Tag Archives: Holidays

In Need of Grace

I always love the ideas of holidays, but holidays are…complicated. They always are even if we all only post the happy versions of the highlight reels on social media.

In my pre-Hope life, things were complicated for all kinds of reasons.

Most of the time I’ve been single during the holidays.

Still not skinny and all my food issues and body issues hop into overdrive and are usually kept there by someone commenting in passing on my body.

The need to drive around creation to “see” everyone.

The desire for simplicity and routine during a time that legit represents neither.

The grief I hold in my heart for family and friends who are no longer here.

The complicated personal theology that keeps me going, but doesn’t quite fit with the holiday themes surrounding this time of year.

And sometimes wondering if I even belong anywhere.

Yep, complicated.

And then Hope came and all of that still existed but new stuff emerged as I tried to graft this new family together with new traditions. The reality is things became more complicated in many ways.

Hope has her own grief, profound grief.

She wonders if she belongs anywhere.

There’s so many people and they want/demand hugs.

There’s “holiday” routines and traditions, but can we get back to our regularly scheduled programming?

How much alone time can be had without folks asking if she’s “ok?”

There’s the introvert’s exhaustion from having to exist around 30 people for hours.

There’s thoughts of what should have been her life with her family of origin.

This year was no different, in fact it might have been more challenging. What can I say, schnitt happens.

Hope and I open gifts on Christmas Eve. Every year Hope writes me a letter (she’s also usually broke so she leans into the much more personalized gift). I heard her sobbing in her room. I asked if she was ok, she kept saying yes. I finally dropped it. We gather to do our Christmas and she hands me her letter.

This year’s letter is different from all the others, which I keep with all my important papers. There’s always a lot of love and gratitude in the letters; they are sweet…precious. I can see her maturity over the years in them and what she talks about. They are a big window into Hope’s emotions, which I don’t get too often.

This year’s letter thanked me for adopting her and went on to talk about repaying me. This letter was beautiful and heartbreaking. Hope does not owe me anything. I’m high key horrified that she thinks she does in any sense. I wanted to be a mom, and she needed a parent. We were a match and we’ve worked hard to make this match work. I adore Hope. I read the letter, sobbed and hugged her an uncomfortably long time while repeating over and over that she owes me nothing.

Yappy doesn’t do well with big emotions—he’s a happy boy who just wants everyone to be happy. So during these moments of sobbing, Yappy is uncomfortably trying to get into our hug, pawing, sad faced, bringing toys to cheer us. We eventually had to do our “sit on the couch close enough for him to snuggle between us” to calm him; it’s his favorite thing. #packanimal

And that’s how Christmas started. We moved from that to an unfortunate incident in which Grammy only claimed her two bio grandkids despite having 5 grandkids—3 by adoption and guardianship. This happened in front of Hope who just pretended it didn’t happen. There were apologies later, but there were hours and hours of discomfort, anger, sadness, rejection, and the rest.

There were challenging moments with 30 people in a house, some of whom demanded “hugs” from everyone, especially the kids. Folks stop doing this and stop your family from doing this. You can’t teach bodily autonomy and safety when some rando woman you only see once a year is insisting on manhandling your kid. Hope only does hugs with folks she’s close to; the hugging demands are really triggering.

Then there were the quiet conversations between me and Hope about family gatherings, biological family, belonging, and sadness that took place in the space between our two beds in the hotel. The moments when I want to cry for her, but am not sure if such expressions of grief and sadness on her behalf are helpful or not, so I wait until the early morning when she’s sleeping to work through it.

And of course there is other emotional drama that I’m not sure will ever fully make it to this space—I’ll say this: getting to know folks romantically is hard. There is a part of me that is like, yo, Hope and I made this match work; those should be transferable skills right? Yeah, no. Years of awful dating experiences have taken their toll and every hiccup makes me want to just call it a day and get a hypoallergenic cat to go with my cute dog. It’s hard to heal, to trust, and to believe after what feels like countless failures. #butIdigress

I’m trying, and I’m trying to just muster sufficient grace to plow through this holiday season and all of the emotional schnitt it brings.

I love time with my family and with my beautiful Hope. I love the downtime from work—seriously my resting heart rate has dropped more than 5 bpm so I’m guessing work is stressful, eh? I love being able to nap in the afternoon. I’m officially addicted to knitting because it’s relaxing and I’m delighted to have all this time to work on projects.

