2017 reading challenges

One of my absolute favorite things about New Years is the opportunity to brainstorm a reading list for the upcoming year. I’ve always had a lot of fun with this. The past few years, I’ve picked a couple series of books to read, as well as standalone titles from my to-read list. This year I’m doing the same, except I decided to read a few specific titles along with my best friend.

Here’s my list for 2017.

Standalone titles
Anna Karenina by Tolstoy
Mornings on Horseback by David McCullough
Count of Monte Cristo by Dumas
Mao’s Last Dancer by Li Cunxin
All of Jane Austen’s books
A book by Agatha Christie, title undecided

Series
Narnia by C.S. Lewis
Lord of the Rings by Tolkien

Reading challenge
7 Keys TJEd reading list

The TJEd list isn’t a reading challenge, per se. It’s actually a self-education outline, reading a lot of the great classics in a specific order. I have no plans to finish this list in 2017, as it is quite long and involved. But I would like to get started and make a dent in the list.

I also set a Goodreads goal of reading 100 books. I far exceeded that last year. My total is unknown, as I’m still entering a few books from December. Some of those were readalouds I did with my daughter, but I read a lot for myself. If you want to be friends on Goodreads, please add me! I love meeting new readers.

Here’s to a wonderful year of reading!

New Years

I have very little time to write tonight. I spent most of my alone time taking a bath and then journaling. But I did want to take a moment to just acknowledge that it is a new year. A new start. 2016 was the worst year of my life. I hope and pray that 2017 will be better. I know that I’m willing to work hard to ensure it will be.

Happy New Year!!

Deep cleaning and self-care

I have always wanted to have a spotless house on New Year’s Eve. That way I can usher in the new year with a perfectly clean home. For various reasons, this has never happened. This year, I shrunk my goal down to manageable size – a perfectly clean bedroom.

Two weeks ago, I was talking to my husband about self-care and how important it is. We talked about how, due to my eldest daughter’s rages, no single place in our home feels safe. Every inch of our home has memories associated with various meltdowns and rages. A few months ago, we made our bedroom off limits during rages. She is no longer allowed in our bedroom if she’s raging. We need a safe space to retreat to if necessary and we also need a place that isn’t full of the negative emotions surrounding the raging.

So we decided that it was time to deep clean our bedroom and then focus on decorating it so that it feels cozy. Our room feels very sterile right now, due to the bright white walls, Pergo flooring, complete lack of bedroom furniture, and no decorations on the walls. When I mentioned this idea to the therapist, she heartily agreed that it was a good idea to focus on our bedroom. This is especially important because I use the bedroom during my quiet time each day. I need a place that feels relaxing.

I’ve spent most of my alone time the past two weeks deep cleaning the bedroom. It is spotless! I completely stripped the bed and washed everything from mattress cover to blankets. I pulled everything off the bookcases and sorted through it all, pulling out what we didn’t want and organizing the rest. I mopped the floor, scrubbed off the heater vents, and finally cleaned the glass patio doors (yuck!).

Our room still doesn’t feel cozy. We still have no bedroom furniture, other than the two cheap bookcases, our bed on rails, and a rickety folding table that I use as a desk. We still have nothing on the walls. But it’s clean! And that makes me feel so much better. Now that everything is clean, I can start focusing on ways to make the room feel more cozy. I have ideas but can’t implement many of them just yet. We’re still trying to pay off credit card debt that was accrued for our adoption trip to China. Until that is paid off, we can’t invest in bedroom furniture. But maybe I can find some small touches to help the room feel better.

Deep cleaning, for me, equals self-care. And just in time for New Years.

Surviving Christmas

We survived!! Woohoo!!

We have officially survived Christmas. No rages. No real meltdowns. Just two whiny, extremely clingy children. I’ll take it.

Personally, I experienced very little joy in the holiday. I wish I had found some joy in it but I didn’t. Survival is good, but I feel empty.

I want to write a blog post soon about what I’ve recently discovered to be my biggest challenge in life – my complete lack of self-confidence. I used to have some, though I’ve never been a confident person by nature. Right now I have absolutely none. I feel like a shell of a person. Everything is a projection of confidence, a facade. I haven’t had the emotional energy to write the post just yet, but I am exploring the idea. After all, knowing is half the battle, right?

Christmas Eve

It’s Christmas Eve. It’s been an interesting day. We made it to church this morning, for which I am very grateful! The day has been a bit tense but no major issues, another thing I am very grateful for. I know to take one day at a time, even one hour at a time, because the mood in our home can change so quickly. But right now, things are peaceful.

