There's few things I enjoy more than the excitement of moving. It's a thrill that gives me butterflies. However, the first time was very emotional for me. I was 10 years old. My parents had bought land and after 6 months had built a house that we got to move into. Packing that time was hard. My dad had lived in our house since he was a child and it was the only one I'd ever lived in. At the time I fancied staying there and raising my family in it just as my dad had done. Silly childish notion that it was, I loved it. I was use to riding my bike up and down our streets in our small little sleepy southern town. I didn't want to move 20 minutes outside of the city limits, but eventually I began to see it for the adventure that it was. I wasn't going to lose my friends like I initially thought, in fact, they were super excited about spending the night in our new house!
Seven years later, at 17, I began my journey into adulthood by moving out of my parent's home. By the time I was 18 I had moved five other times, from city to city, not out of Georgia. Five months after my 18th birthday I moved cross country, from Georgia to California, where I resided for three years. While in California I moved a total of three times. At 21, I made the move cross country again and found myself back in Georgia, where I again moved four times.
Between the ages of 17 and 21, in case you didn't keep count, I moved 15 times. The shortest I lived in one place was three months, the longest a year. Packing never bothered me, in fact, I came up with a system for myself and I loved it. I fell in love with living in new homes, each so different from the last. The first night in a new place is magical to me. Over time, when the new wore off and I got bored, I was ready to move again.
At almost 27 I was divorced (that's a story for another time) and living in my parent's garage. I'd come full circle in a way. Then I met my current husband. Once again I was packing all my things for a move. Here I am, still in the same home I moved into (almost) 7 years later. The urge to move has been almost unbearable at times. I'm a complete gypsy at heart. I travel as much as possible with hopes of quieting that whispering voice that's constantly telling me it's time to fly. I'd love to be a vagabond, wandering the country side with my camera in tow, but alas, there are responsibilities in this thing called adulthood. Being a mom hasn't put a stop to the need to move, travel, go on adventures, live in brand new places, but what it has done made me take a better look around at what I have and all that surrounds us here.
For the past 7 years I've called Jacksonville my home. It may not end up being my forever home, but for now I'm satisfied with her beauty..
The word stared up at her from the otherwise empty document, taunting her.
Swimming in front of her eyes.
“I’m drowning” she murmured. I can’t seem to keep my head above the water, she thought.
Gabriella stopped typing and dropped her hands to her lap to pet her cat, Mr. Fluffy. He had jumped up on the desk and managed to maneuver himself into her lap by positing himself between her and the screen. “Fluffs, what am I doing?” she paused, almost like she expected an answer. “This is insane.” she rubbed behind his ears and dropped her head on his for a moment. He responded by purring contently and rubbing his forehead on her chin.. The gnawing anger began to surge in the pit of her stomach - it seemed to stay very close to the surface lately. Gabriella jumped up and slammed her laptop closed causing Mr. Fluffy to fly off of her lap and race to his favorite hideout under the bed.
“I don’t see how writing any of this down is going to help me at all.” She flung herself onto the bed and burst into tears. She cried until she felt like there was nothing left to cry, but still the tears continued to fall. She more than just pain, she felt betrayed. She was sad and she was angry, at him and herself. How could I have been so stupid, she wondered, how could I have been married for nine years to a stranger. When did he become a stranger. I knew him better than anyone and then one day… no it wasn’t just the one day. It was the years of catching him in lies, I should have known that he wasn’t who I thought. Why didn’t I? How could he have just thrown everything away like that? The thoughts flooded her mind just a quickly as the tears were streaming down her face. Before she knew it she had drifted off to sleep, mentally exhausted and emotionally worn out.
The shrill ring of her cell phone cut through the silence a few hours later. “Hello,” she answered, a bit confused that she had been asleep and still a little out of it.
“Gabby where are you?”
“Are you still at the apartment?”
“Oh my God, Neiko! What time is it?”
“Gabs it’s 7 o’clock! You’re suppose to be here already, you’re late!”
“I’m sorry Neiko! I don’t know how I did it, but I fell asleep. I’ll be there as soon as I can!!”
Gabriella flew off of the bed and did a double take at the mirror. Her eyes were slightly puffy, nothing a new coat of foundation couldn’t hide though. She looked down at her clothes. She was still in jeans and a tee-shirt. “Oh well,” she mummered under her breath, “I told him I didn’t want to go, serves him right!” Mr. Fluffy meowed and brushed up against her leg. “Alright, fine! I’ll throw on a nice shirt!” She pulled a deep purple, quarter length, button up shirt from a hanger. “This will have to do.” she stated as Mr. Fluffy voiced his approval with a deep meow as he licked his paw clean. She threw her medium length black hair up in a quick messy ponytail then dabbed a little gloss on her lips before grabbing her purse and rushing out of her apartment.
