Tag Archives: Trauma

Home Cooking

I’ve been on leave from work for the last week. I had hoped to see my family, mom and dad, sister, BIL and my adorable niece and nephews. Unfortunately, given all that’s going on around Casa d’ABM, Hope and I were deemed at a greater risk than originally thought. We were lovingly disinvited. 

I miss my family terribly. Heck I just invited my sister who lives more locally if she wanted to go to this axe throwing place…I’m desperate y’all. 

In the end, it’s probably better that we had some time at home. I’ve had more time to devote to Hope and trying to get us back to some sense of stability. What I consider a crisis is still a crisis, but at the moment, things are…in a holding pattern. 

I made a request nearly a week ago that has yet to be filled. Until it is, things are a bit frozen on my end.

With Hope now not working and starting classes and me taking a week off from work, I’ve focused on cooking. 

The Muppets Cooking GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY
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During this pandemic, I’ve gone through cycles around cooking. I periodically need fresh bread, so I’ll make that every few days. I’ve been baking cakes, because well, I love cake and I tend to love them even more when I’m stressed. I’ve gone back to a few casserole dishes that are yummy. I’ve tried a few new dishes, though not many. Last week I upgraded my Instant Pot to a new 8qt Duo version with the air fryer. I wanted to make wings, and I did. 

So, since our crisis started, I’ve made wings twice, several loaves of bread, 2 cakes, a lot of homemade frosting, chicken salad, chili dog casserole, chili, and spaghetti and meatballs. The freezer is stocked with fixins for any number of dishes and I’m delighting in drawing Hope out of her room for quality time and important discussions with food. 

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Seeing her grab a bowl of chili, closing her eyes and smiling, commenting on the flavors brings me joy. It also makes for a nice entry point for talking about the current state of things. It makes it easier for me to listen when I’m savoring a meatball that’s been slow cooking in a marinara sauce that simmered for hours. 

Yesterday I made Hope breakfast, fried eggs on a buttered toasted kaiser roll, one of her favorites. 

Today, despite having a little chili left and the leftover spaghetti, I likely will make cabbage and sausage because it’s another household favorite. 

When I don’t cook, Hope tends to skip meals and snack shamelessly. She’s also taken to ordering food since she has her own cash. I’m not much on ordering or take out; it’s just never been something I’ve done a lot of, so the frequency of her orders seem like such a waste to me. Cooking delicious meals keeps money in her pocket, gets her to the table and keeps both of us engaged. 

Food will not solve our problems, but it will continue to bring us together and that’s my main goal right now. 

Any good recipes you think we’d like, drop links below or shoot them to me via email. We don’t do seafood, so that’s one limitation. We are also serious carnivores–so while we will do some meatless meals, we get down hard with meat. 

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Do you use food to bring the family together? What else are folks doing? I need all the suggestions I can get. ❤


Faking Calm In the Midst

I am trying to maintain a relatively flat affect at the moment. It’s the only way I can try to present a sense of calm in the midst of the drama. 

And there is so much drama. 

I’m so overwhelmed that I can pretty much sit and look out into the void for minutes, maybe hours. It’s not that I can’t emote; I just don’t see a point. A fit of crying is not going to resolve anything or make me feel better. Rage will likely only make things worse and shockingly, things could get way worse. There is no joy, there is no happiness. There is love, a lot of it, but mostly there is fear.

There have been many times on this journey when I felt fear for Hope, but real talk we side-stepped a lot of major trauma drama on this journey, comparatively speaking anyway. Hope is a kid that rarely acts out. With the exception of her room, she’s pretty responsive to rules and structure. I would go to support groups and real talk, feel kind of lucky that some of the drama I heard about had not touched us. I didn’t think my parenting had much to do with it, but I was so grateful that our blues were different. 

Now, here we are, and I could tell a story very similar to my parenting pals. It is a stark reminder that no one gets out of this journey without scars. 

What makes things even more complicated? Hope is legally an adult and can legally make horrible decisions, potentially deadly decisions on her own. I can make rules for my household, but she can legit just walk away and there is nothing I can do to stop her. I feel there is little I can do to protect her. This has just made me feel despair and kinda helpless.

I had a emergency chat with our family therapist yesterday. I was hoping to get insight, to see a path forward. AbsurdlyHotTherapist basically told me stuff that ripped my heart out. It was the conversation that finally had me back in the bathroom sitting in my tub to cry, like I used to in the early days of parenting. It was everything I didn’t want to hear, and the tentative plan forward is nothing I want to be a part of, but my choices are limited. 

