Don’t call us, we’ll call you

April 30, 2012

Blogosphere, meet Neal

Several weeks ago, one of my friends said this to me: “So what exactly are you doing right now? Your life is just so . . . different.” I like to think she meant different in the best possible way (but then, that’s one of my core personality traits: I assume that people think I’m awesome until they tell me otherwise or literally cut off ALL contact with me.) (Which an old friend I love actually did about two years ago, and Neal still occasionally has to remind me that she is done as evidenced by her lack of response to my phone calls, emails, Facebook messages, and snail mail — I guess I have a hard head when it comes to friendship). Well, the answer to that what-are-you-doing question is kind of lengthy, so I’m not really going to answer it right now. But I can tell you something that Neal is doing since a couple of weeks ago he launched two blogs he’s had floating around in his head for a few years.

One is called Raised by My Daughter and is (obviously) about parenthood.  I love so many things about this blog (and he’s only written a few things on it).  His writing.  His sense of humor.  His comics.

from this post

His photoshopped pictures of Addison.

from this post, which also explains a teeny bit more about what we're doing

I typically edit his posts for him, so I have read some of them about 10 times, but I still find myself rereading my favorite parts and chuckling out loud.  I know it seems crazy to some people, but I would rather be the sole breadwinner (not that I am right now, mind you; no one is at the moment) in our little family and get to read his writing than have him get a job and stop writing.  I was spellbound the first time I read his work in April 2005, and I still am.

The second blog, English Major versus the World, is a tougher sell for me because it is a sci-fi/fantasy review blog.  Not only is it not up my alley in terms of reading material (still a nonfiction girl at heart), but I also thought I had completely convinced him to focus on other projects instead . . .  only to come back from my vacation a few weeks ago to find that he had worked on almost nothing else.  So annoying when people don’t let me boss them around, you know?!  But now that I have read some of the reviews and have a better vision for how this plays into some of his other long-term plans, I concede that I was wrong.  I really like this blog too . . . it’s made me want to read Moby Dick and The Road (although I’ll need to work myself up to such an emotionally difficult read) and it’s almost made me want to read Red Mars (which may or may not be his key purpose in creating the blog).

Check out his blogs if you’re interested!

Also, he really would like you to call him Hawkeye.


April 27, 2012

Whisper to shout

Filed under: Adoption, Motherhood, Personal — Tags: , , , , — llcall @ 6:52 pm

I love the final scene of The Shawshank Redemption.  Truly, I love many of its scenes (one of the instances where a movie is better than the book, though I also appreciate the Stephen King novella), but over the last several days I can hear Red’s closing lines in my head:

“I find I’m so excited I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head.  I think it’s the excitement only a free man can feel.  A free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain.  I hope I can make it across the border.  I hope to see my friend and shake his hand.  I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams.  I hope.”

I love that the very last thing you hear is an almost whispered I hope, in Morgan Freeman’s indelible voice.  That movie helped me to say I hope, during a time when I desperately needed it.

When I was writing part II of my new life story, it felt like that whispered I hope.  I was trying to say what I felt, it seemed important at this particular time, but it also felt terribly bare, vulnerable, heavy, even for an old guts-spiller like me.  And then Emily made that first comment and it felt lighter.  And in just under a half-hour, that somber whisper was replaced with a (Facebook) shout and can-barely-sit-still excitement, which is where I find myself still.  I’m excited.  Crazy excited.  But also, patient-excited.  I can tell that things are on the horizon that are going to be stretching, but joyous . . . but I recognize that they’re better left on the horizon for right now.

There’s a part III to this new story, but it’s still in bits and pieces floating around in my psyche.  But oh, how happy I feel this week!  So much happier than I did during those months of gridlock.  Acceptance is a remarkable thing; I wish I could make myself realize that sooner.

April 26, 2012

Sleeping through the night?

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

Neal has asked me to query the blogosphere many times over the last year or so to find out the answer to a question that we thought would be self-evident:

What does it mean when a child “sleeps through the night”?

When a parent says that a child sleeps through the night, does it mean:

  1. they literally don’t wake up at all
  2. they wake up, but don’t make much noise
  3. they wake up, make noise/cry, but put themselves back to sleep on their own
  4. they wake up and make a fuss, but the parents never go in to them

And if it’s options 2, 3, or 4, but they only do it once a week, would most people consider them as sleeping through the night?  Twice a week?  Three times a week?

Do you think there’s a general consensus on this?  Or if not, what’s your definition of “sleeping through the night”?  And do your kids do it?

