Packing Up the Scarves

Or “The day after your child attempts suicide”

Or, more accurately – the day our lives shattered.

It happened a few months ago.  I can’t tell you how we got there.  That’s part of the problem.  We knew Fergie was angry – she had become violent a week before.  We picked her up from the hospital, dropped her off at her Nanna’s house with her old bottle of pills (they just doubled the dosage so i told Nanna to just give her two pills that day and I’d get a refill the next day before picking her up.) and headed for a marriage retreat my husband and I had booked months before and desperately needed.  We picked her up the next day from Nanna’s house, and by the time we were halfway home, I could tell she was angry.  In fact, that day I made a safety plan with some friends in case she attacked me the next morning when it was just her and I at the house.  She asked me in the van as we drove if she was in trouble.  We talked about consequences for attacking me (she was grounded from electronics for a few days or something) and my requirement that before she could be ungrounded, she write/draw/talk about what had made her attack me in the first place.  We stopped at the pharmacy for her new prescription, and locked it in the lock box when we got home like good parents do.  When we got home, she went to her room and was going to do what I asked.  I also reminded her to unpack her bag from Nanna’s house.  The evening didn’t seem remarkable… she had some trouble going to sleep, but then seemed to be fighting sleep.  She said she was dizzy at one point, and so I took her BP (she has high blood pressure) and it was fine.  She settled down and again fought sleep.  At that point I felt like something was wrong and began to pray.  Finally I settled down to sleep.

At 4:30AM I woke up to someone knocking on the door.  I ignored it, but it came again.

It was Fergie.  Dressed in think pajamas with a hood.  I flipped out, per protocol when disasters occur before I am appropriately rested and caffeinated.  I asked where she had been, etc… as she went to her room.  She was not particularly forthcoming so I had her just go to bed.  And then she said something that changed our lives forever.

She admitted to taking the old pills, which were in her bag from Nanna’s house.   I flipped out.  Panicked. Rushed her to the ER, where we stayed for hours on end.  While there I begged her to tell me why, yelled for her to tell me why…  I never got any answers.  I still don’t have answers.

She told me why she left the house – several different reasons, actually.  That day she said at one point she had a nightmare and saw a dark figure, and left the house to get away from it.  Weeks later, out of the blue she told me that she had a whole list of things that I would do if I loved her and didn’t… I’d be more kind, etc… and so she left to go out on her own and make her own life.  I have no idea if either are the truth.  I’m not sure I would know the truth if I heard it.

She never told me why she took the pills.

The next days were surreal, as Fergie went into a hospital for mental health care.  They were a blur of anger and hatred at myself – did I really suck so badly that my daughter would rather die than be with me?  What had I done?  It was all my fault.

Then we began to pick up the pieces and prepare for her to come home.  But how?  How do you EVER feel safe again when something like this has happened?  How do you ever sleep again at night, knowing that out of the blue your daughter might take her own life, or sneak out of the house and roam the streets of your city, alone, for what totaled 4 and a half hours?!

You go through the motions of making her safer.  You look through your house… you take the obvious things and lock them up – since she had taken pills to OD, all of our over the counter meds went in a locked cabinet, from tylenol to itch cream.  All the things one could hang themselves with had to go – scarves, belts, ribbons, etc.  And then you walk through your house, looking for anything your child could use to harm herself… and it hits you… missing one item could result in your child’s death.  Do you lock up the forks? The butter knives?  Are hangers okay?  You take the razors out of the bathroom, but if she really wants to die will she eat your husband’s shaving lotion?  Is that toxic?  You take out the craft supplies that look especially sinister, but if she is determined enough you know she could slit her wrists by biting herself until she bled to death, so is there really any point?

The day after your child attempts suicide, you learn how powerless you truly are, and you learn that your life will never be the same again.


