Stranger Than NonFiction

Anyone who knows me knows that I love books. I love the look and feel. I love their smell. I love bookstores of all kinds – vintage shops, newer retailers, and especially airport bookstores. But I also love my Kindle Fire. It’s certainly made reading on-the-go a whole lot easier. But despite the ease and portability of the Kindle, you’ll still find upwards of five or six printed books at my bedside. And I’ve made a dent in each of them. My own personal juggling act. I like to see how many books I can keep in my mind at one time.

The most recent book on my must-read list is a bit of a surprise for me. It’s Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book, “The Signature of All Things.” I devoured her memoir, “Eat, Pray, Love” and although the book is ALWAYS better than the movie, I adored the film version as well. Mostly because I love all things Julia Roberts.
And also because of JAVIER BARDEM…

I digress.

My point is that I don’t generally choose fiction. I’m more of a non-fiction/autobiography/biography/current events kind of gal. But I wonder if it’s maybe because I’ve missed the point. Maybe fiction books paint a clearer picture into the soul of the author. Maybe they are more free to explore themes, feelings, experiences, etc. that might be uncomfortable in a tell-all book or memoir. Maybe the intricacies of a work of fiction allow the author to weave in some of his or her own personal narrative under the guise of character development.

On her Facebook page, Elizabeth Gilbert addresses this very issue after being asked the difference between writing a confessional memoir and writing a work of fiction. Apologies for such a long post, but her reply resonated with me. Here it is with very few edits (Note: I bolded the words that jumped out at me):

Writing a novel is way more personal and revealing. People (understandably) assume that the most vulnerable and exposing thing I ever wrote was “Eat Pray Love”. They want to know how I could possibly have shared such intimate details about my life with the world, and they assume (again, understandably) that it was probably a relief for me to then write an unrevealing novel of pure invention — to hide my true self, as it is, behind fictional characters.

But here’s the thing. My memoir is a very, very polished piece of sea glass. I didn’t publish several volumes of my private diaries, after all, but offered up a well-considered compilation of stories about myself, all of them very carefully edited and selected. And there is a great self-consciousness to writing a memoir: You must be extremely careful about what you say not only about yourself, but also about other people. Also, as open and honest as I tried to be with EPL, the fact remains that perhaps I don’t know myself as well as I think I do. (Who among us really knows ourselves?) I tried to be revealing, I tried to show you exactly who I am…but maybe I am not who I think I am? Certainly legions of other people see me differently than I see myself.

With a novel, on the other hand, the writer is lulled into this sense of safety and expansion and utter liberty (thinking, “This has absolutely nothing to do with me, so I can go in any direction I please!”) and thus might very well accidentally reveal A LOT about herself. It is only now, more than a year after finishing “The Signature of All Things” that I realize how much of me is in there. Some of the most intimate details of my own deepest self (things I would never dream of sharing in a memoir are) are casually littered all over this novel

Think of it like a crime scene. The memoirist, aware of being watched, goes over each page with white gloves and bleach, cleaning up every single bit of stray evidence. The novelist, joyfully oblivious, leaves a trail of hair and fingernails and footprints and bits of incriminating DNA all over her book.

All of which is to say, as I have realized only very lately, you’ll probably learn more a lot more about me by reading “The Signature of All Things” than by reading “Eat Pray Love”.

Oh my God. Even her Facebook posts are brilliant.

As I contemplate writing a book about my experiences as a birth mom, it only recently occurred to me that perhaps memoir isn’t the only way to go. Perhaps I could be a little more vulnerable, a little more free, if I told my story through characters in a work of fiction…something worth considering.

But now I’m curious. Where do you stand? What are your personal reading preferences? Do you prefer fiction or nonfiction?



Sometimes I let my emotions get the better of me. I can’t be alone in this one, right? I mean, do I just chalk it up to being female? Is that just a cop out? Do other people feel this way sometimes too? Or is this a sign of depression.

I’ve been depressed before. And I’ve felt the effects of prescription drugs acting like a snuggie around my heart. Protecting it from going too far…and yet preventing me from feeling much of anything at all.

No, I don’t think I’m depressed right now. But last night I had a moment. I just felt like crying. So many things bubbled to the surface. Things related to my girls, and being a mom, and being a birth mom, and how those things all intersect. Or not.

I’m not sure what triggered it, which is odd because over the years I’ve become pretty adept at identifying triggers. Movies, books, TV shows, songs, places, people. These triggers are like time machines that transport me not only mentally but emotionally to another state. But nothing like that happened yesterday. At least not that I can recall.

