Tag Archives: Adoption Stress

A Setback Forward

Setbacks are hard. Actually they can be crushing.

There are always signs that a setback is imminent, but it’s easy to get somewhat complacent about life. You see the signs, rationalize that it’s not really that bad or that serious. You see the signs; you just deny that you see them at all. You see the signs, and you can’t really stop it so you just hop on the rollercoaster and hold on for dear life.

I saw signs, but I didn’t put it all together until it was too late.

Hope is really anxious about starting high school in a few weeks. She’s also struggling with romantic relationships in ways that are pretty dramatic. She’s also really wrestling with family issues. Now any of these on their own might be enough to upset the apple cart.

I was so busy tackling micro-level issues that I missed how the constellation of issues might be viewed holistically as a sure sign of imminent disaster.

On the upside, I didn’t spend a lot of time this go ‘round beating myself up about being myopic about problem solving. No time to waste doing that mind game.

On the downside, our setback was so epic in the moment of discovery that I was scared that it was going to really, really, really take Hope and I to a bad place.

The difference with this setback is that Hope told me about it on her own. And that…that’s a huge step forward. I try to be honest with her; I do. I try to kick it straight as much as possible in ways that meet the needs of the 7 year old, the 14 year old and the young adult Hope strives to be. She tells me a lot of things, as I mentioned in my post last week. I know it’s edited, but it’s still so much more than what I dreamed of sharing with my parents.

In college I really engaged in some self-destructive behaviors. It took me years to tell my parents. By comparison, Hope told me about some things she tried within 24 hours. She would not have done that a year ago or even 6 months ago. It’s really amazing in these moments to see how far we’ve come.

Yeah, in the midst of new chaos, there is still a metric for progress.

She trusts that I’ve got her back, even if I have to fight her to save her. That’s pretty cool.

In an effort to switch things up and try to alleviate pressure at home while building confidence, I have suspended the chore chart for the foreseeable future. I realized as she was telling me things about herself and things she had done recently, that she can’t handle the things I’d expected of her. It took me so long to get to this realization. I am so sorry that I really tried to make that round peg fit that square hole. Hope needs hope and success, not a spreadsheet/paystub. One day I’ll bring it back, but she simply isn’t ready.

I also realize, that she’s simply unable to manage to keep up with her room by herself. She simply can’t do it. She doesn’t know why, I don’t know why, but my moaning and groaning about laziness and messiness only sinks her into the mess more deeply.

So, I overhauled the way I manage this family, by simply giving her a list of things to do every day. The list doesn’t have much on it; there’s a couple of chores, there’s piano or sax practicing, some sentence diagramming and math worksheet activities, dog walking. The goal is to get more than half of the things done each day. Most of the activities require my engagement, adding to our daily quality time.

I have finally, after 18 months, properly calibrated my expectations to her abilities. And guess what, she is working those lists and accomplishing more every day than she ever did before this week.

I took off on Monday morning to set the house to rights, make emergency appointments and clean her room. Hope was grateful. I tossed a bunch of her stuff; nothing with deep emotional attachment, but things she was hoarding. She never once asked what I did with it. I see her working as best she can to be tidy. I can actually see the struggle, when before I just refused to see it or acknowledge that it could even exist.

Last night, we stayed up late, made brownies and ate them while watching TV. It was a treat. The control freak in me was screaming “You’re staying up tooooooo late!!!” (I imagine my control freak persona being akin to the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland.) The fun, reasonable mom in me told the control freak to hush, while telling Hope, “Let’s just watch one more episode.”

Seeing her relaxed and giggling while having peanut butter and chocolate brownies at 11pm was worth a lost hour of sleep.

The setback was scary, messy and just traumatic, but ultimately it was allowed us a huge step forward. I have a bit more hope than I’ve had for a while. I’m proud of us. I’m proud of Hope for being courageous. I’m proud of me for being adaptable and finally, finally perceptive.

I feel like for once, I actually got it right.



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.

The First Year

The last month or so has been really challenging for me. Certainly I was struggling with self-care, but it’s more than that. I realized over the last month that Hope and I were entering a new phase, and I am having trouble adjusting to our realities.

I remember reading, what seems like an eternity ago, how you go through the honeymoon phase, the rough phase, a smoothing out phase and then, potentially rougher phases.

