Friday, March 3, 2017

I Know These Truths to Be Self-Evident

I've had to put a lot of thought into this particular entry. Not because I don't believe in the message or in what I am saying, but because I know my stance might cause some in my life to question my faith. I'm taking a risk. But even more than that, in this piece, I will not only be sharing my truth, but the truth of another person. I want to be clear that I have asked permission to speak what's not mine, and we've talked about the potential consequences. We both think it's important.

It's happened a lot in the last few years that I've questioned where my family fits in this world. We are messy. But we are real. And once we've let you in you know that what you see is what you get. But we are fierce protectors of self. We've been known to close our ranks quickly in order to conserve energy and keep out anything that would add unnecessary pain. And at times we've even hurt each other. I'd like to think that we are more the norm than the exception - but all too often the church organization that is supposed to be set up to love the "other" isn't so good at doing so.

I've been hearing and reading a lot of stories of hurt. A lot of pain. A lot of mistrust. Confusion. Despair.... It's easy enough to scroll past a Facebook post or turn off the radio in order to avoid being consumed be the discussions that are causing these feelings. But it's not so easy when the things that are being talked about, the people that are being hurt, are your own.

I'm a mom to a gay child. This revelation came out this past Thanksgiving. It's a reality that, if truth be told, I've known since my kid was 3. Our family has been processing what this means since.  Not because we are ashamed or think our child is going to hell, but rather because we are scared of what this child's life will be in this world - in a world where their very existence is hated. 

I was brought up in the conservative Christian faith (primarily in the South). I've listened to countless sermons where I was told why someone who is gay is a sinner. I've been witness to terrible abuse and disowning by families who have learned of their child's sexual orientation and determined that loving them was not something they could do anymore. I've sat with people who identify as part of the LGBTQ spectrum and held back my tears as they told of beatings and persecution at the hands of those who profess a relationship with Jesus. 

"Just pray it out of them."
"Just shock it out of them."
"Just shame it out of them."
"Just beat it out of them."
"Just counsel it out of them."

Never once considering that perhaps what Jesus has asked us to do....

"Just love them."

I don't even like using the word "them". It feels pejorative. Mostly because when used it usually is.

I was sitting in church this last Wednesday listening to a sermon. The pastor was talking about the Pharisees and Sadducee who used to question Jesus in order to "trick" Him - in an attempt to call Him out as ignorant and blasphemous. They focused so much on what they believed the law to be that their focus was on legalism and not on relationship. They cared too much about what others within their ranks might think. They wanted so badly to be seen as "holy" and "righteous" that they continually put others down in order to hold themselves higher. All the while missing the presence of the Savior who was literally seated at the table with them. Jesus was pretty clear all through the bible regarding how He felt about these people - what He thought of those who put legalism above grace and mercy. He cared about relationship. 

I could spend countless hours telling you why I am ok with who my child is (for that matter why I'm ok with who all three of my children are). I could spit biblical truths your way. I could talk to you about what I believe the original text to mean when it talks about sexual behaviors, especially given the context of the time. I could share my thoughts on various relationships that are discussed in the bible. I could even give you theories on the influence I believe those in power had on the various translations of the bible.

But I won't. Because we all have our own way of interpreting scripture. That's the beauty of God's word. And I am secure enough in my relationship with Christ and His leading in my life, that I don't think I need to defend my position. Just as I am not going to ask you to defend yours. I don't want you to tell me that you are "sorry" that my child is gay. Or ask me if I'm "ok". I don't want you to tell me that you hope my child finds their way "back to Christ" or try to "pray the gay away". Don't let me know that you can "love the sinner but not the sin". 

And if you contact me in an attempt to help me understand why I am wrong in accepting and loving my child just as they are, I will remove myself from your world. And not because I am a Christian who can't accept accountability or admonishment - if you know me well you know I don't ever come to decisions lightly. I'm just beyond sure that God has me exactly where He wants me.

My kid is good. My child is made in God's image and God has my child held tightly to Him.

Here is what I WILL ask you to do, because Christ asked it of you too, just as He has of me.


Love without anger.

Love can not exist in the same space as hate.

I have seen so much hate. So much venom.  My child is less safe now than they were just a few months ago thanks to policy and funding changes that have already begun to take place. Thanks to an environment that has been created where human decency and kindness is seen as political correctness and has been replaced with such cruel and vile language and actions. 

I opened my Facebook feed yesterday to see numerous individuals had posted their disgust that Disney included a gay character in a movie (spoiler alert: that character was obviously gay in the animated version too). 

Listen - you do you. I have no problem with a difference of opinion and belief. 

But be mindful of the words you use.

Realize that there might be someone out there who sees what you wrote, or hears what you say - and decides that they don't deserve to live on this earth anymore. You could be the straw that breaks the camels back. Realize that there may be people who are watching your walk with Christ who look to you and decide that He could never love them, because of who they love. 

Don't make Jesus exclusive to only those who only follow your interpretation of the laws.

Don't put my God in a box.

 Remind yourself that you were commanded to love Christ, and to love one another. Everything else you do hangs on this. 

Consider that your words and deeds could be the stumbling block that keeps someone from Christ.

Leave the judgement to God and take care of your own logs.

And finally, I leave you with this. Scripture that is most often considered to be just for those who are in marriage, but was written to the church at Corinth: 

1 Corinthians 13-
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Just Stop

As I was walking through a dark parking lot alone tonight I had a realization. I was scanning my environment. I was on high alert. I noticed every man, every empty car, every sound. As I sat with this awareness my heart grew sadder at the understanding that this hypervigilance wasn't innate in me but rather a learned behavior. For my safety. For my survival. And I wondered if the men looking at their cell phones or whistling while they walked had the same feelings. My immediate next consideration was as to whether or not my daughters would grow up to position their keys defensively when they walk alone at night. 

This reaction isn't due to lack of strength of mind or weakness or paranoia. 

My visceral fear response at being a woman alone at night is a product of decades of experiencing "locker room behavior" by men. It's a behavioral legacy that's been passed down from generation after generation of women who have been taught that they are less than so therefore they must respond as if they understand their weakness.

I am not weak. Yet I still instinctively fear.

This situation caused me to reflect on my life, on the ways in which I've been conditioned. The way in which society has taught me how to expect to be treated by men - to understand my place. 

