01 December, 2022

...what a gift to be gifted...

 I know, I know...there are those of you who've had your holiday shopping done since early fall.  And to you I say...leave, leave here now...we can never be friends. (I kid, I kid!) But really, who are you and how are you? Because I can't even think about Christmas until Thanksgiving dishes have been washed, dried, and packed away 'til next year.  In fact, in our little family, the traditional response to requests for wishlists is "No thinking about what you want, until you've first expressed gratitude for what you have".  Read also: "You know the drill.  We don't make wishlists until Thanksgiving is over."

And sure enough, come Friday morning, we're all scrolling away at our screens, cornbread leftovers reimagined as breakfast, condensing our hearts' desires into lists of 10 or less.

So good for you if your shopping is done and already wrapped or in the mail. You've avoided the hustle and bustle...the chaos and crowds.  You're probably reading this with a hefty dose of self-satisfaction...and a planner all filled, in ink no less.
Good for you.
Enjoy the peace and quiet and self-adulation.

~~~

This post? Is for the rest of us.

And it's chock full of great ideas...from my friends and acquaintances-some fabulously talented crafters. writers and artisans who have brought their passion projects to life!

From charming crafts and creations...to the best of baked goods...read on through to find some wonderful ideas to gift and to receive this year!

May all our holidays be as magical as Henri's first Christmas

Festive Food Gifts:

Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream: a family favorite going all the way back to my single-mom days in Ohio. We regularly gift multi-pint deliveries to family and friends in need of a pick-me-up.  With local, quality ingredients and decadent flavors made-from-scratch, this is gift-worthy ice cream at its best.  The customer service has always been top notch, and shipments are packed for perfect delivery...even in summer...ask me how I know!

***

For those more local, there's the Blue Sheep Bake Shop:  This bakery is a winner.  Just ask the Food Network!  With cases full of specialty cakes, cupcakes, cookies and macarons, you're sure to find something to hit the spot here.  Go for the cupcakes, stay for the gluten-free offerings, and don't forget to try the new house-made artisan ice cream.  One for them, two for you-this gift is sweet!

***

Make every holiday morning a touch cozier by gifting stroopwafels from Stroopies. This is a real "gift good, do good".  This Lancaster, Pennsylvannia company was founded for and continues to provide meaningful employment to resettled refugee women. We stumbled across them years ago now, at a Christmas market and their fabulous, gluten-free options have become a year-round staple in our home.  My eldest son always always ALWAYS put these on his wishlist.

***

For The Chef:

A many-years acquaintance of mine who runs the popular food blog Healthy Delicious is helping us all make magic in the kitchen with her fantastic line of cookbooks, available in both print and kindle editions.  Available here, or you can go one step further in spreading some holiday cheer, and order them through your own local bookstore...both your recipient and your small-business bookstore will be delighted!

***

Gifts with he(ART) and soul:

No gift list is complete without uniquely crafted creations, and you needn't look any further than My Warriors Designs for all your custom needs. This small business is a true labor of love, for my dear friend Cassie.  When her twins were born, extremely premature at 25 weeks, she desperately needed an outlet for the anxiety and PTSD of that trauma,and found it by channeling that energy into her love of crafting.  My Warriors Designs honors her two youngest, one autistic and the other diagnosed with cerebral palsy, epilepsy, multiloculated hydrocephalus and autonomic dysfunction. As she says "I create for them. I create for me."  Let her create for you, as well, and make your gifting this holiday part of a beautiful story of hope, endurance, and the indomitable spirit of motherhood.  You'll find all manner of customizable items in her shop and be sure to follow along socials as well, for shop updates and limited product offerings.
 
***

The son of a former teacher of my son (how's that for a mouthful) can cover your gift and giftwrap needs in one with Shymask Studios woodcraft designs and treasure boxes.

