Category Archives: Hard Stuff

Stupid Games, Stupid Prizes

Earlier this week, I discovered a secret that Hope had been hiding for a couple of weeks. I’d all but told her that I knew the secret ahead of the confirmation.

I love my daughter, but the art of deception and concealment are not her strong suits. In fact, Hope has rarely lied to me; if anything she often shares a little too much with me. I chalk that up to her not having too many friends her age, and the closeness of our relationship.

Anyhoo, I knew or at least was strongly suspicious about  the thing she’d tried to conceal for a couple of weeks.

The actual thing she did was super stupid and a totally dumb, yet age appropriate thing. We’d already had a chat about it a few months ago, but here we are 3.5 months later revisiting the issue.

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What totally sent me over was the series of bold-faced lies that were told in a sad attempt to avoid detection.

Bless Hope’s heart. I have repeatedly told her that her mom is smarter than the average bear.

I do not do lies. I especially don’t do lies with bad liars.

And Hope is a horrible liar. It’s just not in her make up. I had point blank asked questions and had given her 3 opportunities to fess up, but instead she decided to lie.

Alright girl…whatevs.

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via Giphy

So, after I confirmed what I knew to be true, I left her a note for when she got home from work to let her know that she was busted. I told her that the stupid issue had been attended to and that she had really stepped in IT, primarily due to the lying. And then I went to bed and slept soundly.

The next morning, I get an apology via text. I read it, but didn’t respond. I was still angry, so I only spoke when necessary and waited until we were in the car headed to visit my parents to really get into the discussion.

Parents of adolescents know: the car is sacred space and prime for important chats with kids.

There we were, on 95S talking about the stupid thing, the lies and what the consequences of both things  should be. I put the task to figure out what an appropriate consequence should be on Hope.

She was baffled by this task.

Hell, I was baffled by this task, which is low key why I put it on her.  

And then I dropped it, because I didn’t want it to ruin the day.

We visited with Grammy and Grandpa, had a delicious lunch and headed downtown to join some BLM protesters who have taken over the grounds of a monument to Robert E. Lee. The statue is slated to come down sometime soon, as are other confederate statues across the city. In fact, one was removed less than 24 hours after our visit. #goodriddance

After we had returned from our trip, I raised the issue of consequences again. Hope did not come up with many ideas, so I tossed a few out. We agreed on a couple of scenarios and I dropped it. In all, the consequences were minor compared to what my parents did for less, but I think they will hit her where she feels the impact of her poor decisions.  I also told her that the next infraction would have stiffer penalties.

She swears she learned her lesson, but the reality is that there will be other stupid things. Hope is 19,a little immature, vulnerable to some bad influences, and eager to have connection with folks her own age—sometimes too eager.

And with stupid games, come stupid prizes. That is just a part of life, right?

Right.

We’re fine. Hope is fine, and we’ve endured another stupid first, and the stupid prizes that go with it.


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


Mourning Ahmaud Arbery

On the day Ahmaud Arbery took his last run, 911 calls shine new ...

I refuse to watch the video of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. I made a conscientious decision a few years ago to stop watching such videos. There is a part of me that wants to bear witness, but the reality is that I cannot take it. I simply cannot.

After years of watching Black men, women and children murdered by White folks has left me with a bit of a shattered heart.

How many more times am I supposed to duct tape it back together only to have it shattered again?

If you’ve been under a rock or just consumed by news of COVID-19 and nothing else, Ahmaud Arbery, a 25 year old Black man was shot to death by two White men while he was out jogging in a Georgia neighborhood back in February. Two men chased down Ahmaud in a truck, alleging that he was a burglary suspect and that they were attempting a citizen’s arrest. Never mind that reports indicated there had not been a burglary in the neighborhood since New Year’s. They chased him down the street, and with another neighbor in another car, boxed him in, confronted him and demanded that he stop. He allegedly fought back, and he was shot dead with a shotgun.

I can’t imagine the fear he must have felt when he realized the truck was following him, when the yelling started, when he realized he couldn’t run to safety, that he would have to fight for his life, and the moment when he breathed his last breath.

I walk Yappy just about every morning. We usually walk 1-2 miles. We walk in all of the seasons (unless it’s pouring as Yappy generally does not do rain!). I walk through 2-3 neighborhoods regularly. I try to let Yappy be my ambassador because the silly dog will happily greet just about anyone. Not that long ago, we ran into an White neighbor who noted that I “didn’t live around here.” His tone was clear. I replied that I lived nearby, but that I’d been walking Yappy on that street for 5 years, it’s odd he hadn’t seen us before. I made a point to wave at another neighbor who I see often on my walks. I avoided that block for a week afterward; I got the picture that I didn’t belong.

Thankfully, he opted not to hop in his Volvo and chase us down the street. He could have.

And hey, there’s new construction going up across the street. I walk by the home nearly every day. Have I checked it out? Sure. Did it ever occur to me that I could be seen as a burglar, be chased and murdered for checking out the new house? No.

