Tag Archives: parenting

Exposed

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LiLi, Guilin 2012

LiLi’s first utterance out of her mouth last Friday morning was “Bitch,” and it was directed toward me. Out of the blue. No rhyme, no reason. I had a little extra time this particular morning before work, so I gave my husband a few more sweet moments of shut-eye while I made breakfast for the girls and got them on their way. I heard LiLi’s familiar clomping down the stairs and knew it was her in the kitchen before I turned around from my station at the counter. Maybe it was my failure to greet her before I asked her to take her morning “mood” medicine; maybe it was that I failed to come to her and gently ease her into the morning with a warm hug and a pat on the back. Nine years into raising this child, one would think that I would be a little more proficient with the skill-set required, but I still feel like a novice. Most of the time my husband and I must remind her to take her medicine; she rarely remembers. God help us when we forget, because we will be subjected to the wrath of a hormonal teenage girl on steroids without it.

So after asking her to take her medicine, she responded with the afore mentioned descriptive. My response would not earn me any rewards in Parenting Magazine, but it might have earned some respect within the World Wrestling Federation.  It is not pleasant to be called “Bitch” first thing in the morning; much less so before I’ve had my coffee.  I have a seventeen year history of ER nursing. I have been called expletives by members of the “big leagues;” street drunks, addicts, the morally depraved, and intoxicated teenage girls who are sometimes the worst kind… but nothing beats being called a bitch by your sixteen year old daughter, first thing in the morning, whom you have labored over for nine years. One would think that I would be immune to her verbal assaults by now, that her barbed arrows wouldn’t strike their target… but they do. They strike, they wound, they hurt, and they make me scream out in pain. I am fatigued. I am sick and tired of my responses. I am sick from exposing my precious twelve year old to the stress of living in a home with this kind of tension. I’ve asked God so many times, “Why?” and I think I know the answer, but in the heat of the battle the answers don’t matter. She hurts me.

I enjoyed a two-day, Christ centered, Holy Yoga and fitness workshop this weekend. My body, mind and spirit were steeped in Jesus. I was reminded that I am a daughter of the Most High King, and have the birthrights of a princess. I must confess that most days I don’t feel like a princess. I feel like a slave, imprisoned by my own sin and unfaithfulness. I carry the sins of LiLi like a cross, piggy-backed on mine, like a double-edged sword in my side. I forget that this is a battle of the Lord’s; that ultimately, LiLi belongs to Him, and I am just his servant.  I keep trying to fix her as the world would fix her… and I am clearly failing. I didn’t want a child like LiLi, but God wanted her for me. My unfaithfulness to this truth has caused much despair in our home. I need to find the “sweet spot” in my faith that allows me to slow down and receive the blessing of the Lord.  I am paddling too furiously to receive anything… I am too busy drowning to pay attention to those with life preservers in their hands.

Michelangelo said of his “David,” that the exquisite masterpiece always existed beneath the block of marble; all he had to do was chisel and chip away to reveal what stood beneath. It must be the same for a composer of a beautiful piece of music. The melody has always existed… and through a gifted artist, it is purely revealed, establishing an order to the chaotic cacophony.

I believe it is the same for LiLi. She is a melody that is still in the works, a lovely sculpture that is concealed within the confines of a stone mantle. I am no Michelangelo, but the truth is, with God nothing is out of reach.  I must abide in the shelter of the Almighty in order to receive the crafting tools necessary to help this child get rid of her junk. It can be done. I know it. During the Holy Yoga retreat I was also reminded that if I commit my way to the Lord and trust in Him, He will act. This is an undeniable truth. So… I made a new commitment for the nth time, that I was not going to yell, nor smack, nor put LiLi in a head-lock again. I am going to breathe deeply to the tips of my toes, and remind myself that I am a princess and therefore should act accordingly.

So far I’ve stuck to my commitment, but then again it’s only been 10 days. Pray for me people.

