Don’t call us, we’ll call you

August 23, 2013

“Who would be glad to hear it?”

Filed under: Personal, Teaching — Tags: , , , , — llcall @ 10:21 pm

I’m supposed to be packing and cleaning right this very minute (we are mostly moved in at our new place, but still have a ton of stuff at my parents’ house — apparently, we have way too much stuff!) but instead I was reading a chapter from Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. If you’ve seen me in the last year, there’s a very good chance we’ve discussed mindsets. I’ve been lecturing about this book and Carol Dweck’s research to every captive audience I meet — my students, my parents, my friends, Neal. In September, I’ll do a presentation at a teaching conference. I’ve even outlined about eight blog posts I’d like to write on the topic. (But you probably better just read the book since who knows when I’ll get around to those.) It’s a game-changer.

While I don’t have time for an extensive discussion today (Neal just pulled into the driveway! Quick, how do I make it look like I’ve been packing?!), here’s a little food for thought:

Conventional wisdom says that you know who your friends are in your times of need. And of course this view has merit. Who will stand by you day after day when you’re in trouble? However, sometimes an even tougher question is: Who can you turn to when good things happen? When you find a wonderful partner. When you get a great job offer or promotion. When your child does well. Who would be glad to hear it? (157-158)

I had never thought of friendship in quite this way. In hindsight, I can see some relationships that became heavy in part because I was always censoring or downplaying my happy news, afraid that it would make them feel bad. Does this resonate for anyone else? Who would be glad to hear my good news, without reservation, no matter the state of their own life? Am I always happy to hear others’ good news, without reservation, no matter the state of my own life? What enlightening questions!

If you want to know how all this relates to a fixed vs. growth mindset (as just about everything seems to for me these days), read the book!


January 27, 2013

The past and the future

Has it really been a month since I blogged? Yes, yes it has. And that month has been kind of insane:

A whirlwind trip to Utah to see Neal’s youngest brother, Skylar, after he returned from Spain (on a mission) and before he headed to Jerusalem (on a study abroad). It was a Call reunion of sorts. Here are a few of my favorite snapshots, including this one of Addison and Skylar getting reacquainted after two years.

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And no trip to Utah would be complete without a visit to Addison’s “nice Grandma.”

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A two-day getaway to check out the place that Neal and I are thinking of calling home in the near future.

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Addison getting as sick as she’s ever been in her life, which, admittedly, is not that sick because she’s got something of an iron immune system, but involved some vomiting (again on my mother — have I mentioned that she has thrown up, or “gived up” as she is now calling it, on me and Neal only once in her life, but my mom about 7 or 8 times?) and diarrhea that made her sob (more out of confusion than anything else; I think she’s just used to pushing for days to get stuff out).

A Relief Society lesson (me). An Elders Quorum lesson (Neal). A couple of Activity Days. Another “viral” comic — Neal keeps telling me the Man-Cold is no joke, but 644 people (mostly women) who shared it on Facebook beg to differ.


Teaching 90 students in my two classes with one of them sending me daily emails about how she is NOT LEARNING and bored and unmotivated (all direct quotes, from the SECOND week of class. Seriously?). Our Larson family Christmas, culminating in a week of having my two nieces stay with us so that we could take them to Disneyland (annual pass officially expired, just in time, since Tuesday’s Disneyland adventure culminated in a migraine and vomiting for me).

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I’m tired.

But not as tired as I thought I might be and I’ve got a one-hour massage to look forward to on Friday.

This week with my nieces was instructive about what the future holds. Ayda is four and gave me the opportunity to hone my parenting skills before Addison gets there. For example, while watching Mulan, in particular the scene where Mushu talks about her “girly habits,” we had this conversation:

Ayda: Tia, what does habits mean?

Me: Habits are acts that you perform regularly.

Ayda: What does perform regularly mean?

Me: To do something continually.

Ayda: What does continually mean?

Me: It’s like . . . something you do every day, like brushing your teeth or combing your hair.

Ayda: Okay, but I’m trying to listen to the movie.

Note to self: Think of examples, not synonyms.

Double note to self: Don’t talk over jokes about biting butts; apparently that’s comedy gold to a 4-year-old.

It feels good to capture that little bit of what we’ve been up to. Although I have no idea what my blogging future holds, I did receive what I wanted from Neal for Christmas (after only 17 reminders!), so there should be at least a few more blog posts coming your way!

Up next: Forgiveness and restorative justice.

