Tag Archives: Adoption Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned #8741

I haven’t officially written about lessons learned while parenting through adoption in many moons. As I sit in a hotel in Michigan this morning I realize that I really learned some cool things in the last few days.


Business travel is a form of respite. This isn’t really a new lesson, as much as I really need a reminder sometimes. Hope and I actually get along much better when I travel at least once a month for work. It can be such a hassle getting everything in place to go away without a bunch of worry. She’s also a little older now and when I leave she tends to step up a bit more. Seriously, just being in a hotel where I can leave my clothes on the floor (something I don’t do at home) is simply indulgent. Even room service—wow, someone brings me food without kvetching about it. The validation I get after a lecture or a meeting; that’s something I don’t get at home much, so the ego stroke is super nice. I’ve been on the road for 5 of the last 7 days and it’s been marvelous.

Travel also gives me perspective, which is essential.  Back during the first year to 18 months, Hope and I would video chat while I was away. It was fun since we would also download apps that would allow us to draw on each other’s faces and make funny noises and everything. And then, one day, she didn’t want to anymore.

I was sad. I was kinda hurt too.

Every time I head out of town, I ask, “Hey you want to video chat while I’m away?”


When I was leaving on Friday last week, she said, “Dang mom, you’re coming back!”

It was like a light bulb went off.

Hope knows I’m coming back. She believes I’m coming back. She’s secure in knowing I’m coming back. She doesn’t need to see me, sometimes acts like she doesn’t even need to talk to me, while I’m away, because my daughter who was afraid of being deserted knows I’m coming back.

I smiled because that’s probably the biggest positive development ever—she feels safe, even when I get on her nerves, even when we bicker, even when we yell, even when it all falls down around us, she knows I got her.

I am overwhelmed in trying to figure out how to handle all of this education stuff.  It’s not that I don’t know how; I’m so fortunate to work in education and to have some street cred with the whole doctorate. It’s really that I’m swimming in information. I’ve been doing a lot of reading, a lot of research, trying to figure out strategies might help us, what might help click some things into the right place. Trying to get a plan together is exhausting—who knows what will work.

I’m still not good at patience; I’m still not all that great with figuring out long games versus short wins. I’m still developing those skills, I guess.

Tomorrow I’ll get the latest psychologist report back and start that planning process all over again.

Hope use to groan about all of the appointments and conversations; she doesn’t anymore and I know it’s because she also wants to believe we can figure this life knot out and help try to smooth her path a bit.

I want to believe it too.

Yappy is turning into one of the great loves of my life.  I honestly didn’t think I was capable of loving a pup again the way I loved The Furry One, but my terror of a terrier has wormed his way into my heart. He really is a comforting critter when things are hard, and his attachment to me…it’s probably unhealthy, but gosh, I love that he loves me more. It ain’t right, but it’s real.

You could not pay me to be a teenager again.  I remember these years—they are coming back to me because really, I had banished it from my memory—these years kinda sucked. I mean, there were some awesome times with my best girlfriends and all the football games, the sports I played, the fellas I pined after and/or dated. But the insecurity, the hormone swings, the drama, so much drama. The boys and what I liked about them and what made me dislike them.

Over dinner out this evening, Hope was telling me about some boy in her band section that she must’ve had a 15 minute crush on. She went on to say how the crush abruptly ended when she saw him sleeping ugly on the charter bus on the spring band trip.

What, that’s it? That’s all he did?  He slept ugly?

Yep, that’s what did him in.

I start scrolling through my phone pics, “You mean like this one? Or this one? Or what about this one?”{all pics of Hope sleeping less than ‘pretty’.}


I’m also reliving a good portion of this developmental phase because Hope loves to talk. Now, I’m incredibly grateful that she does talk to me and that she wants to talk to me, but some of this ish is so utterly ridiculous that I actually feel precious brain cells slipping away.

It is hard feigning interest after say, the first 45 minutes of really trying to follow along.

Dear Holy Homeboy, help us all. Teenager-dom is hard work. Hard, hard work that is sucking my brain through a small, painful straw.