Unpacking Brokenness

Life here has taken an unexpected turn, or two, or twenty.  9 months after she came home from her last residential placement, Felicia is once again on her way to another.  We fought a good fight, we held out until the bitter end… but your child running away to the home of a child molester, who took FOREVER bringing her home (they had left before I was told where she was, or I would have stormed in his house and probably be writing this post wearing orange.), then not 15 minutes after arriving home trying to run away again and climbing out your 2nd story window to run away when your husband blocked the door… then regretting it as she screamed for you, dangling from the windowsill… it’s a bit of a wakeup call.  Especially since she had been home less than 72 hours, after her last juvenile stay for her last running incident.

This week we had a court hearing about what to do with her, and after everyone else had talked in court about facility options and her intense need for hospitalization, Felicia’s lawyer just HAD to turn to me and ask if I was willing to take her home.  Everything in me wanted to say yes – to take her home and tuck her in and keep her safe and warm and make it all okay… but she is not okay right now, and nothing I can do can address the giant shattered place in her heart. I didn’t break it – it was broken long before I got her.  It is smaller than when I got her, some healing DID happen… but it’s too broken for her to be safe in anywhere that isn’t locked to keep her in.  So I did the right thing… I told the judge that I wanted to take her home, but she just wasn’t safe.

She didn’t hug me after court.  She didn’t call me on the day she gets phone calls.  Others have gotten letters from her but I have not.

I know I did the right thing, I KNOW it deep down inside… but this hurts to a level I can’t even begin to explain.  Love is supposed to be enough, it’s supposed to lead to sunshine and rainbows and happy endings… and I have faith that it will… but sometimes in the meantime there are storms that rage, and waves that crash, and winds that seem to rock your very foundation.  Right now I’m in the midst of that storm… but I’m holding on, knowing that one day these broken pieces of our lives will be remade into something beautiful.



Unpacking Change

It feels like it’s been millions of years since I last posted on here.  Justifiably so… it’s been 5 months.  So much has happened within that time.  I was moved to a new supervisor at work, and life began to unravel.  I had to leave work 45 minutes early for an emergency, and forgot to tell my supervisor until the next morning.  I was formally reprimanded… which caused me to lose a lot of the flexibility I had at work that allowed me to work in spite of the intense needs of my children.  (Bad staff don’t get flexibility.) When summer began, both of my girls were kicked out of their summer camps within the first week.  Felicity made it 3 days and was kicked out, Fergie made it 5.   It became very clear that if I didn’t leave my job, I would be fired.  5 years of my life were given to that job, and portions of my soul that I’m not sure will ever recover.  I made a lot of sacrifices, as did my husband and children, to meet the needs of that job…

I’m pretty bitter.

I put in my resignation… planned jobs to work at on the side that would allow me to be home more… found new camps for the kids… and then Felicity was kicked out of her camp the last day of my job.

I became a full-time stay at home mom to an 11 year old who requires constant supervision (think the level of supervision your 2 year old needs.) To say the transition was rough is a pretty severe understatement.   I planned to spend the first week scrubbing my house until it sparkled and catch up on all the cleaning and laundry that we neglected in the 3 months my husband had been working extra shifts at work to cover for employees that quit… instead my house looks like a train wreck.  Nothing is clean.  In fact, I’m pretty sure the kitchen is actually worse than it started.  I’m overwhelmed and depressed.  Thank God school starts in a few days.  I can make it.  Fergie however… Fergie is a hot mess – she is anxious about school starting, and that is making her a boiling mess of emotions that is becoming progressively more dangerous.  Today I talked to Felicity about how to get help if Fergie attacks me, not to fight for me (which is absolutely what she would do) but to get the hell out, find another adult, and get help.  This probably did not help Felicity’s anxiety level.

Felicity, however, has completely blossomed with a stay-at-home mom!  She has grown SO much in this time! We have gone 5 weeks without her running away at all, and only 1 aggression incident that I can recall in that time! She really needed a stay-at-home mom, and the progress she has made is worth all the stress and struggle.  I can’t say enough how great the change in her has become.