When the video of Amhaud’s lynching went viral my heart sank. I didn’t need to see it. My heart broke for Ahmaud’s family, knowing that their son’s and brother’s last few moments were being consumed around the world. I found myself feeling despair.

This keeps happening, and we go through the paces again and again.

Black person is murdered for FILL IN THE BLANK while minding their own gotdamn business.

No arrest is made, and initial police reports are that it was justified.

Magical videos appear showing that the murder is not justified.

Character assassination of Black person begins along with the common refrain, “If Black person had just FILL IN THE BLANK, they would not have been shot.” (For Ahmaud it was a juvie record)

Arrest is made without incident. Sometimes there’s even a stop for food on the way to the jailhouse.

White murderer is rarely indicted by the grand jury.

Farce of a trial is had, typically resulting in a not guilty verdict.

And then we start it over again; unless some rando person decided not to wait and just gunned down another Black person who was FILL IN THE BLANK while minding their own gotdamn business.

Are you exhausted? I know I am.

And we can’t even march in the streets right now. Yes, we can call, email, text and share all kinds of information, but the desire to march in the streets and put our anger and our grief on display can’t happen because of the pandemic—which by the way we are disproportionately dying from as well.

It is traumatizing. Not just hearing about and watching someone else’s death, but also worrying about what I might be doing while minding my own gotdamn business that will get me killed. It is traumatizing and exhausting in a way that you can feel in the very marrow of your bones and in the soles of your feet. You just want to find a panic room and stay there, where it’s safe. But we know that’s not realistic—pandemic related stay at home orders notwithstanding. This persistent emotional trauma shortens our life, as if we needed anything else to worry about since we know that the healthcare system can be trash towards us.

Last week, I just spazzed out. I was emotionally spent. I’m still dealing with a lot of emotional stuff having to do with being sick and not being able to see my family and worrying about Hope’s future with the pandemic looming over her undergraduate plans. Work has not stopped churning, and unreasonable expectations of productivity persist. And then when I sift through social media, there are folks who expect Black folks to do the emotional labor of helping *them* through this difficult time.

I am weary, just weary.

It’s enough to just make me want to stay in bed forever. I tapped out a couple of days ago. I masked up and went stress shopping at the local market. Cake, ice cream, snacks, margarita mix, one lonely pack of baby spinach and a bunch of overpriced meat to put in the freezer. All told I spent a $100, and then I just sat in my car. I wanted to cry, but I couldn’t.

I still haven’t cried, and I need to so badly.

Hope knows how emotional I can be; she sometimes teases me about it. She knows when not to tease me; she’s constantly checking in to make sure I’m ok.

She’s still worried about me being sick. She still doesn’t understand how hard I work sometimes (we do not share the same work ethic; we are very different in that respect), but she does know the depression that covers me when a murder like Ahmaud’s happens.

The mourning is real. I wear it like a bathrobe. I sit with it. I try to bury myself in it. The sadness. The grief. The struggle to remember that #notall White folks are dangerous, that I had loving White people in my life who are dear friends and colleagues. I know it’s not everyone, but I also know that so many folks will stay silent about these injustices. Silence is complicity. If you are my friend, you say you care about me then you need to speak up and get your people together. Please don’t ask me what you should do—I BEEN TOLD YOU. Be an antiracist and get to getting your people together. Dassit.

There is so much despair, the despair about what will become of us as a people, and me and Hope as individuals—what will become of us? Are we safe? Should I keep walking my dog in the mornings? Even in the nice neighborhood across the way? Is there anyway I can figure out how to prevent something like this from happening other than to stay hidden in my house, like I’m on some underground railroad?

I can tell you that I didn’t survive the last few weeks of being sick for this shit.

When White folk ask me why I’m so consumed by race all the time I usually respond how could I not be? At every turn this society is quick to remind me that my and my family’s melanted skin can be a problem.

I am so very tired.

None of this is ok.

My faith in the justice system is limited. My belief that Ahmaud’s family will see real justice is limited. My belief that I am safe on my morning walk is non-existent. I know that even with a cute dog, walking down the street to get some exercise is threatening.

And there is nothing I can really do to change that.

It’s really just too much.


Car Time

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I saw this meme on Instagram recently, and it stopped me in my tracks. It made me reflect on the first year Hope was with me.

We had a really difficult adjustment period. I was a bit of a nervous wreck for a while there. I was exhausted. I was always stressed and nervous. I had just finished my doctorate and jumped into parenting. Not only did I not take a break, but I was still writing my dissertation when Hope was placed with me. I was a whole entire mess.

Hope was easily triggered and was prone to moments of high drama.

Sometimes we were a living, breathing disaster.

About 8 months in, I hired a sitter to come hang out with Hope twice a week for 3 hours in the evening. I used this time to try to pull myself together and get a bit of me time. I would get takeout and go to the park. I would read a book sitting by the riverbank. I would sometimes go to happy hour with friends, who only wanted to ask about Hope—the last person I wanted to talk about.

