Reading Goals

In all the everyday demands of life, my reading has taken a backseat. It’s so hard for me to balance everything that I want to accomplish. This week I logged into Goodreads to update my reading and found this:

13 books behind schedule! I’m not sure that I can, nor do I want to try to, catch up with my reading goal. However, I would like to reduce some of my time wasters *ahem, Panda Pop and mindless Facebook browsing* in order to add in some meaningful reading. This week I am tackling these three books.

These Is My Words – A random selection from my enormous to-read list. I’m about 30 pages in and overwhelmed at the sheer number of tragedies this girl endured. I can’t tell if this will be a motivational read or a depressing one. I would like to finish within a week or two.

The Count of Monte Cristo – I have a reading buddy with whom I am going to try to complete the novel. I’m trying to nudge my best friend into joining me as well! This will be a slow but steady read. We set a pace of three chapters a week and we’ll see if it’s the right pace and adjust as necessary.

Guns, Germs, and Steel – This one has been on my shelf for at least a year. I started reading it, completed the first third, and stalled due to life. It’s actually a really interesting book so I’ve committed myself to reading 3-5 pages a day. That way I can continue to make progress and eventually finish it.

There are so many books out there and not enough time. Must read more!

Juggling

Lately it feels like I’m juggling multiple balls and can’t keep them all in the air. Life at home has actually been fairly calm. We’ve only had a couple of meltdowns in the last few weeks and it’s been a month since our last rage. Praise the Lord!!

Despite the calm, I’m struggling. When life calms down enough to give me breathing room, I start thinking. Processing. Daring to dream just a little. And that makes me realize how far from normal we really are.

Awhile ago I posted that my therapist has me trying to identify my core values. Honestly, I’m stuck at two. My second core value is that life can always get better if I work hard. I’ve always been a planner and a dreamer. I worked hard in high school and earned a scholarship to college. (How I lost said scholarship after my freshman year is a long story). I lost a ton of weight in my 20’s. I budgeted, scrimped, saved, and paid off a ton of debt that my husband and I accrued both before marriage and after marriage. I’ve studied Latin, Spanish, Japanese, and Chinese. I read a ton. I truly believe that if I work hard enough, I can improve my mind, my health, my spiritual life, my marriage.

Unfortunately, I cannot force that improvement on my children. I cannot force them to stop raging. I cannot force them to stop melting down. I cannot stop the permanent trauma they’ve so generously shared with me. I cannot force growth so that they no longer rely on me to keep their emotions stable.

This family life and my core belief that I can always make improvements are at odds with each other. I’m trying to determine if it’s possible for me to regain control of the emotional state of our family. When my children melt down, it changes everything. The other day, one of my daughters had an hour long meltdown. I sat near her, offered comfort (she rejected it for awhile), and eventually was able to pull her out of it. But addressing that meltdown was at the expense of my other daughter because I disappeared downstairs to deal with daughter #1. When the meltdown started, I was engaged with daughter #2. So daughter #2 was left behind so that I could deal with daughter #1. And after that hour long meltdown, I no longer had the energy to study Chinese or exercise or do anything that required much of an effort. My energy was completely sapped trying to connect with daughter #1 and help her deal with the huge emotions that caused the meltdown.

How do I learn a language while trying to navigate the emotional minefield in our home? How do I find the energy to exercise on a regular basis? It’s a good sign that I’m once again finding the motivation to do these things. But I cannot control my environment enough to exercise, keep up with my Chinese studies, complete the FlyLady assignments, finish the taxes, declutter, etc. There’s not enough of me to go around.

I was hoping to write a more positive post today but this is what’s been on my mind lately. The challenge – how do I help my girls heal enough that their daily struggles stop sapping every bit of my energy and motivation?

Forgotten passion

I rediscovered this passion last summer but between then and now, completely forgot.

I. Love. Hiking!

This weekend I’m at my church’s women’s retreat. I’m grateful to be here even though I’m struggling with so many people in close quarters.

