Don’t call us, we’ll call you

April 30, 2015

2014 “Holiday Letter”

Clearly, the “holiday letter” thing wasn’t happening this year, but true to form, when the flu kept me up until all hours of the night in January, I jotted down some highlights of the year. I held off sharing it, naively thinking we could take a couple of quick family snapshots to go with it. The fact that it took 4 months to get said pictures is a testament to the photo aversion in our family. But without further ado . . .

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If 2012 was a quiet year, and 2013 was quite eventful, then 2014 seemed to be somewhere in between. In March, life in our small town got a little busier when I took a second job working in the community. I am a part-time case manager, connecting low-income individuals and families with needed resources to increase stability (I’ve written about a couple of my meaningful moments here and here). I love my coworkers there, so the side benefit has been getting most of my social needs met as well!

During the summer, I traveled (!): a work trip to Idaho, a family reunion in Utah for all of us, and a three-years-in-the-making family reunion in . . . wait for it . . . Hawaii! We couldn’t save enough for Neal and Addison to join me, but I fell so hard for Hawaii that I’m determined to go back with them someday! To round out the summer, I took Addison on a little mommy-daughter trip to San Francisco. If we were in any doubt that she’s still struggling with small town living, this trip kinda settled it. She was inconsolable when it was time to leave, wailing “But I LOVE San ‘Cisco! Please don’t take me away. I think I was supposed to be born to Mark and Sarah!” (my awesome life-long friend who graciously hosted us). So, apparently Addison would choose the big city over me and Neal. Duly noted.

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The fall brought some fun things like Addison’s new preschool and her first taste of soccer, but on the whole it was rough.

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I had to say goodbye to my dear friend Kaila very suddenly, followed closely by my Grandma receiving a terminal diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. I’m grateful that I was able to spend some time with my Grandma before she passed (at the end of January), but my heart has definitely been heavy for awhile. Neal was pretty amazing through the whole ordeal, supporting me so I could stay on top of my work and making sure Addison sailed through my emotional roller-coaster.

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Thankfully, December ended on a happier note when I received a promotion at my online teaching job (moving into a more managerial position in addition to my teaching) and the purchase of our house finally went through! We spent our first Christmas just the three of us in our own home, and it was beyond wonderful to just relax and stoke a fire all day.

Our big task of 2015 is to finally become foster/adoptive parents, something we’ve been slowly working on for the past couple of years. We spent a lot of last year priming and preparing Addison for what lies ahead. She was a bit confused at first, often asking us, “So . . . when will I become a foster child?” We think she gets it now, however, as she’s taken to coming in for a hug with “I love you, guys. You’ll always be my biological parents.” Our undying extrovert can’t wait to get some foster siblings, as evidenced by her rushing into the agency director’s office at our first meeting and demanding, “When will my foster kids come?!”

We’ve got a ways to go before then, especially in the home improvement department. It’s going to be no small feat to get our 962 square feet ready for a family of 5. When the foster home inspector first visited, he asked, quite nonchalantly, “So, are you planning on keeping all these boxes around?” More storage needed; duly noted. Neal, always a creator at heart, got to work on space-saving ideas, beginning with this fantastic children’s book display:

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Have I mentioned you should vote for his entry (you can vote more than once) in this Ryobi Power Tools contest? (Oh, I have? 😉 ) Pop over before April 30 at midnight (EST) to help make his custom-furniture-building dreams come true!

I’m pretty sure 2015 is going to be a wild ride (but a calm one, Neal, a calm one)! We’ll probably continue to blog about it sporadically here and at Raised by my daughter. With any luck, we’ll add two more personalities to this family before the next “holiday letter”!

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 T-shirts courtesy of our crafty sister-in-law Marisha

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April 5, 2015

A moment

Filed under: Family, Motherhood, Personal, Social Services — Tags: , , , , — llcall @ 12:48 am

“Just write about a moment,” Neal simply said in response to my writer’s-block whining. “Just a moment, not an idea or concept. Don’t get abstract.”

“Like what moment?” I said, still frustrated after several days of writing starts and restarts.

“Like driving to your home visits. What’s that like? What music do you listen to? Or a recent conversation with Addison. Or write about our old phone.”

Ah yes, an ode to our old, nearly dead phone; that seemed important. After all, moving on from a phone that’s been a workhorse for you — it even got run over by a car in 2011 and kept right on going! — for the last 8 years is no small thing. But as I labored away on Tuesday night, trying to write about our old phone, my writing slowly veered toward our new smartphone and this profound identity shift I’m experiencing as a result. I am a person without a smartphone. That’s who I am. And now for the sake of frugality, I own a smartphone. Two of my deeply held values, not having a smartphone and being frugal, clash in an ultimate battle for my soul.

