kariskhaos


I Felt Nothing

Every child is unique and different, and every rite of passage a unique experience for the parent and the child. This past weekend Scott and I dropped our second child off at college. John is now a freshman at Seattle University. It was not a tearful goodbye, there were no long hugs, or emotional anything really. He said his signature “See ya” and we left knowing we won’t see him again till November.

I felt nothing, which if you know me, is very unusual. I did not feel sad, I did not feel pulled, or torn for his youth, or wonder if he would be all-right. I left, and in a small part of my heart I felt relief. Mothers are not really supposed to feel this way, your child, whom you have raised in most cases since birth, and in my case since John was five, are supposed to feel torn, sad, like a part of them has moved on and though excited for them, there is this sense of loss- at least that is how I felt when I dropped off Isaac last year. With John it was a non emotional relief.

disc2 340The thirteen plus years that have led to this parting have been an emotional roller coaster to say the least. The joy of expanding our family by adoption, the thrill of meeting John and Christian for the first time that April day in the slums of Liberia. The elation of coming off the plane to be greeted by 50 of our family and friends welcoming this new beginning for them and for us. The adjustment for all six of us as we settled in Bend. The devastation of finding out John had glaucoma, the hundreds of dr. appointments, surgeries, research, and grief as we realized the world we had dreamed of giving our son would be altered drastically.

John’s amazing determination, stubbornness, never quit, never compromise, never let them know you are different attitude was admirable, and in many ways a true miracle. He was legally blind, he rode a bike, played basketball, football, and learned in both braille and print. He is an intelligent, sarcastic, quiet, young man. To many he is a poster child for facing adversity. At home, with Scott and me it has been a different story.

They say the safest people will be treated the worst and that has been truer than true in our family. As Scott and I tried our best to raise these four beautiful children,(none of them, or us being perfect) was not easy. John’s betrayal of being given away by his birth mother, his frustration and denial at his lack of vision, his post traumatic stress, his attachment disorder created a very angry, sullen, volatile child. The best way I can describe it was living with a volcano, never quite knowing when and where it would erupt, but knowing it would.

Counselors, friends, pastors, family supported us and comforted me each time. The heartbreak of knowing you could not change the situation, I could not give John my eyes, and I could not break through his wall guarding his heart from further pain, was at times debilitating. The tears I have cried for him, and because of him would fill a small lake. Bitter tears, angry tears, helpless tears, tears of joy, elation and pride for his many accomplishments despite the odds.

Finally this Spring, tears of release, tears of grief for a relationship that will never be what I had dreamed, and tears of resignation. I came to the point where I had to let go and move on. John has never said “I love you,” never calls me mom, speaks mostly when spoken to and tries to live his life in our home like a guest. I let go of my search to find the answers by reading the right book, finding the right language to love him, the right advice to reach him, a new way to approach his heart. I let go of the need for my self esteem and value as a person and a mother to be defined by his actions, and indifference. I came to the freeing conclusion that I have done everything I could possibly do. John has been raised in a loving home, had opportunities many kids dream of, was graduating from high school with honors and his life long dream of being independent from Scott and me has come true.

It has been a very long road. John is a terrific young man with a bright future. John is now a freshman at Seattle University. It was not a tearful goodbye, there were no long hugs, or emotional anything really. He said his signature “See ya” and we left knowing we won’t see him again till November. I left, and in a small part of my heart, I felt relief, and it was ok.

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A Twelve Year Winter

A Twelve Year WinterImage

The Rose

 

Some say love, it is a river

That drowns the tender reed

Some say love, it is a razor

That leaves your soul to bleed

Some say love, it is a hunger

An endless, aching need

I say love, it is a flower

And you it’s only seed

It’s the heart afraid of breaking

That never learns to dance

Its the dream afraid of waking

That never takes the chance

It’s the one who won’t be taken,

Who cannot seem to give

And the soul afraid of dying

That never learns to live

And the night has been too lonely

And the road has been too long

And you think that love is only

For the lucky and the strong

Just remember in the winter

Far beneath the bitter snow

Lies the seed that with the sun’s love,

In the spring, becomes a rose.