December 11, 2012

Two lessons from my mom:

Filed under: Family, Personal, Teaching — Tags: , , , , , , , — llcall @ 10:33 pm


In Relief Society on Sunday, I taught a lesson about raising children (because, um, clearly I’ve got this!). One of the questions the manual posed was, What are some “daily acts” that bear witness of our beliefs to our children? When I read that, my mind immediately went back to a conversation with my mom just a couple of weeks before. She had been sick and missed church on the day that many leadership positions and callings in our ward were changed. (The LDS Church has no professional clergy and instead depends on volunteerism and a system of rotating responsibilities throughout the membership.) She was eager to hear about the changes when I returned home. Our conversation went like this:

Me: RN became Relief Society president.

Mom: Oh, she’ll be great! She’s such a powerful speaker.

Me: Her counselors are SJ and —

Mom: She’ll do a wonderful job. She’s so loving.

Me: JT.

Mom: Oh, she’ll be fabulous. She’s so funny and engaging and makes friends easily.

Me: KL and LP got called to be ward missionaries.

Mom: Wow, they’ll be fantastic in those callings!

Me: So, just so we’re clear, do you think they’re going to be great or just kinda mediocre?

In some ways this conversation was such a small thing, but as I reflected on it I thought about how it encapsulates one of the most important lessons of my life: acknowledging and appreciating someone else’s strengths does not diminish yours. What a difference it makes in life to look for and embrace the good in others!


My mom is the quintessential “go-getter.” She never met a certification, degree, or job opportunity she wasn’t willing to assertively pursue. I have that in me too, but as a more introverted person, I think I feel less comfortable drawing attention to myself and my qualifications. I have always felt that the quality of my work would (eventually) speak for itself, so I did not need to spend much time networking. Many opportunities have come my way very naturally, but at the same time, I know I have left some things on the table because I was not willing to make contact with people if it felt even a little like self-promotion.

Last week I attended an online meeting with the university I teach for in which 30+ instructors eagerly discussed potential opportunities to add to their teaching load. Part of the master plan is to add another online class or two to get us to the income level we are hoping for, but I was beginning to doubt whether there would be more opportunities at this particular university as they have repeatedly said that their priority is to have each instructor teach one online course. When I logged out of the virtual meeting, I felt a bit deflated because although we were all on “the list,” the list to be used if the need ever arose, there were obviously a lot of instructors equally anxious to add another class. Still, the thought crossed my mind: I bet my mom would email the Online Scheduling Coordinator right now just to let him know she was ready and willing, with a little plug for how capable she was. So I did it. I sent a short email, something like I’m so glad my winter section carried — I look forward to teaching again! If you ever need another class filled, even at the last minute, I am very flexible and could step in. I have worked with non-traditional students in the past, so that would not be a problem. Also, I’ll DO ANYTHING! PLEASE! PLEASE! PLEASE! DON’T MAKE MY HUSBAND GET A REAL JOB!

Well, what do you know? Today, just 2 days later, I got a call from said Online Scheduling Coordinator asking if I would teach a second section of my course in the winter. Um, yes. No real jobs for us! (This is probably not exactly the outcome my mom thought she was promoting. Teaching lessons to kids: it’s a double-edged sword.)


I always thought of myself as being more like my dad: we share similar work habits and sleep tendencies (though Neal beat those night-owl tendencies right out of me). We both loathe shopping and raisins and celery. We both love finances and solitude. But the older I get the more I appreciate the lessons from my mother and how profoundly they have shaped me.

September 28, 2012

I don’t have time to blog anymore . . .

Filed under: Family, Personal, Teaching — Tags: , , , , — llcall @ 10:10 pm

How sad is that?! No, seriously, I’m really sad right now. I’m just terribly stressed at the moment. Who knew I would crack under the pressure of a new job after just three weeks?

I need to get things out of my head to stay sane and lately I don’t have time to write more than “Nice job on this paper” or “Get a friend to proofread!” (I write the latter at least 40 times a day.) As mundane as all that is, teaching my online course has actually produced quite a bit of existential and philosophical angst in me. The first two weeks I was convinced that this job just wasn’t the right fit for me, and I was overly introspective about the purpose of my life and how or if this really aligns with it. I kept mulling over the epistemological perspectives that I’m most comfortable teaching from and whether they match with those that my students are most interested in learning from. By the end of the second week (last Friday), I felt like I was quieting my mind on the topic, at least a little bit.