So, the lessons are always coming, even when I don’t write about them! We are on the upswing and this time apart is giving us both an opportunity to breathe, think and reflect.

New Car, New Chapter

Yesterday I bought an SUV.

Other than the exterior color, it’s really amazing. It’s fully loaded and pretty lux. But the truth is that while I am happy about the new car, and new car smell and all of that, I kinda hate my new car.

Or rather, I hate what it represents, which is another piece of pre-Hope identity kicked to the wayside.


In recent months I’ve really embraced motherhood and really tried to meet Hope where she is. We both have benefited from this effort.

But there’s something about this car purchase that sits on me like a giant thud.

Yesterday morning I was the owner (free and clear by the way) of an adorable little red Mini Cooper that I called, the Chili Pepper. “Chili” was my dream car. I’d wanted a Mini for years, but really never thought I’d get one. I’d had a sports car right out of college and then I had a cute sporty wagon. So when I started my doctoral program, I took the plunge and headed to the Mini dealership, where I fell in love with Chili.


I loved that car. Me and Chili had seen a good chunk of the east coast. Like all of my previous cars she was a stick shift. and I loved the handling and the power this little car channeled. She was distinctive with her little personalized plates. People would walk by Chili and  smile. People would ride in Chili and marvel at just how awesome she was. When Hope moved here, my ownership of Chili was definitely an indicator of my potential “coolness.” She was different.  Did I mention that I loved her?

I owned Chili for 5 years, almost to the day. Her warranties were just about up and repairs and upkeep can be pricey on Minis.  She’d just endured a repair that would’ve been about $6K but for the fact that it was covered under the warranty.

Then there was Hope’s instrument; she plays a tenor sax. The dang thing took up the whole boot trunk. If I ever offered another band kid a ride they couldn’t be from the low brass or percussion sections, that’s for sure. And Hope plans to take guitar lessons this year so there’s really a need for more room.

Finally, there’s the trip to Boston and Martha’s Vineyard of 2015. I had to get a roof bag to accommodate all of the luggage. We stayed at the sexy Boston W hotel for a few days, and when we drove up, we looked like the Beverly Hillbillies traveling in a clown car. It worked, but it was clear that it wasn’t optimal and that something was going to have to change. I was simply too cute to look like a traveling vagabond on vacation. The faces of the uber hot valets when they saw up pull up invoked all kinds of shame.


So yesterday, I cleaned Chili out and sold her out for an SUV—a Nissan Rogue. It’s gray, which I hate, but it is what it is since the deal was just something I couldn’t walk away from.

So, what’s the rub?

Losing Chili for a much needed family car is another way my life has changed since becoming a mom. It was the end of another chapter. It was another thing I gave up for the good of my family.


I don’t regret it, but I’m so sad, so so sad. I’m all in my feels. Cause I’m a wee bit selfish and petty.

I knew trading Chili in would be hard for me, but I teared up as I stood in CarMax, looking at her one last time, reminiscing about our good times and how I was sad to close this chapter on my pre-Hope single, footloose and fancy free life.


Since then, I’ll admit that I’ve had two all out snot-riddled sobbing sessions since coming home with the new car.


Grief is a beeotch and it hits you in the worst ways at the worst times.

I know it’s not about the car; it really is about what the car represents.

Now, instead of this distinctive cute car, I’ve got a great car that is just like everyone else’s great and reasonable car. . Heck I’ve already tried to break into two other cars like it while shopping ,and it’s not been quite 24 hours since I signed the papers.

I always knew where Chili was in a parking lot. <snif>

And did I mention that Hope is unimpressed?  The source of disinterest in part stems from the fact that I deviated from my intended purchase plan.  In essence, she’s salty because I didn’t buy the car I originally intended to test drive and purchase and plan changes generally don’t make her feel safe. So, there’s all that drama left to unpack too.


The new car is new and different in a cool way, but it’s another change, it’s another accommodation required of this life, that frankly I didn’t give a lot of thought about until about 6 months ago. Another naive parenting pothole for me, I guess.

I will fall in love with the new car. It will get a name and develop a personality, and I will learn to find her in the parking lot.  In time the new car will allow me to cart Hope and some friends around, take her to summer band camp and maybe even take her away to college. This will be a great chapter. I know it will.