But the thing I spent the most time doing?

Driving to the park, never leaving the car, making sure the doors were locked, reclining my seat, setting an alarm and sleeping in my car. I would be so tired. So very tired.

Eventually, I never even left my own parking lot. I legit grabbed my purse and all the trappings of going “out” for a few hours. I took the elevator to the lobby, walked to my car, got in, cried for 20 minutes, set my alarm and took a nap.

Hope and I finalized our adoption about 5 and half months after placement. It was definitely the right thing for us, but it also meant that things moved very fast. Our whole process moved so quickly that it was a whirlwind—we were matched, placed and finalized inside of 10 months. I don’t think I would change much about our journey, but I acknowledge that that first year was somewhat of a blur.

I look back fondly on those moment of sitting alone in my car now. In those moments I finally had some of the alone time I craved. I could breathe in my car. I could steel myself in my car. I could rest with no demands. I could reflect on my parenting with no immediate pressure. I could come up with plans for the next day of parenting Hope. I. Could. Just. Take. Time. I. Created. Space!

I am still so grateful for the sitters who got us through that time. I provided a frozen pizza for the night,  and they took it from there. Hope adored Camille and Susanne, and they were worth every penny!  (Pro tip: When interviewing sitters, look for those social work majors, those special ed majors, psych majors who actually want to be a mental health professional. Both of the sitters mentioned above had masters in special education and worked with kids with Autism, ADHD, ODD, etc. They were awesome at managing Hope, gaining her trust and encouraging her to enjoy the time they shared on Tuesdays and Thursdays. She still mentions them fondly from time to time.

So if you are new to this journey, make sure you have car time! You will not regret it. It is good for your sanity, and your sanity is good for you kid!


I Think I’ve Turned the Corner (Again)

So, I’m hopefully making progress on this COVID-19 thing.

The nighttime is the worst time. I can power through the day, but once night falls, the coughing starts again, the difficulty in regulating body temperature comes back and once I get comfortable, I actually feel like I could eat something.

I feel better overall, but I’ve learned not to trust it—even if it lasts a few days.

Mostly though, I am tired a lot. I didn’t take a nap yesterday and I’m paying for it today. I just feel like I could sleep for days.

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But I am feeling better. I also feel like it’s just going to take a while to feel like myself again.

Hope has been amazing since my symptoms came back last week. She checks on me, always asking if I need anything. It almost makes me want to drag this out a bit. #kidding

We have many masks in the house now and I’ve been ‘officially’ cleared to walk Yappy as long as I have on a mask and maintain distance. That makes me feel better—getting out for fresh air and a little exercise. Of course, I overdid it this morning by walking my usual 2 miles. Now I feel like I could sleep 8 hours.

I’m logging back on to work tomorrow; I have a wonderfully supportive office. I’m a little anxious that my schedule looks heavy tomorrow, so I’ll have to rearrange things a bit. I know I want to work, but I have really come to grips with my physical limitations right now

I’m not well—and my wonderful reader Rose dressed me down properly with that declaration this weekend (again, thank you so much!).

There really has been so much discussion in the media about the physical symptoms of the virus, but there hasn’t been as much discussion of the emotional toll this is taking on both the sick and the well.

Social distancing has been hard for folks, especially those of us who are extroverts. The lack of energy from others has been challenging for me. I had two solid meltdowns before I became sick. I am careful not to rely on Hope to fill that need. 1) It’s not her job and 2) I’m sensitive that she’s an introvert.

Being in quarantine has been especially difficult and isolating. Before my post last week, I had told only family and a few close friends about being sick. I still don’t share it with many outside of the blog. In some ways it is like watching the world go by. Most of my friends are not sick and don’t seem to know many people who are sick. They are adjusting to the new normal and while they take the pandemic seriously, it hasn’t necessarily touched them personally.

I’m happy about that. I don’t wish this on people.

But it’s isolating. And who knows, maybe they are just like me and not broadcasting it. I don’t know, but it is lonely being one of the countless people directly affected, even in the midst of something so widespread.

Then there is the fear that this will happen again. We don’t even have enough tests for confirmation of symptomatic cases, and we’re trying to get serology and antigen testing, but now folks are second guessing whether having it might make you immune to having it again. That is hella scary. The thought of going through this again this fall is really frightening. I don’t even want to experience this “mild” version again. I probably will volunteer for the vaccine trials due to fear—damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

There’s also the folks who seem intent on sacrificing all of us. They don’t want to social distance. They don’t want to wear masks. They think this is a hoax. They think this is a play to move the country more socialist. They think their rights are being infringed upon. They wave confederate and gadsen flags which dog whistle all kinds of stuff. And they don’t believe science, which is increasingly baffling to me.

Huh

Make it make sense!

