August 18, 2014

1

Not Just in Ferguson

This weekend I read a pretty great article, written by a fellow White mom of Black children.  Go read it here.  Her message is important, and I'm glad she wrote it.  But I was actually really shocked by her words.  That any White parent of any Black child, hadn't heard these things?  Astounding.  It made me feel a lot of emotions and think a lot of thoughts.  So I'm dusting off this blog to try and sort it all out.

First, I want to address the elephant in the room:  Yes, I'm aware that many people, including the National Association of Black Social Workers, think that I have no right to parent a Black child.  Their points are hugely valid.  Because even though my family is multiracial (African American, Native American and Asian) I am not, in fact, a Black woman.  My husband is 2nd Generation Dutch American.  Because even though we have both been the only White household in our neighborhoods (he in SE DC and Little Haiti in Miami for me), we are not Black.  Those people are right.  I don't know how to teach my child to be Black in America.  And this will be an issue.  One we will navigate to the best of our abilities.  But also know this:  domestically adopted children are placed with their adoptive families by the birthparents.  So 99% of White parents of domestically adopted Black children, were chosen specifically to parent that child.  By that child's first mother.  It is an honor, it is a blessing, it is scary as hell.  In our family, we talk about race all the time, we read about it, we have no choice.  It is such a presence in our lives, the Blackness of my daughter, talking about her beautiful hair and skin, caring for it, doing everything we possibly can so that she feels comfortable around people who look like her.  We know we will fall short but we fight to get it right.  And this is exactly why this article struck such a chord with me.  Because apparently there are adoptive families out there who aren't aware of these kinds of things.

Let's step back in time a bit... 6 years or so ago we sat in our adoption classes, listening to adult transracial adoptees speak about their experience.  I raised my hand and I asked about how to teach our children to navigate in the world.  Because they'll not always be "that cute little Black kid with the White parents" and eventually they'll be a Black Man or Woman and that requires a different set of skills than those I must possess.  I talked with the speaker about the fact that our children will be followed around stores and will be stopped by police.  Not if... when.  And then I slowly looked around the room and the other prospective parents sat there with mouths agape.  Stunned silence.  And, finally, one woman said, "I've never thought about that.  I never thought about my child being Black."  And then it was my turn to sit in stunned silence.  I remember thinking, "Seriously?  You are this far in the adoption process and you have NEVER thought about these things?"  In another exercise we were given small bowls and then a small amount of beads.  The beads were white, yellow, red, tan, brown and black.  And the trainers asked us to add beads to our bowls according to the skin color of people in our lives/environment - doctors, friends, musicians you listen to, family members - and finally, the color your new child would be.  Our little dish had many white beads, but also many beads in the various other colors.  As I looked around the room I saw that the other bowls were full of white beads with a single black bead in the center.  A bit crude, but clearly representative of the Black child in a sea of White people.  And a little seed of dis-ease was planted in me.

In the last few years that seed has sprouted.  I interact on a daily basis with other transracial adoptive parents via a few online groups.  And I began noticing people asking things like, "Where do you get hair beads?" or, "My Target doesn't carry any 'ethnic' hair products."  And then, when I respond that we just get our hair beads at the hair store, and I hear back that, "Oh, well, we live in Iowa.  There are no other Black people here."  It's like a punch to the gut.  What?  Really?  Why?

I recognize it's not my place to question and I'm far from perfect on this journey, but I've been stunned in the recent years to hear about adoptive parents like this.  Ones who've never considered their child as a Black adult in America.  Who don't know any other Black people.  Who don't even have access to appropriate hair products, let alone Black mentors for their children.  In a betrayal of my own family, I've begun to edge closer to those who feel White people shouldn't adopt Black children.  I find myself thinking, "What gives you the right?"  What gives me the right?  I don't have the answers.  We've talked a lot about adopting from the foster care system... maybe a boy, between 4-6 years old.  I've gone as far as stopping by the DHS office.  I know the statistics.  I know there is a need.  I know that Black boys age out of foster care without ever being adopted at a staggering rate.  But I'm scared.  We don't know how to raise a Black man.  We know how to raise a good man (hopefully!), but is that enough?  Because even though we are doing our best with our daughter, I know that having White parents will fail her in some ways.  Obviously having parents of any race is better than having no parents, but I struggle with my shortcomings in these areas.  I worry that I won't know how to raise a little boy to know how to deal with the police properly.  I worry that if my little boy grows up and sags his pants or wears a hoodie and goes for a walk...  And I feel the burden of having to prepare a child for those eventualities without having had to experience them myself.