Don't challenge a man in authority by looking him in the eyes.
I need to make my body smaller and to lower my head so a man doesn't think I'm too dominant.
If I laugh at your joke or make physical contact with you then I am a tease or a flirt.
You bought me dinner so I owe you.
Men are the final word on all things biblical, so you should hold your tongue.
Loud and opinionated women are a disruption and a problem that needs to be handled.
A man has facts, but women have opinions.
Don't ever question a man.
If I complain about anything, I'm a nag.
It's dangerous to get a flat tire at night.
I can't trust that the police car pulling me over is authentic, and if it is, is the officer a safe cop.
Women should know better than to be in subways or train stations alone.
I have to cover my body, otherwise I am asking for men to talk about me, or worse.
I will never earn enough to not need a man.
My worth and value is tied into having children and how well behaved and remarkable they are.
Catcalling is just what men do.
It's to be expected that men will walk a little too close on crowded streets.
Boys will be boys. Just ignore them.
My job is to cook and clean and take care of the kids.
Showing cleavage means I want men to look at my breasts.
My existence is a stumbling block.
It's acceptable if you call me derogatory names because that's just what guys do. 
It's ok for a man to comment on my weight, I should see it as a compliment.
It's ridiculous to get offended at what men say because they can't help it.
I'm too sensitive.

.... the list could go on and on and on and on.

And that makes me sad.

Sad for me that these thoughts have to constantly be counteracted in my head.

Sad for my girls that they too might already be conditioned to believe some of these things.

Sad for future generations that will likely still be fighting to be heard.

Men you need to understand that you can't keep excusing your behavior. We need you to stand up and demand better from your brothers- to be our allies.

Stop defending.
Stop blaming.
Stop justifying.
Stop objectifying.
Stop excusing.
Stop participating,

Just stop.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

What Defines Me

I've had sort of a hiatus on writing my thoughts here. All of my energy has been focused on the world of academia and analyzing the way people think and promoting social justice. To say my brain is tired is an understatement. But today I felt compelled. I felt the words burning my fingertips in a desperate attempt to force my hands to the keyboard. I have multiple assignments coming due but I have no choice but the place them to the side until I tackle something that has been causing my soul to weep.

Defining Self.

I don't know what it feels like to not identify with the gender that I was raised to designate myself as. I've always believed myself to be female. I've always felt that the genitalia with which I was born matched the words that were given to me. I don't have a need to use the men's restroom because I don't see myself as male. I've never been followed into a restroom by another female, or a male, and made to feel like I don't belong there or had my life threatened because I don't match a symbol on a door. So I will never assert to have a deep understanding of what it feels like to be transgender. I even spent several minutes on how to word that last sentence because I'm not even sure how to reference what it means to be born in a body that doesn't match your identity. To assume would be offensive to so many people that I love and care for. 

Here is what I do understand.

I understand what it means to be defined by what someone else believes about me, 
......or within the rules of an identity that has been assigned to me. 

I understand what it means to want to feel feminine but to be told I am too much of a tomboy or too skinny and lacking of curves to be a real woman,

.....that my voice is too loud, too demanding, too opinionated, too inflammatory, too accepting, too aggressive... 

I understand that my wisdom is only acceptable if the men I am under agree with it...that what I want to say isn't equally as important because I was born with a vagina.... and ironically that my lack of a uterus lessens my value as a woman...

.....that my consent isn't important if I dress in revealing clothing... that I'm asking for judgement and disrespect if I show cleavage or even acknowledge that I have breasts...

I understand that God thinks less of me if I don't follow the rules created by man....that I shouldn't dare challenge patriarchy... that if I do I must be a liberal feminist...

.... that if I advocate for, love, accept and appreciate anyone who is LGBTQ I must not love God or understand His word... I am definitely not a true Christian.... I am surely going to hell.

I understand that my life has been full of people telling me what I should be, who I should be, how I should act, how I should dress.... Society and my direct influencers have become the loudest voice. And it screams hate. It tells me that no matter what I do it will never be good enough. It tells me that no matter how hard I try, I will never be fully loved or accepted. This is the voice that was granted to me by the world.

I work every day to challenge that voice. To silence it.

And when all is calm, I hear it.

It's quiet, and squeaky. It's scared and battle scarred.

But it's there. 

My authentic self. My voice. My true identity.

And this is where I begin to understand the experience of those who are directly impacted by a society that argues over bathrooms... over body parts... over what a predator looks like.

How do you define a woman? A man? Neither?

Is someone a woman if they have a vagina, breasts and a uterus? Is a man really only so if he has a penis and testicles? Is it the right mixture of estrogen and testosterone? Or is it the length of hair... the level of femininity or masculinity? 

And what happens once we do set the standards? 

I know how society has defined it for me.

And I feel inadequate.

This issue is SO much bigger than who can use the bathroom.

I don't know what the global answer is...... I know for myself it starts inside. Challenging the loud voices that tell me I have to be something I am not. That my worth is only determined by what others think of me.

Because when you love and accept yourself it get's easier to fight the world to accept and love others.

What defines you?

or rather...

Who defines you?

What voices are you listening to?

And more importantly....

Are those voices keeping you from loving others....

                                                          ....because you haven't yet learned to love yourself...

Saturday, October 31, 2015

A Life, Interrupted

My youngest daughter just walked into my room and I noticed that there was something different about her. It dawned on me rather quickly that her long bangs now extended from ear to ear. She had cut her own hair. I have no idea what moved her to do this. It's not the first time, and she's really old enough now to know that if she wants a change she can just ask me and I'll help her. But she didn't want to wait for me. She wanted to do it herself. She's stubborn, strong-willed, determined... and all too often she's resistant to telling others when she needs help.

In short, she's a lot like me.

Tomorrow I will be heading out of town without my family. I try and do this once a year. In the past I've done things like participate in events such as the Komen 3-Day, escaped with girlfriends, visited extended family members and reconnected with far away friends. In all of those scenarios I've escaped the busyness of my life only to fill my time with the expectations of others.

So this time, I'm going alone.

The responses and reactions to my getaways have always been interesting. I've had encouragers for sure, but the louder voices have been those who don't understand my choice. In the past the stability of my marriage has been questioned - as if me going somewhere without my husband signifies disunity. People have wondered how my kids would manage without me - as if to suggest that their survival depended on me alone. Women have opined that they could never go somewhere alone or that my independent adventure is selfish. I understand. It's scary to step out of a comfort zone and not always the norm for a person who devotes themselves to taking care of everyone else.

But if you don't take care of yourself, how can you take care of others?

I'm a doer. If I'm being completely honest I have a history of being an over-doer. I will put my own health and sanity on the line in order to make sure that everyone around me feels loved and cared for. I'm a perfectionist that tries to perfect perfection. I'm a hundred times harder on myself than I am on anyone else. My thoughts are constant, often filled with ways that I could have done something better, been more encouraging, been more patient, given more grace. I forgive easily, unless the one needing forgiveness is myself. I get to the point of exhaustion and keep pushing. Sometimes I have no choice but to keep forging ahead. My life is complicated and so are the people in it. My love for my family is all encompassing, the magnitude of which at times overwhelms me. All of this is ok. All of what I do lies somewhere on the spectrum of normal life, especially in our culture.