I totally get the awful way the economy came to a screeching halt. I also get how desperate families are to get and keep needed resources, food and housing in particular. We are talking basic Maslow’s Hierarchy here. I get the fear and desperation. I also know how privileged I am to not be in that predicament where I am missing paychecks, wondering if we can afford food and if I’ll be able to pay the mortgage. I get it.

But I don’t get the crazy parts—the dash of white supremacy and refusal to believe science. That is just point-blank crazy to me.

Let me hip you to a reality: Science is a thing folks, and it is not antithetical to religious tenets. I was always taught that science is God’s way of showing us the awesomeness of his creation. The miracle of life is truly mysterious, and science is revelatory. God gives us peeks beyond the veil through science.

COVID-19 is not the flu, and it’s not a hoax. It’s killed over 40K people in just two months in the US, and it will kill more. You can’t be pro-choice when it only benefits you. You can’t tiptoe through religious texts to cherry pick that parts that uphold your hollow arguments. You can’t prioritize the economy while ignoring “Blessed are those who mourn…” or “Blessed are the merciful…” I mean, sure you can, but be ready for folks to call you out on the abject hypocrisy of doing so.

This whole thing is a dumpster fire, and we have a fire hose with low water pressure.

Anyway, I am on the mend—hopefully. I initially wanted to believe this was just a 2 weeks and done thing. For some it is, for some others, 3, sometimes 4 weeks is more realistic. I seem to be in the latter category. I’m learning to respect my limitations, even if I loathe them. I’m learning to take a daily nap. I’m learning that rest is essential. I do not know what the rest of this week will look like; I’m guessing it will involve some rescheduled meetings and a lot of breaks.

For now, I can only listen to my body and her needs and respect what she tells me to do.

Be well folks.


I’m a Mess Right Now

Before I even get into this post, I anticipate that it will be a hot mess of rants, rambles, emotional meltdowns and frustrations. It might resonate with your own hot mess of feelings. It might be just the thing you shouldn’t be reading if you are one of those cheery, obsessively positive people. So…gauge yourselves accordingly.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about trauma during this pandemic.

I’ve also been thinking about coping.

I feel like I’m experiencing a lot of the former and not doing terribly well on the latter.

Two weeks ago tomorrow I began experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. For a week I dealt with irritating but mild symptoms. I was tired a lot, but unless there was a dramatic change in symptoms, I knew would be fine.

I turned the corner last weekend and physically felt great, despite still not having much of an appetite, all week. I dove back into work, which frankly is insane right now. Work has stressed me out, pissed me off, triggered so much anxiety, cursing and just full-blown emotional meltdowns that I just wash my face, put on my pjs and get in my bed shortly after I close my laptop. #depressionmuch?

And then, yesterday afternoon the sore throat returned. By 9pm I was coughing again and by 11pm my anxiety was in full bloom which only made me feel worse. I have no idea what this means other than abject terror about what’s next on this journey. I do know it probably means that my quarantine will get extended when I was so close to breaking free. I mean, I was just going to go to the Target, but still.

I’m a bit of a mess and overcome by constant waves of emotion.

Grief is a big one. I just keep cycling through the stages, sometimes even daily. Despite being externally low key these days, inside I’m at a level 10 just about 24/7. I’m probably tired from resisting the urge to populate every sentence I utter out loud with multiple f-bombs.

The quarantine has been especially challenging. I don’t always have the energy to connect outside of work hours with anyone—so no virtual happy hours these two weeks. Hope is hit or miss with her caretaking and engagement—she is ensconced in her room and only comes out for food or bio breaks. She will go to the store. She finally unpacked the rest of her college stuff from the car after I quietly, through gritted teeth raged that I’ve been asking her to do this for WEEKS. Yappy seems terrified to walk with her now. She grabs the leash and he runs to hide under the bed; I know there’s a story there. This has meant that despite my quarantine, I have had to suit up and take Yappy out ever so often to alleviate his anxiety and make sure he gets the opportunity to poop.

Cooking still falls to me.

Cleaning still falls to me.

I’m overwhelmed by everything and underwhelmed by the world’s response. I took off today because I was going to snap if I had to participate in one more Zoom call that should have been an email. I’m tired of expectations that I always be on camera. I’m tired that there isn’t a real, authentic acknowledgement that this ish is traumatic, and not just regular traumatic like “Do you remember where you were on 9-11?” No, this is like the year 2020 seems to be a never-ending cluster-f*ck…the whole gotdamn year. Yesterday I got up and took a walk (via YT video) because a series of back and forth emails in which I insisted that I could not help with a project (a boundary) resulted in a final passive aggressive email from my colleague. This was before 10am.

I’m over it.

I’m not motivated to do much of anything but find new cocktails to craft (I’ll be trying a Matcha Mule today). I bought yarn, I have downloaded patterns. I can’t even get myself to cast on stitches or to think about a project and I usually find knitting to be incredibly soothing. I have watched very little of the trending shows and movies everyone is writing about. I keep watching Law and Order, a couple of animal shows, and other stuff I’ve seen a million times. I just long to know what’s already coming—so I rewatch stuff I’ve already watched.

