Current State

So this happened today.

crazytalk_opt

It really is just too much.

I’ll just mail in my fine. I’ll do that not just because I really was speeding, but the last place I want to be is in a courthouse swarming with ‘blue lives’ who may not understand or respect my fear.

My current state is scared.


The Threat of Desensitization

Over dinner tonight, Hope and I watched the evening news.  During the news, coverage on the murder of Terence Crutcher was shown.

If you haven’t heard of Mr. Crutcher, here’s the short version of how his life was cut short.

His car was stalled in the middle of a roadway. Police in Tulsa, Oklahoma were apparently on the way to an unrelated police call when they saw him.

Crutcher apparently thought they were coming to help him; they didn’t help him.

Despite initially walking towards the police, likely believing they were there to assist him, he realized that he was in danger and raised his hands above his head.

Helicopter video is online, along with the narration about how Crutcher wasn’t following directions and that he looked like a “bad dude, to be honest.”

He was hit with the stun gun, and shot beside his car.

More than two minutes went by before any life-saving efforts were attempted.

He was unarmed.

It’s just not right. It’s just not right.

I closed my eyes as the nightly news showed the video clip of Crutcher’s body laying alongside his car; it’s bad enough that he was shot and killed but the incessant need to show the bodies of dead people by the media specifically and public in general is just too much for me.

It is difficult enough to know that there is little dignity in life, but to be reminded that there is none in death is just beyond heartbreaking.

As I looked down into my bowl of pasta holding back my emotions, listening to Crutcher’s sister repeatedly say that his life mattered, Hope said, “I wonder what excuse they’ll come up with this time for this killing.”

She then went back to babbling on about band drama.

She didn’t miss a beat.

I read the response as, “This is something that just happens to us.”

And some days, it does just feel like that; this trauma is a chronic experience we are just enduring as black folks.

It’s kind of like what life felt like after 9/11; we begin a life under threat of terror. You go on about your life, day to day, year to year. There will be events, and they will be dramatic and traumatic. Despite our best efforts to “fight terror,” there is an acceptance that to some degree, this is just our life now.

Terrorism can happen at any time, anywhere.

We know that, and we accept it.

Terrorism can happen even alongside your stalled car as you think someone who is supposed to be there to help you, ends your life.

But the thing is, it should not be happening. All of this, the various types of terrorism, should not be happening.

This, this life of feeling like I should be deathly afraid of people who are sworn to help me, is something I do not want to be used to; this is not something I want Hope to accept as normal.

This isn’t anti-police, this is about being pro-life. I do not want to die with the need for an investigation into how and why I died.

Actually, I don’t want to die at all.

How could state sanctioned murder of unarmed black men become normalized? How could the shock of seeing black bodies lying in the street ever wear off.

Sure, Hope could’ve just wanted to get back to her band conversation (with which she seems obsessed!), but it was so jarring for me to think that in the last couple of years, that she might be desensitized to the routine of police overreach, overreacting, not helping, not being the good guys. .

Certainly her own history may numbed her emotional response to these events; maybe it’s Hope’s age that influences her responses. Maybe I read all of this all wrong.

Hopefully, maybe?

In any case, I’ve become acutely aware of a new threat to black lives: the threat of desensitization towards the death of unarmed black folks.

This threat is dangerous; the acceptance of these events as somehow normative can lead to the abandonment of efforts to seek justice. That is tantamount to giving up on justice.

I can’t accept that. How can I teach my daughter that justice…isn’t just elusive, but that because of the normativity of it all, that justice isn’t for us?

I don’t want that for my family.

I won’t talk about it with Hope tonight, but I’ll save it for another day as I ruminate on it. It is a conversation that we’ll have, though. I don’t need for her to emote like me, but I want to be sure that the gravity of this loss of life is never lost on her. I want her to live her life fully, without fear and without ever being used to injustice.

 

 


Caught Up

During a recent session with AbsurdlyHotTherapist, I got incredibly frustrated. All Hope wanted to discuss was band and her crush. For 18 minutes I sat there stewing in my increasing frustration.

Really? Is this what we’re doing today?

We aren’t going to talk about the fact that there were bugs in your room?

We aren’t going to talk about no chores?

I’m paying a co-pay for this ish?

AHT eventually got Hope to mention several things that were bothering her since school started.