***

Speaking of former teachers...Amy Jensen's got a book, or two (or  three!) for you!  Her Chuckie the Chocolate Lab series is sure to please dog-lovers of every age, with a focus on social-emotional learning for youngsters.  A book and a friend to read it with?  Sounds like a win/win!

And while we're on the subject of kids and friends...I've a friend whose kid just opened up shop! Check out Morin's Clay Shop for some adorable, handcrafted jewelry just perfect for stocking stuffers or the little girls in your life. Inventory is running blissfully low, but there's more to come with the holiday break coming up!

No gift guide of mine would e'er be complete if I didn't include my own kid!  You've seen me raving about his creativity for years. So you just know I have to (no, really, it's in the contract!) plug for his business here.  Honestly, though, it's an easy shill!  My eldest son's passion project and the business he began in middle school, Terminus Industries, houses both his love of all things Transformers and his heart for advocating for inclusion and acceptance as an autistic.  Offered across multiple platforms, shop for custom-designed Transformers figures, buildable kits, as well as a variety of custom-requested designs.  Or, send him a direct message about creating your own custom 3D printed solution, what ever it may be.  Additionally, be sure to check out his direct-to-order December offering, custom snowflake ornaments for decorating or gift tagging!
Yep!  Being my child affords you special treatment,
like getting your product photo in my post!

***

Dazzling Delights:

For those at the top of your "Nice List" this year, might I suggest going for the razzle-dazzle and gifting a future heirloom from another longtime acquaintance's Blue Piranha Jewelry.  Taking a bit of a departure here to drop my own wishlisted item from the Etsy Shop:
This stunning Pegasus pendant that literally embodies my story.

Jill has redefined 'everyday elegance' with stunning craftsmanship, attention to both detail and history, and an unmatched talent for highlighting the natural beauty of the gemstones and precious metals she works with.  A winning lotto ticket (I'd have to actually pay to play, though!) and I'd help myself to each of her sterling pendants! Truly, a piece (or two!) for every woman in your life!

***

Other notables

A few final recommendations by way of some of our favorite things:

Bavarian-style roasted nuts (Bavarian-style roasted almonds, walnuts, pecans, and more. and butter toffee roasted nuts) make for a great hostess gift.  Order one to give, and one to snack from while wrapping.

Know a frustrated home-cook dealing with dietary restrictions?  The gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo cookbooks from Danielle Walker's Against All Grain are a family favorite with delectable twists on old standards and creative cuisine.














...welcome, december...

 Oh, December, how I've needed you!

I watched the glow of numbers on the clock beside my bed last night, waiting for them to turn autumn into a memory.  A sigh of relief as midnight swept the slate clean.  I settled, and drifted off.

Henri fretted early, burrowing into me as he grumbled awake. We quietly rearranged, sitting up and wrapping ourselves cozy in the blanket, to watch the view out the window as we do every morning before everyone else wakes up.  Henri is a big fan of the sky show.  His eyes light up, reflecting the sparks on the horizon, and he positively buzzes with excitement as the sunrise flares up.  When the light finally reaches the branches outside our window, he burbles his delight. 

Yesterday, the sun never rose.
We watched, in dissatisfaction as the sky just slowly shifted from black to gray.
Yesterday was fall.

Today, though...
Today is December.

I've been waiting for December.
Waiting for a fresh calendar page, and the promise of fresh-fallen snow it will likely bring
Waiting for the holly, and the jolly that we find in our holiday rituals.
Waiting to swap out Paw Patrol and Curious George books for stories older and deeper, rich with reminders of how loved we are. 
I've kept my head down through all that fall threw at me (down, and ducked, trying to avoid it) and held onto the hope that December was on the way.

Here it is.
And just like the sky this morning, everything feels lighter.

It's bright, with the promise of family traditions and memories to build on.
It's comforting, with familiar spices and flavors.

It's full of surprises and sweets, from treasured decorations tucked away from toddler fingers, to secret elfkin messages on teeny tiny scrolls in the advent calenders...leading my boys on treasure hunts.
