It is Still a Trip

I so remember fondly the days when I could throw some clothes in a bag, grab my passport and hit the airport for a vacation abroad that I threw together a couple of weeks before.

Those were the days.

Today, I grasp at shreds of vacation dreams.

Now I take trips instead of vacations, and I feel all kinds of ways about that.

On the one hand, I love the idea of vacationing with Hope, and even taking Yappy along. I dream about having the opportunity to have fun with her, to show her lots of amazing sites in the country and world.

On the other hand, I just miss the days of old.

This year, I rented a small condo on the beach in Virginia. Substantially less expensive and much closer to family than last year’s trip to Martha’s Vineyard. Oh and it was a fraction of the cost of our trip last year, which is good since the first payment on Hope’s braces is due next week.  And finally, Yappy was welcome to tag along on this journey to the beach, where he would see sand for the very first time.

Since I traded in the Mini Cooper last winter, we would be traveling a lot more comfortably and with nothing strapped to the roof of the car.

I went into the trip feeling guardedly optimistic about all the precautions I had taken to try to make sure that it would be fun time for us all.

And then we headed out.

We traveled nearly all the way to the house when I caught a flat tire. And when I say “all the way” I mean, we were 2.4 miles away from the rental.

When we finally get there, the landlord had not obtained a mini-box for the TV so the cable didn’t work. The landlord also didn’t respond to my 3 phone calls and 2 texts about the WiFi password. And that was day 1.

Day 2, I managed to get in some exercise before I headed out with Hope to go buy a new tire. Of course Wallyworld did not carry my tire size, so then we had to hit a service station where the only tire the right size was the most expensive tire that was about $200. #HappyVacation Hope complained about the wait, pissed off the service station staff because I couldn’t censor her anti-Trump tirade because her ability to self-censor at critical times, like in mixed company, is non-existent. It also underscores her inability to read social reactions. By the time we bought groceries and hit the Starbucks my nerves were shot. When the barista messed up my drink I started to cry. ETA: How do you mess up a venti iced coffee with sugarfree vanilla syrup???

While sobbing on the way back to the car, I began to wonder why I keep trying to take these vacation/trips at all.

I hit another coffee shop, got my fix, got some Yappy snuggles and hit the beach. Managed to burn my feet on the sand. They are still sore and red. Oh and as soon as we got the umbrellas up and I got settled, Hope announced she was hungry and wanted to go inside, but not by herself, to get something to eat.

I said no, as I was still wiping the sweat from my brow from dragging everything to the beach and getting us set up.

Sigh

Then there was the spider sighting at 9pm that spun night 2 out of control. We’ve been doing so much better with the bug thing so I was able to be a bit more patient and consoling about it.

I relaxed on the couch most of today with Yappy. It was just so hot, that there was little reason to go out. Hope pulled up a chair because I never located the spider, which meant the comfy furniture was contaminated.

After a few hours out and an about, we returned back where she quickly spotted a moth and the freakout started all over again. I killed it, but that hasn’t abated the evening meltdown.

Tomorrow afternoon we head home, and I’m left wondering will we ever have a truly, truly enjoyable time? Should I just plan staycations from now on?  Should I just rent a bug free, hermetic bubble? Is there a happy medium?

Sure there were moments of some contentment, but they were fleeting and the crush of anxiety, phobias, and PTSD always seems to outweigh those few moments of relaxation.

Yeah, this was definitely a trip. It’s always a reminder of the hard place my kiddo survived. It’s just hard to enjoy a good life. I hope that she continues to heal and is able to just enjoy the world around her.

Despite all of the drama of this trip, I am optimistic for her healing.  She is much more mature than she was last year. The ability to manage the bug phobia is improved. The drive and desire to heal is such much more than it used to be.

There is hope for Hope. I believe that.

But for now, vacations are still trips for us. Yappy seems to have had a blast though. He traveled well, killed bugs and has snoozed like I thought I would while on vacation. I am jealous.


Traffic Stop Protocol

Hope and I are taking a trip to the beach this weekend. Note, this is not a vacation since both Hope and Yappy are accompanying me—this is a trip.

If you are traveling with your kids, it’s never a vacation. It’s a trip.

