Denise
Big feelings....after years of attending therapy with Will I have talked about my share of "big feelings".  I have learned how to identify them in others and see when they are affecting behaviors.

There is a part of me cringing as I think about what I am wanting to say here.  I am not good at sharing my own big feelings.  I am not writing or posting this for accolades or pity.  I am not a victim or some kind of saint.  I am a person who just tries to do their best with the cards they are dealt.  I try my best to not let any of this affect my daily life that others see.  The past couple of weeks that has become more and more difficult.

To really give a true picture I have to rewind to the beginning of the summer....May actually.

Will did not graduate from high school in May.  He should have, but for many reasons it didn't happen.  He went to court in late May and was put on probation.  If you want to catch up on the details of that you can find those here.  He was given probation with the following terms:  attend school, live at home, attend therapy, and follow all laws.  He will be off probation when he graduates.  The County Attorney wanted more than that, but the judge knows his trauma history and told him to pick himself up and stop being a victim. 

Will was enrolled in summer school.  He got on the bus EVERY MORNING at 6:40am.  He went to the school, ate breakfast and left.  Sometimes he was picked up by a friend and sometimes by a fifty-something woman who he had charmed into thinking I was evil.  That is yet another story for another day.

So no graduation after summer school...which was possible.

July...my high school reunion.  Highs and lows there.  Seeing so many old friends and reconnecting.  Three people back in my life who I needed....all of them for different reasons, but all three of them the same.  They are my life "plot twists".  A year ago if you would have told me I would be talking to one of them every day I would have thought you were CRAZY and if you would have told me I would be road-tripping with another of them to see the third that would have seemed outside the realm of possibility to me.  But here we are.

Mid-July...Will couldn't even muster up the ability to show common courtesy to me.  He wasn't doing anything he was supposed to and he would go missing for days.  He wouldn't answer my texts or calls.  I reported it to probation and we talked about it at therapy.  Probation did nothing even though he was essentially following none of their rules.  His therapist told him he could either start to show common courtesy to me or move out.  He moved out that night.  That basically made me an instant empty-nester with the exception of Charlie's friend who I hardly ever saw.

August...I helped Will enroll in Accelere.  It's the public school program where you can complete a single class in a three week period.  There is no homework and if you go and participate you get the credit.  Perfect.  Will should graduate no later than September 24.

I am the guardian for a boy who is developmentally disabled.  He made a HORRIBLE life choice and had to leave the home of his caregivers IMMEDIATELY.  So for two weeks I spent time working with the state on what was best for him and searching for a home for him.  He is now placed, but I disagree with the state and think he needs more help than he is getting where he is.  At this point I am considering rescinding the guardianship.  I am not what he needs.  I don't understand the system he is in.  Don't for a minute think there is not a huge amount of guilt involved in that decision.

There were some things that happened at work and a team leader position became open.  In my time at the company I have gone back and forth over whether or not it was something I wanted to do.  Honestly when I was approached about it I had so much on my plate at work that it wasn't even remotely on my radar.  I was already preparing myself for trips to Cuba, Djibouti, and Japan for work yet this fall and here was this opportunity and I wanted to job.   A little surprised myself at how much, but there was a lot of discussion and a wait.

While I was waiting I found out that Will was living in a house that didn't have running water.  Imagine knowing that your child would prefer no running water to living with you.  I know that isn't necessarily the case....it's his RAD, but it doesn't make the message any less hurtful.

I got the job.  I am a team leader.  It has been a challenge and amazing.  I have made some BIG MISTAKES already and have had some difficult discussions because of it.  It exhilarates me and makes me energized to go to work.  Because of it and my projects that haven't gone away I am working A LOT of hours and I am tired...mostly a good tired.

Will had been going to the accelerated school.  He got a job at UPS and things really seemed to be looking up for him.  Sure he wasn't living at home, but things were better. 

He stopped taking my calls and responding to texts a couple of weeks ago.  He would call me at times he knew I was not available and then blame me because it was the ONLY TIME during the day he could contact me.  More RAD tactics.  He told me he had been kicked out of the accelerated school, but I knew that was not true.  They had called and said he had been missing class and was in danger of being kicked out.  Since then he has not gone.