The irony of limited choices is not lost on me. I began teaching Hope right away that the more choices you can create, the more freedom you have to move through the world. 

I don’t have many choices, so in addition to the sadness and grief around this whirlwind, I’m feeling trapped. 

I have come up with a discussion strategy that we’ve been using since the weekend. We have a discussion for about 30 minutes or so, usually over food, and one person gets to do most of the talking to explain their side of things. Then we table the discussion for a 24 hour cooling off period. This has allowed us to avoid too many raised voices and space for each of us to speak with minimal interruption with processing time before re-engaging. 

I can’t lie and say that I”m finding it easy not to jump in and screech “WTF are you doing????”, but I am trying diligently to abide by the rules so that Hope feels safe to tell me her 19 year old thinking. 

And for the record, 19 year old thinking can be more stupid than a box of rocks. I’ve sat listening to my daughter do her best grown ass woman impersonation and say some of the most ridiculous things I’ve heard since I was 19 and doing my own baby adult stupid shit. 

Today is my day to talk; I’m trying to keep it simple, but I’m desperate to build a case that screams NO. But, I know that is not what this moment needs though. I’ve got to play the long game to help us find our way out of this maze. 

Talk about 2020 being a whole ass dumpster fire. I’m so over this year.


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.

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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.

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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.

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I’m a Mess Right Now

Before I even get into this post, I anticipate that it will be a hot mess of rants, rambles, emotional meltdowns and frustrations. It might resonate with your own hot mess of feelings. It might be just the thing you shouldn’t be reading if you are one of those cheery, obsessively positive people. So…gauge yourselves accordingly.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about trauma during this pandemic.

I’ve also been thinking about coping.

I feel like I’m experiencing a lot of the former and not doing terribly well on the latter.

Two weeks ago tomorrow I began experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. For a week I dealt with irritating but mild symptoms. I was tired a lot, but unless there was a dramatic change in symptoms, I knew would be fine.

I turned the corner last weekend and physically felt great, despite still not having much of an appetite, all week. I dove back into work, which frankly is insane right now. Work has stressed me out, pissed me off, triggered so much anxiety, cursing and just full-blown emotional meltdowns that I just wash my face, put on my pjs and get in my bed shortly after I close my laptop. #depressionmuch?

And then, yesterday afternoon the sore throat returned. By 9pm I was coughing again and by 11pm my anxiety was in full bloom which only made me feel worse. I have no idea what this means other than abject terror about what’s next on this journey. I do know it probably means that my quarantine will get extended when I was so close to breaking free. I mean, I was just going to go to the Target, but still.

I’m a bit of a mess and overcome by constant waves of emotion.

Grief is a big one. I just keep cycling through the stages, sometimes even daily. Despite being externally low key these days, inside I’m at a level 10 just about 24/7. I’m probably tired from resisting the urge to populate every sentence I utter out loud with multiple f-bombs.

The quarantine has been especially challenging. I don’t always have the energy to connect outside of work hours with anyone—so no virtual happy hours these two weeks. Hope is hit or miss with her caretaking and engagement—she is ensconced in her room and only comes out for food or bio breaks. She will go to the store. She finally unpacked the rest of her college stuff from the car after I quietly, through gritted teeth raged that I’ve been asking her to do this for WEEKS. Yappy seems terrified to walk with her now. She grabs the leash and he runs to hide under the bed; I know there’s a story there. This has meant that despite my quarantine, I have had to suit up and take Yappy out ever so often to alleviate his anxiety and make sure he gets the opportunity to poop.

Cooking still falls to me.

Cleaning still falls to me.

I’m overwhelmed by everything and underwhelmed by the world’s response. I took off today because I was going to snap if I had to participate in one more Zoom call that should have been an email. I’m tired of expectations that I always be on camera. I’m tired that there isn’t a real, authentic acknowledgement that this ish is traumatic, and not just regular traumatic like “Do you remember where you were on 9-11?” No, this is like the year 2020 seems to be a never-ending cluster-f*ck…the whole gotdamn year. Yesterday I got up and took a walk (via YT video) because a series of back and forth emails in which I insisted that I could not help with a project (a boundary) resulted in a final passive aggressive email from my colleague. This was before 10am.

I’m over it.