And in time, I will be able to remember Chili and our time together and not be sad. I’ll remember it for what it is—a chapter in this life—and I will think about when I’ll be able to get another Mini. It will happen, and we’ll all be happy.

Until then, I’m a bit sappy about this required change.

Hopefulness in 2015

I’m glad that 2015 is coming to a close. It’s been a good, but tough year, and these last few months have left me feeling emotionally spent.

I have changed a lot this year. I’ve learned a lot about myself. I have developed better skills in a number of areas. I’m aware of shortcomings and areas I need to work on, even if I haven’t really begun the process of working on them.

It’s easy when you are going through a reflective period to pick yourself apart as you examine all your faults.

I have spent many hours replaying things in my mind, heavy sighing and shaking my head as I contend with my shortcomings and perceived failures. I often feel like I’m failing at this mother thing; I am realizing that all parents wish they were doing better, even if what they are doing is their best.

I spend hours replaying how I might’ve kept my temper and my mouth in better check with Hope as we’ve head butted worse than a couple of rams in the last few months.

I’ve mourned the life I envisioned and at times discounted the life I have because sometimes it’s just…hard.

I haven’t acknowledged how I have pulled together a support circle, instead of still sitting around waiting for validation from individuals from whom it may never come.

I’ve focused at lot on the struggle rather than the triumphs, and there have been triumphs. I put together our holiday video card during the last week and I had a grand time picking out pictures for the montage. There were definitely triumphs.

I’ve seen my daughter start to grow socially.

I’ve been able to keep a level head and not freak out when things reached critical points.

I kicked arse at work this year.

I focused less on weight and more on health.

I made time for fun.

I improved on my ability to let anger go more quickly.

Nothing major fell through the cracks.

I sustained a healthy, loving relationship with Elihu, and he and Hope finally met, allowing me the ability to integrate bits of my life together.

I activity sought help when I needed it.

Moment to moment, I did my best, even if it wasn’t *the* best for the situation.

I did ok this year.

And I’m hopeful for next year.

I’m hopeful that I will be a better person and a better mom.

I hope that Hope and I will work through our attachment issues that threaten us both so much.

I’m hopeful that I can continue to marshal the resources to help Hope be her best self.

I’m hopeful that Yappy will get over his separation anxiety.

I’m hopeful that my confidence in my home life begins to mirror my confidence at work.

I’m hopeful that maybe Hope and I can get a little closer to the visions that we had for mother and daughter.

I’m hopeful that I will focus more on triumphs and less on failures.

I’m hopeful for just…better.

And it will be better.


Ahhhhh, this week has been…good.

Sometimes I find myself crawling to Friday evenings. I’m tired, worn out and emotionally drained. This week, I’m happy to report, I only felt tired and worn out.

I wasn’t emotionally drained!  In fact there were many more moments this weekend when I thought, “THIS is what I thought life would be like as a mom!!”

I haven’t had a week like this in a while. I needed it. Hope needed it.

Ahhhhh. Inhale…exhale.

So what was different about this week?

I colored. I colored a lot. It really is meditative; it is calming and my tolerance for everything is a bit higher when I color. Of course, I’m coloring so much that I’m worried about my healing hand…repetitive movements are probably not all that great post-op for carpal tunnel. #whatever


I was in bed by 10, 10:30 at the latest. Sleep is restorative, and Yappy is a precious cuddle bug.

I worked out everyday. Fitbit challenges have me going hard daily! I’m hitting 5-6 miles of steps a day.  That’s definitely contributed to good headspace.

I felt good after seeing friends and family over Thanksgiving.

I realized that I’m not alone on this journey.

Hope and I stayed away from meat this week after she announced her desire to go vegetarian recently. I didn’t eat much meat before Hope came along, so two years of hardcore carnivorous behavior has wreaked havoc on my body. ABM’s bod was much happier being more plant based and Hope LOVED my veggie cooking.

And finally Hope, Yappy and I had quality, real bonding quality time this weekend.


Family movie night featured Max. Yappy is a fan. 