She decided forgo a taxi and to walk the five blocks. The cool, crisp air was just what she needed to bring her out of her head. The breeze kissed her face and whisked around her ponytail. Evenings in Queens in the fall were her favorite. The days were gloriously sunny, warm and cluttered with people, but as soon as the sun went down the air seemed to lighten. The walkways were still cluttered with people, but the vibe was different, almost romantic, and there was just something so perfect about it.
She could hear the noise from the Beer Garden as soon as she rounded the corner, conversations floating on the breeze, people talking over each other. Neiko was waiting on her by the door. “Everyone else is already here,” he said matter-of-factly. “So am I…. now.” she said and looked over at him sheepishly, “Besides, when am I EVER on time?” He returned her smile, “Yeah. yeah.” He said, leaning over to hug her while impressively keeping his pointy mohawk from poking an eye out.
“So when you say everyone else is here, exactly who is everyone?”
“Just a few buddies of mine. Look Gabs, I just want you out of the apartment. You’ve been stuck in bed and on that damn computer for days. It’s time to breathe some fresh,” he coughed when she punched him in the side, “okay, it’s New York, so maybe the air isn’t so fresh, but you get the point. I’m not technically trying to set you up with anyone…. but there’s this guy.” She cut him off,
“No Neiko, I already told you.” He threw up his hand and pulled down his black studded leather jacket, “Uh-huh. Like I was saying, an old friend of mine from down south is up visiting. I just want you to meet him. He’s not even in the scene anymore!” there was a slight pause, “You know I’ve only been teasing you about setting you up…. Well, kinda just teasing….” She was constantly giving Neiko a hard time about all the leather he loved to wear, but in all seriousness, even though she wasn’t into the punk scene, she had to admit that some guys wore it well. Neiko was one of them if he would just lose that freaking mohawk! F
“Is Jake here tonight?” “No… we’re off right now.” Gabriella rolled her eyes. Jake and Neiko were worse than a soap opera, but she really liked him and knew he was good for her friend. “Well, get back on would you! If you would just commit..” “Neiko pipped in, “Could we not turn this around on me? Come on, let’s get in there. We’re causing a traffic jam out here in the doorway.”
They stopped at the bar and ordered a beer then walked through the building into the “garden” area. She loved coming here, the atmosphere was always lively and the lights gave it an almost romantic glow. She caught a few mohawks out of the corner of her eye and instantly knew which picnic table they were going to. She was met with a chorus of greetings. Suddenly someone ran up and threw their arms around her, “What th… Jake!! Neiko said you weren’t here!” She threw Neiko a quick look, “I lied.” He said, laughing. Out of all the guys Neiko had ever dated, Jake was her favorite. He was as tall as Neiko, pushing 6’5” and he had long white-blonde hair that spiraled and haloed his dark olive face. He and Neiko could grace the cover of a magazine. They were such a contrasting couple and so beautiful together, Neiko with his long soot black hair and porcelain white skin and Jake who was gorgeously mixed, his mother was Norwegian and his father Haitian. They’re personalities were just as different, night and day. While Neiko was a sarcastic smart alec, Jake was a happy go lucky hippy. They had an amazing balance to them.
Jake gave her another squeeze, “We almost gave up on you Gabs!”, he joked. “Right, and I believe that.” She retorted back. “You know me too well. Five more minutes and I would have been there to drag you out myself.” He teased, his deep huckleberry eyes dancing. “Hey, did Neiko tell you about his friend that’s visiting from down south?”
“Oh my God! Yes, yes he did! So where is this guy in all his infamy Jacob Bjarne?”
“Hey! What’s with the middle name? Am I in trouble!?!” He laughed loudly. “He’s over at the bar getting a beer. Believe it or not, he was late too.” Jake pointed out a medium height guy in the distance. She had started to say that he reminded her of a bull dog, the way his shoulders were wide and his arms muscular, but just as she opened her mouth to speak he turned towards them. Her eyes met the most gorgeous eyes she had ever seen. Deep golden eyes with such warmth behind them; a warmth she could feel from several yards away. Their gazes met across the distance and she looked away, her cheeks flushing red. What is wrong with me? She dropped her eyes and shuffled her feet. “He didn’t tell me that he looked like that!” she half whispered to Jake. “I expected him to look like all the other guys.” she said, gesturing to Neiko and his punk enthusiastic friends, all lanky, tall and sporting mohawks with the exception of one.
