Don’t call us, we’ll call you

January 22, 2017

Baby B’s angel, Day 20

Filed under: Family, foster parenting, Motherhood, Personal — Tags: , , , , — llcall @ 7:42 pm

24 September

My new semester began just days after we brought home baby B. I wished we had picked him up a few weeks earlier when I was in the midst of my nice long, five-week break. Then there would have been lots of time for holding him, rocking him, observing his every move, without the crunch of students and instructors likewise needing my attention. But there also would have been no Jennifer.

I currently teach only 1 out of every 6 students that take our course, but it just so happened that Jennifer was in my section. On our introductory discussion board, she mentioned that she was a certified newborn care specialist and ran a consultancy company and that if I ever needed advice on the little guy, I should ask. Although I registered the offer appreciatively, we were still in such a whirlwind of adjustment that I didn’t even know the questions to ask yet.

We had picked baby B up from the children’s center on a Monday night. As we strapped him into the car seat he came with, we tried to keep him calm with a fresh bottle, but he wasn’t having it. He began screaming shrilly, uninterested in even a sip. Addison’s extreme excitement (which just an hour before was so overwhelming that she “could blow up the whole world,” according to her) quickly drained in the face of an inconsolable infant. About 10 minutes into siblinghood she leaned over to me and whispered, “I think I want to go back to being an only child.”

The ear-piercing screams notwithstanding, he actually fell asleep pretty quickly. He slept through the car ride home. He slept through the transfers, from car to house to pack-n-play. He slept for a solid 12 hours, and after being awake for only a short time, he slept again for 3 hours. And then again. And then again. After having a not-so-stellar sleeper in Addison, we were amazed and grateful. It turns out foster parenting is super easy when the baby’s only awake for about 6 hours a day, and even then, just wants to be held! He freaked out and held his breath until he turned blue about diaper or clothing changes, but otherwise he made little noise or movement.

Until the third day, when apparently the trauma wore off enough that he came out of his catatonic state . . . and we realized he had punked us. He would wake at all hours of the night. It didn’t matter if you were patting, rocking, swinging, singing; if he could tell you were trying to get him to sleep, he was mad. He always wanted a bottle, but he could easily down 8 ounces in just a couple of minutes and start screaming for more. We were trying to pull out all our rusty baby skills, but as the sleep deprivation mounted, we weren’t sure what to try. Things that we might have done with Addison didn’t seem right in light of a traumatized, neglected baby that we still knew almost nothing about. And in our 900-square-foot house, we couldn’t really isolate the impact so it wasn’t uncommon for the three of us to be huddled around him, trying to get his diaper changed at 4:00 a.m.

Finally, I remembered Jennifer’s kind offer and emailed, “Could we talk?” We chatted for about 45 minutes on a Saturday night and I took copious notes on her tips for sleepwear, diet, sound, lighting, schedules, etc. Besides his usual skepticism, Neal was even a little miffed because I holed myself up right during the witching hour before bed when baby B was most upset. While none of Jennifer’s ideas were magic, the combination of them and how quickly baby B adjusted felt at least magical, if not miraculous. After just a day and a half of following her suggestions, he started sleeping again. He stopped breath-holding so frequently. He was playful, active, joyful even. He was a different kid.

Having Jennifer in my class this semester was a tender mercy for us to be able to get through those draining early weeks. But for baby B, she was his angel.

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Foster parenting, Day 18

22 September

If there’s one thing baby B hated when he came to us, it was diaper changes. But a close second: having his hands touched. He was already 10 months old so his grasp reflex was gone (except as applied to the death grip on his bottle), but he seemed unusually bothered by even the slightest touch of his hands.

For the first week or so that he was with us, we had Neal give him all his bottles. We wanted to quickly break down his obvious alarm at being near a man, and associating Neal with his beloved bottles seemed to be the quickest way. Once that was well in hand, however, I quickly claimed the rocking, bottle-feeding routine. I’d been waiting 6 years to rock another baby so there was no way Neal was going to get all that action!

