Don’t call us, we’ll call you

January 23, 2017

Coping strategies, Day 60

5 November

I never thought that I would be a foster parent. I mean, going back a ways, I didn’t plan on being any type of parent. But even once I embraced the idea of parenthood and had a sensitivity toward foster children’s needs based on some of my nonprofit work, the narrative in my head was always that I was too emotionally fragile to be a foster parent myself. I would get too attached, and then with my depressive history, I would be thrown into an emotional tailspin when the children had to go away. Which they do. And they will, right up until you finally find that fourth floor, last door fit that was meant to be with your family. So I’ve been trying to face this question head-on:

What will I do when he has to go away?

What will I do that day? That week? That month? What will I do to memorialize him and his place in our life, but still keep moving forward? There is no such thing as closure still rings true to me, but what does that really mean in practice? How do I hold on to all the love and joy while simultaneously letting go of the one who produced them?

Of course, my first instinct is to do some research. What have other foster parents found helpful? Have there been any studies on that topic? But quite surprisingly, I ended up feeling resistant to that idea. Maybe it’s influenced by lack of time, but I also have this feeling of wanting to carve out this path for myself. I had tried to start that process back when I was writing my new life story, identifying at least two things I thought would be important: Create a place to remember each child and Escape. The first one will be easy, I think, if not totally defined at this point. I’m sure I’ll feel sentimental about practically everything, so it won’t be hard to fill something like a “loss box.”

But the second, it turns out, I’ve probably gotten worse at in the last 3 years. Even before we got the baby, I had given up “Dear Prudence” and no longer had a particular show to watch regularly (though thanks to Robin-Elise and her Netflix gift, I can binge watch with the best of ’em when I’m in a funk). We reduced our dining-out budget in order to save for a new home (did I mention we’re moving? minor detail…) so restaurant meals could not be a go-to. (I have, however, allowed myself the luxury of spending $3-5 during each of the baby’s visitations in exchange for using Panera or Barnes & Noble wifi.) In short, my strategies for “escape” are a bit non-existent at the moment (let’s be honest, I’ll probably escape into work because: workaholic), though I’m sure I’ll allow myself a meal out on the day we have to give him up.

I’m on the hunt for more coping strategies, but in the meantime, I’ve found quite a bit of comfort in a quote that my new friend Ali shared on Facebook:

grief(source, I think)

My grief will be proportionate to my love. So it’s going to be intense, and it’s going to well up in my eyes about 70 times a day, just like my love does now. What will I do when he goes away? Just keep right on loving him.


September 28, 2014

Our last day in the sunshine

Filed under: Personal — Tags: , , , , , , — llcall @ 3:31 pm

Naturally, when one looks back to such instances today, they may indeed take the appearance of being crucial, precious moments in one’s life; but of course, at the time, this was not the impression one had. Rather, it was as though one had available a never-ending number of days, months, years in which to sort out the vagaries of one’s relationship with Miss Kenton; an infinite number of further opportunities in which to remedy the effect of this or that misunderstanding. There was surely nothing to indicate at the time that such evidently small incidents would render whole dreams forever irredeemable.

There are so few quotes that really stick with you forever. That sort of follow you, haunt you. This one from The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro is one of mine. It comes to me in word and mood whenever I have the vague feeling that I may have left something undone.

Several days ago I found out that my dear, dear friend is no longer with us. It was not a complete surprise to me, and yet, I’m still in shock. Because it was as though one had available a never-ending number of days, months, years right up until the moment that . . . whole dreams were forever irredeemable. It was pointless, of course, but I could’t help searching our emails and chats to see what more I could have done. There’s the exchange just a few weeks ago when she cancelled our scheduled Skype session because a deadline came up. Should I have called anyway? Kept calling? Did she ever reach out and fail to find me at the other end?

But what started out as pointless email searching slowly turned into smiles, almost laughs. A thousand inside jokes flooding back. We were so fun and funny together; I’m sure if everyone knew, they would have turned our relationship into a TV show a long time ago.


Those smiles and almost-laughs didn’t last long. If there’s one thing I’ve learned irrefutably in the last few days, it’s this: survivor guilt is a real thing. The pain of loss mingled with guilt has been physically crippling at times. I’m trying out all the coping strategies I had planned on using to deal with the inevitable pain of the foster/adopt process: reminding myself, There is no closure; seeking for it will be fruitless. Watching Psych obsessively for distraction. I’ve been reading, also obsessively, all the online memorials to her that I can find. Her Facebook page has become an impromptu repository for others’ first and last memories of her, all capturing some wonderful dimension of her life and personality.