I think we’ve hit a rougher phase. And I think we’re both just roughing it.

I am realizing that so much of Hope’s challenges are largely invisible. Sure, she has some physical scars, but the emotional, psycho-socio scars…they are so hard to tease out sometimes. It’s easy to forget they are there sometimes until denying their existence is simply impossible.

Nearly 18 months of love, therapy, medical help, stability, routine, hard fighting, and it’s finally safe enough for Hope’s deeper issues to show themselves.

That’s a huge win to celebrate on the anniversary of our finalization, even if it doesn’t feel celebration worthy.

It’s kind of like opening the closet and finding one of the lighter Stephen King stories.

And interestingly, I feel more alone than ever in my on ground life, save for my most amazing couple of lifelines. You see a year after finalization and nearly 18 months after placement we couldn’t possibly have problems, right? Nope, no problems here.

I just lie and say we’re doing great, perpetuating the myth that post-adoptive families don’t struggle.

I was doing some reading this week about parental expectations, ahead of the recent episode of Add Water and Stir; the articles I covered explored adoptive parents’ emotional health. General findings were that APs with misaligned parenting expectations were at greater risk for depression, lower resilience, more challenges in bonding, and an extensive list of other depressing ailments, which all in turn trigger more challenging behaviors from adoptees. And the cycle continues.

Just awesome.

Oh and did I mention that most of these studies were done two years post placement and/or finalization? Hope and I are only 1 year out and these last two months have me feeling like I’m clawing my way through life.


Now I know those studies don’t *have* to apply to me and Hope, but I am increasingly aware that my expectations of parenting and of Hope are just…just off.

I thought they’d be more realistic after our first year together.

They are better than they were, but I’m thinking they aren’t as low as they should be.

Yesterday was my and Hope’s “gotcha” anniversary. It’s beautiful, but it’s also bittersweet. We kept things fairly low key with manis, pedis and brow taming, dinner and dessert on Friday and dress shopping today for the 8th grade dance yesterday.

Shopping for the dress was such a nightmare that she asked to stop shopping, and I silently cried on the way home. Oh and we left the mall with no dress and Hope debating whether she should even go to the dance because she is ugly with no friends and no style and it will probably be awful anyway. No one wins.

Lately I’m crying almost as much as I was right after the initial placement. I’m feeling not very attached. I’m not even wanting to hang with her as much. I’m just having trouble dealing to our normal right now.

Yeah, this is our normal, and it kinda sucks. My kid doesn’t have many friends; she runs them away. She doesn’t get invited to anything; she differentiates the group she hangs with from school as just being that rather than true friends. But the kids at the new church? One couple hour block of hang time, and they are friends. I hope they become friends, but it concerns me that she thinks they are already friends.

I had and have so many hopes and dreams for us, together and separately, but I think they may just be too much. I’m trying to let go some of those hopes and dreams because I am not sure Hope will course correct, whether I can get her there (wherever there actually is), that I can be emotionally ok with not meeting milestones when they are supposed to be met, that I’m terrified about what the future holds.

I’m not sure I’ve ever been so pessimistic about the future, even if I do believe we will make progress. It all makes me so very sad. Really it’s grief.

I’m disappointed that commemorating our first finalization anniversary turned into something that brought in the gray clouds. I’m hopeful that the coming weeks will bring more sunshine. I’m hopeful that the coming year brings more progress.

Weekend of Respite

As planned I booked the sitter and a hotel room less than 5 miles from the house and fled for some much needed respite this weekend. In fact by 8:30pm each night, I was sitting in my jammies, swigging wine from a bottle in my room, contemplating my bedtime.

I slept about 10 hours the first night. I walked 3 miles the next morning while shopping. I slept 3 hours this afternoon—like back in the bed, under the covers, knocked out napping. I hit the elliptical for 45 minutes that evening. I ate carry out from Whole Paycheck [Foods], and, yes, drank wine straight from the bottle.

Gosh I needed that. I called Grammy the first evening and when she heard I napped she exclaimed, “That’s not even in your nature? You don’t nap.”

Yeah, I know. I’m exhausted.

I’ve noticed a few things while on this mini getaway.