April 25, 2012

A bad sign

I’ve mentioned that I haven’t been in the best place health-wise for the last couple of months.  I am always trying to assess how the current round of chronic fatigue/fibromyalgia pain/colds/coughs/sinus infections compares to past flare-ups.  And this morning I got another indicator that this may be worse than usual.

Me: Do you think I should try to exercise even though I’ve been so sick?  Will it help or make things worse?

Neal [sighing and shaking his head]: I don’t know.  I don’t know what will help.  I give up.

You have to know that Neal lives for two things: sleep and getting me to exercise.  When he passes up a golden opportunity to persuade me that exercise is the answer, you know he’s in a bad place.

Poor guy, now he only has one thing to live for.

April 24, 2012

A new story of my life, part II

Click here for part I.

I usually don’t write about something until I’ve mentally determined its structure, figured out some semblance of a beginning, middle, and end.  But this new story is so full of different threads, and so far from its end, that I am still only guessing at what its “parts” might be.  But I think the next part is about my miscarriage in December 2008.

When I think about it now, I get a good chuckle from the way I suddenly became a computer-game-playing, Reality-Steve-reading Bachelor junkie.  But at the same time, I cannot downplay the fact that I was in a pretty deep depression for many months.  I had wanted to start trying for a baby as soon as we got married — my “biological clock,” which only started gently ticking around 25, was clanging by 27 — but I was still in the middle of a string of neck surgeries, and the two situations were mutually exclusive.  I think I always had a sense that I was in a race against time . . . my health was probably not going to get better with age, so I needed to get some babies here as soon as possible.  I was hoping for at least 3, maybe 4.  I think the thing that surprised me the most when I did miscarry was how fiercely I was grieving for that baby, the one that I had never actually seen or held or heard.  It wasn’t about setting my timetable back, or running out of time, or wondering if I was capable of having a healthy pregnancy.  I just wanted my baby that I already felt this undeniable connection to.

Oh, that longing was fierce and persistent — even during my pregnancy with Addison.  How I finally moved past that feeling is really just a side-note to this broader story I’m trying to tell, but since I’ve never recorded it, this seems as good a time as any.  The turning point for me came in October 2009 when I was discussing labor and delivery techniques with my friend Kjell.  She said, kind of off-handedly with no particular gravity, “Do you think this baby is the same one you miscarried?”  Perhaps I said maybe or I don’t know or I’m not sure.  Of course, the thought had occurred to me as I contemplated many questions related to perinatal loss.  But for some reason that day in early October, the suggestion struck me in a different way.  Neal had felt that our first baby was a girl.  And we had just found out definitively that we were now expecting a girl, and so I just let that possibility sit with me.  Maybe this new baby girl is the same spirit, coming to a body that can sustain her life in a way the first one could not.  Now, I should make it clear that I didn’t know if that was the case, and I still don’t; but there was enough comfort there that I was finally able to let go of that baby I had tried so hard to hold on to.  So thanks for that, Kjell (I don’t think I’ve ever told you that).

But let’s back up a few months, back to the central story.  After six months of heavy grieving and depression, I was finally ready to try for another baby.  It didn’t take too long to get pregnant, but things weren’t looking too good from the start.  By eight weeks along, I had already been to urgent care and a doctor and my midwife, trying to figure out if the problems I was having were pregnancy-related or just coincidental new health problems.  Just before we took off on our blockbuster summer vacation in July, our midwife told us to prepare for the worst.  We mostly tried to relax and have fun on our trip, but we also made the decision that if this pregnancy didn’t take, we would shift our focus to adoption.  The midwife had told us that she thought I was capable of delivering a healthy child, but that it might take three or four miscarriages to get there.  And when you’re still in the middle of grieving a miscarriage that happened eight months before, you just know you can’t do that three more times.

Needless to say, our adoption talk subsided when I didn’t miscarry and Addison turned out to be a miraculous fighter.  We had our hands full trying to manage the pregnancy, and then a newborn, and then postpartum depression — adoption was no longer on the radar.  I can hardly pin down when the shift in our discourse came about, but eventually we were questioning whether adoption would ever be a good idea for us.  The new conventional wisdom was this: if I had such a difficult time accepting the loss of a baby that had only barely been present, how would I handle losing a baby or child I had held and rocked and soothed?  (Something that does not always happen in adoption, but is common enough that it must be considered.)  We would talk over different types of adoption (I had a decent amount of foundational knowledge from my work at CORE and the fact that I have four adopted cousins) and weigh the possibilities, but it was starting to sink in how emotionally difficult that path might be, and whether I was capable of dealing with it.  Combine that questioning and self-doubt with my still-clanging biological clock, and I became convinced that we should shoot for another biological child.  I felt that it could work out, that the pregnancy wasn’t as bad as Neal remembered, that maybe we could ask for another little miracle and get it.  In short, I bargained.

