It’s a bit much, ain’t it?

I’m going to veer off from my regular topic a bit and talk about the gorilla and the boy.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’ve been asleep for a week, have no internet or television, or are blissfully unaware of the world around you.

I am not following the story, even.  I am not purposefully reading articles on it other than a few headlines to see what happened and that the boy is ok. But holy effn shit, is that mom getting crucified on social media.  People on my Facebook friends list are posting horrific mean memes about here and even meaner comments. OMG.  Of course me, with my big mouth, is speaking up and probably my friends list on Facebook is becoming smaller by the day.  Am I defending the woman, saying she’s the pillar of all motherhood? No, because I don’t know.  But neither am I calling her names and belittling her on social media.  Again, because I. DON’T. KNOW.  I wasn’t there.

I do, however, know 4 yr old children, especially boys.  I do know what it’s like to have multiple kids in public and having one have a meltdown or an owie or whatever that you have to attend to and for a second your attention is focused on the one child.  And in that small space of time, anything can happen.  I would never expect that my four year old could that easily get into the habitats at the zoo!  And all those judgey-judgies who WERE there, at the moment – didn’t THEY see him, before he fell in the moat?  Why didn’t THEY grab him before he fell?

Everybody’s blaming the mom for the death of the gorilla.  When it comes down to it, the boy’s life was more important than the animal’s, sorry, that’s my opinion.  This is a child.  A child who believes in Spiderman and the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus.  He couldn’t possibly have understood the ramifications of his actions.  The mom wasn’t dangling him over the edge for a picture op, or so he could “see better”, she didn’t toss him over because she was tired of being a mom. She was distracted by another child for a few seconds.

Society, if you want to verbally bitch-slap parents, I’ve got a whole lot of them for you to line up and criticize, but I don’t think this situation, this mom, is one of them.  I don’t think the “meanest mom ever ice cream lady” is one either.  Let’s save our verbal, anonymous holier than thou lashings for crappy parents who really deserve it.  I’ve got all kinds of dead babies beaten to death, or scarred for life by abuse from their parents.  Those parents deserve more than a verbal lashing.  Those are parents in my opinion you are welcome to whelp on.  But a moment of distraction, come on, every parent has dozens of those in their child’s lifetime.  Some turn out ok… and some don’t.

–Keeping it Real

-realmom

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GIrl missing for over a year, police just find out

This news story hit my news feed today.  An 11 year old girl was “just noticed” to be missing, over a year since she was last seen.  Mother refuses to say anything about the girl’s whereabouts and is currently in jail for “contempt of court” for not answering the judge’s questions.  My first thought was, OMG, and nobody notices? Neighbors? School? Relatives? Seriously?  My next thought was, contempt of court? Are you kidding me? Such a minor charge for such a serious thing!

The final thought I had was, this is what trauma births.  Trauma begets trauma.  Everyone can rail and scream at the mom, but I am damn sure she is from a trauma background herself.  Untreated, most likely.  And the kids she had left at home, now in the care of so-highly-qualified-CPS (is there a sarcasm font?), who have obviously been exposed to trauma by the very fact that a sibling is missing and no one else cared enough to report it, but you can bet there’s a whole lot more trauma in their lives than that, are they going to get on a treatment plan to address their trauma, work through it, and deal with it so they can live productive lives as adults?  If they live to be grown ups, chances of them living a trauma filled life and causing trauma to their children are so high statistically that no gambler would ever walk away from that table.

