Category Archives: Lessons Learned

Ten Things on Thursday: 10/21/2021

  1. Things are good. I haven’t been overly busy this week. I had lunch with a pal today, a boozy lunch, the best kind. I’m glad for a slow week; last week was a doozy.
  2. I even cooked this week. I’ve struggled to get back into meal planning and cooking on the weekends since I got back from Mexico. I’ve cooked a little something but I’ve not been on my game. Until yesterday I whipped up some smothered pork chops, mac and cheese androasted zucchini. It was delish. I’m going to get back on my game this weekend.
  3. So, I know this is random, but trust me, I’m going somehwere with this. I’ve thought long and hard since my vacation. I’ve thought about where I want to go next since the world is beginning to reopen. I might go to another resort after the holidays; I think that might be a good vacay for Hope. I’ve not taken her to one before; I probably should wait until she’s 21. It seems kind a cruel to take her just a couple of shy of her 21st, doesn’t it? Now there probably was a time when I might’ve been petty enough, but it genuinely seems like an awful and I love Hope more than anything.
  4. But I digress…
  5. I have decided that I may never wear a one piece bathing suit ever again. Which I do have feelings about because I have some super cute suits. But when you’re on vacation, your belly is filled, so is your tumber with a humongous daquiri, and totally vibing, the last thing you want to do is go to the bathroom. And then it dawns on you that you have to get nekkid to relieve yourself. It was exhausting. The stalls were small. I was unstable because that tumbler I mentioned was not the first tumbler of the day. One time my straps got tangled and I lost my balance and my obit flashed before my eyes.
  6. “Middle Aged African American Woman Dies Due to a Broken Neck Caused by a Fall. ABM was found dead alone in a bathroom stall, tangled in the straps of her one piece swim suit. She likely lost her balance due to severe inebriation.” The horror. Then I started thinking about why I wear one pieces–“because it hides things that I believe/know other people find unattractive.” It is literally deadly clothing chosen out of shame to a body that done its best by my. So, if you run into me on the beach in my bikini–I’m fully committing here! None of that tank-ini ish, because, I would be catering to the eyes of others–so, yeah bikini, letting it all hang out: Mind the business that pays you! I’m happy and safe, and if I die in a resort bathroom I’ll at least be half dressed.
  7. In other news, Hope had to get a second root canal today; same tooth as before. Seems the young miss has super long roots, and so they didn’t get it all the first time. She started having pain last week. I’m noting that while she might not be complaining about the dental work, her body does not like it. This is the 3rd appointment and she’s got one more. She crashes after every appointment. She’s been asleep since early afternoon. I made her get off the couch and get in her bed. She never turned her lights on. She just climbed into bed clothes and all.
  8. This weekend, I’m going to start doing some purging in her room. We’re looking at wallpaper and furniture. It’s past time to update her room and de-cluttering is overwhelming for her. I’m excited about this project and learning how Hope’s style has evolved.
  9. I’ve also really been reflecting on what have been silver linings during the pandemic. Hands down it has been getting to know Hope and Yappy with a few more years of maturity and wisdom for all of us. This last year has been so hard for Hope; so much of it had me scared for her. I know there were months where she was at her lowest, just could not get out of bed. And she fought her way back from the edge and is on the brink of thriving again. She is an amazing human. I am humbled that I get to walk with her and guide her. I’m so proud of her. And Yappy? My love for this critter is so pure and soulful. I can decipher all his expressions now, and I watched him step into the gravity of his full stubbornness. I learned that he can truly get board, so now we have multiply play times during the day and I got some puzzles for him. I learned that he hates the weight management food I had to put him on; he pretty much said he only eats it because it’s wet food, which by definition is a step above dry food. He eats both, but definitely has a preference. We have full on conversations with our eyes. I love this little boy beast.
  10. So, yeah, things are good this week.


Things I Learned During the Pandemic

I think I may be more introverted than I used to be. I do miss my friends; I really miss my family. But I also realize that maybe I’m comfortable at home. Transitioning last year was emotionally rough because Hope also came home. I wasn’t used to being home this much; to not taking vacations, to not hanging out with folks, to not always making plans. After 18 months, I’m not only resigned to being ok at home; I’m coming to luxuriate in my home time on the weekends. This may change as fall emerges, and I fight another bout of SAD depression.