Posted by Add Water and Stir Podcast on Saturday, July 9, 2016

In the wake of all that’s happening in the world, tonight I will be giving my daughter another briefing on what must happen during a traffic stop.

I got a ticket about two months ago on the way to visit my parents. Hope followed my lead, remained quiet and made no sudden moves. Yappy was in the back seat, and the dog believes every human has the potential to be his best friend. Tail wagging, mouth open giving a toothy grin, he appeared harmless, charming even.

But that was before two more deaths of unarmed black men, the deaths of 8 police officers and this week’s shooting of an unarmed black man who was assisting an autistic black man and trying to get him out of the street with his toy truck, which some numb nut called in as a possible gun.

So, before we head out on a long, hopefully uneventful, fun filled weekend at the beach, I will remind my daughter what she must do if we are stopped by police.

  • Remain calm.
  • Before the officers approach the car, calmly turn on the video on your phone. I have purchased more data for this trip and set your settings to automatically upload anything you record to our family cloud where it will be safe.
  • Put the phone on the center console.
  • Make no sudden moves.
  • No reaching into your purse, there is not enough lip gloss or mascara in the world to explain how that might be misconstrued as you reaching for a gun.
  • Always carry your student ID, as it’s the only ID you currently have. You are tall and womanly and you might be mistaken for someone older; you need to be able to establish you’re just a kid.
  • If you are asked for ID, ask for permission to reach into your purse to retrieve it. See reason above.
  • Put your hands in your lap or put them on the dashboard so they are always visible. See reason above.
  • It’s all “yes, ma’ams, no ma’ams, yes sirs, no sirs” for the duration of the stop as anything else might be considered you being mouthy.
  • If you are asked to step out of the car, ask for permission to release your seat belt.
  • Do not put your hands in your pocket after you exit the car, no matter how fidgety you might be because you are afraid.
  • Remain as still as possible.
  • Try not to cry and please don’t scream no matter how scared you might be.
  • Let them search your purse.
  • Answer all questions clearly and as politely as possible.
  • I will reassure you as much as I am allowed to that we will be ok.
  • If we are separated in any way ask to call your grandparents; they will drop everything to come get you. I printed cards with their number and put it in your wallet since they may take your phone. Tell them where the number is. Better yet, write their number with a Sharpie in your hand before we leave.
  • When our stop is completed, we will stop at the first safe place so that you can let all of the emotions out. We will take as long as you need. I have put fresh handkerchiefs in the glove box.

As for me, I’ll also be turning on my video with an automatic upload setting, and I’ll be following all the same rules.

Yappy will try to get by on his adorable looks and charm. He will very likely be successful with this approach because well, he’s Yappy.

We live and travel the Interstate 95 corridor all the time.  This is a heavily policed interstate from end to end. It is known for being a big trafficking route for drugs, guns and sex workers on the East Coast, consequently, there are lots of troopers along our travel route. It is also notorious for being problematic when you are DWB–driving while black.

I’ve traveled this route for my whole life, especially so for the last nearly 30 years. I’ve got a few speeding tickets along the way, very few. The likelihood that anything terrible would happen may be small.

But the likelihood was small for all of the people who have died unarmed too. Statistics seem remote until you are a part of the few.

I’m not anti-police by any stretch of the imagination. I understand and appreciate the sacrifices that they make each and every day. I am grateful to them and all public safety servants.

I also know that they are not supposed to be my enemy.

I also know that I’m not supposed to be afraid of them.

I also know that having to go step by step through a survival protocol with my daughter on how to just be OK during a traffic stop should be unnecessary. I know that having to explain the nuances of why she has to be sure to have her student identification and why my highly emotional child has to contain herself for our safety is supposed to be unnecessary.

I use my cruise control a lot when driving long distances. I’ll definitely be using it tomorrow as we depart on a 5 hour journey to the shore.

If we get stopped on this journey, I hope that we will be like Yappy and can rely on a cute, but compliant, charm offensive to ease the burden of DWB.

 

 


Mood Swing Apps

I track our moods. I use apps. I like data. I want to see if there are patterns, if I’m gauging what I see and feel properly.