For once, I took care of myself and committed to meeting my own needs. know that every week won’t be like this, but dang it; I feel like a new person. It’s a powerful reminder that we parents need to practice routine self-care. The absolute bonus was getting a peek at the life I aspire to; it was totally dope!

The other bonus I discovered was that Hope’s behavior was dramatically different after pulling back on the meat. I hope that it continues; I hope it’s sustainable. It was dramatic. She was more focused, more thoughtful, more motivated about school. She was a bit more mellow. Hell, we may never eat meat again! (Hahahahah, just joking, I like bacon way too much.)

One of our weekend movie nights was Inside Out; I wish I’d gone to see it in the theater. If you have or know an adolescent and have any curiosity about the mayhem going on inside their heads emotionally, this is the movie for you. Today we talked a bit about how Hope felt when she moved here to be with me, when she started a new school and just day to day emotional upheaval. Being a teen ain’t easy; being a teen who’s a former long-term foster kid, now adoptee ain’t a walk in the park either. I can’t pretend to get it, but I feel a little closer to getting it and that’s important.

I’m optimistic. I’m going to keep plugging away and hoping that things will settle down for a little while.  It’s nice to have a little less drama during a time known for lots of it.


The Privilege of Attachment

I never once thought about my attachment to my family. It never occurred to me that there was a word for the inherent trust I felt that they would take care of me. It never occurred to me that there was a word for our mutual affection. It never once occurred to me that the unspoken elements of our relationship even needed a descriptive word.

I know now how privileged I was, and am, to have that experience.

Wikipedia defines privilege as “the sociological concept that some groups of people have advantages relative to other groups. The term is commonly used in the context of social inequality, particularly with regards to social class, race, age, sexual orientation, gender, and disability.”

I’ve written about social privilege before, as well as other social diversity dimensions I’ve tripped over on my adoption journey. Chalk attachment up as another privilege of intact biological families that are, at least, reasonably functional.

I now know what it is like to not have the privilege of attachment with my daughter. I mean, we’re working on it and I would say we are more attached than not. But oy, it is tough.

I can’t and wouldn’t speak for Hope, but the range of emotions I feel as I try to form a healthy attachment with my daughter are powerful, overwhelming and, honestly, often unpleasant. When it gets rough, which it has been lately, I spend a lot of time willing myself not to miss my pre-Hope life, willing myself not to be resentful, willing myself not to just practice avoidance. I often have to force myself to spend even more time with my daughter because I know that’s what she needs even though none of my emotional needs will be met…not one.  I have to swallow my feelings when my feelings are hurt because our attachments are weak and because, as a teen, Hope’s narcissism game is real. A lot of the time, I feel emotionally starved.

Dang. Yappy and I have a stronger attachment, I think. Well, I know he does…#separationanxiety.

I cry. A lot. I go for walks. A lot. I cuddle with Yappy. I go to therapy…more frequently than we go to family therapy.

I try to check my emotions. I try to curb my anger. I try to hold back my tears, because well, when my emotions betray me and Hope sees the outburst, it only serves to push her further away. I actually find that honest emotion from me that is not anything but sparkles and rainbows is detrimental to our relationship. That is an enormous burden to shoulder; it’s heavy and it’s painful.

At nearly 43, I can still sit on the couch with my mom or dad and curl up and put my head on their shoulders or lap and feel loved and safe. Hope doesn’t and won’t do that. It is like she can’t, not just that she won’t. It is so painfully rare for her to just run up and hug me, a long, lingering hug. Those moments are so incredibly precious. I don’t want them to end because at least for that moment, I’m really mom and I can save her world. I feel like my mothering is making a difference. Those moments are rare.

Don’t get me wrong, we have come so very far on our journey. The reality though is that we struggle with attachment. We don’t enjoy that privilege. It is something we are fighting for; something I know we both want even if we can’t always articulate it. But it really is something that we don’t have in large supply.

I am hopeful that we’ll get there. In the grand scheme we haven’t been at this mom-daughter thing very long. We’re not even 2 years old yet. We’re barely toddlers. It is a journey. Wishing for a speedier process is like being 7 and wishing I could get a driver’s license. Not going to happen.