But I’m a calendar based kinda of chick. You know how you wake up in the middle of the night, look at the clock and fret about how much time you have left to sleep? And then you can’t sleep all that great during the remaining time? Yeah, I do that with days, sometimes weeks. I’m already stressed about going back to work. I’m already stressed about taking Hope back to school.

I’m kind of a mess in need of a lot of grace as well.

And I left my fitbit at home, which begs the question, am I even really moving? How am I supposed to make sure my eating and exercise levels are at least kinda in sync?

Yeah, I’m a mess, and this time of year seems to bring a lot of it to the surface. I would love nothing more to buy a winning lottery ticket and disappear, just vanish to some far-flung place. Sigh, I don’t even play the lottery.

So, folks, I’m just trying to focus on being gracious today. Grace is a gift. It is centering. It can lead me to forgiveness when necessary. It gives me strength. It allows me to fret less. In putting grace out into the universe, I’m hopeful that the universe will give some back to me.

I need it.


Morning Coffee

Hope and I only talk once a week or so via phone or video, usually on the weekends. All other times, we text. It works for us. I feel like it’s reasonable; I don’t want or need to talk to her daily. I don’t assume something is wrong if we don’t talk every day; instead I assume we are both off living our independent lives.

But the two times I’ve seen my daughter this semester, we get that quality time that really connects us and highlights our attachment.

And now Hope is home for Thanksgiving.

Earlier this week Hope texted me asking for some money to take an Uber to catch her bus home. Having just given Hope her allowance 10 days prior I blew a gasket that she had spent it all with no consideration that she needed to get to the bus station. We’ve been dealing with her spending for a few weeks now and I *lost* it. Texting furiously I reamed my daughter for her irresponsibility that she didn’t even have $10 to take an Uber. I sent her an email after checking in with the bank spending analysis. And then I said we would discuss once she got home.

And then she nearly missed the bus, and I lost my ish again.

Seriously, this kid ran my pressure way up this week.

And then she was home, and I tried to still be a bit pissy. Yeah, I did, because I’m so damn petty sometimes. But I picked her up from the station, brought her home, fed her, inspected her skin, assessed her demeanor and just hugged her. My anger melted away.

We still needed to talk, but I told her we would table things until the weekend so we could enjoy our holiday. Over dinner, Hope said grace and prayed that I didn’t rip her a new one when we talked. I tried not to laugh.

And the truce lasted about 12 hours. Over coffee we started our chat about school, money, health, friends, and life.

A_small_cup_of_coffee

via Google Images

We talked about her classes, challenges, depression, anxiety, and money. And we talked about medication compliance and things clicked into place. No meds for a few days, things slip, no meds for a week or more and things slide downhill fast. Not thinking you need your meds creates situations where it’s obvious that you need your meds.

I pointed this out to her, and she nodded her understanding.

I swear I can’t stay mad at her; annoyed and a little pissy, yeah, but all out mad? No. I just can’t. She needs me too much for me to stay mad and withhold love and affection from her.

We have more to discuss this weekend, but we made a lot of progress over coffee this morning.

I also learned my daughter takes her coffee black with a little sweetener and that her anxiety is probably driving her misconception that the dining hall food “makes her sick.”

We picked out some hair cuts for her to consider and I took her for a massive haircut this afternoon. I teased her as she sat in the chair having inches shaved off. I gushed as she rose from the chair; the new look becomes her.

Tomorrow we will call our family—her birth family—down south to catch up, and we will travel to visit our family in VA. She will see her grands, her cousins, and aunties. She will eat, laugh, play and eat some more, and I will watch her and marvel.

But first, we will have a cup of coffee together.

 


More Thoughts on Holidays and Adoption

While laying on my parents’ couch earlier today, I was listening to Hope tell me some random story about something or other. I was only half listening, scrolling through my Instagram feed.

I suddenly stopped and interrupted her.

“Do you want to call your grandmother today?”

Hope was mid-sentence and her voice just trailed off. She just looked at me. I wasn’t looking at her, but I could feel her staring at me. I finally looked over at her.

“There isn’t a right answer, you know that right? Whatever you feel or decide is cool. I just…felt like I should ask. I’m sorry I interrupted you.”

About two minutes of silence passed; one of my sisters was sitting in a chair in the room with us. As those seconds continued to pass, it kind of felt like we were all holding her breath.

