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The Willow Tribe, Redefined

The Willow Tribe, Redefined

This is our family now, plus me. I’m a single mom of these wonderful children. B-14, N-11, A-9, L-8, D-7 and Lil B-5.

This is us. For better or worse.

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I haven’t posted in a long time. I think that I’ve been going through so many emotions that I was unsure that I could put it into words.

Something changed me. I don’t know what really. Was it the surgery, having a child in residential care, job change? I don’t know. But what ever it was had made me harder. I have thicker skin. I’m stubborn and even sometimes selfish. I’ve changed.

Is that not what we do, though? We constantly evolve throughout our life on this earth. If we don’t change to adapt, we are screwed. Something I repeat to myself daily is this: If you don’t want the past to repeat itself, you must do different than you did before.

My life no longer allows me to look through rose colored glasses. I can’t put my head in the sand and ignore issues that beg to be addressed. I have to face it.

I have changed.

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Yoga in the Life of a Willow Momma

I started yoga about 2 years ago.  There was a small class that was held at my work after hours and my friend (and now yoga teacher) Amanda invited me to go.  I was hesitant.  Everything I had seen about yoga looked hard and graceful.  Lindsey Willow is not graceful and she doesn’t like doing hard work, so I was pretty sure it wasn’t for me.  However, Amanda convinced me that it could be for me and eventually I gave in.

My first class, I was not flexible at all.  I was so afraid of looking stupid or worse, making any embarrassing sounds, that I didn’t even want to try to push myself.  I took the easiest way in every pose.  I was sure that this was certainly not for me.  Then I looked around the room.  There was a pregnant woman with feet so swollen, I thought they would pop open.  There were older women who looked definitely more fragile than I.  There were two men, one very strong and one not so strong.  There was the instructor and my friend Amanda, who I was pretty sure would start levitating their small bodies at any minute.  Then there was me, the out of shape fat girl with no self-esteem.  Was I really so different from these people?  Was I so less capable of trying to concentrate on breathing and holding my body still in a pose?  I started to feel a little more confident and pushed myself a little deeper into the next stretch.

The first class had another revelation for me:  that I am a valuable person.  We were doing meditation at the end of class and the instructor’s voice quietly said the following:  “Breathe.  Just breathe.  It is the first thing you do when you enter this world and it is the last thing you will do when you leave it.  Your breath is precious.  Just breathe.”  Tears streamed down my relaxed face.  I felt my breath, my life force, moving slowly in and out of me.  It was precious.  It had kept me alive through every trial and tribulation I had ever went through, even times when I didn’t know if I wanted to keep breathing.  It persisted.  It was important.  I was important.  My breath, my overweight and inflexible body, my loving and easily hurt heart, my wondering and sometimes scattered mind…all of it was valuable and I was just seeing it for what seemed to be the first time.

Until this college yoga class that I am in now, I have been touch and go with yoga.  I practice the breathing often, but not always the poses.  I was still afraid of my body that can’t do what other bodies can.  But it seemed like the less threatening physical education class possible, so I signed up.  It was an excellent decision.  After my first class, I had my doubts.  It was a fast-moving yoga, sometimes known as power yoga.  I didn’t think I would ever be able to do it.  I emailed Amanda who confirmed that it was a more advanced yoga than I had ever practiced with her in our weekly family yoga sessions, but she offered to help me in any way she could.  She printed out illustrations of the yoga sequences that I could practice at home.  By the second week, I was sure that I could do this.  I could survive through the more challenging poses.  Not always like every one else, but in my own way.  The important thing was that I was finishing, not quitting in the middle.

Getting brave, I bought Jillian Micheal’s Yoga Meltdown video for Sarah and I to work out with.  We were both surprised when we made it through the whole video.  It wasn’t easy, in fact, it was quite hard.  I am sure that I don’t look graceful doing it like Jillian, but I get through it.  This was huge for me.  When it comes to physical activity, I’ve always been a quitter.  I would get a doctor to write an excuse for me all through grade school and high school so I didn’t have to participate in any serious physical activity.  I hated marching band because I couldn’t play clarinet and march at the same time.  I luckily tested out of physical education in college the first time because I could lift enough weight and was flexible enough.  I never stuck to anything.  But I was/am sticking with yoga.