And then the oddest thing happened. Saturday morning I was lying around, grading papers when I heard a knock at the door. I found two high school girls standing on my doorstep. I thought they were going to ask me to buy a candy bar, which, of course, creates all sorts of existential angst in me. But instead they asked if they could give me a three-question survey for one of their classes. Phew. So much easier than saying no to a chocolate-bar-for-a-good-cause. That’s what I thought anyway, until I heard the questions:

  1. What do you think are moral absolutes?
  2. What do you think truth is?
  3. Do you think truth and reality are the same thing?

Seriously? What are the chances that I’m in the midst of one my semi-annual (or more often, who’s really counting?) existential crises and two teenagers just happen to stop by to chat about moral absolutes? You can’t script that!

Here’s another thing you can’t script:

At least I wouldn’t want to script it since it cost me a whole tube of mascara. I’m posting the more joyful pic here, but if you want to see how scary the whole incident really got, check out Neal’s post (spoiler alert: Heath Ledger is referenced).

And that is all.

June 7, 2012

Busy (of my own making)

Filed under: Family, Lindsay loves Neal, Personal, Teaching — Tags: , , — llcall @ 8:30 pm

Last week seemed really busy. Probably because I was feeling better health-wise than I have since early February (huzzah!) and tried to pack in a lot of fun!

Addison and I visited an old Utah friend that recently moved to Oceanside — toddler fun for all:

I love that Addison has a pacifier in her mouth in the last one; she is surprisingly obsessed with binkys now, considering she wouldn’t touch one as a baby.

Made a brief beach visit:

Some days I love where I live — this was one of those days

And had a fantastic dinner with two cousins  and two aunts in Carlsbad (no pictures, but there was filet mignon and homemade sourdough bread — who knew you could even make sourdough bread at home?!)

And all that was just on Wednesday! [Neal thinks it’s crazy how I pack so many things into one day, but it’s a coping mechanism to get my adrenaline flowing.]

By Friday I still had enough energy left that I wanted to eat something good for dinner. I get ambitious in the kitchen about twice a year (if that), so I had to find something that would really hit the spot and hold me over for another six months. Saucy Cuisine delivered. I took a picture of my creation, but my Aunt Helen’s looks  so much better!

We had our Golden Sweet Pepper sauce with pasta and chunks of fish because, well, we’re cheap like that. But it sure was tasty! I loved finding a new sauce to break up the monotony of spaghetti sauce — Neal would make us eat spaghetti every other day (every day?) if I let him.

So that was last week, and that seemed busy. Not our old kind of busy, but much crazier than our now-typical pace of life. And then this week hit, and last week suddenly seemed leisurely!

We visited Disneyland Monday and Tuesday, trying to cram in our last bits of Disney fun before our passes blackout for the summer. We had a playdate with a friend from the ward (and I got to hold an adorably mellow three-month-old). Tonight Neal and I go to an orientation about the foster care/adoption system in the area, and Saturday is a Primary swim party (though now I know we can turn most outings into a swim party, so it’s no biggie).

Also, Neal got invited to do a guest post at an aggregate daddy blog called Dadcentric (his post goes up tomorrow morning), so there’s been lots of blog-related activities going on. We’re still trying to figure out how much of Neal’s blog administration I take part in, but thus far, it’s definitely taking some time. [Totally unrelated, but can you guess what the #1 Google search term leading people to Neal’s blog is? If you guessed emasculation, you’re both correct and creepy. (I’m just hoping it has to do with this post, otherwise we’re in real trouble.)]

Oh, and then after all that, I also picked up a couple of jobs. One — becoming an online adjunct faculty member at a university — has been in the works for a while. But since I was in the application process for almost 4 months and there were no guarantees, and we hadn’t had any income in more than 9 months, I jumped at the opportunity to tutor a woman in my ward when she asked. I just finished my first session with her and I think it is going to be quite enjoyable; I’ll pass on some of my expertise in essay writing and she’ll teach me about her native Brazil.

If we’re friends on Facebook, you may have already seen Neal’s latest funny:

It proved oddly prescient because while he was writing that post, Addison informed me that she was going to take her first solo trip. “Not mama, not daddy. Addison go.” When I asked where she was headed, she said, “Kirsten’s house.” If she can navigate her way to Santa Monica, then she deserves the vacation! (A vacation doesn’t sound too bad right now, actually.)

April 12, 2012

The Merciful Obtain Mercy (and Bracelets?)

While I decided that talking about my Relief Society teaching required more context than I can give right now, a description of my Activity Days calling requires very little context.  Last night was maybe my favorite night (aside from the budgeting night, of course).  We listened to and then discussed Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s General Conference (the LDS Church’s semi-annual worldwide broadcast) talk about not judging, called “The Merciful Obtain Mercy.”  My co-leader asked, “So what kinds of things does he say can ruin our relationships?”

