Don’t call us, we’ll call you

May 31, 2012

Ah, freshman year . . .

Filed under: History, Personal — Tags: , , , — llcall @ 7:42 pm

I wrote a fun piece about my physical appearance for my Life Writing class back in April . . . but I knew it was missing something. Pictures (duh!), especially from my freshman year of college. I knew said pictures were somewhere in this house and I finally remembered where. Hooray!

I am still trying to find a couple of specific pictures from my later years before I post that piece, but in the meantime, I updated my post about songs from my freshman year with representative pictures. No doubt I get more joy looking at them than anyone else will; it takes me back to such a fun, carefree time in my life. That first year of college figures very prominently in my life story, from the frivolous, like makeovers and dating stories (my first kiss!), to the decidedly serious, like the beginning of my journey through therapy. Thank goodness I now have the pictures to match the stories!

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May 29, 2012

So, fiction . . .

After I finished Adopting the Hurt Child, I told myself that I would take a nonfiction break. I decided to read at least one book recommendation from each of the people that replied to my last books post. I checked out:

  • Les Miserables, Victor Hugo
  • Middlemarch, George Eliot
  • North and South, Elizabeth Gaskell
  • Hidden, Helen Frost
  • Knuffle Bunny, Mo Willems (mostly for Addison, but I kind of adore it)

I was going to start with Les Mis, but then thought about how it’s kind of about child abuse and neglect, so maybe I should wait. So I started Middlemarch instead. I brought the book down to read while eating lunch, only to be drawn to a nonfiction book about pain management my mom had left on the table. Despite my pledge to read fiction, I was into Relief at Last before I even realized what I was doing. At the moment, I’ve abandoned Les Mis, Middlemarch, and North and South, in favor of pain management reading. There’s no doubt I’m drawn to nonfiction when that pulls me in, but at the same time, I am having a major escalation of pain at the moment so it probably makes sense to see what the book has to say about the latest research.

But I am happy to report that I did read Hidden and Knuffle Bunny. (And only one of them was about abused children.) My friend Alysa, who reviews books at Everead, is slowly initiating me into the world of juvenile literature. And so far, Alysa’s suggestions have been spot-on.

Addison absolutely adores Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale (Alysa’s review here), perhaps because she has her own beloved Dubby. We’ve read it at least 30 times since we brought it home from the library last week. I seldom think about buying things (as in, I literally have never bought Addison a book or toy in her short life), but I am seriously considering this little gem. It was that delightful for all involved.

As for Hidden, it is a book about a girl, Darra, who has an abusive father, and another girl, Wren, who is accidentally kidnapped by Darra’s father (in a sort of botched car theft). Although I was kind of trying to steer myself into lighter, more escapist territory, I have to say that the book draws you in immediately and I was done with it almost before I resolved that I should keep reading (there really is something satisfying about reading short books, as Alysa has mentioned to me before). I heartily agree with Alysa’s assessment of the craft of the book — it’s comprised of three different types of poetry and each adds an interesting layer to the story. For me, it didn’t feel like a heavy book even though it was dealing with some difficult issues, like how kids can still love a parent that hurts them and how kids grapple with feelings of responsibility for bad things that have happened to them. I was quite moved by one of the concluding moments when Wren writes to Darra, “None of it was our fault.” You always wish that would be obvious to kids, but it never is.

Beyond just enjoying the book, I also had a minor epiphany while reading it. Frost’s writing about adolescents feels really appropriate, both as channeling them and as speaking to them. Although I’m far from an expert in youth or literature geared toward them, I repeatedly thought that she was getting at some very significant things but in a non-frightening, accessible way. Perhaps this is what all children’s authors do; I have read so little literature for kids or teens, even though I was one once. I suppose the epiphany was just that if I want to understand how to talk about some of the issues I am passionate about with young people, I should read more from writers who specialize in communicating with those age groups. I have this vague memory of someone overhearing me telling a story to the four-year-old girl I used to live with and just laughing because I used the term “lower socioeconomic status.” Kidlit may have a thing or two to teach me, after all.

May 28, 2012

Sleeping through the night!

Filed under: Family, Lindsay loves Neal, Motherhood — Tags: , , , — llcall @ 1:04 pm

I do believe our little Addison is finally doing it!