 

Writer(s): Amanda Mcbroom

Copyright: Third Story Music Inc., Warner-tamerlane Publishing Corp.

 

I have always loved the song “The Rose” with its sad melody and haunting lyrics.  I sang it for a talent show when I was much younger, I found solace in it after a tough breakup, but until we adopted our son John I do not think I really had a grasp on the truth these simple words brought. 

 

When we adopted John and Christian in 2001 adding them to our family of four, my idealism was at an all time high.  We had struggles leading up to the adoption as anyone who has been through the process can attest to, but the day we saw our two sons for the first time is etched in the memory of my soul.  The dreams and desires of my heart for these two children was palpable.  The joy of knowing we were making a tangible difference in two lives as well as enriching our own families global perspective was intoxicating. 

 

Reality hit hard within weeks of their arrival to the USA.  John was diagnosed with Glaucoma, and every year seemed to get harder with him.  His anger at the world was focused directly on Scott and me.  His times of happiness were rare and short lived.  A river of tears, angry shouting matches with God, Scott, John, questioning my ability to parent, heart break for my son who has so much potential, so much to offer, so much life to live.  Sleepless nights praying for a miracle, praying for sanity, praying to get through the next hour.

 

Glimpses of hope, a wonderful Summer, an emotional break through, the volcano dormant for a bit.  Perfect in school and public, stubborn and fiercely independent, beautiful man-child with a world to conquer.  This roller coaster of hope, anger, heart break, frustration, helplessness, counseling, flashes of potential, and resentment, riding strapped in with a love that has not wavered but at times has remained only by the seatbelt of faith, friends, family and red wine.

 

Its been twelve plus years since the wonderful day we chose to grow our family.  John turned eighteen this past weekend.  He had a party with friends, his laughter and deep voice still sing in my heart.  He played his African drum that we brought home on the plane with him so many years ago.  The twelve year winter is over, the hopes and dreams lying dormant are budding into an award winning rose.  

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A week, a lifetime, a future

It is Sunday, Isaac has been off work for two weeks, we leave for Cal Polly SLO in six days, and he says to me “Hey mom would you be able to get a dental cleaning appointment for me this week?  Oh and I need a hair cut.”  Really?  I manage to get him an appointment for the cleaning and the morning of his appointment he comes out of the bathroom after brushing his teeth and comments to me about how he thinks it is going to be a rough visit because his mouth is bleeding.  I casually smile and say well that’s how it usually is when you don’t floss, and then finally do it the day of your appointment. He looks at me with his typical sheepish grin, and then says the words a parent never wants to hear from their 18-year-old child who is leaving for college in a few days, “Its not from flossing mom, they are bleeding from me brushing them.  I kinda got out of the habit of brushing my teeth.”

I am totally mortified. I am speechless.  I have failed in a rudimentary way as a parent and mom. What exactly do you say to that? This boy is going to college?

It is now Thursday and his friend Troy is over to say goodbye.  Boys are really awkward with goodbyes.  A quick hug, a fist pump, a joke about being non-emotional and off he goes to get his haircut.  He packs the rental Saturday with the help of his dad.  Tetrus like engineering to fit all his stuff and still leave room for me, my sister and his lanky body to almost fit as we make our 12 hour car ride to San Luis Obispo.  A tearful goodbye from his dad and sister at 7:00am Sunday morning(the brothers said goodbye last night, no need to get up early) and our adventure to his future begins.IMG_0426

We arrive with no problems, find our hotel and talk about the morning move in.  I have all the paperwork, the parking permit printed and the do’s and don’ts memorized.  I am trying to talk to him about logistics, what time we want to get there, meeting his roommates etc.  Isaac calmly says to me “Mom, I want to sleep in till 11:00, I am going to be there 4 years, there is no rush.”  Really? what about your mom and her panic and need to get there and fix things and know that you are going to be okay, what if you need more things, or we forget something, what if there is an apocalypse and you never get to see your dorm room? Really? You will be able to sleep in on the day your new life of college and future as you know it begins?