My favorite part of yoga is when I can finally do a pose that I couldn’t do before.  I feel an amazing amount of pride, even if it is something that everyone else in class could do on the first try.  And of course, I still love the meditation.  My mind seems to wonder out of my body half the time anyhow, so it is nice to have an excuse to let it go.  I love that moment when all I can hear is the sound of my deep, slow breath and I can feel sunshine on my face in a dark room.  For me, this is what yoga is all about.  Tranquility.  Self Value.  Just Breathing.

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Screw you, Mcdonalds

I have an issue with the local McDs. They advertise free samples every Thursday, yet every Thursday the sample machines are broken down. Sarah had told me that they have this happen most weeks, but today I experienced it for myself.

Sarah is working full time until I go back to work. Needless to say, a month without work makes for a tight month as far as finances go. So, here I am…at home with 6 kids and pretty broke because pay day is tomorrow. I promised the kids that if they were good and did their chores, we would go somewhere. B suggested the free samples, then playing at the indoor play place. Forgetting Sarah’s previous warnings, I agreed.

In we walk with cheerful faces and socks in hand. Then the teen worker tells us that their machine is broke. I freeze. Sarah’s stories come flooding back as I think about what I can do. I smile at the kids and tell them that we should just go ahead and play any how and enjoy it.

D starts the rebellion. She crosses her arms, plants herself on the ground, and demands ice cream. I don’t take demands from children, so I ask B to pick her up and carry her to the play place (I am still on weight restrictions from my hysterectomy). When we get there, D crashes to the ground screaming. N, Little B, and B all shrug and put on their socks to play, accepting the disappointment and moving on. L and A look at their sister screaming and start doing the same.

As I get death glares from other patrons (who obviously do not have 6 angry and sad children), I weigh my options. I tell the girls that this is not the way Willows act and suggest they make the best of it and play. They didn’t care. I then say that they can stop or we can leave. The screaming continues. I ask the others if they would mind us leaving and getting them a treat through drive thru. They agree and B carries out two screamers and I have to carry out the other one even though I shouldn’t.

I go through the drive thru, get the non screamers an ice cream and we decide to still make the best of it and go to the park. The screamers calm down and the real magic happens. The ones that got the treat ask if they can share with the others. Seeing how huge this is, I say okay. They all share and talk about how we could have done that better, me included. We go to the park and laugh and play. Life goes on.

You know, McDs….you try week after week to get these kids down. If your machines suck, fix them. Don’t have free sample day. Sarah swears that that your machines work until the Willow kids show up. If that is true, shame on you. And screw you. Because no matter how much you try to get them down, they are good, sweet, kind, sharing kids. They might throw a fit two, but they still come up on top. They learn to over come disappointments and most of all, to show kindness and forgiveness to each other.  Can’t get a good Willow down.

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If giving up were possible…

If giving up were possible, there are times when I might do it. Give up on everything, all of my tribulations. So, I guess it is good that it isn’t an option. Lucky for my blog followers, bitching about said tribulations is a go!

First item on crap menu: The vehicles. I get that occasionally cars and huge vans break down. But do they have to do it all together? Shouldn’t there be a break between car problems, such as several paychecks? I thought that this was understood by our vehicles. Apparently not. I am thankful that we have vehicles and that we will be able to fix them. To be honest, I feel bad complaining when we are blessed with transportation that we have certainly been without before. I just wish there would have been time to recover between the two.

Second item on crap menu : Reactivate Attachment Disorder. This one really burns my butt. We now have three children with RAD. It sucks. Two of the kids have attached to us but react badly to others or out in public. One has no attachment to his family and can’t even live with us safely. He has to be at a treatment center where nothing productive is happening and he has put on about 30 lbs. Just what a kid needs…another reason to be made fun of. So now we look for a new residential treatment center. Maybe one that atleast has picked up T’s chart and knows why he is there.

What really gets me about having kids with RAD is the fact that most people don’t understand or care. They don’t let you vent about it because it freaks them out to hear about it. They never ask how “those” kids are doing. They think that you could have done more. Or even worse, that it is what is coming to you when you adopt damaged goods, as some one put. Well, screw everyone who thinks like this. Shame on you for treating us with such disdain for having kids with RAD. Try for just one day to parent not one, but three children with attachment problems. Then go ahead and treat me like this because atleast I will know you have a clue. As I told Sarah, I don’t judge the trash man because I am not willing to do his job. If you aren’t willing to have children with issues, don’t judge us for it.

