It is so good to have a few moments to write.
Even better: hours.
I have hours. I’m away from the house. Cannot hear the dirty dishes in the sink nor the clothes to be folded calling my name. I have nothing but my laptop and am choosing to ignore my phone and social media.
If you are also a writer, you know what I mean.
And by writer, I don’t mean famous, or published, or even, “manuscript completed and rejected fiftyish times.”
Do keys tapping in a satisfying click-tick rhythm make your anxiety melt?
Words fascinate and enthrall you?
Sentences with perfect balance give you deep satisfaction?
Alliteration, onomatopoeia and entire-paragraphs-sans-adverbs bring you joy?
That’s what I mean.
Photo by Peter Nijenhuis
**We’re up to $35; see below!
We’ve all seen (and occasionally participated in) a Meet & Greet post. You know, “drop your link in the comments and maybe someone will click.”
Instead of posting a hit-or-miss link, let’s change it up. Your mission, should you choose to accept it:
1. Describe your blog in nine words or less.
2. Paste a link to a post you’re proud of writing. Bonus points for adoption, mental health or parenting themes*, but it can be anything.
*With your link, please note the post theme, e.g., “Adoption,” “Mental Health,” “Parenting,” “My Happy Place,” “Honey Badgers are Misunderstood,” etc.
3. Reblog this to increase the number of participants. For every comment below, I’ll donate a dollar* to Compassion International, a fabulous organization committed to child development and rescuing kids from poverty.
*If the comment number rises beyond my ability to personally donate, I commit to raising the money.
4. Click at least two links and read the posts.
Have fun! And ignore the lemur. Feel free to hug.
This week I started a new job, had hour-long meetings with each of their teachers and the IEP case manager, still managed to get them to all activities and appointments on time, studied like mad for 5th grade science, social studies and spelling tests (first week of school, let’s dive right in, shall we? ) and agreed to restore a house-worth of old shutters.
Starting to think I need my head examined.
Or I need a Tardis, so I can keep going back to week’s beginning until I’m caught up. Preferably with a Dr. Who to drive for me…reading the Tardis Operating Manual might send me over the edge.
Share your crazy week and make me feel normal. 🙂
I’ve been a little absent partly because our summer is crazy and partly because I’m writing a Princess story…the main character being a girl adopted from Foster Care. Posting the first chapter since some of you indicated “more fiction!” in a way-back-when poll. Like it? Let me know. Hate it? Well…be nice, but feedback is feedback. 🙂
Everybody wants to be a princess.
Well, everyone who isn’t already a princess wants to be one.
It’s no picnic, let me tell you. Except for when guards shoo the villagers away and you see thirty beautiful people carrying baskets and blankets into the meadow circle…then, right, it’s a picnic.
Everybody thinks they want to be a princess, and I’ll admit there are many excellent reasons to enjoy princessdom. Princessing? Princesshood? Perks include having people sit and listen to you even when you get off track. Like now. My apologies.
But there are two sides to every coin, and consequences to every wish fulfilled.
Everyone wants to be a princess, and it seems logical, until you understand the Princess Problem.
And here it is: Someone always wants to kill you.
I should have listened to my grandfather.
I am so tired of that woman. She will not leave me alone.
I just want to have peace and quiet, but no. It’s bad enough that Mom puts her nose in my school business, calling my teachers, showing up for lunch without warning, bribing my friends with cookies so they’ll like her. But that’s not enough meddling in my life. Nope. She also makes me do work. Like I’m her slave or something. If I forget, she follows me around and nags..
“Chores are your duty as a citizen of this great land we call our household,” she tells me.
Chores. Ha. More like doing her job for her. Parents are supposed to take care of the house. Moms do the inside, dads take care of the lawn and the cars and all that. Or they hire someone. None of my friends have “chores.” So much for my childhood.
“You’re lucky, Colleen,” mom says. “Not every kid learns life skills. When you graduate, you’ll be able to survive on your own. I know you don’t appreciate it all, but chores are good for your character. Be thankful. Your life, even when you think it’s horrible, is someone else’s fairytale.”
“Fairytale, ha. Emily and Madison don’t have to learn life skills,” I complain.