(Except for last night when Neal woke up to her screaming at 2:00 am only to find that practically every square inch of her body was covered in poop, even her hair. Her hair?? Yes, her hair. [I can only imagine the comic he’s planning for this incident.])

(Also, I slept blissfully through the whole pooping/screaming/bathing/laundering ordeal . . . this definitely qualifies as a Lindsay loves Neal post.)

It was interesting to read the responses to my query about how people define “sleeping through the night” (although I’m sorry that I freaked you out, Emily!).  I came away feeling that we would know her “sleeping through the night” was legit when our lives didn’t revolve around it anymore.

It used to be that all our bedtime prayers went something like this: “Please, PLEASE help her sleep tonight.” Repeat. And then again. And rather than good mornings, our days started with “How many times did she wake up last night?” “Did you go in to get her?” [Some people suggested that we shouldn’t go in to her, but I’ll tell you, hearing her yell, “I need help! Help please!” is much harder to ignore than crying or whimpering was. Sometimes the help is needed because she lightly brushed her thumb against the rail and needs a kiss, but sometimes she inexplicably has poop in her hair (see above)].  “How long did she cry?” “Was she wet?” It was probably about two weeks ago that I noticed I had stopped asking those questions in the morning. And our evening prayers were less fervent on the topic because perhaps getting a good night’s sleep would no longer require an act of God.

When Addison first stopped napping around 22 months, I thought losing all that day sleep would help her night sleep. When this didn’t bear out, I desperately wished that she would go back to napping. Despite glimmers of hope occasionally (always when she turned out to be sick), it’s clear that Addison is done with naps (though sometimes when you put things in writing, kids try to prove you wrong — so be it!). But if she falls asleep within an hour of going to bed and doesn’t wake us up during the night, I am more than satisfied. Especially because I seldom do the night shift anyway.

May 26, 2012

Pictures for the Weekend: Two-year pics + props

Filed under: Family, Pictures for the Weekend — llcall @ 3:43 am

I hardly know where this week went . . . it was kind of nuts. Not in a bad way, just in an I-could-barely-keep-my-wits-about-me kind of way (wait, does that sound bad?). Hopefully this second installment of two-year pics will help take the edge off.

May 21, 2012

“The hurt child”

I’m on my third adoption book now. And, WHOA, it’s a doozy (I definitely need that fiction break!). I certainly don’t consider myself squeamish (I actually enjoy reading about the complexities of incarceration), but this is one of the hardest books I have ever read. Ever. It’s called Adopting the Hurt Child: Hope for Families with Special-Needs Kids. You just don’t ever want to think about the kinds of things that they’re describing happening to children. Having to face the reality, on page after page, that these things do happen to hundreds of thousands of kids is difficult (understatement of the year). Perhaps I just haven’t arrived at the hope part yet . . .

It’s probably as telling as anything that about 30 pages in I actually wanted to stop reading it. And I never want to stop reading anything I’ve started. I was just coming off You Can Adopt: An Adoptive Families Guide, which even though it does address all aspects of adoption, including “hurt children,” is a bit rah-rah-rah. You can adopt! It will work out! Here’s how to do it! Ready, go! (Don’t get me wrong, I think it is a great resource, I just think maybe I should have read it after Adopting the Hurt Child).

But I am pressing on and realizing some important things. For one, there is a certain comfort in working with adults in the criminal justice system. Even though many, if not most, have experienced the trauma the book is describing, I’m seeing them as full-grown men, strong for having lived through various kinds of hell; strong for being willing to talk about it and to seek help and to just keep surviving. It’s much harder to envision the children in this book, almost frozen in these devastating circumstances.

The other thing that’s been growing in my mind is that in some ways my background is ideally suited for adopting through the foster-care system. Considering a “special needs” adoption forces you to really think about what you expect from your children, and how you would cope if your children veered from those expectations. A couple of weeks ago my friend Emily, my resident child development expert, asked if I do a certain child development activity with Addison, and I responded something like: Not really. I’m not very intentional about it anyway. It’s more intuitive for my mom . . . but when Addison goes to jail, I’ll know just what to do! Of course, I don’t want Addison to go to jail or prison, but it’s definitely something I think I could deal with. I’ve played out that possibility in my head, considering what I would do in various scenarios (does that sound weird? When I’m sick I end up with a lot of time on my hands!), and I certainly don’t assume that Addison is immune to those kinds of problems simply because she is my child and has been blessed with many advantages in this life.