Third and final item on crap menu : upcoming surgery. Four to six weeks off when my company is going through major transitions. I can only hope that they keep me. I would hold off, but my uterus is growing things into my other body parts, which hurts and is gross. I can’t put it off. Hopefully it will all work out.

If by chance things don’t work out, you can look forward to another lovely blog post like this. Lucky you.

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My boy

I realized that I haven’t wrote an ode to my son, N yet. I didn’t forget. I just knew how hard it would be. His birthdays are always bittersweet. You are happy because he made it another year; sad because his age gets older but doesn’t seem to mature.

N has been through so much in his short life. Some days, I admire him for just getting out of bed. He has so much against him, yet he’s a happy kid. His background makes me so sad, but I have hope that N will have a happy ending.

N came to us in pjs with feces on them. He was three and didn’t talk, hardly could walk, wasn’t potty trained, and cringed when you touched him. Teresa told me that no one ever wanted to hold him or watch him for her. She felt “stuck” with him. He flipped people off, threw his shoes at unsuspecting heads, banged his head on the ground repeatedly, and screamed, screamed, screamed! Sarah and I were in love with him. We were determined to show him the love he desperately needed.

It has been a privilege for N to let us in. It took a lot of cuddling and I-love-you’s and carrying him on our hips like a baby….but he let us in. We became his only people allowed in. I can’t think of a greater honor. Over the years, he had let a few family members and therapist in, but not many. We select few get to see how funny, smart, and caring he is.

The rest of the world sees him as an angry mess. He throws chairs at teachers, name calls, barks at the principal. I can see where they are coming from because that is all he lets them see. The rest of the world doesn’t get in.

We have stood up for this boy so many times when he is getting kicked out of day cares, kicked off the school buses. He even got kicked out of Wee Worship at church for kicking off the teacher’s prosthetic leg. Every time, we tell then that they are wrong. He isn’t a monster. That is an act to keep you out.

I know that it is hard to accept him for who he is, but I wish more people would just try. He is the boy that likes to make babies laugh. He is the boy that seeks out the elderly ladies at church to hug them every week. He is my sweet, complicated boy.

We have had him tested many times and he just barely falls into the Autism Spectrum. Not enough to get services. He has social anxiety and ADHD. He had to start swallowing pills at four. He has a skull fracture and brain scarring from when he was a baby that can never be fixed. I wish people knew this and would give him a break.

He gets called retard, freak, weirdo. He gets told by kids that he is stupid and ugly. And yet he gets up each morning with a smile on his face to go to school. I would tie myself to the damn bed if I had to go through that every day.

If you meet my boy, give him a chance. See through what he acts like because he is scared of people getting close to him. Look for the good in other kids like him. And above all, be a rock for them. Refuse to let them run you away. Be a source of unconditional love. Be their rock.


Can the Hate

I was listening the a Christian radio station this morning on the way to work. I enjoy this station and feel it is very safe for my kiddos to listen to. Until this morning.

This morning, they were talking about how we as Christians should fight the hate crime bills. That is right, friends. Christian leaders want hate crimes to be legal. We are to pray with them that Christians will still be allowed to discriminate against any one different. This makes me sick.

How is this okay? Christianity is supposed to be about love. Jesus said “love your neighbor”. Did he only mean neighbors that look like you and think like you? In my neighboring community, KKK members stand by the courthouse and try to recruit more people. They are hateful, mean people…but they are my neighbor. I would never wish that the government would give me the okay to commit a hate crime against them.

We should be preaching against all forms of hate. The public schools have very strict rules against bullying, a form of hate. But we as Christians want to promote hate? We want permission to hurt our gay, transgendered, poor, Hispanic, or African American neighbors? Are you kidding me?

Well, count me out. For centuries, we have used God as an excuse to hurt people. I mean, just read the old testament. It is scary stuff. Almost as scary as praying that we will be able to commit hate crimes.

My Atheist and Wiccan friends have never asked for my financial support and prayers so they can legally bully and harass some one. But my Christian peeps? It’s been done. Not that they are trying to be outright hateful. They feel justified and even obligated to fight against anything that contradicts with the Bible. And if you look at different interpretations, everything contradicts with the Bible.