She laughs. Laughs. Like it’s no big deal.
“Well, when they pull their first all-pink load of laundry out of the dryer in college, they’ll wish they did. In the meantime, you still need to clean the downstairs bathroom. People are coming over in three days, and you’ve left it a mess. And then sort your laundry so we can start a load for you. I’m asking you to clean up after yourself. It’s not like you’re Cinderella.”
Pink clothes? What does that even mean? And no, I’m not Cinderella. If only. I’d ride off with that prince and live in style.
My thirteenth birthday party is Saturday. I will be a TEENager. Almost eighteen. In just five more summers, I can be outta here. A few weeks ago, I said this out loud. Stupid me. She laughed then, too.
“Wait,” she said, doubled over and gasping for air, “you’re killing me. Do you remember how long it’s been since you were eight years old?”
I sniffed. “That’s forever ago.”
“Exactly,” she said. By this time she was cackling, that annoying snorty laugh she does when she thinks something is really, really funny. “You are not almost eighteen. Trust me, five years is a long time. By the time you hit eighteen, thirteen will feel like ‘forever ago,’ too.”
I’m counting the days, believe me. One thousand, eight hundred twenty-nine, to be exact. In case you’re checking my math, don’t forget leap year.
I head downstairs to my bathroom. It’s actually the guest bathroom, but last year I sort of claimed it. Mom said it was fine as long as I clean it. And I do. Most of the time.
My twin brother Kevin and I used to share a bathroom. He’s completely gross. Leaving him in his filth was one of the best hygiene decisions I’ve ever made, right up there with deciding to wear deodorant. So he has to clean the upstairs bathroom himself. Now, if we could just get him to shower. With soap. Mom said he’ll start when he finally discovers girls. Like that will happen. He’s got his head so far inside his science books, he’s lucky he remembers to eat.
I wipe the toothpaste dots off the mirror. Mom always checks. She says “no one wants to see that.” I rub the chrome until it sparkles, then flick the rag across the counter. If the chrome is shiny, no one notices the rest. After I pour blue stuff in the toilet bowl, I figure the bathroom is good enough. It’s not like party guests are going to use the tub.
Should I post more, or are you bored? 😉
Feel free to provide editing notes. I can take it.
At dinner with an elderly friend, I asked, “What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?”
“Well,” she said, “my mother used to tell my brother,
Want a good life? Keep your mouth shut and your pants zipped.
and that’s probably the best advice I’ve ever heard from anyone.”
I’m working hard on a writing project along with Lynn Love (check out her blog; it’s super) and some other fabulous writers through NaNoWriMo’s April “Camp.” I’d like to open this blog space to YOU today.
We have a bunch of new readers here, and all of you (long-time readers and new) have such great experience.
Please share below one of the following:
- The best advice you’ve ever received.
- The biggest thing you’ve learned on your own.
- If you could have a do-over, what would happen?
And hey, if you want to share a link to your blog, please do.
P.S. Here’s the best advice I’ve heard in a while (look twice if you don’t see it right away):
Today I write the 200th post on Hypervigilant.org…sort of a milestone.
I wouldn’t be here without YOU. This post is dedicated to you, my amazing friends around the world.
Taking a page from my opinionated buddy Jason at HarsH ReaLiTy, I’m opening the first Hypervigilant Networking Post. It’s your turn to write!
Introduce yourself to everyone. Put a link to your blog in the comments. Add a quick summary about yourself and/or your blog.
No butt-sniffing, though.
Unless you’re this guy.
Here, I’ll get you started. Like this:
Hi, I’m Casey. I write most about adoption, but sometimes write fiction or about random things I’ve learned. Here’s my blog: hypervigilant.org
Let’s network, people.
Find a Mentor, be a Mentor
As I mentioned in Part 2, a more experienced couple came alongside us during a difficult time in our marriage. They recognized our struggle, having experienced dark times of their own. Without them, we might not be together now. (And insanely happy, I might add.)
In the last few years, we’ve been able to “pay it forward” by helping several other young couples through difficulties. We don’t spout wisdom or platitudes. We don’t give advice unless it’s welcomed. You might be surprised, though, how often people just want to know they’re not alone.
Reach out. You’re not alone.