My husband and two daughters are upstairs watching Star Trek. I’m downstairs on my computer, putzing around with reading lists and dreaming about the possibilities for next year. I find it encouraging that I can dream just a little bit. Realistically, I know that I’ll accomplish very little of my dream list as life is just too traumatic right now. But I’m an ambitious and motivated person. Over the next week I’ll put together my new year’s resolutions and my year’s reading lists and hope for the best.

Christmas with trauma

I used to love Christmas. It was my favorite holiday of the year. When it was just the two of us, my husband and I watched It’s a Wonderful Life on Christmas day for several years in a row. I love Christmas music. I love watching cheesy Christmas movies.

My love language is gifts. I have such fun picking out the perfect gifts for people, paying close attention to things they mention in conversation, gathering clues as to what they would love to receive. Then I hunt for the perfect gift (and finding a good deal is always a plus!). I get such fulfillment out of the entire process. And then receiving a great gift from someone, that they took the time to figure out what I would really like, makes me feel loved.

So Christmas time plus the opportunity to give and receive gifts with my loved ones has long been my favorite time of year. That has all changed.

My birthday in 2015 was terrible. Christmas in 2015 was terrible. My daughter’s birthday in 2016 was terrible. My birthday in 2016 was terrible. This is very obviously a trend! Holidays are triggers for children with trauma. Gifts are triggers.

“What if my sister gets more than me?”
“What if my mom gets more than me?”
“You only bought me five gifts. That means you don’t love me.”
“This is my mom’s birthday, so the attention is not on me. I will rage because I can’t handle it.”
“Is that all??”

My daughter has no filter. If she doesn’t like something, she’ll blurt it out. To someone who spent hours looking for what I thought would be a great gift, this is devastating. I know it’s not personal but it feels that way.

This year I ordered a fake Christmas tree. That way, if the girls can’t handle it, we can take it down and store it until Christmas day or even until next year. The news we weren’t going to the live Christmas tree lot to pick out a tree was met with much resistance.

Buying gifts was incredibly stressful. I know that the gifts will be carefully evaluated by both girls. “Who does mama love more?” Gifts had to be picked out with a lot of forethought. “Can this be easily destroyed in a rage? Do I care if it can be destroyed? Can it be turned into a weapon?” Again, for a person whose love language is gifts, the whole gift buying process was extremely stressful this year. Four mornings in a row, until all the shopping was complete, I woke up and instantly felt panic. This morning, now that all gifts have been purchased, I didn’t wake up in a panic. Instead, I woke up with my normal ball of anxiety in my stomach. I guess that’s an improvement.

Because our family dynamic is so skewed, we have the additional challenge of “what happens if mama buys more gifts for baba than she bought for me? Does that mean she doesn’t love me?” Any perceived preference for my husband means my daughter feels rejection. Rejection = meltdown or rage.

Can this change? I don’t know. I can’t force my daughters to heal. I cannot fix all of the trauma they’ve gone through. All I can do is figure out how to stand strong in the midst of the storm. Right now, I’m very far from strong. I feel like curling up in my closet and only coming out after the girls turn 18 and leave home.

Therapy

I’m putting this out there as a reminder to myself that there is no shame in admitting that you need more help. We’ve been seeing a family therapist for a year now. We saw one therapist for a few months but didn’t feel she was a good fit. We absolutely love the therapist we are seeing now. She’s helping us with parenting issues, adoption issues, and a few other things.

However, my childhood trauma is triggered by my eldest’s extreme behavior. We don’t have time in family therapy to delve into my childhood so it’s not really getting addressed. My husband and I decided it was time for me to ask about a personal therapist as well. Our family therapist agreed it would be a great idea for me to see someone to help with the childhood issues, the anxiety, the depression, and whatever else I’m going through. I reached out to that therapist today. Hopefully she has room in her schedule to see me.

When I was a child, my parents briefly took my brother and I to family therapy. I resented the therapist prodding into our personal lives. I didn’t have a connection with the therapist and saw no reason to spill my feelings to him. As an adult, I didn’t really expect to be at this point in my life, needing both a family therapist and a personal therapist, in addition to medical support from my doctor. But that’s the season of life I’m in. I’m parenting two children with trauma histories and it’s triggering my own trauma. We need help. There’s no shame in seeking help.

Anxiety and depression

This week, I’ve been feeling like I alternate between anxiety and depression. I spend the days anxious about what type of mood my eldest will be in when she gets home from school. I spend my alone time in the evening (about 40 minutes) feeling depressed about how difficult our life is. Our family is not normal and I’ve lost hope that we will ever reach a state of normalcy.