So, no, Joy FM. I will not pray for hate crimes to be legal. I will not financially contribute to helping make it possible to torture people who are already hurting. And for the record, it is not what I think Jesus would do.

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Life Spinning

While I stand still, everything is spinning around me. My family, my work, just life in general. I can’t keep up.

We will start with the kids. T is in residential treatment for the next several months. So, while he is safe, that is about all I know. I don’t know what he is working on in school, who watches him, who his therapist is or what they work on. It is a terrible feeling. But it is what I asked for, right? It just doesn’t feel like anything comforting. It feels out of my control.

The other kids are okay. B is mad, N is sad, the four little ones are the same. Wild and cute. We have a family counselor who looks and sounds like the Super Nanny. I can’t stand her. She wants us to run our house like a school. Well, guess what, Super Nanny? This isn’t a school, this is my family…my tribe…my life. I am trying to give her a chance, really I am. I’m just not any good at letting people come in to my house and tell me how I should and shouldn’t raise my children.

I wing the mom thing, the wife thing, the medical assistant thing, the good church member thing. I am winging every single part of my life. What else can I do? Life is spinning, spinning, spinning. Lindsey is spinning, spinning, spinning.

The encouragement I have is that so far, I have done all right, stumbling around my adulthood dizzy. Most things turn out okay. Most of my kids are happy and functioning. Sarah and I are close. I graduated from college. We own a house and two vehicles. I might be spinning, but sometimes I stop in the right direction. God seems to watch out for me pretty good.

Sarah said all this sounds sad. I don’t think it is really sad, just honest. My life isn’t sad. My life is full of happy things. While I get upset easily and freak out prematurely, I can see with clarity that I have it so good. There are so many people in this big wide world who would kill to get to walk in my shoes.

So, I guess what I am saying is that sometimes I feel like I am standing still while everything is spinning out of control. But I have faith that somehow, someway…it will be okay.

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Not the Suffer in Silence Type

I have come upon a major personality flaw of mine. Many events have led to this realization and only God knows why I am sitting here blogging about it, but here we go.

There is a scene in Twilight where Bella says, “I’m more of the suffer in silence type”. I, being the opposite of Bella, seem to be compelled to suffering loudly. Upon this revelation, I decided that I am embarrassed by it. I don’t know if that matters, though. It might just be me and not something changeable.

Recently, I had an incident with a co-worker who said that I exploit my children on facebook by talking about T’s transition out of our home and into a treatment center. I was very upset by her accusation because I don’t think that I exploit my children. Later that night, she called me and told me that all my co-workers felt the same way, but just said it behind my back. I was so pissed off that I deactivated my account for the night and deleted about 100 friends before I brought it back up.

There was something that really bothered me about all of this, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Then that quote from Twilight rang through my head. I suffer out loud. On facebook, on this blog, on the phone, in personal conversions.  I seem to lack the ability to hold my feelings and thoughts inside.

Okay, so now we know the problem. Next step: fix it! But I don’t think I can. I have tried at work to keep as quiet as possible, to not speak unless spoken to, and to not mention anything happening with my son. The result: it is lonely. It makes me feel like I don’t exist and that the things we are going through with T are insignificant.

I grew up in a family where if you don’t talk about bad things, it doesn’t happen. Well, that is definitely not true! Bad things, good things, non significant things….they all happen in the course of every single day.

If we only talk about happy things, we miss out on a lot of miracles. Because miracles come during your darkest of times. When doctors tell you your children will die. When you lose your job. When you lose the one person you knew you couldn’t live without. I love hearing people tell me how their terrible situations got turned around by a random act of kindness, an overlooked check in the mail, an awesome act of mercy from God.

Maybe that is why I can’t suffer in silence. I know that every struggle passes. It either kills you out makes you stronger, right? Sometimes I think that instead of making you stronger, it makes you smarter, kinder, more forgiving and more thankful. These struggles are forming who I am and I can’t be silent about it.

If you don’t want to hear me go through this stuff, don’t look at my Facebook. Don’t read this blog. Because I can’t be who you want me to be. I wear my heart on my sleeve. I cry easily. I love with all my heart and that opens me up to be hurt. When I am hurt, I talk about it. It is just me.

I am not saying the way I am so open is the right thing to do. It’s probably not. I am just saying that I’m not Bella. Sorry, friends.