The lodge is out of town and close to hiking. There is a very short trail attached to the property and the Mount Si trail head is within walking distance. I invited myself along with a group of ladies who were headed to Mount Si. We only had time to hike to the first mileage sign but it was a beautiful hike. I fully enjoyed myself.

Sunday mornings, I spend three hours out by myself. I might have to take myself hiking instead of sitting in a coffee shop!

A few thoughts

I’ve got a lot going on in my mind these days so I haven’t been able to put together a coherent blog post. So I thought I would just post a few thoughts.

Mother’s Day – calm. I have no idea what happened. Maybe because neither my husband or I reminded the girls it was Mother’s Day. They knew; they both wished me a Happy Mother’s day in the morning. But other than that, we ignored it. I got my favorite meal for dinner because it’s routine to have sushi on Sunday nights. I sat through a Disney Channel Original movie and think that I deserve Mom of the Year for that one. We got through the day with no meltdowns, no rages… fairly calm.

Therapy – My therapist has me working on identifying my core beliefs. I’ve been thinking about it for almost two weeks now and have only come up with two. The first one I identified was a negative view of myself, something I’ve believed since I was little. I came up with the second core belief yesterday. Thankfully, it’s more positive. I might post about them eventually. Maybe. It’s a rather raw topic for me and I’m processing some things in therapy.

Chinese – I have no idea why, but I’ve been motivated lately to return to my Chinese studies. I get frustrated that I can’t understand everything my younger daughter is trying to convey. She doesn’t converse with me much beyond surface level life. But occasionally she’ll try to tell me a story about school. I can understand enough to get the gist but I lose the details. I want to understand her. She’ll probably learn English faster than I learn Chinese, though my Chinese levels far exceed her English levels at this moment. She’s immersed, though, and I am not. I’ve studied almost every day this month, mostly dabbling in flashcards. Tonight I listened to almost half an hour of Chinese podcasts. I’m excited!

That’s most of what’s been on my mind lately. Trying to meditate in the evenings and failing most days. Finally added a daily Bible reading to my routine, mostly while I’m waiting in the pick up line after school. FlyLady efforts have stalled on forward progress but I’m maintaining the gains I’ve made already.

Life goes on. I am very slowly learning to live in the present. Very slowly.

Mother’s Day

Today is Mother’s Day, a day that is often fraught with extremely conflicting emotions for adoptive families.

For my eldest – grief over the loss of her birth mother combined with the love of her adoptive mother, a love she has not yet learned to trust.

For my youngest – grief buried somewhere extremely deep over never knowing her birth mother and probably wondering why she wasn’t wanted. Not even close to letting her adoptive mother into her heart.

For me – occasional moments of hope that raising these two teens will change their lives for the better combined with a whole lot of grieving over the loss of my dreams for my family. Trauma makes it almost impossible for us to be anywhere near “normal.”

I don’t remember last year’s Mother’s Day. I know it was a terrible day but I’ve blocked out the specific memories. So far today has been much better, but the day is still young. I’m at a coffee shop, holed up with my computer and a good book, which is my habit on Sunday mornings. My daughters complained that I was going out on Mother’s Day, but I explained to them that Mother’s Day is supposed to be about making mama happy. What makes mama happy? Some time spent with her family and some time spent in quiet, alone. This morning I’m embracing the quiet. This afternoon and evening will be spent with my family.

I can only pray that we will have some semblance of regulation and calm. My expectations are low but I always hold out hope that this is the holiday that will be low on drama. One can always hope.

Homemaking milestone

The FlyLady system has been helping so much (six weeks in) that I sat down at the computer today and wondered what I should do next. Normally I have a long list of emergencies to tackle. Today I have nothing. All my fires are put out. I still have a few urgent projects *ahem*file taxes*ahem* but nothing that’s considered an emergency.

I have hope that someday I’ll no longer be drowning under homemaking tasks. Yay FlyLady system!

Perfectionism and FlyLady

I am a perfectionist.

There. I admitted it.