Until we wake up (those not in the know, if you’re here, you know already – the hard way, through the innocent cherubs you adopted that turned out to be not so cherub-ic nor innocent), trauma will continue to breed it’s ugliness.  Unless we can treat the youngest victims at the earliest stages of their lives, unless we take this seriously, this cycle will continue.  How can we (as one in the “know”) make a difference when we’re already so under water with our own family situations we’re using a straw to breathe?  For one, speak up.  Enlighten those who don’t know.  Educate.  Yes, in little bits and pieces, not a long barrage of how your life sucks (save that for your support groups or your blog) but educate about trauma and how it effects children.  Speak up about the need to revamp CPS to actually “care” about the children.  Support each other, either online or in person.  Join a support group.  Start a support group even if all you do is pass the wine bottle around once a month and pay the babysitters hazard pay.  Write a letter to your Congressional and Senate representatives about the need for more support, resources, and aid for foster and adoptive families in your state.  Join a grassroots organization that is pushing for these things, I know of several that have been started by personal friends of mine, because they saw a need and didn’t see that need be filled.  Even if all you can do is lick stamps or share info on your Facebook page, you’re doing something.  It doesn’t have to be hours a week.  It doesn’t have to be hundreds of dollars.  Another thing you can do is when the public gossips.  You know, when the stories hit the news and your friends gossip, your co-workers, etc.  Even your Facebook friends.  Stand up for what you know to be true.  Be willing to get flamed and don’t flame back, but stand up for the truth.  An example is the Rosie O’Donnell story where her daughter ran away to be with birth mom.  Drug addict, still drunk and high after 18 years, birth mom.  Yes, what we all dream of for our kids, to have THAT as a role model.  The media, the general public, blames Rosie and believes whatever the media makes up about her or twists the truth into being something bad.  Those of us in the know realize that the kid probably had trauma, FASD in utero and could very likely have Reactive Attachment Disorder, or a mental illness, having absolutely NOTHING to do with Rosie or her parenting or her gayness or her celebrity-ness or whatever else someone wants to blame it on, the girl came wired that way.  (And for the record, I highly dislike Rosie the celebrity, as a parent I don’t know anything about her parenting, BUT I am willing to give her the benefit of the doubt and not judge and even defend her to those who are judging because I am “in the know” about trauma kids, lying media, and lying kids, the effects of drugs and alcohol in utero, etc).  And maybe Rosie did eff up.  I don’t know.  But I’m not going to START there because everything that the girl has said that’s been published or posted doesn’t have the ring of truth of actual abuse to it.  That’s how we start to change things – by speaking up, for ourselves, for each other, by teaching others.  We need to learn everything we can and teach everyone we can.  Yes, a lot of times we teach our kids’ counselors about RAD and how to treat it because there are no good counselors in our area within a 4 yr radius.  We teach our teachers, our relatives.  We get backlash, we get called drama queens, we get called over-reacting.  But if we are all speaking up, if we all have the research and the knowledge and we defend each other – won’t that make a difference?  Won’t that at least make a statement?

I wonder.

-realmom

Why humanity has not evolved

Trauma is not new to the human race.  It may be new to the DSM.  It may be new to the general public that you don’t just “get over” traumatic events.  It may be new to the medical profession that emotional trauma physically affects the body and brain, not to mention the mind.  But the trauma itself, is not new to the human race, or to human experience.  From Genghis Khan to the Holocaust, from feeding Christians to lions to the Spanish Inquisition, from stick figure drawings in caves to child porn movies, humans have shown again and again the ability to harm another of it’s kind without conscience or compassion.  The effects of trauma are genetically encoded in each and every one of us.

So then why are there good people in the world?  Why aren’t we all murderers, sadists, evil?  How can a Mother Theresa come from such a history?  The ability to overcome trauma, evil, cruelty must also be built in somewhere.  Not that everyone can – I highly doubt if Genghis Khan had a nice, happy childhood, rocked to sleep and cuddled.  So as society evolves technologically, in math, language, science, knowledge – how is it that trauma and its effects seem to be tearing down that very society, with the overpopulation of jails (where a high number of that population were in foster care), and a basic disregard for another human being?  Animal instinct of “me” vs. the evolved “us” that is trying to become?