In some ways I’ve become more patient, but I feel like my hair trigger temper looms even larger. I just don’t act out on it, but I’m kinda always at a rage level of 4-5 on a 10-point scale. I don’t have a lot of places to put those emotions these days, so I try to do other things. It’s hard; I feel like the pandemic has riled up so many emotions for me.

I am sick of math. I love quantitative research; there are aspects of it that I really could get much stronger in, but I’m a solid researcher. Regularly having to calculate risk/reward probabilities in my head when making plans or going out is exhausting. Each week I head on over to the COVID dashboards on the NYT’s site. I look at my state, my county, the counties where my immediate family lives and where Beau lives. I think about what my own exposure level is—I have to take into consideration that Hope works retail and has a high exposure rate. It the idea of always checking the calculated risk of going out in public. I’m not completely fearful, but I really do enjoy being around a few people and I get to see my parents and sisters and nephews and niece now. I am actually just trying to make sure my risks are low so I can see them whenever I want. But the math…I’m sick of it.

Yappy is the sweetest and most stubborn dog I’ve ever known personally. This dog adores people; his disposition is absurdly sweet. He’s a cuddle bum and is very happy nestled up next to you with a light blanket covering him. And then he also can be this:

This is one of his daily standoffs that we are now known for in the neighborhood. I try to let him dictate the direction of our long morning walk but let me try to deviate from his plan—especially if it’s to something he *knows* he has no business doing—he goes from sweet to rooted in his spot, refusing to move. He’s a whole mess. I’ve also learned that even though I taught him how to use AAC buttons, he really can’t be bothered to use them consistently despite positive reinforcement and behavior modeling. He’s on his own ish. I low key respect him for that.

I’ve learned that my home brewed cold brew coffee is worlds better than Starbucks, even with cheap coffee. I used to hot brew and then ice, but I really like the richness of cold brew. It took me forever to get my preferred ratios together, but now, it’s always perfect. 1 cup of grounds to 8 cups of water. I put it in my brewing pitcher, shake, pop in the fridge for 24 hours. I bought these straining bags—kinda like cheesecloth but made into a drawstring bag. Pour into my regular pitcher through the bag and voila! Dunzo! I was on Keto years ago and the only think I kept was my penchant for using heavy cream in my coffee. I froth it and my daily coffee experience is elevated!!!

I’ve learned that after we really get on the other side of the pandemic, I might have to redecorate. I could stand to update everything. I’m also thinking about getting rid of my dining table and just setting up that space as my home office. I think at this point, it just makes more sense and is a better use of space. I want to paint, maybe get a new couch, buy a couple new rugs, consider wallpaper. I just need to switch it up around here.

I’ve really come to appreciate our mental heath squad so much more this year. I’ve gone to therapy since undergrad, and Hope has required varying levels of mental health care since becoming my daughter. But this year…whew, I feel like we’ve definitely got our money’s worth in terms of therapy, meds management, talk therapy. I know my marbles would definitely be scattered all over the floor if we didn’t have a team in place. This 18+ months have really taken its toll, but they’ve remained a steady part of our lives; I’m grateful beyond measure.

Hope really enjoys my cooking. I am confident in my cooking skills, and these last few months I’ve finally really settled into a cooking schedule for the week. I do a lot of cooking on the weekends and keep more convenience foods for the latter part of the week. I’ve also expanded my recipe repertoire. She eats just about everything. She’s always enjoyed my cooking, but I think she really, really enjoys it now. She loves seeing what I’ve come up with. This weekend, I made beef and cheese empanadas.

I’m really over this pandemic; like really, really over it. I can admit, though, that it really has given me an opportunity to reflect and think about what I’ll take from this experience. I’m hopeful that at some point we’ll get ahead of it and that others will get vaccinate or head to a closed colony or something. I am eager to see what the new normal will be; I’m eager to go to brunch again; to socialize, to just be free with out worry of consequences of someone breathing on me. I’m just ready to move on.