I’m not motivated to do much of anything but find new cocktails to craft (I’ll be trying a Matcha Mule today). I bought yarn, I have downloaded patterns. I can’t even get myself to cast on stitches or to think about a project and I usually find knitting to be incredibly soothing. I have watched very little of the trending shows and movies everyone is writing about. I keep watching Law and Order, a couple of animal shows, and other stuff I’ve seen a million times. I just long to know what’s already coming—so I rewatch stuff I’ve already watched.

I’m a mess and I know it. I don’t even know how not to be a mess right now. I’m sad, mad, worried, sick, sick and tired, frustrated, confined, bored yet overextended at work and the thing that is seriously effing me up the most?

Some folks are trying to normalize this experience. This shit is not normal. And while I understand that it is the “new normal” and that normal as we once knew it is gone; I’m grieving *my* normal hard right now, so stop reframing this shit. I am not hearing it right now. STFU.

I’m beyond miserable, and there’s levels to my misery.

And then I feel guilty because, in the grand scheme of things I’m fine, Hope and Yappy are fine. My family is safe, sound and fine. There are so many people who are economically devastated in the midst of the mind f*ck this all is. I’m not experiencing that, thankfully, but I can’t even imagine having that burden too. It reminds me of the privilege I have despite everything.

So, yeah, just add woke guilt on top of the emotional dumpster fire that I am right now.

So this chilly Friday morning, I’m going to make me some coffee, put some Baileys in it, cut off several chunks of the bread I made yesterday, get in my favorite spot on the couch and sulk while watching L&O marathons on various channels and filling in with back episodes on Hulu for hours when I can’t find a broadcast episode. I will call my doctor to discuss the reappearance of symptoms and what it means for my quarantine, testing and over all health. I will snooze my work accounts—no I will not hop on your zoom for a few minutes. Let me lone!

Today will be for self-care in the form of tv watching, wallowing, carb loading, cannabis consumption and trying to get my mind right. I might even order takeout on a *Friday* (Thursday is takeout day at Casa d’ABM).

How are y’all?


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.


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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


Kids Don’t Want to be A$$holes.

I was surfing around Facebook this past weekend and stumbled upon posts with parents venting about kids’ behavior. The “kids” may have had trauma backgrounds, may have neurocognitive challenges and some had both and more. I could practically hear the frustration through my phone and laptop screens. I empathized deeply.

I’ve certainly posted here about my frustrations around Hope’s more challenging behaviors, and how they were really, really difficult to cope with, so I get it. I have a love/hate relationship with online adoption support communities, but I do think that online support groups are important because we all need safe spaces to just release the big emotions we have in trying to cope with what inevitably feels like very personalized behavior designed to destroy us. It’s natural to feel that frustration. It’s natural to need to vent.

What struck me, though, is how easy it is to go down the rabbit hole of seriously thinking your kid is out to get you, to impose consequences that serve to push the kid further away and to really think there’s nothing going on but what you see on the surface.

Pro Tip: There’s always something going on below the surface.

I learned some time ago that Hope’s behaviors typically weren’t about me at all, but they were a form of communication with me. Parenting Hope through trauma and ADHD was and is…hard. Of the over 2,000 days Hope and I have been a family, I experienced some level of emotional upheaval for at least more than a good third of it.

Way more than a third of it if I’m brutally honest.

This has not been a walk in the park, nor has it lived up to the parenting experience I thought it would be. It’s been, in many ways, better than that notion and way underachieving in other ways.

It took me a long, long time to understand and appreciate that Hope’s most challenging behaviors were really her trying to tell me that she was struggling, that I needed to meet her where she was, not where I thought she should be. She was, and sometimes still is, scared and unsure of the circumstances and her place in those circumstances. She didn’t always have words, so she acted out. She still doesn’t have many words, but she will apologize for not being able to tell me what she needs. Sometimes it’s like we play out charades as I run though a list of potential challenges trying to guess what it is she needs and whether I can do something that will relieve her stress.

Hope was never out to get me in those moments when she was acting all spawn of satan and ish. She was calling for me to save her.

As we spend some time venting, we’ve got to remember that kiddos need us. That they are, in fact, often telling us what they want and need. They don’t want to be acting out. They don’t feel good about any of it. They aren’t trying to stay in those dark places.

According to the US CDC, nearly 10% of kids have an ADHD diagnosis. And although only about 3% of kids have depression and 7.1% of kids have anxiety, there is a high likelihood that if you have a diagnosis for one, you will have a diagnosis for another with a side dish of high incidence of behavioral problems too. For those of us parenting adopted children and/or children with trauma or ADHD, it might seem like these stats are low. They are relatively low; it’s just that we all hang out together, plugging into communities with other parents who are living the same experience. It ends up feeling like it’s a lot more people because we are plugged in.