I’m a mess and I know it. I don’t even know how not to be a mess right now. I’m sad, mad, worried, sick, sick and tired, frustrated, confined, bored yet overextended at work and the thing that is seriously effing me up the most?

Some folks are trying to normalize this experience. This shit is not normal. And while I understand that it is the “new normal” and that normal as we once knew it is gone; I’m grieving *my* normal hard right now, so stop reframing this shit. I am not hearing it right now. STFU.

I’m beyond miserable, and there’s levels to my misery.

And then I feel guilty because, in the grand scheme of things I’m fine, Hope and Yappy are fine. My family is safe, sound and fine. There are so many people who are economically devastated in the midst of the mind f*ck this all is. I’m not experiencing that, thankfully, but I can’t even imagine having that burden too. It reminds me of the privilege I have despite everything.

So, yeah, just add woke guilt on top of the emotional dumpster fire that I am right now.

So this chilly Friday morning, I’m going to make me some coffee, put some Baileys in it, cut off several chunks of the bread I made yesterday, get in my favorite spot on the couch and sulk while watching L&O marathons on various channels and filling in with back episodes on Hulu for hours when I can’t find a broadcast episode. I will call my doctor to discuss the reappearance of symptoms and what it means for my quarantine, testing and over all health. I will snooze my work accounts—no I will not hop on your zoom for a few minutes. Let me lone!

Today will be for self-care in the form of tv watching, wallowing, carb loading, cannabis consumption and trying to get my mind right. I might even order takeout on a *Friday* (Thursday is takeout day at Casa d’ABM).

How are y’all?


Pandemic Chronicles, vol. 3

Another Friday, at least that’s what they say. Technically this is my 4th week teleworking, but I have not been into the office for about 6 weeks when you include my annual conference and the transition week when I was already able to work from home.

It’s already been a long time, and it doesn’t seem that any transition to whatever the new normal will be is a long way off. So this is normal for now.

But, it’s not.

Last weekend, I began coughing. Then the body aches started, then the queasiness, followed by the body aches and tight chest. Fortunately, I was spared a fever. That came later.

By Monday, I was unnerved and called my primary care doc as soon as the office opened. Within an hour I had a telemedicine call to discuss all this.

That’s when I became a “suspected” case of COVID-19. I was told that testing for confirmation would take about a week—so much for the rapid tests folks are talking about. I looked good and seemed to be managing, so we would hold off on testing for now, especially since there really isn’t a treatment for COVID-19. Symptoms are treated and other than that, it’s a virus and we just have to wait it out.

The other advice? Quarantine.

As of today, I have 9 more days of quarantine.

My symptoms persist but haven’t worsened. I’ve only had one fever and it broke pretty quickly so that was great news.

I’m in limbo, locked down like a case, but not sure if I’m really a case. I could demand a test of course and I’ve though about doing that because so many Black and brown folks are disproportionately sick and dying of this virus. I want to be counted if someting were to happen to me. Seeking confirmation seems as much a political act as a medical one. I consider demanding the test daily while also wondering if it really matters. (I know it does.)

I continued to work this week. Taking breaks when the fatigue or malaise was bad. Fortunately, I do not have a persistent fever. It comes and goes and has been low-grade at best. Otherwise, I’m ok. My therapist was a bit concerned at first about my lack of emotion about this. It’s not so much a lack of emotion as…a sense of overwhelm, a sense of apprehension about the days ahead and an odd sense of relief. No one wants this, but if you have to get it, what seems to be a mild case is preferred. So, I feel…lucky, blessed. I could be sicker, much sicker.

Of course, with 9 more days of quarantine I could get sicker, but I am optimistic that will not happen. #positivevibes

And what about Hope?

Well, I really worried at first.

That’s a whole lie. I worry incessantly about Hope. She lost a parent years ago. I am hopeful she doesn’t have that experience again for many, many years.

It took a couple of days for her to grasp this family development. After the first day, it became quite clear that a full quarantine—in my room for the full 14 days—was not possible. Hope could hold the fort for a couple of days, but really, she is not ready or capable to hold it down for two weeks.

I have had to remind her how important it is to constantly clean (she still doesn’t), how important it is that we try to eat healthy (what’s that?), how she has to walk Yappy often enough and long enough so that he can do all of his business (she doesn’t so he doesn’t—poor pup when more than 24 hours without pooping) and generally how serious this is. She potentially could also be positive, so we have to monitor her for symptoms as well.

She does help me with the respiratory exercises I need to do a few times a day. And she helped me cook dinner a few days ago. But, beyond that…nada.