Do EVERYTHING Together
I’m totally kidding. Mutual hobbies are fun, as is time snuggling up for a movie, but everyone needs a little time to themselves.
When we were first married, I used to hang out with Hubby’s car-restoration buddies. I migrated from sitting on a greasy office chair in a big garage, to reading in the friend’s house and finally to waving goodbye as he headed off for some guy time.
Don’t get me wrong; we love to be together, but he needs time with the guys and I need time with the girls. We each need time alone without kids.
This weekend, Hubby took the kids to an event by himself because I was invited to a friend’s house. Another weekend, I took the kids to my aunt’s house.
Plan time for what YOU love. You’ll enjoy “together” time even more.
Do the Taxes
Do you remember Full House?
In my favorite episode, toddler Michelle is upset because her best buddy, Uncle Jesse, wants to spend more time with his new wife. When Michelle asks her Uncle Joey why Uncle Jesse and Aunt Becky are unavailable, Joey says the newlyweds are doing their taxes.
Michelle asks, “Will they be doing taxes every night?”
Joey answers, “For the first couple of months…”
Several of the cards we received at our wedding referenced “doing taxes.” I love our friends.
Intimacy—in all its forms—is crucial for marriage survival. This article on ForeverFamilies should be required reading. (Read it.) Physical intimacy—SEX—(oh my gosh she said that) within marriage is important.
And yes, I said within marriage. Sure, the “fun” doesn’t disappear if you don’t have a ring on your finger, but the absolute trust and bonding that should happen is missing. Can you really give yourself completely to someone if they might walk away tomorrow? Great sex makes a healthy, happy marriage healthier, happier and more fulfilling. And it’s fun.
If you’re not regularly “doing taxes”…try it. Trust me.
Guard Your Health
Taking care of ourselves while we have some ability to sway the balance in our favor is paramount. Of course, we don’t have real control over what happens in the end.
My uncle, in his 80’s, told me,
If I’d had any idea I’d live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.
In early marriage, we were in pretty good shape. In 2005, a doctor informed me I have Lupus. I freaked out for a while, took medication as prescribed, wore SPFLatexPaint and stayed out of the sun.
Our jobs required more time. Eating habits suffered. Gym time became obsolete. We both gained weight, a little at a time. The kids came to live with us and suddenly we ate more fast food in a month than we’d eaten in previous whole years. Pounds of candy and chocolate appeared for the children at every holiday, and we helped them eat it.
Then we had a bit of a scare as Hubby was diagnosed with Diabetes. In the last two weeks we’ve done everything we have been “planning to do” for the last several years…eat right, join (and go to) a gym, get better sleep.
We feel better, smile more and feel less stressed.
Don’t wait until you have a reason. Take care of yourself NOW.
Sort of a no-brainer, I know.
We’ve had a couple near-death scares this year. First, our unintentional stunt-driving incident.
The last two years, we’ve remodeled most of the house; taking out walls, repairing bathrooms and completely restoring the kitchen. Most of these tasks were precipitated by leaks. The previous owner—let’s just say he made some…mistakes…while building the house. Like using less-than-stellar pipe connectors. And wiring the house in unexpected ways.
The second near-death scare happened last week. Hubby turned off the appropriate breakers to install new receptacles in the kitchen, bringing us to project completion. I turned away for a moment.
The kitchen exploded in light and noise. I turned back to see Hubby, fingers blackened, holding the receptacle piece and panting.
Also, he was grinning. What a weirdo.
“Did you see that? I almost DIED!” he laughed.
I was not amused. If I ever see the previous owner again, I will kick him where it hurts. The receptacle was wired into another breaker marked for upstairs.
We start getting the diabetes under control, and he gets electrocuted. Super.
So yes, this may seem elementary, but here’s my final piece of advice: if you want to stay married for 15 years, try not to die.
Ok, your turn! Give us the best advice you’ve got.
Our anniversary is February 24.
Wow…45 looooooong years.
Ha, just kidding. 15 years.
Hubby and I are the happiest married couple I know. We have fun together and LIKE each other (there’s an idea) and I can’t imagine being with anyone else.