Monday I am up early, my stomach hurts, I am a nervous wreck.  Isaac sleeps.  My sister and I get up, get dressed, and go to have breakfast so that I do not jump on my boy and wake him up because of my nerves.  I drink coffee, look at the beautiful view and pray for time to move faster and stop all at the same time.  I so wish my husband could be here.  He is coping about as well as I am but has to do his from a distance.  He loses his glasses and spends an hour looking for them before going to work late with his prescription sun glasses instead.

My sister tries to keep me occupied as the minutes creep by.  I breathe in, I breathe out.  I think of him when he was born, I think of his first steps and first words.  I groan as I think of the sarcastic, laid back, man-child he has become.  Can I get him up yet? We go back to the room at 10:00.  I jump on his bed and hold him tight.  Isaac asks what time it is, and when I tell him, he groans and growls at me.  I ignore him.  I look over and notice my bed has been made.  My sister and I look at each other oddly.  How did that happen? We ask Isaac.  He mumbles something about the maid coming in, not knowing he was still in bed.  She started on our bed and threw some pillows on him.  When she turned to get them, she realized Isaac was there, gave a quick start, apologized and left.  Only Isaac I think to myself.

It is now Tuesday afternoon, he is moved in, we have been to orientation, I have bought my Cal Poly Mom sticker and Isaac is off with his roommate and new friends getting their cards for the athletic center.  I want to take a nap because I am emotionally, and physically exhausted but I don’t think Isaac would appreciate his mom crawling up on his bunk and sleeping, instead I decide to write him my good-bye letter.  IMG_1258

Isaac,

You are off with Cole being a college boy as I sit in your dorm room.  You have tolerated very well my comings and goings, my nervous over reactions and my extra affection.  Thank you.

So often I have thought what I might want to say to you at this moment.  Flash backs of your childhood, your buck teeth, your high school years and your laid back, goofy smile.  I do not have any advice.  I do not have any real concerns about you here.  It is a perfect fit- you will do well, thrive.  Spread your long wing span and fly.

You know all the other stuff but maybe you need it in print to be able to look back at.

  1. You are Loved – No matter what – Change schools, change majors, change sexual orientation, change anything  knowing you are loved.
  2. We trust you – Make decisions, make mistakes, fall on your face and get back up.  We trust you.  You know how to make good choices, make them freely.
  3. I am ALWAYS your MOM – I will always worry a bit, I will ask too many questions, I will ‘baby’ you about food, rest, water, girls- it is just who I am, but I will try really hard to limit my vocal worry to when you are not with your college friends.
  4. Remember who you are and Whose you are – You Isaac are a child of God, beautifully and wonderfully made.  It matters not what you claim to believe right now, only that you know you are not an accident.  You are here for a purpose.  Find that purpose and live a life worthy of your uniqueness.
  5. Laugh every day – Find joy in the small things.  When it is hard and you are stressed out and life really sucks remember a corny joke your dad told.  Remember Gus and how he dances with you and will be so excited to see you.  Watch a stupid, crass, no redeeming value movie or an episode of Tosh.O. Laughter heals, laughter calms, laugh to survive

I will miss you, I do already.  There is a spot in my heart that is Isaac shaped.  It formed when you were conceived and will be with me till I die.  It has to adjust and change to not having a daily interaction with you, it will feel empty but it will adjust-it will not diminish, it will not be forgotten, it will be different.

I love you Isaac Scott Johnson, MOM

Its Friday, he has been sleeping in his dorm for three nights. I am home getting ready to go to two football games, help with a basketball fundraiser and work at the shop. I have heard from him in one word texts.  He likes his roommates.  He is brushing his teeth. It is enough.