Ten Things on Wednesday: 8/11/2021

  1. Work is just non-stop as usual. I’m tired. Yesterday I put on my pjs at 5:55pm. I was in my bed by 6:30. I’m going to need to take sometime off soon.
  2. Hope is learning some adulting lessons. She overslept one day and called out and then the next day, putzed around and was late again. I know time tracking is hard for her, and we all have days when we’re just off. I struggle with how much to intervene; on the second day I popped my head in and was like, “sooooo, you going to work?” She was oblivious about the time. I know that this job is key to keeping her stable, but I also believe in natural consequences. I end up feeling very anxious about whether or not she’ll make it in on time. I wish I could turn that off, but as of yet, I can’t. It creeps in, even as I’m absorbed in my own work.
  3. She’s also learning about banking. I’m a co-signatory on her bank account…at least until tomorrow. She’s overdrawn her account twice in the last month. It’s not like she doesn’t have money; she just uses an app as banking her checking as…I dunno, but she doesn’t keep enough in it for whatever it is she’s using. I told her the first time to work on managing it since overdrafts cost money. It’s been an exercise in teaching her that poverty costs. She has the money to cover it; I’m also here to bail her out if necessary. I’ve encouraged her to think about what if neither of us could cover it? Yep, that 18 cents ended up costing $30. Nope, it’s not fair, but it is reality. First time it was an accident; this time it was irresponsibility. I told her I have pristine credit and I love her, but I’m coming off that account. Will still be here to help if needed but I need to step back and let those natural consequences to work a bit more.
  4. My efforts at eating better have been…let’s just say unfocused for about two weeks now. The exercise is still hitting hard, but my eating isn’t consistent. I’ll get there. My clothes are fitting better tho, so I’ll take it.
  5. Earlier this week Hope, Sister K and I went to see the Van Gogh Immersive Experience. If you have a chance to see it in your town, do it! I’m a fan of impressionists (yeah, I know, he’s post-impressionist). The exhibit is amazing! The lighting, the music, the color, the stories, it was all just wonderful. Check it out!
  6. There is apparently a version for the Sistine Chapel coming here in January. I’m on a wait list to get those tickets. I’m totally doing that. Even though I got to see it on a vacation a couple of years ago, I just know that an immersive experience will be amazing.
  7. Yappy is coming along using his buttons. Even though he doesn’t use them consistently, he does use them. I added a “Love you” button this past weekend. He seems to love it. He also likes to tap his outside button when we go outside. It really is kinda cool. He’s no chatterbox, but I know a time will come when he will probably use them independently. That’s cool.
  8. I bought a 2 piece bathing suit recently. Years ago, I bought a couple of tankinis, but I’ve never been confident enough to really rock a bikini. I decided, well, let me just buy it, try it on and see. I actually like it. I might buy another for my trip to Cancun. I’m telling being almost 50 can be life affirming if you let it be.
  9. I got to meet a few of Hope’s co-worker/friends earlier this week. I’m amused that she always seems to find the ragtag group of slightly awkward young people. It’s her scene. The kids were lovely, polite and nice…and yeah, a little weird. But the most amazing part? Hope is the stunner of the group. Yes, I know I’m a bit biased; she’s gorgeous. But OMG, she’s a bombshell. Her hair has grown out, and she’s figured out how to really do her hair. This week it just hit that magical stage where the Afro is just…amazing. She strutted, and I loved every minute of it.
  10. I’m going to go put my pjs on now. My bed is calling!

My Issues

When I became a mom, I knew it wouldn’t be an easy job. Parenting is hard. I did think that it would become easier at some point.

Let’s just say, some point has not yet arrived.

Parenting Hope at 20 is as challenging as parenting Hope at 12; the challenge is just different. She had a taste of freedom when she was away at school, and while I don’t have a lot of rules, the ones I do have I’m pretty serious about. We bump heads occasionally over it, but I’m the mom and the mortgage payer–I make the rules.

My fears for my daughter are different in some ways. Good decision-making has been a struggle for Hope this last year, and unfortunately she has felt the heavy gravity of some of her poor decisions. It’s been hard to watch, and it’s also hard to trust her in some areas as a result. I’ve learned that she doesn’t really get that trust is hard earned and easily lost. My trust issues when it comes to Hope feel so trauma based. I sometimes even feel panicky when I think about what has lead to my distrust. It doesn’t feel good.

And low key, I sometimes feel like, does my kid have any idea how her decisions, actions, choices affect anyone else besides her? There’s almost always a financial cost. There is the emotional cost and when she pays the consequences, sometimes I’m caught up in that foolishness as well. So, yes, there is a deeply selfish component that drives me nuts too.

And then there’s just decisions that leave me perplexed and wondering what’s going to happen next. For example, Hope has been working for about 3 weeks. She’s called out twice. The first time she said she didn’t feel well–she didn’t seem sick. Today, she didn’t have a reason. As a manager, I would be concerned that she wasn’t the best hire and that maybe she isn’t terribly responsible. A third call-out would very likely result in a termination–there are just too many people in need of a job for any company to deal with a lackadaisical work ethic. I just don’t get it.

