Category Archives: Coping

Realizations

Hope and I have had an interesting journey. The first year was tough–getting used to one another, trying to create a sense of normalcy, trying to get the healing started. I remember when my depression kicked in and when I started learning about secondary trauma. Hope was in yet another school–she’d already been to so many, and had difficulty making friends.

We connected with some birth family, dealt with a lingering criminal investigation back in Hope’s hometown, estrangement from my mother and oh yeah, finishing a dissertation. I think of that year often nowadays; there’s something about 2020 that reminds me of our “bonding’ time the first few weeks.

I made a cake every week.

I have baked cakes most weeks since March. It’s one of my ultimate comfort foods. As Hope doesn’t really get into cake like I do, I also do not have to share my cake. Yes, that admittedly gives me some petty pleasure. And yes, I just had my nightly piece of chocolate frosted cake.

I have struggled with depression most of my adult life. It’s managed by meds and therapy. Even though my very high intrinsic motivation is one of several triggers for my depression and anxiety, it’s also likely the thing that keeps me from tumbling over into the abyss.

My drive and inability to sit still for very long has meant that I won’t just lay in bed watching the ceiling fan for hours. There have been times when I have wanted nothing more than to do that because the sadness, emptiness and darkness had taken over. The anxiety keeps me up and functioning. It’s frankly an awful vicious cycle.

Proof? I took today off to rest, to just be. Instead I worked on finishing up setting up my new desk, checking and responding to a few emails and drafting a couple of things that need to go out tomorrow.

I did lay on the couch for a couple of hours with Yappy while playing on a coloring app, so there’s that.

Today it really, really sunk in that Hope’s depression and anxiety don’t look anything like mine. They aren’t even in the same neighborhood. They manifest so differently that it has taken me 6 years to realize this. I feel really foolish that I’ve failed to see it as clearly before. I’m also embarrassed and ashamed that there are times when I said things without realizing Hope’s emotional limitations in the moment. I am certain that there are times when my dimwittedness really harmed her and our relationship. That will weigh on my heart until I die.

I’m grateful for whatever grace she has extended me because I certainly don’t deserve it.

Tomorrow brings another parenting pivot. I never stop learning and try to incorporate the new knowledge and make changes. This pivot requires some significant changes. I expect to stumble…a lot, but Hope needs some things from me and those who love her that I really didn’t understand.


Hitting the Wall

This week, I feel like I hit the wall. I’m just over and done with everything. I feel like I could just crawl into bed and sleep indefinitely. I’m just emotionally exhausted.

Nothing about this year has been easy, but these last 4-5 months have just been brutal. Work just exploded after the murder of George Floyd, and while the intensity has died down some the expectations and work haven’t. I decided about 2 months ago to stop accepting speaking and writing engagements. That hasn’t stopped people from asking though, and I’m getting better at saying no without explanation.

My job cuts across so many other programs within my organization. During a recent meeting I swear I hear my name over and over and over on projects led by others. It was then that I realized part of why I am so effing tired. I’m spread pretty thin.

And then of course there’s home life. While we are past the crisis of the last two months, we are still very much in a tender phase. We’re stable, but fragile. I don’t feel like I’ve had much time or space to process anything because I was just trying to soldier us through it. I threw myself into finding support for Hope, figuring out what needed to happen with the rest of her college semester, dealing with health issues and just babying her, because she needed it.

Oh and can’t forget about Yappy and the day he shat all over the living room and dining room. Or the second COVID scare. Or the inability to get away from here and take a vacation. Or…Or…Or…

And Thursday evening, I feel like I just cracked. I don’t even want to watch TV. I don’t want to read. I don’t want to talk. I don’t want much of anything but to be left alone to just drift away to lala land. My brain just doesn’t wanna. I know that after I post this I will curl up on my couch and go to sleep. I already have my blanket and my pillow.

I’m not sure how to get on top of this. I’ve taken another day off next week and I’m committed to trying to block off more time to just rest. I’m realizing that I’ve got some ego issues (but I just HAVE to be a this meeting) and some issues about disappointing others that I really need to confront and wrestle with because the status quo is not sustainable.