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“See Ya”

He hugs me with his large hard arms and chiseled body, “See Ya.” I hold on just a second more, smile and watch him walk away.  I go back to my car that is still running, with Gus my dog now sitting in the front where John was. My stomach has nervous butterflies as  I slide into the driver’s seat.  I take a deep breath and say a quick prayer of safety for him.  I pull out of the departures drop off and weave my way back into the traffic flow.

My head is full of contrasting thoughts warring within my mind.  What kind of mother are you to leave him at the door of the airport? He is legally blind, what if he misses his flight? What if he gets lost?  Are you really letting him travel across the country without even a cell phone? He has always wanted to be independent.  He is very capable and if he cant do this how will he go to college in a year?  It’s John, he is proud and strong and will ask if he needs help. He has all he needs and he will text me, no worries, no worries.  What the hell was I thinking? What if he gets kidnapped, or off at the wrong place or … be serious Kari he is a sixteen year old, black male, who looks like an ox and has forearms the size of your thigh and thighs the size of a small horse, let it go.

John is off to Baltimore to join about fifty other blind and legally blind students from across the country for a program sponsored by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). STEMX which is:

Science, technology, engineering, and math to the extreme!

The following is an excerpt from the web site:

“The “X” in the program’s title draws inspiration from the aerospace community, where historically programs and missions have utilized the letter as an abbreviation for exploration, and as a statement that the effort seeks new solutions and new discoveries that surpass previously assumed barriers to scientific advancement. In this same way, the NFB STEM-X program challenges the notion that blind people are unable to pursue STEM fields, or on a larger scale, are predestined to a life of social welfare and government dependence.

Students will choose from one of five focus disciplines (chemistry, computer science, engineering, robotics, and space science) in which to specialize during NFB STEM-X. Students will spend half of each of the four instructional days engaged in their focus discipline, learning alongside fellow high school students with blind and sighted STEM professionals as their guides. All five focus disciplines will work collaboratively throughout the program, capitalizing on each other’s specialization to innovate creative solutions to complex problems.

Outside of their work in their focus discipline, students will have the opportunity to participate in enrichment activities that will provide them with authentic learning experiences in a wider variety of STEM disciplines. Evenings will be filled with activities that will help students develop their leadership skills and build their confidence while having fun and socializing with blind teens from across the country.”

This is an incredible culmination of twelve years of blood, sweat and tears for our family.  John has not been the poster child for adoption.  He has had a very difficult life and our journey with him has been far from easy.  His anger issues, post traumatic stress,  attachment disorder, stubbornness, on top of his vision issues are well documented, but his intelligence, sense of humor, determination, fearless attitude have made it possible for us to come to this point.

In choosing to apply for this opportunity he needed to admit he was legally blind, be willing to be with other blind students and acknowledge his need for help to make it happen. In a series of small miracles over the last five months everything fell into place.  In a rare moment of candid conversation before he left I heard words I never thought I would.  John called me “mom” for the first time in years and thanked me for all the work I had done to make this a possibility.

I drove over the mountains figuratively, and literally, with a renewed hope for our family and the world that is opening up to embrace our son John.



The circle of life

Sitting at a small cafe, drinking my late after finishing the most delicious, buttery decadent croissant I have had in years, I am trying to find my bearings as I start this new day. I have traveled many miles to get here, both physically and emotionally. I am philosophical, and a bit pensive this morning. Isaac, my first born son and the miracle of my womb is still sleeping back at the motel. We are here to visit his number one college choice Cal Poly, in San Luis Obispo, California.

The bakery bustles with activity, the girls behind the counter are very peppy and seem to enjoy being here. Mom’s and babies, college kids, tourists, and an eclectic mix of older women ooh and awe over the delicious and beautiful choices displayed before them. An older gentleman sings his greeting in a deep and beautiful operatic voice and no one seems a bit surprised. I like it here.