This week...lots of work stressors...lots of hours.  Literally trying to keep my head above water.  Wednesday probation called that Will was being court-ordered to return home no later than Friday.  He was ENRAGED.  He called with threats and accusations.  This was ALL MY FAULT.

Thursday and Friday at work were HARD.  Could have broken me all by itself, but at the same time I was trying to coordinate Will's imminent return home.  He arrived at 11:50pm on Friday.  He met the intent.  Honestly...I expected 11:59:59 so he exceeded my expectations.  When everything is said and done it is good to have him home.  There is still a lot to be talked about and worked out, but just having him here....well...it means a lot.

Last night....because you can't make this stuff up....heres how it went.  A couple of people in my neighborhood came over to tell me that when I am at work and out of town for work they were pretty certain drugs were being sold out of my home.  What?  Am I na├»ve?  Am I an idiot?  Was this really possible?  I thought about all of the evidence that was presented to me and I think they are most likely correct.

Brings me to this morning...I asked Charlie's friend to move out.  I had no idea how it would go.  Would he be outraged?  Would we be safe?  What would happen?  There weren't options given and there wasn't discussion.  He wasn't angry and he left peacefully.  What could have been horrible was as cordial and uneventful as possible.  I am thankful for all of the prayers being said for us during that time.

Then I see this obituary and it breaks me.  I sobbed.  All of the emotion....good and bad of the last few months....flooding out.  This could be either of my boys.  By the grace of God it is not.

So...if you made it this far in this post I appreciate the grace you have offered me when you didn't know what was going on.  When I just told you I was tired or that I just couldn't do something...thanks for not pushing me.  I don't expect or need special treatment.  I don't need it any more than the next person.

This life of mine....I wouldn't change a thing.  I am living it because I was given this.  Sure I could have made different choices, but I own every part of this.  Thanks to all of you who are in my journey.  Thanks for the love and grace you give to me unknowingly...every single day.  You matter.


Denise
Will and I had a discussion today about how the choices aren't really change or don't change.

It's really don't change or DO THE WORK to change.  There is a big difference in those.

We talked about when the last time Will did something he didn't want to do.  It was to interact with me when I got home, but he said he "forced himself".

We talked about examples of things he says and how his behavior doesn't match.  How he says he wants to graduate, but doesn't do the work.  How he wants to be a welder, but won't learn anything about OSHA safety.

This concept is so foreign to him.  In his reality you don't have to work for things.  A supernatural power intercedes and things just happen.  I am having a hard time convincing him that graduation is in my reality.

I can't even describe some of our conversations and how frustrating they are.

At this point we are striving to just get Will to be rote about doing the things that are required of him.  So far it seems to be impossible.
Denise
Will has therapy on Wednesdays.

I never know what is going to happen during therapy.  Sometimes Will is open to talking about things.  Sometimes he is in his own reality, but still has conversation with us.  Those are hard days.  Some days he just dissociates and we don't do much of anything.

Today wasn't really any of those.  Today we talked about "what we are doing in therapy".  We talked about how Will wrote his therapist a letter in January stating how he wanted to change.  His therapist told him how that made her really hopeful, because it seemed like there was still a window open for us to do therapeutic work.  Today she asked Will to tell her if that window was still open, because it doesn't seem like it to us.  He doesn't know.

He asked if we could quit therapy until he decides if he even wants to change anymore.

We talked about how every time we have taken a break from therapy there has been a major thinking error and then there is in some sort of crisis and they keep getting bigger and bigger. It's also likely that he will be court-ordered to continue therapy.

We had another talk about how when he does his psychological exam he should NOT try to make him self seem like a bad ass or try to make himself seem crazy, because that would not be helpful.
I'm not sure he understands that message.

So...until next Wednesday.
Denise
Sometimes I don't completely think things through.  Maybe a little bit more often than sometimes.

By linking my blog to my Facebook page it didn't occur to me both Charlie and Will are my friends on Facebook. 