It's full of quiet moments, with cocoa or a cookie, basking in the glow of the tree or marveling at the snowflakes as they tumble down.
It's full of music, carols and chorales, and if I'm lucky as in years passed...a cello picking out my favorites as I sing along.


It's cold outside and warm inside.
It's hot ovens and piping kettles and cozy blankets as we watch old classics and Dr. Who.

December, somehow, makes these walls home.


30 November, 2022

...farewell, fall...

 It's been gray and gloomy all day here.  I think even the weather is ready to put fall in the rearview.

I'm feeling...some kind of way...today, as I pack up the final remnants of Thanksgiving decor and lighter-weight apparel.  Normally, Autumn is my season. The hot swelter finally broken, and the outdoors just a tad bit safer for our explorations as the bees go bye-bye.  I love the cool breezes that make for perfect bonfire nights in September ~ the costume creating chaos in October ~ the retreat to the kitchen in November as I prep for Thanksgiving and fill the freezer with stock and soup and casseroles.  Autumn is ideal for daytrips and hikes.  It's sunny days and cool nights.  It's hot coffee to start the day, and spiced sherry cider to end it.  Autumn is adventure and cozy and a million things in between.

Usually.

This year, Autumn has been...a season of struggle.  Like so many, our household was impacted by the pandemic financially.  Profit losses, coupled with a significant reduction in work did not pair well with the mass price increases everywhere.  Constraints on time and a push to fuel that second-stream income wreaked havoc on our normal schedule. I felt my frustration spiraling every time I looked for "family friendly fun things to do" and found that the base prices had more than quadrupled since we'd last visited.  Our poor broken budget, already stretched beyond capacity, definitely couldn't take any more.  It felt like such a mom-fail...this making do with crafts at home, instead of taking the toddler apple-picking and fall-festing and daytrip-adventuring. And even our few attempts flopped.  Price-gouging and "closed due to covid" and scheduling upsets all'round.  What a waste.

Henri and I, confronting Fall and losing

I feel like fall failed.
I feel like I fell.

Which..I mean...I sort of did.  We all did...for two weeks...fell sick with RSV.

And now it's all rush to catch-up and make-up.
And just like so many years ago (17, but who's counting) I have a toddler who was seriously sick and is now in the "skill drop-off" stage of recovery.  Only this time, instead of needing extra assistance, he needs extra patience and extra strength and extra pain relief as he exorcises his discomforts: non-linguistically, but very verbally and very, very physically.
It's like he's trying to fight fall to the bitter end, but I'm the collateral damage.

I'm so ready for the next season.
I'm closing this out now and stepping away to put finishing touches on holiday decor. 
I've got plans...big and small...things to look forward to and things to create.  I've got magic to make, for this family of mine...both my two boys, and my step-children.
I've got high hopes and simple pleasures filling the calendar for December.
I'm so ready for it.

Farewell, fall...do better next time, won't you?

25 November, 2022

...reunited, and it feels so (not) good...

I was an awkward teenager.

Heck, I've been awkward at every stage of life thus far. 

But high school was The Worst.

Sure, I had a friend group...a selective few who tolerated my quirks and character flaws.  But raised in the manner I was, I wasn't built for fitting in or playing well with others.

I didn't have access to the right clothes.
I didn't have access to the right music or entertainment.
I didn't have anything to contribute when it came to the socially accepted norms of typical teenage conversation in the '90s.
I wasn't raised to be a part of my peer group.

My adoptive parents have/had specific ideas and ideals in mind when it came to raising the children they had adopted. And for the most part, barring some puberty-onset defiance by both of us, my adoptive brother and I fell in line.  We knew our place.  We knew our duty.

We followed the rigid guidelines.
And we were both...weird, because of it.
Me, probably more so.
Skirts and dresses instead of jeans. Classical music instead of trending pop stars.  No to parties, and late nights, and mixed-groups. 
No, to seemingly everything that everyone else was doing, wearing, watching and talking about.

So, I was awkward.