I have to wonder if it’s because the highly evolved “us” aren’t really as highly evolved as we thought.  We may be smart in language, literature, art, science, math – but we aren’t smart in the human condition.  Individuals may have evolved to a “us” mentality, filled with compassion, selflessness, a willingness to get dirty and do the hard work instead of expecting someone else “less worthy” or “less educated” to do it for us, but as a whole, we’ve only evolved the outside appearance of the human race, not the inside.  It shows by how we treat the homeless, the mentally ill, the foster children, the disabled, the refugees, by how our “aid” programs have CEOs that make upwards of a million dollars a year for their “service” to the world, where it’s workers can’t be bothered so sort supplies donated for flood victims and hand them out because it “wasn’t their job”, a society that puts on a pedestal a fat guy who became a skinny guy – never mind his little fetish, how our version of “giving” is throwing money at something, aka a relief project, and feel we’ve done our part, never caring that little or none of that money actually gets to the people whose lives were devastated by the tragedy to begin with.  In other words, we just pretend to give a crap.  Pro-lifers who are really “pro-baby” because you see them parading signs at clinics but you don’t see them at the volunteering at the homeless shelters, battered and abused womens shelters, free clinics, or becoming foster or adoptive parents to help those babies who lives they’ve just “saved” or help the women they’ve just judged and put down who can’t afford to feed themselves, much less a baby.

Yes, trauma is not new to the human experience.  It just feels new because we’ve put on bling and sparklies, and so the obvious effects of trauma in our society show up so much more against the backdrop of what we pretend to be.

If you’re not a trauma parent, but know one, find out how you can help.  If you’re pro-life, become pro-LIFE and assist.  If you have money to give, know where your money goes.  Hell, fly yourself to Haiti and hire locals to build houses for those lost in the earthquake years ago.  The “big guns” never did, even though millions were raised!  Get personally involved with your neighbors, your co-workers, that cranky guy down the street who sits on his porch and glares at you when you walk your dog.  Stop elevating the Kardashians and start elevating people who really make a difference in the world.  Take that Armani suit you never wear, sell it and buy cheap suits for halfway programs for people who need clothes for job interviews.  Stop watching reality TV and go meet some people.  Stop tweeting and start talking face to face.  Be the evolution.  We CAN do this – TOGETHER.

-realmom

I think we’d be friends!

I almost want to print this out on a flyer and hand it to everyone I meet, and add “adopted kids” as well. – realmom

“What do you wish you could tell ‘society’?”

“I don’t really have much positive to say to ‘Society’.”

“My kids have enough trauma without people being insensitive. First off people need to find a filter. Stop saying crap in front of these kids that you have no business saying.”

“Seriously, they are people with feelings, ya know? Don’t ask me in front of them if they are my ‘real’ kids, or what their parents did, or if I am going to keep them.”

“Also I don’t need you to count my kids and ask me if I know what causes that and if they are all mine. I assure you I know what causes it: a broken SOCIETY causes it, as well as a call from God to CARE for these children. If you need to have an opinion then find a way to help. The system is broken and a lot more people need to follow God’s call for care of orphans to fix it.”

“Honestly, I am doing the best I can to follow that call. If ‘society’ is not finding a way to help they are part of the problem.”

Standing ovation for this hard working foster mom!

Shared with permission from Humans of Foster Care #HumansOfFosterCare and special thanks to Humans of Foster Care for their amazing stories into the lives of the people that work so hard to help these kids. I’d repost every single one – I love them – but I think that would be cheating as a blogger.   Humans of Foster Care

Motherducker

I have a friend who has an interesting, to say the least, little farm.  She has a chicken – pictured – her name is Dot.  Dot really wanted to be a mom.  I mean really REALLY wanted to be a mom.  Made a nest, wouldn’t get off of it, no eggs though.  Since the ducks had laid eggs, and had plenty of them, my friend stole a few of the ducks eggs a few days before hatching and put them under Dot.  So the ducklings hatched, and Dot the chicken is raising them.  The ducks are raising their ducklings, and Dot is raising her ducklings, and everybody, it seems, is perfectly happy with this arrangement.  Dot is a good mother to her ducklings (duckens?).  So good, in fact, that she takes them swimming, even though chickens don’t like water normally, because that’s what good mothers do.  They do whatever it takes to meet the needs of their kids.