I eat horribly when I’m stressed and exhausted. No wonder I’m at my highest weight ever. Ugh! I actually listened to my twisted mind tell myself I deserved a bunch of fatty foods (tasted good though). Today I started the Couch to 5K program. Let’s go.

My carpal tunnel has progressed to the point where I need to seriously consider surgery. How did I ignore the weakening of my hand? I mean, it’s really, really bad! Calling my doc this week.

I am really tired, like really tired. Must go to bed earlier.

The moment I get away from Hope, I actually miss her. Not enough to run home, mind you, but I do miss her, and I miss Yappy too.

I miss her but I know she was fine. I know because she texted me like 18 times and called me once. She was irritated because I could not resolve her minor problem, and she sat in silence on the phone furious when she realized that I was not going to hurry home to find the key for the bike lock. Nope, Hope, not gonna do it.

I was proud of myself that I did not buy her anything while out shopping. Admittedly, I saw a bunch of stuff I wanted to scoop up for her. I mean, the 8th grade prom is coming up! But nope didn’t buy her one thing.

I took care of me this weekend. I need to do this more often. I really do.

I see how parents get so run down; parenting, working, and running a household is exhausting. I like to think I keep up with a lot of stuff, but I forget all kinds of things—like Hope’s sports physical this past week. It didn’t make the master calendar and thus in my mind did not exist.

Cooking, cleaning, running errands, paying bills, packing lunches, emailing teachers, figuring out birth family stuff, figuring out adoption stuff, therapy appointments, medication management appointments, puppy school, band concerts, and oh yeah, my job!

I swear I don’t know how it all gets done because this isn’t even close to being an exhaustive (ironic) list. I often think it probably isn’t that much easier with a partner, but it seems like it certainly would help.

It’s hard to believe I did a better job of having respite last year than I have done this year. I can only say it’s the curse of being post-finalization and having some belief that things are “fine” now.

They aren’t.

Weekly, when I’m mindful, I see the evidence of Hope’s challenges, and although we have come a long way; there is so much further we must go.

I’m going to have to take a better care of myself if I’m going to help her face her challenges.

Two broken wheels on a bike never makes sense.

So, I’m hoping to really care for myself this summer. I’m going to try.

Recognizing Progress

So, this past weekend I hit the wall. Hard. A dirty food container sent me careening off the cliff of parental crazy.

Totally lost my ish. Parenting swagger went right out the window. It was terrible. And I kinda felt bad about it; note that I only said “kinda.” I did not totally feel bad about it.

I have been incredibly patient with a bunch of crazy ish that Hope and I have endured lately. I kinda knew there was risk of me totally going off. It was epic, kinda like the New Year’s meltdown during which I damaged my vocal cords so badly I could hardly talk for a week.

At one point Hope threw her reliable taunt, her trump card: “I wish I never moved here,” Girl, whatever. I replied “I love you but some days I wish that too.” #boom #didIsaythatoutloud #notmyinsidevoice

Credit: giphy.com

Credit: giphy.com

Yeah, that’s how we got down on Saturday. Ugh. I did yell this time, not as much though. #improvement And I took 2 hours to cool off before going to talk to her calmly about the issues. Then I left the house for another two hours to go do some shopping and run errands.

This was not how I planned to spend my weekend. I’m pretty sure it is not how Hope intended to spend her weekend either. I prepped dinner and well, what’s the rule? Don’t go to bed angry? #thatscute

Yeah, eff that. Saturday I realized I gave all I had to give; there was nothing left in the tank but reptilian brain functionality. In other words I was only capable of being pissed. Instead of yelling I just went into Elsa mode.

Um, yeah, she had to be

Um, yeah, she had to be “color corrected.”
Credit is embedded.

Minimal speaking and the provision of basic necessities. I signed progress reports, prepared meals, visited a new church (including acting like Hope actually belonged to me, which was a serious effort in grace and charity, since I *literally* wanted to drop her off at the local Goodwill).

Sunday was still frigid.

Monday, I was still frosty, and Hope was running so late that she didn’t have time for breakfast so she picked up the lunch I prepped for her and we said nothing more than good bye, have a good day. I cooked burgers for dinner and hid my nose in the latest US Weekly while poor Hope tried several times to initiate conversation.

“Would you like to see my new band T-shirt?” Nope. “Sure.” Looks at shirt, nods.