In all of life, and in blogging, I want everything to present perfectly. When writing a blog post, I want my writing to flow well. I want pretty pictures. Before and after photos. Links to other resources. A thought worth sharing.

Seasons in life. I just don’t have time or energy for perfectionism anymore. This might be a good thing. I’ll probably have to explore it with my therapist! (Two years ago I wouldn’t even have admitted to having a therapist. I have two, actually! Personal and family).

Anyways, five weeks ago I started dabbling in the FlyLady way of life. She says a couple of things that really resonated with me. First, she says that “you are not behind! I don’t want you to try to catch up; I just want you to jump in where we are. O.K.?” I am not behind! I am not behind! Again, I am not behind! My house doesn’t have to be perfect today. I just read the email, set my timer for 15 minutes, and tackle the daily assignment. I can do that! Even with our crazy life, I can do that!

The FlyLady also says that “even housework done imperfectly blesses our family.” Really? Even if I don’t get the entire assignment done… even if I don’t clean our entire bathroom… even if our laundry isn’t done in full… I am still blessing our family!

Both of those quotes are repeated often in the FlyLady’s emails and they repeatedly remind me that I don’t have to be a perfectionist. In fact, I CAN’T be a perfectionist. Not ever, but especially not right now. My family is made up of a husband who has to work far too much, two teenage girls with lots of trauma and in need of massive healing, and my own PTSD and anxiety. Life is crazy! And so I jump in where I can and, to channel the P90X guy, “do my best and forget the rest.”

Since I’m on week five, I’m now visiting zones a second time. This means I can do deeper cleaning than last month since the basic cleaning is already done. This also means I have time to do things other than cleaning, like my new passion – gardening!

I’m sure this blog post is riddled with mistakes and incomplete thoughts. But I’m letting go of my perfectionism and posting it anyways.

And just because, a picture of my girls.

National Quilting Day

I thought it was today, but I just realized it is actually next Saturday. Bummer! The last couple years I forgot about it until it was too late; this year I was too early. How very funny.

At least I was finally able to participate in a small way! A few years ago, someone sent me a box with quilt blocks, batting, and enough fabric for backing. I just needed to assemble the top and then quilt and baste it. Still a lot of work, but at least the blocks were already complete. The box has been sitting in my closet for awhile but I’ve been pulling it out recently. For this season in my life, a quilt kit is exactly what I need.

Today I sewed the second row of blocks together. It’s finally starting to look like a quilt top!

Maybe next week I can sew these two rows together. If I remember National Quilting Day…

Random thoughts

I still want to write more regular blog posts, sharing life in the house of a family with two adopted teens with trauma. I want to share in hopes that other parents will feel more prepared for what life could be like. Neither of our girls have had an easy transition and everyone is struggling. My eldest has been home for 18 months and my youngest home for four.

But it’s hard to find the emotional energy to share. We are no longer living in complete chaos. But life is never easy. Every day holds some type of challenge, some days more stressful than others, but we rarely have a day that I could actually label as “good.”

Recently I started finding solace in my neighborhood coffee shop on Sunday mornings. The first two weeks were really difficult for me. I couldn’t relax. I felt I should be productive but couldn’t find the strength to plan even three days of our menu and consequent shopping list. One Sunday morning, I needed my best friend to talk me off the ledge because I was inches from a panic attack and could not convince myself to go back home.

The last couple Sundays have been better. The coffee house has free Wifi and very comfortable seating. I’ve curled up with tea or a mocha and have actually started to relax just a little. I plan part of a menu, as I still cannot plan more than three or four days at a time. I do something fun on my computer and touch base with a couple of friends. And then I stop by the grocery store on the way home so that I don’t have to leave my house on Monday, other than taking the girls to school and then picking them up.