But at some point something has to give.

And sometimes, in order to keep being the person others need you to be (and let's be honest, the person you like being) you have to take a break. And sometimes that break means taking yourself away from everyone and everything that seeks your attention, because otherwise you'd keep doing.

 I Am Important
 I'm not sure at what point in history it was decided that a woman's role was to take care of others without complaint or concern for self. But that's ridiculous. My needs, my desires, my dreams, my hopes - all of it is important. I am important. My place in my family and in the world is critical. God has me where He wants. God also taught me that sometimes you have to wander the dessert alone in order to reconnect with your purpose and gain strength and understanding for the journey ahead. Putting myself first is being selfish, but not in the way that society defines it. It means I love others enough to love and care for myself.

My Marriage is Important
God knew what he was doing when he caused my husband and I to cross paths. Very few men could handle me, and many have said just that. One reason my marriage works is because my husband doesn't fear my independence or my opinions. He honors my need to have solitude. He doesn't "handle" me. He respects me and the person I am. He doesn't get excited about having to do the single parent thing and he misses me - but he loves me enough to get over it. In order to be there for my husband, I have to first take care of myself. Marriage requires sacrifice but nowhere does it state that the woman needs to be a martyr.

My Kids Need to Learn
My kids learn from what they see. They can only see what I show them. I want my son to see that one of the best gifts he can give his partner is that of support and encouragement. I want him to learn that he will be a better man for being aware of the needs of his wife. I want him to feel secure in his role as a capable father. I want him to not be afraid of being in a relationship with a person who understands the importance of balance. I want him to understand the power of trust. I want my daughters to learn that they can not carry the problems of the world on their shoulders without making sure they are strong enough to support their own frame. I want them to learn that they aren't anyone's property and that being in a relationship does not mean giving up self or independence. I want them to learn that part of being a good mother and wife means knowing when to step back and refuel. I want all of my kids to know that they can do for themselves. I want them to see that their father is competent to meet their needs.

It's Ok To Be Alone
There is a difference between being alone and being lonely. I could be surrounded by every person I care for and still feel lonely. To be alone means to step away from the needs and desires of others and walk into solitude. And that's ok. Is it scary to get on a plane and fly to a place where I am not expected? Where no one is waiting to greet me and share in my time? Absolutely. But sometimes fear leads to growth. Sometimes it is in the moments where we shut out the world that we hear God the loudest. When you are forced to depend on no one but yourself you learn to trust your own abilities (truly dependent on self, not in the "I don't need anyone's help" "No it's ok I got this" when in reality life is crashing down around me way I tend to be when I'm navigating my expected life). I am capable. I am strong. It's when I'm alone that I remember who I was before life took hold - and I like me.

To those women who carry the weight of the world, who believe that life will crash down around them if they step away for a little while: It won't. There may be hiccups. You may get frantic calls from a spouse who isn't used to being alone. Your kids will miss you. But you are important. You are important. If you don't take care of yourself, the world will crash down around you but you won't be well enough to do anything about it. Step into the fear.....Face it.... Run to it with arms wide open.

Love yourself.

Say "hi", let her know how much you've missed her, give her a hug and let her remind you of just how amazing and worthy you are.

Friday, May 29, 2015

To Whom It May Concern

This is one of those entries where I've written out an intro and erased it over and over in hopes of finding the perfect words to get your attention. There are so many things I want to say... so many things I want you to hear. My heart is burdened, my soul is weeping. I have a history rich in loving the fringe. I have a life full of walking with others who have experienced great pain and sadness. I know what it means to sit with someone who is grieving the loss of something that was stolen. I know the pain it causes to have people who should understand... who should listen... who should love.. instead ostracize and condemn and blame you in the name of God. I understand.

Initially I was going to write to those who use scripture to defend the actions of abusers and shame people who are different from you. But I'm not sure you will listen. I wanted to ask you why you are so afraid when God is so big. I wanted to understand why you think God needs a lawyer. I wanted to ask you why you think God stands with one political party but not another. I wanted to go through all of the scriptures you pulled to justify the abuse of little girls and explain to you why that is so incredibly damaging. I wanted to provide you with research studies that explain why the predator living in the home is so damaging, and why appropriate treatment is critical. I wanted to blast you with statistics showing the likelihood that someone who acts out will act out again. I wanted to encourage you to visit the GRACE website and educate yourself on what predators normally look like, who their victims typically are, and how they use God as a weapon before, during and after with their victims. But... I'm not sure you will listen.

I considered writing to the abusers. But I'm not sure you will listen. I wanted to explain to you that repentance is more than just words. It's action. It's admitting you have wronged before God and not only changing your behavior, but doing what is necessary to protect others from your weakness. It's not a free pass to continue living as if your choices didn't have consequences. And it doesn't entitle you to automatic forgiveness from those you hurt - true repentance wouldn't expect it. I wanted to have you understand that forgiveness is a choice. It is one that can take time. True forgiveness, in the face of horrible action, comes only when the victim is ready. And that is ok. But, I'm not sure you will listen.

So, instead I am going to write to those who have been hurt, abused, made to feel alone, made to think that God loves you less because of what someone else has done or because of who you are.

I want to first tell you about the God I know and love. He loves you. He loves you so much more than anyone ever could. And to Him you are beautiful and perfect. He created you in His image and He wants you so desperately to run into His open arms. Not because someone told you to, but because you understand that it is safe there - even when there is no safety to be found in the world. When you are hurting, He hurts. When someone hurts you, He grieves. He longs to help you heal. He is patient. He is good. He is love.

It is with tears streaming down my face that I say to those who have been made by man to feel like you are too broken or too flawed or too different to be desired by God, I am so incredibly sorry. To those who have been forced to forgive their abuser or were flogged by scripture, my heart aches for you. To those who have been told that who you love, or how you dress, or the way in which you identify causes God to leave you - please know that God has never left you.

I am broken. I am flawed. I am imperfect.

I am incapable of being anything less than the exact person God has made me to be.

Even if man has decided that I am made for their scorn, their abuse, their mockery...

Even if man has decided that I am not good enough. God thinks I am.

I am no different than you.

And if God can love me, I have no doubt He loves you.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Saying "Yes"

I remember the phone call.

Social Worker: "Would you and your husband be willing to take in a 6 week old baby girl? Just for a week. The foster family that she's with is overwhelmed and she needs to be moved."

Me: "Why are they moving her?"

Social Worker: "Well, she cries a little, but it's not that much. It's just for a week."

Me: "Yes, we'll take her."

It was late at night when you showed up. You were crying. The social worker didn't know what to do. He said he had tried everything, and you just wouldn't stop crying. You'd been crying nonstop for hours.