It’s actually interesting for me to go back and read my bargaining and acceptance posts because I can see just how dichotomous my thinking was only three short months ago: have another biological child or have only one child.  The idea that I wasn’t cut out for adoption, that I couldn’t endure its risks with strength or sanity had become so firmly rooted.  Which is why it was nothing short of miraculous when just a week later, I had this little glimpse of the future and I knew that we would be adoptive parents.

I will have to get stronger before that time comes.  Learn a lot more about the process.  Assess our parental capabilities.  Create an income stream.  Shed some emotional baggage.  Start getting out of bed again (not depressed, just still in a tough place health-wise).  But there’s a child or two coming our way (maybe already born) — I’m certain of it.

April 23, 2012

A new story of my life, part I

I feel like it’s time to write some more stories.  Stories about this journey of acceptance I’ve been on, realizing that if I want to have another child, adoption is the way to do it.  But as I try to capture all these different threads of thoughts and feelings, slight shifts and major changes, I keep coming back to that day I met Oliver and started to ask myself those fundamental questions of what I am capable of.  I guess that day in May 2002 is as good a place as any to pick up this story.

Although that day, that experience rocked me to the core, I went back to work at D.C. Prisoners’ the next day ready to go.  I still had a stack of letters from incarcerated men and women waiting for me, and I was determined to work through a two-year backlog before my internship ended.  But something started to take root in my mind that I had hardly given much notice to before: prevention.  See, when you start in nonprofit work to help incarcerated people, you get a lot of fellow public servants telling you that prevention is where it’s at.  Once they’re incarcerated, your hands are tied, you’re terribly limited — why not focus your energy on at-risk children and youth to help them avoid incarceration altogether?  Up to that point, I had mostly dismissed their arguments, not because prevention is not noble and worthwhile, but because I felt a special affinity for people who were already incarcerated and in need of some redemptive assistance (this impulse is the product of many things, not the least of which is multiple readings of one of my favorite books, Crime and Punishment).  But after Oliver, I felt so stung by my own helplessness that I started to think seriously about channeling my energy into something with fewer handcuffs and bars (literally and metaphorically), and more good feelings, more pay-off, more sense that what I was doing was actually making a difference for someone.

I finished my internship in June 2002 and set to work on that new plan.  In between getting just enough temp work to pay for my half of an F Street studio apartment, I volunteered with an organization called Heart of America.  I worked on their Books from the Heart project, which aims to get books into the hands of low-income children, who often have little to no access to books at home.  I helped sort books at their downtown office and then deliver them to a struggling school in Anacostia, an area of Southeast D.C. generally known for poverty, drugs, and crime.  This picture from Heart of America’s website pretty much sums up the joys of giving books to elementary school students who don’t have them:

Other than the disgust I felt at seeing the sort of school facility that these youngsters had to endure (in contrast to wealthier and more predominantly white areas in the district), it was a wonderful, heart-warming experience.  A lot of the incarcerated men I had met through D.C. Prisoners’ were from Anacostia, so I tried to spend my last weeks in D.C. (I was soon moving back to Provo for my last couple semesters of college) trying to understand the situation in Anacostia and the preventative work underway there.

Over the next few years, I tried various prevention-oriented efforts.  Back in Provo, I mentored a middle-school girl who was struggling with academic, behavioral, and family problems.  Later I volunteered at the Center for Women and Children in Crisis, doing some intake with women who were newly leaving abusive relationships but mostly just playing with the kids at the shelter.  When I moved back to D.C. again, I started my year of Americorps service with the Coalition for Residential Education.  I mentioned CORE’s mission last year (in this post), but briefly, it is “to advocate for boarding schools for disadvantaged youth, particularly youth in foster care who are unlikely to find permanent family placements and will eventually ‘age out of the system’ with little to no support. ”  One year with CORE turned into two or three as I moved up in the organization.  Although I threw myself into advancing CORE’s mission (as in, worked at home, on the bus, straight through lunch, and routinely stayed at the office until 7:00 or 8:00), I knew that I did not have quite the same spark for this prevention work as I did for my work with incarcerated individuals.  Because CORE was a coalition of schools nationwide, I was able to travel to boarding schools from Florida to South Dakota.  But I was always most taken with one right across town: the Maya Angelou Public Charter School, which had begun as sort of a last-chance school for youth involved in the juvenile justice system.