“Just focus on a moment,” Neal reiterated when I was again stumped and annoyed on Wednesday night. “If writing about the phone isn’t working, try the drive to your home visits.”

That sounded like an important window into my life right now. I could talk about the beautiful scenery I’ve discovered, things my homebody self would never have seen if not for this job. I could talk about why I always seem to pop in the Jeff Buckley CD when I head west deeper into the mountains and Tori Amos when I head east toward the freeway. It would be simple, a description of driving winding mountain roads and trying to make it up washed-out dirt trails in my little Honda Fit.

But really, writing about driving? To what end? The driving only matters because of the destination. The people I’m going to see, the food I’m going to bring to kids who sometimes greet me like they forgot what food looked like, the little ones I’m trying to help through so many life forces beyond their control.

“No, just focus on the moment of driving,” Neal prompts me again. “What do you see on the roads? What does it feel like to navigate those curves? What do you hear?”

“I can’t write about that! I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what it feels like!”

Even though I growled at Neal, hoping to blame him for being ridiculous, I was starting to see the problem. There were moments — there are always moments — but I haven’t been feeling them. I’m too tired from 50-hour work weeks; too busy juggling multiple church responsibilities, the foster parenting application, and needed home improvements; too burned out from helplessly watching children suffer. I could barely think of a recent interesting conversation with Addison. Nothing was vivid.

I thought about throwing in the towel, turning my attention back to 90 assignments still-to-grade and instructor assessments due by Saturday, but if I don’t stop now to try and capture a moment, when will I? Moments started to race through my mind:

  • The 11-year-old who lifted up his shirt and said, “Look! See how skinny I’ve gotten since we don’t have enough food!”
  • The 8-year-old who told me, “I know my mom loves me because I’ve only been taken away one time,” after which he was taken away again when his abusive stepfather came back home.
  • The time I was on a conference call and all of a sudden there was a squealing pig running around outside our office window.
  • The time I was in a home conducting an assessment on the financial stability of a family and a young goat wandered up and started eating my paperwork.
  • The morning last week when they dropped me off for work and Addison said, “Mom, can you do me a favor today? At lunch, can you ask your boss if it’s okay if Dad comes and does your job for awhile so you can stay home with me?”

I thought I had finally decided on a moment and was about to really get somewhere when I heard little feet in the hall. Soon Addison cuddled up in bed next to me, demanding “MORE pillow” and begging for a “toy video.” Oh, these toy videos! I applaud a successful female entrepreneur, but how can opening boxes of Disney princess toys and mixing and matching accessories be so mesmerizing to children?

I really wanted to shoo her away, or at the least send her off with a device, but since the moments haven’t been vivid enough lately, I decided for once to just snuggle up and watch with her. The 15-minute video was probably going to feel like 17 hours, but I was gonna watch it, dang it, and be in the moment!

I got to about 1 minute, 34 seconds before I couldn’t help myself: “You know, I don’t really enjoy these toy videos. I don’t find dressing toys or people very fun.”

“I know, Mom, but I do!”

“What do you think I do for fun?”

“Work,” she replied without a pause.

“Is that all you think I do for fun?”

“Well, sometimes you watch videos that aren’t toy videos . . . but shhh, I’m trying to watch her put this green dress on Belle.”

Me again, at 3 minutes, 47 seconds: “Don’t you think that’s too many purses?! Do you think people should have that many purses?”

“No, that is too many purses,” she conceded. “But it’s still fun!”

I’m looking at her now, instead of the video. Who IS this little person? Once she was my appendage, but now . . . she craves toy videos, dresses, rings, and make-up. She tells me, “It’s hard having a mom who loves brown,” and proposes a new plan wherein we paint pink stripes all around the house. “We can alternate: pink, brown, pink, brown. Wouldn’t that be a good idea?!” I know her and yet she’s completely foreign.

We’re still only at 8 minutes, 20 seconds and “Disney Collector” is gushing about the new dress she’s making out of Play-Doh for Princess Aurora. Will I survive 15 minutes of this? I wonder. “Disney Collector” says the pink purse will look perfect with that dress, and Addison matter-of-factly says, “There is no perfect.”

“What?”

“There is no perfect,” she repeats.

“Why do you say that?”

“Well, the lady said it was perfect, but there is no perfect because we’re always gonna make mistakes cause that’s how we learn.”

Well, maybe this little person isn’t completely foreign. And maybe there is a little perfect, every once in awhile. For a moment.

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