I use Mood Log to track Hope’s moods. It’s a simple app, with a clean interface. You can add emotions or behaviors and associate them with highs or lows as you desire. I try to log in the morning for consistency, though sometimes I’ll log big mood swings over the course of a day. It has helped in giving me some insights into how often her moods change…or rather how often I interpret a mood change.

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Hope’s Mood Log

I’ve been doing this for about two months now. I do look back at the week trends, but I only recently started looking at the trends over the two months. Hope’s weeks start low and the closer she gets to the weekend the better her overall moods are. I can see now in retrospect how stressed she must’ve been on Monday mornings going to school and how tough it must’ve been for her to rough it through the week.

It’s also become easier for me to just see regular ole teenage mood swings and those influenced by hormonal changes. Moving forward I’m hoping this will help me take a lot more things in stride.

I realized in order for me to do that, I needed to pay closer attention to my own moods. I use the app Pacifica to track mine. It is a little more dynamic that Mood Log.

My logs on Pacifica

My logs on Pacifica

I find I tend to rate myself more conservatively over time. For me to rate myself on the higher/good mood end I probably have to be ecstatic; really negative engagements with Hope during which we blew the roof off the house, will get dramatically lower rating.  Despite the extremes, I know my mood shift more than what I record. I find it interesting that I don’t seem as honest with myself as I do when I rating Hope. I’m not sure who I’m trying to impress.

At any rate, mood tracking helps me try to figure US out a bit more. I also share them with our therapists, who find them helpful in seeing what happens between visits.

Anyone else tracking moods? What are you using? Does it help?


Anxiety and Extroversion

I am an extrovert. I get lots of energy from being around people and stuff. I have some sensory issues that seem to be getting a bit worse as I get older, but I still love being in lively environments that give me the energy I need to remain vibrant myself.

I fretted last year that perhaps I was losing some bit of extroversion because I was increasingly desirous of just being alone. I had a new Meyers-Briggs assessment and found that I was even more extroverted than I used to be. I’m just really tired and that’s why I want to be alone…so I can go to sleep.

My darling Hope seems to be an introvert. She likes to be around people, but really seems to get more energy in super small groups, or alone with her own selected stimuli.

Here’s the thing though: because she struggles with anxiety, she presents as an extrovert.

It’s taken me a long time to figure this out, but I get it now.

Between the anxiety and her ADHD, she can chatter on for hours and hours. She bounces around. She can be boisterous and her voice really carries. Her conversations wind themselves like backwoods roads that have lots of little roads off of them: one left turn and she’s tripped down a long road to nowhere for a 15 minute drive.

Now these behaviors aren’t really associated with extroversion, but if you don’t know much about intro/extroversion, you might easily run up on Hope and think that she’s a little lively ball of people loving fun. Um, no. She’s just spastic and riddled with anxiety.

So, I’ve really, really, I mean really been on my “time-in,” attachment parenting tip these last couple of weeks. Movies, board games, cooking, rice krispy treats, dance parties. I’ve limited our screen time on devices unless we were watching something together. I’ve done her hair. I’ve cleaned her room and not freaked out about all the food wrappers. I have listened with interest as she talks through her social issues, her crush issues, her skin issues, her hair issues, her body issues, her issues’ issues. She has been delighted to just have all this time with me.

And I. Am. Exhausted.

The only time Hope is not chattering on or bouncing around is if we go somewhere. Her brain is so busy and so tired that it literally shuts down and she falls immediately asleep. Sometimes we can’t even get out of the parking lot of our condo property before she is asleep.

It makes me feel like those infant parents who take the kid on a drive in hopes that the kid will stop crying and fall asleep.

My brain and body have quite a bit more stamina and resilience than Hope’s so I’m able to hold it together until night fall, but the constant stimuli is just too damn much for me. I’m exhausted.

Sometimes while she’s talking I am literally wishing she would just be quiet. She never does though.

I take Yappy to the dog park nearly every day just to get a little quiet time, but then I low key chat with the other dog owners.

It just never ends and even extroverts need a break to recharge that small bit of ourselves that is introverted. I don’t even remember going to bed most nights, just mildly cursing when the alarm goes off in the morning because I know the interactions will start again within an hour.

How do introverts even kind of manage this level of interaction and engagement????