Okay, I lied. Occasionally I daydream about Wolverine. (Not Hugh Jackman, mind you. Wolverine.) But geez, who wouldn’t? Watch. He’s not wearing a shirt. Tell me I’m crazy.
Disclaimer: if you don’t want to see comeuppance for trying to kill one’s daughter, stop the video at 1:45.
You watched the whole thing, didn’t you. Twice? Shameless hussy.
Since he self-heals, I have a feeling some of that muscled beauty is computer generated. I feel so cheated.
This is about real people.
In addition to being the happiest, we’re also in the running for “Longest Time Hitched to the First Person You Married” award among friends in our age bracket. People sometimes ask us our secret, so I thought I’d share it with you.
- thinking of getting married
- filling out a FarmersOnly.com profile
- recovering from being caught mousing around AshleyMadison (I still can’t believe that’s real)
- a confirmed bachelor(ette)
- a confirmed bachelor(ette) with a Tinder account
this advice will change your life.
Or it will give you yet another reason to say, “Thank God I’m not THAT screwed up.”
Either way, I’m happy to help.
Ways to Stay Married for
40 15 years
Begin with a memorable encounter
Rain forced P.E. classes into the gym; the teachers called, “Run ten laps and then you can sit with your friends!” I still remember the sound of sneakers slapping and squeaking on the gym floor. Thankfully, this memory has no smell. “Sweaty teen” is one of my least favorite odors.
Not “like yesterday” but still very clear: I jogged around the corner closest to the padded grey wall under the basketball hoops. Home stretch; one more side, then I could relax.
I hit the wall. Hard. Not of my own volition. I heard a chuckle as he trotted away.
“That jerk pushed me into the wall. He’s gonna pay.” I sped after him, tomboy that I was, fully intending to pound him. Or at least give him a good punch in the shoulder. He turned, grinning. I reconsidered.
I was thirteen (he thought I was fifteen). He was sixteen. I was in ninth grade; he was in tenth. He was the sweetest, most respectful guy I’d ever met. And he had great biceps (still my favorite). No doubt in my mind: we were going to grow up and get married.
He asked me out. I said yes. We held hands.
Then I told him to go to hell.
Tell him to go to hell
I didn’t just grow up in the buckle of the Bible Belt; I lived on the prong. Everything in my life revolved around Christianity. We attended a very conservative, legalistic church. When the doors were open, we attended. I never felt a connection with anyone my age and often felt “not good enough.”
Sometime during my elementary years, a young lady visited the church wearing jeans and leather—typical 80’s style. An older lady approached her and said, “honey, you need to dress properly for church.” The girl never returned.
I knew this was wrong. By the time I met Hubby, I knew I could never invite him to our church. His family didn’t attend church (strike one) he rocked a mullet (strike two) AND he listened to ROCK MUSIC (you’re out).
None of those are Hubby, but this page could have been from our yearbook.
So then, I went to Bible camp. At camp, we learned that we should only date other Christians because then we’d have similar goals. If I wanted to go to South America as a missionary (and I did) but married a guy who didn’t see the point, things could get sticky. The speaker noted that generally you only marry people you date, so it makes sense to date people you could marry.
I was heartsick, knowing we didn’t see eye to eye. I decided to write him a letter to try to explain. Perhaps, I thought, he might decide to also be a Christian.
Being a socially inept fourteen-year-old did not help my communication. I didn’t realize how my letter came across: “hey, I just found out you’re going to hell.”
I do not recommend this as a relationship tactic.
Hitchcock’s shower scene in Psycho is classic terror.
And because this is a family blog, I give you….the LEGO version.
Maybe this scene rings so true because we all have a bit of shower insecurity.
A shower once traumatized me…and it wasn’t even my shower.
Did you ever notice the words “adoption” and “insanity” have the same number of letters?
This is no coincidence.
It’s been four and a half years since the Wednesday our kids arrived.
Social Services lost our fingerprint results, delaying our approval to foster children. The family who’d housed our kiddos for eighteen months had enough chaos from the two darlings to last a lifetime. They declined to allow the children to stay longer, so the social worker found a foster family willing to provide care for a month, to give time for new prints.