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He Shall Comfort Those Who Mourn; 4th and last of a series

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My Mom, Anna Lee

JaneGrace’s foster Grandmother, wearing the silver pendant

Yes, my daughters had been exposed to this trauma without my permission… the least I could do at this point was offer some follow-through. What was I to do? Their grandmother had been at our home. She had just accompanied all of us to JaneGrace’s dance classes. They had walked with her up the stairs, and after a few minutes, heard the commotion, and then seen her sprawled at the bottom of the stairs. They had heard my despondent wailing alternating with anguished commands thrown at them as I cared for my mother while awaiting the ambulance… pull the trunk out of the way to make room for the medics, go outside and wave down the crew, get the dogs and put them outside…

LiLi and JaneGrace needed to see where she was, the outcome of the fall, to try to begin to understand the transition that she was about to encounter, and we were about to suffer. It was an immersion in the study of death, of crossing over, of loss. They were way too young to have to be experiencing this event, but it was out of our control. LiLi, unbeknownst to us at the time, was about to succumb to an exacerbation of post-traumatic stress disorder from yet another exposure to an event from which no soul could have offered protection. This sucked.

We waited in the ER until a bed could be found in the ICU. Mom was transferred to the neuro-surgical ICU where her vital signs would be sustained for as long as my family chose. It was only her shell that was alive. I was certain her spirit was hovering. Her “life” had exited her body. I had taken care of a young woman in this very ER who had survived from the brink of death and had experienced the beckoning “light” that survivors from near-death experiences describe. I was certain that my Mom’s spirit was hovering, even now. My husband talked me into returning home with him and the girls. We made it in through the front door and I collapsed in his arms on the steps where she had fallen. I needed a glass of wine, then felt guilty for having asked my husband to pour it for me. I was upside down. This night had been ripped out from under us. My mother had been taken in the twinkling of an eye. I couldn’t think of anything except to get back to the hospital. We got the girls tucked in, and back to St. Anthony’s I drove.

This was to be the longest night of my life. As I sat at her bedside, sleep eluded me amidst the rhythmic hum of the ventilator and the cycling of the monitoring equipment. I held her lifeless hand and marveled at how much it looked like mine; my hand was stronger and darker, but the proportions and contours were so similar. This time with her was precious. My Mom and I had rarely spent time together without some old conflict arising, but this time had been different. I had felt a deep affection toward her that I had rarely permitted myself to feel. I was always too busy being judgmental or disappointed; to feel anything else would have humanized her to a degree that my comfort zone was not ready to tolerate. It was quite complicated, this particular mother and daughter relationship. And here I was, sitting at her bedside, chosen by fate, and by God too, I suppose, for this watch. Today, before I opened up my word program to finish this piece, I read a prayer journal entry from my husband’s blog (http://beingwritewithgod.blogspot.com/) about wrestling with God. He cited the story of Jacob, who wrestled with God in an “all-nighter” and walked away from that encounter with no resolution and a limp for the rest of his life. I could relate. This night, spent at my Mom’s death-bed, would forever leave me limping. Days and weeks later, I found comfort in the activities we shared: serving communion, wonderful meals, and shopping. Two nights before the accident I had drawn a bubble bath for her, complete with music and candlelight. The day of the accident she had said to me in the car as we left St. Anthony’s hospital grounds following our visit there, “Paula, I just feel so peaceful, why do you think this is so?” My response to her had been that she had been on the receiving end of care, not having to worry about a thing, just sitting back, enjoying, and relaxing. In retrospect, in my gut, I feel like she came to Colorado for her passing. Without a doubt, I feel like it was her time to go, and that my family’s role in her passage was of divine design. I can’t wait to see her again, someday, and talk about this in greater detail.

The first glimmers of sunlight began to peek through the blinds, and I began to count the hours until my sisters, their husbands and my nieces arrived. These hours had been the most agonizing of my life. Clergy and friends drifted in and out, prayed with me, and shook their heads at the twisted turn of events, with some just remaining silent, and sitting with me. Just being there was enough. Mom’s nurse for the day came in and introduced herself. I liked her immediately. She was from Tennessee, our home state, and the geographical love of Mom’s life. She told me to sit back and be Mom’s daughter today, and to forget the nurse’s cap. She was a source of great comfort as she expertly managed Mom’s care, releasing me to the role of loved one.