I eventually quit my job at CORE to try a slower-paced life.  It was meant to be filled with conceptual art and reading, but I spent the first three months just sleeping off the years of pushing my body much harder than I should have.  I knew that I had given my all to prevention, but my heart just wasn’t there.  I even resented at times the implication from some prevention proponents that once individuals got to a certain point — usually jail or prison — they were a lost cause.  I don’t believe that, and I wanted people to look at my life and know that I don’t believe that.  I decided that even if meeting another Oliver would break my heart again, it was worth it to share this little message: I care about you, I respect you, I will give you my time and energy no matter what your background or what you’ve done in your life.

I made that decision in 2006, and six years later I have never doubted that this is an integral part of my true calling, my life’s work.  But recently, my eyes have been opened to another part of my life’s work that I had scarcely considered before.

Stay with me . . . I’m about halfway there.

April 22, 2012

Apparently, we share a pet peeve . . .

Filed under: Family, Personal — Tags: , , — llcall @ 12:29 am

Addison to Neal [emphatically]:  Daddy, look a ME!  In a eyes!

April 19, 2012

It seemed like a good idea at the the time . . .

Filed under: Family, Motherhood, Personal — Tags: , , — llcall @ 9:08 pm

You know, teaching Addison to speak.  And then she actually started speaking, or should I say accusing.

Mama broke crayon.  Red.  [I did not break her red crayon, I swear.]

Mama take dubby.  [I didn’t take bunny either.]

Mama take it away.  Addison cup. [I did take her cup . . . but only to refill it.]

Always when she’s accusing me of these things she looks so earnest and sounds so totally wounded.  It cracks me up.

Today she took it one step further:

Top [stop], Mama. Top. [I was unconsciously jiggling her high chair with my foot.]  TIME-OUT, Mama.

I would venture to guess she’s not the first person that has wanted to put me in time-out for my leg-jiggling.

April 18, 2012

2012: Stronger

Filed under: Personal — Tags: , , , , — llcall @ 6:48 pm

I started reading a new book tonight (more on that later) and three paragraphs into the Foreword, my new one-word theme just hit me.  As appealing as “Git ‘er done . . . or not.  Whatever” is right now, it’s not as descriptive of my year so far, or how I hope the rest will be, as this word:


Last year when I picked git ‘er done, it was prescriptive: I needed to finish some things, mostly my thesis, and so I was boldly (and frequently) declaring my intentions.  Stronger, as I said, is more descriptive, organically springing up from what I have already been doing for the last few months.

Or longer, actually.  Back in January 2011, I wrote a post, called Becoming strongabout a tremendously significant week in my life.  What I wrote then, that “I was faced with some hard realities about things in my life that need to change,” has remained quite prescient.  And although I have made some of those necessary changes over the last year, there is still much more work to be done to be the stronger person I envisioned on that dark day in January.

This is a building year.  We’re trying to build an income from scratch (we’re still at zero dollars for the year, in case you’re wondering, unless you count Neal’s birthday money).  We’re trying to build stronger family patterns.  We’re trying to build a stronger marriage with date nights and getaways and yes, schedules.  I’m trying to become spiritually and emotionally stronger (writing some of my personal history is going to be part of that process, I think).  And of course, there’s always room to become physically stronger.

I have some more specific goals floating around in my head, but mostly when I look back on this year, I want to feel that I was stronger at the end of it than I was at the beginning.  That was certainly true of 2011.  I hope it will be even more true of 2012.

April 16, 2012

2012: ?

I had a new one-word theme all picked out for 2012, which was meant to start with a bang at the beginning of March.  But chronic illness struck again!

And now it’s mid-April and I’ve got very little momentum.  I am feeling better than I was a few weeks ago, but I am nowhere near where I was for most of December, January, and February (those really seem like golden months to me now — three of the healthiest months I’ve had in the last decade.  I was even fun for a few days!).  So I’ve made the difficult, but ultimately inconsequential decision to postpone that theme until next year.  I didn’t want to give it short shrift.

But based on last year’s success with the one-word theme and inspiration from my friends Victoria and Jen (who both picked one word themes for 2012 and have been chronicling some of their related endeavors), I still want to come up with something for 2012.  So far, I’m alternating between:

Git ‘er done some more.


Git ‘er done . . . or not.  Whatever.

What do you think?  Which sentiment should guide the last two-thirds of my year?

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