The inky cobalt depths call to me with a siren’s song. Farther and farther I swim away. Each kick of my legs leaves me feeling powerful and strong. My family is shrinking away from me. The world is quiet this far from the sandy beach. The water laps at my skin like a lover’s caress. Farther and farther I swim.

Mary’s head is a tiny pinpoint beyond the deep deep blue. There is more than meets the eye in the depths of this lake. She watches me from afar. I am alone here, the master of this watery expanse. The beach-goers sit on chairs that look made for a Barbie. The shore appears as a tiny playhouse for dolls.

Like Robert Frost I am tempted by the lovely darkness here. As I reach the buoy signaling the edge of the swimming area I hesitate. I could continue. I have the endurance to reach the absolute center of the lake. A feeling of power settles over me like a favorite blanket. I could make it!

Instead I slide around and paddle towards the shore. Mary’s head begins to grow as the distance narrows between us. I can see her smile looking larger and larger like a beacon. Every stroke brings me closer to home.

Like Robert Frost, I also have promised to keep.

**Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved

adoption, family

I Am the Bionic Woman

OK, I know, I get it, not everyone wants to look at my skeleton. X-ray pictures might seem gross to some but they totally fascinate me. In these pics my spine looks so super-strong that nothing could topple it. Of course some of that is due to the fact that this time around the surgeon used extra large screws made of a special material. This was in order to prevent the reaction I had last time.

The first time around my body didn’t respond well at all to the stainless steel hardware. Rather than grow bone material (called fusing) I grew an excessive amount of scar tissue. During this time my entire body was left without support due to the instability of my spine.

Some of the problem was obvious in the form of a hard outward lump the size of a ping-pong ball. It made all kinds of doctors (even an allergist) say things like, “Wow, come look at this! I’ve never seen anything like this!” They also said, “Hey can I write about this in a medical journal? This condition is really rare.”

The pain I felt in my nerves and in my spine was obvious to anyone who looked at the outward mass of scar tissue. It didn’t show everything that was going on inside, but it gave an indication. Clearly, something needed to be done. I needed help.

My kids are like this sometimes. We cannot see all the ways that early trauma, foster care and adoption have affected them deep inside. One or two angry interactions show us that they are experiencing some kind of emotional pain. We’ll never really know how deep that scar tissue has formed. We can’t truly understand how it affects their ability to navigate in the world.

Marcus is this way. He will blow up, become angry, break things, yell, rant, really try anything to push us away. His last leaving was like this. So was the one before and the one before that. Like my medical-journal-level scar tissue, these are the outward signs of his problem. I cannot say how much I wish that I had my surgeon’s specially formulated tools and extra-long screws coated in healing solution. I want so badly to fix these internal wounds for him.

I can’t. Obviously, I cannot heal for him but what I can do is try to weather the storm. He called this week and asked to come home for family dinner. After I missed his visit the day of my surgery I was jumping for joy (metaphorically) and shouting, “YES!!” I gave him the obvious news that this wouldn’t be one of those family dinners where I baked homemade bread and his favorite cookies for dessert. I’m recovering, Luke is rather blind at the moment, so pizza ordering is our dinner go-to.

He messaged back a bit later that he was on his way and I shouldn’t be over-doing it in the kitchen. The very fact that he is thinking about what might be best for me is progress from his sulky teens. He was stuck in survival-mode we met almost five years ago. When he thinks beyond his own needs it truly is progress.

However, he informed me that he “had someone we needed to meet.” It’s a girl. It’s always a girl. I agreed just so long as it wasn’t Toxic Ex-Girlfriend. Marcus let me know this was someone new. Then he also let me know she had a baby. Could she bring her baby? Said baby was already in the car.

Have you ever watched a horror movie where the clearly-about-to-be-dead character slowly opens the basement door to go and “check things out?” That’s the way I felt as I attempted composure while asking if this was Marcus’ baby. He took his time  responding while I sat clutching phone thinking, “Why did I have to check in the creepy basement?”

In the end, Marcus denied the child was his. It belongs to his girlfriend, but they also have “something to tell us.” I checked her out on social media. She looks young. She poses with her middle finger up or her backside out towards the camera. I suppose everyone looks young to me. Marcus is about to be 21 so presumably (hopefully) she is around that age as well. It is taking every super-power I have not to pre-judge this situation and start heavily disliking this baby. I mean, it’s just a baby for heaven’s sake. I need to get it together!