There was a conversation I had with Hope one time when she was trying to explain what ADHD felt like without meds and what her depression feels like. It was heartbreaking for her to vocalize what it actually felt like, but it helped me understand that as frustrating it is, as much as I feel so personally attacked with some behaviors, as disrespectful as it feels, what Hope feels in those moments is so much worse. I pondered it for weeks.

Our kids don’t want to have behavioral problems. Our kids would love nothing more to be “normal.” Our kids want to blend in. They don’t always have the capacity to keep it together. They don’t always have the skills to even perform normalcy. We have to support them and create space that will allow them to get as close to it as they are able.

It’s ok to vent. Really, it is absolutely ok to vent, just remember that they aren’t trying to be assholes. They aren’t.


Damsel in Distress

I’m in a hotel room in New York. I didn’t go to the parade Hope was marching in today. It was chilly, crowded and Grammy desperately wanted to see the Fearless Girl down in the Financial District. I have bronchitis, and it’s gotten worse in the last 24 hours. So, I took mom to Wall Street to get her picture of Fearless Girl, and then we came back to the hotel where I watched the parade on tv and on YouTube. Then I slept most of the afternoon.

Hope is on her way back to campus. Her band marched, and then practically marched right back to the bus and rolled out. But not before Hope could attempt to set off a bit of drama.

It’s become clear that school trips are triggering for my daughter.

Kids get excited about school trips. They pick hotel roommates, seatmates for the bus, who to eat with and all the things that kids do on trips. Hope has a hard time navigating social relationships, and there’s a lot of socializing on school trips. Hope also is always desperate for attention, and if kids won’t give it to her, she will go to her old standby, illness, which brings the sympathetic adults running.

There is always a stomach ache, and thanks to raging anxiety, there is no doubt that it really hurts. Sometimes there’s headaches, other times there maybe other various ailments. But trust, it’s always something. One time I was traveling and I had to dispatch that Grands to go fetch her from a trip to spend a recovery day with them and then rejoin the trip the next day.

Hope texted me last night to tell me she didn’t feel well. Then today she nearly demanded that I come gather her up and take her home (our home). Um, ma’am? I reminded her that I wasn’t leaving New York for another day, and that I didn’t drive here and would need to buy a ticket to take her back to the DC area. Soooo, no love, she was going to need to get on the bus to go back to school.

Her response?

Why did I even bother coming to New York?

Sigh…

Then she just was mad.

I get it. I am supposed to rescue her. She is a damsel in nearly perpetual distress, and I’m the damsel’s mom—the prince stand-in.

Sometimes it is so hard to remember that she is still very much a scared little girl inside a young woman’s body. Sometimes she stuns me with how well she can hold it all together, while other times I swear it feels like parenting a bunch of scattered marbles.

It’s also sometimes hard to reconcile just how little progress has been made in the face of progress that is like moving light years. It’s like always feeling like, “Oh, I thought we were past this.” No, we may never be past this.

And sometimes Hope and I lament how we may never be past it. There are moments when she is self-aware enough to recognize the behaviors and wish she could be/do different. Those moments are almost as hard because I can see her own internal struggle to heal rise to the surface, recognizing that she is engaging in behaviors that aren’t great but essentially enslaved to them for basic survival.

I try to comfort her, but sometimes I have to say no or to force her to finish what started or to face her fears. All in love, but sometimes also for my own self-preservation.

I know that my damsel has the potential to suck us both into a dark place. One of us has to keep it together and well, that has to be me.

So, tomorrow I’ll head home for more rest after what’s turned out to be a lazy trip to New York.  Hope will be back on campus soon, and I’ll make plans to see Hope this week and try to meet her need for attention.

Parenting just doesn’t get easier.


FML: Travel Version

Today I struggled. And by struggle I mean…wanted to strangle Grammy and Hope at different times and for different reasons.

I love traveling with my mom. It’s easy. She’s easy going, we love on each other and it’s just epic. We sometimes even cry together because the time together is so special. This trip has had all that but Hope is with us and that’s changed our dynamic. Hope is an attention hog, and I tend to dote on my mom when we travel. I’ve tried to mete out the doting, but I rarely get dedicated time with Grammy so I’m sure she’s winning the doting war.