I’m hitting it hard right now because school is out and most of our evenings are free. I have an opportunity to make some headway on our relationship before the school year starts again.  I see the fruits of these labors, I do, but OMG this is just crazy.

How do folks manage the need to just go into your quiet closet to recharge a bit each day?


Black Exceptions

I am emotionally exhaustipated.

Hope has returned home from band camp, and we I am trying to get us back on our normal routine.  At about hour 38 this morning—not even 2 full days back home—I lost my ish dealing with Hope’s morning lag time that seriously makes me late for work every MORNING! I was an episode of Snapped and it wasn’t pretty.

I’m pretty keyed up and I’m not proud of it. Just lost in the throes of mourning, sadness, grief, and anger over recent events. I returned to work this morning and set about catching up and reaching out to colleagues in locations affected by death and protests. There is just a dark cloud of messy emotions.

Over the weekend I spent a fair amount of time on social media and ended up pruning my lists of friends and acquaintances. I typically keep the security settings fairly high on my personal FB page, only those close to me really get to see me unedited and uncensored. Amazingly, a lot of people don’t seem to bother self-censoring, editing or using security settings to do it for them.

I tend not to accept friend requests from colleagues or students, and if I do, most go on a special list of folks who get to see very little of what I post. #boundaries

So, if you follow social media you know that these spaces are still rather frenzied over the deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and the five fallen officers in Dallas. There is an enormous amount of noise.

Some of that noise included “friends” and colleagues posting all kinds of tom-foolery about the shootings. There were racist memes, pro-murder/lynching memes, articles from less than reputable “news” (I use the term so loosely here) sites about how awful those black men were. There was absence of civility for a diverse group of folks, unless of course you think you are exclusively among like-minded “friends.”

Then there were the “friends of friends” who posted all kinds of utter non-sense on their “friends’” walls, which because of their lack of privacy settings, turns up in my newsfeed too.

The trauma don’t stop, won’t stop. Ugh!

It’s ok to disagree on many things, really it is. But the willingness to spew venom and nastiness into the world is just beyond me. How angry and discontented with your life do you have to be to do that? Is that really what you want to spend time doing with your life? You’d rather post a racist meme than share a silly sloth video? #Iloveslothvideos

Hate is such a hot and bothered emotion. Meh.

As I scrolled and scrolled through newsfeeds and timelines looking at the mess, I thought to myself, “Self, what would happen if I “liked” any of these posts?”

What would their reaction be?

Would they feel any shame?

Would they think I was really that self-loathing?

Would they realize that I got a peek behind their personal curtain to see who they really were?

And what would their reaction be when we saw each other at an event or meeting?

Would they expect that we would still be cool? Did they expect me to just let it slide as a momentary lapse into episodic racism?

Or would they think that somehow I would understand that they weren’t talking about ME, because well, I’m different. I’m the exception to the rules that governed their racism.

I started slashing and burning through friend lists on Facebook and announced that I was doing so. I don’t mind divergent opinions, but I have limits on acceptable levels of foolery.

This idea that I might be different is troubling.

Do I defy their stereotypes? Do I exceed their low expectations? Is it because, well, I’m one of like 3 black folks that they know personally and so that makes me different? Is it because I can code switch? Is it because I don’t scare them? Is it because I don’t make them uncomfortable? Is it because I don’t make a big deal about their whiteness and often maleness and don’t indict them on what I see as deeply rooted, systemic racism, sexism and ageism in the community I work in? Or is it because I’m just not really black, or what they perceive as black so they can just recategorize me into the reserved space for special, super cool black folk who will take you to, and keep you safe at, the soul food restaurant when you come to town so that you can say you lived a little while you were on that business trip? #seriousprivilegeatwork

I’d like to think I’m a bad ass, that I’m exceptional. I think I’m good at what I do. I work hard; I always have. I think that I’ve benefitted from good mentoring, from good counseling, from occasionally affirmative action to just give me a much needed chance to show my work and from extensive hard work.

But the problem with being “exceptional” in this case is that it allows people to justify having a poor view of folks who look just like me. It gives folks an out when they really need to squirm on the hook.

It also puts an enormous amount of pressure on me to live up to the Magic Standard—be everything, do everything and make everyone exceptionally comfortable while doing it.