I am thankful for how far we have come, but I can’t help wishing that we were able to move things along and that both of us, me and Hope, could make and sustain the emotional connection that we both desperately long for. I think that is probably my greatest wish as I begin considering my wishes for 2016.

When Your Kid has a Friend

I am chilling on my couch, trying to ignore a really loud clarinet and tenor saxophone. I am so delighted; this is the first time Hope has ever had a friend over.

Eighteen months and no one has been over to the house…until today.

It’s nice to see Hope with a friend finally close enough to come over. I’ve been really worried about her social interactions the last few months. I wrote about the emotional issues with which we struggle recently. I worry a lot about her ability to cultivate and sustain age appropriate friendships.

We might have finally done it.

*And* the instruments are starting to sound like they are making music!!! #Bonus

And now that there’s a friend is over I am learning how this frees up your time. #Bonusx2

  • The girls are so excited to hang out that I got first dibs on the pizza!
  • I ate alone and thus added a glass of wine to my dinner.
  • I got to eat early for a change. Hope hates eating before 7pm and I know that figures into my weight gain (ok, well, so does the pizza).
  • Other than the instruments, it’s quiet. It’s almost like I’m…dare I say…alone! #doeshappydance
  • I have time to scheme to see if I can get this kid to invite Hope over to her house next week.

Oh, this friend thing is glorious! Why didn’t anyone tell me?

I have visions of dropping the girls off at the movie theater at some point or hosting a sleepover!

Or better yet…dropping Hope off at a sleepover.

This is so exciting.

This is another developmental milestone for us, and I am so friggin’ excited!!



The number 7 is a special number.

Seven is a prime number, and prime numbers are just cool.

There are 7 deadly sins, 7 days of the week, 7 hills in Rome, 7 colors of the rainbow, and 7 major oceans.

There’s 7-11, where I get my Slurpees nearly every day of the summer

There were 7 loaves used by the Holy Homeboy to feed the multitudes; the Holy Homeboy is said to have said 7 things while on the cross.

In Judaism there are 7 days of morning. In Islam there are 7 heavens. In Egyptology 7 is symbolic for eternity.

Seven is considered a number of completion. Seven is a perfect number, a symbol of divine abundance, a symbol of totality.

The number 7 is a special number.

It is also Hope’s emotional age. And as a reminder, Hope’s chronological age is now 14.

I often have to remind myself that 7 is a cool number with so much symbolism. I sometimes find the symbolism in stark contrast to my reality.

The distance between Hope’s emotional age and her chronological age frustrates me. I willfully forget it exists sometimes despite the constant reminders. I have expectations of Hope’s behavior and emotional abilities sometimes that aren’t fair to her emotional age. I struggle with museum visits that take all day because she is catching up on experiences she should have been having 7-10 years ago, but didn’t. I lose patience with her inability to “act” 14 consistently.

Then there are times when I remember that I originally thought I would adopt a child much younger than Hope, a child who might be between the ages of 7 and 10, perhaps. The irony that I get the experience of parenting a child who’s emotional age is in that range is not lost on me. I’ve read stories to Hope at night. We’ve been to a petting zoo, to children museums, to touch ponds…all experiences I know she missed when she was that age. I know that I’m trying to create those experiences for her because she is entitled to them, and she actually needs them, even if her body is much older than her mind.

I have to force myself to remember that seven is a special age. One of my sisters thought she would marry Luke Skywalker when she turned 7; she also thought that she would get her driver’s license at 7. At 7, I remember having one of my very first crushes but when the boy congratulated me on the birth of my youngest sister with a kiss on the cheek, I hauled off and hit him. I was totally in love. My little cousin is currently 7 and she is a delight; the things she says and does are so funny. Seven is such a precious age.

But it doesn’t seem as precious when 7 is housed within 14. At times it actually feels like it is: numerically half the fun. How’s this for fun…I’m 42. I am 6 times Hope’s emotional age…instead of just 3 times Hope’s chronological age.

Yeah, Hope and I are just factors of 7.

I remember reading somewhere that because 7 is the number of completion, the number 8 represents new beginnings and renewal.