“Yeah, he wasn’t what I expected either, but you know how Neiko is with details. Plus, he said this guy’s been out of the scene for years. Apparently he’s a contractor.” That would explain the build, she thought. “So what’s he doing here? Vacation?”
“Neiko didn’t say, shocker, right? Why don’t you ask him, he’s about to be over here.”
She wished the ground would swallow her up. She shot Neiko a glare and saw that he was staring at her intently. What do you think you’re doing, she mouthed, get over here! He strolled over to where she and Jake were still standing. “You okay, Gabs? You look a little red…” Then he saw the panic in her eyes. “Hey, okay no more teasing. Calm down!” She kicked him in the shin a little harder than she intended. “OUCH! What did you do that for?”
“You know exactly what I did it for!” She heard her heartbeat thundering in her ears as she saw Neiko’s friend stop in front of her, closing in their little circle. She swallowed hard, mustered up a big smile and greeted him, “Hi there!” she said, a little too loudly since he was close now. She extended her hand to him, “I’m Gabriella, but you can call me Gabby.”
“Hey Gabby, nice to meet you. I’m Dean.”
“Hi!” she repeated, shaking his hand. Dean. Supernatural. Easy to remember. Not that she thought she would be forgetting anything about him any time soon. “So, what brings you to New york?” She asked, feeling uncomfortable. Just keep eye contact, she told herself, don’t look at his shoulders, his chest… eyes! EYES! She gave him a smile, but something in his expression made her think that he was amused …. with her.
“A company in the city is looking or a contractor. I’ve debated moving out of the south so thought I’d come check it out. Using the time to get in a small vacation too. How long have you lived here?”
“Oh no, I don’t live here. Well, not technically. I’m staying with Neiko right now until I can figure out where I want to be.” Or who I want to be. She felt she needed to explain more for some unknown reason, “I’m going through a divorce.. Or rather, well, umm, I just got divorced.” He raised an eyebrow. Oh god, she thought, could that have been any worse. Just turn and run, turn and run! She started to back away then realized that he was still holding her hand from their hand shake. She took her hand from his and looked back down at her feet. Neiko piped in, “I’m trying to get her to stay here. I need a roommate, my rent is killing me..”
“Do you like it here?” Dean asked her.
“Oh yeah, it’s pretty great. I mean, it’s a bit dirty, but the atmosphere is different from anywhere else in the world! It’s loud and busy and oh so beautiful. Have you been to Central Park yet?”
“Not yet. I plan on checking it out tomorrow.”
“Oh, you have too! When you’re there make sure you go to the sheep meadow! I love going there and just laying down. Seeing the sky and all the buildings around you, it’s surreal. Being right in the middle of the city, but in the park at the same time! How long will you be here for? There’s so many other places you should check out!” She became aware that Neiko and Jake were having their own conversation and while talking she had gotten closer to Dean, so close in fact that her hand was on his arm. She practically jumped away. A smile had spread on his face, but as she apologized and moved her hand it faded.
“I’m here for five more days, just got in yesterday. I know this may be forward, but since Neiko works all week I don’t have anyone to show me around. Would you want to show me around some?”
“ME?” she squeaked. Neiko, having heard, turned back to her. “Sure, Gabs, why don’t you show him around? I can hang for a few hours tomorrow then we can go into the city together and you can show him the park.” “Ummm…” she faltered… no, no, no. I don’t even know him! Stranger danger, Gabs, stranger danger. “Well, I could hang out with you guys for a bit, but then I have some errands to run.” Dean nodded, “Sounds like a plan to me.”
The night was spent sharing stories and laughing. She found herself caught into conversations with Dean over and over. She learned that he and Neiko had met through one of Neiko’s old bandmates. They had both been in punk bands and played a bunch of gis together. She shared with him how she and Neiko had met in junior high and been friends ever since. The night flew by and before she knew it they were parting ways.
“Well?” Neiko asked on the walk home.
“How did you like him?”
“Just nice? “
She stopped walking for a moment and looked over at him. “Neiko, it’s too soon.”
He threw his arm around her and they walked in silence for a while.
“I know the divorce was just final, but you were unhappy for so long.”
“I know I was, but..” she sighed, “I didn’t know it at the time Nee,” she wiped a few tears from her eyes. “I thought it was something we would get through. I thought I could change. I thought he could change. I didn’t see the hole I was in until then end hit me.” She felt gutted. Neiko started to speak again and she raised her hand, “I can look back now and see how miserable I was, Nee, but I loved him with everything I had. I don’t know if I have anything left anymore.”