It’s impossible to do that. Black exceptionalism is not the move. #blackexcellenceistho

So no one who thought we were close enough to post something off the wall and allow it to permeate my newsfeed got a pass this weekend. Nope, not today folks, not today.

eyeroll#weaintrockingnomo

As Jesse Williams said, “The thing is though, that just because we’re magic, doesn’t mean we’re not real.”

jesse-williams


What Would They Say about Us?

I am overwhelmed with grief and anger. My mini getaway was marred by Black and blue death. My heart actually aches.

Hope is away at band camp; she hasn’t been online in a couple of days now. I was bothered because I hadn’t heard from her, though I took it as a good sign that she was having fun and making friends. Now I’m relieved that she is cloistered away from the internet and news. I hope it stays that way until I pick her up.

It gives me a couple of days to figure out what to say to her about two more black men dying at the hands of police.

I’ve written a lot on my fears about being Black and raising a Black child in an age where the incidence of police brutality seems to be increasing.

I’ve gone back and forth on what I wanted to use this platform to say about the deaths of Alton Spalding and Philando Castile and now the officers slain in Dallas.

I don’t know what to say or even where to begin.

I can say that this is the terrorism that I am most afraid of.

I am grateful for friends of a many races and backgrounds who reached out, who commiserated, who were experiencing the same anguish I feel.

I am also acutely aware of crickets chirping in areas of my life, where nothing was said, nothing was acknowledged, or where Black humanity was seemingly ignored. #iseeandhearyou

I unplugged for a while because the anger and sorrow was just too much.

I am actively pondering what would people say about me if a traffic stop ended in my death or that of my daughter.

Would people look for a mug shot of me to use in the media?

Would people recast my diversity and social justice educational work as militant?

Would people dig into my background to find mistakes that would cast me as worthy of death by police execution?

Would people gaslight my family by saying, “Well, we don’t really know what happened; let’s wait for all the details?”

Would the body cameras mysteriously fall off or fail to record what happened to me?

Would there be anyone around using a cell phone camera that showed what happened to either of us?

Who around me would be silent about my death?

Would I be cast as the exception rather than the rule because I’m middle class, educated with no record?

What would they say about me?

What would they say about Hope?

Would the failings of her first family be used to crush her and explain why she was wothy of police execution?

Would my parental failings be broadcast widely in order to justify her execution?

How would the privacy of her story be violated, because we already know it would be?

Would they say she was troubled?

Would they say that she was angry and disobedient?

Who would stand with me as I grieved my child?

Would our deaths help the deniers get a clue about state sanctioned murder?

Would there be indictments?

Would anyone even really expect indictments?

If there was a trial how would our executions be portrayed in order to justify our deaths?

Would anyone give either of us the benefit of any doubt? Any reasonable doubt?

If there was a trial does anyone really think there would be a conviction?

Would our lives matter beyond a hashtag, some good speeches and a protest or two?

Would our deaths change anything?

Would our living have been in vain?

Have you ever had to ask yourself these questions? Have you ever needed to? Have they ever even crossed your mind?

I’m just pained, from the inside out.


Clouds of Sadness

The range of emotions felt at Casa d’ABM is pretty wide. I’ve always been pretty high strung, and I’ve written about my own struggle with depression in this space before. Living with a teenager is pretty tumultuous. The hormones…O.M.G. It’s amazing, really. I am convinced that I didn’t display the full range of crazy that I was feeling during my adolescence—not that I didn’t have the emotional swings, but that I didn’t act out.

Lots of people think my parents were strict; to some degree they were, but really they set high expectations and I had absurdly high expectations for myself. With the bar so high I was mindfully cautious about acting out.

I was a bit jealous of kids who didn’t seem to approach adolescence the same way. I wished I’d sneaked out more; went to more movies I wasn’t supposed to see. I did a fair amount of boozing my senior year, but still there was a hard limit on what I would do. Not a bad thing, but a self-control thing that gave me hang ups later in life.

So, now, years later, having a teenaged daughter who is a trauma survivor, is impulsive, at times angry, and seeming always sad…well it makes for an emotional roller coaster for all of us.

Except for Yappy—world’s happiest dog.

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So I guess that should say both of us.