“Ms. D says I’m distracted in math because I and sitting next to [her crush du jour].” “So change seats if you know this is a problem.”

“(Very dramatically) I’m sooooooo tired. I mean, I’m exhausted. I think my head feels hot.” “You should go to bed early; SOL testing starts tomorrow.”

And she did. In bed at 8pm. Not sure if she cried, but I know she was sad and the slightly recovering parts of my scattered mind thought to console her and warm my heart. But my reptilian brain convinced me I was fine and she was fine. I made sure her alarm was set, and I fetched myself a glass of pinot and the remote to watch Love and Hip Hop: ATL.

I ain’t checking for Hope.

And as other brain functions return, I know I should feel some kind of way about that, but don’t bother guilting me about icing my daughter out. As I sit here 4 days later, I still am having a difficult time turning on the functional systems necessary to be warmer. I simply do not have the capacity for more than minimal interaction or base level care-taking.

I am empty.

I remind myself a lot of Hope when she first moved in and was so overwhelmed. I simply cannot tolerate more. The thought of attempting a meaningful conversation has me reaching for the Ativan to stave off a panic attack.

I begged the sitter service for a sitter for this weekend. They found me one. So I’m booking me a hotel, and I’m flying the coop for two nights. I did not even invite Elihu because I don’t want to consider another human being’s needs for these two nights.

So, while I’m down for the count, I get a call from a new parent with my agency. She’s a little more than 3 weeks in. She’s still at the stage where you’re counting the days, minutes, seconds. She’s still at the stage (for us singles at least) where you take your calls in the furthest bathroom in the house, in the shower, kind of whispering because you are convinced that your new child has super power hearing and the punishment of finding out that you are talking about her is too great to even consider.

She’s sleep deprived, teary and just deep, deep in the throes of a new child figuring out how to function in her new surroundings with the rudimentary skills she has.

We talked for an hour, about all kinds of stuff. I pulled out my best parenting swagger guidance. I pep rallied. I encouraged her to adopt my devious/creative parenting philosophies. #getgullywithit

I admitted that nearly 18 months after placement I wasn’t white knuckling it this week. I had actually dropped off the face of the cliff.

Admitting it was liberating for me, even if it is an uneasy admission that all’s not well in the kingdom. Time heals; it really does. But this ish is really hard. Teen issues are hard. Adoption issues are hard. These jokers together, overlapped and conflating is sheer madness.

But, I’m not hiding in my shower anymore. #PraisetheHolyHomeboy #wonthedoit And I know that there is life over the edge. I’ll be ok. Hope will be ok. We’ve actually survived way worse. Hell, we’ve survived nearly 18 months. Sometimes the Holy Homeboy sends you someone who mirrors your previous struggle just to remind you of how far you’ve progressed in that struggle.

This hiccup will pass. Of course it will pass with me in a hotel with luxurious bedding and room service while binge watching Vikings this weekend. I love Hope but I still need to get away from her for a few days. I think I’ll also treat myself to some new jammies, luxe of course!

A Journal

So I got started with a new therapist last month. Sadly she is not an Absurdly Hot Therapist like my and Hope’s family guy. But she is a nice, motherly/aunty-like, African American woman. She’s just what I need…for so many reasons, not the least of which is that she seems to be a good therapist.

It’s nice to have a super safe space to say the things I don’t dare utter anywhere else.

I’m still grieving the break with my old therapist. We’d been together for a really long time, so it was probably time for us to split anyway, and then there’s the fact that my insurance wouldn’t pay for my visits to him and paying out of pocket was getting kind of old. So, for the low co-pay of $10, I can see her as much as I like. I think I’ll call her Aunty Therapist.

So, Aunty Therapist told me that I need to keep a journal to lift the burden of the things I can’t talk about publicly, not even on the blog.

So, I got a new journal.


“Pour yourself a drink, put on some lipstick and pull yourself together” ~~Liz Taylor

I bought fancy pens too. I like fancy pens a lot.

And I’m trying to figure out where to start. I used to journal all the time. I have decades worth of journals I’ve written over the years in my home. Provisions for them have even been made in my will. Decades of journaling and two years of blogging and I have no idea where to start.


I’m really, really struggling with Hope these days.

It really is exhausting; she is exhausting me.