I’m also worried about how my mini-breakdown will affect Hope, who is coming off of her own crisis. I believe it is important that she remember I’m human, but I don’t like her seeing me like this. It can be triggering for her. But I also know that I”m simply incapable of faking it right now. I’m just empty–and this is after having a weekend completely free last week when she went to visit the grands.

I know I’ll be ok, but right now I just feel blah with too much to do and a lot of responsibility that I’m not sure I can handle. Rough times…


The Summer of 2020

We all know that 2020 has been a complete shit show. As we enter the final quarter of this crazy year, I’m frankly wary. This summer has especially been hard for me and Hope.

As a parent you do what you can to help your kids learn to make good decisions. It hurts when you watch them not make the best decisions, and you just hope no one gets hurt and wait close by to help pick up the pieces.

That’s what the last couple of weeks have been, working to maintain our home as the safe space to recover and heal. I thought the crisis was over weeks ago, but it got one last breath of life and as it finally expired, it left a hot mess in its wake. It’s been hard for Hope and for me. It’s so hard watching your kiddo suffer natural consequences.

Hope will be ok with time; I believe that. But I’m guessing like everyone, 2020 has changed her. In some ways I see her having gained some wisdom, which never comes easy. She is strong, and while putting your bad decisions under a microscope is always hard, I see her replaying things in her head, turning them over in her mind, questioning her reactions to all sorts of scenarios. Of course we all do this. Sometimes it’s healthy, sometimes it’s not.

During this time, I have done double duty. I’m mom first, but my daughter also needed a good girlfriend to talk to sometimes. It’s a hard flex to go between these identities, but she needed a friend sometimes. I shared my more of my own bad decisions, and the proof that life goes on. I talked about what I needed to do for me to move on to better choices. I told her she would find her way and what worked for her. I enlisted friends and her godmom to help prop her up. Hell, at one point I actually offered my daughter an edible because I saw she needed help settling down and trying to get to sleep. She declined–Mom ABM was shocked and happy she declined.

And then I mommed. I mommed so hard. I cooked, a lot, nearly daily. I made appointments. I juggled work and parenting in ways that felt like our early days. We watched our binge show on Netflix. We talked. We cried. I got her up and pushed her to get showered and dressed daily. I talked to our medical/mental health squad, sometimes late into the night. These last few weeks have been intense, and soooo reminiscent of our early days.

It made me remember just how challenging it was learning about how to help Hope and how much I needed to learn about trauma. It made me go through my own process of revisiting some of my decisions 6 years ago, wondering if there were things I could’ve and should’ve done differently. I had a breakdown, wondering if the summer of 2020 was my fault. I begged our family therapist to tell me what I did wrong to increase Hope’s risk of being harmed.

End the end, I realized that in spite of our decisions, Hope and I are still standing. We definitely have some dings, dents, and rust spots, but we’re ok.

Hope is taking some time off from school, and after the election, we might pack up Yappy and relocate outside of the US for a few months. We could both use a change of scenery. When Hope was originally planning to be in residence at school this fall before they went remote, I looked into packing up Yappy and going away for a while. Now I’m looking at moving all of us for a few a spell. I’ve joked that depending on the election results, I might just ask for asylum.

This year has a been crazy and this summer…well, it was rough. But we’re ok.


The Sun is Shining

My last post was a lot. As Hope would say, a lot a lot. I learned that my description of my family crisis was really upsetting to some adoptees. I want to acknowledge that sometimes I write  things that may be triggering for some readers. I will write more about that sometime soon, but I want to acknowledge that reality. 

Today is a new day, and the crisis is over. There are just waves of relief. My daughter is safe.

These last few weeks have really been scary. There are always times when I worry about Hope; I worry about her in some form or fashion all the time. This was different. The stakes felt higher, the threat to our relationship seemed higher, and I was just scared, really, really scared for her. 

I know I feel lucky. Parenting is hard; it just is, and some days are just harder than others. And some days, for some parents turn into weeks, months and years. 

