Don’t call us, we’ll call you

July 17, 2013

Of slumber parties and dating advice

Filed under: Family, Lindsay loves Neal, Motherhood, Neal's writing, Personal — Tags: , , , , — llcall @ 9:21 pm

Last month I had a slumber party with one of my best friends. I vacationed at her house for 2 weeks so one might argue I had 13 slumber parties with her, but it was only one particular night that we stayed up obscenely late (read: 12:30 am), giggling and talking about boys and dating and first kisses. For one giddy night, we pretended that we didn’t have three toddlers that were going to wake us her up obscenely early sleeping right in the next room. We told stories of the girls we had once been, eventually getting around to how we met our husbands and created our own little girls.

It got me thinking about what advice I might give to my little girl one day when she is not so little. So here, Addison, is my almost-34-years-old, been married for 6-years-and-3-months advice. Someday, I hope we can discuss it during a late night slumber party . . .

Don’t look for a checklist. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

If you find the checklist, don’t imagine that guarantees happiness or ease. Plan to marry a work-in-progress (since everybody is), knowing that you will never know what the final version of that life will look like. Think long and hard about what this person’s version of work-in-progress looks like — ask them, too; it’s a good idea to find out if you have the same ideas about what progress means — and then ask yourself, am I willing to take this person’s progress as my own? Do I want to go on a very uncertain and possibly rocky journey with him?

Speaking of journeys, take a road trip together, possibly a very uncertain and rocky one. I would be happy to come along! Nothing puts a boyfriend through the wringer like hitting the road with potential in-laws two hours after you meet them — just ask your Dad!

But don’t just take road trips: Live near each other for a year, observing his day-to-day habits. I can’t take credit for this one; it was Grammy and Gramps’ instruction to their adolescent daughter. But now I know why, because that romantic haze — wherein your new love seems perfect even though they are, in fact, a work-in-progress — is a real thing. The “dopamine bubble,” some researchers call it. Don’t be its victim.

Observe as many couples as you can, as closely as you can, for as long as you can before you get married. I lived with four different married couples and, wow (!), it’s eye-opening to sit in the crosshairs of the occasional marital conflict.

Ask him if he’ll go to therapy with you anytime you ask. Maybe therapy won’t be your thing — there’s always the chance you’re more well-adjusted than your mom — but ask anyway because his response might be very revealing. Even if nothing could ever possibly go wrong because you are like two peas in a pod, promise each other that you’ll get help together anytime one of you feels the need. You keep your end of that promise.

Make sure you think he’s funny, even if no one else does, because humor will be the next best thing if you can’t get over to the therapist immediately.

Meet his parents. Try not to throw up two minutes later in their bathroom, but if you must, you must. See if he cleans it up after gently tucking you into the nearest bed. See if they invite you back.

Never say you can’t live without him. I know it seems like a romantic superlative, but whoever he is, you have lived without him before and you could do it again. Hopefully, you won’t have to and, hopefully, you won’t want to, but you could, always.

If at all possible, find someone who will write about you as beautifully as your father has. It’s not the only way to gauge someone’s love, but it will give you goosebumps for years to come. (In exchange for those goosebumps, you may have to work to support your starving artist. No big deal.) If he can’t write, have him read this just to test whether he can at least appreciate good writing:

When she was born, the waves of that sea crested over her one last time, and then crashed, spilling away on a fading tide, draining from her lungs and clearing from her eyes. In the residue of these waters were my wife and myself and a little girl, who looked directly at us, and screamed. As we beheld this tiny sea creature, wafting ocean spray formed drops that ran in rivulets down our cheeks, and then also spilled away.

And there we were, all of us washed up on dry land. Addison, the most recent castaway, cried out immediately in bewilderment for something to take the place of the soothing waters of her life as a fish and to quench her powerful thirst. Her mother provided much of that, and would continue to do so, for the next year of her life. But in the first moment that I stroked my daughter’s hand, she grabbed onto me, without even looking, and didn’t let go. I knew that my wife wasn’t her only safe harbor.