No, yesterday something was different.

I told my husband how I was feeling and he instantly diagnosed it as a sign of depression. And maybe it is. But as we talked and he asked questions and I cried a bit and he talked some more and I talked, something lifted.

I started to feel a bit better.

My husband is not any kind of a medical professional, but I often wonder if he’s missed his calling.

He’s the one who encouraged me so many years ago to just FEEL WHAT YOU’RE FEELING. But I was often too afraid. I’ve worked really hard on this and I’ve gotten better. But I often seep back into the comfort of just dealing with it on my own. Although it’s rarely of any comfort. I think it’s just been comfortable – and quite frankly, too easy to do.

Last night was one of those nights where I almost just shoved whatever it was I feeling deeper down inside. But with some poking and prodding from my “safe place to fall” husband, I feel like I’m OK again.

Thanks, 2013!

I came across this idea for a yearly recap while reading Kristen Howerton’s awesome blog, “Rage Against the Minivan.” And SHE got the idea from this equally awesome blog, “All & Sundry.”

So much stuff happened this year. In the world and within our family, I’m hoping a bunch of questions will help me organize my thoughts better than just a random data dump. Let’s hit it.

1. What did you do in 2013 that you’d never done before?

Shared my story of being a birthmother in a national documentary and with practically everyone I know on social media. It was overwhelming at first but once it was out there? Bam. All kinds of good stuff.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I had a few resolutions last year, although I failed to write any of them in a place where I might be held accountable for them. Deliberate attempt at self-sabotage? Perhaps. Here’s what I remember from last year. And what my results were:

  • Lose 25 pounds for my 25th high school reunion. Oy. Moving on.
  • Run 2nd half marathon and beat my previous time. YES! I’ll never come in first, but I sure as hell wasn’t last.
  • Go to BlogHer convention. Didn’t make it this year, but I’d love to shoot for this year 🙂
  • Grow my blog. YES! And still growing. Thanks for reading!
  • Grow my business. YES! Love working from home. Love writing. Love helping people grow their business. 
  • Get Bridget potty-trained for the Disney cruise in December. Nope. But this has been moved to a 1st quarter goal for 2014. TOP PRIORITY.
  • Read 25 books. YES! And more..(come join me on Goodreads!)
  • Get caught up on all my photos and scrapbooks. Um…I’m so far behind it’s pitiful.

For 2014, I have just five words that describe my intentions.
I hope to be more:

PATIENT – with my kids, with my husband, with myself. New mantra: Nobody and nothing is perfect. Let it go.

ENGAGING – specifically with my kids and my husband. Technology is lovely, but I fear it’s creeping too far into my brain that it leaves with me much less to give. I want to change that.

CONSISTENT – With my writing, my fitness goals, family meal planning, and in how I work with my husband to raise our girls.

BRAVE – In both my personal & professional life. I want to try new things, put myself out there. Second new mantra: No regrets.

KIND – I’m a fairly nice person, but I’d prefer to be kind. Nice is for sissies. Kind is being a good human being. Plus it’s a good example for my kiddos. Also, if I’m alone in my car and someone cuts me off, I’d prefer to kindly flip them off rather than nicely shout obscenities that only I can hear. Sweet of me, huh?

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

My niece gave birth to a little girl. And some good friends of mine adopted their second son in as many years. They are gorgeous, they are biological brothers and they are all involved in an open adoption. Which makes my heart happy.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

A great-uncle on my husband’s side, but thankfully, no one else.

5. What countries did you visit?

The Bahamas during our Disney Cruise. But that doesn’t really count because I didn’t get off the ship. Nassau is all kinds of icky.

6. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013?

A million dollars. OK fine. I have to go with more balance and organization. I am really happy to be working from home doing what I love. But it’s a challenge to prioritize my time and make sure I don’t shortchange my girls and my husband. That, and more wine.

7. What dates from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

May 3 – My oldest daughter’s ninth birthday and the day I shared publicly that I am a birthmom.

May 16 – Our 14th wedding anniversary. Fourteen years! Seems like yesterday 🙂

The whole month of December – Disney cruise with my husband’s side of the family and a special family wedding in Salem, Massachusetts where I got to see my son and his family.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Launching and growing my own business as a freelance writer and social media manager.
Also, dropping a jean size. It wasn’t quite the 25 pounds mentioned earlier, but I’ll take it.