I sip my coffee and reflect on the days when I was that college student, that mom of a toddler, and see my self in the funny old lady whose hat is jauntily sitting on her bed of grey hair. It is as the great writers of Disney put it “The circle of life”. I get up to leave and wake up my almost 18 year old son, and some of the butterfly’s in my stomach fly away.

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Managing Monday’s: Blog Post Number 365: A Goal Achieved

You should write a book, was a much repeated comment from friends and family. This was often said with a laugh, or a sympathetic smile as I would share one of the many adventures from my life. I have always loved to write and telling stories came fairly easy, but a book felt very overwhelming. A friend of mine suggested I try blogging. The rest as they say is history.

With the help of a good friend from my past, Melissa Ansley, Kari’s Khaos was created. I set the goal that I would blog daily from my birthday for one year. Today is the 365th day of blogs. It has been an experience, a wild ride, a dream come true, and sometimes a total pain in the ass. I wanted to get in the habit of writing again, find out if any one really wanted to hear anything I had to say, and share the good, bad, ugly and usually funny moments from my chaotic life.

I just went back to my profile and below is what I wrote a year ago.

It is my 44th birthday today. I am embarking on a new adventure. Kari’s Khaos has been born. I am committing myself to one year of daily blogging. Many requests for me to write a book, or to teach a class on parenting, or for advice on various topics ranging from menu planning to trans-racial adoption as well as good friends just calling me to hear what is going on in my life so they can feel better about the relative calm in theirs has led me to this adventure.

Do you remember the movie City Slickers with Billy Crystal? He and two of his buddies go on this cattle drive. In the scene I am thinking of he is helping a cow give birth, he has his arm inside the cow’s uterus, is covered in dirt and he pulls out his hand slimed with blood and cow birth and screams “ This was not in the brochure”. I think parenting is a lot like that. In raising my four children I have thought to my self many times that same thing. Then I think, wait, what brochure?

I am a mother of four teenagers. Three boys and one girl. Two are adopted from Liberia, Africa at ages 4 and 5. John is legally blind, Jessie is a TAG student,
Christian is an amazing athlete and Isaac is a great overall normal teenager. All my kids go to public school, I have had to fight and learn the system so my vast array of needs have been met. I love to cook, read and laugh. My husband of 21 years is my best friend and strongest believer in my writing ability.

I hope my experiences with raising kids, working and being all that we are asked to be in this highly social, multiple tasking world will encourage you, and help you see even at life’s worst moments, there are others who have survived, and lived to tell about it. Welcome to Kari’s Khaos comments are welcome and new friends a huge benefit to this blog.

It has been a great journey, thank you for being a part of it. Stay tuned for my next adventure and keep laughing, sometimes it is all we can do!
For now I will celebrate my accomplishment with a drink!



Saturday Story Time: Dear Tooth Fairy

Me at age 7, 1974

Saturday Story Time: Dear Tooth Fairy

In honor of my birthday coming up my mother gave me a file of things she had kept about me since I was a little girl. I have always complained that since I was the third child there are very few pictures of me as a baby, and even less information remembered. From my earliest memory I was always doing things to be seen. Please notice me. Kristi the middle child would always try to fade into the background and Kathi had her place by being the first born. Is It any wonder I ended up being a clown?

In the file I found many wonderful things, but today I share with you my early manipulation skills that clearly show the brilliant negotiator I would become. Isaac is good, but even he did not challenge the tooth fairy.

Dear Tooth fairy

This is a very special tooth to me. It is my last molar. I plan on putting it in a special case. Maby you don’t think it is very special but it is to me. Look you don’t give much moeny and it only happens once in a life time for I will always have the same mouth. I love you. Just remember it’s important to me And it happened at school so everybody’s going to ask how much money did you get and I say “I got $.35. Every body would think you were a cheep stake and I know youre not.

think about that
I love you
Love Kari

my letter from 1977