~~~

Tonight is Reunion Night. 25 years. 

(That, in and of itself...the 25 year part...is a bitter pill to swallow.  When did I get so oooooold?)

I've watched the FB event fill up with vaguely-familiar faces and names with some sort of dispassionate curiosity. I've seen the notifications as details and comments sporadically populated the page.  I've noted the stats change as interested clicks over to going.
And I haven't for even a moment ever wanted to attend.

High school was The Worst.

I was such a misfit. And boy oh boy, did my classmates know it. 
I went through school with a target on my back.
I was skinny...oh, fine, I was scrawny. 
I was...brown.
I was dressed all wrong, and brought lunch from home, and walked to and from school each day.
I was a music and theatre geek.  A nerd who desperately tried to dumb herself down by not turning in assignments so the other kids would stop calling her nerdy. 
I was a bookworm and a writer (oh, hey...hmmm...)
I was an easy target.
I was shy and quiet and desperately trying to melt into the hallway walls.
I rushed through the teaming cesspool of students, when the bells rang, shoulders hunched and head down...desperate to avoid notice.
I was...unknown to self and others...neurodivergent and utterly incapable of understanding, much less playing the social-construct games of teenage hierarchy.

'90s teenage me:
Yes, that's an oh-so-popular Hypercolor tee, and yes, I had to work hard for it.
And yes, that's my beloved guinea pig, Butterscotch.

So, I was bullied.
No surprise, there.
I was taunted and teased and inappropriately touched. I was shoved and snickered at. My belongings would mysteriously go missing. My long hair was tied to the back of chairs and stuck with discarded gum. The home answering machine would be full of gross jokes and threats when I got home,,,thankfully well before anyone else, with time enough to erase them all.

High school was The Worst.

One of my friends from those way back days, some years later when we were still in friendly touch, used to talk about how excited she was for future reunions and how she couldn't wait to show up and prove them all wrong.
I never quite got that.  Wouldn't the proving be in not caring about their opinion? Wouldn't the evidence of their wrong be in the life you successfully built beyond the boundaries their immature games had defined for you?

More to the point, why would anyone want to Go Back?
Go Backward?
Even for a night...a gathering...a memory re-telling/re-writing?
Why would anyone who'd not been part of the in-crowd ever want to be reminded of how ostracized and unwanted they once were?
Why would anyone want to resurrect those discards of unformed-self, shed like too-small skin once we were free of those hallways?

High school was The Worst.

I've no desire to open that door to the past.
I don't want to try, and fail, to fix that damaged teenage girl.
I don't want to sit with her big feelings and silent tears and hot humiliation.
I don't want to hear their memories of me, or see the confusion of not remembering me at all.
I don't want to listen to the liquor-induced one-upmanship of strangers desperate to impress.
I don't want to prove them wrong.

I don't want who I am now to be compared to who they thought I was then. I don't want the life I've built and the things I've accomplished to be diminished by the constricting constructs of their version of teenage me.

Tonight is Reunion Night. 25 years.

I haven't gone to the other reunions. I won't be there tonight. I can't imagine a future where I might attend one at 30 years or 40 years or...

I was an awkward teenager.
Heck, I've been awkward at every stage of life thus far.
I'm more than capable of self-sabotage and self-deprecation.
I don't need help to make myself feel small and misfit.
I've got that covered.

I don't need to confront my bullies, or wait for their apologies, or listen to their shallow excuses.

I can just say Not Attending.






 




...an exercise in exorcism...

 Warning, lane departure!

This post was begun on 16.July, 2021.  The words have sat, slowly festering, in my draft queue till this morning, when I decided to click through on all the drafts and make myself accountable to finishing them.  I was shocked to see that this one was so...full.  More than just a few scrambled words and notations.  A full (incomplete) post.

And I cried as I read it. Because part of me is still there. The me of now is just the convenient shell of form and function, that I've covered all that mess up in. She is still me, and I am still her, and we are still just broken bits scraping along. 

Here's what I wrote first:

I've been avoiding this page for months now.  Steering far clear of all the white space and the demands of its blinking cursor.  Staying in the "safe zone" where I don't have to acknowledge how disorderly the chaos in my head has gotten.  Going through the motions...running on empty...too tired to think clearly.