9. What was your biggest failure?

I’m trying to no longer dwell on the past or on failures, but if I had to point to something it’s losing my temper more often than I would have liked. Which is also why “being more patient” is one of my top goals for this year.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?


11. What was the best thing you bought?

The Disney Cruise (technically, the husband paid for it, but I don’t think he reads my blog…so…).

12. Where did most of your money go?

Groceries, diapers (omg can’t wait for her to be potty trained), and books for my Kindle Fire

13. What did you get really excited about?

The Taylor Swift concert back in March. We surprised my 9 year old with tickets. I think I enjoyed it as much as she did.

14. What song will always remind you of 2013?

The “Let It Go” song from Disney’s Frozen movie. The movie was way better than I expected. It must be noted that I didn’t like “Brave” at all. Like not even a little bit. So my expectations were low. But this movie was really spectacular. And the soundtrack is delicious. This song, in particular, is like an anthem for me. Don’t mean to be all drama, but don’t we all kind of struggle with the perfect girl / perfect daughter / perfect mom / perfect wife thing? Or is it just me. Either way, I totally dig this song.

Don’t let them in, don’t let them see
Be the good girl
You always had to be
Conceal, don’t feel
Don’t let them know
Well, now they know…
Let it go…let it go…can’t hold it back anymore.

15. Compared to this time last year, are you:

– happier or sadder? Happier – definitely.
– thinner or fatter? Eeesh. ’bout the same.
– richer or poorer? About the same.

16. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Written more.

17. What do you wish you’d done less of?

I’m totally copying this answer from All & Sundry – my temper was rather short this year. But I’m working on it…

18. How did you spend Christmas?

I feel like we had a two-week long Christmas this year. How lucky were we? First a week-long Disney cruise where the ship and the characters were all decked in their holiday finest. Time with family and friends in Texas. Rushing to get our Christmas tree on the 23rd and then Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at home with my husband and girls. Then a whirlwind trip to Massachusetts for a family wedding, a family Christmas party, and the chance to see my folks and my son. Best. Christmas. Ever.


19. What was your favorite TV program?

Modern Family, The Amazing Race, Elementary, Who Do You Think You Are, and The Goldberg’s. 

20. What were your favorite books of the year?

Wild, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, The Husband’s Secret, and Carry On, Warrior.

21. What was your favorite music from this year?

I’ve been listening to classic and new Alanis Morrisette, Kenny Chesney, Goo Goo Dolls, and Justin Timberlake this year.

22. What were your favorite films of the year?

Saving Mr. Banks and Argo. Note: I’m sure Argo came out last year or even the year before, but we’re Netflix people so I’m still playing catch-up.

23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I was 43 (holy shit) and my wonderful husband took me to see the fabulous Broadway show “Once.” It was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. And just for fun, I got yelled at by the crabby ushers not once – but twice. (no pun intended). The first time was for snapping a photo of the theater guests miling around the on-stage bar. The show hadn’t yet started but I didn’t realize there were copyrights on stuff that happens prior to showtime. The second time was for putting my program on the ledge in front of me. Where it could very well have fallen to the lower level and KILLED SOMEONE. A note to the ushers in the center balcony: calm the frick down.

24. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

The whole losing weight in time for the reunion thing. But honestly, there’s no one to blame but me.

Me, and wine. And chocolate. And bagels. And all carbs.

25. What kept you sane?

Reading and writing. To loosely quote one of my personal heroes, Glennon Doyle, “reading and writing is like inhaling and exhaling.”

27. Share a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013.

Letting go is not only important, it’s essential. Meditation is good for me, but not if I’m thinking about Andrew Shue. Kids don’t want much – just your undivided attention and your unending love forever and ever. Being a parent is tough and hard and totally worth it.

A Single Gift (my latest column on Open Adoption Bloggers)

A Single Gift

Kim column topper

Every year I dig out the boxes and the red and green plastic bins from our storage area. I haul them up to our living room and prepare for a flood of memories as I begin to relive my Christmases past.

As you might guess, the bins are filled with holiday decorations and ornaments I’ve collected over the years. Some of the ornaments are still in their original boxes and others are wrapped in makeshift cushions of paper towels, bubble wrap or newspaper. As if on a secret treasure hunt, I retrieve them one by one. I unwrap each ornament in my hands as if waiting for their story to be revealed.

You see, I’m not one to purchase the package of multicolor bulbs or to decorate with certain colors or themes each year. Don’t get me wrong. I love the look of beautifully decorated trees. It’s almost an art form, isn’t it? At the hands of a skilled decorator, what starts out as either a real or artificial evergreen tree almost magically transforms into an illuminated masterpiece.