So far it’s turning into a nice routine. I still have a long way to go. Menu planning is very hard due to budget constraints, the picky-ness of my girls, and my husband’s and my desire to avoid dairy. I want to cook healthy, wholesome meals, but have very little energy when it’s approaching dinner time. Grocery shopping is extremely stressful and I want to look into grocery delivery service but, like everything else, it’s a learning curve and will take time to set up correctly. As a perfectionist, it’s hard for me to haphazardly jump into something without tons of research and triple checking to make sure I’m doing things correctly the first time.

This week my main non-parenting priority is to find my car title. I haven’t seen it in a long time but we need it. Our 2002 Honda died a couple of months ago and we had to buy a new-to-us car. The Honda is still sitting in our driveway as I need the title in order to sell it. So far I’ve gone through an entire foot (no exaggeration!) of paperwork and still have not located it. This week, I have to find that title or order a replacement. Once that is complete, I’ll pick another goal to work on. Getting rid of the car might earn us a couple hundred dollars. If not, at least it’ll remove one car from my insurance policy and lower my monthly premium. Money is tight and every little bit helps.

This is a very random post but just a few thoughts that have been swirling around recently. Life is still rough. We are hanging in there but it’s discouraging to think this may be our new normal. It’s not a fun life, not a good life, and not one I wish to live for years and years. I’ll keep pushing forward in hopes to create and find some moments of joy.

Real vs. fake me

Even though I want to, I don’t blog much these days. There just isn’t time and emotional energy enough to sit down and write. When I do sit down and stare at my screen, I have so many thoughts swirling around that I can’t pinpoint just one. Tonight I’m going to at least try. Hopefully this post will make at least a little bit of sense.

I’m now seeing a personal therapist, as well as the family therapist we’ve been seeing for the past year. My personal therapist is helping me to find my identity again, as well as my confidence and my ability to handle life. Right now I feel like I’m one disaster away from falling apart.

Last week I talked to her about how I feel like I’m two separate people. When I’m at home with my husband (he works from home) and the kids are at school, I feel like myself. My husband is my best friend and we understand each other. We have fun together. I feel like I can be myself and be accepted, something I was looking for until I met him.

When the kids are at home, I feel like a complete fake. My eldest daughter now has a few coping skills at her disposal but she still has a relatively low stress tolerance level. If anything goes wrong, or if she feels like something is wrong (even when everything is fine!), she falls apart. This means she might retreat into herself, or stomp around the house, or start screaming at me, or any other other behaviors that shout “I’m not ok!” For over a year now, I’ve been doing my best to prop her up, to be her frontal lobe for her, to keep her from falling apart. This means that I’ve put on a false personality, as she is an extrovert and loud and a sensory seeker. I am an introvert, fairly quiet (unless I feel comfortable with you and then I can talk your ear off), and a sensory avoider. But to keep my daughter happy and regulated, I’ve been pretending to be an outgoing and cheerful person. I’m not. I’m a relatively serious, quiet, sometimes brooding individual. My daughter can’t handle the real me. If I’m not smiling and laughing, she thinks something is wrong. If she thinks something is wrong, her behavior spirals out of control.

Over the past few months, I’ve been letting myself not be the smiling, laughing person that my eldest thinks I am. My younger daughter has seen more of the real me, since I went to China by myself and refused to fake it for over a week while parenting by myself. My youngest doesn’t like it when I’m serious. She very insistently tells me, “mama, smile!!” But if I continue to be serious around her, she can handle it. My eldest can’t.

What’s the answer? I don’t know. I am trying to allow myself to be me all of the time but it is so hard. When my eldest starts losing control of her emotions or behavior, I have to be silly and playful to get her to laugh. If I can get her to laugh, I can bond with her enough that we can reestablish her regulation. But a silly and playful person I am not. This is so hard for me and feels so fake. But that’s what she responds to.

How do I balance my needs (being myself) with her need for regulation (which requires a personality that I don’t have)? Can she learn to regulate while I maintain my own personality? I don’t know. Do I always have to feel like a fake around my daughters? I don’t know. It doesn’t feel sustainable. It doesn’t feel fair to me or to them. They think their mother is one person but neither of them know the real me.