I need us to get to number 8. That is my new goal, to get to 8. I can’t even say I remember the substantive differences between 7 and 8, but I know it will be closer to 14. That’s important to me right now.

I know that one day, Hope will catch up. It takes time, which is the one thing I don’t feel like I have sometimes. But time is the one thing she needs to make it happen.

I need that new beginning for her. I need the renewal for me.

I am so over 7.

Fighting Depression

I’ve really struggled the last few months. It’s easy to look for external triggers for the struggle.

Spring blossomed and things that fly…well they started flying again, triggering Hope’s bug phobia. The schedule was crazy. We initiated a medication change for her that we were getting used to. Her anxiety was running high because of a general fear about high school. We’ve been dealing with a lengthy resolution to a criminal case in which Hope was a victim. Work has been insane, and I’m being heavily pursued for a new gig in another state. Yappy had puppy school every week at 8pm.

All the external stuff was really, really extra, and I spent a lot of time focused on it all because it all demanded my attention.

Oh and then I was just generally upset by the constant issues and images of Black folk trying to live and being impeded from doing so.

On a Monday a few weeks ago, I found myself crying and I couldn’t stop. I mean I just could not stop crying.

I was sad.

I was in a state of despair.

I wanted to just lay in the bed; getting up felt like it took all of the energy I had.

I found joy in nothing.

I was always irritable and snappy, and Hope was increasingly reacting to my bad moods which just made our relationship that much more strained.

I felt like a dark cloud was just hanging over me.


via giphy


I finally made an appointment with my internist, who sat back in his chair and let me cry and sob for 15 minutes. Then, he handed me his handkerchief and started talking about the need for medication to help me get myself together.

I was anxious and depressed—not just sad, but clinically sad. Somewhere along the way I fell off a cliff and was just free falling, and I didn’t realize it.


via giphy


Depression is an effed up thing. I have struggled with it off and on for years. Usually I can see it coming, this time I didn’t. It makes me sad because it’s another sign that I haven’t done my best at self-care, but more concerning is that my depression had a chilling effect on Hope. I regret that. Not in a way that I’m beating myself up over, but I still regret it because it’s another little thing I need to bounce back from.

Resiliency is still an issue for me.

Parenting is a tough business. Parenting a child who has experienced trauma is…especially tough. Sometimes it feels like you’re just looking for puzzle pieces in the dark. You need the pieces to help put the kid back together, but you’re looking for them with no flashlight.


It’s kind of easy for the dark to consume you when you don’t even have a flashlight.

Beating back the darkness is actually the most important thing right now; actually it is more important than getting the parenting thing just right. Fighting the darkness is essential to both my and Hope’s survival.

It’s been a few weeks since I hit that low spot. I’m feeling much better now. I’m on the mend, on the upswing, if you will. Pharmaceutical help is a beautiful thing. It’s unfortunate that dealing with mental and emotional issues is a taboo thing in communities of color. If you need help, get it. I could sit around and do that “strong Black woman” thing, but Hope and I would both continue to suffer. I think getting help is a better demonstration of strength.

So that’s what’s up. I tripped and fell into a bit of a hole. I am fighting depression. But I’m climbing out and stepping back into the sunlight. And it feels good.

Finding a House

So after the fiasco that culminated in leaving my previous house of worship, I just took some time off from church. At first I applied a lot of pressure to myself to find a place that would hopefully offer Hope and me a place to fit. Aunty Therapist convinced me to just take some time off; she was right.

It gave me a little time to breathe.

A couple of weeks ago, I visited the neighborhood Unitarian church. I was intrigued by and attracted to the progressiveness, the commitment to social justice, the inclusiveness of believers. It all seemed to suggest that it might be a nice place to visit and to try out.

So, Hope and I get there and…we diversified the church by a factor of 200. I mean, I was looking for diversity, but I didn’t want to exclusively be “the” diversity. Also, the congregants were…older, a lot older.