Neiko leaned over and kissed her forehead, “You do Gabs, you do.” He gave her a quick squeeze and they walked the rest of the way without talking.
Happy fathers day to all the dads out there! To the natural dads. To the adoptive dads. To the birth dads, some of us wouldn't be what we are without you! To the foster dads, you do so much and I hope you know how very special you are! To the fur-baby dads, don't anyone tell you just being a fur-baby dad is any less special! To the step-dads, those that don't have to love someone else's child, but do anyway. To the dads who have lost a child.
I want to send a very special father's day shout out to my husband. He works like a maniac to make sure that we have all that we do. To the man that would rather pay all of the bills than accept any help from me, if we're being honest - he'd rather I not work at all (I would go insane with nothing to do)! To the man that, even though he has a full schedule, will find still find the time to take GG to school and even pick him up because he want's to ride in daddy's car. He is every bit of the father that I knew he would be (and MORE).
We are so blessed to have you Chris! In the three years that GG has been alive you're proven to be a pro at this whole "dad thing". I knew you would be! How could such an amazing husband and wonderful man not be!?! You are such a loving, compassionate, understanding and silly daddy. You carry so many of the traits that I've always admired in my own dad and I am so lucky to have you as my other half. I am also so thrilled that GG is growing up with such a wonderful, understanding, caring, loving, kind-hearted, down to earth yet overly dramatic dad. There are hundreds of reasons that I love you and even hundreds more as to why you're a great dad, so never forget that!!
Before my son was born I prayed that he would be a leader among men. I prayed for him to have integrity and a heart for God and others. I prayed that he would help those in - and that he would stand up for others, those that maybe cannot do so for themselves, as well as for his own beliefs. I prayed for him to be kind, loving, gentle yet firm. I prayed for him to do mighty and wondrous things in God's name.
Within his first year of life I began witnessing some of these things come into fruition and through his short three years here on this earth I've seen it multiple. Just last week, as I was walking him into school he turned to me and said, "Stay here mommie." I was shocked. "Stay here?" I asked, "Stay here mommie." he repeated, this time throwing his hands in front of me to stop me. I stood baffled. He took his lunch box from me, slung his backpack - which is as big as he is I might add - over his back and walked himself into the gym at school. Of course I walked behind him and made sure the teacher knew he was there. How was this happening? He only turned 3 in April! As the tears stung my eyes I made my way back to my car before breaking down. I was so proud and so sad at the same time. How could my little boy be so independent? But he is, fiercely so. In all honestly, he's been independent since he could crawl, so this shouldn't have been a surprise. He has to do everything himself, if you help him and he doesn't ask for it he will do it (whatever it is) all over again.
He is determined and knows what he wants, but he is loving and kind. Last week we went out to eat at a small establishment we've been going to for years. The owner let my son, GG, play with his son's toy. When his son returned i could tell that he wanted his toy back. GG, being the 3 year old that he is, did not want to give up said toy. "It's my toy." He said while looking defiantly at his dad and I. In my head I'm thinking, "... here we go, full on meltdown on the way.." I explained to him that the toy was in fact the little boy's. That the little boy let him play with it. My son took this all in and you could see his mind working around this, trying to understand. Finally it clicked. He got down and walked halfway to the owner of the toy, but then came back. Again, I explained and pointed out how nice it had been for him to share his toy. This time GG walked to the table where the little boy sat. Again he walked back to us with the toy. A few minutes later my son walked back to the table where the toy's little owner was sitting and place the toy on the table, he turned back to us and got halfway before he began crying. My husband swooped him up and we praised him. Needless to say we took him to the store to pick out a toy!! Here's the thing - at 3 years old it took him a few times, but he got it and he wanted to do the right thing even though it was extremely hard for him to do. At 3 years old he has more integrity than some adults I'm come across in life.
I'm raising a leader. A strong-willed (wild) child. He never stops. He pushes and questions everything. Everything seems to turn into a fight at some point or another. That's when my husband points out, "You prayed for this." Yes, yes, I did. I prayed for this wonderful, determined, strong willed, wild, sweet, loving, silly little future leader. I wouldn't have him any other way. He is perfection to me even on the days where I feel like I'm failing as a mother - when I'm tired and frustrated and feel like I'm doing it all wrong. All he has to do is give me a smile or wrap his little arms around me for a hug and nothing else matters. He is everything I prayed for and more and I cannot wait to see the man he becomes. Until then I will remember to enjoy every single moment.
