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March 8, 2016

February: Wrote!

Filed under: Adoption, Personal — Tags: , , — llcall @ 4:50 am

While I didn’t manage the 30 minutes every day that I wrote in my writing challenge “contract,” as of tonight, I have written for exactly 870 minutes over the last month. Five blog posts published here. One guest post written for another blog, which I’ll share when it goes live. One additional guest post labored over for altogether too much time and still an absolute hot mess. Not too shabby.

I feel that I’m still far from my ultimate goal, which is to get back to the feeling of writing flowing more effortlessly out of me, instead of pushing so hard to put words to complicated thoughts and feelings. It still feels “different.” (But perhaps I’m romanticizing the past, considering I had 254 post drafts when I checked back in here.) I think it feels harder to self-reveal than it has at other times in my life. Perhaps that’s just the wisdom of getting older? But if it is, I would rather stay foolish and push back.

One thing I learned for certain (which I kind of already suspected) is that 30 minutes per day  doesn’t work for me all that well. More often, I wrote for 1.5 hours on one day and then none for a day or two after (although on the days I really couldn’t get in any sort of groove, it was nice to feel like I could just stop after 30 minutes). Going forward, my goal is to write for 1.5 hours on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Sundays. I need to keep tying it to another activity that always happens, so I decided to make it Addison’s bedtime at 7:15.

During the writing sessions when nothing was coming to me, I combed through all 254 of my post drafts trying to see which ones were worth revisiting and deleting the others. I only deleted 14; no doubt incontrovertible proof that I value my own thoughts and opinions far too highly! I also tried to make a list of all the “series” that I’ve started and still have hanging around:

  • One-word Themes: 2012’s Stronger recap, 2016’s new theme (yes, I picked one again this year for the first time since 2013)
  • Mommy Update (35 and 36 years)
  • Dearest Addison (unfinished birthday letters from her 3rd and 5th birthdays)
  • Mental Illness (which was intended to be a single post, not a series, but I’ve started over about 6 times, so now it’s a series, apparently)
  • A Spiritual History (overlapping with mental illness, obviously, which is probably one reason both have been so hard to progress)
  • A Dating History
  • A Study of Grief (prelude and follow-up to this post)
  • Therapy Week (a look back at ALL the therapy, including Marriage counseling: 8 Lessons)
  • Happiness Project Wednesday (apparently 3 or 4 of these never made it to publish back in the day)
  • Thesis Thursday (I have about 6 or 7 of these that I never posted while I was laboring through that project)
  • My Life in Lists (a random personal history based on lists)
  • (Play)Lists: My Musical History
  • Historical Jesus Studies (ever since I wrote this post, I’ve been on a bit of a journey about Jesus and I’ve read books and listened to lectures by some of the most famous historical Jesus scholars)
  • Forgiveness and Restorative Justice (started here)

Sometimes it was quite a kick reading through my old drafts. For example, I found a post with nothing written except a title: “All messed up. Awesomely dramatic, and probably fitting perfectly in at least 50% of these series!

Over the years, I know I’ve felt the strongest compulsion to write on mental illness, my spiritual history, and therapy. But dang, if those aren’t the hardest ones! I’m trying to remind myself of two things:

  1. What Brene Brown says about shame: “Shame cannot survive being spoken. It cannot survive empathy.” (On the whole, I’m a fairly low shame person, I think, but if/when I feel it, it’s about those three aforementioned things, and motherhood.)
  2. The process of foster/adoptive parenting pushes ALL the buttons. It will activate all the complicated feelings, so working to express them now will only help.

You can tell I’m trying to psych myself up. Care to join me? 😉 Also, does anything jump out at you as worthy of finishing?


March 5, 2016

Politics and the “Aloha Spirit”

Filed under: Books, Personal, Politics — Tags: , , , , — llcall @ 12:24 am


About a year ago, I read the book Unfamiliar Fishes, a history of the colonization/Americanization of Hawaii, by a favorite of mine, Sarah Vowell. Hawaii is fascinating, yo! Such a fusion of peoples and cultures! Such a history tied to the island’s incredible natural beauty! I was especially interested to learn about their impressive educational achievements, literally becoming one of the most literate nations on earth in a span of just over 40 years by in the mid 1860s.

But what stood out to me most was a statement Vowell came across in an internet forum debating the meaning of a particular Hawaiian word. A Hawaiian named Hoopii had prefaced his comments with this:

“As I read the comments posted by each individual about this specific forum, I do so in respect to each and every single person’s beliefs. I sense the passion in each of your concerns and I hope that I do not offend in any way.”

Vowell contrasts this “Aloha Spirit” with the statement of French philosopher Denis Diderot when he was working to compile the Enlightenment era Encyclopedie:

“All things must be examined, debated, investigated without exception and without regard for anyone’s feelings.”