And me?  I’ve recognized that I react to change and anxiety by trying to take control… which is great… but so do my kids.  You can imagine the hot mess that makes us.  I’m going to make it through the few days until school gets started… then get my house in order (literally and metaphorically) while the kids are in school (see me there, taking control?), so I can let go a whole lot more in the evenings and truly enjoy my kids… and spend the days, once the house is clean enough I can find my stuff when I need it, filling my own well with God, art, friends, love, laughter, and loads and loads of sex (our bedroom does not have a door.  You have no idea how long this summer has been!  No wonder I’m a hot mess and depressed, huh?) … so I’m not trying to give the girls water from a well that is dry as a bone.


Unpacking Fear

I have to say I have been completely knocked off balance by the sheer amounts of fear this adoption has added to my life.

I’m afraid I’m not doing all I should to help them.
I’m afraid of making a mistake while teaching them to be decent humans. (What if I raise a Donald Trump?!) 
I’m afraid I am not enough for this, that I don’t have enough to give.
I’m afraid I’m screwing them up, that they will be talking about me to a therapist one day. 
I’m afraid my mental health will crack under the strain of all the emotions they cause/need.
I’m afraid I will miss a medical problem, thinking my child is a hypochondriac the one time she isn’t. 
I’m afraid I’m pushing too hard on education, or not hard enough.  Am I a tiger mom? 
I’m afraid I’m going to lose my job, when I have to miss work because Fergie has attacked her principal and been kicked out of school, twice in one week.
I’m afraid my house is not clean enough.  I’m afraid i’m too neurotic with the kids about keeping the house clean. 

At the end of the day though, the biggest and most devastating fear to the children and I has always been:

I’m afraid to attach to my children fully, knowing at any given moment, they can be taken from me.  

I did not anticipate how pervasive that fear would be… for the kids as well as for me.  This week it really came to a head.  We asked Fergie to be moved to a facility, because she is already as tall as I am and quite a bit heavier, and her rages are not subsiding.  If we don’t get this under control, she could kill someone.  Her targets have broadened – no longer just me, starting with my husband and then most recently her principal.  Felicia is due home in less than a month, and Fergie’s constant chaos is a huge threat to Felicia’s success.

The social worker does not agree.  She says I need to adapt my parenting to Fergie’s needs, but then ended the family therapy service we had, where my personal goals was literally to do that exact thing.  She has scheduled a meeting with me next week, to “talk about the girls’ futures” because she doesn’t want a “revolving door” of facility stays.  She has no idea the weight that decision has put on me – how long I held out, when literally every other person other than my husband was saying she needed to go.  She has no clue how scary it is to know your child is so filled with rage.  Can I send her to Sunday School? Will she attack her teacher if she is told to spit out her gum?  Can I send her to Nana’s house for spring break?  Will she attack Nana if she is told to take a bath?  Can I send her to grandma’s house for spring break, knowing she has osteoporosis and my child could literally kill her?  Can I in good conscience hire a babysitter, knowing the physical damage my child could cause her?  (Maybe I should see if the Hulk needs a second job…)

The social worker has no clue how deep it went for me to ask for Fergie to be moved.  If I could think of any other solution, don’t you think I would have tried it?  She is my cuddle-bug, my tiny best friend.  I can’t imagine my home without her.  I feel like I’m drowning in emotions from this decision and have no idea how to get through this.  And she has the nerve to treat me like I’m just looking for an easy out?!

I’m afraid the social worker is going to say I have irreparably screwed this up, and tell me to pack my children’s things.  I’m afraid she is going to say if I can’t keep them without Fergie going to a facility, I can’t keep them at all.  I’m afraid of that choice – I’m not sure she can stand another move in the foster system… but I can’t in good conscience keep her without the help she so desperately needs.  She’s damaging relationships with her family members, her education, her relationships with other kids,… She’s at risk of intense legal consequences… I can’t let the train of her life rush into disaster, without doing my very best to steer it to a different path.