I shot him some side eyes as I clearly didn’t think *those* things were nearly as important as the fact that she had a room that lured bugs to it.

Oh, I was righteous in my frustrated indignation.

AHT eventually asked Hope to give us some time to talk without her.

He asked me what I heard, had I listened? He told me what he heard. I acknowledged those things, but still wanted my drama to be acknowledged too.

I grabbed a tissue as I dropped a few tears.

He smiled and said, but you didn’t really hear her.  She is having a very hard time in school already, and she needs your help with that stuff more than you need her to tidy up.

Wait, what?

But what about *me?* #mynarcissismwasreal

Then he told me the good news. Hope is behaving like a ‘normal’ teenager. Her ability to communicate even about challenges is light years better than what it was months ago. She doesn’t practice avoidance and her confidence is up in spite of her lingering and new challenges. She can see a successful future even if she isn’t sure how to get there.

And oh yeah, she still wants to make me proud.

Well damn.

He’s right. Hope has grown emotionally so much this summer.

And I seemingly have regressed a bit.

How did I miss when she evolved into a kid who largely behaved like other kids her age? She hasn’t caught up on everything, but wow she has caught up a lot, given that she was emotionally about 5 when she was placed with me.

And me? I missed that what she really needed was for me to be responsive to her, to help her with her new problems, to just shut up and listen.

She spends so much time talking about band (and we know that I hate that) and what she’s fretting about ish that might happen a year from now. And she goes ‘round and ‘round and ‘round and ‘round, for hours.

It has been easy for me to zone out after 20 minutes and take to my couch.

Instead this weekend, I stopped her and listened for that 20 minutes, and instead of zoning out and I asked her questions. I worked on redirecting her; I focused on solutions to current problems rather than imagined problems of 2017.

And I stopped the babbling and got some responsiveness.

She’s got some new limitations right now that we need to work through, and I’m going to have to chill. I’ve got to focus on being a cheerleader rather than a disciplinarian.

I’ve got to do the laundry. I need to meal plan so that I know she’s eating healthier, and I need to be sure she’s in bed at a decent hour whether homework is done or not.

I have a meeting with the counselor this week about additional support needs for Hope.

She’s finally catching up in some key areas, so it’s time for me to change strategy and catch up too.

This parenting is a constantly evolving game of come from behind and sprinting ahead.


So Much Love for Hope

This parenting thing is hard. It really is.

Parenting, in general, is tough.

Parenting a kid who has seen some things and gone through some stuff is especially tough.

There are days when it brings me to tears for so many sad, sad reasons.

And then sometimes, often when Hope isn’t even around when the rush of emotions warm me from the inside out.

I love my daughter.

Oh don’t get me wrong, not only is parenting tough, and this teen girl thing? Um, yeah, it’s a beeotch. The snarkiness, the attitude, the occasional defiance, the mood swings. It’s crazy with a capital C.

But this person, this soul for whom I’m responsible, I am totally in love with her. Madly in love with her.

Last night we sat on the couch and I watched her snarf down a Big Mac and fries after a very long day of school, band practice and tutoring. She was exhausted. I sat at one end of the couch, she at the other and Yappy in between us.

I studied her. I saw her tired, but relaxed, content, fully absorbed in this life we’ve created together.

I could never have imagined that this family of mine would exist.

This morning I got up early to do her hair for picture day. I fixed her breakfast. I ran a pair of hoop earrings up to the school after school started so she had them in time for her sitting.

As I was pulling into the parking lot, I just thought about how much I love this kid. My heart actually hurt with so much love and gratitude for her.

I also thought about how much her parents must have loved her; in spite of whatever problems they may have had. I just know that they loved her; they had to love her! I don’t know how they couldn’t; she’s just marvelous.

I drove her to school yesterday, and we immensely enjoyed the extra 20 minutes we had together. We joked and teased one another.

It is in these moments that I am just so overwhelmed with emotion.

I love her.

I love her even when I’m nagging her about her room and her homework and walking the dog.

I love her when I watch her sleep, covers strewn about.

I love her when she says, “Hey mom, we should…” which is her indirect way of asking if we can do something fun.

I love her when she is a total pain in my ass.

Love doesn’t really describe this emotion. Although I still grieve about the inability to conceive and carry a biological child, I can’t imagine loving such a child any more than I love Hope.