Shortly after noon, the rest of the family arrived. I greeted them at the front door of the hospital, and led them into the room, while trying to prepare them for what they were going to see, if there is any such thing. We all spent the rest of the afternoon at her bedside, my daughters included as their comfort level permitted, and said our goodbyes through the tears, the grief and disbelief. A music therapist came to the bedside as well, and sang some of Mom’s favorite songs from Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, and other old gospel hymns that Mom cherished. We laughed, cried, hugged, held hands, prayed and became closer than we ever imagined during that fateful afternoon. There was never an ill-word, nor an accusation uttered. I was released by my family for any of the blame for this tragedy.
At six o’clock in the evening, the nurse and the respiratory technician “pulled the tube,” thereby disconnecting her from the life-support equipment that had been keeping her alive. Her heart stopped beating six minutes later. She was gone. Her physical presence would be no more. I’ve clung to the memories of the night I spent at her bedside, holding her hand that looked like mine, many, many times.

The next several days were filled with the necessary activities of “making arrangements.” In a way, this is a good thing. It keeps one busy with “tasks” and the mandatory decision making activities that accompany sudden death. It provides a cleverly built-in diversion. We flew to Tennessee for a service and burial, then to Florida for a memorial. Both events were sweet remembrances of the impact my Mom’s simple life had made on those who loved and knew her. She was treasured by many.

I just returned from China on a heritage tour with my daughters and husband. While there, we were so blessed to be reunited with JaneGrace’s foster “Grandmother.” While Mom was with the girls and I the weekend that she passed, we went to the adoption agency that helped us bring our daughters home. They were having a Christmas and holiday bazaar, selling all sorts of trinkets that had been brought back from China. While there, I purchased two necklaces, each one exquisitely designed, sterling silver pendants. One had the Chinese characters of “Mother” and the other had “Grandmother” presented as paper-cuts on a mother of pearl backdrop. I had purchased one for me, and the other for my Mom at the bazaar, intending the “Grandmother” pendant to be her Christmas present that year. I was never able to give it to her. Shortly after her death, I placed both of the pendants on one chain, wearing them often in memory and in honor of my mother.

During this heritage tour to China, with JaneGrace’s permission, I gave the pendants to JaneGrace’s foster “Grandmother.” I didn’t plan in advance to do this, it just occurred spontaneously. The decision was reinforced as we sat in Nai Ying’s apartment, and she pulled out all of the things we had mailed to her before and shortly after JaneGrace’s placement into our family, eleven years ago. This was a woman with great sentimentality, and I was convinced that she would cherish this necklace that represented my Mom, and the last weekend of her life. The chain was a circle, much like the “red thread” tradition in Chinese culture that tied all of us together. The pendants represented the three of us; Mom, Nai Ying and me, as the primary matriarchal presence in JaneGrace’s young life. Who knows, maybe one day this necklace will make its way back to JaneGrace, carrying with it an enriched sense of history, tradition, and closure. I am certain this gesture would have pleased Mom.

Dedicated to the sweet life of Anna Lee Bullen-Breeden: Born September 16, 1924; Passed into eternal life November 7, 2006

postscript: Aurora, Colorado, I grieve with you today.

Show Us Some Mercy- 1st in a series

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Friday, November 3, 2006, I flew my mom out to Colorado from our family home on Florida’s east coast to spend a sweet weekend with my two daughters and me. My husband was out of town for a conference, so it made for a perfect girls’ weekend.