The road of adoption sometimes really sucks.

Adoption · Healing · Uncategorized

Unpacking – The Monster

As part of the attempt by child services to salvage what certainly seems to be a family always on the edge of disaster, we have been provided with intensive family therapy.  The first section is all about getting to know us, and what makes us tick.   I sat with the therapist, talking about my parents and how they parented – when I realized that actually, I was really raised almost as much by my grandparents as I was by my parents.  So I went back, talking about discipline and nurturing by my mother’s parents – and their subsequent detachment when I started to fall apart.  There comes a point where a child takes all the trauma in their life, day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year – and little bits of them die a little at a time until one day a scale tips.  The trauma piled on a life weighs more than the coping skills that have held the child together until then… and slowly the child unravels.  Those watching the child don’t understand – it seems like overnight their little precious has become a different child.  Rude, angry, irritable… schoolwork starts to suffer, fights start on the playground, small fires are started… and they ask who is this monster invading their precious’s body?

You know, this is really not where I thought this post was going to go when I started it.  Sometimes blogs go places we aren’t planning… but anyway. We shall persist.

The answer to their question is that you can’t pile trauma after trauma on a child for years and expect no kickback.  You can’t stay silent watching a child slowly being destroyed and then wonder when the destruction arrives.  Yes, your child is angry.  Remember the man screaming at them for HOURS, and then going into his bedroom to get his gun to kill the child and then himself?  He probably taught your child some lessons in anger.    Yes, your child is kicking puppies.  Remember all the times when you child was small and powerless and afraid?  It’s probably nice for them to be the one people are afraid of for a minute.  A nice break before they go back to have some treating them again like they treat the puppies.  And then suddenly they are a “monster”, or “out of control”… but where were you when monstrous things were happening to them?  Where were you when their life was so out of control?  They aren’t a monster – they are trying to cope with things beyond their ability.  They are trying to fight against the monstrous things they learned from the examples you provided them.

When my mom left my dad, she cried to her parents and the church folk about how horrible I was… how abused she was… what a monster I had become.  I went to her church and I saw the way her church people looked at me – like I was something horrible.   No one stopped and said “wow, maybe someone should get them some help.”  No one stopped and said “wow, I wonder what has to be going on in a child’s head to cause this kind of behavior?”  And of course no one told my mom to actually take control and manage her child… to stop playing a victim role and give her child some structure and boundaries.   For years of my life I was afraid to let anyone close to me, terrified to have children – I was a monster! I had verbally abused my mom and emotionally scarred her for life.  I had kicked puppies.  No one was safe near me.

The cost to my life was HUGE.  The cost to my life is honestly one I’m still trying to minimize.  I still don’t like anyone close to me, I still find myself scared of feelings of closeness.  I still am afraid of intense feelings, and repress/shut down until I can find a quiet corner alone to process my feelings – ALONE.

But now I’m on the other side – with a daughter that could very easily be identified the same way.  I sit with her in calm times, and we talk about big feelings and reasons why she does the “monstrous” things she does.  When she tries to shoulder the blame for too much, we talk openly and honestly about the roles adults have in keeping kids from this kind of path – adults who are supposed to catch kids when they blame everything on a scapegoated sibling… adults who are supposed to teach kids to control their anger when they are small and unable to do much physical damage… adults who are supposed to love unconditionally instead of sending kids packing – resulting in the fear and shame that results in most of the violence in our house.  My daughter has done some monstrous things… but she is small, and broken, and in spite of all of that anger and rage and big feelings – she is NOT a monster.

And maybe neither was I.


Unpacking the Cold

The US currently seems to be a frozen wasteland, an ocean of life covered by a frigid blanket of snow. My soul feels about the same. 