I adore her.


Sophomore Band Parenting

So I have long struggled with band related social isolation. Ugh, it feels awful. I get lonely, resentful and I feel like I have to try so hard to find someone to hang with during band events.

Well, it’s band season again, and I have had a whole year to allow my resentment to fester.

During my therapy session this week, I openly admitted that I hate band season.

Like, HATE IT!

The meetings, the call times, the competitions, the early practices, the late practices, the disrespectful bleachers, the scratchy “spirit wear,” the fundraising, the lessons, the funky t-shirts and the copious amounts of turf all over the house.

I hate it, except for the fact that my beautiful Hope LOVES band season.

She loves it so deeply. She works so hard; practices, sets her alarm clock, posts practices on the family calendar. She’s so proud of being a part of something so meaningful. Band is her tribe.

And I LOVE that.

So nearly daily, I post band memes to her FB page. I found a local embroiderer so that her new position could be added to her band jacket. I listen to her band-related highs and lows with some level of interest and excitement.

But I do hate band. The whole band parent’s organization is overwhelming. I’m not a joiner, and I hate fundraising. It’s just the me and Hope, and while I might volunteer at a few events, I just see a lot of her events as opportunities for much needed respite.

So, last night I head to the first home game to support my daughter. I forgot my bleacher seat (ouch!). I was prepared to sit alone and feel like an outcast. And not only was I prepared, but I honestly didn’t care.

I got my McDonald’s bag and sashayed up to the bleachers and a kid’s mom (Jen, from the middle school band tribe) jokes did a I bring enough for the section. I said you can have a fry; she laughed and we joked the entire game. It was a genuinely, enjoyable experience complete with a tentative plan to get together with the kids for an activity. At one point she said, “I just love your daughter, Hope. She’s such a delight and always has a sunny disposition! She’s just great to be around.”

“Thanks. Yeah, she is great,” I replied, while my heart sang. Hope really is increasingly delightful to be around.

It seems that being a sophomore band parent is better than being a freshmen band parent.

Ha. Figures.

I still hate band, but last night may have softened my heart a bit.

Band is the thing my daughter adores, and I adore her so I’ll suffer through whatever is necessary in hopes of keeping that smile on her face and those drumsticks in her hands.


Wanting your input on adoption and ethics… — The adopted ones blog

Thanking good friend, Tao for this shout out. Indeed, what makes an ethical adoption!?!

Let us know!

Good morning, today, I’m asking you for your help. For you to share the wisdom you’ve learned being in adoption. Things you’d wished you’d known going in – that you only learned after. For you to use your words in ways that are constructive, productive, definitive, and most importantly of all – can be heard by those new to adoption. […]

via Wanting your input on adoption and ethics… — The adopted ones blog


Parenting While Exhausted

sadabmSo this week Hope is back in school.

A moment of joy silence for the end of summer vacation.

She’s fine, just anxious about band stuff, but getting on swimmingly.

Me?

Getting us back on schedule and committing to exercising daily and running Hope everywhere she needs to go has damn near killed me.

I had such hopes for the week. I was meal planning just 5 days ago. I was planning on making homemade ramen (she loves it), a Kraft chicken and broccoli braid thing (she loves that too) and maybe some more pulled pork bbq.

I was going to take Yappy to the dog park. I was going to crush my walking and stretching goals.

Sooooooo, yeah, then reality hit and I’m one step above drooling on the couch by 8pm.

I have kinda kept up with the walking, but the weather turned hot again.

Hot weather meant that Yappy’s park time got cut back.

Band practices and tutoring ran later than expected.

I needed to run some unexpected errands because *someone who is not me* keeps stepping on her earbuds.

And then there was dinner….poor dinner.

After a long day, I ask, “Hey Hope, you hungry?”

“Nah, not really. I don’t want anything.”

Me silently: thank you sweet baby Jesus, because all I was only going to suggest you make yourself a sandwich out of that Costco rotisserie chicken or that salami that you didn’t eat last week. Otherwise, I got nothing but like some cheese toast to offer you.

I have relied on my daughter’s low appetite all week justify not cooking dinner.

<hangs head in mock shame>

I figure, she’s a teenager, if she’s hungry, she’ll eat, right?  There’s food in the house; she’ll be fine. It’s only a few days and no ribs are showing.