“Ok,” I said, and resumed scrolling through Instagram.

Hope never responded; instead she picked up where she left off with the story she was previously telling me.

I mailed Hope’s grandmother a framed copy of her senior ROTC portrait and a letter. I wrote that I know she would rather hear directly from Hope, but that for whatever reason it was left to me to provide updates.

As the months stretch into what will soon be two years since Hope had direct contact, I find myself wondering how things will play out for Hope and her biological family. In moments like today, I feel like I can genuinely feel Hope’s and her family’s pain in this rift. I think about how I talk to a member of my immediate family nearly daily, and how gleeful my parents seem on those occasions when I am able to drive down to visit them. I think about how it must feel to not have those feelings, or those expectations or any of that. It is honestly hard for me to conceptualize, and I’m acutely aware of how fortunate I am since the absence of all of that is experienced by many people throughout their lives and especially during the holiday season.

While I do not badger Hope about connection, I do try to bring it up during times that seem appropriate or advantageous. I make myself available to all parties to facilitate contact. I work out the logistics for possible phone calls, letters, social media interactions, whatever. One of the college’s Hope has applied to is about 50 miles away from her biological family; I’m planning a campus visit for us next month. My offer to set up a visit while we’re close by was again me with chilly silence. I’ve learned to just leave those responses there. Ultimately, I do not believe I can or should force Hope to have contact that she doesn’t want. I do not want her to engage in things she feels are unhealthy for her. Her feelings and well-being are paramount.

And yet, my heart strings wish desperately there was something I could do to help them bridge this gap.

I’m glad that I have provided Hope a beautiful extended family. I chuckled to see her and her cousins holed up in a funky teenager room (why do they smell so bad???), shooting the breeze, playing video games, talking trash and making plans to hang out together tomorrow. I smiled inwardly as I grimaced outwardly when I had to tell her “let’s go” for the 6th time because she really didn’t want to come with me to check into the beach hotel. I’m glad she has this family.

But she does have more family; she just doesn’t know if she wants them, if they fit, if she can have a good, healthy relationship with them. And there’s lots of legit reasons to ask so many questions why. I respect my daughter’s inclination for sell-preservation. But it still hurts to watch from the sidelines. But as Hope slides into her 18 year, that’s my position on all of this—the sidelines.

So I will continue to point out or provide opportunities and follow her lead. Somehow, it will work out, right?


Adoption & the Holidays

This was my and Hope’s 5th Thanksgiving holiday together, and each year I learn a little something new about my daughter and about family in general.

My family is close, really close. We joke; we laugh; we eat. We are comfortable. Spouses and significant others adapt and adjust and eventually the seams that connect them to the family fade away. New children are born, and families are blended. We are family.

Hope is family, but adopted at 12 and only having 5 years and a bunch of baggage, her seams of connection are still visible. Add to the fact that she a 17-year-old who is physically attached to her phone and the connection is hard to honestly assess.

Hope is a bit caught in between families: there’s the family of her birth and the family she joined. I often find myself wondering how her first family feels during times like this. Do they think about her? Are they waiting for her call? Are they afraid to call her?

Of course, I also wonder how Hope feels.  Does she think of them? Does she miss them? Would she like to be with them for holidays? What does she remember?

As my family has grown, Hope and I have moved from staying at my parents’ home to staying in a hotel. Hope usually loves staying in hotels, and she’s certainly enjoying staying in one over the holidays. She does love staying in my old room more; she will say that she gets the best sleep of her life there. She’s not lying; I get the best sleep of my life in that room as well. At any rate, at some point in the late evening, we make the journey to retire to our hotel digs.

As we headed downtown, I hesitated to ask my daughter if she wanted to reach out to the other side of our family. I managed to get it out. I kept repeating no pressure, no pressure. I said, there’s no right answer. I just wanted to bring it up.

We rode in silence for a mile. It was awkward and painful. There was so much unsaid because there just aren’t enough words to articulate all the feelings. I wished I could take the painful parts away.

I can’t.

I finally said, Hey, never mind, I shouldn’t have brought it up. I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable. She said it was ok. It didn’t feel like it was ok.

There was so much left unsaid; I didn’t know what to say.

From a parenting perspective, I often wonder what the right thing to do is. I never want to force Hope to be in relationships she doesn’t want to be in. She is my priority. But I can’t deny feeling obligated to repeatedly raise the issue so that Hope knows I support her being in reunion if that’s what she wants.