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The Art of Losing a Child

Losing a child is painful beyond all human understanding. My title is a sick joke because there is no way to be graceful at it. There is no way to correctly die inside while keeping it together on the outside. It just plain sucks.

The first child I lost most of the people reading this will not know about. Her name was Kayla and I miscarried her about 16/17 weeks into my pregnancy. I was young (20) and working at Casey’s and dating a co-worker named Charles. He was a big black man from Chicago, going to Lincoln. I did not love him, but I loved our baby.

I was terrified of losing her. My blood pressure was through the roof and I was going for weekly checks at my OB. While Charles couldn’t care less about the baby, his ghetto momma insisted that she was going to take her and raise her as her own.  My stress level was unbelievable. I knew I might miscarry and I had silently decided that it would be better than having her ripped away from me. I miscarried a week later and knew that God was punishing me for thinking that. I cried for my sweet baby as they prepared me for the D & C. I was alone. I was too scared to tell my family and Charles said he was happy it was over.

I mourn my little Kayla still today, imagining her curly hair, dark skin, and chubby cheeks. I had secretly hoped that when we got foster children, they would look like how I imagined her. How ironic that I have white skinned, blond hair, blue eyed children when I wanted a biracial little girl!

The second child I lost a lot of people know about. D is the oldest biological brother of my children. We weren’t able to get D when the rest of the kids went in to care, so he and B went to a very sub-par foster home together. We wanted them with us as soon as possible and had B reunited with her siblings in our home within a month. But D didn’t want to come. He was done with his siblings and I was too dumb to see it.

We persisted to try to get D to come live with us and his siblings. He spent weekends and holidays with us. After about 6 months, his foster parents were losing their license and he had no choice but to be our foster son. We were happy, his siblings were happy, but he was not. I so desperately wanted the kids to be together that I didn’t see what was right in front of my face.

The behaviors started after about a month. I won’t go into it much because it is disturbing. Just trust me, it was bad. Started out little creepy things and progressed to hurting siblings and animals. He went to for in patient psych treatment and came back with the terrible, frightning art work he made for me there. It got so bad that the kids’ therapist gave us the choice: keep D, or keep the other 5 siblings. What could we do? We couldn’t let them be split up into a bunch of different foster homes again! And I couldn’t help but fear who D would become as his mental illnesses progressed. We made a very hard choice. D left.

I remember crying on Teresa’s shoulder about how sorry we were that we couldn’t keep her kids together. She said that she wasn’t surprised. She knew he had these behaviors, but she hadn’t said anything because she thought maybe we wouldn’t have the same problems as she did. She had already put him inpatient several times, to my surprise. She wasn’t mad at all. She was happy the rest of the kids were safe and together.

I still miss D. I miss the kids being together even if they don’t. I know that we wouldn’t have been able to handle his behaviors and keep the others safe. When the judge said that because we weren’t adopting him, he would legally be an orphan, I felt like I had been stabbed in the chest. I felt like he had said, good job, dumb shit. You just ruined this kids life.

Now there is T. We have had him since he was 4. That seems awfully little to me and it is so hard for me to wrap my mind around that it wasn’t early enough to save him. He has reactive attachment disorder and raising him has been a heartbreaking struggle for the past 4 years. We really didn’t have problems until after the adoption went through. Then…I don’t know…something just changed.

Again, I’m not going to go into all his behaviors. I will say that they started out not as severe. You would just scratch your head and think, is this really normal boy stuff or is something really off here? Gradually, they got more severe, more dangerous and disturbing. Eventually, we had to watch him every minute to make sure he wasn’t hurting anyone.

We held on like mad women, remembering that he was the same little 4 year old somewhere deep inside. We have tried everything. Counselors, psychiatrist, psychologist, crazy ass therapies that didn’t have a chance of working. Everything we could. I have never shed so many tears in my life than over this boy, and I cry a lot. It’s really saying something.

But in the end, the choice to put him in-patient was really no choice at all. The danger for the rest of us was too great and we have 6 other kids to keep safe. I don’t know if he will ever be able to come home and it is killing me. I wish I could change it and suddenly know the cure to RAD. Not happening. So I am losing a child once again.

The art of losing a child. What a joke. It gets more painful each time it happens. It is virtual guilt I will carry on my shoulders until the day I die. Maybe longer. And I hope to God on His shiny big throne that I never have to do it again.

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