Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Steve Harvey, Rachel, Scott and OCD

You'll find my new online home here.
A few months ago one of Steve Harvey's producers found this post on Scary Mommy about what it is like to be a mother with OCD. She e-mailed me and told me she would like for Scott and I to come on the show. Many of you don't even know I struggle with OCD because I'm so good at hiding it. I suppose today that changed. Enjoy the show
I'll be back to tell you all about our experience at NBC studios in Chicago, including that time we saw some guy we couldn't name from one of those CSI shows in the elevator and how I amused the security guard by being SO! EXCITED! TO! BE! HERE! and how I was so nervous I threw up in the hotel sink. 
If you're an agent or a publisher, I've got a book on life with OCD that Doctor Shana Doronn (who was also on the show) and I would like to pitch to you. You can find my writing on The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, and in my basement, where I kept the fifth grade journals professing my adoration for all of the six boys in my class at the Christian school. 
Loves.
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Sunday, March 27, 2016

a new website

Someday soon, friends, when you land here you will be taken to the new site. Pipsy Lou is no longer a lass of two but a brave and sweet near-teenager. Time to make a change.

I'd like to introduce you to the new website, www.rachelhillestad.com I hope you're as excited about it as I am!

Monday, February 29, 2016

failure

Whenever I think of myself, I find myself lacking:

you don't play with your kids enough (another post about our society's obsession with mothers "playing" with their children is coming". It's a luxury of the modern child to be able to be played with by the maternal figure. Usually mom was too busy growing soy beans.

you're a sucky wife. Scott really can't stand you. you start projects and don't finish them and oh, by the way, you need to wear something other than yoga pants once every, say, 30 days?

kids are a constant vortex of need. i never feel like i am filling their love tanks enough, as oprah would say, and I'm just sure one of them is going to become a columbine shooter because of it.

i suck at making contact with my friends, usually because the social anxiety makes it hard for me to leave the house some days.

i enjoy foster parenting, because kids don't expect a whole lot but a clean bed and some good food. Thanks to Costco, I can do that.

This is a short post about all of the ways I'm failing. Please feel free to add your own.


Saturday, January 30, 2016

for saying's sake

A few days ago we had to re-home (nicer-sounding phrase than getting rid of) our dog. I cried and cried. This was the dog who, five months ago, cowered every time someone in the room moved. She seemed to always be apologizing for her existence.

In the ensuing months I watched Rosie blossom. She learned our routine, jumping back in the morning as I opened the outside door to remind me she hadn't yet gotten her treat. She started to expect good things because she knew I would give them to her. I didn't fail her.

When Rosie left due to my sinus allergies and the fact that she is a 65 pound dog we adopted thinking she was fully grown at 38, I cried. I cried a lot. I cried in the Target dog food aisle, imagining her wondering where her morning treat was. Someone on Facebook posted, "What's wrong with you? This is BS!" because I was finding a new home for her. I felt like crap, like I was failing her.

Something I've come to realize is that I'm not the only one who can provide good things for others. God (sorry, here comes church lady) has shown me that I can care for others to the best of my ability but sometimes I have to say "no" to good things or say "yes" to hard things because that means I'm caring for myself, too.

"Take everything!" I sobbed to her new owners, some poor unassuming Craigslist schmucks who didn't think they were going to be coming to the suburbs to meet a crazy mother in yoga pants that were never actually worn for working out. There I was, literally chucking all of her things out onto the lawn. "Please take it, take it all, because I won't be able to bear looking at her things."  I came inside, picked up the car keys, headed to McDonald's for the three-for-a-dollar chocolate chip cookies and a Diet Coke. I cried some more in the car.


OK. I did the mooing cow cry in the car.

There are so many parallels I could make between caring for a traumatized animal and a traumatized child. Those small daily acts that turn into the bigger calling of leading a soul into trust is one of the most rewarding things I've ever done.

The child: I will speak about her now. She came to us a few weeks ago; I picked her up in a dirty municipal building at 10 pm on a weeknight and her diaper was soaked. She was sobbing.

That first day she slept in until 10 AM and cried almost nonstop. I wondered what I'd gotten myself into, but my four year old daughter showed me just what as she relentlessly, as an act of grace and compassion, ran back and forth in our living room to find a toy, anything, that the baby would like.

When Scott arrived home she absolutely FLIPPED out, sobbing her poor little pot belly out as he sidled along the wall, hands up, reassuring her he was not going to try to touch or engage her.