I guess the point is that when you think your child being incarcerated would be tough, but workable, and you’ve already considered strategies for getting through it, perhaps you are precisely the kind of parent that some “hurt child” could really use. Perhaps.

May 19, 2012

Pictures for the Weekend: Two-year pics

Filed under: Family, Personal, Pictures for the Weekend — llcall @ 2:56 am

This first installment was meant to go up on Mother’s Day since Nena put in a special request for pictures of Addison in this dress (the ones I took a few months ago were really washed out), but I didn’t select the proofs in time. Really, how can one choose between a couple hundred adorable pictures of your only daughter? I haven’t felt that angsty since high school!

First, credit where credit is due:

May 18, 2012

Friday already?

Filed under: Family, History, Personal, Therapy — Tags: , , , — llcall @ 11:38 pm

I almost can’t believe it. This week went by in a flash, perhaps because there was no schedule in sight!

Addison getting sick + Neal getting sick + work to be done at the “other house” that we’re still trying to fix up + a big training/application process going on for a part-time gig I’m applying for = lots of TV at our house. The upside of all that TV is two-fold:

  1. I realized Addison really doesn’t watch that much TV/movies regularly, something that I have always worried about and that Neal has assured me is not that big a deal.
  2. TV makes life with Addison sooo much easier! God bless the creators of Curious George and Peppa Pig and whatever else she was watching while I was trying to keep her from talking to me.

I don’t think we’re going to permanently add more TV to our daily life, but it sure is tempting!

***

On another note, my friend Victoria linked to this CJane post: “Concurrent Collisions.” It actually speaks quite perfectly to this place I find myself in right now. I am taking the process of writing my personal history quite seriously these days (too bad I don’t get paid for it like CJane does!). And one of the things I have had in the works for awhile (and mentioned a couple of times) is writing about therapy. The series, which I have already written quite a few posts for, started out about our most recent gig in couples counseling. Then I thought what I should really do is go back through each past therapy experience and record what is left of it — what stuck with me, and is still here, as a testament to how it reshaped my life. And then I realized that there’s this thing I would need to tell to put that first therapy experience in context. This thing that I have never told anyone besides that first therapist, except in tiny bits and pieces. I resolved to do it. I even decided how I would start it out. And then I got that pit in my stomach that CJane describes. I felt sick, as if I had already told the whole world about this thing that I have obviously avoided talking about for twenty-plus years. I honestly never thought that I was avoiding it so ferociously until I started to think-write about it and an intense, self-protective instinct was suddenly clear as day.

What I’m not sure of now, and I started to work out in Victoria’s comments section (oops!), is whether this pit is one that is meant to battled against or one that is meant to be accepted as a sign that some things are better left in the past. I often tell people that I was a completely different person pre-20 years old than I was after, but if I never tell this thing then no one will fully know what I mean. Maybe that’s okay? Maybe that’s fearful? I haven’t decided.

But one thing I have decided: more Pictures for the Weekend starting today! Stay tuned.

May 16, 2012

Committed

I’ve been reading a book called You Can Adopt: An Adoptive Families Guide that walks you through all the questions/decisions/issues/procedures that you will have to navigate in the adoption process. (After my first haul from the library, I asked Neal how many books on adoption he thought I would read based on my track record with pregnancy books: “all of them.”) So, um, did you know there are like a bazillion things to consider when trying to adopt?

This is not such a surprise; there should be a bazillion considerations to something as significant as trying to find loving, supportive care for children all over the world. But still, it feels overwhelming at times because there are just so many decision points, many of which you can’t completely prepare for beforehand. Although Neal and I feel a lot of natural consensus about some of the decisions, questions of race/ethnicity have not been so cut-and-dry.  The fact is when we picture our future child, we each picture a different race.

The book has a short section about evaluating whether you can parent a child of a different race and one of the things it recommends is taking some Implicit Assumption Tests (IATs), which are meant to measure how strongly a person holds certain stereotypes, to better understand yourself. We spent an interesting afternoon taking some IATs (using Harvard’s website — click on Demonstration and it will bring up a range of assessments), mostly on race and skin color, but also gender stereotypes and religious preferences. It was enlightening to see what implicit associations are strongest for me — my strongest, by far, was on the Gender-Career IAT where I had a strong implicit association between females-family and males-career. Interesting, considering most people (including me) don’t think I fall into a very traditional camp in that regard.