Too tired to think clearly.
Maybe that's it.
Maybe that's the problem.
Too tired to think clearly.
My exhaustive state has winnowed me down to naught but reaction and instinct and coping skills.  
No clear thought.  No organization of thought.  No logic or reasoning or analysis.

I've been struggling since Henri was born.

After multiple early miscarriages, my pregnancy with him was terrifying.  Nine months of high-risk and complications to worry through.  Nine months of thinking each twinge was the end.  Hemorrhaging during delivery.
The face of my eldest when he walked into the delivery room and heard the doctor say, "I can't stop the bleeding."

Those fears still take up room.  Those moments of terror in freeze-frame images my mind flicks through at the slightest trigger.

I don't know that I'll ever be able to write them out and free myself of their weight.  Every time I try, I feel like I can't breathe.  

We brought him home into chaos.  Our hard-earned homecoming absolutely destroyed by the cruelty of toxic family histrionics and coupled with pandemic lockdown.  Sleepless and under attack those first days, I wept as I nursed him.  My eldest son and my partner both watched me splinter and wondered who this stranger was.  Post-partum took over...telling me they would be better off without me... telling me I should have bled out...telling me to take all the pills in our medicine cabinet one night.  Self-preservation stopped me just short of that. I sat on the edge of the toilet, carefully putting each pill back into the correct bottle, overcome by tremors and silent tears.  I bit the inside of my cheek to keep quiet that night in the bathroom and run my tongue over the scar from that wound as I write this now.  Symbolic, that.  Biting through my own flesh to make sure my self-loathing didn't disturb anyone else.  This scar whose very existence is proof that I am capable of destroying myself but not of asking for help. 

At my 6-week check-up, my questionnaire was flagged. So exhausted was I, that I'd actually filled out the answers truthfully instead of with some version of "I'm fine".  I sat there, stoic on the outside and withering on the inside, as my midwife gently coaxed me to try medication.  Even in that moment, railing internally at my failure and cursing my weakness.  There, as she spoke softly to my broken heart, I wanted to disappear.  To cease. To never have been.

My eldest was watching. To this day I think that's the only reason I actually followed up and took my prescription.  After a few days, the edges blurred. Nothing cut quite as deep. Nothing was sharp or loud. Everything dulled.  Everything grayed.  There was no high...no low...no importance or impetus.  I just floated in a cozy gray haze, going through the motions of motherhood without a care.  Nothing penetrated the gray. Not fear or anger or joy or love.  Henri nursed and napped, fussed and fretted, and I was but a dispassionate automaton.  The daily pill just strong enough to silence every emotion. 

Until it stopped working.

Several months in, my mind cleared just enough that I realized I was having near-constant anxiety attacks.  Every morning walk ended in hives and racing heart. Trips to the grocers were terrifying.  I clutched railings and armrests and froze mid-step.  My mind went into hyper-drive...feeding me never-ending reels of worst-case scenarios at every turn.  My alertness to detail (that I've always relied on) was suddenly both overwhelming and unreliable, creating danger from the most innocent sources.  Daily life was terrifying.  Every noise and shadow and shifting of light caused me to freeze.  I could no longer trust my senses...or my brain to make sense of their input.  I became angry.  So exhausted by the constant pain of heightened stimuli that my defenses took over.  I was suddenly spastic. My arms and legs reacting to sensory input before I could think.  Tripping over my feet...crashing into furniture...spilling my coffee and rearing back from the sudden hot drip.

Somewhere, somehow...a moment of clarity. The pills!  One days' realization that what I'd needed then, was the problem now.  They'd done their job, wrapping me in bubble-wrap through my post-partum.  Thank goodness for that!  But I no longer needed them now.  Bluntly put, that gray fog bubble wrap that had kept me safe during the worst of it was now blunting my senses so much that they were becoming hyperactive to break through.  I was like an exposed nerve, reacting to every bit of sensory input as though under attack. 

So, I stopped.  Finished the week out and said, "No more!". 