The trust has been slow-coming, but it's come. She belly-laughed for the first time a few days ago and then caught herself. Almost a, "Oh, wait. I don't know that I should be showing them this side of me quite yet."

fear not; this is not an actual photo of Little Lady
As I held her and my four year old to read them a story, she slipped her little brown arm around my neck. I looked at her, she looked at me. Connection.

It's crazy the places where you find beauty and grace, isn't it? For me, it's making connection with my husband, my kids, my friends, hurting children. It's showing them my own vulnerabilities so they can show me theirs. It's an emotional kind of "doctor", that game we all played as kids.

"I'll show you mine if you'll show me yours."

But who goes first? Who is brave (or stupid) enough to do it?

Tonight she gave Scott a "high five" as I told her he didn't hit anyone. He got her to smile as he did a silly dance. She caught herself mid-laugh, remembering that men hit and she shouldn't be so careless.

Vulnerability comes softly, a flutter of grace on air-filled sparrow wings. It's a flash in the eye, the hint of a smile. Vulnerability is what makes relationships worthwhile, it's what makes the "How are you?" actually mean "How are you?" instead of something we say to say it for saying's sake.

Do you allow the people around you to be vulnerable? Do you really listen? Are you ever brave enough to say, "Hey, I'll go first!"?

It's something I'm working on.

Friday, December 18, 2015

what i really want to tell you about foster care

The governor of our state wants to pass a law that gives a monetary incentive to foster parents who meet specific requirements. They are:

Been married for at least 7 years
must be straight (yes, as in sexual orientation)
no smoking
no alcohol in the home



When I was a little girl I remember standing in the pouring rain with my best friend, Lori. She lived two doors down and we went to the same church. One afternoon we were all encouraged to attend a “life chain” down first avenue, the main thoroughfare in our city. We each held an “Abortion Kills Children” sign, waving at people, knowing God was smiling down on us. We had an obsequious education on what the middle finger solely waved in the air meant, and we were relieved when we got honks from others (people just like us, who believed and valued the sanctity of human life. That little press of a button in the middle of their steering wheel buoyed our resolve. They knew what we were doing was right, and so did we.



I’ve cradled these nacent days in my hands, the easy days, the days where I was taught that abortion is wrong, being gay is a sin, go to church every Sunday and don’t have sex until you’re married. Any equivocation on these most basic of principles meant that the equivocator was falling into being unwittingly strapped into the dangerous roller coaster car of moral relativity, and once that roller coaster started, there was no stopping it as it made its slow decent up the hill of rationalization of wrongdoing and screaming down the highest hill into the trap of sin.

Being a foster parent for coming up on five years and having 50+ little souls come and go from my home has changed my mind on some of these issues. Maybe “changed my mind” is not language that is strong enough for how I feel.

As Christians, we are taught to be salt and light. We are, quite literally, to shine our bright lights into the darkness of the most heinous places. I have quite literally shone that little light over and over again in our extra bedroom, as  one little soul or another sobbed for mommy as I shhhushed and rocked him, sometimes 6 or 7 hours a night. Sleep would finally overtake him, his little body falling limp, betraying his mind’s resolve to not let the dark creep in and catch him ungaurded, ever again.



I guess the thing that kills me is this: the people who are making these laws are not the people who are living them.

I’ve checked on Wikipedia (true 10% of the time, but in this instance I’m willing to believe it) and found that Sam Brownback has not once had a foster child standing on his front step, wondering if this man standing there is going to do the horrible things to her that the last one did. Will she eat tonight, or will there be a lock on the refrigerator door like there was at the last place? Oh, oh, there’s a woman here, too. The last time I saw a man with a woman I watched him rape her and leave, storming out after. She snorted some white stuff in her nose through an errant McDonald's Happy Meal straw and went to bed, but at least she let me sleep with her sometimes and watch tv.

Here’s the thing, and it’s the thing all of my foster parent friends say, too. Once you know a thing, you can’t UNKNOW it. I have met personally children who have been locked in basements for years. I have had a daughter who was left alone for a week at the age of 3 while her mother went on a Vodka binge. She was found walking in her own feces, fingernails like talons and chocolate cake smeared around her tiny mouth. Later it was learned that this is what her mother left in the apartment, along with a plastic fork, intended to be her meals for three days. THREE FREAKING DAYS.