I found myself getting up super early this morning, gowning up, covering everything and taking the dog out before the world got up so that I could walk him long enough to get him to do his business. I know that is not ok, but Yappy is starting to exhibit OCD behaviors due to stress and anxiety. I have a limited a amount of bandwidth and dealing with a poop-less, stressed-out dog on top of everything else is currently beyond my capacity.

I know that Hope is dealing with this in her own way; I’m trying to give her some space and grace. At same time tho, I need her help to get through this. I can’t help but think of the myriad of possibilities and what might happen if she really, really has to step up.

Do I believe she will and can?

What happens if she won’t or can’t?

What happens to me?

In some ways it feels like a great reckoning. I know Hope is less mature than her age; I also know that sometimes she can rise to the occasion in ways that shock me. But I never know if I can expect that or if it’s always going to be a surprise. The challenge is that now that my life might be on the line, do I trust Hope to look out for me?

It hurts me to say I don’t know, but the truth is that *I don’t know.*

So, here we are: In quarantine, living a sliver of the nightmare and the blessing.

I’m a suspected case of COVID-19 with relatively minor symptoms.

That’s it, that’s the nightmare and the blessing.


Thoughts on Mortality & Grief

I have reached the age where it is not terribly uncommon that my peers are having strokes, heart attacks, cancer, body part replacement, and major illnesses requiring longer recovery times. I’ve also reached the age where some of us don’t make it; we succumb to our ailments.

Realizing that you are in this phase of life and that it will never subside, nay that it will actually get worse as you age, is a bit disorienting. I still see my friends through the lens of our prime. I see us as young, wandering the streets of Adams Morgan in DC on the weekends, having Jacks and cokes with a giant slice of pizza after the clubs close and before we head home to sleep it off so we can do it again the next night.

I notice our gray hairs; I wave at our children and marvel at how much they’ve grown. We all aren’t as slim as we used to be, but we’re still young at heart and fly in spirit.

Our parents are aging, even if we are in denial about our own aging process. Some of our parents are dying and leaving us behind to ponder what to do without them.

I began thinking about my own mortality right around the age of 30 when a close friend died very suddenly due to a brain aneurysm. He had just moved into a custom built home with his girlfriend. He was dead about 4 days after moving in. I was devastated. We were young. We were finally getting serious about life. Friends were marrying, having kids. I had just bought my own home a couple of years before. The loss left a huge hole in our friend group that was so hard to recover from.

Fast forward nearly 20 years and I am still thinking about mortality. The only difference is that I also think about grief so much more now. I’ve had to learn a lot about grief since becoming Hope’s mother.

I’ve learned that I think about death a lot and what it feels like to lose people you love. I’ve had wrap my head around what Hope’s grief must feel like. I still have my parents, and I think about losing them and how hard that will be. I learned that grief is hella messy. It’s like this Gordian knot of a bunch of different emotions that is so hard to untangle that it’s easier to give up and just wallow in the mess. I’ve read a lot, and I’ve talked to a lot of people as I try to understand how to work through and around grief.

I’ve learned it’s so hard.

I’ve briefly mentioned in other posts that one of my exes died last year. His death was incredibly sad for me, but it wasn’t entirely shocking. His history suggested that without intervention and a major life turn around that he would probably die young, and he did. I still struggle with his death. I harbor feelings about what might have happened if I hadn’t left him a decade ago. Could I have saved him?

I know I couldn’t have, but I still think about it. And I’m still working through it. I’m always a work in progress.

My messy feelings about that loss were compounded this weekend when I learned that Elihu, my more recent ex and love that appeared sporadically in this space, passed way this weekend. I feel like I’ve been in shock for days now. I haven’t dropped a tear; I haven’t heaved. I wish I could cry; I feel like it would help me get through this, but it’s not happened yet.

Instead I feel white hot anger.

And profound sadness.

And confusion.

And more anger.

And more sadness.

And despair.

And guilt.

And I’ve questioned whether he’s really gone.

I’ve run scenarios in my head.

I’ve tried to make sense of it.

I can’t. None of it makes sense.

I know that it is true. I know that it is real. And my heart hurts; my head hurts.

It just hurts so badly.

grief

via Pinterest

I replay the best, most glorious times in my head. I remember the pain of our separation. I remember settling into a distant friendship that I never let bloom into a full friendship because I knew reconciliation might come up and I didn’t want that. I feel regret for that distance even though I know it was probably for the best.

I replay his laugh and his deep baritone voice that spoke beautifully accented English.

And I’m just so sad and mad and a bunch of other feelings that I just can’t even name.

The grief is overwhelming.

I’m reminded of all the friends and acquaintances who have passed away in the last 5 years. The number is impressive for all the wrong reasons, and the number continues to grow. Still being here, still living this life… It makes me so grateful that I’m healthy, but it’s terrifies me that at anytime I could fall victim to my own demise. I am increasingly preoccupied by death.

I would rather be focused on living.