So he handed you to me over the threshold. And the crying stopped.

You were beautiful.

I thought "Don't fall in love. Don't break the rule of fostering. You have to give her back in a week.".

Your daddy slept on the couch with you that night. You couldn't sleep unless you were wrapped up tight in a blanket and being held. Otherwise you thrashed around and screamed... a byproduct of choices that weren't yours.

No one knew the depth of pain you were experiencing...

We just knew to love you through it.

And still...even today...we love you through it.

One week turned into two. Two weeks turned into three months. Three months turned into a year.

One year turned into three.

Three years turned into nine.

I fell in love. And you stayed.

And all it took was saying "Yes". And just in case you ever wonder - I'd say "Yes" all over again.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

My Response to the ER Nurse in Texas

Recently someone on my local Ehler's Danlos support group posted a blog that was written by an ER nurse in Texas. She made a list of people who shouldn't come to the ER. People who waste her time. People who she doesn't believe have legitimate reasons to even be in the ER. She called the people on her list idiots. She declared that whatever was wrong with them was their fault.

She wrote with disdain. Disgust.

If you did a quick search on Facebook you could find her. If you scrolled down you could see where she posted the blog to her personal page. If you clicked on the comments you could see that fellow nurses chimed in. One nurse has a problem with you if your bra and underwear don't match.

All of them cheered her on. Encouraged her. Congratulated her.

There was a new blog posted in the last day or so. I think perhaps a result of her hospital being notified of what she wrote. She insisted that the list of patients that she hates to treat was pure sarcasm.

Nurse humor she called it.

She asserted that those who were hurt by it just didn't understand. She talked about how much she loves her job. How she appreciates the patients she can quickly help.

I don't doubt that she loves her job. I don't doubt that she gets a rush from the criticals that come in. I don't doubt that it's hard when she looses a patient.

But I doubt she's really sorry about what she wrote.

And I doubt that she really understands the impact of what she said.

But I'll still show her compassion, and grace, and mercy anyway.

And I'm also going to tell all of you why what was said was so hurtful. Because it's not just some ER nurses that decide some people deserve empathy while some don't. It's prevalent in the medical community. And sometimes it's even prevalent in the families of these patients.

Do you know what it's like to live in pain? Real, legitimate, pain? Pain that is constant?

Do you know what it's like to see the pain scale and try to determine where you fit - because at a 5 you still find the ability to smile? Because 5 is your normal.

Do you know what it's like to live in pain but NOT be able to take pain meds because if you do you can't take care of your family? Or work?

 Do you know what it's like to take a Tylenol, not because it will touch your pain, but because you're just hoping it will take the edge off a little?

Do you know what it's like to get confused, to not be able to think of the right words to say, and to just play it off as ADHD so people don't think you are dumb?

Do you know what it's like to forget simple things at the very moment when you are being expected to retrieve them?

Do you know what it's like to wake up from 9 hours of sleep, and to feel like you didn't sleep at all? To wake up and pray that you can find the energy to just roll out of bed and start the day? To find the nearest clean clothes and just hope they work together and that no one pops by to say "hi"?

Do you know what it's like to be sitting as the passenger in a car, and have the driver hit a bump too fast, only to have your hip shift out of place... and to not say a word?

Do you know what it's like to know that the next cardiac pain you feel could be the one that ends up killing you?

Do you know what it feels like to have a terrible headache and not knowing if the connective tissue in your brain has finally given up? But being too afraid to go to the ER again because it could just be nothing...again... and the last time you went in and it was nothing the staff treated you like you were just over reacting? Even though your treating Dr. has made it clear that you go if you have a bad headache or any cardiac pain... because it's that serious.

My guess is you don't. Because if you did you wouldn't have written what you did. You wouldn't mock the patients that come in looking for help because they are scared and worried.

You know how many times I've avoided the ER? Lots. You know why?

Because I'm afraid of ER nurses like you. I'm terrified of being judged.

I'm more afraid of how you might treat me then I am of dying.

But you were just being sarcastic.

You want to know why most pain patients smile while describing their pain?

Because we if we don't smile we cry.

And if we give in to the tears the pain won.

The fear won.

And the pain can't win.

The fear can't win.

That's why we came to you.

I know that I'm not as heart pumping as a code, or as interesting as a break. But I came to you because I'm scared. Because I'm hurting. Because I need help. Because for me, it is an emergency.

And you know what? I agree. It's not your fault.

And I won't treat you like it is.

But it's not my fault either.

So don't treat me like it is.

And if you get a chance, reread the Nurse's Code of Ethics developed by the ANA.

You might want to start with Provision 1.

The one that talks about human dignity.

Thursday, October 10, 2013


Most of the people in my personal life know that I have a syndrome known as Ehlers Danlos.  At the most basic it means that my connective tissue is defective.  Connective tissue is pretty important.  It holds joints together, it holds your teeth in, it covers your body with skin, it keeps your vertebrae in place, it's what your organs and veins are comprised of, and the brain and spinal cord are covered in it.  Your body would not be your body without it.  If you want a more detailed explanation, you can click here.  There are other issues that go along with Ehlers Danlos, including something I have called Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome.  With POTS, your autonomic nervous system is dysregulated and so your heart rate makes some pretty significant changes when you change positions (specifically laying to sitting or standing, or even sitting to standing).  You can read all about the symptoms if you click here.

I struggle.  Every. Single. Day.  You wouldn't know it to look at me because I do my best to not let my medical issues define me, or make me something I don't want to be.  And I don't want people to feel sorry for me, or think I am weak, or that I can't do something.  It was a huge deal for me to accept that I wasn't ever going to get better.  And it was an even bigger deal when two of my children were given the same diagnoses.  Now more than ever I felt like I needed to work hard to show a balance between taking care of yourself and not letting labels define what you were capable of.  When you have a chronic and progressive illness, especially one with no cure and no definitive treatment, it's easy to focus on the negative.  I didn't want to fall prey to the darkness, and I didn't want to find myself pulling my kids from there either.  This isn't a "suck it up" and "get over it" philisophy.  It's a balancing act.  An understanding that life will be tough sometimes, but you get to choose how you handle the hard times.

I spent the better part of the last year being told that I needed to have my hip replaced.  That once I did my pain would be better.  I became hopeful that this would be the end to years of struggle.  And then the tests came back and they didn't match what the Dr thought.  He didn't know what to do and told me that I needed to find a different Dr who could help me.  So I did.  And that Dr was the first to look at me and say "There are so many good things about you, unfortunately the body you were given stinks.".  He told me that if I had had that hip replacement, I'd have a beautiful new total hip- but my ligaments would never hold it into place.  So where did that leave me?  In tears.  I felt like any chance of things getter better was gone.  I thought I had gotten to a place of acceptance, but I hadn't.  I was still grieving.  I remember telling my Rheumatologist awhile back that there were still so many things I wanted to do, that I didn't want to have to give up who I was and the life I wanted to have with my kids.  I needed to be given a chance at something close to normalcy.   