I also need to create a place to remember (it was one of my cardinal rules). It’s not about the first moments or the last moments, but it’s what I want to remember most: May 29, 2013. Duke Gardens. We walked on bridges and fed ducks. We brought fruit and nuts and sandwiches to enjoy in the shade of a beautiful tree. We sent Addison on “secret missions,” to interrupt young love and ask awkward questions of people on first dates — all in pursuit of a few minutes of adult conversation. We booked it across quiet Asiatic gardens for bathroom emergencies. We laughed. SO MUCH laughing, a stark contrast to the tears and pain that would follow later that day, and in the months to come.

It was our last day in the sunshine.

DSCN9111_resized[1]DSCN9114_resized[1]DSCN9123_resized[1]DSCN9124_resized[1]DSCN9127_resized[1]kaila and addison cropped

Love you forever, Kaila.

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.

April 14, 2012

Lindsay loves Neal

Earlier this week I asked Neal what he wanted for his birthday.  He said, “To follow our schedule.”  One-track mind, right there.

But that’s not exactly what I had planned for his gift.  My gift idea stemmed from a conversation we had last year when we were in the middle of marriage counseling.  If you know me and my striving nature (and Neal and his more complacent nature), you know that I was driving that therapy train.  I knew there were things we could do better in our relationship and before we lost our opportunity for free counseling, I wanted to explore those things.  A lot.  Over and over again.

Neal was more than willing to come along for the ride (a condition of our marriage was a willingness to go to counseling with me whenever the mood struck), but about halfway through he made a good point.  It’s good to work on things and talk about improvements to be made,  but he also wanted me to take time to remind him of the things I love about him.  After all, as John Gottman says, the best marriages have a 5 to 1 ratio of positive to negative interactions (his Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work is still my most recommended marriage book!).

So I started thinking of ways to show him what I loved about him.  I wrote journal entries that I eventually turned into a book.  And . . . hmmm . . . in my head, it seemed like there were more things on this list.  But I did have other ideas, one of which was to go through all my past blog posts (I’m only through 60 out of 380-something) and create a new category for all those that specifically talk about Neal and his many stellar qualities.  I have aptly termed this new category Lindsay loves Neal, in honor of a computer file I created on his desktop (unbeknownst to him) while we were dating.  Of course, a bound book or collection of blog posts won’t replace me verbally expressing love, but who wouldn’t appreciate a compilation of all their best qualities and funny anecdotes just a click away to peruse as needed?

So Neal, happy birthday.  Lindsay still loves Neal.

(Even if you’re almost 30 and no longer this hot young thing I met in D. C.)

March 19, 2012

Recent and random

I think I’m still in the “just can’t face it” funk.  Still overwhelmingly fatigued, still fighting some sinus issues, still totally unmotivated to do anything.  I managed to prepare and teach my Relief Society lesson for yesterday, but beyond that, I have done nothing productive since I returned from my trip.  And by nothing, I mean, I have not even unpacked my bags in the past eight days.  Oy, it’s a mess around here!

It’s really disappointing to me — I stayed so healthy on my trip, despite interacting with mildly-sick people right and left, that I was feeling really optimistic about just-me-and-Addison travel.  But if I lose a couple of weeks on the end of every trip, is it really worth it?  Not that I’m giving up altogether, but it’s been a little disheartening.


Despite that, I’ve read and watched some interesting things lately.  Here are a few in no particular order:

This TED talk by Jonathan Haidt was quite interesting (though a bit repetitive), going in some entirely different directions than I was expecting.  But for some strange reason, I was particularly captivated by the way he used his hands and how elegant his wedding ring looked.  It made me think I should get Neal a wedding ring, you think?


A couple of my friends linked to this lovely letter John Steinbeck sent to his son.  I thought about excerpting part, but there were just so many little gems that I couldn’t choose.  Just go read it!  It reminded me of the first time I fell in love with Steinbeck’s writing, reading the truly stunning East of Eden.


Speaking of fiction, this article on the neuroscience of reading fiction really caught my attention.  Even though I am mostly a nonfiction reader and have been since childhood, I really believe in the power of novels and the like.  Sometimes I’ve felt that a fictional account captures a truth about humanity in a more perfect way than any nonfiction version could.  So I was not surprised to read that some studies find that “individuals who frequently read fiction seem to be better able to understand other people, empathize with them and see the world from their perspective.”


This Salon article from an ex-con/college professor was obviously right up my alley.  In the opening paragraphs, she references people who were locked up for minor offenses (like possession of marijuana) and had their lives forever altered by incarceration.  This is all too familiar because it is the tragic story of one of the first men I met in D.C. Jail.  I’m going to tell you Oliver’s story some day soon (I’ve started writing it many times) but it’s taking me time since he is still the person I have cried for most in my life.