And I struggled with the service. I was raised Christian; I identify strongly as Christian even though I believe a lot of other things that many folks believe are counter to Christianity. I have never been in an organized place of worship where I could also be open about all the other stuff. I also missed the routine of a more traditional Christian-oriented service. I like it; I know what to expect and generally what kinds of things I’m going to hear. So, despite being curious and interested, I found myself overwhelmed by being in a new space and not knowing anyone, overwhelmed by the service being so different, overwhelmed by my being so different than the other congregants. People were very nice, but it really didn’t feel like…I just didn’t think this was home.

And so then we didn’t go back.

Until this yesterday; off we went to the 10am service to try again.

Hope nearly shut down when I announced that she was expected to go to the Religious Education class today. I sensed her anxiety and yet I pushed her off anyway; we were really going to give this Unitarian church thing a chance.

So, the service…yeah, I’m still not connecting the way I would like to, but ok. It was nice, really nice, but just really different. While having snacks after the service I chatted up an older couple who joined the church about five years ago. I had my little visitor tag on and shared what I was kind of looking for and how I was also a little anxious about how Hope fared in the RE class. I shared that we were an adoptive family.

The gentleman smiled and shared that he was adopted many, many years ago.

I smiled. We smiled. And I got the sense that he got me and that he appreciated that I was looking for something for me and Hope that I still struggle with articulating after the drama of our last church.

I breathed, and I smiled again.

And then Hope breezed by, casually saying, “Hi mom” as she headed to the snack table.

I was nearly slack jawed, staring at my usually withdrawn kiddo as she amiably chatted with other teens, giggled and perused the snacks.


Hope didn’t run to me. She didn’t cling or give me dirty looks about making her do this thing she didn’t want to do 90 minutes ago.

I just watched her. She strolled over to me confidently, bringing me a piece of cake that I didn’t ask for but secretly desired, just because she knows I like cake…a lot. It was even a corner piece because she knows I love frosting.

Who is this kid??? She brought me a piece of chocolate cake for gawd’s sake??? I thought to myself, well, this is the shock of 2015. Stunning really.

I introduced her to the folks I spent some time chatting with earlier.

And then, she asked, “Hey the kids are going to IHOP after church, can I go?”
So, clearly this Unitarian church is the church of the body snatchers because I have no idea who this kid masked in Hope’s clothing is right now. I’ve fantasized about moments like this. moments when Hope asked to ditch me in favor of hanging with peers.

The other kids breezed over and all these teen eyeballs looked at me expectantly.

And I said hells yeah sure. I told her to call me when it was time to be picked up and practically threw $20 at her. I said good bye to new people I met and I left. I totally ran bounced to the car.

I left my kid with folks I don’t even know, kids she met at church, kids she actually asked to go hang out with. In retrospect it sounds a bit irresponsible to just let her go get in someone else’s car and drive off, yet I lost, like, no seconds of sleep over the decision to do so.

OMG. Seriously, Hope asking to hang out with other kids was a fantasy come true.

And about 2 hours later she texted me to come fetch her. She went on about how the kids went to IHOP and then to Starbucks. One kid is a rising 10th grader at the school she will attend in the fall and also in the band! The young man who is the youth mentor/group leader is also an adoptee. Hope gushed about how much fun she had, how accepted she felt and how she looked forward to going to another event.

She begged to go to the game night the church is hosting for the teens in a few weeks as I picked her up. I had Yappy with me so all of the kids came out to the car talking about game night and how it would be fun.

More expectant teen eyeballs looking at me for an immediate answer.

Um, yeah, sure!

So, looks like we’ll be hanging out with the UU folks for a minute. I hope this continues to be a place of growth for Hope. I am excited for her.

I’m also excited that I might have some time to myself without paying the nanny.

Yeah! #fistpump

Lessons Learned: Vacation Edition #3

Day 3 of our French Canadian experience had me a bit moody, which isn’t the best, but I rallied.  I know Hope hates it when my moods shift so quickly; she still hasn’t gotten used to it.  The truth is neither have I.  I’ve always been this way.  What do they call it, mercurial? Yeah, that’s me.  I did have some time to really observe us and others yesterday so and of course learn.


We still have so much to learn about each other.  Hope and I have been living in the same house now for 14 months and we’re coming up on our first finalization anniversary.  And, honestly, we know each other, but we don’t know each other.  I swear it’s worse than dating!