So, about two weeks ago I went to see an Orthotist to be fitted for a hip brace.  Today I picked it up.  This is my last ditch resource for relief.  If this doesn't work, there are no other options.  When I first put the brace on I was instantly aware of how bad things are.  The brace works like an exoskeleton, it keeps my leg from abducting from my pelvis, and it keeps the hip joint from subluxing (partial dislocation).  This means that when I normally walk, my leg pulls outward from my hip and the ball of the hip joint slides slightly out of place.  My knee and ankle compensates for this.  So, when the brace was first put on, my knee and ankle freaked out.  They wanted to go where they were used to going.  The best way I can help you to understand is to have you think about how you might feel after riding a horse.  Now imagine riding that horse for days, jumping off, and then being told to close your knees and walk.  Not so easy.  The brace is far from comfortable at this point, but I can tell it makes a difference.  And I'm once again hopeful that the chance for some relief is possible.

So why am I sharing this?  Well, for those who know me and see me out and about, I wanted to explain why when you see me I might have on a new accessory.  I am hoping to avoid a lot of "Oh no, what did you do?!?!" moments.  And secondly, I wanted to put it out there that not everything is always as it seems.  While I am an open book, I am typically less vocal about my medical issues. I know my limits and I've worked hard to set healthy boundaries.  But not everyone takes things in stride like I do, and not everyone who hurts finds it easy to look on the bright side.  We are all surrounded by people who have things they carry with them - whether it be a physical, mental or life struggle.  The most amazing thing you can do is to approach each person with the same grace, mercy and love that you would want from them.  There is too much in this world that fights to destroy that it's so important that you do what you can to be a builder.  What if you were the only good thing that someone came into contact with that day?  What if the interaction you have is the difference between hope, and despair?  Let your love be a brace. It will positively affect the other person, and you might just find it fixes something inside you that you didn't even know was broken.   

Monday, September 9, 2013

On the Eve of the Fourth Anniversary of Your Adoption

My precious baby girl,

On this night four years ago I wrote you a letter.  I spoke about my love for you.  I spoke about my hopes for you.  I spoke about how hard we fought for you.  For your life.  For your health.  For stability and consistency. 

I want you to know, I've not stopped fighting for you.  I've not stopped loving you.  I've not let go of any of my hopes for you.  And I would not take back choosing you for a daughter.

You have endured so much in your short life.  I often look at you and wonder how it is that you have survived.  I often wonder why God thought I was good enough to handle the force that is you.  I often worry that my strength could never outweigh yours.  I worry that one day the pain will overtake you and that I will loose you.  I worry that you will hate me for not protecting you when I could have... for being blind to the hurts that I unknowingly allowed.  I worry that my moments of sheer frustration, those times when I just don't know what to to help you... how to save you from your own head...will cause you to see me as an enemy.  I worry that the medications we give you to help quiet the chaos will harm you and that one day you will resent me for it.  I worry that I'm missing something... that my gut is failing me...that I'm not the person who was meant to be your mom after all... that someone, somewhere, somehow... made a mistake, and that that mistake was me.     
But I want you to know, I've never stopped fighting for you.  I've not stopped loving you.  I've not let go of any of my hopes for you.  And I would not take back choosing you for a daughter.

You have an amazing sense of humor.  Your smile is infectious. I've never seen someone want so badly to understand and feel love.  Oh how so many take that for granted... being able to feel love.  How I wish that hadn't been taken from you.  How I wish that on the day we adopted you that piece that was broken so early on had been fully restored.  I know it will be, in time.  How I wish on the day we adopted you that you never would have to know hurt again.  But life doesn't work that way.    

I want you to know, I've never stopped fighting for you.  I've not stopped loving you.  I've not let go of any of my hopes for you.  And I would not take back choosing you for a daughter.

I have no doubt you were made for great things.  I know that no power of hell, or scheme of man, could ever pluck you from God's hand.

And on this night, on the eve of the fourth anniversary of your adoption into our family, I want you to know this:
I will never stop fighting for you.  I will never stop loving you.  I will never let go of my hopes for you.  And I would never take back choosing you for a daughter.

I love you.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Miley, Robin, and My Thoughts

I had no intention of writing a blog about Miley Cyrus and the VMA’s.  There are plenty of opinions on Facebook, Twitter and various other social media sites. And honestly I usually don't put too much thought into pop culture. But I read a comment from Robin Thicke’s mom tonight that set me off.   So, I'm going to share some thoughts on Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke.   

I was 20 once.  I made lots of choices in my late teens that put me into some potentially dangerous situations.  There are things I did that I can’t take back, that I can’t change, that I can’t redo.  I don’t regret my journey – it prepared me to be the wife, mom, friend and woman I am today.  I needed to rebel.  I was just lucky enough to do it before Facebook, and not in the public spotlight.  I can’t fault Miley Cyrus for testing the waters, for pushing boundaries and seeing what she can get away with.  It’s part of growing up.  But I’m not a teenager anymore.  And I’m not 20.  I’m the mom of two impressionable young girls, and one impressionable young man who love Miley Cyrus.  Not the Miley I saw on the VMA stage, but the Miley who used to grace our tv and radio with her silly antics and spunky personality.  As a family we have had to accept that everything has changed and we can’t grow with her, that she became an adult and made a choice to leave her younger fan base behind.  And that’s ok.  I get it.  I really do.  I understand not wanting be seen as the little girl who sang of reaching for the stars and country love.  To be seen, and appreciated, as a woman.  Here’s the thing though… the departure was extreme.  Maybe the Miley we see now is the Miley that was always there, being pushed down by the Hannah brand.  But I don’t think it is.  What I see when I watch her on stage, or read her tweets, or look at her Instagram pictures is someone who is speeding head first into a brick wall.  And that worries me.  It worries me because I watched her grow up.  It worries me because I recognize the journey but I don’t see any exit’s on the horizon.  It worries me because I’m a mom and as quickly as her life changed… so too could that of my girls.  If I could tell Miley one thing, it would be to respect herself.  And regardless of what society tells us, self-respect doesn’t come from dressing in near nothing and grabbing our crotches.  Self-respect comes from loving ourselves enough to understand that our behavior affects others around us, that our minds are far more amazing than anything our bodies can do and that dignity is a powerful thing.  At the end of the day I know that my opinion is just that, and I have no right to request anything of Miley.  I know that she is her own person, and I would never want her to be perfect.  I understand that her journey is just that, hers.  I just hope that the end result of her journey brings discernment, growth, and wisdom.      