We were blessed with the typical Colorado fall pattern of weather: cool and dry with cobalt blue skies. We filled the weekend with fun activities. Friday after picking her up from the airport, we went to a luncheon hosted by a friend from my church. She was able to meet many of my friends with whom our family worshipped. Saturday morning we headed to a holiday bazaar at the Chinese adoption agency through which we brought our daughters home. This was a special treat for her. Both of my daughters were adopted from China, one at age fourteen months, and the second, a special needs child, was brought home two years later at the age of seven. My mother was enamored with my beautiful girls, as they were with her. It was very special for her to visit the adoption agency where our family journey began. We shopped for Chinese trinkets and gifts for the upcoming Christmas season. Saturday night I cooked one of our favorite dishes with shrimp and pasta; we shared some wine and watched a movie with the girls. I made a bubble bath for her in our gigantic tub, and had candles and music to help her relax and enjoy herself. Sunday morning we served communion together at my church. What a privilege this was, to share in serving at the Lord’s Table with my beloved mother. The weekend was truly spectacular. I am the middle of three daughters and had raised hell through my teenage years (and actually into my twenties as well…). Our family hadn’t been perfect; there were addiction issues, and my two sisters, my mom and I all suffered because of them. Mom had done the best she knew how to do in raising us, and I had turned out to be the rebel. My mom and I butted heads from the get-go, which is one of the reasons this visit had been so sweet. It seemed there was always residual tension between the two of us. This time had been different. Although my mother was 82 years old and in relatively good health, I felt as though I was finally placed into the special position of “looking after” her… holding her hand, cooking yummy food, taking care of her. It was the best time we had ever spent together, and I didn’t want it to end.

Monday after we sent the girls off to school, my mom joined me to run a few errands. She saw the emergency department where I worked, and then we headed home to drive up to the mountains with my husband, home from his conference, to enjoy lunch together at one of the large hotel-casinos in a nearby old mining town. We threw a few quarters in the slot machines just for fun, winning a few bucks. We had a blast. Afterwards, we headed back down the mountain to pick up my daughters from school and take my then six-year-old, JaneGrace, to her dance lesson. Mom was excited to see JaneGrace dance with all of her little friends and meet her dance instructor. We finally headed home to settle in for Mom’s last night with us. Little did I know it was truly to be her last night with us.

Mom went upstairs to get ready for dinner and do a little packing, for she was flying home the next morning (little did I know…) and I began scurrying around in the kitchen. Some amount of time went by, my husband was tucked into his chair in the living room and the girls were upstairs playing. I was in our pantry gathering dinner ingredients when all of a sudden I heard a horrific sound… a brief outcry, some kind of fall, something broke; it frightened me and I was immediately overcome with a sense of dread. I ran from the pantry and around the corner into our foyer area, arriving at the same time as my husband. I saw my beloved mother sprawled at the bottom of the stairs on the hardwood floor, with her legs splayed out on the last few steps. She was pale and very, very still. My first words were “She’s out cold!” as I leapt to her side, taking her head into my hands and performing a rapid assessment. My husband had glanced over as she was in mid-flight from the first landing to the foyer floor and was helpless to change the outcome, it all happened so fast. She had struck the floor with such force. My ER nursing skills took over instinctively as I cycled rapidly between daughter and nurse, my senses clumsily conveying the gravity of the situation to my brain. My next few uttered words were “Call 911,” “Clear the area for the medics,” and directing my husband outside to flag down the ambulance. This was all in between intermittent guttural wails as I was living out this unimaginable horror. While protecting my mother’s neck and keeping her airway open to ensure breaths, I slid her backwards until her entire body was off of the stairs and she was lying fully on the hardwood floor. It wasn’t until this moment that she gasped. It was the only movement and sound she made during those interminable moments while I was listening for the scream of the sirens. I realized that had been her first breath she had taken since the fall. In my terror, I had missed this crucial assessment finding.

At this point, my daughters had gathered at the top of the stairs, hearing the commotion, and wondered what was happening. Neither of their young brains could protect them from this vision at the bottom of the stairs. They both began to cry, and JaneGrace, asked me if her Nannie was dead. I assured her she was not, that I was doing everything I could to take care of her Nannie. LiLi also began to cry. The whole scene was just too much to bear. My girls adored their grandmother. We had just spent the most beautiful few days together; how could this have happened? I was supposed to put her on a plane tomorrow to head back home to Central Florida. What was I to do? I had to call my sisters… they would be so angry that this happened on my watch. This was a nightmare rapidly unfolding at the speed of light in my head. The emotions within me unfurled with the momentum of a great sail. I waited on my knees leaning over my mother’s lifeless body and cradled her head in between my hands until the ambulance and fire-truck crew arrived and took over. Her breaths were guttural, barely enough to sustain life. I could feel a faint pulse. “Oh Father God,” I cried; “Please show us some mercy.” My daughters were stricken with grief as they remained perched at the top of the stairs with a bird’s eye view of the unfolding events. I could not protect them from this event. It had happened in front of them. JaneGrace, my little sunshine face, and LiLi my special child were both witnesses to a cataclysmic event in our family’s life.