I’ve been living on sandwiches, hummus and wine or cider all week, kinda like when I was a single, no kid-having person. Next stop will be cereal, so I figure, I haven’t hit rock bottom yet.

Note to self: buy some Lucky Charms in case of exhaustion emergency.

I’m so tired, like I’m “fantasizing about sleep” tired. I can’t wait until Saturday when I drop her off for an event and let Yappy run at the park for 45 minutes. I will then retire to my beloved couch. I’m there, so there. I pray nothing gets in my way of realizing this beautiful fantasy.

In the meantime, there’s a kid pickup to make, a podcast to record and a paltry chicken sandwich to make—with a side of chips.

Did you catch that shameless plug for Add Water and Stir?

#mustgetmoresleep


Histrionics on a Friday

There are few things in the world more heartbreaking than your kid, your adoptive kid, telling you that she moved here because she thought she would be happy and that she thought you would try to understand her but you don’t.

sadABM

Yeah, that got yelled at me today. #shetoldme

Sigh.

TGIF.

So, I’m still simmering over the early events of the week and what I feel like was the defiling of my house. And because I’m petty, my behavior has really been unpleasant this week. #regressive #notproudbuthonest

About a year ago, AbsurdlyHotTherapist had us imitate each other in the midst of a fight…yeah, Hope stomped around, hemmed, hawed, yelled and stomped some more. When she was done she added that I would do that for days at a time when I was mad.

Yeah, I do. When I have been wronged…I’m like a virus, you just gotta stay away and wait until I sputter out.

That, admittedly, is not conducive to consistently good parenting, and I’m working on it. I’ve gotten so much better talking myself into just letting it go, most days.

But I’m way more petty than just ordinary petty, and I’ve got a nasty temper, and sometimes it makes me wonder if I should’ve ever become a parent given my penchant for high strung emotion.

But, that’s neither here nor there, right? I just gotta keep pushing for improvement.

Normally when our conflicts have escalated to Hope’s screaming that she’s miserable or that she thought things would be different, I run to hug her. I feel guilt about triggering that kind of honesty from her (which as an aside, in those moments of high emotion she is an incredibly effective communicator about what she’s thinking and feeling). In those moments, I want to gather her up and dab her tears and tell her that it will be ok.

I didn’t do that today, though.

Nope

I resisted the urge, not because I didn’t feel those things, but because I needed her to have a reality check. I needed her to understand that families have conflict, that happiness is not judged episodically but holistically, and that I still need her to take responsibility for the things that she utterly refuses to acknowledge. Like clean that gotdamn room of hers.

A hug was not going to get us to that space in that moment, even if I wanted to offer it. #lowkeyrealtalk I didn’t want to anyway.

This last week has been like watching my bank account spout like a geyser. Money has been flying out of the house like Elphaba on a broom, and flying out for some ridiculous ish. Yesterday morning, I just cut the cash tap abruptly amidst wails of poverty and starvation. The sense of irresponsibility and entitlement had pushed me to this point:

 

giphy

You would’ve thought she was in a Russian bread line with all that wailing.

 

Now I can afford an occasional oil spout, and once money is gone, it’s gone, but if it’s one thing I can’t stand it’s spending money that doesn’t need to be spent on things that could have been avoided.

So, instead of the immediate comfort, today I sat down and patiently waited for Hope to sit down with me. I talked about empathy—mine and hers. I talked about responsibility—ours to each other, but um mainly her responsibilities to me and to our home. I talked about communication efforts-ours-and how we need to continue to work on them. And we talked about choices—when she has them and when she simply doesn’t.  #eatthecake

She spoke; then I spoke some more. And then I walked away.

I often wonder what Hope thinks happiness looks like. I swear she thinks it’s like a nonstop carnival. It’s not. I know that happiness is a collection of experiences in which things are good, satisfying, fulfilling; they may be interspersed with disappointment, but not overwhelmed by them. I often feel like Hope needs every experience to be happy, happy, joy, joy to experience and acknowledge some kind of continuous happy; she doesn’t yet know how to be happy.

She simply doesn’t know how to be happy. I’m trying to teach her, but really how do you teach someone to embrace and experience happy?