I love my daughter, but every day I wonder what the hell I’m doing.

I’m just doing a lot of second guessing. And I’m plagued by all the emotions I typically write about. Low confidence, loneliness, anger, sadness, overwhelm…and so on. Sometimes the dark emotions feel and seem…unspeakable because they are just so awful. And then guilt about feeling any of it comes in to crush everything.

Confessing all this stuff in print is hard, but I suppose keeping it all in is harder. I know it doesn’t help.

So, I guess I’d better get to writing.

The Struggle is *Still* Real

A year ago, I published a post called The Struggle is Real.

A year later, it still is. I could reblog that post and one of the few changes I’d make is to note that I traded stupid parenting books for stupid parenting podcasts (not Add Water and Stir, of course!).

A year later I would add the following:

Imposter syndrome is real in parenting. I am making it only because I’m faking it. And by “it” I mean parenting. For all of the parenting wins and Jedi mind-tricks that were wildly successful, I am beaten down by the epic failures I feel like I succumb to on the daily. I am beat down and down trodden.

And there is no end in sight.

It is stunningly easy to forget to practice self-care. Every few weeks I manage to remember I should be taking care of myself and within three days I have forgotten again. In those moments of clarity I plan to log on to the sitter site and book the nannies for regular visits, but an hour later I have forgotten, having gotten caught up in more drama than I care to write about.

It’s affected my waistline. It’s affected my relationships. It’s made me feel weary and teary more than I ever feel happy or joyful. And even though I know if I just take the time to create the structures I need to be ok, I simply push them down as I jet to problem-solve the next crisis. I really do worry at times whether I will simply get sucked all the way into the drama that is Hope, and lose myself.

This month’s self-care win was finding a new therapist who takes my insurance. Her initial reaction to the craziness that is my life was validating.

Now to call the sitter agency and schedule some regular respite.

I think I can. I think I can. I think I can…

Scarred kids do dumb, risky things sometimes. Sure I may know how to deal with it in the moment, but I still have enormous trouble understanding the misfires and disconnects that exist in Hope’s mind. I intellectually get it.  I’ve read all the research about PTSD and the PET scans of kids with trauma. But damn, son, this ish is mind-boggling when it’s not a journal article but a real, live human being up in your ish. I know we are building and rebuilding, but holy crap, it just never seems to end. It’s like a bad video game with thousands of villains; you kill one and there are 30 in its place.

Hope starts high school in a few months. I have no fears about her academic performance, but her social interactions are increasingly risky given this need to have more people like/love her. It’s devastating to know that I’m not enough; even though I knew I wouldn’t be. But I can’t get her to just be careful or even to know that her behaviors are often what drive good people away and draw scary people close.

It’s messy and terrifying.

I have no idea what’s next. None.

I’m not even sure when we tripped into this crazy period. I’m sure that I probably could’ve predicted it, but I didn’t. And I can’t even say that it’s really her; maybe it’s really me with all the problems. Maybe she’s really doing better than I think she is. She probably is.

I don’t know. I know that I’m tired. I am sad.

I was not prepared for this level of sustained challenge. I wasn’t prepared to have my heartbroken over and over again. I wasn’t prepared for just how lonely I would be. I wasn’t prepared for how many people around me would ask questions about my daughter, kindly, and how often I would lie and say things are fine or great.

When I first started doing diversity work, I went back to therapy just so I had a safe place to dump all the ugliness that comes with wading through racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia and the like. I didn’t want to dump it on friends or family. I remember a colleague asking me how I did managed to do this kind of work and not flinch, and one of my mentors who was standing nearby saying, “She wears the mask.” It was a reference to a Paul Laurence Dunbar poem that I love because it’s so true, We Wear the Mask.

I think of that moment and that poem whenever someone asks me how Hope is doing, and I say we’re doing great. In many, many, many ways we are. But in many ways we are not. It is still a very real struggle.

We Wear the Mask

Paul Laurence Dunbar

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!

And I know I’ll keep wearing the mask.

I have no idea what’s to come. I hope that the struggle has changed a bit a year from now. I hope the struggle isn’t quite as real a year from now.

Back to School



That is all.