My tree is less of a masterpiece and more of a mosaic. A hodgepodge of decorations each representing various events in my life. And each one carrying with it a special memory from the past.


University of Central Florida – Go Knights 🙂

There’s the hand-embroidered ornament with the logo of our alma mater made by a friend and fellow classmate. I was lucky to have participated in a unique program with UCF and my employer at the time, Walt Disney World. About 40 of us signed up for this degree program that would be taught on Disney property. Over the course of the two years, our group shrunk to about 29 people or so, but the majority of us graduated with our BA in Communication in 1996 – disproving the unfortunate nickname for the college which was, “U Can’t Finish.” I met my husband while attending UCF.

The ornament my husband inadvertently stole. Which he says I stole.

The ornament my husband inadvertently stole. Which he says I stole. Um, no I didn’t.

There’s a covered bridge ornament from Vermont that we got years ago.

Somehow we walked out of the quaint little gift shop without paying for it. We didn’t realize this until we were miles away. We still tease each other about it. (for the record, HE stole it, I did not).

And there are tons of those thin, gold ornaments from our anniversary trip to Hawaii, a solo excursion to Nashville, and a visit to Yosemite. They reflect the light so beautifully.

But my favorite ornament is a delicate, pearl white bulb with a hand-painted picture of Princess Aurora from Sleeping Beauty. It’s the first ornament that goes on my tree and it’s the last ornament I put away. It means the world to me because it was a gift from my son. He picked it out while shopping with his mom back in 1992. He was four. I was single at the time and living on my own, but it quickly became the central piece of my small, but growing collection. It has a quote on it which reads,

“Each of us the child shall bless, with a single gift – no more, no less.”

When I first read the quote, it made me stop in my tracks. I’m overwhelmed each time I read it. No gift comes close to the gifts of love and family and friendship. And I’ve been lucky enough to receive all three through my open adoption relationship with my son and his family.

Over the years, I’ve kept all the cards, letters and photos he and his family have been kind enough to send me. But this ornament holds a tender place in my heart. And it always will.


The One Where I Reveal My Stalker Tendencies

I’m totally duplicating efforts today. I’m reblogging my column this month from the Open Adoption Bloggers website.

On being thankful for books, the Internet and openness. And how I’m a total stalker.

Glasnost is Coming…

November is National Adoption Month and there have been lots of wonderful stories in the media lately. Some of them have been really extraordinary.

I believe that honest and open discussions as well as truth-telling will eventually extinguish the myths still surrounding adoption – open adoption, in particular. Over the last several months, I’ve become immersed in the open adoption community. I’ve followed blogs, chatted on twitter and read extraordinary articles, which little by little are shedding light on the secrecy, shame and stereotypes that unfortunately still permeate the adoption community. And I’ve heard horror stories just as you might have of parents who have “returned” their adopted child as if the child was some commodity purchased at the local Costco. It’s heartbreaking. And I’ve seen the ridiculous so-called reality shows that glamorize teen pregnancy and trivialize the very profound and personal choice of adoption. I’m not linking to any of these shows because I don’t want to generate any more publicity for them than necessary. But one flip to the Oxygen Network, Bravo or MTV will clue you in to what I’m talking about.

But there is one woman whose voice rises above all the negativity. Lori Holden is an adoptive mom who has embraced her children’s birthmothers. Heck, she even co-authored a book, “The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption,” with her daughter’s birthmom. It’s a fabulous read. I encourage everyone to buy it, and read it.

51I9sM6ncjL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_Today, Lori wrote a national article for National Adoption Month. She titled it, “Ready or Not, Glasnost is Coming.” Her premise is that she believes the walls surrounding adoption will come crashing down – not unlike the Berlin Wall 25 years ago. She believes in openness in open adoption (not walls of secrecy or shame.) She believes in honoring her children’s biological heritage (not building walls that hide the truth.) And she believes that all adoptees have the right to open access to records so they can know their personal histories, not to embarrass or reveal – but so that adoptees can reclaim their personal identity.

Her article is fabulous. And so, I decided to repost it here. I hope you’ll take the time to read it.

