Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Monster in the Corner

This is our tv.  Obscene, isn't it?  We bought it at Costco a couple of years ago.  In the atmosphere of a giant warehouse store, it looked normal to biggish (55 inches).  When we brought it home, lugged it through the house, and set it up, I took a step back and gasped in horror.  WHAT had we done?!  It is gigantic and ridiculous.  When people come over, I feel the need to explain and apologize for the blatant display of American laziness and materialism dominating our living room.  ("we didn't know it was so big! please don't judge us!")

Television has always been a pretty major part of my life, I'm sad to say.  Yes, as a little girl I loved to play with my toys and read, but I also loved me some tv, and, as an adult, my tv is pretty much always on.  I need background noise, and I'm not a huge music person (although I do listen to music all day at work--probably because I can't watch tv there).  Having my favorite shows on in the background as I cook, clean, and check things off of my to-do list at home makes me happy. 

Several months ago at church a guy for whom I have a lot of respect got up on stage and talked about using tv to create a false sense of community.  hmm.  As someone who's never been super social and who thinks of Felicity, Lorelei Gilmore, and the girls of SATC as some of her favorite people, what he said made me stop and think; not enough to actually cause me to change my tv-watching habits, but his words have definitely stayed with me, lurking in the back of my mind. 

I know that "screen time" isn't great for kids, especially kids who have sensory and attachment issues.  They need to be in the real world, with real people, exploring and playing and using their hands and their imaginations.  I have given a lot of thought to how my life will have to change once we have kids in our home, and, to be honest, it makes me a little anxious.  I've pinned loads of things on Pinterest to aid me in my quest to become that mother--the mother I want to be.  That mother doesn't spend hours watching Grey's Anatomy and Bones and Criminal Minds while her kids play alone.  That mother creates sensory activity kits and cloud dough for her kids and spends hours helping them finger paint and learn their letters and numbers.  

There are some women I know whose households are completely tv-free.  Now, that's just crazy talk.  But, while I don't think we will ever be a tv-free family, I am working on making it less of a focus.  A few Sundays ago when we got home from church I didn't plop down on the couch as usual, remote in hand.  Instead, I left the tv off, turned music on, and took care of some things that needed to be done.  I responded to e-mails I'd been ignoring, I worked on the blog, I sat down with Jon and made a fundraising plan (I'm feeling completely overwhelmed by the fundraising thing, by the way... more on that later).  It was nice.  It was needed.  Since then, I've also had a couple of tv-free Saturday mornings (just for the first few hours after I got up).  Those mornings have also been nice, and needed.  

Baby steps, people.

So, I guess part of the "waiting well" thing for me is working out my relationship with the monster in the corner.  While I'm not sure I'll ever be that mother, I sure as heck don't want to be the one who doesn't give her kids what they need because she's too concerned with her own comfort and entertainment.  

Thursday, April 4, 2013


Recently, on a blog, I read a warning to adoptive parents.  It basically said to be mindful of the fact that, when you bring your child/children home, he/she/they will be grieving intensely--in spite of your jubilation that he/she/they is/are finally home.  This blog post said to honor your child/children's grief, to allow them to grieve fully and completely, and to not be hurt or annoyed that they are in fact grieving and not necessarily jumping with joy and excitement at being "home." 

As someone who has experienced a traumatic loss, not allowed myself to grieve fully, and suffered the subsequent consequences, my response to this person was a whole-hearted WORD.  Amen. I hear that. 

Based on my own experience, I can attest to the fact that trying to skip over grieving--the ugly, gross, going-through-all-of-the-stages grief--is like trying to hold in vomit when you have food poisoning. You may hold it in for a moment, but eventually it's going to spew through your fingers and come out at random, inconvenient times.  

Case in point:  last week, while driving home from a fun dinner with friends, I saw a Jeep that reminded me of my best friend, Larissa's, car, and that sparked a conversation about Jeeps and their maintenance issues with my husband.  This led to about an hour of straight up, inconsolable sobbing.  What??!!!

Larissa, a few months before she died
You see, Larissa--my very best friend in the entire world, my soul sister--was killed in a cycling accident nearly 9 years ago.  At the time, I was still reeling from being left by my college boyfriend and, frankly, it was just all too much for my sweet little 20 year old self to handle.  I had a few moments of crying in my dorm room and in my car on my way to and from weekends at Larissa's parents' house, but, frankly, I didn't really allow myself to fully grieve.  Instead, I left for a study abroad program in England and busied myself with spending time with my English family, drinking unhealthy amounts of wine and hard cider, and kissing English/Irish/European boys.  My un-dealt-with grief came spewing out in other, often embarrassing and inconvenient ways, like my screaming at my roommates about using my travel coffee mugs and then collapsing in a heap on the kitchen floor, weeping over said mugs.  I totally skipped over that messy, troublesome grief thing; instead of allowing myself to feel, honor, and fully grieve my loss, I stuffed the feelings inside, put my chin up, and had the occasional emotional-vomiting episode--usually onto innocent bystanders.  Misrouted grief is the worst.

I still have a tendency to do the stuffing, chin-up thing.  In 2010 my father had a massive heart attack.  Aside from my initial crying from shock and fear, I became a rock.  I went into action mode--packing a bag for my dad, speaking with doctors when my mom was unable to, going on a massive grocery shopping spree for heart-healthy foods.  When my father was being wheeled into surgery for a quadruple bypass, and he moved his oxygen mask to whisper that, if he died, he wanted his ashes spread on his best friend's ranch, I nodded stoically ("of course! i'm on it!") while my mother and siblings leaned into the walls of the hallway and wept. 

It wasn't until a couple of days later when I became furious over something stupid and small and started beating my fists against my husband's chest as he tried to hold me that I realized, "oh, crap. I need to actually deal with what's happening to my dad."  Emotional-vomit spewing, people.

So, all of this is to say: please, for the love, please allow your adopted children to grieve.  Don't be so caught up in the "yay, you're homeness" that you ignore the fact that they've just lost their bio families, their countries, everything they've ever known.  Take some time to hibernate and give them a safe place to let it out.  Otherwise, you will find yourself cleaning up the emotional puke spewing through their fingers.  Usually at random and inopportune times, over trivial things.  Sometimes years and years later.  Don't be threatened by your kids' need to grieve.  Instead, be their soft place to land.  Honor their birth parents, their country, their bio families.  Let them grieve.  

Let's say you're not an adoptive parent (or an adoptee)--what have you neglected to grieve in your life?  I encourage you: spend time with the Lord dealing with this issue.  Allow Him to bring to mind the things you have neglected to grieve, the things that are still festering inside and threatening to spew through your fingers.  Spend some time crying and grieving with Jesus, and allow Him to heal those raw, wounded places in your heart.  That's the sweet, beautiful thing about this glorious, loving Father we serve--He wants you to be healed and whole.   After all, we can't begin the next chapter until we have completely finished the previous one.

***I feel it's important to note that my sweet Daddy has fully recovered and is back to wolfing down cheese enchiladas and vanilla milkshakes, Jesus help us.