So, I’m trying to get myself together this week. I’ll continue to be kind to myself. I’ve contacted an attorney to update all my estate plans, and I had the morbid conversation with Hope about my final wishes. Doing these things eases the intensity of the feelings. They give me a sense of control when everything seems a little out of control.

The intensity of these feelings will pass. I will continue to experience this phenomenon though…the notification that someone else I know has left this life. I’ll go through this again. I don’t like the notion of getting used to it, but I know that there will be some level of acceptance that comes. Acceptance allows the feelings to wash over me without drowning me. I see that with my parents, and I saw it with my grandparents.

I didn’t anticipate contemplating acceptance of mortality without fear at this point in my life, but here we are.

I’m grateful to my daughter for being so kind to me the last few days. Hope is incredibly empathetic on most days, but I know of all the people in my life that she gets this. She sees my grief. She reminds me that life goes on. She says the things I’ve said to her over the last 6 years. It’s a great comfort to me. It also is confirmation that maybe, just maybe I helped her with her grief.

I’m hopeful that like her, I can somehow integrate this grief in ways that allow me to keep moving forward.

Time will tell.


Freshman Year Challenges

I low key like a challenge. I like crushing goals and projects. I like pushing myself to do more and different. I don’t think I’m flashy about liking a challenge; I want to focus on the task and not all the stuff around it.

Hope focuses on everything around the task, except sometimes, the task itself. While I look at things at a systems level to figure out how to get from beginning to end, my daughter focuses on every possible step from beginning to end, but not necessarily the beginning or the end.

Challenges sometimes overwhelm Hope. She gets consumed by the individual steps down the line while she’s stuck on step one. She has trouble conceptualizing the system of big pictures that connect A and B. She is skeptical of the process in a challenge. For Hope, a lot of this leads to stagnation and imposter syndrome.

Observing Hope in this first semester of college has been remarkable. When she was at the military school last year, there were so many limits there that, in retrospect, I’m wondering how much I learned about Hope overall during that time. Don’t get me wrong, I saw my daughter grow a lot, but as an individual being, I’m just realizing I’m not sure I learned a lot about her.

These last few months have been totally different. I see my daughter positively thriving socially for the first time since becoming her mom. She has friends on her hall and in her classes. Hope tried out for and made the step team; she got involved in the Black Student Association. The social anxiety that plagued her for years seems to have faded away. When I went to visit for parent’s weekend, she confidently strode down her dorm hall while her core homies congregated to say to hello and be introduced to me. She has only been home once this semester because, even though she is homesick, she isn’t homesick enough to assuage her “FOMO” (fear of missing out) around hanging with the homies over the weekend.

During a lengthy, serious discussion a month or two ago, I asked Hope if she was happy.

She finally said yes.

Sure, she’s not totally happy about every single little thing, but she is overall happy with her social and extracurricular life.

I am thrilled. She’s actually seemed in a much better emotional space than I’ve seen her during much of her time with me.

Hope’s academic performance have been a bit of a different story. I’ve always worried about Hope’s academic performance. It took me a long while to really appreciate the struggles of folks with ADHD. I tried to get her to lean into what she was good at—music. I got tutors and regularly met with counselors and teachers. I expressed grave concerns about some classroom practices and whether the approaches were really teaching kids about how to improve or increase capacity for executive function. Hope is a really smart young woman, but challenges with executive function make it hard for her best to shine through.

Midterms revealed a lot.

College is different. Less grades, more autonomy and more responsibility, greater need for self-direction.

Getting her midterm grades was a bit of a reckoning for Hope. Whatever fears she had about going to college and what the next few years would look like, step by deliberate step, quickly rose to the surface. Despite my certainty that the grades would eventually come, Hope’s realization that she was really struggling was always top of mind. Panic began to set in, and I began fielding texts and calls saying she made a huge mistake in coming to college, she should be home working or going to community college.

My heart breaks a bit when I hear her self-doubt. I also feel guilty: you can’t keep telling your kid how important school/academics are and expect them to believe your more laid back attitude when they really begin to struggle.  I have no track record of not stepping into Hope when she brought home struggle grades.

I’ve listened to Hope work through her feelings. I’ve told her that I believe long term it will all work out and that the grades will come; this is a part of the transition. I’ve told her that she probably wouldn’t have the same wrap around support at the local community college. I’ve reminded her that we originally agreed to one full academic year. I’ve told her that I believe she’s working hard and things just haven’t clicked yet.

It feels like she’s having none of it. She’s practically dragging herself, her intelligence, her worthiness, her ability.

It breaks my heart. We go through a pep talk, I help her develop a to do list of folks to talk to and where to get support. I follow up a few days later. I make it ok to pontificate about what life back home might look like and what my expectations of her might be. I try to channel to the conversation about steps that can help her feel like she’s moving forward, using campus resources and chasing her version of success.

