Tag Archives: african american families

Trauma Whirlwinds

I am in the midst of a trauma related whirlwind the details of which are not mine to share.

This moment has clearly revealed Hope’s true vulnerabilities out in the world, and it’s requiring an enormous amount of emotional restraint from me.

I am a mess of sadness, heartbreak and unmitigated rage. That rage is not directed at Hope, but a third party who also has peeped my daughter’s vulnerabilities. It is taking everything in me not to round up my squad and take matters into my own hands. I also know that If I shared what is happening with Hope with some folks in my life, things would get very, very out of hand very, very, very fast.

And trust, I am so tempted to let that ish play out.

Via Giphy

But Hope needs me, and I am acutely aware of how much she needs me in this moment. She needs me as a mom. She needs me as a woman who has lived through some things. She needs me to just love her and reassure her that it’s going to be ok.

I am committed to keeping a 30K foot view of what is happening to my daughter. I can clearly see what is driving the behavior and what is driving the emotion and the need. I know that this mess is trying to fill a hole that has existed for a long, long time; I know this has everything to do with her life before me and the pieces of life that are still missing.

I know that there is nothing that I can really do or say to fill that hole; it’s primal. I get it. It’s also breaking my heart.

During the last day, I have tried to reason with her. I listen to her without judgment. I’m trying to keep the lines of communication open. The only way to do that is to keep my own emotions in check.

Via Giphy

Last night I had to take a late evening walk just to call a friend to let out my own emotions. There I was out with goofy Yappy walking the neighborhood in the dark, in the rain with a headlamp letting it all out, so I could come back with my own emotional mask on to reengage.

I’m glad I had that chance because I walked back into a whole ‘nother bucket of bs.

There is a silver lining in this moment; this moment could be so worse. It could be so much more devastating, but Hope was already questioning her feelings about her choices. She wanted to talk to AbsurdlyHotTherapist about it but hasn’t been able to get an appointment. I’m encouraged that she was trying to figure out how to work through this mess on her own and in a healthy way. I’ve reached out to him to beg for an appointment and to give him a heads up on what’s happening. I need her to have that unbiased third party to help her.

Hope is a horrible liar; she also is horrible at keeping her own secrets, much less anyone else’s. She almost always tells me or AHT what’s up or creates a situation in which I find out (See stupid games from last month). She told me that her lies are more about wanting to avoid disappointing me than a fear of something like me putting her out.

On the one hand she trusts that I’m not going to threaten her physical wellbeing, but I do wonder if she thinks my expectations of her are too high? It’s got me wondering if expectations are too high for her? I need my own barometer check.

Ultimately, I know that we will get through this, but I don’t know how long it will take. I don’t know what the collateral damage will be. I don’t know…what is around the corner.

I also know, that this could happen again and again.

Trauma stuff is hard.

Adoption stuff is hard.

There are very real wounds.

I know I am not capable of fully healing her; I can only support her, love her, be there for her in these moments. She is transitioning into adulthood, and I worry a bit about how much my protection can extend around her. Before it seemed like a nice little bubble, now it’s just this amorphous thing and I can’t control the environment for her. I know that is normal, that actually aspects of this is normal for kids her age. I also know that as a middle-aged woman, I’m still, *still* dealing with some bullshit from my own youth, and I didn’t any a fraction of the drama in my life that Hope’s had in hers. I worry about where that leaves her.

All I know is that I’m still her ride or die. I always will be, but whew…this phase of parenting is not easy.

via Giphy

On the Fly

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

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

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

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

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

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


Pandemic Chronicles, v. 4

So, Hope and I are back to our Pandemic Normal. I’m finally feeling fully recovered and Hope has finished her first year of college (amazeballs). Now we’re trying to chart out our summer.

Due to a variety of absurd reasons, Hope was unable to register for the first session of summer school (she’s nearly 19 but they still wanted a form from a legal guardian). So, we had to do a hard pivot—it is time for Hope to find a job. I told her that she needed to find creative ways of volunteering if she couldn’t find a paying job. I was ready for her to consider doing UberEats and/or do shopping for some of the older residents in our building. She spent yesterday morning hunting for and putting in applications at grocery stores and fast food places.