Will read that post.  He read about himself needed help and how I had cried in the probation waiting room.  He is disconnected from emotion and, well, life so he didn't really think much about it.  What he did do was read back through old posts.

He told me they made him laugh, because he had forgotten so many things we have done and how much fun we have had.  He told me he even screen shot a few of the posts so he could keep them.

That warmed my heart.  For Will that is about as close as I can get to an "I love you."

I'll take it.
Denise
Will's portion of the probation interview lasted about 90 minutes. 

Mine lasted THREE AND A HALF HOURS.  In the end I was asked to talk to the juvenile probation officers about being the parent of a child with mental health issues.  This topic is so dear to my heart, but I don't feel like I have the educational background.  I didn't read the books on this topic...I took the field trip.

This is the third time I have been asked to do a discussion of this type for a group of people.

I am not equipped to be the spokesperson for this topic.  So not equipped.
Denise
Monday's post was healing for me.  I'm still learning to be transparent.  That's one of the lessons God has had for me on this journey of motherhood.  Prior to this I believed I was in control and I didn't need to seek help or prayer or really anything.  I got it and things are going well were my common answers for everything.

Increasingly over the last seven years (but seemingly a lifetime) the new me has learned more often than not I don't have it and things going "well" is relative.  I can literally see God's hand in everything almost every day.  Monday as I sat in the probation office with an overflow of emotion leaking out my eyes I knew I needed help.  For the record the old me would have NEVER cried in the probation office waiting area or any public place for that matter.

What I got was lifted up in prayer so much so that I can feel the peace still today. 

I can tell you this...while it is flattering to be called an inspiration and a hero...I am neither.  I am a woman who was called to do something hard....REALLY HARD.  I look back now and wonder "Why me?"  So many things come to mind.  I am still ill-equipped to be a parent.  I had never had biological children and spent the majority of my life "less than interested" in them.  I certainly didn't have any experience with kids from "hard places" and the thought of talking about mental illness in ANYONE scared me to death.  I didn't have the kind of career where being a parent, let alone a single parent, seemed plausible.

I am grateful for the people who reached out to me.  Some of the private messages touched me to the core.  For those of you who work with kids like Will...thank you for loving our kids.  For those of you mamas who have kids like Will and thanked me for being honest, because now you don't feel so alone.  You aren't. 

Thank you all so very much.

Denise
Today was a rough day. 

Will is involved in the court system for a minor offense.  It has ballooned into something out of control.  In so many ways it mirrors our lives right now.

I was sitting in the probation intake waiting room this morning while they interviewed Will after a particularly difficult weekend where he showed complete disregard for everything....especially me.  I'm certain he is telling them I am awful and angry.  Today I am awful and angry and done.  So done with all of the never-ending BS.  Trying to help someone who is certain I am the one with the problems and causing their behavior.  Someone who to the world looks charming and kind and good.  Praying that somewhere on this side of heaven there is help for this boy who I love desperately and knowing it is an absolute long shot. 

I'm watching this child slowly dig himself into a bigger and bigger hole and all I can do is watch.  He is jumping off a cliff in slow motion and I don't know how to save him.  If I mention a single word about any behavior he becomes enraged and blames the behavior on me.  We're talking rage like most people do not experience in their lifetime.  At least most people I know.

Watching this same child have complete and total disregard for others.  Most of all me.  Wondering what the next step for him needs to be.  Knowing I'm doing everything there is to do yet still feeling like an absolute failure.

I spent the morning with him telling me how I never notice the good things he does.  I pointed out a number of them from the weekend, because no matter what there is always good.  He went on to tell me none of those are big things.  I apologized for perhaps missing something big to praise him for and asked if there was something specific he thought I had missed.  He mentioned something that happened almost a year ago and then said, "I stopped doing good things, because you wouldn't tell me I did good anyway.  So it is your fault I haven't done anything good in a year."

EVERY.SINGLE.THING.  My fault.

Reactive attachment disorder.  You have made me my child's enemy.  You don't care if I am trustworthy and hopeful and kind.  You don't care that often times I am able to summons up supernatural unconditional love in someone who looks at me with disdain and disgust.  He admitted to the probation office today that any question I ask him makes him have rage.  Did you eat an apple after school can cause a retaliation completely disproportional.