I asked the rescue crew to please take her to the emergency department at which I worked, which was St. Anthony Central in downtown Denver; a top-notched level-one trauma department. It was ironic that we had just been there a few hours earlier to show my Mom where I worked. The captain of the rescue team happily obliged… it was their predetermined destination. They stabilized her, loaded her into the back of the ambulance while I was helped into the front seat. My husband, LiLi, and JaneGrace followed in our car. I bowed my head in my hands as we drove down my residential street, with neighbors standing outside of their homes wondering what had just happened. The tragedy arrow had struck our lives, and we would never be the same, especially LiLi.
To be continued.

Call Me Crazy- On Returning Home

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Two weeks from today, we depart for our heritage tour to China.

Back in January, we were on our way home from a day trip with our two daughters  when an email popped up from our adoption agency, Chinese Children Adoption International (CCAI). I opened the email to discover that the Chinese Center for Children’s Welfare and Adoption (CCCWA) had paired up with CCAI to offer a heritage tour for adoptees and their families.  The tour was, in part, being funded by a special grant from the Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs, therefore the adoptees in-China travel expenses would be covered. After about a two minute discussion with my husband, we jumped on the deal. We’ve had a good laugh ever since, because although our daughters’ costs are covered for the travel in China, we’ve nearly had to take a second mortgage on the house to cover all of the unlisted expenses. The international airfare alone, for the four of us, could pay for a year of college. Oh well… so much for a free trip. If it sounds too good to be true… it probably is.

After getting over the sticker shock for this tour, we began to marvel at the opportunities this adventure would bring. Todd and I remember quite well both of our adoption trips. The first one, bringing home our then fourteen month old, consisted of the most sweet, memorable days of my life. I became a first-time mother on foreign soil, to the most beautiful baby I could ever imagine. Room 902 in the Majestic Hotel in Nanning, Guangxi, P.R.C. was my birthing room. This was the room where the orphanage nannies delivered my baby into my arms, and where, approximately fifteen minutes later, she promptly puked all over me from the wailing and crying that ensued. But vomiting aside, it was the most beautiful, magical two weeks of which I could have dreamed. I knew at the San Francisco airport, as we waited to board the Singapore Air 747 bound for Hong Kong, that we were embarking on an adventure.  The crew for the jumbo-jet drew a collective gasp from the would-be passengers as they rode the escalator down to the boarding area. We quickly figured out that these exquisitely beautiful Asian women wearing brightly colored sarongs were to be our flight attendants. My husband knew from that moment on that he was going to enjoy that trip a great deal. He thought he had died and gone to heaven. The service and food throughout the twelve hour flight was impeccable.

On our next adoption trip, post 9/11, to bring LiLi home, things were different. We flew on an American carrier with an older, tired, burnt out flight crew that just wanted to get where we were going. Service was an afterthought. The flights for this current heritage tour have been booked on Korean Air, and we have hopes that the Asian influence on the service will be, once more, memorable.

Yes, both of those adoption trips are seared into our minds, nearly every moment; but not into the minds of our little daughters. When we traveled to bring LiLi home, JaneGrace was just a few months past three. Her big memory of that trip was greeting her new big sister under the porte-cochere of our Taiyuan Hotel with a big hug and “I love you.” My big memory of JaneGrace was of our new little family standing in the airport in Shanghai on departure day and her asking me, with the most serious tone she could muster… “so… what are we going to do with LiLi?” To be honest, I was asking myself the same thing. We all boarded the flight and flew from Shanghai to Tokyo and from Tokyo to Seattle. LiLi sat directly behind me and next to my sister on the nine hour leg, where she never slept and kicked the back of my seat the entire journey.  I was nearing the crazy zone as we circled Seattle, preparing to land. LiLi finally fell asleep as the big jet hit the runway. Had I not been so exhausted, I could have drop-kicked her off of the plane.