The first couple of times I held him while he sucked down his formula at breakneck speed (seriously, you cannot believe how fast he could down 8 ounces!), I was struck by how insistent he was that he hold the bottle (even brushing his hand or the bottle could incite his wrath) and how tightly he held it, so much so that the blood would drain from his fingers and they would seem almost glowing white in the darkness. As I rocked, I would think back on how casually Addison had held her bottle. It was the casualness of knowing that someone would bring her another; there would always be another bottle, another time. Every last drop was not required to be sucked out with such force. Still knowing so little about the baby’s background, it seemed obvious that his grip was the grip of survival, of not knowing what the future would bring.

But I had a plan. I thought that if I could slowly supplant his hands on the bottle, taking care to not disrupt his flow of milk, his free hands would eventually land on mine. I would intentionally fan three of my fingers out so that as he moved his hands around they would begin to glance off mine. Once he brushed past my fingernail and his curiosity won out as he spent 15 or 20 seconds feeling around my nail with his tiny pointer. It felt pretty much like winning the lottery, if you’re wondering.

I still remember the moment, probably around Day 10, that he wrapped his little hand around my ring finger for the first time, and just held on. (As long as there was milk in his bottle, of course, after which all hell would break loose.) I wanted to whisper to him that he could hold on to me for survival, he didn’t have to “fend for himself.” But I didn’t, because on Day 11 or 12 or 13, they could come calling for him and he might have to go back to survival mode.

In those early days, my mind was a bit frenzied during these rocking sessions. I loved him so much in just a few short days, I would think about how wrecked I was going to be when he had to leave. During the morning nap routine, I was convinced that when he left I could never foster another child. And then by afternoon, I was sure that I couldn’t live without fostering 10 more babies. Because BABIES.

But most often my mind would rest on two thoughts. Or more accurately, it would rest on the first thought and spin on the second.

First, I would hear this poem in my head, introduced to me by my friend Steph. My mind might wander to the papers I needed to be grading or the discussion boards I had to post while the baby got a precious little sleep, but I’d hear, “I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.” I guess that’s true for everyone, but it was so poignantly true for us. He might only “keep” for one more day, so I could just forget about my work for awhile and press my cheek against his one more time.

Second, less pleasantly, I was plagued by this question: what if what I’m doing for him — which in some moments is pure euphoria and in others is the most painful thing I have ever voluntarily put myself through — is actually maladaptive for the life he has in store for him? He’s still an infant, yes, but maybe the survival instincts he’s developed are what he needs for the life he has ahead. What if teaching him to depend on me will actually make his life worse if he goes back to an environment in which his needs are not warmly met?

Of course, my mind spins through any relevant studies I’ve read. There’s the ACEs work, but did it address my fundamental fear that not only will the suffering we’re putting ourselves through not help him, it could actually make his life harder? I’d have to revisit it. In those moments, it feels absolutely urgent that I find more data. Of course, there couldn’t be any sort of random assignment experiments comparing human babies from his background who got temporary, nurturing care with those who did not. But maybe there was something with mice or monkeys? But then I remember, I’ve got a baby. Ain’t nobody got time for scouring the research when you’re physically running on empty.

Despite these misgivings, however, my plan worked like a charm. Slowly, he began to take hold of my hand more often and cling to it — but gently, not a death grip. And about a week later, on Day 18, this happened for the first time. 18 days to go from deep fear and distrust of Neal to a little thumb hold on a leisurely walk. Be still, my heart. (Time stand still too, if possible.)

baby-boy-holding-hands

 

 

 

 

November 6, 2016

Foster parenting, Day 15

Filed under: Family, foster parenting, Motherhood, Personal — Tags: , — llcall @ 10:18 pm

19 September

This morning as we said our family prayer before rushing out the door for the bus, Neal asked Addison to pray for the little guy to have a good visiting day. She prayed for that and then added on her own, “And please bless his mom to not be too sad.”

It made me feel like despite all the craziness of the last two weeks we must be doing something right if Addison is thinking of and caring about this woman that she’s never met. I think as a foster/hoping-to-adopt-someday parent, you need constant reminders that the biological family is not the enemy. You’re sad/mad that they’ve made bad choices that hurt the child that you started to love the minute you held him. You’re scared about whether they will have learned the lessons they need to do better.