Interview Project: Open Adoption Bloggers

abip2013sqEach year the Open Adoption Bloggers host an Interview Project online so bloggers can learn a bit more about each other. This is my first year participating in the project and I have to say I got lucky. I was paired with a blogger who goes by “Momo” at her blog, “Momosapien.” She is a beautiful person who writes from her heart – in fact, she’s one of the best writers I know. It’s been a pleasure to get to know her. She and her ex-partner adopted their daughter and, although they are now divorced, they are co-parenting her and raising her in an open adoption with her birthmother. Take a moment to visit her blog – you won’t be disappointed. Thanks to Heather at Open Adoption Bloggers for coordinating this massive effort. And now, my interview with Momo:

Q: It is crystal clear in all of your posts that you love your child with all your heart and that she comes first in your life. Your love for her is undeniable. Divorce is difficult on any family – whether the children are biological or adopted. Since you and your partner have divorced, how have you helped your daughter accept this new reality? And how does the fact that she is adopted affect how you handle this transition? Or does it?

MOMO: I was just commenting to a friend the other day that because our daughter isn’t incredibly aware of relationship dynamics, in a way we had to make it really clear to her that we had been together as a couple (instead of just as her parents) in order to explain to her that we were no longer together. When we were in our romantic partnership, we didn’t use the term married to describe our relationship. But during the transition out of that relationship we decided to use the traditional terms marriage and divorce in order to make the concept clearer and more accessible for her. The entire process of shifting from us being partners/married to us being separate/divorced was gradual and gentle, which was a huge part of helping her accept the new reality. At the time when we first broke up (not words we used with her), the three of us were co-sleeping in one room. The first part of the transition was for me to move into the 2nd bedroom (which had been LB’s bedroom) and for her to take turns sleeping with each of us, depending on whose night it was to be home with her at bedtime. That went on for 9 months until we finally moved out of the two bedroom house we had shared and into the duplex. During this whole process, we talked about how Mama and Momo weren’t married anymore, but we were still her parents and we would always love her. We talked about how now she would have separate time with Mama and Momo, and that she would get to see us both a lot, and that even though our relationship with each other was different, we were still her family.  

Honestly, I can’t quite discern what impact the fact that she is adopted had on her during this process. I know it affected each of us as parents immensely. Neither of us wanted to put her through another devastating rift in her familial life by divorcing after she had already been through not being parented by her birth mom. And yet it really came down to the fact that as parents, in order to take the best care of ourselves so that we could care for our daughter in the most present way, we had to make the choice to divorce. This would not have been such a difficult decision for us to make if our daughter wasn’t adopted, I believe, because of the layering of loss. It seems the only other way that LB being adopted plays into how we handled the transition was in the language we used to talk with her about family diversity. In addition to talking about how some families are created through birth and some through adoption, and some families have two moms or two dads, or only one parent, etc., we added in that some parents are married and some are divorced or were never married. It just added a different texture of complexity to the narrative.

Q: As I read your post “Limits” from January 18, I noticed that like so many working moms, you are incredibly busy! What do you like to do for yourself? What do you love doing so much that it makes you lose track of time? What re-energizes you and replenishes your spirit?

MOMO: Ooh, what a fun question! I am excited to be able to say that currently the thing I love doing so much that it makes me lose track of time is writing. After spending the better part of the last decade regretfully cut off from my writer self, I am in a place of feeling invigorated, connected, and alive again as a writer. I am actively working on a book, with a serious goal of having 40 short pieces written for it before my 40th birthday next April. I currently have 10 pieces…so I’ve a ways to go. 

Other than writing, my favorite thing to do is visit with friends and talk talk talk talk talk. In person is best, but phone or even instant message works for me. I also love to play games of all sorts – card games, word games, dominoes. I just discovered a story-telling game which will likely become a new favorite. While I like to say that reading re-energizes me, I actually find these days that I almost always choose writing over reading. I treasure my time in the evenings either when it isn’t my parenting night, or when it is and my daughter is sound asleep because that is the time I give myself to write and poke around online. Although it often makes me stay up too late, I feel replenished by having this time to correspond with my own inner workings and play with words. 

Q: In one of the OAB roundtables (#32 from December 17, 2011), you talked about that first Christmas holiday with your days-old newborn and the push and pull of emotions you felt knowing her birthmother was having a difficult time. Reading through more recent posts, it seems as though she still is having a tough time. How will you help your daughter navigate her way through a relationship with her birthmother?