On to Robin:
It really shouldn’t have come as any surprise that a guy who produced such a raunchy song and created a music video fully clothed while surrounded by nude women allowed himself to be groped and twerked by a scantily clad young woman on stage.  What is surprising is the amount of flak Miley Cyrus has received versus him.  His mom was reported as being upset that Miley rubbed her bottom on her son, that it was not appropriate.  At no point in time did she reprimand her son.  This wasn’t a shock to Robin.  He knew exactly what was going to happen.  He knew that Miley would strip down and molest him.  And he was perfectly ok with it.  And apparently society was ok with him letting it happen.  Even his mom and wife were ok with him letting it happen.  But it’s Miley that is a whore.  Seriously?  He’s an almost 40 year old man. He’s married and a father.  His behavior was incredibly disrespectful to both his wife and child.  This is one of those times that our culture again feeds the misogynistic beast.  Robin Thicke is teaching young men that it’s ok to use women, that they are nothing more than accessories to the male ego.  And he’s teaching young women that they are only desirable if they are naked or dancing around him.   And our culture is eating it up.  We talk about feminism, and women finally being powerful and strong, and respected, and then we send songs like Blurred Lines (which admittedly has a catchy tune) up to the top of the charts, and then chastise the female part of an inappropriate duo.  It’s not ok.  But Robin will tell society that “you know you want it”, and society will sit and lap it up.     

I’m frustrated.  Neither the antics of Miley nor the behavior of Robin is anything new.  The reactions are no different than they were years ago when Madonna sang about being a virgin, Janet Jackson “lost” her top or DMX rapped about rape.  In a culture where free speech and artistic expression are honored (and it’s important that they are), what line can be drawn?  At what point does accountability come in?  Why do we have different rules for artists, athletes and politicians?  At what point do we have the right to demand that men are held to the same standards that women are?  Does anyone even want the status-qua to change… or is it just easier to let it go and move on with life as is?  

Thursday, February 21, 2013

I Didn't Give My Son Autism

Someone sent me a blog yesterday.  It was from a website where women who consider themselves thinkers write about their personal journey with Autism.  I want to start by saying I have absolutely no problem with people of like minds getting together to share their struggles.  And anyone who knows me will tell you I am incredibly opened minded and I am willing (and usually do) look at all topics from varying points of view.  But this blog, and this website, frustrated me.

First off, I will take to task any parenting group that asserts that if you do not agree with them on all counts, that you are somehow a Negative Nellie who is unwilling (you could also switch unwilling out for uneducated or unenlightened) to see the truth.  I will take to task any parenting group that states in their "Rules" that if you don't agree with them that you need to leave and take your "negative juju" elsewhere.  And I will most certainly take to task any parenting group that pushes their beliefs in such a way that causes someone who is struggling to be made to feel unwarranted guilt, or that they somehow failed their child.     

Let me be clear.  You are welcome to have your beliefs, just as I have mine.  But do not use those beliefs as weapons.  Do not use shame, guilt, or fear.  Do not play on emotions.  And do not attack the core of who a mother is and her role in the life and molding of her child.

I want to say this too.  I am a thinker.  I am educated.  I am well rounded.  I have walked around the block many many times.  I have been to hell and back.  That doesn't make me an expert.  It just means I've lived.

I'm not going to link back to the blog, because I don't want to give it any more attention.  But I will give a synopsis of what the author posted.  This mom has a child with Autism.  And it is her belief that her choices during pregnancy and in the early stages of child rearing, gave her child Autism.  She references getting ultrasounds.  She references drinking soda while pregnant.  She references having a c-section.  She references giving her child Tylenol.  And yes, she references vaccines.  She asserts that all of these things (and a few others) created an invariable s**tstorm called Autism.

Here is what I think.  Could she have given her son Autism?  Sure.  If she carries the gene.

Now I will share this.

 My first child:
I took anti-nausea medication and drank alcohol during the first two weeks of my pregnancy because I was on a cruise ship and had no idea I was pregnant.  While pregnant I ate a quart of sherbert every night in a hot tub of water.  I ate tuna, because at that point it was still an ok food.  I was given a shot to speed up the development of my son's lungs so he could survive if born early.  I had pitocin.  I had an epidural.  I actually had a double epidural because the first one fell out.  My son was fed a bottle while in the hospital.  He was jaundice, and I let them put him in an incubator under lights, even after we had already been allowed to take him home.  I stopped breastfeeding after a few months.  He was allowed to cry it out after about 5 months of age.  My son got all of his vaccines, and when we found out a few years later that one of them didn't take, he got a broader spectrum version.  He got the flu shot, every year.  He was given flouride.  I even gave him processed foods.  He is Autistic.  But not because of the choices I made.  All of the choices I made for him were made in good faith, and with an understanding that I was doing the best for my son given the information and knowledge I had at the time.

My second child:
I got pregnant 4 months postpartum. She was high risk, and I had many many ultrasounds.  I even had level 3 ultrasounds.  I ate a ton of MSG laden Chinese food, mainly crab rangoons, almost every day.  I drank cookie and cream milkshakes like they were water.  I took hot baths.  I endured a lot of stress, including moving North.  I'm fairly certain she got the shot to speed up lung development as well.  She was born in the hospital.  She ended up in the hospital a few months after birth, and I let them treat her with steroids and oxygen.  When she was only a few months old, she fell out of my arms and down the stairs.  I breastfed her for only about 6 months.  And then she had formula.  She had all of her vaccines, and the flu shot.  She cried it out, although she was older than my son and the method was different.  She didn't get as much face time as my son did.  She liked to watch tv, and I let her.  She was given fluoride, and ate processed foods.  She's not Autistic.  She is gifted, and very well rounded.  All of the choices I made for her were made in good faith, and with an understanding that I was doing the best for my daughter given the information and knowledge I had at the time.

My third child:
I didn't birth her.  She didn't grace me with her presence until she was already 6 weeks old.  Her birth mom made a lot of actual poor choices, ones that involve heroine and large amounts of alcohol.  She lacked prenatal care, and she didn't pay attention to anything that was put into her body.  After my daughter was born she was neglected, and moved from one home to another until she landed with us.  She was malnourished, withdrawn, a shell.  Once with me she was cared for much like my first two children, albeit with more input from her biological parents and the state.  Their choices for her included sleeping alone (we didn't, we co-slept with each of our children), formula, and processed foods.  She had all of her vaccinations, and her flu shots.  She took field trips to prison.  She was in the hospital several times, she even had a cat-scan and a sedated MRI.  She is not Autistic.  She has struggles as they relate to being born drug addicted, and experiencing trauma.  All of the choices I made for her were made in good faith, and with an understanding that I was doing the best for my daughter given the information and knowledge I had at the time.