The inability to recognize happiness and to choose it really hamstrings our relationship. I feel like I will always disappoint her because her expectations about being happy are so absurdly off-kilter that they are impossible to meet. Being unhappy is learned behavior; I don’t believe that its innate. Hope learned unhappiness.

Learned, pervasive unhappiness is a beeotch.  It is a smothering blanket.

I wish it were as easy to encourage her happiness as it is to for Yappy to be happy. This dog’s happiness hardly knows any bounds.

 “Hey boy, wanna go to the PARK????”

 

dancing.gif

Not Yappy, but Yappy-like!

 

“OMG! YES!!!!! I AM SO RIDICULOUSLY HAPPY!!!!”

Ah, but life with humans is so much more complicated and so much more dramatic than life with dogs.

And so, we just go on, trying to make a little progress at a time.

She just made me a grill cheese sandwich, so I guess we’re cool again. #anotherreasonIcantdropweight #apologyfood

Tonight we will host our first sleepover, and tomorrow I’ll drop off Hope and her friend at an amusement park before Yappy and I visit my parents for the day.

Tomorrow things will be happy, happy, joy, joy until the next hiccup that makes the world come histrionically crashing down. And I’ll be ready to have these conversations all over again.


Hitting the Skids

It’s weeks like this when I really have to sit back, take stock and remind myself that these problems are “normal folk” problems.

No sooner than I hit “post” on my “Hey, I’m living the dream with this whole family thing,” than we are careering into a one-sided fight.

I say one-sided because it’s increasingly clear that I’m the only one openly emoting and visibly reacting.

We still struggle with chores and motivation to do chores. Most of the month, Hope had done her chores, earned money and just relished in all that responsibility that she was displaying. And then she just stopped.

We went through this a few months ago—May to be exact. After I dramatically pulled the car over into a parking lot while I was wigging out on her, demanding to know what she couldn’t be bothered to do her chores, she told me very simply.

“I just don’t feel like it.”

Say what now?

I did not take this response well. In fact I told her that I didn’t feel like doing things like taking her places that she was supposed to go or to do things that she wanted to do, and I didn’t. Oh I was petty, and I have no shame.

Well several days of no chores meant chaos in the house; this chaos also included an infestation.

Saying I was furious…is a super understatement.

Then there were the limousine expectations re her band schedule.

Then the expectation of a new band jacket because she changed instruments.

And then…the unnecessary, dramatic and dramatically expensive medical appointment that was “out of network.”

And then…

And then…

And then…

Angry

And then I was cranky for the rest of the week. Seriously, most of this is just regular old dumb teen stuff. There *may* be tinges of adoption/trauma/childhood drama running through, but really, this is largely just dumb ish teens do.

Somehow that does not soothe my serious annoyance. It just doesn’t.

Sometimes I do wonder if when we have good blocks of time whether it prompts behavior to bring back big emotional responses from me since that’s a communication style she understands, even if she doesn’t like it. We’ve experienced that kind of self-sabotage before. It is hard to know.

And although I have gotten much better at managing my reactions to Hope’s shenanigans, she still knows what buttons to push to get a rise out of me.

Soooo, I dunno, I know it’s just an icky week. I’m glad that school starts again next week and we can get back to our routine. And I am glad that I’ve worked out hard enough to earn my evening cocktail.


Recent Reflections

The last week or so I realized that things had changed around Casa d’ABM. Things were…routine. Things were relatively smooth.

Hope and I have always been a loving family, even if it didn’t always seem very loving as we grappled with our challenges.

It’s been hard for both of us.

But I realized that something was really, really different and that upon reflecting, things had been different for like a good month.

I realized that our day to day life was very much what I envisioned when I started this journey.  I have this family that I adored. There was a healthy balance between goofing off and discipline.

Hope’s ability to demonstrate responsibility and initiative in some areas not only existed by really had dramatically improved.

She was affectionate.

We worked together.

We actually got back into the habit of eating together (Thank you Instant Pot).

We felt more attached.

Things just feel different; it’s difficult to explain.

But gosh, it’s so beautiful.

At a recent medical appointment, the doctor said to Hope, “You look…happy.”

She squinted and said, “Yeah, I guess so.”

She’d never said that before. Even if it’s temporary or fleeting…gosh that was a precious moment.

We are happy, and right now, right this moment, I’m living my dream.


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