It is very difficult confronting reality sometimes. Hope’s reality is requiring her to step up; my reality is supporting her from the sidelines. As a parent, I am trying to support and encourage, but it feels a bit helpless seeing her be sad about her performance and question her abilities. Hope’s self-esteem about school has always been low, so I’m really sensitive about how hard this must be for her. I believe that largely, these are some of the first big adulting challenges, that she will experience, and adulting, well, it kinda sucks sometimes.

My biggest concerns are about whether she can stick it out past the rough transition, whether she can muster enough belief in herself to right her ship and figure out strategies that work for her and whether her resilience is strong enough to help her not internalize her grades.

Ironically, this is the first time I haven not fretted about Hope’s grades. I knew the transition would be challenging, so I was prepared for not the best grades. My hope was that she passed everything and could continue on into the spring semester where she would feel a bit more experienced and have a few more coping skills.

As we come to the end of this semester, things are really up in the air for next semester. I am not sure how I feel about that; it’s disconcerting. I am eager to hear more of her thoughts and ideas as we spend time over the Thanksgiving holiday. I’m hopeful that we can put together a good pro/con list. I’m hopeful that her grades will allow her to have a full range of options from which to decide. But for now, I don’t know what will happen.

We are going through the motions of preparing for her return to school in the spring. We are completing the dreaded FAFSA. We are looking at her course schedule for next year. We’re planning, so I guess we aren’t completely rudderless.

It sure does feel like it though.

Whatever the decision, I know it will be fine because I know Hope is researching, thinking and being deliberate. She’s communicating about her feelings and about the concrete stuff. We’ve always managed to be fine. We’ll be fine with this too.


Kids Don’t Want to be A$$holes.

I was surfing around Facebook this past weekend and stumbled upon posts with parents venting about kids’ behavior. The “kids” may have had trauma backgrounds, may have neurocognitive challenges and some had both and more. I could practically hear the frustration through my phone and laptop screens. I empathized deeply.

I’ve certainly posted here about my frustrations around Hope’s more challenging behaviors, and how they were really, really difficult to cope with, so I get it. I have a love/hate relationship with online adoption support communities, but I do think that online support groups are important because we all need safe spaces to just release the big emotions we have in trying to cope with what inevitably feels like very personalized behavior designed to destroy us. It’s natural to feel that frustration. It’s natural to need to vent.

What struck me, though, is how easy it is to go down the rabbit hole of seriously thinking your kid is out to get you, to impose consequences that serve to push the kid further away and to really think there’s nothing going on but what you see on the surface.

Pro Tip: There’s always something going on below the surface.

I learned some time ago that Hope’s behaviors typically weren’t about me at all, but they were a form of communication with me. Parenting Hope through trauma and ADHD was and is…hard. Of the over 2,000 days Hope and I have been a family, I experienced some level of emotional upheaval for at least more than a good third of it.

Way more than a third of it if I’m brutally honest.

This has not been a walk in the park, nor has it lived up to the parenting experience I thought it would be. It’s been, in many ways, better than that notion and way underachieving in other ways.

It took me a long, long time to understand and appreciate that Hope’s most challenging behaviors were really her trying to tell me that she was struggling, that I needed to meet her where she was, not where I thought she should be. She was, and sometimes still is, scared and unsure of the circumstances and her place in those circumstances. She didn’t always have words, so she acted out. She still doesn’t have many words, but she will apologize for not being able to tell me what she needs. Sometimes it’s like we play out charades as I run though a list of potential challenges trying to guess what it is she needs and whether I can do something that will relieve her stress.

Hope was never out to get me in those moments when she was acting all spawn of satan and ish. She was calling for me to save her.

As we spend some time venting, we’ve got to remember that kiddos need us. That they are, in fact, often telling us what they want and need. They don’t want to be acting out. They don’t feel good about any of it. They aren’t trying to stay in those dark places.

According to the US CDC, nearly 10% of kids have an ADHD diagnosis. And although only about 3% of kids have depression and 7.1% of kids have anxiety, there is a high likelihood that if you have a diagnosis for one, you will have a diagnosis for another with a side dish of high incidence of behavioral problems too. For those of us parenting adopted children and/or children with trauma or ADHD, it might seem like these stats are low. They are relatively low; it’s just that we all hang out together, plugging into communities with other parents who are living the same experience. It ends up feeling like it’s a lot more people because we are plugged in.

There was a conversation I had with Hope one time when she was trying to explain what ADHD felt like without meds and what her depression feels like. It was heartbreaking for her to vocalize what it actually felt like, but it helped me understand that as frustrating it is, as much as I feel so personally attacked with some behaviors, as disrespectful as it feels, what Hope feels in those moments is so much worse. I pondered it for weeks.

Our kids don’t want to have behavioral problems. Our kids would love nothing more to be “normal.” Our kids want to blend in. They don’t always have the capacity to keep it together. They don’t always have the skills to even perform normalcy. We have to support them and create space that will allow them to get as close to it as they are able.

It’s ok to vent. Really, it is absolutely ok to vent, just remember that they aren’t trying to be assholes. They aren’t.


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