An example of how much we struggle – Today my husband made me a pumpkin mocha. It’s one of my favorite drinks and I really enjoyed it. This evening, my eldest found the mocha cup in the dishwasher and freaked out. She likes making me mochas on Friday evenings and assumed that I wouldn’t want another. A normal, more neurotypical reaction would be to ask if I was going to want another. Our norm is for her to immediately jump to anger mode and scream at me. Or we could have the opposite reaction and she crawls in bed and starts bawling.

So I spend my days wondering what minor thing will tip my child into a rage or a meltdown. I haven’t yet learned how to go with the flow and relax in those times when everything truly is ok. Why? Because it can change in an instant. We could be laughing and talking when all of a sudden she turns on me. And a lot of the time, I have no idea why.

At this point I can’t hope for a normal family life. Instead, I look forward to the day when both of my daughters move out of the house. Then maybe I’ll be able to relax longer than 30 minutes at a time.

Just keeping it real.

Being real

It’s been ages since I’ve blogged. I simply haven’t had the time or the emotional energy. I miss blogging. I miss sharing my thoughts, hoping that my words will reach some potential adoptive family. I miss connecting with others who are considering adoption or have adopted themselves or are homemakers and share some of my homemaking interests.

Life is hard. Really, really hard. Since I last posted, I traveled to China by myself to adopt a 13 year old girl. My husband and I now have two daughters, a 14 year old from Taiwan and a 13 year old from China. Both have documented physical needs but their most pressing need is to overcome all of the trauma they’ve endured.

But they aren’t the only ones who have daily challenges. Both my husband and I have been heartbroken in the past two years. We have emotional scarring, some of which has healed and some of which is still raw and bleeding. We have a family therapist now. I can now claim an acronym of my own – PTSD. Daily life is a huge struggle. In the past few months, I’ve had two panic attacks and have fought off many others. I now have ongoing anxiety and am trying to get medical support from my doctor.

Hopefully I can start sharing some of the struggles I face and lessons I’ve learned as an adoptive parent. This is not easy. I’m sure that some children come home and meld right into the family. Neither of my daughters have had that experience. It has been a rough road and I often lose hope that everyone in the family will heal.

This is life. My life.

A Tapestry of Secrets – a book review

Tapestry of Secrets

Now in her eighties, Perla Phillips has carried a secret since she was eighteen years old. When she sees her granddaughter, Ella, struggling for perfection, she decides to share her secret to show that God can use even the biggest mistakes for good. But before she can reveal what happened during that summer sixty years ago, she has a debilitating stroke.

Carrying a secret of her own, Ella arrives back in Wise, West Virgina, to help her aunt Sadie care for Perla. Both know the woman wanted to tell them something, but she’s now locked in silence. Together they begin looking into the past, but they may learn more than they expected.
Will they have the courage to share their hearts? Or will the truth remain buried forever?

I love reviewing books by Bethany House! I eagerly read over each and every monthly email, trying to figure out if they are offering a book that I would enjoy reading. I chose A Tapestry of Secrets because of the cover. I adore quilting and novels about quilting.

Sarah Loudin Thomas is a new-to-me author. When I requested this book, I think I knew that this was in the middle of a series but thought it would be ok to read out of order. In that regard, I was correct. I have no idea which characters the two earlier novels are about. This book can be read on its own, without having to read the other novels. Unfortunately, that’s about the only good thing I can say about it.

The main character drove me insane. I wanted to reach into the pages and slap her until she developed some common sense and decency. Ella was recovering from a bad relationship and yet she continued to drool over multiple men at the same time. I understand looking around and contemplating your options. But if you are seriously considering dating one man, please do not talk about how the other one is a hottie and maybe you should date him! One at a time. Evaluate a man based on his own qualities, not compared to someone else in your circle of acquaintances. From her internal dialog – “then again, maybe she shouldn’t be too quick to lean in any one direction.” Really? When you cannot stand the main character, it doesn’t matter how well written the story is; it’s painful to read.

I wish that the author had spent more time talking about Ella’s art. That was what I was most interested in. She designed quilting art. Wall hangings, quilts, but with a nontraditional flare. Some of the descriptions of Ella’s work were very vivid and I was intrigued to learn more about the process of how Ella gained her inspiration, chose her materials, and created her art pieces. But other than a couple of short passages, the book never delves into the quilting aspect. I was disappointed.

Still, thank you to Bethany House in exchange for my honest opinion! All thoughts are my own.