MOMO: The best way I see that I can help our daughter navigate her way through a relationship with her birthmother is by making sure that we, as adults, maintain contact successfully. Even though LB is almost 7 years old, the bulk of the responsibility for this relationship with her birthmom continues to fall to myself and Mama Meow. It is up to us to schedule and follow through with visits. It is our job to keep our promises about sending photos and letters according to our agreement. We keep her birthmom as present as we can, given the infrequent contact we have – there are pictures of LB and her birthmom prominently displayed both in the living room and in LB’s room in my house and in Mama Meow’s. We talk about her warmly and often. My guess is that as the responsibility for maintaining this relationship begins to naturally shift to LB, that there will be some rough patches. I want there to be enough connection and trust established between her birthmom, Mama Meow and me that we can help LB weather those storms with grace. As a parent in this open adoption, I will continue to model openness, love, respect and compassion for our daughter in the hopes that she will have the most connected relationship with her birthmom as is possible. 

Q: In your post from June of this year, “Find Your Understanding”, you said: “So now, I find myself in this place of being uncertain, again (always) of how to tell the truth about who I am in a family who taught me to believe that even if I wanted to live out the fantasy my little girl self imagined, it wasn’t possible for me.” If you’re willing, can you share a bit more of this thought? (*Note: I found this post extremely personal and powerful and was a little hesitant to mention it. But Momo was very gracious and willing to share her response below. And for that I thank her!)

MOMO: Thanks for saying that this post contained powerful stuff – it remains one of the most vulnerable things I’ve written publicly. I still sometimes experience what Brene Brown refers to as a vulnerability hangover when I remember that it is posted here. Related to this post and to the dating I’ve been doing over the last year and a half, I had myself a special mission over the Summer, which was to have a conversation with each of my seven siblings (and their partners if they happened to be present too) about the fact that I’m doing some post-divorce dating, and that for the first time in my life I’m dating men. The responses I got ranged from engaged and interested to horribly awkward, which was about what I expected. This was all part of my commitment to myself to tell the truth about who I am, and to begin presenting myself as one consistent, authentic person in as much of my life as possible. The mission was successful in that I did actually chat with each of my siblings. My parents are the final frontier here though. I am not eager to have the conversation with them about dating, and about being involved with men, largely because I anticipate their response involving one or both of the following elements: 1) asking me, “If this is where you were going to end up, why did you put us through everything you did over the last 20 years?”; 2) feeling relief because now I am behaving in an acceptable, heteronormative way. (No, they wouldn’t use that word or know what it means, but I do, and I don’t see myself that way even when I am dating men.) 

I continue to work on entertaining the possibility that I am entitled to and could possibly have any type of relationship I want, including one that includes marriage to a man if that is what I choose. Due to the emotional experiences I detailed in the post you referenced, I run into all sorts of internal roadblocks along that path of acceptance. That, and I haven’t yet found a man to date who is interested in a long-term romantic partnership with me. Did you notice that tiny word ‘yet’ in the previous sentence? There are days when all the hope I can muster gets infused into that three letter word and it is enough to keep me pushing against the shame and sadness, humiliation and hurt I have felt all these years. 

Q: As a parent – and now, a single parent – are you ever tempted to give in to the things more than people to appease her? Do you get pushback from family or friends if you try to reinforce this belief against an onslaught of well-intentioned gifts? What advice would you give to other parents – moms in particular – about how to instill this value to their children?

MOMO: The temptation to give in to things more than people doesn’t happen to me much, but one thing I have noticed is a softening in my approach to LB’s attachment to things. I thought I had written about it here on the blog but couldn’t find it when I searched just now. Basically I realized that part of her attachment to things is related to her struggle with emotional regulation. Sometimes she uses her connection to objects as a way to ground herself or place herself in the emotional context of her world, and I can get behind that. If I had caught it earlier in her life, I might have wanted to try re-framing her question of what I brought her from my trip back to her by asking, “Are you wondering if I thought of you and missed you while I was gone?” Because I think that is a big part of what she really is getting at with her question about what I brought her. I suppose it isn’t technically too late, but we have already firmly established the ritual of her getting something tangible brought back for her from any trip Mama or I take. 

I don’t experience a lot of push-back from family or friends about focusing on people over things. My family wouldn’t necessarily get it or agree with me, in large part, and my friends mostly already agree with me, which is a blessing. 

As for the advice I would give to other parents about how to instill the value of people and relationships over material goods, the main way to do this is to let kids experience what true, real, vital, connected, authentic, vulnerable, magical, amazing relationships feel like. I talk openly with my daughter about how important my friends are to me, how much I love them and what an important part of my life they are. I encourage her to experience this with her own friends. I show her that it matters by living my own life that way, and I hope that it will create the same resonance in her.