The thing I’m most grateful for is being so close to Hope.These last few weeks have been an emotional ringer for both of us. We kept talking. We spent quality time together. We ate together. We used good communication strategies. For most of the time we were really patient with each other, and when we were able to articulate why. I feel like we are even closer now. 

There are and will continue to be some reverberations from this episode. There’s some monitoring and support that needs to happen to make sure things stay safe. There will probably still be some tears (from both of us). There will be lifelong lessons to reflect on (for both of us). 

But this morning, I’m just happy that the sun is shining and that Hope is ok. 


Home Cooking

I’ve been on leave from work for the last week. I had hoped to see my family, mom and dad, sister, BIL and my adorable niece and nephews. Unfortunately, given all that’s going on around Casa d’ABM, Hope and I were deemed at a greater risk than originally thought. We were lovingly disinvited. 

I miss my family terribly. Heck I just invited my sister who lives more locally if she wanted to go to this axe throwing place…I’m desperate y’all. 

In the end, it’s probably better that we had some time at home. I’ve had more time to devote to Hope and trying to get us back to some sense of stability. What I consider a crisis is still a crisis, but at the moment, things are…in a holding pattern. 

I made a request nearly a week ago that has yet to be filled. Until it is, things are a bit frozen on my end.

With Hope now not working and starting classes and me taking a week off from work, I’ve focused on cooking. 

The Muppets Cooking GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY
Via Giphy

During this pandemic, I’ve gone through cycles around cooking. I periodically need fresh bread, so I’ll make that every few days. I’ve been baking cakes, because well, I love cake and I tend to love them even more when I’m stressed. I’ve gone back to a few casserole dishes that are yummy. I’ve tried a few new dishes, though not many. Last week I upgraded my Instant Pot to a new 8qt Duo version with the air fryer. I wanted to make wings, and I did. 

So, since our crisis started, I’ve made wings twice, several loaves of bread, 2 cakes, a lot of homemade frosting, chicken salad, chili dog casserole, chili, and spaghetti and meatballs. The freezer is stocked with fixins for any number of dishes and I’m delighting in drawing Hope out of her room for quality time and important discussions with food. 

via Giphy

Seeing her grab a bowl of chili, closing her eyes and smiling, commenting on the flavors brings me joy. It also makes for a nice entry point for talking about the current state of things. It makes it easier for me to listen when I’m savoring a meatball that’s been slow cooking in a marinara sauce that simmered for hours. 

Yesterday I made Hope breakfast, fried eggs on a buttered toasted kaiser roll, one of her favorites. 

Today, despite having a little chili left and the leftover spaghetti, I likely will make cabbage and sausage because it’s another household favorite. 

When I don’t cook, Hope tends to skip meals and snack shamelessly. She’s also taken to ordering food since she has her own cash. I’m not much on ordering or take out; it’s just never been something I’ve done a lot of, so the frequency of her orders seem like such a waste to me. Cooking delicious meals keeps money in her pocket, gets her to the table and keeps both of us engaged. 

Food will not solve our problems, but it will continue to bring us together and that’s my main goal right now. 

Any good recipes you think we’d like, drop links below or shoot them to me via email. We don’t do seafood, so that’s one limitation. We are also serious carnivores–so while we will do some meatless meals, we get down hard with meat. 

Via Giphy

Do you use food to bring the family together? What else are folks doing? I need all the suggestions I can get. ❤


A New Parenting Chapter

Hope is dating, and without spilling all her business, she has her first boyfriend.

I am emotionally all over the place about this. I am happy for her; she is delighted that someone outside of family is smitten with her. She is smitten, and it’s adorable.

I haven’t met dude, and Hope has indicated that my invitation to have dinner is premature. I have made sure that she has communicated that he could become a hood ornament on my car if he treats her poorly.

Yes, I threatened him. Hey, it’s on brand for me.

Anyway, I’m happy for her because she’s happy. As for me? I hate it.

Now I don’t hate it because I don’t want her to date or because I don’t think anyone will ever be good enough. I hate it because it is forcing me to grow and change parenting strategies during a period of great upheaval.

Yeah, I don’t want to deal with this right now.

