds super boring.  I have a lot of more interesting topics roiling in my head at the moment, but I’m pretty sure my arms are too tired.

Instead, here’s a couple of cute pics from the capstone event of our trip — my niece Ayda’s fourth-birthday paint party!

Thanks to my cousin Jolene for already documenting it, since it takes me a month or two to go through the photo download/upload process!

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