Yesterday I told Fergie that she had crossed a line, and unless immediate change happened… she would be going to a facility.  If you can’t learn to accept authority here, you can learn there… true words, neccesary words… words covered with tears and hugs and the hope that maybe this time I would get through… 

Today I told ghe social worker what I told Fergie. Three attacks on parents in 4 days. One with a closed fist. Numerous objects thrown.  I tell her with my work voice – calm, analytical, devoid of life. She gives appropriate answers. She recommends a new therapist. She goes through her motions too. No comprehension of the weight of this type of choice. No clue of the depth of the war in my home or my soul. I thank her for letting me talk about it. I describe the lonliness that comes with a child struggling with things too deep to tell your supports about. And as I talk, my heart is as dead and cold as the world outside.
I call my family therapist. She listens. She is shocked. She gives a different perspective on the behavior. She listens as I struggle to format a plan. She has no advice. She has no empathy. I am pretty sure she expected me to be crying. I expected to cry. But my heart is too far away… my emotions frozen or buried or locked deep deep inside. 

I talk to my husband, my friends, people I work with. No emotions. I have it together. I just feel so cold. Why is it so cold?

I talk to my supervisor. My work life will be affected. If Fergie decides to share the thorns poisoning her soul, I’ll come in worn thin from the strain. If she doesn’t, she will explode. I will come in bruised. Battered. My heart will be shattered. I tell her none of this. I tell her the facts. Cold, clinical. Precise. 

I see tears in her eyes. She is not fooled. She has been through this road with me this long. She has already seen too many tears shed.  As I look at her, the frost around my heart cracks. I keep my composure, more or less, but she has seen the emotions churning beneath the cold. I go back to my desk… but tears begin to escape the crack. One this hour. A few the rest. 

Now the husband and child are asleep. I am alone. 

I sob. 

Adoption · Uncategorized

Still Standing

Here we are… still alive… still standing.  Since my last post, we have survived:

  • An off-grounds visit with Felicia, who was a complete and utter jerk… which I later realized was an obvious defense mechanism to keep us from loving her.
  • Christmas shopping – first time as a parent.  A year ago today, I was mourning that the child welfare powers that be had decided the girls should stop home visits with us, after we had made plans for how we were going to finish painting a giant pinecone “tree”, how we would finish a two-part ornament-making project, and how we would then decorate the tree…. I was so mad I refused to even put up a tree in silent protest of an unjust system.
  • Christmas present wrapping – this is what I did ALL DAY yesterday and part of today.  I’m so over it.  But not over it – because I know my nieces, nephews, and especially my children will have things to make their day brighter and know they are loved.
  • Meeting up with my oldest niece and nephew – who I have not seen in about 5 years, due to drama between their father (my husband’s brother) and their mother… but actually I think the drama is all on their father’s side, with is a slightly awkward position for me to take… but… he does suck.  Fergie loves her cousins, the cousins loved Fergie, and I’m pretty sure we will be spending a lot of time with them in the future.
  • The putting up of the Christmas tree.  First time in 3 years that we have put a tree up.   We can’t find the big tree we once had, but we found two little trees and Fergie is happy.

Also, Felicia has been good and unless she screws up between now and tomorrow afternoon, she gets to come home for Christmas!!!!!


Adoption · Healing · Uncategorized

I’m Not Dead!

I’m still alive!  (Did you read that in a Monty Python voice? Because I totally typed it in a Monty Python voice.)