The social worker ignored my suggestion to ask the FBI whether another copy of the results might be available. After we were re-printed, results appeared very quickly. A miracle, some might say. Or the social worker found them, misfiled…
The interim foster parent, a friend of mine, delivered the children on a mild Wednesday afternoon. At the time, we didn’t know that a social worker was supposed to be present to “facilitate” the situation. The kids had no idea what was happening. Neither did we.
My friend hugged me tight, tears in her eyes. (I was a little blurry, myself.) “So happy for you. Congratulations, Mama!” She smiled and drove away. Upon examining the memory, I think she might have been laughing.
Married ten years, Hubby and I had approximately 20 years of “kid experience” between us. Surely, we could handle this instant-family situation.
We’d spent the equivalent of two days with the kiddos, then 5 and newly-turned-7. They seemed to like us. This would be a breeze. They were so teeny and adorable.
Like baby jackals. Or, perhaps, hyenas.
Maybe you’ve heard the phrase, “Wednesday’s child is full of woe.” That Wednesday evening foreshadowed the next two years of our lives with fair accuracy.
We took them to a church spaghetti dinner—I was thrilled at the idea of not cooking. They were thrilled at the prospect of a table full of desserts.
During the course of the meal, they ate bread, salad, pasta and meat sauce with their hands. Utensils seemed utterly foreign to them.
The urchins spilled six (count ’em, six) cups of pink lemonade—including a huge trip-fall-splash that involved about a third of the floor space—and the five year old ate a napkin.
Ate a napkin.
Well, ate might be slight exaggeration. He stuffed the napkin in his mouth, and despite (or because of) our exhortations of “Oh, honey, don’t…don’t do that.” “No, that’s not food. Take it out.” “Spit that out right now.” “SPIT. IT. OUT.” he continued to chew the paper with a “make me” glint in his sweet blue eyes.
Finally, Hubby said, in a display of fearless parenting,
“Fine. Swallow it. It’ll probably stop you up and you won’t poop for a week.”
It worked. The game was no longer fun. He deposited the mass of wet fibers onto the floor with swift efficiency.
We arrived home past bedtime, exhausted, but couldn’t skip bathing. The kids were literally covered head-to-toe in sauce.
Imagine all the cute photos of your friends’ infants eating pasta for the first time. Super cute, that tomato-basted babe. Fast forward five or seven years. No longer super cute.
I started the shower, made sure it was warm, then helped the 7 year old remove her saucy outfit and step into the tub. She gave me a little smile. Then…she collapsed, screaming, on the floor of the tub.
It felt a little like Psycho. (Sans the crazy guy.)
In my panic to find the problem, I left the shower running. “Are you hurt? Did you slip? Are you okay? What’s wrong?”
She continued to scream. Hubby stopped entertaining the five year old and cracked the door. “What in the world is happening in there? What did you do?”
More screaming. What did he mean by, “what did you do?” Clearly, what I did was lose my mind and bring an insane, scary, evil-spirit-possessed child into the house.
Finally, as the decibels reached somewhere between ear-piercing and drum-bleeding, I regained conscious control of my hands and turned off the shower. Screaming stopped. No explanation.
“Are you okay?” Nod. “Are you hurt?” Shake. “Did the shower scare you?” Another negative shake. “You have to get clean; will you take a bath?” Nod.
I filled the tub.
The child then washed the remnants of dinner from her hair, calm and apparently in her right mind.
We didn’t attempt another shower for the next year. The younger one spontaneously decided he’d rather shower. Not to be outdone by her little brother, our girl braved the shower the next night, with no complications. Oh, how I love sibling rivalry.
Approximately six hundred showers later, she sidled up to me, posture casual. “Hey, remember that time I was screaming like a crazy person in the shower, on our first night here?”
“Oh…um, I think I remember.” Yes, I remember. My eardrums experience a spontaneous tremor at the thought.
“Yeah, Mama…I was just freaked out about being in a new house. Sorry about that.” Freaked out, indeed…
“Oh, sweetie, don’t even worry about it. That was a long time ago. I barely even remember it.” Liar, liar, pants on fire…
I think there’s a reason God doesn’t let us see the future. If, that first night, I’d known what was coming in the next 24 months—that the shower scene was only a precursor—I might have bailed.