What is my point in all of this?

Your choice to drink soda, to have necessary medical interventions, the way in which you gave birth, the decision to immunize... none of that caused your child to be Autistic.

Your child is Autistic because your child is Autistic.  Stop searching for reasons.  Stop blaming.

Just like my 2nd child has blond hair because her father does, and my 3rd child has blue eyes because her birth mother does.     

If you want to get angry, if you want to fight a battle, if you want to change the world, start with the moms who really do make choices that hurt and harm their children.  Work with teen moms, under serviced moms, drug addicted moms, moms in domestic violence, and moms who don't have a basic understanding of parenting and the needs of a child.

Stop attacking yourselves.

And please, stop asserting that your child can he "healed" from Autism.

The best thing you can do for your child, and for yourself, is to get to a place of acceptance.

Get to a place of loving yourself, so you can love your child.

Get to a place of understanding what the diagnosis of Autism means for your child.

And what it doesn't mean.

The moment you accept that your child is who they are, simply because they are who they are, is the moment YOU can be released from the task of fixing, and shift to the task of loving and supporting.

To a place where you are able to get them the resources and interventions they need to succeed.

Why does my son have Autism?  Because he does.

And I'm ok with that, because I am ok with who he is. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Perfect Mom

My heart is breaking for you. 

Yes you, the woman reading this who is convinced she screwed up in some way that will forever and irrevocably change the course of her child's life.  The mom who lost it today, who said the one thing she swore she would never say to her child, the mom who threatened, the mom who screamed so loud the dog barked.  To you, the mom whose child threw a tantrum in the store, the mom whose kid stole a pack of gum, the mom who got a note from the school that their child hit someone, to the mom who who got a call from the police.  To you, the mom who walked away from a crying child, the mom who didn't intervene fast enough, the mom who was just handed a pregnancy test, to you, the mom who was just handed a drug test.  To you, the mom who hid in the bathroom for 5 minutes peace, to the mom who just drank soda while pregnant, to you the mom whose child broke an arm on the trampoline, to the mom who didn't change a diaper fast enough.  To you, the mom sitting outside while her child throws a tantrum, and to you the mom who just gave in because you are just too tired, to you, the mom who didn't bring baked goods to the teachers.  To you, the mom who has done everything right, yet life still happened.  My heart breaks for you.

I want to say something that I want you to let take a minute to let sink in. 

You are not alone. 
There is no perfect mom.
You are not alone.

Say it.

I am not alone.
I am not alone.
I am not alone.

Now do me a favor.  Cut yourself some slack, and in the process cut your fellow moms some slack.  I've noticed something so interesting in the "mom culture".  We beat up on our own so much more than any other outside group possibly could.  We sit and judge.  We compare ourselves to everyone around us.  We set ourselves up for defeat.  We are so eager to outdo one another, to prove to anyone that will take notice that we are doing something right (and that they are doing something wrong).  We keep our fears, our battles, our struggles silent for fear that others will consider us not good enough.  The guilt blanket we place on ourselves and each other is so heavy that we are drowning.

I want to let you in on a not so secret secret.  And let it resonate with you.

I am not a perfect parent.
I am far from perfect.
I am a good enough parent.
My kids will make mistakes.
I want my kids to make mistakes.
I will love them through their mistakes.
It will be ok, because I allowed them to see my mistakes.
I apologize to my kids, because I am not perfect.
My kids are not perfect.
I don't want to be perfect.
I don't want my kids to be perfect.
I want to be human.
I want my kids to be human.
I am not a perfect parent.
I am far from perfect.
I am a good enough parent.
And that is ok.

There is something else I want to share with you too.

Things will happen that you can't control.  There will be a lot of things you can't predict, that you can't plan for, that you can't stop from happening.  Some of these things will be bad, and some others may see as bad but you will see as an amazing blessing.  Those things are all part of the journey your child is on.  And while there are moms out there who really do make choices that hurt and harm, the reality is that most of us aren't those moms.  Not even you.     

Grace.  Allow it to be extended to you today.

Take a deep breath.  Go find a quiet spot. And eat a cookie.

And when you are ready, go back into the chaos and smile, knowing you aren't alone.   




Thursday, May 10, 2012

Loving You, Loving Her

There is rarely a day goes by that I don't think about my youngest daughters birth mother.  How could I not?  She is forever woven into the fabric of our family through the child she gave birth to.  I can take credit for the nurture, but the nature is not mine to claim.  Through the years I have had a lot of people tell me how I should feel about the birth mom, what weight I should give her role in the life we live.  My response is simple.  I should love her.  Despite her choices.  Despite the pain she caused.  Despite the hurt.  I should love her.  Because by loving her, I am able to fully love her child as my own.

As Mother's Day approaches, it carries with it bittersweet feelings.  I feel blessed by the three amazing gifts I have been given and I am thankful that God felt me good enough to mother them.  But, I also feel sadness over a relationship lost... that in order for me to receive the fullness of this life...pain had to occur.  A mother had to lose her child, and a child had to lose a mother.

I read stories of birth mothers who gave their children the gift of another life.  How selfless the act was.  How willing they were to carry a baby to term, knowing they could not keep the child.  Knowing that someone else would be made complete, even though they themselves would be giving up the right to be.  And then there is the birth mother in our story.  She fought to keep her child, even though all of her choices reflected an inability to do that, and even though it was destroying the one she claimed to love.  She forced a judge's hand to make the decision for her.  Her actions were anything but selfless.

Two different situations, two different mindsets, one common theme: Loss.  To not recognize that loss, to not acknowledge that in the process of creating new families, grief occurred, would be selfish.  I am a mother to a child who was born from another woman's womb.  It does not diminish my place in that child's life.  It does not mean I am not that child's mother.  It does not have anything to do with me.  It just is, what it is. 

Saturday is a day that has been set apart as a day for birth mothers to be acknowledged.  To recognize the role that they have.  To honor those that gave the gift of life.  I used to despise the thought of honoring my daughter's birth mom.  I have every reason to hate her.  But in order to love my child, the child she carried and birthed, I must love her.  So, Saturday I will think of her.  And I will silently thank her for loving her child as well as she could.  Because without her, I wouldn't have my youngest.  Without her, my family wouldn't be complete. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

God Don't Make No Mistakes

It's so easy to live in a bubble.  To love in a box.  To do the safe thing all the time and not step out of that safe place where life seemingly goes as the world tells us it should.  But are we ever really safe?  Do things ever go as easily as the world makes us think it does for everyone except us?  So many of us spend so much time trying to fit a mold that was never intended to be ours.  To do everything we can to make everyone else happy, to try and control all of the variables so that we can achieve that pinnacle of success as everyone else defines it.  How silly we are .  How incredibly selfish it is to hide who we are and the value we have as we are.  Do you really think that who you are, what you have to offer, your worth... that any of it is insignificant?  If you do, I want to tell you that you are wrong.  You are important.  You have worth.  You mean something.