LiLi’s memory of the adoption trip is fuzzy, although she has recalled not liking me very much. I must add the feeling was mutual. That’s not to say I didn’t try. I do recall sitting on the floor in the hotel room in front of a wall-length mirror with LiLi in front of me and my legs crossed around her. We sat there peering at our images. I had read in an adoption prep book that this was a helpful tool to promote bonding. The typical child coming out of an orphanage has not seen themselves very often in a mirror. So here I was with poor LiLi, sitting in front of this mirror, neither of us understanding the other, and wondering what to do. I would hug her and kiss her, and smile, and she just sat there, wondering what this giant white woman was going to do to her next.  She thought I smelled odd, looked odder, and could we please just get downstairs to the buffet?

The hotel buffets bring to mind another memory from our two weeks in China finalizing LiLi’s adoption. The girl ate more food than a grown man. If watching beautiful Asian flight attendants on our twelve hour international flight was heaven to my husband; LiLi’s idea of heaven was an “all you can eat” Chinese buffet in China.  Her little belly stuck out like a basketball after devouring platefuls of food. She thought this new life was going to be okay after all, and maybe I wasn’t so bad. However, her digestive system took a beating as islets of sluggish cells secreting digestive enzymes were slowly being called into action. One particular night, as we were out eating again, and doing a little sightseeing, LiLi indicated she had to go to the bathroom. We scampered into the public restrooms that were nothing more than holes in the ground,  were as nasty as you can imagine, and weren’t outfitted with toilet paper. Neither was I. The floors of the public restrooms were littered with all sorts of bodily excretions, and I had to help LiLi squat over one of the holes, take aim, and deliver. I squatted in front of her and held her hands to keep her from touching the filth beneath our feet. After what seemed like an eternity of the great exodus, I realized I had nothing with which to clean her bottom. Oh my. Frantically searching through my pocketbook revealed the only paper I could come up with:  the wrapper from a candy bar. We used it. I don’t remember if we ate the candy bar first or just tossed it down the dark hole. Of course public restrooms have no facilities for washing your hands either. Hoo boy.

So now, here we are planning to return to China to take our girls on a heritage tour of their native land. We are thrilled to return to JaneGrace’s city of birth, and tour some of the most beautiful, archeological, historical and cultural jewels of China. We will be blessed to visit with JaneGrace’s foster family and to show her the finding place. LiLi, on the other hand, has not wanted to return to China. I believe she is fearful of not being able to return home. Her memories of her life in the orphanage haunt her. Most often she doesn’t want to even talk about China. She grieves for the loss of her biological mother ,and is fearful that she is dead. Her feelings oscillate between anger and grief for her birth family. Sometimes she gets angry at Todd and me for making her wait for seven years before we “rescued” her. China represents a land of hurt, of injustice, neglect and abuse. So, call me crazy… we are taking her back. She needs to know that her country is beautiful, is filled with beautiful people, and that she was a victim of a most callous from of social injustice. I feel compelled to show her the beauties of China, to fill her mind with memories of the Great Wall, the terra cotta soldiers of Xi’an, giant pandas, and the mystique and wonder of Guilin. She needs to know that China is not to be feared, that we love her very much, and she belongs with us. She is on a journey destined by God Himself… she is a chosen child; His and ours.