Honestly, given how trash the economy is, I didn’t think that she would really find a job. I realized on my morning walk this morning that the universe has other plans for Hope for the summer. In a single day she was able to set up a couple of interviews for this week, one of which has already sent her the onboarding information. Clearly, schoolwork isn’t what was supposed to happen this summer.

I’m excited for Hope and this new experience she’s going to have this summer.

Our relationship has changed so much these last two months, and honestly, the relationship we have now is kinda what I’ve been chasing all these years. We have our own inside jokes. We have deep philosophical conversations. With both of us at home, Hope is able to get a much better sense of how I hard I work, and I think she is much more understanding of why I get pissed when she’s particularly lazy or entitled. I get to see her habits and how she works; I can see better what coping mechanisms really work for her and what things she probably still needs to work on. I think we both have a lot more patience with one another; there’s just a lot more grace and a lot more understanding.

In many ways, I’m grateful for this time with her even if I did wish she would just spontaneously clean the kitchen without me asking her.

And me? Well, I’m learning to crochet. I’ve resumes my exercise efforts. I can’t handle a lot of intensity these days, so I make up for that with more workout time. I’m reminded that I have a gym membership for when the weather is bad, and cold isn’t bad weather. I still would rather bundle up and go walk a couple of miles. I bake bread a few days a week because it’s so yummy, and I enjoy cooking a real dinner for us a few days a week. (By the way since it’s become so hard to get bread flour at the store, I now get it from a local bakery and it’s AMAZING!) I have started a daily habit of trying to find beauty when I take my multiple walks throughout the day. I try to post the pictures on my private social media accounts.

I’ve zeroed in on my skin routine; during a recent video call with my sister, my brother in law even commented on my skin. I’m transition to more natural deodorants because this seems like as good a time as any to do that—when I’m around just 1 other person! LOL. I get enough sleep each night which has radically changed my outlook on a lot of things. It’s really amazing how tired we all are when the world is “open.” I’m increasingly convinced that we’re all just overstimulated. I luxuriate on the weekend because after I make the grocery run, I can chill. I bought a zero-gravity chair and Yappy and I hit the balcony when the weather is nice. It’s nice to be rested.

Yappy is also doing well. He gets way too many treats and is gaining weight. I worry about how anxious he will be when I finally return to the office, but for now, he seems incredibly content to have his pack all in one place. He seems to be at his happiest when we take a walk as a family in the evenings. It’s a delight to watch him, and it’s comforting to cuddle with him.

Yappy & I enjoying the morning sun on the patio! And yes, that is a side eye.

In all, Hope and I are doing better than ok these days. We are still wary of the world opening back up, fully aware of the dangers that await but also relishing in this special time together. I’m realizing that if Hope doesn’t boomerang home, this might actually be the last substantial period of time when we live together. I think of that often, and I let it guide my engagements with her. It’s not that I want her to boomerang home; I hope she is able to take flight. But if she does come back I want to be sure that we have a new baseline of what our life can be like with a mother and her adult daughter living together.

Of course, that’s in the middle of a pandemic, but I still hope it will create a reference point for whatever might be necessary in the future.

But for now, Hope and I are enjoying each other and getting a window into each other’s lives in ways we didn’t pre-pandemic.


Pandemic Chronicles, vol. 3

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

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

But, it’s not.

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

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

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

The other advice? Quarantine.

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

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

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

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

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

And what about Hope?

Well, I really worried at first.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do I believe she will and can?

What happens if she won’t or can’t?

What happens to me?

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

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

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

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

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


Pandemic Chronicles vol. 1

Today is my 19th day of “social distancing” and my conclusion is, this is rough.

But of course, it’s a small price to pay for my health and the health of everyone else.

But it is rough.

Last week, I made it to about Wednesday before I hit the total wall slide emotionally. Work is draining me. There seem to be expectations that we all genuinely will be as or more productive teleworking…in the middle of an effing pandemic that hasn’t hit its peak yet and we actually don’t know when it will.

Yeah, I’m totally planning on crunching out data reports, launching some studies and being the all around boss chick!

No, I’m not.

I get up, walk and get dressed every morning. I go through my ever growing things to do list. I try to cram in video chats with my parents, my sisters, maybe a friend or two during the course of the day.

I’ve already lost track of how many Zoom calls I’ve been on because no one just wants to call anymore. By the way, I officially hate video chatting for work. It’s useful, but these last 19 days it has been so overutilized that I can barely stand getting on another one. It’s like the text message that should be an email? Zoom is the video conference that really should’ve been a phone call.