In the end, Marcus cancelled dinner. He asked to reschedule in a few days because he “got called into work.” A part of his pattern is to get close and then rapidly retreat so I’m not all that surprised. This will give me a little more time to work on my “what a cute baby!” as opposed to “Leave that in the car!” greeting statement. I should also work on holding in comments like, “Marcus you aren’t emotionally stable enough to be hanging out with babies. That’s a huge responsibility. Please start taking care of MY baby (Marcus) first!”

Luke is wiser and more patient than I am. He says we have to understand that our son will make choices we may not agree with. We have to guide him as best we can while continuing to support him. Without us, Marcus wouldn’t have the support network he so clearly needs. Luke is also blind at the moment, so no matter what I’m probably going to tell him it’s not a very cute baby. I am a horrible person.

So here I wait. I summon all the strength I can from my newly bionic spine. My prayer goes something like this:

Please let me stand tall no matter what my son might be facing.

Please let me be less judgmental. (Because I am on a SERIOUS path of prejudgment right now and it’s not a good look.)

Please do not let me be a grandmother right now.

Please let me lend the support that is needed.

Please help me to stand tall and strong like the bionic woman I am.

**Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.


The Small Things

Sometimes it is best for me to focus on the small things. The pieces of life that make me grateful for each day. The small moments show me that my choices have been good ones. The small things that make me smile are all worth it.

  • Marcus, at age 20, crawling inside the boxes on Christmas morning. Don’t babies always play with the packaging more than their gifts?
  • Carl wearing Chewbacca onesie pajamas and cuddling his Chewbacca doll.
  • Carl looking up from his iPad to say, “I love you Mama!”
  • Luke tucking his knees in behind mine and snuggling me close on a cold New England morning.
  • Beef stew simmering in the crock pot when I come home from work.
  • Walking from the car into a building without thinking about back pain until I sit down.
  • Mary calling to ask how my day was.
  • Mary calling to check on Luke when he had a fever and wasn’t well enough to visit her.
  • Playing the new jeopardy board game with my mom and Carl.
  • Marcus coming home from a piano lesson with Papa shouting, “Yo! Papa is NASTY on the piano! He’s so great!!!!”
  • Watching the latest Star Wars movie with my boys. I wasn’t worried about Mary melting down in the theatre or being unsafe in the car. The villain Kylo Ren didn’t remind me of losing Marcus. This time Marcus was sitting next to me during the movie. Plus, Kylo Ren got a promotion and he is my favorite character…
  • Ripping open box inside of box inside of yet another box to get to the present Marcus gave me on Christmas morning. After about 15 layers I found a tiny snow globe with his adoption day photo in the center. Tears.

Not all the moments are like these. We have had so much to contend with lately. All I can do is hold on to these small things.

What are your small moments?

**Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.

adoption, family

Making My World Smaller


I’ve been confined to the upstairs of my house. My bedroom and bathroom are here. There is a hallway and an “art loft” that overlooks our living room. These are the only areas I can be without assistance.Back surgery is tough. Everything else is downstairs and I have absolutely no control over what is happening there. So far I’ve made it down twice. Once with my paramedic husband, and once with my in-home physical therapist. Hooray for me.

I have a snazzy new walker that is sure to be the envy of every other 35-year-old mom. I use it every so often to do some laps upstairs. (Impressive, I know) If I’m lucky my hubby will help me get into my shower seat with the grip bar on the side of the tub. Then I can shower with the removable shower head he gives me. Yeah, this is the life. Glamourous, I know.

The rest of the time I am sitting on my bed with the special wedge pillow my nurse got for me. I read books or magazines or I watch TV. Visiting nurses, Occupational Therapists, and Physical Therapists come to work with me. The rest of my time I spend wondering about my family. Is Luke Ok? Does he have too much to do? How can he possibly juggle having me relatively immobile, Mary in the hospital, and Carl in Lacrosse? Impossible, right?

Wrong. He’s got it covered. He has stepped up his game like a boss. He organizes offers from friends and church members to provide dinner for us. He tries to do the laundry but he gave in and let a friend from church come to clean our house. He organized his time and gets Carlos to Lacrosse games, even when Luke is working. I haven’t had to plan a thing.

Believe it or not, the family didn’t fall apart without me. If Luke works the night shift, he arranges a sleepover for Carl with Nana and Papa or with friends. We have so much support from my parents. The kids’ godparents have helped out. No one has died. No one has been left neglected. In fact, as far as I can tell, the world is still spinning without all of my frantic planning and intervention.