Work is draining. Diversity work is head and heart work. It’s teaching, coaching, advising, holding accountable, brainstorming and strategizing and doing it over and over. In periods when there isn’t large scale social unrest, this work can be taxing. I’m good at walking away from it at the end of the day and resting my head and heart and diving back in. But in moments like the one we are in now, the push and pull of work feels unending even when I walk away from my desk at 5pm.

Since the video of police officers murdering George Floyd hit the internet at the end of May is has not been uncommon for folks to call me after hours or on weekends. The back to back zoom meetings are unending. The need for consultation has only expanded. Boundaries are sometimes hard to maintain.

I took the first week of July off, and I don’t even remember that I had time off a few weeks ago. I live for the weekends, when I just crash. The pandemic keeps me home, and exhaustion keeps me on the couch or the patio.

I am constantly feeling like I’m on E. I plan to take another week or so off this month, but honestly, I know it’s not enough time, especially since I’m trapped at home with no place to go. I could use an adventure right now.

So, the notion that I need to also adapt my parenting to accommodate Hope’s love life has me in my feelings.

I fret that they want to go out and spend time together—doing what where? It’s a gotdamn pandemic? Can’t go to the movies, many restaurants aren’t open. And what’s his COVID-19 prevention routine? His roommate doesn’t even want Hope to come to their house (and I don’t effing blame him). And is the curfew I’ve set ok for a 19-year-old in her first real relationship? And how about that I can barely make it to 10pm keeping my eyelids open, is she really making it home on time? When Yappy and I knock out for the evening we both can sleep through bombs.

What are the right questions to ask? What are the new privacy boundaries? How do I check in to make sure she’s ok?

She looked at me like I’d grown horns when I asked her to be sure to have the location feature activated on her phone; she asked why. I told her because if something happened to her with him, I want that phone to tell us where she is. She told me she would be fine. I said, I know, but just in case…

Like Hope, wrestling with this new phase has been on a slightly slower schedule than a lot of my contemporaries. I thought we would have covered some of this ground over the last few years. I was kind of shocked, but happy, that this didn’t happen her first year of college.

This summer has just been a whiplash of developments for Hope. They’ve mostly been good. She’s worked hard. She’s kept a schedule. She’s dating. She’s actively trying to figure out this chapter. I’ve been distracted with work and really in a reactionary posture related to parenting. I’m usually a step ahead of Hope, but I haven’t had my eye on the ball.

And that’s not entirely a bad thing. Hope needed a bit more autonomy and independence. That’s how you learn what works and what doesn’t.

But it makes me feel…neglectful somehow, and that raises all kinds of complicated feelings when I think about the situations Hope endured early in life. I know that it’s not a fair comparison on a lot of levels, but I do feel like she definitely hasn’t got the best of me since she’s been home due to the pandemic.

And now, she will be home at least until January since her college decided to go remote. Her being home means active dating and active parenting continues, right here, right now.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with any of this. I know this. My rational brain knows that all of this is normal, that things will be fine and that Hope will be fine and I will rise to the occasion, but real talk: I don’t want to deal with it.

It’s hard admitting that. I have so much guilt about that. So. Much. Guilt.

But really, I don’t wanna.

I’m glad Hope is home and safe. I’m glad she’s happy and learning what it is to be really be smitten and to learn about herself as she continues to blossom. I’m excited to see how I will change during this time. I’m looking forward to having her around through the end of the year.

But I do need people to stay at home, social distance and mask up so that she can go back to school in the spring and I can go through empty nest emotions again.

Sigh….


Forgetting July

This month has been long and hard. I’m anxious to end the month and get on with things. Of course getting on with things during these pandemic days means a week from now I’ll stop and check to see if the months actually changed.

I didn’t get my beach vacation.

Work is still demanding a lot of me. So many questions from so many people needing so many answers and guidance.

Parenting Hope.

July marked Hope having been home nearly 5 months. It marked the end of what I believe was our pandemic honeymoon period. This month things got real.

When Hope was placed with me, we had a honeymoon period of only about 2 weeks. We hit major skids early. We never jumped back into that nice, settled, loving, peaceful connection or rather we turned into our normal version of that. We’ve been that way, pretty stable, for years.