When I discovered she wasn’t going to work today, I silently fumed. I’ve been telling myself to chill out because after a year of doing so little that it would take a while for her to find her footing. When she worked last year, she was a dedicated, reliable and a strong team player. Now, not so much. And, right or wrong, it’s driving me absolutely nuts.

I take a lot of pride in my work ethic. I routinely pull 50+ hour weeks; I cram as much as I can into my work day. I’m super productive. I have learned this year that my anxiety drives a lot of this behavior, which isn’t good, but somehow I make it work. Motherhood changed my work and career priorities a lot; it was wonderful to pull back and find self-worth in mothering. These last couple of years, I’ve been able to dive back into work, and I hopefully set an example for discipline and productivity.

Yeah…that doesn’t seem to be the case though, and honestly I seethe because of it. I want Hope to be successful at whatever it is she is going to do. For me success is 80% hard work and 20% luck. I’m not sure what equation Hope uses in terms of success or even if she’s thought that far. I just know that her approach, such that it is because I do not think it is planned or thought out, is just to float.

This is driving me nuts and I’m fully aware that ultimately it’s my issue. Hope is going to do what she’s going to do–or not.

As calmly as I could, I told Hope about the possibility of self-sabotage, and I got a blank stare. I told her the truth that I was disappointed to see her calling out twice in as many weeks for no clear reason. I also told her that how I feel about how she handles her employment is my issue and I’ll have to work on it, but it really is triggering me (that’s an understatement–I’m really emotional about it). I also told her I loved her. I also retired to my room because my own emotions–however illegitimate they might be–are real and I was really struggling with how to engage in healthy ways.

The idea that I need to withdraw because I know I can’t manage my emotions seemed to get to her. It doesn’t change her behavior though, so I’m still in my room with Yappy, noshing on cookies and writing about my parenting emotional hangups.

I know that Hope will get it together one day, not today but one day. I know that; I believe that. For now, I just need to get a handle on my expectations, my emotions and my own dreams for Hope. She’s got to find her own way, in her own time. I desperately want so much for her and I’ve done as much as I can to smooth a path for her, and that’s it. It is up to her.

So these feelings and all that underpin them are my issues. I’ve got a lot of stuff to talk to my therapist about because I can’t stand feeling this stuff. It’s not healthy, and it’s probably not fair.

Parenting is hard.


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.


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. 


I’m Proud of Her

As I mentioned in a previous post, Hope is working two jobs this summer. Once it became clear that summer school wasn’t going to happen, I made it clear that Hope had to get a job. I remember that she sat right down on the couch that morning and filled out nearly 10 applications.

She had a job within 48 hours, and within two weeks she had a second job.

Honestly, I was surprised. In previous years, Hope had applied for jobs and never had any luck. I would repeatedly ask her if she needed help filling out applications. She didn’t. I asked her to call to follow up. I told her she might have to really put forth more effort, be eager, be hungry for the job.

It never worked out, and honestly, I doubted her. Worse, I made sure that she knew I didn’t quite believe she put in all the effort she did.

I have since apologized to my daughter because I was so absurdly wrong and I made things hard for her. Her penchant for laying around in her pjs in a messy room reeked of laziness to me. I felt like she had a lack of drive. I rode her about her schoolwork, her grades, her room and her inability to find a job.

And I sit around and wonder why she struggles so much with depression.

Now, I do want Hope to work hard; I want her to have a strong work ethic. I want her to understand what it takes to make it in this world and to be able to support yourself and have nice things. In the last 4 months, Hope has had a front row seat at watching me work. Why my work isn’t physical, the number of zoom meetings I have a day can be exhausting, and I don’t get a lot of work actually “done” on those days. Occasionally she pops out of her room to join me for tea and coffee, to ask how many meetings I have for the day or to ask when I get to stop working. One night last week I was working until 9pm.

What I’ve learned in these last few weeks of Hope’s employment is that Hope has a strong work ethic. She probably has always had a strong work ethic. She works differently from me; it doesn’t look the same and my own biases around what it should look like made me believe my daughter wasn’t trying.

Gosh, I have so many regrets.