This is an especially hard time of the year for Hope. Lots were crammed into the summer months of her young life. This year the memories seem to be crushing. We get treatment, therapy, but sometimes the sadness moves in faster than a weather cold front.

And if you know anything about weather, cold fronts, hitting warm air means storms. Sometimes really, really, crazy storms.

That happens here. The storms are a bit quieter now than when we first became a family, but they are no less disruptive or worrisome.

I try to remind myself that the frequent presence of emotional storm, complete with downpours, represent that this is a safe place. Hope is able to express her full range of emotions in our home. This is a safe place to work through it all; she can emote here.

But here’s the thing, secondary trauma and compassion fatigue are real. It’s not just about loving Hope; it’s about demonstrating empathy (constantly); managing our life as a therapeutic case; navigating big and little decisions that may have triggering effects; always being anxious waiting for the other shoe to drop after stumbling over a trigger.

It is exhausting for both of us. Hope can sleep for hours and hours sometimes. I know that part of it is that her young body is run down and exhausted from fighting her own fight/flight response to life. I know the other part is just coping with the overwhelming sadness that she lives with.

On the weekends I am eager to resume my old life of running errands, hitting the gym, spending the afternoons and evenings doing something fun. I end up running the errands that I have to in order to keep the house running; taking Yappy to the dog park and waiting to see if I can help Hope get herself together. By evenings, I’m emotionally done and I don’t even feel like I’ve done anything.

We might’ve tried a new restaurant or rented but didn’t watch the Redbox movie I picked up in hopes of having some fun family time.

The reality is that a happy house is a rare scene around these parts. It’s about trying to survive and fighting to push the clouds of sadness away.

I hear that the hormonal part will settle down in another year or two; I hope so. Self-care helps with my ability to cope, but living with this level of stress is tough. It is exhausting. It is depressing.

So we both end up sharing her trauma. It ends up being cloudy and sad for both of us. I look forward to a day when it won’t be so overwhelming for Hope, that the depression she feels won’t consume her life, when so many things won’t be triggering.  When that happens for Hope, it know it will happen for me too.


Big Girl Undies

I am a huge extrovert and I like holidays. I love them. I want to enjoy them; I do not like sulking on holidays. I want good food, some bevies, a card game, confabs with friends and families and a good ole time.

Holidays trigger Hope. She usually seems to look forward to them, but when they arrive, she is sullen, withdrawn, grouchy, tense, anxious and difficult to be around, especially since I am hype.

I get it. I do, but on a selfish note, gosh, I just want one holiday that isn’t icky, that isn’t an emotional minefield. It’s July 4th, and it’s been miserable around these parts all dang day. Tomorrow I take Hope to band camp, her first time away from me for almost a week that will not be with family. I totally and completely get that this is anxiety provoking and that she is unable to pull herself together. There has been so much anxiety today that is has been paralyzing.

I thought we might hit up a BBQ place for a late lunch, maybe take in a movie to get her mind off of things, but I couldn’t even get her dressed before 2pm and she still needed to wash hair and start packing.

It’s not right and it’s not fair, especially since I’m the adult here, but I am excited for her and it’s a holiday! I am starved for interaction and engagement, and while I shouldn’t expect her to fill that need, we’re the only ones in this house and Yappy has done all he can do for me. And as much as she is not engaging, I know that the last thing she really wants me to do is go out without her.

So, then I get all icky and attitudinal, which just makes everything worse. It has been an ittshay day.

I’m human and sometimes immature and not the greatest at this mom thing on rough days, so….yeah. I own my petty.

So, I’ve gone out for a bit, bought myself a new lippy, some new nail polish and a slurpee and picked up Peanuts from the Redbox.

In the car on the way home, I pulled on my emotional big girl undies and resolved to have a good evening with Hope…if it killed me.

Sigh…here we go.


The Losses are Real

I never understood the gravity of real loss until I became Hope’s mother. I look back and realize that there isn’t much at all that I’ve lost in my 43 years around the sun. Sure, I have grieved for long gone family members; lost some friends. I have grieved deeply about my infertility. I’ve lost some sentimental tangible items along the way.

And certainly each of these losses have touched me and either created or smoothed my edges. But, honestly, beyond the loss of fertility, none of my losses have been earth shattering, grand scale life altering.