Every work day, I’m figuring out what one task is the most essential thing I have to do that day and what other two, maybe three things are light enough to for me to handle on the same day. The fact that I can only accomplish two things a day fills me with guilt and, frankly a heap of self-disappointment. I’m usually a high performer. My personal standard is extraordinarily high. I and my sisters take enormous pride in the fact that our 100% is a lot of people’s 150%.

And now, I really just am frozen in place. Every day is a struggle to remain functional. I have even not exercised like I normally do this week.

It’s bad y’all.

The reality is that I’m anxious as hell.

I’m preoccupied with people who know people who are sick. I’m afraid about getting sick or Hope getting sick. I’m afraid if I get sick then can Hope really take care of me? I’m worried about how long this will last. I’m worried about how I’m going to deal with not being triggered by Hope’s utter refusal to do what I ask her to do when I ask her to do it (It happens so often I’m just…UGH!). I’m freaked that if my parents get sick the most recent video chat might be our last.

I miss normalcy.

I’m not used to being this kind of worrywart. I don’t like it. So then I feel guilty about it. I’m just a mess really.

I don’t mind working at home. Honestly that’s not the thing—it’s why I’m working from home that is so upsetting.

I only watch the news for about 30 minutes a day. I avoid a lot of internet chatter about COVID-19, even though that’s what everyone is posting about. I have switched up my Instagram to follow dogs, lots of dog accounts. I don’t want to hear a lot of toxic positivity. I don’t want to hear about the Super Christians who just believe that they are immune because Jesus. I don’t want to hear that I should do more yoga, eat better and get some exercise. I don’t want to hear that the new found flexibility of full-time telework should allow me to really maximize effort. I don’t want to hear from exes. I don’t want to think about the two who are already on the other side of the veil.

I actually would prefer not to have to think for a few days.

And this is me after a week off from work. Yeah, that happened barely two weeks ago.

I did renew my online yoga membership. I am ordering yarn from Amazon to start a new, as yet identified project. I’m watching Tiger King on Netflix (Weird!). I’m dancing to DJs spinning on Instagram. I’m playing Boggle with Hope—taking no mercy, but seeing her step her game up to try to best me.  I’m talking to Yappy, who looks at me lovingly. He also has given me a window into the secret life he leads when we’re out of the house. That life includes drinking from the toilet. WTH?

I’m grateful that my therapist has transitioned to an online practice. I have an appointment this week. Thank goodness.

I can’t even imagine trying to do homeschooling and such. One of my sisters is a kindergarten teacher. She’s got 4 kids and is now teaching kindergarten online.

Kindergarten.

Really?

Really.

Like it is just maddening. She’s not really able to homeschool her own littles because it is utter chaos.

My other sister works in IT and is working to ensure that our internet doesn’t go down. She’s on the outside of the bubble. I worry about her a lot.

Ok, I’m starting to ramble, and I’m sure you get the point.

I’m not exactly ok.

I will be, but right now I’m not. I see a mental health day coming soon. Definitely.

How are you all holding up?


Early Adulting

Way, way, way back in the day, I told my parents that I wanted to go party at another university for the weekend. I didn’t ask; I informed them.

They said no, I couldn’t go.

Nonplussed, I hopped in someone’s car and off my friends and I went to a university two hours away where I had all the fun to be had.

via Giphy

Back then “daisy dukes” (short shorts) were really in and I found a pair that “fit.” I was really proud of these shorts because I have some lovely thighs that usually made such shorts a no go for me. I recall sporting these shorts around my parents house one weekend when I was home from college. My dad, who is quite proper, commented on the shorts and asked me not to wear them anymore because he thought they were inappropriate.

I replied that I wouldn’t wear them in his home anymore.

He narrowed his eyes at me a bit, but said nothing.

I was in that gray area of life where I was still dependent, but I was also an adult and flexing about making some adult decisions like where I would party and what I would wear. I don’t recall asking for permission much during those days. I remember feeling so good about the increasing freedom I had to do what I wanted.

Fast forward many years and now I have a daughter of my own in college. I assumed that she would flex a bit.