Coincidentally, this week I also ran across a Jezebel article entitled, “A Complete Guide to Hipster Racism.” Although there were far more f-bombs in it than I would prefer (fair warning), I thought it was an important treatment of the topic of “ironic racism,” which could be loosely defined as a method of joking about race to show that you’re enlightened/aren’t racist. There were a lot of bits worth reading, but this section toward the end really stuck out to me:

If you claim that you are not a racist person (or, at least, that you’re committed to working your ass off not to be one—which is really the best that any of us can promise), then you must believe that people are fundamentally born equal. So if that’s true, then in a vacuum, factors like skin color should have no effect on anyone’s success. Right? And therefore, if you really believe that all people are created equal, then when you see that drastic racial inequalities exist in the real world, the only thing that you could possibly conclude is that some external force is holding certain people back. Like . . . racism. Right?

I hope it’s absolutely clear that I think racism is alive and well in this country (and world). I see it in a lot of places, but the criminal justice system is a glaring, glaring example. But being able to identify racism and working to eliminate it, does not automatically mean that I’m not racist myself. Which is why I appreciate that caveat that being “committed to working your ass off not to be one . . . is really the best that any of us can promise.” I totally believe that. It’s my responsibility to continually examine my thoughts, beliefs, reactions, opinions for racist stereotypes and beliefs. Some people would say that is the price of privilege (I agree). But I also think it is simply the price of being human surrounded by other humans who are not me.

It can be a tricky endeavor to see differences between myself and others and not subtly assume that what I am is better (because it’s what I know? because I’m surrounded by it? because an ingrained part of me believes that a particular trait is better?). It can be equally tricky to determine how to acknowledge and embrace differences in a positive way (I don’t believe “color-blindness” is either possible or desirable). None of this applies just to race, but because racism casts such a long shadow over our country, it seems like one of the most important subjects to be vigilant about.

So if you’re like me and don’t want to be racist (I hope that’s everyone reading this), let’s never assume we’re not racist because {insert rationale here} and start saying that we are committed to working at not being racist every minute of every day until we die. Deal?

May 11, 2012

Books

Yesterday Neal posted on his book blog a list of books from the book 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. (Phew, that’s a freaking lot of “books” in one sentence.) “Competing” over lists like these — books, movies, albums, travel — and taking online quizzes are definitely some of our main couple hobbies. I spent a ridiculously long time trying to post the list here, but the numbering and formatting was just completely out of whack. So while I don’t recommend you spend the same amount of time I did trying to recreate the list (at a certain point I think I imagined that I was locked in one final technological battle and I would be victorious . . . but I was not), I’m curious how many you have read from the list.

I’ve read these 58 (Neal bested me as he usually does):

2000s (1)

  1. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – Mark Haddon

1900s (25)

  1. The Hours – Michael Cunningham
  2. Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
  3. Beloved – Toni Morrison
  4. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou
  5. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich – Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn
  6. Franny and Zooey – J.D. Salinger
  7. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
  8. Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe
  9. On the Road – Jack Kerouac
  10. The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemingway
  11. The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
  12. Cry, the Beloved Country – Alan Paton
  13. Animal Farm – George Orwell
  14. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
  15. Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston
  16. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
  17. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd – Agatha Christie
  18. The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
  19. Siddhartha – Herman Hesse
  20. The Age of Innocence – Edith Wharton
  21. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man – James Joyce
  22. Howards End – E.M. Forster
  23. A Room With a View – E.M. Forster
  24. The Jungle – Upton Sinclair
  25. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad

1800s (27)