My mom says she doesn’t remember the hours of childbirth because the joy of seeing the baby’s face “erased the memory of the pain.” If you’re lucky, birth happens in hours (or if you’re unlucky, days).
Adoption, especially with behaviorally challenged kiddos, is a little different. Labor pains happen every day.
And believe me, I remember every single minute.
Good thing we like a little insanity around here.
If you’ve adopted, here’s the good news: you’re not alone.
More good news: you’ll survive. I promise.
*This piece is updated from a post written in September 2014.
Continued from Part 1
Get lost on purpose.
Sure, candy company. This is a great idea.
Let me disconnect my GPS, toss my phone and just start driving.
Forget about picking up the kids from school or assisting clients or happy greetings from me and the four-leggeds when Hubby arrives home.
Sometimes I do get lost, but not on purpose.
I have no maps in my head. I’ve tried. TRIED. Again, I blame books. From childhood through my early twenties is buried in books. Blessed with an iron stomach, trips to the grocery store or dentist were escapes to islands of treasure or conversations with diminutive females. (See what I did there?)
On annual expeditions up winding routes through mountains to see the glorious autumn red, gold and purple leaves, my mother called out every thirty seconds, “PUT YOUR BOOK DOWN!” Nothing deterred me from a good read.
Unfortunately, this also precluded me from the company of my slightly-more-motion-sensitive sibling, six years my junior, who paid attention to the road and could find his way home when he was approximately thirty months.
I still have trouble remembering…is it right? Or left?
Hubby still laughs at me for getting mixed up in the woods behind our house. In my defense, I couldn’t see anything but trees.
I traipsed out to give him something, then turned to head back to the house. He stopped me, then asked our (then seven and nine year old) children, “Which way is the house?” They pointed. Not the direction I’d started walking.
Do you need me to embarrass myself further? You get the point. I have no sense of direction. Getting lost on purpose would not be difficult.
But if I were to lose myself (especially—as so many times during our first 24 months with wild hyenas—when I feel the urge to do so), how would disappearing help? I submit to you that it would NOT.
“Getting lost,” whether a literal or figurative disappearance, is not the answer.
I can say this with unequivocal, earnest passion because for about a year, I followed this bitter chocolate advice. I buried myself, my dreams, my emotions, my yearnings. So worried that I would attach too deeply to these insanely wild creatures, only to be torn from them, I distanced myself. I got lost. On purpose.
I became an automatMom, going through the motions. On the surface, I appeared as happy as every other adoptive mom of kids with behavioral needs. We all smile in public.
Side note: Speaking of smiling in public, I just read about a couple who adopted a sibling group of five, then added a bio child. Their story is similar to our own (plus four kids) and when I read the upbeat, sappy parental commentary, I couldn’t hold back the sardonic laughter. Either 1. they’re putting on a front for the media, 2. they’re still in the honeymoon stage and the kids are doing everything they can to not screw up, or 3. (for all their sakes, I hope this is the case) it’s really a fairytale story. If it’s either of the first two, and you know them, feel free to direct them here. I can at least let them know survival is possible.
Reality slapped me the day our son hugged me on his own (this is big) and I didn’t react. I hugged him back, of course, but on the inside…no spark of maternal warmth. Looking back, I can see that Hubby and I were both pushed to our limit and exhausted. If I could go back to give “pre-adoptive us” some advice, it would be this: FIND RESPITE. USE IT.
We weren’t aware of many resources available to us (and were too overwhelmed and spent to look for them).
The day he hugged me, I realized I’d been holding back on our kids. Being lost—to myself and to them.
For the record, leaving to “find yourself” is ridiculous. The best way to find yourself, if you notice that you’re lost? Take time in your situation to measure your reactions, your thoughts, your interactions. Decide what you want “found” to look like…and then work toward those goals one step, one moment at a time.
I am no longer lost to my children—and I do not EVER intend to get lost on purpose.
Stay present. On purpose.
You want advice?
Enjoy the chocolate. Recycle the wrapper.
Or, if you prefer, track down a vintage Esmerelda machine. Be careful though…it’s been twenty years. That”tall, dark stranger” might be stooped, wrinkled and bald by now.
I’ll just stick with chocolate.