Which leads me to today.  Today, not just in Ferguson, but in your neighborhood, a Black kid is being harassed by the police.  Not just in Ferguson, but in your neighborhood, a Black woman is being followed around the store.  Not just in Ferguson, but in your neighborhood, Black people are treated as suspects of crimes not yet committed.  And to all parents of Black children - these are not just "someone" these are our sons, our daughters, our nieces and nephews.  I want a better world for my children so please, stop demonizing Black men and sexualizing Black women.  Please see that institutionalized racism exists in this country.  And please try to make it better in your own world.

June 2, 2014

1

End Game

Recently I've been doing a lot of thinking. About a range of topics, but mostly about life. Maybe it's my age (35) or maybe it's the age of my kids... I don't really know.
But what I do know is this: I am happy. I am content. I have a wonderful life. And I frequently take it for granted.
I'm in the middle of a big purge of possessions (more on that in another post!) and it's really had me examining my life. Who am I? What is my purpose? What does all this stuff mean to me?  Big, existential, up in the night wonderings. I know I love to work.  I love to be productive. I love to make money. And, like everyone, I am easily caught up in the business of more. More clients, more money, more house, more cars. Now, I've been just left with one question - Why?
Why do I want more money? If I am blessed enough to pay my bills, have savings and still live comfortably - what's the point of having more? Why do I want my business to be more successful? If we have more work than we can handle, if we have a great team of employees - should I want more? Why do I want a bigger house? If my home is already lovely and perfectly suited to my family - do I really need more house to clean or fill up with junk?

The answer to the question? Ego. I want it all to feed my ego. Nice house, nice cars, beautiful clothes and jewelry, successful business - past a certain point, it all just feeds my ego and inflates my sense of self.
And the bigger question that remains is this: Is that really who I want to be? Do I want to be someone who is respected for having a lot of money or a lot of things or for being thin or beautiful or having perfect children?
Not really.
I'd much rather be known and liked for who I am rather than what I have. The truth about MORE is that none of what goes into getting it and nothing about actually having it gives me more of what truly matters to me. More time with my family, more time to experience new things, more time to actually enjoy the life I'm living. In fact, the disease of MORE does the exact opposite. It steals your attention from today and gives it to the elusive "someday". It robs time from my children and my husband to be constantly taking care of possessions. It is a black hole of authentic living.
When I've dipped my toe into simplifying my life previously, I've gotten scared and backed off.  Because I was confused about what a simple life would look like to me.  Would I have to give up my TVs?  My car?  My schmancy refrigerator?  How simple do these people expect me to get?  But I what I finally realized is that I don't have to give up anything that is important to me.  And that, in fact, by simply letting go of the dead weight, I'm free to more fully enjoy the nice things I have.  It's an incredibly freeing concept!

While I'm trying to simplify my life, I'm also really trying to get present and stay present. So when I'm writing this post, I'm writing this post. When I'm making food for my family, I'm making food for my family. And by giving my deeds my full attention, they become less of a task and more of a pleasure. If I'm not constantly thinking about later - later tonight, later this week, later this year - I am more able to fully live in this moment. To really soak up what life is giving me. To really recognize my blessings.

Because at the end of this life, I will be satisfied to know I gave my full attention where it was needed. To know that I didn't live a life of somedays and maybes. And that by giving up the need for more things, I made room for more blessings.

So, how about you?  Are you running the rat race of life, or are you living freely, unencumbered by dead weight?  In my next post, I'm going to talk about the steps I'm taking to lighten the load!

May 8, 2014

0

To Your Health

I'm not the avid blogger I once was. Sure, kids gets busy, business gets busy - life gets busy in general. But it's been more than that for me and I'd like to share why I've been so inconsistent.

Right around the time we adopted our youngest daughter (now 4) I started noticing that I wasn't feeling quite right. Just more tired than usual, my monthly cycles were a mess just like my seemingly pubescent skin, which had erupted with acne. I was 31 - certainly not too young for some hormonal shifting, but this felt extra.

So after some research, I started supplementing with an over the counter, natural Progesterone cream. It worked pretty well for me. But sometime between then and now, things got worse. Not in an "Oh! This is terrible!" sort of way, but rather in the way one falls asleep - little by little until you can't remember how it happened at all.

And this was me. 4 years later, I'd somehow gained 15 pounds, my skin was out of control, and my brain - well fuzzy just touches on it. I had completely lost my ability to think clearly or be decisive and I was frequently choosing the wrong words when I spoke. And lets talk about the fatigue. I felt first trimester pregnant all the time. It was like walking through molasses just trying to do basic daily tasks and then by 4:00 all I could do was lie in bed. Sounds awful, right? It was. But it happened so slowly, that I couldn't really see it.