We moms work ourselves into sort of a frantic pace of action that barely allows us time to breathe. And for what? Things will still continue all of our planning and listing and intervening. It may not all be perfect or perfectly planned, but who cares? When was perfection ever a goal anyone could achieve?

I’ve been so wrong. Silly me. Carl cuddles up next to me and put our favorite TV show on, “Fresh Off the Boat.” We snuggle and binge-watch a few episodes. Then he turns to me and says, “You’re the best mommy. I love you.”

“But why?” I ask him. “I haven’t done anything this week.”

“You’ve been my mom. You’ve been loving me and you’re right here,” he says slowly, as if talking to a very dim-witted adult. “Plus, you adopted me.”

Oh. Well if that’s all it takes then I guess I’m mom of the week. Yes, I am the mom that stuck around and yes, I am loving him. I’ll concentrate on my recovery. I’ll let Luke do all the planning. I will stay in my small upstairs area.

And I will have faith. I will have faith in this little family we created through adoption. Maybe I don’t need any more than that in my world right now. Maybe that is enough.

**Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.



Knocking on Heaven’s Door?


Since when did I become religious? As I write this I’m listening to Bob Dylan croon away about knocking on heaven’s door. In my youth, I attended congregational church with my mom. I liked the sense of community we had there.

As I got a little older, I changed. My mother supported my exploration of other denominations and faiths. I was so curious. Faith is such a personal thing and I wanted to see where I fit in. I went with friends to evangelical churches, baptist churches, catholic churches, and a pentecostal church. I just wanted to know, to see.

Years later, in my ultra-liberal college days I left that quest far behind me. I had changed again. What I heard about church and faith came from horrific tales from the Westboro Baptist Church and Jerry Falwell. Christianity, as it seemed to me, wasn’t about love. It seemed like punishment and judgement on those who were different. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the same Jesus who loved sinners, disciples, and prostitutes, persecuting same-sex love. What kind of religion is against love? In those days, it seemed that religion just wasn’t for me. “To each his own,” was my motto at the time, and it still is in many ways.

Early in my marriage, I had another change. It seemed that family was my religion. Love was the thing I turned to in times of strife. Let others have their own beliefs. I believed in Luke and me. I thought whatever brought people comfort, was good for them. As Bob Dylan would say, “Don’t criticize what you can’t understand.”So I didn’t.  I also didn’t think about it much.

When we adopted our children, everything changed. I was trying to show them the kind of unconditional love they hadn’t experienced before. As they went through tremendous struggles, I began to sink into the depths of their trauma. The times, were indeed, changing. As Bob Dylan would tell me I had to start swimming or I would surely sink.

My mother started flying into our little New England town from her home in the midwest to help us wade through the quagmire of trauma we were sinking in. She had become Episcopalian so she took us to the Episcopal church in town. I felt so welcomed and so accepted. I’ll admit that the tradition and structure of the service was hard to follow. I did my best. After the service, my children asked me, “God really loves us? He doesn’t even know us.”

Eventually my mom went home, but I kept going to church. I was walking the “40 miles of bad road” that Dylan sang about, but I didn’t feel so alone. My children started to learn about a different kind of love. A love so big that it could handle whatever mistakes we humans could make. Our church didn’t disparage anyone that was “other.”  Being gay was accepted. A parishioner has an incarcerated son who was accepted, loved, and prayed for. A former alcoholic was accepted, loved, and prayed for. So was I. So was our family.

Over time, I started to believe that there was more than just me out there. I didn’t have to have all the answers. My kids changed when they started to believe that God’s love was so big it could last through anything. We weren’t just crazy parents talking about this weird unconditional love thing. Other people felt it, too.

Finding faith has been an interesting journey. Some days I still feel like I’m not there, yet. But I’m working on it.  Some days I get mad at God over what my kids have been through, among other things. When I pray, I express that anger. My reverend says that God has big enough shoulders to handle my anger.

Our church supports us. I believe God supports us. Everyone (even my children) will have their own beliefs, and that’s fine with me. Differences are OK. Bob Dylan might find his religion in music. I find mine at church. Find your own where you will.

I’m still the ultra-liberal girl I was in college, I’m just also a person of faith. I’ve changed. And as Dylan would say, “There is nothing so stable as change.”


**Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.