While I embrace examination and debate, what a different world it would be if all prefaced their debate with Hoopii’s level of respect and concern for others’ beliefs and passions! But it’s tricky too, isn’t it? Over the past couple of weeks, I have posted several negative videos about Donald Trump on my Facebook page. I have felt truly compelled to do so if for no other reason than to let others know where I stand. I find many things about that man reprehensible, but the one that perhaps weighs on me the most is how I believe he is fanning the flames of racism (well, that and the fact that he has the strongest record of flat-out lies I’ve ever seen in the years I’ve been following the fact-checking website PolitiFact). My Facebook feed is a testament to the pluralistic society we live in with friends on absolute extremes of the political spectrum and everywhere in between. Sadly, my feed has sometimes revealed the success that Trump is having inciting racial animus, and it deeply saddens me.

And yet, still, I seek to have respect for others’ views, to look for their legitimate motives and beliefs, to still concern myself with their feelings. I challenge my students almost weekly to find common ground. I remind them that we are all human, and as such, have more in common than what differentiates us. But I’m finding Trump support to be one of the wider chasms I’ve encountered. I’m still trying to understand (this article was excellently thought-provoking on that point, though I’m not sure Trump fans themselves would agree) and I believe that I am capable of not allowing a stark political or philosophical difference to undercut a friendship, but I can’t say that I’ve always been concerned about whether I’ve “offended in any way.”

I still have work to do to internalize a Hoopii attitude. But is it always desirable? Are there limits to his civil and forbearing attitude? Thank goodness I’m losing sleep over this whole Trump phenomenon so I have more time to ponder that! Any thoughts for me?


March 2, 2016

Dinner at the zoo

Filed under: Family, Motherhood, Personal — Tags: , — llcall @ 6:31 am

This is what dinner looks like now.

Dinner 1sm - Copy

I went to work one day last year leaving behind the stereotypical dinner set-up: table, chairs, you know the drill. I never gave it much thought, but the chairs were well-proportioned, allowing my feet to touch the ground, keeping my knees in a pleasant, neutral position. The backs offered just the right reclining angle for digestion. But most importantly, the chairs were evenly spaced around the table, well-appointed for comfortable conversation for our family of three while still preserving personal space.

When I came home from work that day, our table and chairs were gone. When I casually asked, “So, where did the table go?” I got a feigned, “What table?” from Neal while Addison giggled in the background. The table and chairs I took for granted the day before had been banished to the garage because “it was too cluttered” and in their place were three tall stools squeezed together under our retro yellow tiled bar. Because who needs personal space while you’re trying to chew your food?

Certainly not our girl, who thinks her stool is in fact a very small stage on which she is intended to reenact life at the zoo on a daily basis.

Dinner 5 - Copy

Some days she’s a giraffe and my hair strands are the leafy nourishment that her prehensile tongue is made for, while I chomp on actual greens and try to coax her to do the same.

Other days she’s more carnivorous and nothing but a bite on my ear will satiate her hunger. In those moments, I miss the days of being arms-distance away, buffered by an oak table. But at least I can count on this ferocious warning first.

Dinner 12 - Copy

This week we watched The Sound of Music and nothing would do but to sing, “Climb every Lindsay! Climb high and low!” at the top of her lungs while trying to perch on my head. Until she crumbled back down in a fit of glee.

Dinner 4 - Copy

She cracks herself up, throwing her head back with utter abandon.

Dinner 2 - Copy

Sometimes, though, the circus-zoo-asylum closes early and she turns contemplative. She wonders.

Dinner 11 - Copy

So, how did God get created? How did that even work?

What is Heavenly Mother’s name?

Do you think we’re like God’s robots or something? Like God just thinks in his head what to do and then we do it? Like, beep boop, beep boop, she says, accompanied by sweet Mr. Roboto moves.

Do you think it was just the leaders in part of the South that wanted to keep slaves, and the other people wanted to let them go, but they couldn’t because the leaders didn’t want them to?, after a troubling lesson on the Civil War.

I’m more at ease with questions on the unknowable than I am with this more common view:

Dinner 8 - Copy

At least every other day, Addison or I or both end up in a tirade about how much we hate the stools. The roots of our problems are, of course, opposite. I rant because the cramped proximity of the stools makes it more difficult to eat in stillness; self-preservation requires that I fend off predatory attacks with one hand while trying to balance my fork in the other. She rants about the stools’ dangers when she’s come crashing down on the floor after trying to once again scale one of the stools as if she were a caged monkey at the zoo.

Some days I feel like crawling out of my own skin just to get through a few bites without a finger entering my ear or a little tongue licking my cheek before I even know what’s hit me. But then, I look over to command one last time and the eyes of my little baby girl are staring back. And I’m transported. For a moment, she’s 10 days old again and we’re gazing intently into each other’s blue eyes. For a moment, she’s not a perpetual motion machine, but my baby again.

Dinner 10 - CopyAddison baby 2 cropped

How could I ever give up on a set of stools that make dinner look like that?

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