But if you’re honest, you know that they’ve probably been through things you haven’t. Maybe they weren’t raised with the kind of love and nurturing that you took for granted. Maybe they were exposed to, or not taught to avoid, drug and alcohol abuse that can impair all your good sense and positive parenting impulses if you don’t actively fight against it. Maybe they’re stressed to a breaking point just trying to keep a roof over their heads in the face of limited education or employment opportunities.

We have no idea what factors are playing out in the lives of baby B’s biological family. What we do know is that the police found him alone at home, and a judge determined that he should be retained in state custody for an undetermined period of time. We know that his mom is sad and confused.

Foster parenting is certainly the most emotionally and cognitively dissonant thing I’ve experienced. I want to be like Addison and pray for his mom. I want to believe that she can right the wrongs that have been done to him. I want to pray that she will have the enormous strength it takes to change ingrained habits, and eventually bring him back to a safe, healthy home. But I also want him to stay with us forever, because we can give him everything he could ever need (except his bio family). I want to pray for that instead. And so, often, I pray for nothing related to him at all . . . because too many thoughts, too many emotions. Too loaded.

The saving grace for me is that I have years of experience interacting with people who have made bad choices. When his mom and I talk in the lobby before they go behind the locked door and I leave (always, always leave), I can very nearly dissociate who she is from what has happened. How was your weekend? When is your friend’s baby due?  What’s happening with her boyfriend? I chit-chat with the best of ’em and she readily talks, just as if she were a client sitting in my office. I make empathic responses to all the complicated situations she confides. Sometimes I give little bits of advice, the same things I would tell my clients who had lost their children to the foster care system. In those moments, she’s just a person and the emotional complexity falls away. Because I’m good at people. And she’s not bad or evil, just flawed. Like all of us.

And so I must remember, please bless his mom to not be too sad.

Foster parenting, Day 9

Filed under: Family, foster parenting, Motherhood, Personal — Tags: , , — llcall @ 8:57 pm

13 September

Don’t ever wait in the lobby while your foster child visits with his parents.

That’s the piece of advice I wish I’d gotten. That’s the piece of advice that I’ll always give to new foster parents I encounter. It was our first day of visitation and I didn’t know what to expect. As the court supervisor came out to get baby B and his mom, I asked, “Am I supposed to wait here? Should I give her this diaper bag? Should I give her food to take back?” To all of the above, she just said that I could if I wanted to, and she would call me if they needed me. I felt in limbo, unsure what was expected of me. Nobody offered further explanation. (Now that we’re on Day 61, it’s obvious that limbo is the norm, and explanations are hard to come by.)

Baby B was okay with mom holding him as long as Neal or I were in sight, but as they started to inch further through the solid, locking door, he began to cry. And as the door slowly closed, and his vision of me got smaller and smaller, he became frantic. I wished it was a sound-proof door because I could still hear his screaming for what was probably 45 seconds, but felt like 15 minutes. Neal went to pick up wipes, puffs, and baby food. And I sat and stared at the gray door.

I brought my computer to work (focus on what I can control, I said that all the time in those first days and weeks), but I kept hearing the baby’s cries in my mind. And it’s both hard and a bit dangerous to type important emails through tears. It turns out I mentioned where I was and my current emotional state in about 75% of my emails that day (thank goodness I have colleagues that are also friends . . . and even therapists 😉 ).

The court supervisor called me about 45 minutes into the scheduled two hours. She told me he finally stopped crying after 20-30 minutes, but mom thought he was really hungry and she wanted to know if he’d eaten. The thought of him crying for the first quarter of the visit brought fresh tears.

Every time I managed to turn my attention back to work, a new foster parent came in to drop off a child. I saw an adorable little girl skip in holding her foster mother’s hand, her dark brown curls bouncing up and down. When the intake clerk commented on how cute she was, the foster mother said, “Oh she looks cute, but she’s horrible. She’s really mean.” Later a toddler was carried in. She was old enough to be walking, but a bright pink cast covered her entire lower body — from pelvis to ankle on each leg.