But the hair-trigger response my body had developed in that time remained.  I find myself, even now, having to "talk myself down" from my fear responses when we're in traffic, or when I see a bee, or when there's an unexpected sound.  And I hate it.  I hate that I'm still so reactive.  It's physically painful- the muscles spasming up and knotting.  It's exhausting-the rush of adrenaline and resulting low blood sugar. It makes me feel weak and broken all over again.

While I waded through post-partum and meds, the stressors only increased.  The two-weeks of distance learning that started right after we came home from the hospital extended into the end of the school year.  My eldest, a high-schooler, was suddenly home 24/7 because of the lockdown.  Our small apartment shrank day by day, as I tried to keep a newborn quiet during the hours of remote learning.  Zoom-school meant a constant presence of computer camera in the main part of our home, which hampered every natural response of early motherhood.  I snuck around the outer corners of rooms, trying to find private spots to nurse and eat and nap.  I couldn't help but feel embarrassed when the camera caught my post-partum-pudge on display as I fled past. I couldn't help but feel I was failing my eldest son in not being able to offer him a separate place in which to do his schoolwork. I couldn't help but compare myself now to myself of years ago, when I was a new mother to my first baby and had all the normality of a pre-Covid birth and homecoming.  

Comparison. Oh, that took over as well.  I found myself forever falling short.  He didn't sleep except for power naps?  My fault somehow for not being able to comfort him down properly.  Nursing problems?  Mine to address and suffer through bouts of mastitis for.  Reflux?  My diet, obviously.  His lip and tongue tie? Something I should be able to work around. All of it my doing and my undoing.  All of it not going as smoothly as it had...or as I remembered it...or mis-remembered it from when I'd had my first.  17 years later and failing at what I thought I'd so easily done before.  17 years of fervent hopes dashed in the reality of my failures.

Even my body was betraying me.  The weight accrued in pregnancy failing to shed off as it had once so easily and quickly done. Insomnia at an all-time high. 

Continued...

Some 16 months later here, having found this post I don't really remember writing, and shocked that I was brave enough at one point to do so.  Not brave enough to post it and send those words out into the world, of course.  But somehow brave enough to sit down and type out that ugly truth.

I've been struggling since Henri was born.
A repeated line. A repeated truth.

I continue to struggle. I continue to cycle through shame and rage...with myself.  I haven't bounced back.  I haven't rolled with the punches.  I haven't adjusted, naturally or otherwise, to any of the changes of the last 2+ years with grace, or found new footing, or...or...or...

I haven't rediscovered myself.
I haven't re-invented myself.
I haven't re-emerged as a new, better parent and person.
I haven't recovered.

From waking to crashing, every single day, I'm just pushing through...deplorably...anxiously, nervously, angrily sometimes even. 
I feel...removed from self, in a way.  As though, so long as I keep busy and just-keep-moving, then that's enough. 

I feel that scar inside my cheek, sometimes, when Henri is nursing and the room is quiet and still.  I flick at it with my tongue and feel that little spark of pain. I remember the emptiness of that night...the exhaustion and hopelessness. Holding him, in the here and now as he suckles, it's not just a memory.  
I'm still failing.

I'm failing at those things that I thought came so easily to me.
Resilience and creativity and patience and energy and grit.
I'm failing to be the mother I want to be...the partner I want to be...the friend I want to be. 

Because I spent 9 months terrified that something would go wrong, and then it did.
Because everything changed including me...in ways I never expected or planned for.
Because this miracle cost so very much.



Because I'm scared.
Because I'm ashamed.
Because I haven't recovered.
Because trauma eventually catches up to you~me~everyone.

I want myself back.
I want the familiarity and ease of the me I was before.
So, this is my first step...
hitting...
POST.




24 November, 2022

...of snake monsters and other scary things...

 Morning is in full effect here, after a deliciously late wake-up.  From where I'm perched, I can hear my partner grumbling as he waits for the french press to reach peak brew.  Turning just so, I can look past the open door, to where both my boys are snuggled up with Henry Raccoon in between them, and the cat is dutifully submitting to her morning fluffing.