Angry yet?

You say foster kids are “messed up”. Yes. A lot of them are. You would be, too, if you’d been nine and sitting around with a bunch of meth users who had you doing some of their leg work in the lab. You’d be messed up if your grandfather raped you and your mother sat down and watched.

See, here’s the thing, though. I have seen these things and I can’t unsee them and I don’t want to. I WANT to live in the world where only selfish people have abortions and those who wait to have sex until they’re married have perfect unions and loving, encouraging family members who give them gifts of money and inspirational marriage books.

When you do something like holding up a sign at an abortion clinic, here is what you are saying:

“I believe you are killing your baby but I don’t want to get too involved. This sign right here is my buffer, and later I will pat myself on the back for maybe planting a seed in a woman’s mind that abortion is wrong.”

Want to hear something staggering? A staggering statistic? 83% of women who have had abortions didn’t believe they had any other choice.

83%. Sit there with that.

kind of helpful, but not really
Do I believe that life begins at conception? Absolutely. Do I believe that abortion breaks God’s heart? 100%, yes. Do I believe that God’s original plan was for man and woman to procreate, fulfilling the earth with their love? Yes.

Here’s also something: I want to rip down my pants and stick hot pokers in places they don’t naturally belong when I hear these things from the same people who “would never foster because it would just be too hard” or “Well, we really like our lifestyle as it is, and fostering would put a damper on our travels” and, oh, this is the best: “I believe gay people shouldn’t be able to foster because they’ll just shove that message of gayness down the child’s throat. It’s not fair to a child not to have a mom and a dad.”

You know what is also not fair to a child? To all of our children? You sitting on your bottom parts getting in tweet fights with God knows who over abortion or the sancitity of marriage without following your own thoughts through. Say you’ve helped a woman not to have an abortion. Great. Now what? What next? Are you going to get down into the dirty with her? Are you going to help her find housing, a stable environment in which to raise her baby? Are you going to buy her groceries and take her kids when she’s sick so she can't keep her job?

One thing I've always admired about my own parents is their always, ALWAYS putting their actions, not just money, where their mouths are. They'd be embarassed to read this, but my parents are the ones who took in foreign exchange students so they could show them God's love. My mom worked for years at a Crisis Pregnancy Center, sitting with broken women as they cried over their seemingly hopeless life situation. My parents have treated our foster children as their own grandchildren, knowing that they would most likely not be permanent fixtures of the family.

My parents are passionate about sharing Jesus' Love with kids in the public school system through a program called Child Evangelism Fellowship, and while they are retired and could be spending most of their time shopping and playing golf, they're faithfully following the command to love the little Children and lead clubs in the public school two times a week. It's labor-intensive and exhausting and they do it anyway because they know it's important. So, sorry to embarrass you, Mom and Dad, but you've always been an example to me of what sacrificial love looks like.



What's so sad to me about the Twitter wars and the Facebook rants is that, more often than not, there is no action behind them. People write a check, buy some Christmas presents, mail a shoe box full of gifts. Those things in and of themselves are not wrong, not by any stretch of the imagination! Surely these things need to be done! Actually, I have so many friends who have blessed us with these kinds of things and they have a part in the ultimate plan. As a friend pointed out, "I'm not built for foster care, but I want to help you in whichever way I can." Wow. This friend is also a preschool teacher, and I couldn't spend 14 minutes in a room full of twelve snotty four year olds for 14 minutes, let alone all day. So, YES. We are all built with different gifts!




What I'm saying though, goes deeper: heart work is hard. Getting entangled in the lives of the broken is devastating.

A friend and I were talking yesterday after she and her family experienced a very, very deep hurt involving a child within the foster care system. 


"Redemptive entanglement is very hard."


Woah.


Blew my mind.


She went on: 


"I have ended up caring for him (her child's foster father) more than I ever expected to. I see why the check-writing is easier. That doesn't cause nightmares and angry first families." 


It doesn't cause sitting in the middle of a mess that humans caused but no human can fix.


"Walking alongside hurting people sucks."


It does. It hurts. It causes tears. Once you see that great wide fissure in humanity, in the very heart of a tiny child, you can't "unsee" it.


And you know what? It tires me. It makes me cry. It makes me want to run the other way. Sometimes, the situations we find ourselves in make me want to pee my pants.