Then there were the kids coming back out from their supervised visits. They emerged and often ran toward their foster parents for hugs and greetings. But then there was the glance back to the bio parents. Watching their confused and conflicted faces, I could only imagine what was going through their minds. Did I seem too excited to see my “new” parents? Who do I belong with? Should I be happy with both? Or neither? One little boy, in particular, just broke me heart. They came out a few minutes late and the foster mom seemed anxious to get on their way. “Come on, ___, let’s go.” Bio mom, in the meantime, leaned down for a goodbye, “Give me a kiss.” He just stood there. Foster mom already had his hand to lead him to the door, but he’s frozen in place while bio mom’s face is just inches from his. “Give me a kiss.” I don’t think he wants to. Finally, bio mom swoops him up in her arms and gives him a kiss, hug, tries to be playful. He never smiles. Finally, the supervisor intervenes to say it’s time to go.

I cried a bit more loudly and visibly at that scene. He shouldn’t have to kiss her. He doesn’t owe her anything just because she brought him into the world. But at just 4 or 5 years old, he has no control and no voice. And as the courts seek to balance the rights of the bio parents, the children will inevitably be required to do many things with and for their bio parents as if they do owe them something. And this was just one visitation lobby, in one county, in one state, in one country in the world. This scene plays out millions of times in millions of places.

When baby B finally emerged, he was calm but withdrawn. Mom didn’t hand him back immediately and seemed about equally withdrawn. But when the court supervisor finally said, “If you’re ready, ___, you need to give him back,” she teared up, gave him one more squeeze, and held him out to me. I cried too; I don’t know if she saw.

I was just a hair above non-functional the rest of the day. I sat slumped on the couch for several hours, crying intermittently, but smiling and feigning excitement whenever baby B toddled over to me. I felt the same crushing weight I remembered from the night I wandered the streets of D.C., wringing my hands about my Oliver and all the Olivers in the world. So much pain and suffering in the world, and this HSP  was breaking apart after just nine days of foster parenting and two hours in the lobby.

Don’t ever wait in the lobby while your foster child visits with his parents.

October 28, 2016

This is helplessness.

Filed under: Family, foster parenting, Motherhood — Tags: , , , — llcall @ 7:58 pm

I’ve started writing about this roller-coaster that is foster parenting several times, but nothing fully formed or realized. Having to speak in church last Sunday forced me to make the time to finish something. Here it is. 

When Tammy asked me to speak in the Primary program several months ago, I had no idea that I would be in the midst of one of the most profound emotional roller-coasters of my life. But in a way having this traumatized, needy foster baby dropped in our laps 6 weeks ago was amazing preparation for this subject. My topic is Jesus Christ as our Savior and it’s a very challenging one for me.

See, I’m kind of a can-do person. If there’s a way to accomplish what I want to do, I will find it. I’m a professor and manager by trade so if a question comes up that I can’t answer, I’ll research it until I can. If an instructor has a problem, I’ll figure out how to address it.

You notice all those “I”s? I can do this; I do that. There’s something almost antithetical about my strong feelings of self-efficacy and capability versus an ability and willingness to accept and rely on a Savior. I just like to do things myself if I can – and I almost always feel like I can. Somehow, I’ll make it all work if I just make a couple more spreadsheets.

It’s not that I’ve never had times in my life where I cried out for divine help. I’ve shared from this pulpit before about my years-long battle with depression and how the teachings from my childhood and youth about loving Heavenly Parents and a Savior Jesus Christ came back to me at key times to quite literally save my life. It’s just that it’s extremely difficult to keep that feeling in my mind and heart when my innate personality often runs counter to it, and instead toward a belief that I can do it myself.

But enter this 10-month-old baby B, who joined us on Labor Day (very fitting for what was in store). He’s been through a lot in his short life and it’s led to a few things that certainly caught us off guard. For example, an intense traumatic reaction to diaper changes. I don’t mean that he just doesn’t like them or cries or tries to squirm away; I mean that he quite literally would hold his breath until he turned blue and went limp. The first time I watched him do that was about the most nerve-wracking moment of my life because I literally thought he was dying right in front of me.

He also has a hypervigilance unusual for a baby his age. He can be fast asleep and motionless one moment, but if you so much as move your foot to leave the room, he is looking at you wide-eyed and screaming. You’re suddenly a traitor in his eyes because you planned to leave him long enough to take a quick shower.