RAD....you make telling the truth impossible.  You make me spend my days trying to figure out the small nugget of truth in an absurd story so I can figure out what is really going on.

Probation's parting question to me....what would you deem a success through all of this?

That my child gets help.  That there is help.  That this is not our "forever".  That there be something, anything which will help manage his psychosis.  There are no pills for being certain you are invisible while you sleep and that your junior year bus driver was blind.  Those are just thinking errors which have to be navigated.  That mental health in general isn't in the backseat any more.

Most of all...please help my son.  I love him.
Denise
What on earth does someone do to get fired from McDonalds on their second day?

For the last couple of weeks Will and Cody have been talking all about how Cody has this job at McDonalds.  Cody has described what he has been doing there.  Sunday night he even told me that he had to work at 6am on Monday and this morning he texted me at 11am to tell me he was home from work for the day.

This evening I found out that Cody is not employed and hasn't been for a while.

Why all of the acting?  Why the deceit? 

I asked both boys why they had been telling me he had a job.  "They don't want me to think he can't pay me rent."  Clearly lying is better than causing me to have "financial worries".

Some of the discussion about jobs was when I was discussing the need for honesty in our home.

Oh the irony!!
Denise
Today was ridiculous.  I felt like I was back in middle school.  One of Will's friends, Cody, wants to move in with us, because he is estranged from his parents.  He was recently expelled from high school and won't be graduating this spring even though he has the appropriate number of credits.

You may be thinking "why on earth would you let one of Will's friends move in when Will is such a hot mess?"  Will is beyond distraught that Cody is technically homeless.  He is focusing all of his energies on Cody's issues and neglecting working on any of his own "stuff".

Today with those two nearly pushed me over the edge.  It would appear Cody has similar issues as Will's when it comes to truth telling.  They were stuck in multiple lies together and then trying to get me to get in the middle and call another friend of theirs. 

According to Cody Will told him that Charlie and Aaron were going to beat the $&*# out of him when he returned to our home, because the two of them had been horribly disrespectful to me.  It was true that they were disrespectful.  This is the text Will sent Cody, "You have a talk waiting for you by my brother and Aaron for disrespecting Mom."  I'm super confused where it says he was going to be beat up.  He wanted me to call another friend, Santannah, to figure out what was going on.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  I have been out of middle school for a very long time.  I am not going to do this ever again.  Let alone every day.

At one point I told the two of them that they were the most deceitful, manipulative people I had ever met.  It is unreal.

I NEVER had this much drama in all my years.  For that...I thank my classmates and friends!!
Denise
This weekend I went to my parent's home for a visit and to help with reunion planning.

It had been a long week.  Friday started with a call from the sheriff's department at 3:45 looking for Will and one of his friends.  They had been pulled over earlier and the car searched.  Drug paraphernalia was found in the car.  The officer wanted to talk to them again, but they were evading him.

Of course Will took ZERO accountability for this.  His favorite thing to say that everything is "supposedly".  I couldn't decide if I should leave for the weekend.  But I was so frustrated and angry.

Will has been suspended all week for smoking pot at school.  He had tasks he was supposed to do each day, but he is very defiant these days and didn't do any of them.  Not a one.  He swore he would get the tasks done while I was gone.  WRONG....not one thing got done...NOT ONE.

He stole money from me this weekend and was manipulative and deceitful.  Thought disorder or sociopath?  How do we know?
Denise
I can't believe I haven't written a single word in over 3 years.  The letter in my last post almost seems like a lifetime ago.  What I know now is this....writing this blog was therapeutic for me.  It was a way to talk about the "stuff".  I've missed it and how it helped me work through things. 