She placed herself completely, without a hint of reservation, in my hands. It was hard to fully grasp then, and it still is. She needed me. But I also realized during that time that she didn’t just need me as I was, but that she needed all the potential in me. I didn’t immediately feel like a different person. Rather, I felt the weight of my obligation to become the best father my daughter could wish for. Some fatherly instincts were automatic; others I’ve tried to cultivate.

Eventually she lost her automatic grasp reflex, and now any time that she holds my hand it is an act of volition. When she merely held my finger she was barely on the cusp of serious decision-making, and she never wandered far anyway; but now she can grasp my hand with hers, her sweaty little octopus hand, and every time she does, my heart swells a little. Because she is choosing me.

If he knows exactly what Dad was talking about here — you summon all the potential in him, too, and that heart swell, well, it doesn’t even begin to describe it — he may just be the right person to invite on your own work-in-progress journey.

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July 10, 2013

Moving: A Timeline

Filed under: Family, Personal — Tags: , , , , , — llcall @ 5:13 am

We’re moving! Have I mentioned that on here before? We’re trading in traffic congestion and urban sprawl for the sparsely populated (2,600 people in our town) mountains of the Los Padres National Forest. Although this has been on the horizon for a good 9 months, everything got kicked into high gear when Neal found a house (well, a view mostly) he really loved while I was on vacation back east. I got home on a Tuesday night and Thursday morning we were off to check out the house, along with 4 or 5 others. Well, the house didn’t seem like the best fit — I think the realtor’s exact words were “Well, I wouldn’t bring a young child up here with the rattlesnakes and mountain lions, but . . . .” Though it was hard for Neal to give up on that view, we drove by a different house that was, for me, the house. I saw the sturdy, two-car garage and could picture Neal painting in his “studio” while Addison played in the yard. I could see Addison sledding down the little hill in the back, or begging us to walk her 2 minutes to the local park for some real sledding hills. I could imagine myself throwing up a lawn chair in the middle of the driveway just to be in close proximity to the wonderful piney smell. (Everyone thinks I shouldn’t be picking a house based on the outdoor smell, but I don’t care, I love me some piney smell!) In short, I could see our life there, and I was instantly enamored with it.

The only hitch in the giddy-up was that we hadn’t actually seen the inside of it, a feat that turned out to be far more difficult than we imagined. In a series of awkward and mumbly phone calls with the landlord (Neal is the awkward one; the landlord is the mumbly one), Neal ascertained that there was no one in the vicinity to show us the house nor was there expected to be in the near future. But perhaps just to get Neal to stop making awkward phone calls to him, he finally sent up his handyman to let us in. We agreed on the drive up that unless the place was truly heinous on the inside, we were going for it. Luckily, it was far from heinous — in fact, when Neal saw the cathedral ceilings, he tried to convince me to skip renting altogether and just buy it, like yesterday.

So we finally saw the house on a Wednesday; I spent Thursday filling out the rental application (in the most anal-retentive way possible in order to appear like a good bet when our income is obviously lower than what a landlord would want); and on Friday we were on our way to Inglewood to try and woo the landlord into choosing us. Three hours later, he called to tell us that we could pick up the keys on Monday! (I think he liked the combination of Neal’s entrepreneurial spirit and my frugality.) Of course, when he said we could pick up the “keys,” we had no idea he meant a zip-lock bag full of keys belonging to various rental properties all over the greater Southern California area because he wasn’t sure which ones fit our house. It’s a little unnerving to suddenly find yourself with keys to houses that you have no business having access to, but hey, at least one of them fit the locks at the house.