And then there’s just the inconsolable crying. Whatever pain he’s experienced sometimes just has to come out in hours of pitiful screaming and “extreme breath holding” — the pediatricians term for it — that won’t be soothed no matter how much rocking, shushing, or swaying you do. In those times, he seems every bit as scared and disturbed as we are, trying to help him breathe but unable to make much of a difference.

Now this is helplessness. Perhaps the most extreme feeling of helplessness I’ve ever experienced because while I’ve experienced helplessness before with clients I was trying to assist, even toward my own physical and mental health issues, there was always a level of understanding. What the challenges were, why they would be difficult to solve. But this little guy: he doesn’t know why his life was turned upside down, why he’s changed hands so many times, why he gets so upset that he literally can’t breathe. There is no can-do attitude here; there is nothing I can do to take away the challenges that he has faced and will continue to face over the next months no matter how much research I do, or how hard I work. He and we are at the mercy of forces completely outside of our control.

But aren’t we all? Constantly? Even if we feel like we can make it all work with a little more effort or a carefully planned spreadsheet or just powering through. During those hard days and night with B, I often sing to him more for me than for him:

Be still, my soul: The Lord is on thy side;

With patience bear thy cross of grief or pain.

Leave to thy God to order and provide;

In ev’ry change he faithful will remain.

On one particularly harrowing night, I prayed so fervently, very uncharacteristically, “Please send angels to be with this little guy. He needs angels to comfort him right now. There’s nothing I can do.” None of my child development knowledge or sincere desire to soothe him were making a dent in his terror and anguish. He needed a Savior and I did too.

If I had more time, I would tell you about the angel that He sent, in the form of one of my students and a game-changing phone call with her. Even my skeptical Neal had to acknowledge how almost miraculous it all felt. So even for all my doubting and focus on all that I can do, I am grateful to know that there is divine help available to us. That we do have someone waiting to save us from all our entirely helpless situations. And I’m grateful that I get to teach that to these beautiful children so that when they find themselves in the dark times of their lives that these teachings from their childhood may come back to them and they will know who to turn to.

August 24, 2016

Many phone calls, no kids

I haven’t felt much like recording every little twist and turn as we wait for foster placements. But I got the urge today, so here I am. Since we were officially certified in February, we’ve had a number of phone calls:

  • March: 1 and 3-year-old sisters — turned down because it was just about a week before Neal’s brother’s wedding out of state and we didn’t want to miss it.
  • May: 2 and 4-year-old brothers — turned down because with our small house and only 1 kids’ bedroom, we cannot take a boy older than 2
  • June: 2-year-old brother and 4-year-old sister — turned down because once again, for us to take a boy, he has to be under 2 so he can sleep in our bedroom
  • 15 August: 2-month-old girl — we said yes, but she ultimately went to someone else (infants were always a long-shot because they are more sought after)
  • 18 August: 8-month-old and 1-year-old sisters — we haven’t officially gotten “the call” for these girls, but we’ve been told to consider it in case the judge rules to seek a pre-adoptive home next month

For the most part, I think I’ve managed to stay pretty patient and even-keeled about the ones that got away. I don’t regret attending the wedding at all, but how I wish that call would have come just two weeks later! I wish that we had about 200 more square feet and a third bedroom! I wish that none of these kids ever had to experience what they’re experiencing! I’ve teared up a bit with every single call; the wanting is always there, but I’m usually too busy to think about it until presented with the possibility of actual little humans coming to our house that day — and then it’s hard to think about anything else.

The patterns of my responses vs. Neal’s have been incredibly predictable, of course:

*ring. ring*

Social worker: We have two…

Me: Yes! We’ll take them! Can we pick them up yesterday?!

Neal: Don’t listen to her. She’s crazy. I have this list of 67 questions and once they’re answered to my satisfaction, then we’ll discuss it.

I think after several calls, we’ve started to meet in the middle. On the two-month-old, we whittled it down to only 4 questions and about 10 minutes of deliberation. That’s basically living on the edge for a Neal. Addison’s response has been a bit more perplexing; we thought she’d LOVE the idea of some little baby girls, but instead we got:

OH NO! I don’t think so! I do NOT want a baby. That sounds like WAY too much work. I will be changing diapers ALL THE TIME. I won’t be able to do anything else. No way!