I also know that the time is coming, or may already be here, where I just need to step aside and let it be, to just support whatever engagement or none she wants. I’ve been very transparent with her family about how she’s doing and that she’s in charge of the connections. Most have been very accepting, but I hear the pain in their voices. I get it. I so get it.

We’ll send cards and a few gifts over the next couple of weeks. We do enjoy that; there’s some joy that happens when we think of sending gifts to our family.

I think about it a lot about adoption and the emotions that surround it a lot during time of year. It tinges the season with a bit of sadness for all of us, I think.


Big Girl Undies

I am a huge extrovert and I like holidays. I love them. I want to enjoy them; I do not like sulking on holidays. I want good food, some bevies, a card game, confabs with friends and families and a good ole time.

Holidays trigger Hope. She usually seems to look forward to them, but when they arrive, she is sullen, withdrawn, grouchy, tense, anxious and difficult to be around, especially since I am hype.

I get it. I do, but on a selfish note, gosh, I just want one holiday that isn’t icky, that isn’t an emotional minefield. It’s July 4th, and it’s been miserable around these parts all dang day. Tomorrow I take Hope to band camp, her first time away from me for almost a week that will not be with family. I totally and completely get that this is anxiety provoking and that she is unable to pull herself together. There has been so much anxiety today that is has been paralyzing.

I thought we might hit up a BBQ place for a late lunch, maybe take in a movie to get her mind off of things, but I couldn’t even get her dressed before 2pm and she still needed to wash hair and start packing.

It’s not right and it’s not fair, especially since I’m the adult here, but I am excited for her and it’s a holiday! I am starved for interaction and engagement, and while I shouldn’t expect her to fill that need, we’re the only ones in this house and Yappy has done all he can do for me. And as much as she is not engaging, I know that the last thing she really wants me to do is go out without her.

So, then I get all icky and attitudinal, which just makes everything worse. It has been an ittshay day.

I’m human and sometimes immature and not the greatest at this mom thing on rough days, so….yeah. I own my petty.

So, I’ve gone out for a bit, bought myself a new lippy, some new nail polish and a slurpee and picked up Peanuts from the Redbox.

In the car on the way home, I pulled on my emotional big girl undies and resolved to have a good evening with Hope…if it killed me.

Sigh…here we go.


Tricks & Treats

This weekend the internet began to light up with Halloween foolery.  It’s that time of year again…the time of year when silly folks seem to think that dressing up in blackface or caricatures of various races and cultures for Halloween somehow becomes cool and acceptable because, you know, it’s a holiday.

Every got-dang year… same ish, different year.

But this year is different; I’m the new parent of a 12 year old, Black daughter.  I’m also Black.  We’re Black (just in case that isn’t clear from the blog title).  And now I have the responsibility of teaching my young, impressionable daughter that such depictions of people who look like us aren’t ok.  That cosigning friends’ and acquaintances’ desire to fetishize us is not ok either.  It isn’t just not ok; it’s some bull-hitsay.

I often tell people that I am proud to be an American, that I love this country and that it’s my favorite racist country.  I could list a bunch of other countries where I’m sure the racism would be worst.   But I was born here, and I live here and I’m so proud to be an American.

My proud, natural born citizenship notwithstanding, there’s some ish that really annoys the hell out of me about this country.  Among my issues:  the cavalier attitude with which we sweep issues of race under the carpet.  The kind of discourse that we don’t have, nay, can’t seem to have, despite being in a “post-racial” era that features a Black president.  The kind of place where my kid’s, friends’ parents may not teach them that spray browning their skin like Julianne Hough (See her OITNB fiasco) or dressing up as a Nazi officer, or plopping on a sombrero and carrying a can of refried beans to the Halloween party is all offensive.  Yeah, it’s offensive; not trying to hear any excuses.   These are just a few of the things that really furrow my brow.

So, now the challenge is helping my daughter to be comfortable in her deep brown skin and her coily, kinky hair and to walk proudly in her identity and her heritage and to not stand by and allow herself or people like her to be mocked and demeaned for the sake of some snickers bars for a trumped up holiday.

I would love to protect Hope from such things.  But I know that I can’t afford to not coach her on what seem to still be the rules of maneuvering through this life in this skin.

I’m not digging Halloween this year.


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