I should mention here that while I’m ecstatic about the house, I was less than thrilled with the timing. Months ago I said that August or September were the months for us to move because this July is, in a word, chaotic. There’s my last few weeks of classes and the attendant final project submissions, grades due by the 31st, multiple visits from Chris and Rish and taking care of their kids so they can get a few days away, a trip to New Mexico for Neal’s 10-year high school reunion right when I’m supposed to be grading my final papers, along with all the usual little events. So while I agreed that we had to act quickly to get this particular house, I was still lobbying for waiting to actually move until mid-August. But if you’re following along at home you know that Neal likes routine and schedules — no, “like” is too mild a word, single-mindedly obsesses over them, perhaps? So suddenly having the keys to this new house and even contemplating all the packing and moving and appliance-buying that was going to be taking place over the next several weeks was shooting his anxiety through the roof, especially since I told him I was too busy to even plan a move date let alone actually move. In a compromise, we agreed to drive up to the house on Friday for under 24 hours so that we could identify the right keys and test out the carpet (since the former tenant had a dog) and still be back in time for a killer BBQ my friend was throwing.

It all went pretty much according to plan, except for the departure, arrival, and everything in between . . .

  • 4:00 pm Leave for new house — only 3 hours late, armed with Bag o’ Keys
  • 6:00 Arrive at the house, test each key
  • 6:05 Test each key again
  • 6:10 Test each key again, upside down this time
  • 6:15 Have Addison test each key, cause, I mean, you never know!
  • 6:20 Come to grips with the fact that the Bag o’ Keys is useless to us
  • 6:25 Frantically search for a bathroom for Addison, while exchanging calls with the landlord, the handyman, Chris & Rish, my dad, and a handful of locksmiths
  • 7:30 Drive up to Bakersfield to spend the night there instead, but set an appointment with the locksmith for 9:00 the next morning
  •  7:30 am Wake up and pack everything back up
  • 8:00 Wake Addison and get back on the road
  • 9:05 Arrive back at house, test keys again, call locksmith
  • 9:10 Mill about in the backyard until the neighbors get suspicious
  • 9:30 Call locksmith again
  • 10:50 Locksmith finally shows up, picks the lock — we have access!– and starts rekeying the house
  • 10:52 Excitement tempered by realizing locksmith does not take credit cards
  • 10:55 Pool the cash from our wallets: $5.47 — just slightly shy of the $120 bill
  • 11:05 Check if neighborhood market gives cash back from a credit card — nope, only from a check (Whaa?? People still use checks?)
  • 11:15 Check if largest gas station gives cash back from a credit card; no, but there’s an ATM!
  • 11:17 Realize the bank sent a new ATM card that I left at home and haven’t activated yet
  • 11:20 Call Rish; Great conversation starter: Do you happen to have $120 lying around and can you meet me on the side of the road in 100° heat to give it to me?
  • 11:50 Arrive at halfway point
  • 12:00 pm Raise fists to the sky and curse that I’m sitting in the middle of nowhere instead of my friend’s air-conditioned house eating her homemade baked goods
  • 12:10 Clandestine exchange of money, hugs
  • 12:35 Arrive back at the house: pay locksmith who waited an extra 45 minutes, soothe Addison who cried for me for the last half-hour
  • 12:40 Lock up and triple-check keys
  • 12:42 Head out
  • 12:45 Notice we don’t have Bag o’ Keys; head back to house to find them
  • 12:48 Realize Neal gave said keys to the locksmith
  • 12:55 Neal retrieves Bag o’ Keys but jokes that the locksmith flushed ’em already
  • 12:56 Neal realizes jokes will not be well-received right now
  • 1:00 Refuel; Neal convinces me to buy a special lemonade drink to try to help me not punch something since I’m missing my yummy BBQ
  • 1:15 Start the drive back home
  • 1:30 Realize we never actually fed Addison (or us) a legit lunch or breakfast; bust out carrots, Cheetos, and jelly beans
  • 3:15 Arrive home, shower, gratefully hand over fussy toddler
  • 4:00  Arrive at BBQ, fashionably late (4 hours is “fashionably late,” right?)

But you want to know the worst part? At the end, Neal said, “I think this is probably about how the whole move is gonna go.” I wasn’t sure whether to cut him or weep.

So, the moral of the story is: we’re moving! We have no idea when. There’s a lot of things to do first. Like start carrying cash. And a checkbook. But the future looks bright . . . and kinda woody . . . and smells like pine.

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Yellow stove, probably from my year of birth. I can dig.

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