For the most part, she hasn’t. In fact, she discloses WAY too much about what shenanigans she been up to. And before you say, oh she’s not telling you everything….even if that were true, she still has shared too much.

via Giphy

She also asks for permission.

Recently her favorite band announced that there would be a concert in the area this summer. She rang me up to ask if she could go if she saved the money.

My internal monologue was like, “If you plan to save up for the ticket, why are you even asking????” Out loud, I simply said, “Sure, save up your dollars and have fun.”

It’s in these moments that I’m reminded of the challenges Hope has endured.

When Hope’s social worker flew with her to visit me the first time, she shared that Hope was emotionally only about 5, despite a chronological age of 12. She’s grown so much in the years since then, but as for maturity….well, Hope has certainly matured, but is she emotionally 18?

Probably not.

Definitely not.

Hope is able to mimic maturity for short bursts, but eventually it all comes out. If I had to guess, I would estimate an emotional age of 14 or so. This would explain why she gets along so well with my 11 year old nephew and also has a whole lot of difficulty navigating socially with her own peer group.

This is also why my beautiful daughter called me from her college dorm to ask me if she could spend her own money on a concert ticket and actually go to said concert.

At her age, if I did ask, I didn’t have any difficulty openly defying my folks because I reasoned that I…was…

GROWN.

via Giphy

Hope is still very much my little girl. Which is kind of crazy to me. When I adopted a 12 year old, I never thought I would be tucking her in at night, reading her stories, buying her *white* tights to wear (she picked them while I screamed on the inside) or numerous other things that I thought were completely fixed to children much younger than 12. There were many moments that I treasure the connection forged in those moments while hating that Hope needed it because she was so deeply hurt.

It scares me, though. If Hope is really 14 and away at college…

*pauses to reflect more on my own collegiate shenanigans*

This could be a hot mess.

I know she is more vulnerable. She is so eager to make friends that she is at risk for manipulation. She’s often so lonely which only drives the risk and vulnerability up higher.

In the midst of my persistent amusement at Hope’s attempts to begin adulting, I’m saddened that once again her trauma puts her in such a predicament. I’m angry about it. I’m frustrated for her.

I’m hopeful that 2020 will bring advancements in her healing that will bring her closer to her chronological age and all the joys that come with it.


Thoughts on Mortality & Grief

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ve learned it’s so hard.

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

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

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

Instead I feel white hot anger.

And profound sadness.

And confusion.

And more anger.

And more sadness.

And despair.

And guilt.

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

I’ve run scenarios in my head.

I’ve tried to make sense of it.

I can’t. None of it makes sense.

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

It just hurts so badly.

grief

via Pinterest

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

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

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

The grief is overwhelming.

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

I would rather be focused on living.

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

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

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

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

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

Time will tell.


Not Sharing It

So, I haven’t shared the story of the little boy whose kindergarten class came to witness his adoption finalization, and I will not be sharing it. I think it’s worth unpacking briefly why in hopes that we can all practice some discretion and reflection on adoptee narratives.

Hope and I finalized our adoption by Facetime since the court with jurisdiction was across country. We invited my parents, sisters and a local cousin and his family. We had a little BBQ afterward and shared the time with family. There are some pictures, and although Hope looks happy, I now remember tinges of sadness around the day. I felt it then, but I couldn’t understand why. Now, years later, I appreciate the gravity of the occasion so much more; Hope was leaving a life behind in many ways. While many adults might not have looked at that life fondly, she was with a parent she adored and that’s what mattered to her. She has told me on more than one occasion that she would give anything to have that again. Our finalization day represented that option being completely closed off to her in her mind.

We do acknowledge our family day these days, but in a very, very low-key fashion. It’s hard to know what that young boy will feel in the future with so much public attention on this moment in his life, but I don’t want to be a part of publicizing something that  might result in some really, really complicated feelings as he ages.

I also recognize, now even more than ever as Hope is 18, that at only 5, he can’t consent to having his story publicized. Yes, it’s warm and fuzzy, but it is his story—yes, it is a shared story, one that would have been just as warm and fuzzy if kept private. Take the all the pictures, the videos, make a scrapbook for him to have an remember, but keep the kid off the internet and let him create his narrative.

I’m hardly perfect in what I’ve shared about my and Hope’s life in this space, but there are many, many details that I really try to keep private. Those are the times when I have more vague references or just gloss over information. It’s just not my stuff, and I shouldn’t take stuff that isn’t mine and share it with you. I just shouldn’t. So as much as the story is heartwarming, I just wish it was kept private or even just keep his name private..