A (8 years old): Oh, oh, I know! [while raising arm as high as possible and flailing] Like if you yell at someone and they yell at you, and you argue about . . . argue about . . . I don’t know.  I forgot.

Co-leader: Good.  So arguing.  What else?

B (11 years old): Oooh, I know.  If you argue with someone about who gets to do something first.

Co-leader: Yeah.  Arguing definitely hurts relationships. What else besides arguing?

C (10 years old): Well, let’s say you like blue.  And you tell your friend, “My favorite color is blue.”  And your friend’s like, “My favorite color is purple.”  And then you argue about which color is better.

Co-leader: So we’ve established that arguing definitely hurts relationships . . .

Eventually we moved on to things you can do to improve relationships: “What does Elder Uchtdorf suggest we can do to help our relationships?”

A: I know! [arm flailing again]  Well if you have a necklace and someone else really likes your necklace and wants it, you could give it to them.

Co-leader: Okay, so being kind.

A: Yeah.

B: And also, let’s say you have a really nice bracelet and your friend loves it and she really wants it.  But she can’t get one because maybe they’re out of them at the store or something, you could give her your bracelet.

A: Yeah.  That’s just like what I said.

B: No, it’s not.  It’s different.

D (10 years old): Well, I know one thing you can do.

Co-leader:  Great.  What can you do to improve your relationships?

D:  So if your friend really likes your bracelet but you also really, really like it because it’s a really cool bracelet, then you could just not wear it to school.  So then your friend never sees it, and they don’t feel bad, you know.

Little known fact about Elder Uchtdorf’s talk: it was also about how to handle jewelry among friends.

I still feel like I’m just getting to know these tween girls (and their vocabularies), but it sure is fun to sit back and listen to them talk amongst themselves.

April 29, 2011

Thesis Thursday: Already?

I could’ve sworn it was like Monday, or Tuesday at the very latest.  This week has just flown by as I’ve tried to spend every possible minute working on my thesis.  As predicted, it’s not all gone according to plan since the insane sleep deprivation led to sickness.  But all things considered, I’m pleased with the progress I’ve made, though I won’t have my prospectus completed by tomorrow as I had hoped.

Since I’ve spent all week immersed in the literature (have I ever mentioned that I get just a little bit giddy when I see the words criminogenic needs, cause I do — one more sign that I’ve found my true calling, right?), I thought I would share a bit from a very interesting article.  The article, Juvenile offenders as fathers: Perceptions of fatherhood, crime, and becoming an adult (Shannon & Abrams, 2007), presents a series of in-depth interviews with juvenile offenders who have recently become fathers.  Reading it reminded me of one of the assumptions that students in our class this semester often had, at least at the beginning: people who go to jail shouldn’t get to see their kids; they’re bad guys so their kids will be better off without them.  Going into the class, most of the students assumed that if you really cared about your kids, you wouldn’t go to jail/prison in the first place.

But of course, most interviews with incarcerated fathers tell a very different story.  Here are a couple of comments from the article I mentioned above:

I’d do anything to support her (daughter).  I mean, that’s kinda how I got my charge.  Y’know, I was sellin’ drugs to kinda make more money than I was making . . . it’s like I’m justifying, too . . . it’s how I was thinking.  ‘Cause I’d do anything to get her stuff.

When I first saw  my son on my weekend and I wasn’t high, I wasn’t selling drugs, I wasn’t nothin,’ I was just payin’ attention to him it woke me up right there — like, damn, this boy’s gettin’ old and ever since I come back that day I been tryin’ to get my life together.

I especially love that last comment because I feel like it represents something universal about parenthood.  I don’t usually say damn beforehand, but at least once a day I think, she’s growing up so fast and there are just so many things I want to do better before she’s old enough to internalize all her mommy’s flaws.

I mentioned before about rejection from mothers shaping the lives of many incarcerated men.  But of course, the other half of the story is just how many of them had absent or uninvolved fathers, which motivates many of them to want to do better:

I certainly don’t want him growing up like I did, y’know, I’m going to be there for him ’cause my dad wasn’t there for me that much.

But should it really be surprising that it takes time to grow into a parental role when all you’ve seen are examples of what you don’t want to be or do.

April 14, 2011

Thesis Thursday, sort of . . .

Filed under: Incarceration research, Personal, Teaching — Tags: , , , , , — llcall @ 5:36 pm

Mostly, I’m just going to drop a few quick updates in here.  I’ve got to finish a draft of this paper pronto, and my in-depth thesis posts always end up taking longer than I intend.