Last night over dinner, in an effort to cheer my dreary mood, Hope suggested that we play 20 questions.

By question 3 I was cracking up at things she wanted to know: who was my crush when I was her age; what did I think my dream home would look like when I was in high school; who was my Woman Crush Wednesday back in college, before there was ever a WCW?

What brands of clothing and shoes were my favorite?  If I could be taller than 5’3” how tall would I be?

I asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up if the music thing didn’t work out; what other instrument would she play besides her tenor sax; what was the hardest thing and easiest thing about moving cross country (the weather, but we have better amusement parks).  I asked her when she thought I should let her go on her first date and what was her first impression of me.  I giggled when she asked if I was white because there aren’t a lot of black women with my name; she was relieved when she was told I was Black because she didn’t want it to be obvious that she was adopted.

The “obviousness” of adoption is a running thread with us.  We were recently asked to have our images included on our agency’s redesigned website; it took us a month to decide to say yes with limitations.  We are open about our adoption on our terms; we like blending in.

When all 40 questions were asked, we agreed to do it again today.  It was fun.

Having choice and making decisions is really hard for Hope. Oy, Hope wants all the options and I’d love for her to have them, but they lock her up like a prison.  Even choosing what flavors to have in a sorbet at the ice cream shop can turn into a major life decision because there are more than 4 options.  I had fallen out of the habit of establishing guidelines before when entered a store, but realized yesterday that in this respect Hope is very much like a 5 year old.  Don’t touch things that look breakable.  You can have 2 flavors not 4.  We will be in this shop for 10 minutes.  Having the boundaries helps her.  She told me recently that she liked the boundaries a lot; she’s shocked that some other kids don’t have the same kinds of boundaries.

I guess being a strict ogre is working out for me and her.

My lessons in social justice have taken root.  Hope already had a strong sense of justice when I met her, but who got it and why weren’t quite what I had in mind.  She seemed to really believe that being Black was limiting in ways that it isn’t.  She had no problem tossing around homophobic slurs.  The justice scales weren’t exactly balanced.

We’ve been watching coverage of the foolery in Indiana this week, in which Governor Pence signed legislation that essentially legalized discrimination based on a personal religious belief.  A bunch of foolery with wider implications than being able to say no I don’t want to make a cake for your gay wedding.

After I explained what was going down in Indiana and how it might affect my friends who live there, Hope pondered.  She chewed on that thing for hours, occasionally asking a question or two to clarify.  Over dinner she declared the law stupid.

Yep, that was my conclusion too, kid.

But she went further and asked about other states, and what about our state, and what about her friends who were bisexual or lesbian or gay?  What about them?  She made the leap that some folks might not serve non-Christians and what were those people supposed to do?  She made the leap to color and what if someone said brown and black folk weren’t of God and didn’t want to serve us?

And the wheels on the bus go round and round.

Hope wants, no needs, to memorialize everything.  I’m hoping to have a chat about being happy again today with Hope. We talked about happiness recently, and I was intrigued but sad to hear my daughter talk about happiness as not sustainable because she conceptualizes happiness as episodic and not a state of mind.

The practical way this plays out is in her picture taking.  Seriously we need to plan double time for when we go somewhere because she must take pictures of EVERYTHING.  It’s crazy how many pictures she snaps, hundreds in a day.  Even crazier, she wants me to print them ALL out so she can put them in a photo album.  I’ve tried to suggest uploads to apps like Google+ Photos, but nope, she wants to print them out. Bless her, Hope is old school to her very soul; her and this picture taking and albuming is like somebody’s grandma!

I’ve come to see her snaps as a desperate way to cling to memories, to look back at the happy episode.  She still doesn’t trust this life; she says she probably will never come here again.  I don’t know if that’s true, but she still doesn’t believe that it doesn’t have to be true.  I hope to get her to that positive thinking place about her life one day.

She takes so many pictures that I hardly take any now.


So we head back stateside tonight.  Today is lunch at the Noobox, a visit to the history museum so I can see the Greek history exhibit and a tiny bit of shopping.  Despite the exchange rate, I find Canada to be a bit pricey!

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