When I saw the picture* she posted of Dot swimming with her duck babies in the pool, the word that popped into my mind was Motherducker.  I’m not sure why, and it wasn’t the swear word version.  And it made me think of OUR kids, and how different our kids can be from us, it’s like, well, they’re ducks and we’re chickens, but still, we roll with it and do whatever we can to raise them to be the best that they can be.  We’ll even get in the water with them if that’s what it requires.  That’s love.  That’s commitment.  That’s integrity.  That’s honesty.  That’s raw, open-your-heart-and-let-it-be-hurt openness.  That’s true unconditional love.  And it’s uncomfortable.  And it hurts.  And it’s not something you can post on Facebook, when other moms are posting, “Oh, my kid just gave me a hug and said he loved me,” and all you got is the list of names your kid has called you so far this morning… and he’s only been up a few minutes.

So the next time your kid calls you a mother***, of the derogatory, swearing kind, just smile and tell them, “No, dear, I’m a Motherducker and proud of it.”

-realmom

  • Photo courtesy of Kim Plante

Artificial Intelligence The Movie

My kids recently watched the movie “Artificial Intelligence.” with the little kid from “I see dead people” in it as the robot.  I watched the first part of the story with them (it’s a long movie!) where the robot is “programmed” aka attached to the mom and then set loose in the woods when the “real” son wakes up from whatever disease he has.  Although I enjoyed the movie the first time around, it was pre-RAD life.  Quite a few things disturbed me this time around, though, and seemed to echo some things in our lives as RAD families.

The robot child was needy, helpless, constantly wanting attention and love.  He was a never-ending hole of “give me love”.  He acted younger than his supposed age, even asking her to dress him when he was well beyond the age when a mother would dress her child.  That whole part of it made me shudder.

Either they cast the role with a child way too old, or they cut out scenes that would have made this clearer, but it seemed the robot child didn’t learn or didn’t know anything.  In the pool scene where the biological child pushes the robot into the pool out of meanness, the robot being terrified of water, the robot grabs onto the human child and nearly drowns him.  What 8 or 9 year old child wouldn’t realize the danger of standing on the edge of the pool and not move themselves away from the danger zone?  The robot acts more like a 3 or 4 year old, than an 8 – 10 year old.  And if the parents realize he has the mentality of a small child, why are they leaving him unsupervised near a pool?

Human child has some serious emotional problems in this movie as well, setting off the baby-ish robot into situations where it gets him in trouble and eventually gets the mother to decide to send him back – aka have him destroyed, and the robot run away to save himself.

The mother and the brother never do treat the robot boy nicely or even like he’s a real person.  Of course he’s not, but he thinks he is, that’s the design of the robot, and that’s what truly creates all the chaos.  All the robot wants is love and that is the one thing he is denied.

Sooooo why am I talking about this old movie that is probably older than my kids?  I see my RAD as the robot in a lot of ways.  Acts helpless in ways he shouldn’t be, acts younger than his age, and like the robot should be damn capable of dressing himself at 10!  The constant need for attention, “Love”, the level of neediness, the never-ending level of need, the babyish behavior, being easily set off by siblings in situations most kids could walk away from.

But then there’s the other side of the coin, the one that makes me feel guilty and question myself, because in the movie, it seems that if the robot child got love then the behavior wouldn’t have been serious and scary, and its’ clear from the beginning the mother doesn’t want the robot-child, nor does she in any way correct the bio child into treating the robot-child like a real person.  She treats him as a thing.  So…. am I doing that?  Treating my child as  a thing, because of his never – ending black hole of neediness, the robotic act of professing and showing love, which is all for show and not real emotion, the babyishness when the child is fully capable of certain things?  Is the babyish acting around the little bit older sibling and the sibling’s reaction leading to this child feeling unloved?  Are we not really providing this child with the love he needs?

In my mind I know the answer to this question, but in my heart, I wonder if we’re doing things the right way.  And yes, of course we screw up, make mistakes, have bad days.  No doubt.  Where my mind goes down the list of the resources we have for this child, the sacrifices we make, the way our family revolves around this one child, I know we are doing and have done everything we can and continue to do so.  But in my heart, of course, fear sets in, is it my fault?  Am I not doing enough?  Am I not loving him enough?  On those bad days when I don’t like him am I breaking him?  Am I making it so he can never heal?