  1. The Awakening – Kate Chopin
  2. The Yellow Wallpaper – Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  3. The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde
  4. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain
  5. The Death of Ivan Ilyich – Leo Tolstoy
  6. The Brothers Karamazov – Fyodor Dostoevsky
  7. The Devils – Fyodor Dostoevsky
  8. Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There – Lewis Carroll
  9. The Idiot – Fyodor Dostoevsky
  10. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoevsky
  11. Notes from the Underground – Fyodor Dostoevsky
  12. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
  13. Walden – Henry David Thoreau
  14. Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or, Life Among the Lonely – Harriet Beecher Stowe
  15. The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne
  16. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontë
  17. The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
  18. The Pit and the Pendulum – Edgar Allan Poe
  19. A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
  20. The Fall of the House of Usher – Edgar Allan Poe
  21. Frankenstein – Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
  22. Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen
  23. Persuasion – Jane Austen
  24. Emma – Jane Austen
  25. Mansfield Park – Jane Austen
  26. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
  27. Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen

1700s (4)

  1. Émile; or, On Education – Jean-Jacques Rousseau
  2. Candide – Voltaire
  3. A Modest Proposal – Jonathan Swift
  4. Robinson Crusoe – Daniel Defoe

Pre-1700 (1)

  1. The Pilgrim’s Progress – John Bunyan

I’ve definitely covered Dostoevsky and Jane Austen and Soren Kierkegaard, not that he made the list since he wrote nonfiction, philosophical texts. Which brings up the question of why lists like this never include any nonfiction whatsoever . . . if you’re going to be so bold as to say these are the books you must read before you die, wouldn’t you think there would be at least one nonfiction work that was deemed significant? I can think of many.

Despite that, I do think I should read some more fiction. I’m on my third adoption book as well as finishing up another nonfiction work and I’ve decided that I should force myself to take a break and read a novel. So hit me with your suggestions (either from the list or not) — what novels are essential to you?

May 9, 2012

Flashback: My thoughts on April 2

This morning I had a conversation with two of my good friends, a conversation about new babies and first children and postpartum depression. And then quite by accident, I stumbled on this post that I never published. I wrote it on 2 April 2010 (hence the very creative title I picked) when Addison was just about 6 weeks old. I’m not exactly sure why I never published it but I suspect that there was some element of not being completely ready to discuss how I was feeling. I know I did blog about some of my experiences with PPD, but I also know there were some things that I wanted to say but I just could not bring myself to do it. Revisiting those times through conversation with a few friends over the last several months has been surprisingly healing. I’ve told them things without fear or shame (and often with laughter) that I remember feeling so horrible about at the time. I just want to hug them and tell them that we’re good people and good mothers and in the whole scheme of our lives these difficult feelings will be so fleeting and inconsequential and no reflection on whom we really are and what we are capable of. And while I’m telling them all that, I want to tell myself too.

For a little over a week now, Addison has been smiling directly at us, in response to us.  I think this actually started much earlier, but Neal says I was deceived by motherly-wishful thinking (the more I think about it, the more I believe that “motherly-wishful thinking” may be a sort of mental condition — anyone know if it’s in the DSM?).

This new turn of events has made getting her in the morning my favorite part of the day.  She will be rooting around, flailing her arms, making little frustrated squeaks, still partially asleep.  As I walk in the room and start speaking, she calms down a bit and starts to tentatively open her eyes.  By the time I’m in front of her swing looking at her, she has her eyes open and breaks into a smile.  She doesn’t stare at me for long because she still wants to make it clear that she is hungry, but she is very sweet and smiley in the first few moments of her day.

I have yet to get a picture of her wide eyed and smiling, simply because it is so adorable, I can’t pull myself away long enough to get the camera.

***

Speaking of beautiful moments, I used to have so many sacred thoughts and feelings about this baby girl while I was pregnant.  Impressions about her character and personality, about our pre-existing relationship, and my role as her mother.  So it’s been interesting that since she was born those have been fewer and farther between.  There is something so in-the-moment about being with a child.  When they need something, they need it now.  When they are unhappy, they want to be soothed now.  It doesn’t leave me with the kind of contemplative time to which I am so accustomed from years of bedrest and ill health.

Couple this lack of time with exhaustion and add in more mixed feelings than I could have foreseen, and this has been an interesting experiment thus far.  A lot of people talked to me about how hard the first while would be and about postpartum depression and baby blues, but I don’t remember people talking about the mixed feelings.  How you would never go back to life before her, but you will also grieve for the things that you must leave behind.

Why can we not acknowledge that we are losing things too?  Things we would want to grieve.

“Something’s lost but something’s gained in living every day.” [From this Joni Mitchell song I love.]

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