Then, despite showing epic growth this summer and in the last few weeks, in the matter of a few short days Hope has regressed into some of her worst behaviors. She’s annoying with a bit of a smart mouth.

Emotionally demanding, and then, as we arrived in Switzerland, again had to go through the absurd routine of being *shocked* that the country has insects. Why didn’t I warn her?

Yeah, she has a phobia. Yes, I know that there’s components of phobias that are completely unrelated to reason, but Hope has turned the ancillary showmanship around her bug phobia into a high artform.
In the last couple of days her behavior has been quietly grating on my nerves…and I’m not the only one.

So by the time we arrived at the airport today, I’d survived Grammy’s worry that the car service wouldn’t pick us up at the hotel and Hope’s lollygagging in getting ready because she was up until the wee hours watching Kdramas in the dark. By the time we got through security and got Hope something to eat and made her do some of her required school reading, my shoulders were finally starting to relax. Grammy starts talking about how different Hope is from my sisters and me, and I get defensive. This is really the first time she’s seen Hope’s true colors up close and personal. Stuff that I understand now, stuff that I let go, stuff that I think is a parking lot problem when I only die on mountain style problems, just baffles Grammy. I get it, but I also know how to parent this kid (even when I want to strangle her), and I can’t parent her the way I was parented. It’s not better or worse, just radically different.

I briefly raised my voice, and then I lost my four day fight to hold back tears. I didn’t sob, but I did cry. Grammy pulled back and said she got it. I know she doesn’t totally get it, but I appreciated that she does on an intellectual level at least.

Then I felt like a failure for not managing to keep it together and disrupting our trip with this exchange. I ended up apologizing and trying to make it right later.

I get us to our AirBnB. It’s a charming apartment. It’s huge, everyone has their own space (precisely why I chose it). I find us food nearby. I manage Hope’s latest bug phobia drama and hand her a couple of Ativan. I video chat my dad and my sister. During my call with my sister, Hope declares that she’s not having a good time, and she wants to go home. Stunned, I abruptly end the call and began sobbing.

I’m exhausted, the airport meltdown took something out of me and then I was wedged into a seat with a dude who wafted funk with every move. (Bless the French and their apparent hatred for quality deodorants.) Just yesterday we went and saw all the stuff in the Apesh&t video at the Louvre, and it was epic. Today, in typical 13 year old in a 17 year old chronological body, Hope declared her teen angst misery, and I, completely depleted and fed up, skidded into the spin and claimed the dramatic southern woman wailing part in the tableau.

Seriously, the trip of a lifetime and misery abounds. Can’t I just get 10 days drama free? Please?

I adore Hope. There is little I won’t do for her, but don’t get it twisted, parenting her is hard. It’s exhausting. Sometimes it’s downright withering.

And sometimes on days like today, after having given Grammy a lecture on the need to have different kinds of expectations for my daughter, I heap on a serving of hypocrite to my parenting dish because for the life of me, I have no idea why I would think that Hope would really love/appreciate a trip to France and Switzerland. She barely appreciates when I pick up a nail polish that I think she will like or make sure that her special Korean ramen is in the house.

It’s not that she’s not thankful for some stuff, it’s just like…some of the things are so far beyond that she’s not sure how to handle them, so she doesn’t handle them well. It’s like she can’t process it in her operating system She’s not handling this trip well, which means we’re not handling this trip well. And I wish she would step up, because I know she can but just won’t, so I blame myself because I know what her default setting is: chaos. When in doubt, cause chaos, because for her, that’s something she understands.

After I got myself together, I told her that I am sorry that she is not having a good time. I do not regret bringing her, but I got the message that this isn’t her thing so I will be sure to extend an invite, but not assume she’s interested in going on these kinds of trips in the future.

I had hoped that after our Grecian adventure earlier this year that she would have got the travel bug, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. That’s ok. It’s not for everyone. I know that she will have these memories–however she frames them–and I’m glad for it.

As for me, I’m heading to my conference tomorrow and I’m looking forward to interacting with non-relatives for a few hours. I’m looking forward to just getting into a zone where I know I do good work, where I can learn, where I can just feel like I am seen and perceived as successful.

Quiet as kept, I’m looking forward to seeing the city, but I will also look forward to going home, seeing and cuddling Yappy, settling into my empty nest routine and going out with my new bae.

I’ve got 5 days though to get through without killing anyone. Prayers, if you’re into that kind of thing.


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