I think we all feel that way.  Truth is, we’re all human.  We all make mistakes.  And although kids aren’t resilient in the sense that they can come through every trauma without it impacting them, they are resilient enough to handle our bad days.  Even if our bad days are nearly half of the time,  our kids are resilient enough to handle them as long as we are doing good more than half of the time.  My son’s therapist says that and I’m clinging to that with everything I got on those bad days, because that’s all I can do.  My bad days are not breaking him or preventing him from healing if I’m short tempered, say the wrong thing, forget the proper therapeutic parenting thing to do, send him to his room instead of “time in”, don’t want endless “not real” hugs, or snap at the endless nonsense questions.  To add to our own stress by fearing that our bad days are permanent, making things even worse, or damaging this child forever, are only taking away from our own mental health, security, and safety.  We are human.  We cannot be programmed to be perfect.

Just hang in there.

-realmom

This generation

As parents of RAD or attachment challenged children, or with mental illness, or other special needs that causes us to cringe when we take them out in public due to their incredibly rude and uncontrollable behavior (that’s NOT due to bad parenting), we (I) might be super-sensitive to every word my kid says that could be taken as rude or offensive.  I focus on my kid.  Recently I’ve been noticing “other people’s kids”.  Kids called normal.  Kids called nuerotypical.  Kids without trauma, kids born without drugs and alcohol in their system, kids who have been raised in a stable environment by the parents who birthed them, parents who feed them, clothe them, and in general, are decent parents.  And those kids are still rude, obnoxious and overall disrespectful to adults, much to the chagrin and angst of the parents.  In fact, a lot of the times, they act like our kids!

This got me to thinking.  I remember my parents talking about how “my” generation was so disrespectful and rude, and I’m sure their parents said the same thing, and so on.  And we are saying it about the generations coming after us.  Could it be that the “collective dna” of humans are still fighting against authority and the inner cave man is still trying to get free?  I don’t know, it’s a thought.

But the reason I ask, is because of this:  Are we asking too much of our kids, kids with trauma, kids with a real reason to be disrespectful to adults in general, and distrust them, to ask them to be Beaver Cleaver, when all around them, literally everyone else, from kindergartners on up, are twerking, calling each other bitches, and arguing with adults and asserting their “own” authority as if they know everything already?  I’m not suggesting let our kids be little assholes – there’s enough of those in the world – but it is making me realize that my kids have a lot more to overcome than just their past.  They also have to overcome their environment and their peers in a way I never had to.  I mean, in my day, “crap” was a bad word.  I clearly remember my parents being angry with me for using the word “man” in a sentence inappropriately, as in, “Hey, man, whatcha doing?”  I laugh at that now, because today, the f* bomb is going off everywhere.  In our nice neighborhood elementary school, the kindergartners are twerking at recess.  Trying to buy my 3 yr old a pair of shorts that or a dress that ain’t hootchie momma is extremely difficult.

So maybe it’s not just “my kids”.  If I really watch and compare, in those situations, frequently my kids are cleaner mouthed and better behaved when adults are nearby than other kids who were raised well from birth and have no issues.  Maybe I would be less stressed if I take a step back and realize that my kids are fighting their environment, too, and I need to teach them the right way, the proper way, to be, so that they can be successful in life, but that I don’t need to be so anxious and upset about it in the moment, or freaked out, because it really is around them constantly.  Not just from birth, or their bio parents and a bad environment, but from the nice neighborhood school, from the well-dressed twins down the street with the mom who drives a Lexus and wears Prada.  And maybe instead of fearing my kids are going to hell in a handbasket due to their potty mouths and disrespectful attitudes, realize that the whole generation is going together – and it’s not MY fault.  Just hng in there!