I'm going to give it a go again.  So here's an update of what is going on with each of us:

Denise - I am still the head of this crazy household.  I continue to work full-time as a Commissioning Agent, but there is actually a commissioning department now.  I still volunteer as a mentor for the UNO Architectural Engineering Department for the senior team design class.  I am no longer a youth group leader at our church.  Watching those six girls graduate was hard and it seemed too hard to cultivate more relationships.  For MANY reasons that I don't have the energy to get into I gave up my foster care license.  I may pursue it again one day or not.  I spent a year as a member of Leadership Omaha Class 38.  I met the most amazing people who are going to change Omaha.  The trauma-informed school seems like a faraway dream.  I am now a board member of a Nebraska Foster Care Review Board and a Foster Care Probation Review Board.  I applied to be a member of the legislature-appointed Foster Care Advisory Board.  I was a finalist, but ultimately not selected.  In the past few months I started a group for moms of kids who were adopted from foster care at an older age or are fostering teenagers.  These ladies are definitely my people.  My 30th high school reunion is this summer and I am helping to do the planning.

Charlie - In the end Charlie dropped out of high school.  In the past year he has started back in an online program through Penn Foster.  He is doing his electives in auto mechanic classes.  It isn't his favorite thing, but he is committed to finishing up.  He works full-time at Alohma, a vaping store.  It is a large enough chain of stores that he has full benefits including a 401k.  He's been working there about a year and a half.  In January, Charlie moved into an apartment with his girlfriend, Bailey, and their miniature Australian shepherd, Rocky.  They are doing well and I am so proud of Charlie.  Within the last two years he has matured in ways I honestly wasn't sure he ever would.  He continues to make music in his spare time.  Most of his work is pretty dark, but quite good.  He has a page for his music, but I don't know off the top of my head what it is.  He is an INCREDIBLE writer of lyrics...so much talent and it isn't just a mom thing.

Will - The past couple of years have been an increasing struggle with Will.  He is a senior at Omaha Northwest.  He is not going to graduate this spring.  He is more than capable academically, but trauma gets in his way.  He is no longer in ROTC, because he was missing too many credits to continue.  He is in a legal mess that I will describe in another post.  His decisions could be filed under "stupid decisions not to make".  He is having some mental health issues and his psychosis is getting much stronger.  His therapy team thinks there is still hope for him to live a productive life if he is willing to acknowledge his thinking errors.  To this point he is not interested in doing the work and there is a fear that he is developing multiple parts of self.  There are likely going to be some tough decisions to be made soon.  He is a kind boy who got such an unfair shake in life.

Tyler - Tyler continued to live with us for a total of four and a half years.  He was such a blessing to us in so many ways.  He moved into an apartment with his girlfriend, Jamye, in August.  I miss him much.  I miss having someone to laugh about the absurdities of life in our home with.  We still see him at least once a month at our family dinners.

Spencer - He still continues to be in out-of-home care for reasons I can't even explain.  His mom continues to be a dear friend.  We recently met with the Director of Health and Human Services and the head of child services for the State of Nebraska to get intervention in his case.  Spencer is doing so great all things considered.
Cameron - Cameron and all of the other boys had some sort of falling out a couple of years ago and I haven't seen him since.  He checks in with me every now and then and seems to be stable and doing well.

Aaron - Aaron moved out for a couple of years, but he moved back in last spring when he was homeless.  He is working on getting his life back on track, but there have been some bumps along the way.

Sophie - Sophie is a six-year old toy dachshund.  She continues to be a diva and spoiled rotten.  She is slowing down both due to age and a torn ACL from a jump off of the couch that went wrong.

Silas - Si is a four-year old Westie mix.  He is quirky and funny.  He loves us and Sophie.  He is the first to greet me every day when I come home and loves to cuddle.  Si broke his leg a few months ago jumping off of the couch.  He's back at full speed now....and naughty as ever.

Sam - Sam is a beautiful shepherd mix.  He is calm and loving.  He lives for attention.  Sam had a cancer scare earlier this year, but he now has a clean bill of health.  We have no idea how old this sweet boy is.

Josh - Charlie's friend who used to be here all the time.  He lives in an apartment with his girlfriend, Cassie, and their son, Hunter.

Cody W - Charlie's friend who ran into some financial issues and moved in our home last fall.  He works for UPS and is working hard to get his feet under him.

Bailey and Jayme - The daughters I'll never have.  I love to spend time with them and have girls outings.  They make me laugh and I love them both dearly.