And because of this…clipped from the CNN article on the adoption.

Capture

This child didn’t orchestrate this, the adults in his life did. And, again, adorbs that the kiddies showed up and out for their classmate, but be clear that this wasn’t something he initiated. If you watch the interviews, you’ll see him (cute as a button) talk about it, but be clear that it was orchestrated. Sometimes, in this overly socialized world we live in, we just share, share, and share when maybe we should be more judicious. This was the ultimate social media post; I’ve seen it at least a dozen times this week. I just couldn’t share it.

And last, but certainly not least, is he really the only little black boy for miles in Grand Rapids, MI or what? He *is* the racial diversity in his class. He is in an environment that is nice but really homogenous looking. It makes me hope that his parents are taking pains to create extensive and meaningful connections to folks who look like him. His support system is adorable, but there’s no one in it who looks like him. That shook me a bit. I also didn’t want to put that out in the universe either.

So, do I think his adoption day story is lovely?

Sure, but I also appreciate that it’s probably complicated. Even if it’s not complicated, I wish his story wasn’t so public. Yes, it’s feel good, and yes, it may even promote the adoption of children in foster care who need permanent homes. But is that all worth the loss of this child’s private narrative?

I don’t think it is.

I wish the family well. I wish that beautiful child well.


Freshman Year Challenges

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

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

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

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

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

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

She finally said yes.

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

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

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

Midterms revealed a lot.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It sure does feel like it though.

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


Radical Self Care

I just returned from Puerto Rico, and I’m realizing I don’t do this kind of radical self-care often enough.

Every morning, I got up to walk. I love my daily walks with Yappy. It’s usually dark, and I’ve got to stop a half million times to allow him to sniff, try to reach the errant, tossed away chicken bone or pop a squat. I often go back out for a quick walk without him. These last few days I’ve walked close to 5 miles every morning, coming back to the hotel drenched in sweat, feeling alive and a little more tan.

I picked up some yogurt from the market, got cleaned up and headed to the beach. I enjoyed the sounds of the ocean, lulling me into a morning nap facilitated by early drinking and an edible or two. I read a trashy book, hit the ice cream shop for lunch and relocated to the pool in the afternoon.

beach2

I discovered a little carry out shop across the street from the hotel; they make the best calzone crust I’ve ever had. I also purchased a bottle of rum and have practically had Cuba Libres on tap the last several days.

beach

I lounged in my king sized bed, channel surfing in the evenings, briefly considering going out, or at least going down to the cigar bar to smoke and drink in the luxe lobby.

Lounging stayed winning during this brief reprieve.

I’ve experienced so few moments of irritation over the last few days that they seem almost a distant memory. Oh, I remember them though and Holy Homeboy, white folks are at the heart of each moment. Now, just remember that part of what precipitated my quick vacation scheduling is having been pushed to the brink by white folks during a meeting on diversity and inclusion, so this is a sensitive thing right now.

Practically empty beach, no please come stand in front my chair to take your selfies for 15 minutes.

Whiny group of 10 traveling together who asked if I would move chairs so they could also sit together at the pool. This chair? The one I’ve been sitting in for 90 minutes? No. I’m good. Cue their melodrama of moving to another row to sit together. #theaudacity

I had time to do a lot of thinking and reflecting on this trip, but honestly…I didn’t. I thought I might take some time to think about my next career moves, maybe spend some time thinking about some of the volunteering I’ve been doing. I thought I might think about finding my way around this dating thing. I thought I might think about a lot of things.

Instead, I gave my brain a much needed rest. I thought about very little. I rested.

beach

Why is it that I had to hit a wall to embrace just doing nothing for a few days? I mean, I know that the daily routine isn’t designed for just being without expectation, but wow, not doing anything for 3 days should not feel so radical or costly. And yet it does.

I’m glad to be home, waiting for the boarder to bring Yappy home. I’m looking forward to getting back into my routine for a few weeks. I’ve got a trip to Hawaii in a few weeks for work. I’m looking forward to freshening my tan and enjoying time with colleagues.

In the meantime, I’m going to find a few minutes every day to just be, to just breathe and to just rest.

Challenging all of you to do the same.


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