Hope has taught me some valuable lessons about understanding her. I know she has always struggled with school, but I understand that she was working hard to keep up. I realize that despite her social anxiety she puts herself out there a lot to try to connect with people. I realize just how kind she is; her second week of working she was recognized for how many compliments from customers she received. I have begged her to use tools to help keep her ADHD in check; I see now that they didn’t click for her until she figured out the best tools for her.

Hope will be a sophomore in college in just 2 months, and I feel like I’m seeing her as a real young adult for the first time. I would like to think I taught her loads, but I am conscious of the ways in which I made things more difficult for her. That makes me incredibly sad and angry with myself.

I tell Hope I’m proud of her every day.

And every day she asks me why I keep telling her.

I tell her that I have always been proud of her, but she has shown me that she is so much more than I thought she was in this moment. She’s juggling jobs. She picks up groceries. She’s proud of her savings. She puts gas in the car, and she offers to run other errands. We talk about science and politics and history and trap music and she’s knows all the things. I’m actually starting to feel old around her.

She just needed this opportunity to prove herself to herself.  

These months at home, I see my daughter through new eyes. I know she will be ok.

Hope’s college is planning to resume in-person classes this fall. I never thought I’d say that I hope they change their mind so that she can stay a little longer. Of course, I’m worried about COVID-19; I worry that with such a tiny campus (700 students) that one case can easily create a major outbreak, especially with the dorms. Add to that the school is in a town with another university where the leadership believes that COVID-19 is a hoax, and you’ve got one worried mom.

But the real reason I wouldn’t mind a few more months with my daughter is because I know that I will miss her terribly when she goes back. When I think of her returning to school, I get those early empty nest feelings all over again. I also don’t want to lose watching her mature into this formidable young woman right before my eyes. I’m super conscious that when she returns to campus, the times I see her after that will make it seem like she’s really changing so much faster. I want to see it in real time and up close.

But I know that’s not how these things work. She might be here, she might not. She may keep working; she might not. It’s really all a crap shoot right now and I don’t have control over any of it. I’m just going to have to ride the wave and see what happens.

What I do know is that Hope is really blossoming into this really cool person—she was already cool, but this is different. I’m starting to see glimpses of her future. It’s not perfect, but it is good. I think I can worry less. I think I my parenting can really switch to coaching. I know I can believe her and really believe in her.

I’m so very proud of her, and I’m glad and appreciative of the grace Hope has shown me over the years. I’m realizing that I got a lot more grace that I ever realized.


4 Things

What are 4 things I’m grateful for in the context of adoptive parenting?

One of the questions people tend to ask folks on the cusp of becoming parents is, “Are you ready?” Usually the question is surrounded by a bit of levity, maybe even said in a joking matter with a wagging of eyebrows for effect.

I remember folks asking me and my response was always deadpan: Hell no, but I’m doing it anyway.

Of course, stepping into parenthood is beautiful and all, but it’s hard. It’s exhausting and expensive and discombobulating.

And largely wonderful, even if it is punctuated by many less wonderful experiences.

In the grand scheme of things, my parenting journey has been good. Some would even say that it has been relatively easy for a family coping with the long-term effects of trauma and grief. I don’t disagree with that, but yes, it has been challenging.

And there have been times when I felt like parenting broke me.

Since becoming a parent, I have had to have several increases in anti-depression and anti-anxiety medications—so I’m now taking two meds at true therapeutic doses. I’ve had to resume intensive therapy to help deal with my own mental health during these years. I’ve survived but it’s taught me a lot about myself, my limits and my coping mechanisms.

There has been a lot of growth during these years for me and Hope.

So, what are the things I’m most grateful for in the context of parenting?

  • My primary care physician. Dr. G has been my doctor for 21 years. He’s rocked with me through major health challenges, weight gains and losses, cancer screenings, preventive health you name it. I remember when I had to take the form to him to give me a clean bill of health to share with my adoption agency, he was so kind to me. He and the entire staff have always been so supportive. He’s been fantastic with Hope. He’s patient and considerate. He gives sage advice and counsel without judgment.

I realized recently just how much I adore him and how he has supported Hope and I through this journey when he went out of medical leave and I legit panicked that he might not come back. Dr. G has been there rocking with us since the beginning and I’m so grateful.

  • I’m grateful for the grace Hope’s family has shown me. Every holiday we get two cards in the same envelope sent by Hope’s biological grandmother. The big card is for Hope and the little card is for me. It’s so thoughtful.