The Other Shoe Just Dropped

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There are few things like getting a phone call from your fifteen year-old daughter informing you that she is being escorted by police to our pre-determined meeting place at the Strawberry Festival on a Friday night at 10:00pm. In a state of hopeful denial, I figured that LiLi had gotten lost, had met and charmed the police, and they were accompanying her to meet us and report what a sweet girl she was. Wrong. As soon as I spied them walking up the hill toward us I knew something was askew. They were plain-clothes officers with badges worn around their necks on silver dog-tag style necklaces. The look on LiLi’s face was that of agitation and apprehension. It was her well-familiar scowl. They identified themselves as undercover narcotics agents who were patrolling the woods surrounding the festival to check for illegal activities. After nine years of raising this child, I have a hard-earned simple comprehension of the complexities of her psyche; what drives her, what motivates her, her character flaws; and with truth being stranger than fiction, what the officers described to my husband and me still rocked my socks off.

They had stumbled across fifteen year-old LiLi and an eighteen year old, male classmate in the woods that were known for alcohol consumption and drug use by the local teens. They told me that they suspected no alcohol or drug use but thought there had been sexual activity. All of a sudden the “fresh hell” from last week’s episode of the freshly caught rodent-turned-domesticated pet that LiLi had in her room seemed welcome by comparison. Could I just step back in time please? My stomach dropped to the dirt beneath me as I tried to comprehend all that the officer’s words implied .

We have grown accustomed to unsolicited melodrama while raising LiLi. We are always on guard, waiting for the other shoe to drop. I just commented this morning to my husband, that raising LiLi has caused undo wear and tear on the rest of our family. We had anticipated a moment such as this, but not at the Strawberry Festival; not from a chance encounter with a young man who is hardly more than a casual acquaintance at school. What happened to first dates, hand-holding, stealing a kiss or three on the Ferris wheel? Because of LiLi, our stress response is in gear most of the time. This particular night, my sister had accompanied our family to the festival and now had a front row seat to this new chapter in the ongoing sage of raising LiLi as a morally intact young woman.

Lili’s immediate response to the interaction between the police officers and her parents was defensive and anger-based. It also kicked her mouth into gear resulting in spewing forth a string of four letter words that served to accentuate the mess of emotion that was unfurling from her brain. LiLi is unable to self-modulate her feelings and it always provokes aberrant behavior. For example, as we were walking back to our vehicle after the initial confrontation, I had a firm grip on LiLi’s arm because she was ready to throw herself in front of the buses that were ferrying festival-goers to and from the satellite parking lots. This type of impulsive reaction is with-in normal limits for LiLi. My reaction to keep a firm grasp on her arm and not call 911 to carry her off to a psychiatric unit was a normal counter-reaction from me. We are concurrently dulled by and used to LiLi and her irrational behavior. We suffer from emotional fatigue. I wouldn’t be surprised if a psychiatric professional would declare our entire family to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder; LiLi’s from her seven years in an orphanage and the rest of us from nine years living with and raising LiLi.

The outcome of that evening was not very pretty as you can imagine. After we arrived home and had LiLi sequestered, she revealed the nature of the encounter under careful questioning. The aftermath then involved agencies, institutions and questions directed toward my daughter that I hope to never hear uttered again. I try to always find humor in a situation but for the life of me I could not find humor in any of the events from that night. The events did reveal the severity of LiLi’s vulnerability and inability to make safe decisions. It has underscored the need for supervision above and beyond what we already provide. On the way to the festival, my husband had drilled LiLi with all of the rules surrounding this two hour window of privileged freedom including “do not leave the property, do not get in any cars, do not leave with a boy, do not talk to strangers…” ad nauseum. Within minutes of arriving at the festival, LiLi met up with this young man, and at his suggestion, followed him into the woods. Her desire to conform and belong supersedes any desire she may have to obey and respect her parents, or any thought for her well-being for that matter. Her desire to belong is as strong as any eighteen year old young man’s sexual drive. That is a really undesirable combination from her parents’ standpoint.

We were blessed that God’s providential hand was upon LiLi. It could have been much worse. The male classmate could have been a stranger. We might have been asked to provide dental records and DNA samples for identification. This has given us another opportunity to protect and educate LiLi about the evils and potential dangers of living in this world. We have no choice but to live in the world, and have to continue to compel LiLi to not be “of the world.” “He tends his flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” Lord, please be my eyes and ears when I am not close to my children. Please carry LiLi as if she were a little lamb, protected in your shadow and precious in your sight. Amen.