I’m not sure where she got the idea that she would be doing all the childcare. Maybe it’s a sign that I still lay in bed too much? Or just a manifestation of her general feeling that she is already an adult equivalent to her parents? Let’s go with the second one.

Despite Addison’s anti-diaper-changing outbursts, it’s definitely the most emotional journey for me. I continue to go back to this post periodically to remind myself of the lessons I need to keep in mind. Right now it’s this one: Focus on what I can control. (Which should include my house, currently looking nothing like the neat space that passed inspection, but for today, I’m pretending like that’s completely out of my control!)

I brought back several file boxes from my teen years when I got back from my parents’ house this summer. I’ve been haphazardly glancing through them in an effort to look engaged in the cleaning process.

Quote page

On this busy page, my eye was drawn to the one quote scrawled sideways:

“We never become truly spiritual by sitting down and wishing to become so. You must undertake something so great that you cannot accomplish it unaided.”

– Phillips Brooks

This whole foster/adopt journey would seem to fall in that category, but especially an infant/toddler combo and the accompanying sleep deprivation. We’ll keep waiting to see . . .

April 21, 2016

Project Kiva

Filed under: Uncategorized — llcall @ 2:58 am

Back in September, I mentioned that I was reading a fascinating book, The International Bank of Bob, about one man’s experience with micro-lending across the globe via Kiva. While I don’t have the kind of money Bob had, it just so happened that my thoughtful sister-in-law, Robin-Elise, had gifted me a $25 Kiva card — just enough to start my own international bank. It didn’t take long for Addison to take an interest in what I was doing and the teaching moments ensued.

A few months back a work colleague and co-founder of a nonprofit organization dedicated to teaching children how to serve asked if I would write a guest post about our experience. In February, I finally obliged with this guest post.

baghagha

Addison just won $50 in a photography contest, so another Kiva loan may be in our immediate future. May the prettiest dresses win! (And they will if Addison has anything to say about it.)

April 4, 2016

Twelve years in the making . . .

Filed under: Personal — Tags: , — llcall @ 5:06 am

Although Neal, Addison, and I all have a “one-word theme” this year in the form of a character trait we’re trying to work on, I’ve also been gravitating toward monthly goals again since I took up the February writing challenge.

Back in my git ‘er done year of 2011, I intended to finish Rach and Todd’s “wedding” quilt. “Wedding” is now firmly in quotes because while I started it in 2004 as a wedding gift, a fairly large mishap (warning: piece quilting while hopping mad can be hazardous to your quilt — I thought I could make rage quilting a thing, but alas) made it impossible to complete in its original form. I had to improvise to turn it into anything resembling my vision, and thus it became a baby quilt for their firstborn. And then, second-born. And so on.

Well, their fifth-born came along in February and by happy coincidence, I was heading their way for my brother-in-law’s wedding. I determined to finally GIT ‘ER DONE. For real. I’m actually ridiculously impressed with myself about this one — disproportionately so, considering it took me 12 years and 5 kids to get there. BUT I was leaving on March 21 and pulled everything out on the 16th with the resolve to bust it out. I truly enjoy piecing the top of a quilt. I tolerate the layering and quilting it all together. But I despise binding them. (I’m sure it’s because I haven’t practiced enough to get proficient at that part and the perfectionist in me gets very frustrated about that.) But I finally did it! Woot woot!

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Triple Irish Chain pattern

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The inspiration fabric

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I’m not sure if I don’t do the quilt justice or if it doesn’t do me justice, but what an ordeal trying to get a decent picture! (The more Neal tells me to stop making weird faces, the more they flow from within.)

It’s not as perfect as I wanted it to be but it’s done . . . and just in the nick of time, since I finished hand-binding it in the car on the way to Rach’s house the day before we drove home. I hope this sweet little guy makes all kinds of messes on it 🙂

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I didn’t do Baby J justice at all

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

UNFAMILIAR FISHES 1 MB

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?

 

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