It's a good thing my emotions have no IQ. Because, friend, at the end of the day, 


I don't ever want to unsee it.



Monday, November 30, 2015

happy

Today as I was driving Phoebe home from Target she asked about how long her hair was when she was born.

I told her the whole story of her birth, and how happy I was to hear her cry. It was the first time I've talked about that day with only happiness, no sadness. It was just kind of awesome. It made me feel like I've come so far. In order to get to the place where I'm at peace with what happened, I had to have those years of "not OK". And that's OK.

I'm watching "The Affair" on Showtime. I'm pretty convinced that there are other things I could/should be doing with my time, but being alone by myself is the only time I get to watch my "Mommy Shows", as Phoebe's friend calls them.

In this show a woman is having a baby in a hurricane. She doesn't want the baby, because her last baby drowned at a family function when he was four. Isn't my blog a special, happy palce? Stay with me. HE drowned and so she thought all of her babies would be cursed, and she was actively trying NOT to birth this child.

In another scene, her ex-husband is telling his girlfriend how he wants to have another child and his girlfriend starts sobbing. She says that she can't, that she had a surgery when she was 22 to remove fibroids and it left a ton of scars on the inside of her uterus, making her infertile.

I used to have the dream where I would have this amazing natural VBAC birth, and I haven't had it for about a year. It's so weird to be in this desert place for so long and for my OCD working hard in my brain chemistry to not let me move on - or every time I try, for me to feel "stuck" in the old thought patterns of "My life is over, I can't have any more children biologically."

I'm not sure if I will publish this or what purpose it is serving, but it's really neat to see this healing taking place in my own life. We took care of a baby this weekend and he was adorable and lovely, but I was ready to hand him back over.

I'm excited to be an aunt more than one time over as Scott's and my siblings have more children. Buying baby gifts is fun. I love it. Maybe a little too much.

I guess I'm just saying that I'm enjoying where I am right now. This doesn't mean there aren't hiccups along the road, but I'm happy. Maybe that's why I haven't blogged much. I blog more when I'm sad.

I'm happy.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Why does Daddy hate Puppies and Babies?

I've been quiet for so long because sometimes the words form in my heart and get stuck in my fingers.

That's just the way it's been, and I've just been OK in rolling with it.

I think after you've gone through so much loss, whether it be hard child births, birth defects, children gone back to their parents after being your foster children for over a year, you just start expecting the other shoe to drop.

You just wait for it.

You are afraid to get supplies on clearance for the next school year or birthday party because "What if that time comes and the little one is not here?" That thought haunts me less than it used to, but it still does.

After fostering over 50 children I told my husband we would now foster dogs. DAMMIT, WE ARE GOING TO FOSTER ADOPT SOMETHING!

We had a dog named Kami who was ten. She was adopted within two weeks, and the kids sobbed after she left. Then came two tiny baby puppies, whom my husband nixed because, well, 5 day old puppies need more care than a newborn.

My ten year old, sobbing in her room: "MoooOOOoooM! Why does Daddy hate puppies and babies so much?"


hahahaha. why, indeed.

After I drove the puppies to a lady north of the river we came home with an 11 month old blender on legs we named Rosie.

We adopted her five days later, and do you think my kid was excited much?


About a week ago I took my four year old in because she keeps doing this sharp inhale where it doesn't sound like she is getting enough breath into her little body. I thought allergies, the doctor thought heart condition.



NOooOoOOOOooOoOOOO.

I got cold sores and headaches and slept a lot.

"This is that stupid other shoe dropping," I kept thinking to myself.

After a false alarm and lots of Klonopin, here I sit. Things are back to normal. Kind of.

Normal for me is obsessing about things that don't really matter and worrying about world problems I can't solve, while having the complete inability to care about anything after 8 pm. My conversations with my husabnd usually go like this:

"Are the kids in bed?"
"What do you mean by "in bed"?"
"I mean, in the general vicinity of their rooms with the main light off."
"Welll, yeah, but they're fighting over hamsters."
"That's OK. What's on Netflix?"

(The four year old with her sister's hamster right before it died of (probably) unnatural causes)

This raising of little ones is hard, hard work.

Nobody ever told me that when I was pregnant with my first. Nobody ever says, "when you hear that first cry you'll be prepared to run into a burning building for that kid, even if he annoys you."

It's just parenthood, man. The good, bad, ugly, and sweet.

Just embrace it, OK? Stop feeling guilty.