It’s been 2 years since Hope went off to a month long summer camp. Since then, this has been the longest we’ve been under the same roof. She was home for breaks and a few weekends. But now we really live together.

And it’s weird. With Hope away, I had embraced my inner nerd, my sassy single status (though dating remains a trash fire) and my personal routine. I feel like I’m wrapping those moments away in tissue to protect them in storage.

I’m feeling a bit lost, if I’m honest.

Pre-pandemic I was really focused on trying to figure out what my next big life steps were going to be. Today, I’m worried about getting sick, someone in my family getting sick, trying to do some more estate planning, wondering if Hope will ever be able to go back to school and so much more. Honestly, it’s overwhelming.

There are so many things I’d like to do, but it feels like hopes and dreams are currently on pause. So, it feels like I’m currently on pause. Even writing feels hard right now.

So, here’s to August. May it be kinder to all of us.


On the Fly

I’m struggling to find time to write these days. I’m still working like a madwoman. Today was a 12 hour day. Evenings and weekends, I’m totally vegging.

Hope has not one but TWO jobs. She’s tired and thriving. I’m really proud of her; her transformation from human sloth to working woman is kinda head spinning. She was recognized for her stellar performance after just two weeks at her first job. She was a bit overwhelmed by the amount of her first paycheck; fortunately she has created her own savings plan. She also has picked up a few groceries and filled the had tank–unasked!!! (I did reimburse her.) Hope has always been a good kid, but watching her these last few months has honestly been the most delightful.

Hope being out at work also means that I have some of the home alone time I crave. I have treasured my time with Hope during the pandemic, but we could stand some time apart. Of course, that’s complicated too. With the ongoing unrest and law enforcement continuing to use excessive force even with all of the heightened scrutiny, I worry about her getting to and from work safely. And well, there’s still a pandemic going on. 🙄🙄🙄

Unironically, I’m realizing that if she ever goes back to college, I might have to go through empty nest feelings again. Her college is planning on opening as usual; I’m not convinced that they will though. I guess we’ll see.

I’m crocheting another blanket. I’m currently watching The Great on Hulu (It’s just ok. I like my historical dramas to have a bit more accuracy.) I spend a lot of time on my patio in my zero gravity chair; it’s my favorite place from spring until fall (I have been known to put on my goose down and plop on the patio in the dead of winter). I’m trying to hold on a few weeks until my summer vacation. I’m kinda bitter that the pandemic means no beach this year.

I’m better this week, but I’m really tired. But I’m better. And Hope is doing so very well that it gives me hope that everything will be ok.


The Hardest Time

I am a researcher and diversity professional.

The last few weeks have been the most difficult of my career. All day, every weekday and some weekends I’ve been on calls, zooms, chats, and other modes of communication talking about strategies for change in the wake of the murder of George Floyd.

I’ve watched my blood pressure rise, and this week I broke out in hives and have a twitch in my right eye. I sleep like the dead and still wake up tired. My office calendar suggests that I have blocks of free time throughout the day, but it’s a lie. I don’t get much done on my to do list; I return calls, take on the fly meetings and dole out advice. It’s been almost 3 weeks at this pace, and while I feel like I’m making a difference, I know I can’t sustain this pace.

And that’s just at work. Hope and I have had several conversations about Black liberation, about police brutality and over-policing, about our hopes and our fears. I take great solace in how thoughtful Hope is about these things and how strongly she feels about justice. We watched Mr. Floyd’s funeral in Minneapolis last week together and talked about this moment in history.

Not even a pandemic can protect us from racism.

Through these weeks though, I hardly have had time to deal with my personal emotions around police brutality, the protests and racism. I took last Friday off, and plan to take a day or so next week, but I know it’s not enough.

I’m physically and emotionally exhausted. And just when I think folks can’t be anymore stupid, they prove me wrong.

I’ve been trying to practice self-care. I continue to walk a few miles in the morning. I allow myself to eat whatever I want (within reason). I have a bed-time. I allow myself to self-medicate when necessary. My social media feeds are a blend of social justice content, general news, and dog accounts, lots and lots of dog accounts. I mean, lots of dog accounts—like probably 10 more than you’re thinking.