These last few years, Hope has not had a lot of contact with her family. This has been her choice. I encourage her reaching out, but I don’t push it. I understand why it hard for Hope, and I know that her reticence to maintain contact has been painful for her family. I’ve often worried that they thought it was me blocking contact; they have kindly reassured me that they know that I’m not. I try to send letters, lots of pictures and updates on how she’s doing. I feel a real pain in my heart knowing and seeing this estrangement and not being able to smooth it over. I’m a fixer, so I want it to work out.

I don’t know what the future of the relationship will be, but I’m so grateful that they have been kind to me and have welcomed me into their homes and hearts. They are wonderful people, and I’m grateful for them and what they’ve brought to my life.

  • I’m grateful for this this goofball, Yappy, and his predecessor, The Furry One.

Yappy

Image may contain: dog

The Furry One

When Hope moved in, I was doggy mom The Furry One. I’d had him since he was 8 weeks old and he was closing in on 15. Most of my truly adult life I’d had this dog.

The expansion of our dynamic duo to a trippy trio was very hard for The Furry One. He was old, delightfully grouchy and still forever my sweet baby. He passed away about 7 months after Hope’s arrival, and I was devastated.

My grief was overwhelming. For months I couldn’t look at another fluffy white dog without bursting into tears. I know my grief was magnified because Hope and I were headlong into beginning to really cope with challenging behaviors, mental health issues and more. I was also still trying to integrate my new realities with my career. I was a mess.

It took me a long time to realize that The Furry One had a long life and his last gift was his affection during a really hard transition.

About 4 months later, we got Yappy through a Craigslist ad and I’ve been hopelessly in love ever since. Yappy is seriously the cheeriest dog I’ve come across in a long time.

He is super social and affectionate. He loves people so much that I rarely take him to the dog park because all he does after his business is lap surf all the other dog owners sitting on benches. He is my constant companion, snuggle buddy and wordless cheerleader. He looks at me like I hung the moon and the stars.

Sure he has severe separation anxiety, but hey, he ADORES me unconditionally.

I’m grateful.

  • I’m grateful for my sisters. I have amazing siblings. We are close, very close. We love hard, and we try to show our love constantly in our support for one another. We each have our own ways and love languages, but we are always there for each other. My sisters have been unwavering in their support of me and Hope. They’ve listened to me cry. They’ve been there to celebrate. They’ve sent gifts. They hosted overnights. They shopped with us and for us. They’ve been the best aunties ever. We’ve always rode hard for each other, but during this chapter of our lives, it’s been amazing. And I’m grateful beyond measure.

Of course there are many, many other things for which I’m grateful. There have been so many people along the way who have touched my life, helped me be a better parent and helped me get myself together. It is more grace than I deserve. It is humbling and beautiful. So I’m sending a big thank you to the universe for so much on this journey.


Unlearning Things

Fall used to be my busiest time of the year, but these days have me gallivanting all over the place all dang year.

And you know what?

It is exhausting!

I haven’t been on this kind of grind in nearly 10 years, and I definitively know that I did not miss this pace. And did I mention I’m 10 years older now? I mean, I’m still fly, but it’s still a whole arse decade!

Anyhoo, I’m launching into a month of travel with a legit vacation wedged in there around week 3. #costarica

Because of this grueling schedule, I’m suffering from some major writer’s block, aka “productivity exhaustion.”

So, all of that to say, I’m using some writer’s prompts to help me keep writing through the layovers.

This post is about the things I had to unlearn on my parenting journey with Hope.

There were a lot of things I had to “unlearn.”

Like a lot.

A lot a lot.

Ok, here are the top 3 things I had to unlearn.

I had to unlearn my existing identity when I became a parent.

When I began my adoption journey, I was single and not even dating, about to be 40, entering my dissertation year, and about 6 months past one of the most serious health crises in my life. Up until those few months prior, I had focused primarily on my career. I enjoyed brunching with friends. I didn’t particularly enjoy dating, but I did enjoy the notion of finding my person. I had been traveling for a number of years, but still not yet to the real adventures I wanted to take on.

Life was good, but of course, something was missing.

Once I was parenting Hope, I learned quickly just how hard the self-sacrifice that parenting required was on one’s identity. Initially, it was like my life shrunk instead of expanded and I had no idea how to handle that.