Filling Holes

Today I went up for prayer at the altar during church. Nearly every week I do, and someone prays a prayer that gives me hope. Today I asked for prayer as a single mom struggling to figure out the coming weeks’ schedules in the absence of support I thought I would have when I started this journey. This weekend I found myself stressing about a major scheduling snafu that’s coming up in the next few weeks. I know I can get it covered but will that coverage be what’s best for Hope? Also, this is just the first business trip of the fall. I’m overwhelmed, and recent appeals for help were declined. I’m sad and, well, a bit scared about how things will come together.

I didn’t share the whole drama with the person at the altar, but my prayer partner prayed that our holes be filled and that our needs be met. Somehow it will be ok. This feels like another huge test of faith and frankly, I’m angry that the tests just don’t ever seem to let up. Still I was hopeful after this prayer.

Sundays are so difficult around here though that by sundown Hope and I are experiencing the routine meltdown that stresses me out and makes me wonder how I managed to have much hope that day in the first place. This Sunday was no different.

As I sit, sip a rosé and eat left over chocolate frosting from the freezer, I wonder how much of our Sunday meltdown routine do I trigger? I know I get cranky. Is it because she utterly refuses to do anything asked that frustrates me so or is it just me picking at insignificant things? Is it because she’s freaking out about the start of a new week? I imagine it’s all of it. I try to just let some things go; I even practice letting go in my head. I’m getting better at it, but in the moment it’s just…every button that can be pushed does get pushed.

Hope and I tried to have a game night tonight; we were both really trying to have fun, and we were both utterly miserable. We eventually just gave up; we don’t know who won the Game of Life tonight. I suppose there is much hope in us just trying to play right?

I don’t know how many of our emotional, spiritual and/or support holes got filled today; it feels like whatever was poured in, spilled right out. Anyway, here’s a couple of lessons from the week before I totally get chocolate wasted and switch from wine to rum because tomorrow is a holiday.


Teenagers have messy rooms. I know, I know, this should not be a real lesson.   Listen, I’m not a neat freak. I’m not. On the last Add Water and Stir podcast I talked about the state of my house during my home study, weeks before I defended my dissertation proposal—it was a semi-messy pile of papers that I took care to square up the corners and put in 18,000 pretty cardboard boxes from Ikea. Our home looks lived in.

Well, everything but her room looks lived in. Her room looks like a cyclone hit it, and this is causing me so much dissonance about the state of my house. It’s stressing me out. I thought I was a packrat, but I hold no candle to my little hoarder. I understand why she does it, but I also recognize that part of this is just run of the mill teen-esque laziness. That ish is driving me crazy. At least I don’t let her eat any wet or moist foods in her room—dry goods only so maybe there’s a chance for that sty after all.

Parents have meltdowns too. Also not news, but I’m trying to figure out how to be more gentle with myself and my own expectations of me, of Hope, of our relationship. My sense is that some of my emotional upheaval is rooted in an expectation misalignment. Did I harbor some deep seated notions that post-finalization, post-13th birthday that Hope would somehow get her ish together? I don’t know. Maybe. If I did/do, then no wonder I’m pissed all the time and why she continues to speak so poorly about herself when I’m pissy.

Goodness we need a schedule and we need it stat.

I really worry about money. We are in good shape, but I feel like I’m hemorrhaging cash these days. Home repairs, back to school shopping, hypnotist visits and co-pays…it just doesn’t end. Tuesday I’ve got a handy man coming to fix stuff in the house. We will have lots of things fixed but is it all worth the few hundred dollars for someone else to fix this stuff? Yeah, it is, but I still fret. I don’t understand how folks in this area finance more than one kid—I just don’t. I would lose my mind.

I bought myself a pair of shoes recently. I really need some new things for work, but I sense that I will wait until things are nearly threadbare before I do any substantive shopping.

I’m currently over saying everything is mine. I know this is temporary. I can feel the Selfish ABM lurking underneath the surface; even though she has regular respite. Life is just getting on my nerves right now, and I find myself fanaticizing about an alternative version of my life. Oh well. I’m still here. But my compelling need to hide cereal and be crazy seems to have passed. This is a good thing I guess. Bring on the start of school. T-minus 2 days.


So, I’m out. Stay tuned for an announcement about a special episode of Add Water this week. We’re going to dig into important stuff around race and adoption this week.

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