I am fortunate.

I am privileged.

I think about that every time I trip or kick over an emotional rock in an otherwise innocuous chat with Hope.

There is so much loss in her life; it permeates her skin, her breath, her beating heart. There are times when the memories of the loss are just overwhelming, all consuming and it’s like she watching things on a loop in her head.

I see this a lot with Hope. And I still struggle to really understand what that means, what that must feel like. I don’t know what it’s like to try to put the shred of memories in my life back together because they are like broken, scattered marbles that were dropped down the side of a hard faced mountain. #trauma

When I think about it, I mean really think about it, I totally understand why it’s so hard to get her up in the mornings. I wouldn’t want to get up and consciously ponder all those things for the next 18 hours or so either.

Hope has some summer reading to do for school; recently she commented that she had no interest in reading the books that were assigned. At my initial inquiry what was it about the books that she didn’t like, she indicated that it wasn’t really about the books.

Hope said she loved to read when she was little, would curl up with books and read for hours, but she stopped reading when she went into the system. Her beloved books were lost to her; she doesn’t know what happened to most of them. She only was able to salvage a few; they are on her book case in our home. Hope briefly talked about how some of the books were so sentimental and they were just…gone, gone like so many other things that were lost during that time.

As it turns out, sitting down to dive into a good book triggers memories of all that’s been loss for Hope.

I thought back to my various efforts to get her to read over the last couple of years. I tried everything I could to get her to read. She read a couple of things; mostly faked it, though. I had no idea I was essentially saying, “Hey spend the next couple of hours thinking about losing everything, especially the stuff and the people who meant everything to you. No, DO IT NOW!!”

I just had no idea, but now I do. I told her I understood.

I’ll still encourage her to read, but certainly with a lot more sensitivity than before.

I hope there will be a time when Hope’s life isn’t consumed about all she’s lost—not for my sake, but for hers. She’s still a little girl though (even at 15), and in reality, all the trauma wasn’t that long ago. The path to healing is a long one, with lots of potholes. I am learning to be patient with her. I’m also learning to empathize more deeply. I realize just how fortunate I’ve been in this life, and I want Hope’s life to flourish. I want her to have faith again.

To get there though, we have to wade through loss like we’re in a mud bog, praying that it doesn’t take us down. It might be all in our heads at this point, but make no mistake—it’s all very, very real.


Summertime

These last few months were rough, like drag me and Hope through life kicking and screaming rough.

And then, the hassle hustle stopped. Just like that the stress melted away.

School ended last week, and we got a chance to breathe and I realized that this last school year was a doozy.

Hope started high school, rough by itself. All the academic gaps that she was able to hide became glaring. Her issues with executive function—or rather lack of executive function—manifested with a vengeance. Crushes, social anxiety and miscellaneous teen drama just made for a really hard time.

For my part, despite reading numerous blogs about how some kids who have traumatic histories and who have neurocognitive conditions really, really struggle with school, I utterly refused to accept that this might be my reality with Hope. Hope desperately wanted to be successful, and in retrospect I realize that she also wanted to please me. She worked as hard as she could with what she had and simply struggled, and it wasn’t until the last month or two of school that I began to really believe that something else could be affecting her performance.

How devastating for her it must’ve been to think she failed me over and over again. I could kick myself. It’s nothing but pride that prevented me from even considering that we wouldn’t follow a similar pattern. I am devastated that I piled on more pressure, more anxiety, more depression on to my daughter because I couldn’t bear to believe that she might have a problem beyond her control.

Although as the school year drew closer to a close, I did step my game way up in terms of advocacy and interventions, but I still could just melt away into the floor I’m so disappointed in myself that I couldn’t get past my own hangups earlier.

But, it’s a new day and I have another chance to help her and get it closer to right.

This summer I’m trying to keep the pressure light, give her lots of opportunities to be successful, to relish in that success and to help her work on developing the ability to say, “Help me please.” My girl’s pride is huge and she fancies saying that she can take care of herself. Ultimately my goal is to have fun this summer and to build up enough strength for both of us to go into the new school year more confident and armed with the tools and support that will aid success.

Today though, it’s all about grabbing some beach chairs and just chilling at the free neighborhood park movie night. #summertime


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