Time is just flying around here.  Addison and I took a quick trip to Denver to visit my long-lost friend Elizabeth Harris (of wedding quilt fame) and her fabulous family.  They spoil me rotten with delicious grilling and sweet babysitting — they even braved three hours of church while I went to Elizabeth’s ward!  I don’t remember the last time I got to sit leisurely through three hours of church!!  Addison got at least two or three percentiles cuter while we were away, or so says Neal who was amazed to find his daughter full-on running, giving deep belly laughs, and sleeping through the night (five nights in a row, baby!) when we returned.

We stayed away long enough for Neal to (mostly) finish his final paper for his Hawthorne/Melville class, and now he is feeling free and easy.  But I’m trying to curb that feeling at every opportunity with reminders that he still has a final project and exam to work on.

Speaking of finishing the semester, yesterday was the last day of class.  Each of the undergrads shared what they were taking away from the class; it was really awesome.  Some of them feel that they want to continue working with or researching incarcerated populations, which obviously excites me.  But even those that just felt that their eyes were opened a little, that they would think differently about certain things — that felt like a big win.  One student said that she now realizes that people in prison are not “just bad guys” like she had thought before.  Her early response papers had displayed the most black-and-white thinking of any of the students, and so I was relieved to see that we’ve complicated her worldview just a little bit.  The world is complicated, after all.  Full of paradoxes, right? 😉

I’ve been going through some of the students’ final response papers this morning and it is interesting to hear exactly what surprised them or challenged their assumptions.  In particular, virtually every student was shocked to see how much the families of incarcerated men valued marriage and family — and the sacrifices they often made to preserve it.  In response to a chapter in Doing Time on the Outside, many expressed these sentiments:

One thing again that I found interesting was how devoted some of the women were to their marital vows.  I think if I was in their situation and my husband went to jail I would be long gone.  I would hope to get rid of them and start a better life for me and my children.  Many of the women saw marriage as a serious commitment.  To me this is incredible.  Many of them are more committed to their marriage than many other women who have happy lives.

I was ashamed to think that I had ever thought that low SES [socioeconomic] families did not have any family values.

One student summed up the course this way:

As my undergraduate education is coming to a close I think that a lot of classes have been informative, but I don’t think any class has changed my opinion so drastically as this one did, and I’m grateful for that.

Definitely the sign of a good semester.

August 5, 2010

Lindsay recommends: Taylor Mali, poet and teacher

Filed under: Personal, Teaching — Tags: , , , — llcall @ 8:36 pm

Actually Neal recommended him to me about 15 minutes ago, so I’m passing along the favor.  Apparently Taylor Mali is one of the real stars of the poetry slam movement.  We watched a few youtube videos of his poetry and they were both funny and inspiring.  I especially like how he talks on the nobility of teaching because I’ve been annoyed lately by some of the things I’ve read from high-and-mighty Steve Jobs and others who give teachers no respect.

Without further ado, a couple of my favorites:

January 25, 2009

Limits of our loyalty

I wrote about my second family member interview here and here and here.  If you had asked me during the summer which interviewee would have the greatest impact on me, I don’t think I would have said her.  But it turns out she comes to my mind quite often…this time while teaching my Marriage Enhancement class on Thursday.

Our topic was loyalty and I drew a lot of my material from two sources: my grad school mentor extraordinaire Vickie (I LOVE this girl!) and Dr. Blaine Fowers, a marriage therapist and scholar.  Since the purpose of the class is to enrich the students’ marriages and most of them are still very newlywed, we don’t talk a lot about the darker sides of marriage.  But it seemed important at this point to discuss the limits of our loyalty.  I quoted from Dr. Fowers:

“When a spouse is abusive, unfaithful, or addicted to alcohol or drugs, a wife or a husband must question the degree and form of his or her loyalty. Deciding how loyal we should be can be difficult at times, even excruciating.”

I was really struck by one part of this statement in particular: the form of loyalty.  I thought of this woman again, how she kicked her husband out of the house before he was arrested because his alcoholism was too destructive.  But even as she kicked him out, she helped him get an apartment, managed his money, drove him to and from AA and work, hired a lawyer.  The form of her loyalty had to change, but who could doubt that hers was still a deep, profound loyalty.

It is a strange thing to think that there are times when our deepest loyalty may be demonstrated by doing something that appears in the moment to be hurtful or harsh. I love this woman for all the things that she taught me that I am still discovering.

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