I've spent a lot of years trying to determine what parts of who I am I should show a person at any given time.  I've agonized over how I believe someone may have perceived something I did, or said.  I've allowed others to shame me into thinking that my thoughts, my words, my heart, and my actions are not good enough, are not pure enough, are not righteous enough.  Through the years I've granted permission for the fears of others to dictate the footprints of my life.  I've edited myself not because my own beliefs called for it, but because my desire to have others think me "good" enough called for it.  I've also been at the other extreme, where I buck the system completely, giving everything and everyone around me a big ole middle finger, claiming the entire time that I don't give a crap when in reality I desperately wanted to be accepted and loved. At the end of the day that is all any of us want - to be appreciated for who we are. 

It's funny these games we play.  The roles we take on.  The characters we assume.  We may trick the people around us, but we never really fool ourselves.  It becomes an internal struggle.  We search for contentment and can't find it.  We develop coping skills that follow us into the real world but leave us still wanting.  We get angry, depressed and anxious.  We paint smiles on when it's needed but never really understand what it means to be happy.

So we all have a choice.  We can live like sheep, unable to differentiate our self from others.  Or we can be bold and be unique, even at the risk of giving up the things that make us feel safe.  I look at my kids and I know without a doubt I want them to be confident in who they are.  I want them to understand that there is nothing that they could ever do to lose my love.  That by being authentic they are honoring the unique mold that was broken at their birth.  I look in the mirror and I see someone who is worthy, who is important, who has value.  I just have to remember that the person I see in the mirror, is me.   

Thursday, December 1, 2011

You are Loved

 Pull up a chair, and grab a blanket, this is going to be a long one.

I was going to wait till later this evening to write this blog, but I think the time is right now.  For what it's worth I wasn't going to talk about this at all in a public way, because contrary to perception I don't share everything that happens in my life, or the life of my kids.  But then I started thinking, what if by sharing this very difficult subject, I could help another person.  Like the mom I saw today who did everything she could to keep her child from seeing her cry when he told her repeatedly that if she loved him, she wouldn't make him stay at the hospital.  In that moment, all I could offer her was a simple affirming comment, "It is hard." and a look that indicated I understood her pain.

Do you know what it feels like to give up total control of your child? To trust that the people you are leaving him or her with will love them at least a fraction of the way you do?  To trust that your child won't be irreparably damaged by a choice that you don't want to make?  To walk away from your child, and have them screaming and crying for you not to leave, but you have to keep on walking to the other side of a locked door?  To see your child suffering behind a wall of mental illness and past hurts and a destroyed sense of self worth and not be able to do anything to fix it?  My guess would be a majority of you have absolutely no idea what that feels like.  And I can promise you, having to leave your child in daycare or at the church nursery or with the babysitter is not the same as leaving your child in a mental health hospital, or even the same as your child being removed from your custody by Children and Youth.  In this situation I don't have the ability to change my behavior in order for the situation to be corrected, I don't have the option of not going to a program or work in order to help my child through this.  Saving my daughters life is my only option.

There are those who know the detailed history.  For those who don't, what's important to understand is that my daughter is a product of the Foster Care System.  And she was hurt, badly - both by those who were related to her, and the county that was charged with protecting her.  As her Foster Parents we fought hard to do everything in our power to help her.  It was because of my relentlessness that traumatic visits stopped at 2 1/2 years.  And it was because of my diligence that she got any treatment at all while she was a ward of the state.  I don't say this because I want kudos or praise.  I say this because it's important to understand that even though she was in our custody for 3 years, we didn't have rights to protect her.  All we could do was watch her crumble before our eyes and beg for help for her while politics took precedence.  Rights were finally terminated and we adopted her in September of 09.  We then had the right to seek out any and all appropriate treatments for her.  And we did.  The hurdles were and are still there though.  A lot happens in the first 3 years of life that builds into who you are.  We can't get those years back, they were stolen from her.  When it comes to mental health, and mental health treatment with children, the field is riddled with lack of funding, lack of education and controversy.  To find someone who knows what they are doing, and has experience with kids like my youngest, is harder then finding a needle in a haystack.  We are two years into adoption and we have yet to find someone who knows, without a doubt, how to help this child.  And the list of consulted experts is long and comprehensive.

Currently, my almost 6 year old daughter is in a mental health hospital.  It's not like you see in the movies.  Yes, it's loud at times, and there are kids with issues that are more explosive then my daughter's, but for the most part, it's a comfortable place.  And the staff clearly care about the children.  This isn't our first time at the rodeo either.  It would take two hands to count the number of inpatient stays this poor kid has had in the last year and a half.  I don't know how long she will be there this time.  Her shortest stay was 2 weeks, and her longest was 4 weeks.  But it doesn't matter how many times she has gone in, or how long each stay has been, because each time has been painful.  Each time has been emotionally draining for all of us.  And each time we have been left wondering if anyone or anything can help her.

I can't adequately describe to you how, as a mom, or dad, it feels to make the choices we have had to make.  It's heartbreaking.  But more times then most of us would like, you have to bypass your heart and make decisions with your head.  Sometimes making the right decision for your child means making hard decisions, decisions that hurt.  Decisions that you never thought you'd have to make.  But diagnoses of mental health do that.  We are supposed to not discuss them, keep them quiet, keep them within the family.  We aren't supposed to talk about how many medications our child is on, or how their issues impact us.  Mental health issues suck.  If not adequately treated they destroy the person, and take out the family with them.  But I need those of you in the thick of it to know this: I understand.  I get it.  I'm not afraid to discuss it.  And I'm hurting too.

We are given these kids, through birth or adoption, and we are told that we are responsible for their life.  That it's our job to give them the skills they need to survive in the real world.  For parents with kids who follow societies game plan, that works.  For those who stray to one extreme or the other, the reality is that we have to give them the skills to get through the next five minutes before we can even begin to fathom getting them into adulthood.

Again, I'm not looking for extra support or encouragement.  I've been blessed with a support system that has shown me amazing grace and love when I have needed it the most.  And I've been surprised by acts of love by people I never expected.  I am also very aware that the ONLY thing I can trust is that God knew my daughter before she was a blip on the radar.  It is through Christ alone that I am able to continue on day to day with the hope that my fears are opposite of His plan for her life.  My point in sharing is that someone out there is finding themselves fighting to save the life of someone they love, someone who is trapped behind mental illness and a past they can't seem to escape.  And I need that person to know that they aren't alone.