I realize it has been a while since I posted. Two things have contributed to that:

  1.  Seasonal depression is a thing.  I hate Christmas, Christmas movies, Christmas songs, Christmas magic, and the thought of Christmasing with children makes me want to curl up in a small ball and cry quietly.  And then other times I want to make Christmas decorations, and string popcorn.  (Still don’t want to do movies or songs though lol.)  Christmas was such a loaded holiday. My dad had a lot of seasonal depression, and our Christmas season was full of threats of suicide, rages, and him remembering past Christmas trauma.  I remember loving Christmas in spite of all of that though, until the Christmas after my grandpa died.  Even though I was in my twenties, I think that Christmas was when my childhood officially died.  Everything about Christmas is tied to memories, which are tied to feelings… and the few things that are not, are tied to pressure.  (Secret Santa.  Ugg.  Every year I think it’s too much, every year I vow never again, and every year I sign up.  *facepalm*  Why do I do this to myself?!)  I probably need to blog about Christmas in more depth at some point, I’m sure I’m not the only one who struggles with bahs and humbugs.
  2. I’ve been oddly busy dealing with 9 year old girl drama.  Let me just say that again.  I’ve been oddly busy dealing with 9 year old girl drama.  Not dealing with trauma responses produced from years of abuse.  Not dealing with physical attacks that send me to the ER.  Not dealing with things that make me call a social worker in a panic.  I’ve been dealing with saying teeth are brushed when they are not, not wanting to clean a bedroom, wanting to have sugar injected into her every second of the day, and not wanting to get out of the bathroom no matter how badly I need to poop.  The intensity of this drama has been a bit much… sneaking about EVERYthing… but her responses when called out have been much better than normal 9 year old level, so we are working on it.  We are having much more cuddles, much more hugs, much more talks about deeper things…  and I am one happy mama, for however long this time lasts I’m going to enjoy the heck out of it.

New Beginnings

Rough week here.  Fergie has really struggled since Thanksgiving. (did I post about that? Probably not.)  Tuesday she was kicked out of her school, which we found out was actually NOT her school after we had enjoyed 2 weeks of summer school and one month of school… and Monday she starts at the school we were supposed to be in.

Fergie is moving from one of the poorest schools in the district, where she was ahead of the class and a solid student in math, to one of the most advanced schools in the district.  The kids there are children of working professionals – not at all the same social class Fergie is used to.

But I am contenting myself in the knowledge that the little boy from church who won her heart with a muffin goes to that school, and at some point she will notice see him.  Sometimes it is the small things in life that give you the strength to go on…

Like tonight, when Fergie denied opening and spilling a bit of her bottle of sparkley chill-out oil water glitter mix… which prompted her to tell me how she didn’t think it was fair that she had to clean her room… which prompted her to sob loudly in the bathroom… and then lay on her bedroom and ask me to come in and hug her.  She told me she missed her mom and we just hugged a while, but then she cleaned her room!

We started a new holiday tradition – watching the Nightmare Before Christmas on Dec 1.  Tomorrow we have our first continued tradition – last year I got the girls on the date of our towns annual Christmas vacation for what turned out to be our only overnight visit (don’t. even. ask.) until April.  Tomorrow Fergie will participate in the parade, and I will watch the festivities with her biological dad’s stepmom and her children.  My anxiety about that can’t be measured… but Fergie is through the moon with joy seeing her and I together, knowing she is not losing all of her bio family… so I will suck it up.  That’s what being a parent is about, right?

AEDM · Creativity · Uncategorized


Sometimes in life, you apparently have to make a foundation for the creative life you want… so that has been my theme for AEDM this month.  Making beads for future jewelry was one step…

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Now through the cold winter months and as I prepare in a panic for Christmas, I have beads for jewelry (and more on the way that just need to be sorted.)

The next step I made, which I wanted to do the last day of October but am just now really getting done, was creating some surfaces on which to do mixed media art…


These are mostly magazine pages glued onto pieces of cardboard from our cat food boxes… a few painted onto the cardboard instead…  Also there is a bag of cut up triangles of magazines that will become beads one day.

I can’t wait to see what these become with time!!! But while I was making my preparations, I had my paintbrushes on the table… my paints out of their normal spot… the cardboard already ready…. and so when I came home to grab my lunch on my lunch break, this happened:

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It started as just the backdrop for a painting to go with my poem, Running, but instead became this.  I wonder what this page wants to become?