My best laid plans have come to naught, by light of day, as I woke up this morning with my right eye swollen shut.  (To this day, despite consults with specialists, I've no idea the cause or cure...I just have to wait for the swelling to go down, frustratingly slowly.) A lifetime ago, when my eldest was barely verbal, he said that my swollen eye made me look like a one-eyed snake monster (thanks, no doubt, to far too many hours spent watching Scooby Doo together) and the name stuck.  So here I sit, sulking in my robe, feeling every bit monstrous and hideous, and absolutely not planning on leaving the house today.   While the morning unfolds around me, I'm hiding in the corner, hot compress up against my eye with one hand and typing with the other.  Slow and steady...on both counts.

My youngest stared at me intently this morning, when we first woke up.  A little furrow of a frown between his eyes as he tried to puzzle out what was wrong with Mami's face.  Quick thinking, I put my hand up to cover my swollen eye, and he giggled...all set right again...

If only...

Would that it were that simple.  Just a cover-up, and on with the day.  Just a flick of a hand, Vegas magician style, and back to normal.

~~~

Normalcy, or the feeling of it, has been in short supply around here lately. Whether it's the background work of my brain trying to prepare for all the emotional dysfunction of the upcoming holidays, or the logistics analysis I seem to be constantly running to cover all the bases, or simply the inevitable psychological frailty that comes part and parcel with the whole family having had RSV for a week plus...
I feel...othered.
Which is nothing new, but somehow suddenly much more profound.

Last week, I shared this as a fb post:
Being an adoptee is...weird.
Sort of...defining...as "undefined".
I don't belong in any family... I'm not a part of either birth family, nor am I really a solid, rooted part of my adoptive family.
It's like having both no history and borrowed history at the same time.
It's growing up seeing connections and not having any yourself.
It's rather like looking through windows...watch all you like, but always from a distance.
It's never really celebrating your birthday because that's the day you weren't wanted.
It's...maybe reconnecting with half-sibs, but not being a real part of their story or their family either.
It's being the eldest and feeling the emotion of 'I should be there for this' on your baby sister's/half-sister's/biological sister's wedding day but knowing full well at the same time that you aren't her big sister in any of the ways that count.
It's feeling the loss...the missing out...the trauma of separation...all over again any time you let your mind go there.
It's starting a family of your own and finding yourself in your children's faces.
It's knowing they'd be awesome nephews to have, but that shared genes don't equal aunts and uncles

I find my mind wandering to those mysterious alternate realities more and more lately...the what ifs of biological family and siblings, of shared DNA and memories, of holiday traditions and photo albums full of 'big sis' moments and nephews basking in the glow of uncles and aunts. What history went into making these faces, mine and my boys...and, even now, what chains in the gene sequence cause my eyelids to randomly swell shut?

I feel weighed down by a sense of obligation to my adoptive family, to fulfill the debt owed of saving me from foster care. That tour of duty doesn't peacefully coexist with any want on my part to build bridges to my half-siblings.

My mother-in-law (and dear friend) learned late in life that the father who raised her was not her biological father. I won't share her story in detail here...it's hers, not mine...but I've watched (or listened) to the beauty unfold as she's connected with her half-siblings and researched her genetic inheritance. It's been an interesting counterpoint to my experience, as she's felt free to explore and I feel stifled by responsibility and rejection and childhood-trauma.

I can't help but wonder about all those what ifs...


I can't help but wonder if my boys and I would see bits and pieces of ourselves in those half-siblings of mine...if shared genes equal comfortable familiarity, and if our shared face (because, really, that picture could be any one of the three of us!) would be reflected in any of their features...




Happy Thanksgiving, and thanks for being here...

"Having somewhere to go is home.
Having someone to love is family.
Having both is a blessing."
~unknown

~~~

Thanksgiving is a wonderful reminder to reach out and tell your people how grateful you are for the gift of their presence. In a complex and baffling world full of strangers, each of them is familiar. They are in a way, both home and family. Whether it is the homecoming of a hug after days~weeks~months of distance, or the kindred chat long-distance via talk or text...each of them is a blessing in your life.

Be grateful for the time shared together, and the promise of memories still to be made.

Wishing you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving...