A backpack of healing

This blog is a running commentary of my life, thoughts and revelations that I don’t want to forget.  I’ve found that as our kids get older and busier, if I don’t write down my thoughts, I forget them.

It’s also my hope that perhaps one thing I say is an encouragement to someone – perhaps to simply feel that there is another person in this world who wrestle with the same things they do.

I love my Desta girl.  She has grown so much in the past year.  It’s been a joy to see her develop habits that help her.  It’s not been an easy road.  They have been a lot of potholes and bumps to navigate around and over.  Simple tasks are still a struggle more mornings than not.  Go to responses filled with anger and loud frustration happen often.  I cannot recall a time in my life that I’ve been emotionally and physically exhausted as I’ve been this year.  Brain trauma healing is not for the faint of heart!

However, I’ve been working hard to see her – not the behavior but the real her, the little girl who delights in building houses with Legos for hours.  This little girl who can go through 50 sheets of paper with drawings and writing – she’s the one I am looking at daily.

For the past few months, I’ve noticed Desta get her backpack in order and take it with her.  I honestly didn’t think too much of it – I was happy she had a task to do while we were all preparing to leave.  Then it dawned me while we were in Texas!  Desta had figured out how to manage herself.

20170402_194013093_iOSThis little girl, who for so many years has struggled with self regulation and hangry actions has figured out how to care for herself.  She fills her backpack with toys to play with, drawing materials, and snacks.  She knows EXACTLY what she needs, always including some sort of small stuffed animal.

You guys, this is HUGE. Desta has learned what she needs and she does it.  For those who have regulated brain trauma free kids, this behavior is a given right?  It doesn’t seem like such a big deal. But for my Desta, this is a monumental step toward healing and independence. She has realized how to cope in this world.

I am hanging onto this one today, celebrating and so very thankful that the hours and hours of therapy, of focused attention at home, of good doctors and medication – all this combined is helping heal my sweet daughter’s heart and brain.

Healing happens.  It takes a lot of time!  We brought our Desta girl home almost 8 years ago!  I am so thankful that for the living example I see every day of my daughter working hard to overcome obstacles.  She has taught me so much about determination, healing and hope.

the underlying lie of social media

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I have a love/hate relationship with social media.  There are so many awesome apps that allow me to post photos and then with a few clicks, produce a hands on photo album. Remember the days of scrap booking ladies?  Oh my — the weekends of cutting, taping, stickering.  I love catching up with other people, hearing how their lives are, seeing their kids.  It’s fun to travel vicariously through friend’s trips.  Social media, in and of itself, is not a bad thing.

However, there is this world that is easy to slide into – the world of “I’m not quite there yet.”  We typically don’t post photos of the massive tantrums (unless they are of our cute toddlers) or depression.  We shy away from airing our dirty laundry and instead, filter, crop and post our lives to reflect the world we prefer to believe we live.

As my children grow older, I’m more and more hesitant to blog and post about the realities of life. Right now, the lines are blurred between my world and theirs.  However, their stories are theirs and it’s often not my place to speak them to the entire world.

You’ve all seen my photos on Facebook.  We are smiling, traveling (Florida in March without kids – we’re lucky right?) We are celebrating and living big full wonderful lives. Yet there is an under layer to all those pictures.

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What you don’t see are the erratic emotions of each morning challenge and the wild manic ups and downs of unregulated behavior.  You don’t see the deep fears I fight every single day as my kids head into this jungle of a world.  The worry etched deep in my heart that this will be the day something tragic will happen, this will be the season of great despair.

You don’t witness the petty spats between me and my spouse, often brought on by not enough time together where we aren’t just utterly exhausted or discussing our kids.  Add in the season we are in, sandwiched between kids starting to grow wings to fly and parents who are in the late seasons of their lives.  Sandwiched between wanting to dream our dreams while knowing the effect the decisions we make now will have on so many people.

Social media is incapable of showing true life. Sure, I can take a photo and explain and hashtag it’s depth. However, that simply does not share the true burdens of life.

I have removed Facebook from my phone.  I have made a conscious decision to not get on the computer and  phone so regularly.  Instead, I have my journals and Bible in my car, books by my bed and a meditation app on my phone.

I want to see people the way I want to be seen.  I want to be kind because that’s who I am, not because I should.  I want to be authentic and real about life as a mom to a child who is broken and in pain.  I want to walk this second half of my life with eyes wide open to others. Want to join me?

Craving milk

I’m not going to paint a pretty picture and pretend the last several mornings have been great. Each morning I hold my breath, wondering what I will wake up to – will I be yelled at or just simply ignored? How long will it take to get my child to brush her teeth or put her shoes on?  How much hand holding should I do to get her dressed and take her medicine? It’s been downright draining.

I’m weary and worn.  I’m a taxi cab driver and a meal maker.  So many days I feel like my life has been reduced to the tasks I’m called to do, my roles vs. who I am.

This week at my Moms and Beyond group at church, Patricia, our speaker, shared from 1 peter 2.  I came into the morning so worn down.  It was another hard morning filled with yelling, frustration and not a very good hand off.  I walked into church and wondered how I could possibly be a leader, a mentor when my heart was so very tired.

God is gracious. When we are weary, He steps in if we are willing to listen.  Patricia read this verse and a picture came so clearly into my head.

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.      (I Peter 2:2 NIV)

Newborn babies think, dream and long for milk  all the time.  They are constantly wailing for and desiring milk. Their cries are not filled until they are fed.

My mind went to Desta.  In those first few months of her life, I wonder how many times she cried for milk and it didn’t come?  How long did she cry for? How long did she yearn and suffer, wanting to be fed?

When those longings were not fulfilled, they created wounds in her heart and mind, in her brain.  Those scars and wounds are manifested today, with bouts of anger and frustration, with deep heart longings for belonging and love.

See, when the longings are not met, growth is stunted and there is not TRUE life.  Rather, there has to be unlearning and healing.  If only Desta could have had that milk right away, if only someone came right when she called, if only…there are so many if onlys!

It’s the same for me and my soul tending.  If I am unwilling to tend to my soul, read the Bible, hear the words of truth, my growth is stunted.  When I’m regularly reading, I find myself more patient.  I read words of encouragement and hear “I’m worth it.” I’m able to remember that I’m not the sum of my tasks.  I breath longer, sit still and walk slow.

I wish I could undo many of the things done in Desta’s early months of life.  I wish I could have been there from the beginning.  However, the lessons we are both learning together about healing have made us both stronger and better.  I cannot wish away the past but I can learn from it.

As I begin this Lenten season, I’ve taken a moment to pause and be still.  I want to keep growing, to be ever seeking goodness and joy rather than busy and task mastering.

 

 

 

Ethnic Hair Conditioning 101

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I remember when Desta was a year old, I was convinced she’d never have hair!It was so short, balding in spots and super dry.   We moved to Florida and the humidity was the hair friend!

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Since coming back to Colorado Springs, I’ve been on an eternal quest to help Desta’s hair keep growing and stay hydrated.  That is not an easy feat in this super dry climate!

I have watched videos, purchased hundreds of dollars of hair products, done braids, corn rows, turbans, you name it!  Finally, three months ago I was so frustrated with the price of hair product and how her hair seemed to have stopped growing.  I was online and found a recipe for hair treatment.  I figured, why not!  It was the best gamble I took so far in the hair department.

Now that we’ve been doing it three months and I KNOW it works, I thought I’d share it with you all!

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Each week, usually a Saturday or Sunday morning, I make a paste and slather it on her hair.  Actually, it’s a bit more of a science than that.  I section her hair, starting at the ends of her hair and then moving down to her scalp, I apply about a quarter size portion of the conditioning treatment.

The paste is comprised of avocado oil, olive oil, rosemary oil and Carol’s Daughter conditioner.  I usually do 1/4 cup of each oil, 1/2 cup of the conditioner and about 6 drops of the rosemary.  I ran out of my Young Living oil but that is my preference for adding to her hair solution.

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After all the sections are covered in the hair product, I twist out the hair.  Final step before Saran wrap is applying all extra hair product to the ends of the hair.

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We wind saran wrap around Desta’s head – about four large sheets – and she goes about her business for about 2 hours.  (All recipes have said use moist heat or warm towels. Have you tried to keep a warm towel on an active 7 year old’s head?  Also, all the moist heat options come with a $60+ price tag.  I wasn’t ready to commit to that until I KNEW this would work.)

We rinse and then I make a small cup of apple cider vinegar (about 1/2 cup) with water (around 1/2 cup).  After her conditioning treatment is rinsed out, I pout the vinegar solution on her head, rubbing her scalp. This helps remove the layer of build up on her scalp that makes her itch non stop.

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Once it’s all rinsed out, style as normal.

img_5383Desta’s hair is super soft since we’ve started doing this.  She rarely complains about her head itching.  Also, it’s become a fun tradition most weeks – one where I can pamper her and we get a lot of hand to hair touch – an important part of building those connecting neurotransmitters.

Revolved Half Moon Epiphany

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The weatherman has been wrong, multiple times in the past few days.  I’m trying hard to not be angry when I see 50 degrees for a week in the forecast only to wake up to snow and teen temperatures.  How much school do tv weather people attend to predict the temps for us common people?

The weather really influences my attitude.  Does that happen to you?  I wake up to dark cold skies, head to the gym and resolve during yoga to be calm.  Only thing is, when I leave the gym I’m surrounded by incompetent drivers.  Again, who teaches kids to drive these days?  Maybe it’s just me but when I drive on Powers, I’m surrounded by drivers who believe a RED light means GO.

So I start to spiral down the negativity ladder.  Nothing quite seems to work out how I planned it to. My clean neat plans are constantly torn up and shot to hell.  I drive MILES each day, working hard to remember the snacks, the homework, the soccer bags, water bottles and please, can you just keep the car clean for one day?  Please?

By the time I get home, I often find myself in a full on mood meltdown.  I want to reach for chocolate and wine but those two items can no longer be found in our home thanks to a new year’s resolution for clean eating.  I attempt to find comfort in tv but there is honestly nothing really worth to watch.  I head to my phone, finger flicking through screens of Facebook which just angers me as I read post after post about this crazy world we are living in now.  And I take it out on my kids, on my family, on my dog.  I’m short-tempered, short fused and frustrated.

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At my 3:15 pm Sunday yoga class this past week, I had an epiphany.  I was attempting a revolved half moon posture – not well mind you.  My balance was ALL OFF and I was getting so frustrated with myself.  In that minute, I simple stopped trying. I just focused my eyes on one spot of the wood floor and breathed.  The pose happened because I wasn’t trying any more.  I let go of all the expectations of how I looked, instead I just breathed.

My epiphany? I need to let go of all the expectations and thoughts of what I SHOULD be doing.  I have to simply live in the moment and thought, working hard to face and do the thing that is right before me.  No longer can I keep living in this world of shoulds and have to’s and expectation and noise.

Instead of letting all the busy around me distract me, I have been working on living the moment at hand.  It’s a whole heck of a lot of hard work.  It’s much easier to pull up the phone, scroll through other people’s lives and let bad drivers make you go nutso.

Practically what does this look like for me?

It’s choosing to celebrate a child’s hard work by buying a $4 gluten-free cupcake from his favorite bakery.  It’s putting away my 7-year-old’s laundry EVERY SINGLE DAY because that’s a task she is not able to do right now.  There are more important tasks we are working on right now.

It’s calling up my 15-year-old and offering to drive her to Young Life’s grilled cheese Thursdays AS well as bringing her the soccer bag she forgot.  It’s intentionally sitting down and sending my husband, whose love language is WORDS of AFFIRMATION, a long email about the things I’ve noticed about him.  It’s making fish tacos when I just want to serve popcorn.  It’s buying a few special “just because gifts” for a little 7 year old whose love language is GIFT GIVING.

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I’ve been reading more, journalling more, meditating more, allowing thoughts to sit and swirl in my mind.  I believe we are not to live distracted lives.  Blocking out noise can be done by simple releasing it and living in the moment.

 

Disguised in plain sight

I had an interesting experience this morning.  I walked into the dry cleaners around 7 in my usual morning uniform — Buff on head, no make up, work out clothes and my big puffy winter coat.  Caroline had a dress issue and I needed to get it resolved before her dance on Saturday.

For the next 20 minutes I had a great conversation with all the dry cleaners.  They worked hard to help me and at the end of the day, didn’t charge me a cent (Go Summit Cleaners!) It was taking longer than they thought so I left the store, headed to the gym and worked out.  I took a shower and dressed and went back to Summit to get the dress.

I walked in and was welcomed with a “Hi, how can I help you?”  I though it was strange as I’d been there just 2 hours before.  I gave the kind man my slip and he looked down at my name, up at my face and back down at my name.

Then with WIDE eyes, he exclaimed, “Oh, you were the one with the dress.”

I know I don’t look like a super model (ever) but I thought I looked rather cute in my workout no make up attire.  Perhaps my assumption was a bit off base because this poor guy didn’t even recognize me.  Good to know I can disguise myself with a simple hair drying and make up application.  Go me!

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Melody Headed TO the gym

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Melody AFTER the gym

Lion – An adoptive mom’s perspective

I first heard about the movie, LION, while watching the Golden Globes a few weeks ago.  I was instantly hooked when I saw the movie trailer – a young Indian boy, through a course of very unfortunate incidents, ends up adopted by an Australian couple living in Tasmania. The movie is Saroo’s quest to find his mother and family again – something he does after a 25+year search using Google Earth.

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That summary sounds so neat and tidy right?  It all works out in the end.  However, watching this movie through my eyes as an adoptive mom, I could not contain my deep tears and heart wrenching emotion.

My oldest child sat next to me, crying alongside me.  It’s a hard story to watch.  It has a happy ending but the weight of this young boy’s life and how one simple decision resulted in years of searching – that’s what broke my heart.

Saroo’s story is unfortunately the reality for millions of children.  Circumstances lead to a fracture in their family.  Some get lost like Saroo, some are sold, some run away and some are simply abandoned.  Each story, each child, carries with them a life long scar that holds a chant – “I need to go home but I’m lost.”

Sunny Pawar stars in LIONPhoto: Mark Rogers
Sunny Pawar stars in LION Photo: Mark Rogers

There was a scene in the movie between Nicole Kidman and Saroo in which he says to her, “Don’t you wish you could have had your own kids?  You’re not just adopting us but our pasts as well. ”

What unfolds next is a beautiful moment as Saroo’s adoptive mother shares her journey to adoption.  Her story is filled with pain and angst, but carries with it hope and assurance that she was supposed to have these boys, Saroo and his brother, in her life.

That scene continues to come back to me as I think of my journey as a mother.  We all bring our pasts with us, whether we adopt our children or give birth to them.  Until that child is placed in your arms, you do not know the depth of the wounds the past has dealt you and what their impact will be on your children.

Throughout the movie, there is a beautiful unfolding of Saroo’s deep desire to be found, to no longer be lost.  Perhaps this theme struck such a resounding cord with me is that I also have felt that deep thread of figuring out what is home.  As a child and young adult, I had my feet between two worlds – Africa and America.  Neither were fully home and there was a sense of wandering, “Where is home?”

As I live in this new decade of life called my 40’s, I finally understand that home is an emotional place of belonging not a physical place.  This movie, Lion, has so many rich and wondrous themes woven throughout it.

Themes and questions such as –  What is family?  Is adoption a good thing?  Do we really understand how our pasts determine so much of our decision-making?  What is the importance of searching for answers?  We all live in a broken world filled with pain. How are we willing to allow that pain to bring healing?  The depth and breadth of a mother’s love is the heartbeat of each of us.  Are we willing to relentlessly  pursue healing for those we love?  Can love overcome trauma?

These questions and thoughts continue to swirl in my mind as I reflect on this movie. In the movie there are references to child abuse and exploitation.  Those scenes are difficult to watch.  There is a beautiful portrayal of the deep love between Saroo and his biological brother – such love and care that you as the viewer experience great sadness when they are separated.

But at the end of the movie, as we watched the photographs and video of the real Saroo taking his adoptive mother to meet his biological mother, there is sense of contentment and hope.  This is not most adoptive children’s stories.  However, I believe that healing can happen in many ways.

Watch this movie please.  It is a very honest and raw portrayal of the plight of millions of children in this world.  It is a very honest and vulnerable depiction of the struggle some children face as they deal with their story.  I think each person who sees this movie can relate to something of Saroo’s story – as we are all born into a broken world.

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