Well, that's not entirely true. I did seek out advice from professionals during my yearly physicals. I'd ask to have things like hormones or thyroid tested, but the medical professionals never felt it was necessary. And instead of speaking up for myself, I trusted their opinions.

Dumb.

I'd blown off my yearly appointment in October of last year and when I finally remembered to make it, decided to try a different office. I'd been extremely happy with the midwife and gyn/ob who'd delivered my children, so I called them up and made an appointment. They got me in right away.

At that first visit - well - I was nearly in tears. Within minutes of describing my symptoms to my practitioner, she looked me right in eyes and said, "Don't worry. I have a few ideas about what might be happening, but before we go any further, let's have some lab work done." Seriously. Tears. Because after years of feeling like I was crazy, or lazy or both, this woman had actually listened to me. Heard me. Understood me. Hallelujah! So I left her office with an order for a complete (and I mean COMPLETE - vitamins, minerals, thyroid, hormones - everything!) workup and an appointment for two weeks later. I could hardly wait to get started.

When I went to the lab, they took 8 vials of blood! If you're squeamish - don't let this deter you - you could be saving your own life!

At the followup appointment, I got the results - critically low Vitamin D, nonexistent Progesterone (at a point in my cycle when it should be the highest) and a T3 conversion problem. Which means that my body makes enough TSH and T4, but doesn't convert it from T4 into the usable T3. My nurse practitioner went over how each issue could manifest through symptoms which was wonderful and useful knowledge.

My personal path included prescriptions for Naturethroid and Prometrium as well as a charge to take 10,000 IU of Vitamin D per day. I let the practitioner know that I was already taking 4000 IU per day, but she said some people are poor absorbers of Vitamin D and that she recommended building up over time. She asked to see me in two months and again, I left with a lab slip in hand - this time only to check my Vitamin D and Thyroid levels.

Fast forward 2 months - I'm back at the office. I've been feeling some better. Not a ton. I'm exhausted around 4:30 rather than 3... a little improvement... not much, though. At my first follow up appointment I heard that my Vitamin D levels had indeed gone up about 10 points. Considering I need them to go up about 90 more, it's encouraging, but hardly an overnight success. As for my T3 - it went down. Bummer. So my dosage was increased and away I went.

I'll be submitting my second set of labs next week and have my second follow up the week after. I don't know what my levels will be then, but I can tell you how I'm feeling. I feel good. I'm at about 80% of how I'd like to feel. Most nights I'm awake enough to still be active around the house at 8:00 - a huge improvement! Things that were overwhelming, like preparing a meal plan and making dinner every night are no longer confounding. In fact, our family has only eaten out twice in the last month, compared with at least 3-4 times a week previously because I was just too tired to deal with it. I feel relaxed, I feel capable and I'm even starting to feel on top of things again. I'm making far fewer verbal mistakes and have really been able to give a lot of attention to our company again. It is encouraging! There are still times when I feel drained - but a little exhaustion is alright when you've got three kids, pets, a home, a business and a marriage, right? More importantly, I feel fun again. I want to do things! Not just out of obligation, but because I'm enjoying things. My skin has cleared up and I've lost 5 pounds. As my levels continue to improve I'm excited to finally be feeling better and better.

I've already shared my story with my friends - in fact, quite a few of them have already made appointments with my office! But I wanted to share with the public because I think it's such an important topic. Everytime I would tell a doctor (yes, female doctors) how I was feeling, they'd be so dismissive, "Well, you have three kids! You should be tired!" They weren't listening to me and I really should've advocated for myself much sooner. I would encourage all women - listen to yourself. If you know there is something going on with you, and your doctor is unwilling to help - find a new doctor. Research. Ask friends. The difference between how I feel today and how I felt just 4 months ago is amazing. I got mad at myself for taking so long to find the path to wellness, but am just so thankful that I finally did. It will be the best thing you do for yourself - listen to your body, to your mind, to your spirit. Know that how you're feeling isn't the way it has to be - that there may be simple resolutions to your problems. But you need to find a healthcare professional you trust, who will advocate for you, who will run a most complete set of tests (there is tons of great research online regarding what types of tests to ask for, but I know most recommend a FULL thyroid (TSH, T4, T3, Free T4, Free T3), FULL hormones (Testosterone, Progesterone, Estrogen, Cortisol, Pregnenalone, etc.) and a FULL vitamin (Bs, D, A, etc.). You want as much information as possible so your course it very tailored to your specific needs.