It turns out if I do only have one biological child (which is looking likely), I had her at exactly the right age!  Apparently, 30 is the statistically ideal age for having a child that is “less frail, less obese, taller, and [has] better self-reported health later on in life.”  (I’m not sure what happened with the height, but the healthy-as-a-horse part definitely bears out so far.)

Thanks to Rachel and her getting-a-PhD-in-demography husband Stephen for the info!

February 16, 2011

Aaaaannnnnd . . . she’s walking

Filed under: Family, Personal — Tags: , , — llcall @ 9:27 pm

It may be the cutest thing ever . . . until she gets so excited that she starts flapping her arms, loses her balance, and does a face plant.  But whether she stays vertical or ends up horizontal, she obviously expects you to clap at her new skill at least every 2.5 minutes.  Ah, the need for validation starts early.

I love these “Cry for help” e-cards


And . . . she’s one year old.  To celebrate she woke us up screaming right about the same time she was born, 2 a.m.  Coincidence?  Or has she heard about her honorary Aunt Rachie’s birthday tradition?  (Sorry, lady, we didn’t bang the pots and pans, but we did change her diaper.)


Also, I’m apparently in too contemplative a mood to fall back asleep.  How about some musings?

I don’t know if you’ve heard but the word on the street is that this week is all about love.  Every year the same thing happens: I read what people say about their significant others, I notice some common themes, and I fixate on two in particular that just don’t resonate with me.

The first statement is something to this effect: every day is like Valentine’s Day in our relationship.  I think that’s a really great sentiment.  I really do.  The world would no doubt be a better place if everyone was constantly trying to show love and kindness to their partners/friends/family (and also buying them stuffed animals attached to balloons, but that probably goes without saying).  But do I want it to be Valentine’s Day every day?  Ummm . . . pass.  You know, the truth is some days I just want to have a bad day, be a little grumpy, get frustrated over an ultimately unimportant thing.  And at the end of those days I don’t want to have to think, “Oh shoot, I ruined Valentine’s Day!  AGAIN!”  In the end, that’s one of the most comforting things about my relationship with Neal, my parents, my brother, my close friends.  I know they’ve seen me on some pretty crummy days and they’re still coming back for more.

The other statement that I don’t really relate to is some variation on I love my spouse more today than I did the day we got married.  Again, there’s nothing wrong with feeling this way.  In fact, I ask myself if there’s something wrong with me because I don’t feel this way (and we can’t even guess at whether Neal feels this way since he doesn’t even know what love is).  But it just doesn’t feel true for me.  I’ve been wondering whether this is a more common sentiment in the LDS culture with our stereotypically short courtships and engagements.  Or is this notion common in the broader world as well, and I just notice it among LDS people because I interact with a lot of LDS people?

I’ve actually puzzled over this topic a lot because maybe I should feel that my love for Neal is growing over time, but after four years, it’s pretty much holding steady (although let’s be honest, the couple relationship certainly takes a bit of a hit with the transition to parenthood — not necessarily the love, but the functioning, at least in our case).  I remember a few years ago a good friend of mine telling me, after he and his wife had been married for a few years and devastatingly had to bury a child, that he understood better why the leaders of our church encourage couples to get married relatively quickly and not stay in the courtship stage for too long.  He said, “I see now that the love that gets you to the altar is not the same love that’s going to get you through the hard stuff.”  I think there is wisdom in this observation, a wisdom that came from having to go through one of the worst possible things I can imagine.  But still, for me, I don’t see this change.  In our married life we’ve been through family crises, miscarriage, high-risk pregnancy, childbirth, too many surgeries to keep track of (one during said high-risk pregnancy), definitely too many illnesses to keep track of.  But in our pre-married life, Neal nursed me through too may illnesses to keep track of.  I helped him start a small business.  He held my hand for hours while I was strapped to a backboard after our near-fatal car accident.  I moved cross-country for him.  He delivered me to physical therapy three times a week for months.  I waited patiently for him to decide what he wanted for his future and whether the LDS faith would be a part of it.  We played about 370 games of Skipbo in which he talked too much smack and I was alternately pouty or angry if I lost (thankfully, I rarely lost).

Have there been some surprises in marriage?  A couple here and there.   But we’re still coping with things the same way we did before; a lot of talking, too much thinking (that’s my job), strategically-timed Oreos.  He’s the same person I knew I wanted to marry about two months into our relationship, even though it took two years to get to the altar.  When I think of our life together and my love for him, I mainly see continuity not change.

So, I’m curious, what do you make of all this?

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