I’m a contrarian by nature, and seriously sometimes I say no just because. No reason,  no rationale, for no possible reason that could make sense. There are times when saying no is so clearly not in my interest and I cannot stop myself from declining. I’ve been this way since I can remember.

This made sharing my life so stinking hard at first. I wanted Hope here, but having someone in the house after living alone for so long was super hard.

I am an overachiever. I constantly felt like a failure while parenting Hope. Initially it was when I inadvertently triggered her. Or when I felt like I made the wrong decision for her wellbeing. I thought I would make life worse for her.

I had to get to a place of really letting the old me go and rising up as something new. It was hard, but I think I finally got the hang of it. Now I’m realizing that I’m struggling to reintegrate my old identity and elements of what’s on the horizon.

I’m back into work hardcore in ways I wasn’t in recent years. It feels different. I’m reassessing what it means to have a kid in college and what does the next chapter looks like.

I’ll be 50 in a few years, and that’s a big year. I’m not immediately sure what’s on or in that horizon. It’s like I don’t even have a 5-year plan right now. I know I’ll still be working, quite probably at the same organization. I’ll be wondering what’s up with Hope. I don’t know academically or professionally what she might be doing. No idea. I don’t have a plan, but I probably should.

So now I’m learning that I’ve got to recreate myself again, somehow. I thought evolution was more linear, clearly, it’s not.

I had to unlearn my preexisting ideas about parenting.

I have loving parents who worked very hard to raise me and my sisters. I definitely do not always agree with them on many things, but I thought that they were a good parenting model.

The problem was that my parents created 3 overachieving, highly intrinsically motivated, bright, curious, minimally rebellious during the teen years women.

This meant that our standards are absurdly, and as many therapists have told me, sometimes unachievably high. We’ve surrounded ourselves with similar folks. Our friend circles are populated by some super cool, wicked smart and highly successful folks.

Hope came to me performing well in school. She’s bright. I marveled at how she had managed to endure her past and still make such good grades. I thought, “awesome, she’s bright and will continue to slay at school!”

But then the neurocognitive issues really emerged, and depression, anxiety, and PTSD all pushed their way to the front and center stage in her life.

Grades plummeted. Self-esteem plummeted.

I was flummoxed. It took me a while to figure things out, get the proper diagnoses and advocate for her. And yet with each grade…each one, I realized that nothing I was doing was actually resulting in improved academic performance.

Hope felt awful. There were definitely times when I didn’t appreciate her depression around this like I do now.

As for me, I felt disappointed on multiple levels. Why couldn’t I get Hope to do her work and do it well? I felt shame because I run with a crew who shares my love of high standards, so *of course,* they routinely asked how Hope was doing in school. I felt frustrated and low key mad all the time. Why couldn’t I fix this? Why didn’t she try harder?  Doesn’t she know what’s on the line here?

I had to unlearn all the scripts about what achievement looks like in childrearing. More than not, the achievement is raising a child who feels safe and confident. Sure, I tried to provide that for my daughter, but what that looks nothing like what I thought it would.

I knew it would be hard, but I thought it would be easier. Not looking for any credit or criticism; I thought my logical outlook would get me through parenting. Ha!

As I’ve unlearned my preconceived notions of parenting; I’d learned that there is nothing logical about 90% of parenting.

It is all magic though.

I had to unlearn a bunch of stuff I thought I knew about loss.

I realized through parenting Hope, that I needed to recalibrate how I thought about loss. I don’t mean to suggest that there’s a loss Olympics—there isn’t. Folks feel what they feel.

I definitely have had my struggles over the course of these 47 years. But real talk; the losses I’ve endured and the hurts I’ve survived though deeply impactful to me are radically different than what my daughter has experienced.

I thought I new loss and grief. I thought I understood the emotional burden therein. I thought I got it.

I wasn’t even close to getting it.

I’m very privileged when it comes to loss in the grand scheme of things. Meanwhile, Hope can practically tell me dates of those moments in her pre-adoptive life where she felt small, out of control, grief-stricken and more. I didn’t save her from those moments. She lives with those moments daily still.

Getting over and around loss and grief is enormously challenging. Of course, folks do it all the time, but it’s hard work for many of us. I had to realize that I had a lot of impractical mythology around loss. I had to set about to unlearning that stuff and replacing it with knowledge and strategies to help Hope and me work through huge emotional stuff on this journey.

I’m grateful for the notion of “unlearning.” I’m still learning and unlearning stuff. It’s a routine with no end in sight.


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