I’ve allowed professional colleagues to see my struggle publicly, by allowing some of my normally private posts to be open for all to see. It was liberating because I stopped caring what they thought of me. This is an epic collision of personal and professional, and I wanted people to know that, to see it, to know that some folks aren’t good allies. Even in those moments I was teaching—so I was still caring.

I just hope my vulnerability was worth it.

In the grand scheme of things, I’m ok. Hope is ok. These are challenging times. They make me sad and angry, but they also give me hope. I don’t want Hope to be my age saying I remember the protests of 2020 as people take to the streets protesting the same thing. I I hope this flurry of activity leads to change. I’m a realist, but I’m still hopeful.

I’m hoping everyone is doing ok during this challenging time. Tell me what you’re feeling in the comments.

#BlackLivesMatter


Checking In

Hope and I are just in a state of overwhelming grief, sadness, and rage. The events of the last week–the weaponization of White tears against the Black birdwatcher Christian Cooper and the murder of George Floyd by four police officers–are physically and emotionally heartwrenching.

I’m not able to pull together my thoughts in a truly coherent way and spellcheck is definitely of a mind that I should not try this right now. I desperately want to say something, to make meaning of it–not just for my readers, but for me and for Hope. The truth is I’m kind of lost at the moment.

For the first time in her time with me, Hope woke up in hysterics after a bad dream. The dream? She dreamed that she was being chased by police with batons in the air and their guns drawn. She dreamed that this happened on her wedding day. It took more than an hour to get her settled down.

I couldn’t say, “Oh honey, it’s just a dream. That will never happen!” I do not feel like I could say that because I don’t believe it to be true. I just gathered her in my arms and told her I knew what she was feeling, and that I’m so sorry that I can’t protect her from one of the “few bad apple” cops. That is not the message I want her to get, but I also can’t lie to her.

I know that her heart hurts and so does mine. I’m not sure when we will feel better. We fret over the violence at some protests, but then we see police acting badly *at the protests.* We know despite our grandest hopes that this will happen again.

And again.

And again.

And again.

I don’t know what to do with that or say about it right now, so I’ll say this:

As a reader of this blog, I challenge you to do what you can to end White Supremacy and police terrorism (it’s also brutal, but my daughter was terrified).

Don’t ask your BIPOC pals/family for a to-do list to affect change. That requires emotional labor. Google is effing free–seriously, look up:

How to not be racist?

How to be an antiracist?

I promise you tons of amazing things will pop up. You will find the answers to your questions with minimal collateral damage to the BIPOC around you. Don’t make them do the heavy lift of educating you–you can do that; the resources are legit at your fingertips.

If you are a blue lives matter person, I believe in good community policing (with some caveats), but real talk, there is a problem with policing in this country. In fact #throwthewholecriminaljusticesystemout and start anew. Besides, blue life, revered and respected is a career choice; black life, maligned and marginalized is not a career choice, it is a happenstance of birth. These things are not responses to the other. Stop it.

My Christian peeps, if your church wasn’t talking about preserving Black life with a heavy dash of liberation theology this morning or over the last week–Why? The Holy Homeboy missed given y’all a message about how justice oriented Jesus was? He was about liberation before it was cool. Ponder that along with whether your church’s adoption messaging is louder and larger than its family preservation ministry.

Finally, if you work with Black folks, this might be a good time to tiptoe through the emotional tulips. Don’t get tight when the video on Zoom is set to the avatar picture. Keep meetings short; minimal small talk. Yes, it’s ok to check on them, but see above if this is your follow up, “Juanita this is so sad, do you know where I can learn more about the inherent racism in the US criminal justice system?” Sir, ma’am, them, stop, pull out your phone and ask Google Assist or Siri to find you something to read. Be patient with us.

Finally, to my fellow BIPOC, I’m holding you in my heart. This is a sad time, but all of our ancestors have experienced more and worse. We can continue to fight for equality. EArlier in the week, Hope told me a quote she found online.

They better be glad we just want equality and not revenge.

Take care of yourselves; I’ll be back with more in a few days.


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