As someone who has dealt with depression my entire life I love that depression, in all forms, is a subject that has come to light over the years. I love that people try to understand and have sympathy for many mental illnesses whereas in years past they didn't. We've come leaps and bounds in the mental health realm, but in some ways we still have much farther to go.
I'm sure you've heard of postpartum depression. It's commonly talked about and even shown in the media and entertainment industry. However, have you ever heard of post-adoption depression? It sounds ridiculous, right? Someone who spends months and years trying to have a baby, going through the sometimes difficult process, but then when they should be the happiest - when their holding their new baby, finally - something else starts creeping in.
I never knew this was a thing. I'd never heard about it. I never even thought this was something that was possible. Until it happened to me and I began researching. This is my first time ever opening up about this, I've told no one. There I was in the hospital room, holding my brand new baby boy, but it didn't feel like I "thought" it should have felt. Maybe it was because of all the very mixed emotions that come with adopting.
We had three days, three whole days still where his birth mother could change her mind. 3 DAYS. In normal circumstances three days doesn't seem like much at all, but when you're holding that baby and you have the thought that all you've ever wanted - wrapped up in this tiny little baby that already has your heart - could be taken away just as fast as he was placed in your arms... your emotions go crazy. The first instinct is to try and protect yourself, just a little... if possible.
When I looked at his birth-mother my heart shattered. How could I be so happy (because, don't get it twisted I was ecstatic in a sense - it just wasn't complete) when her heart was going to break in order for my happiness? I felt a weird sense of guilt. I loved this baby more than I could express, but so did she.
The next week we spent what felt like endless hours at the hospital while GG was in the NICU. When we weren't there we were taking turns calling to check on him. I held him and my love only grew. I rocked him and feed him and wanted so desperately to be able to bring him home. One week in the hospital then it was time. The day came when we brought our son (while still not legally "ours") home. That's when it began. A nagging feeling slowly crept up my spine. I was a horrible mother, i thought. Maybe that's why God didn't allow me to have children of my own. I didn't feel like I was doing anything right. Was I really good for him? I didn't feel like I'd always imagined parenthood to feel like.
I was the most doting mother, he was (and still is) my universe. However that deep connection that I expected wasn't there. What was wrong with me? I had taken care of children my whole life it seemed, so how come, when it came to my own child --- I didn't have a clue what I was doing!?! I was angry with myself. How was I so good with other babies, but it didn't seem like I was good enough for my own? When he cried I blamed myself. Why couldn't I help him? The depression crept in and stayed. Stealing the deep joy that I should have been feeling. I still felt joy, but it was a shallow, barely scratching the surface joy. It wasn't the deep elation that I had waited so long to feel.
That's when I started trying to figure out what was going on. As I stated previously, I've dealt with depression my entire life. I know what it feels like, what it can make you feel, and I knew that it was causing this, I just didn't know that it is fairly common in the adoption community. I spoke with my doctor and got a handle on things.
I feel like post-adoption depression is something that needs to be spotlighted. If I wouldn't have experienced it myself I still wouldn't even know about it. If I wasn't aware of what depression feels like, I might not have gotten any help!
My son is my heart.
Adoptive parents need to know and understand that PAD(Syndrome) is a normal and even predictable crisis, and it does not reflect on an adoptive parent’s desire, willingness or ability to parent. Knowledge, preparation and support are all critical to surviving and moving past PAD(S).
Signs you might be experiencing PADS:
· Loss of interest or enjoyment in activities you used to enjoy
· Difficulty with concentrating or making decisions
· Fatigue or loss of energy
· Difficulty sleeping or increased need for sleep
· Significant weight change
· Excessive guilt
· Feelings of powerlessness
· Feelings of worthlessness
· Sense of hopelessness
· Suicidal thoughts or ideation
How to handle it:
As I've mentioned before I'm in the middle of writing another book. This will be my third. The first book I wrote in high school, the second in my early twenties. I never did anything with them and now, after all of my moves over the years, I'd be lucky to find all of the chapters. However, this one will be different - or so I say... my plan is to have this one published!
While I've had a few people proof read the first few chapters for me, I've gotten a crazy idea -- what if I shared the first chapter here on the blog!?! Let me know your thoughts on this!
Hello! I’m Hilarie!
I am a wife, mother, an assistant, and now a blogger! I am so exciting to relaunch Jacksonville Housewives in the city.
I love the beach, coffee, marketing and meeting new friends. I cannot wait to meet y’all!