-realmom

“My kid hates me”.. Things you don’t know before adopting

I was watching a true crime tv show the other day and the cold blooded killer was the grown up son, although in this case, not adopted, no known trauma, although who knows?  He just wanted the inheritance.  Which reminded me of the Mendoza brothers, and their trauma defense (again, who knows?).. and on the same day, reports of the two youngest kids ever to be tried as adults are about to be released from prison after serving their time. In their story, however, abuse and molestation is known, and known by many adults including CPS…

But what about when the abuse, trauma happen before your kid comes to you… and your child hates you?  Not the normal, tantrum, “I hate you!” because they don’t get a sucker before dinner or because you won’t let the teen drive his friends to the movies.  I’m talking a deep-seated hate, a rage, one that is frightening to see even in the eyes of a 3 yr old because you know their intent and will to carry it through, you are the target, even though you’ve done nothing wrong to them, ever?  How do you get past that?

In the beginning, you think, it just takes time.  They’ll see that I’m here for the long term, I’m not going to abandon them, I’m not going to starve them, or beat them, and I love them with my whole heart.  Years pass… and yet, the hate doesn’t diminish, in fact, it seems to grow as the child grows.  Why can’t my child feel my love?  Do I still feel love for my child when the most overwhelming feeling I have is fear?  Fear for the future, fear of turning my back?

No words of wisdom here.  Just hang in there, keep loving, keep trying, because I believe it is making a difference.  And – safety first, yours, other family members, pets – and keep your child safe from doing something they might regret later when they’ve healed.  But don’t give up.  Hang in there.  You are not alone.

-realmom

It’s your turn

I’ve talked a few times about how the retreat I went to in Orlando made such a difference in my life, and how meeting other moms with kids like mine (or worse!) saved my sanity, and how the support and camaraderie and friendship I get from my “tribe” has totally changed my life and my parenting when it comes to parenting these difficult children.   When I’m down, I can reach out via Facebook, text, phone call or private message and get instant responses.  There’s no one really close in my area that’s a part of the group, the closest is an hour away, so the online support means so much to me, and that’s why Orlando (and there are other places there are retreats, but Orlando is the original and the biggest currently) means so much to me.

The first year I went I didn’t know what to expect.  I didn’t expect anything, really.  I didn’t know much about the group, a blogger I followed was going, so I begged her for the information, because I’d never heard of such a thing (there’s others out there? Like us? really?).  It could have been a bunch of crazy women that I wanted to run from, or it could be a time of learning and picking their brains, because for us the diagnosis of RAD was brand new.  We were lost.  I was overwhelmed and lost.  If nothing else, I figured a few days in Orlando would be a good break for me.

Even before the retreat, I was able to get to know my housemates online.  I made friends.  We joked, we laughed, we shared stories.  They understood.  If I said I hated how my house always smelled like pee, they didn’t ask about my dog or cat.  They knew.  If I posted a picture of how my house had gotten destroyed in the 60 seconds it took me to pee, not only did they understand but most of them could produce worse.  🙂  When I had a great day, and connected with my child, they didn’t look at me oddly, they celebrated with me, understanding what a big moment it was.

These women (because it’s a mom’s retreat, sorry Dads, still working on the dad’s retreat) have become my best friends.  I didn’t go for relationships, but that’s what I came home with.  I’ve never been a person who’s had more than one best friend… but that household of women that first year – all newbies – became my best friends.  And every year I add to that number of people I can’t imagine my life without.  For my birthday this past year a bunch of us got together to celebrate.  Another group of us is planning on getting together this summer in another part of the country.  We may be scattered throughout the US and Canada, but thanks to technology, we are connected to each other instantly.  We are not alone.  We are never alone.

I can’t promise you that you’ll make your new besties if you go to this retreat.  I can say that you get what you put into it.  It’s a chance for a break, leave home and the stress behind you, come for a weekend of pampering, or of classes, or of spending a few days sunning by the pool.  This is a time for you to get what YOU need out of the time.  There’s lots of laughter, some tears (sometimes because of the laughter), some people come in a few days early and grab a hotel so they can hit the beach or Disney.  But during the conference – Friday night, Saturday, Sunday – all meals, lodging are taken care  of.  You can have your own room – a King size suite  – or share a twin room for cost purposes.  Transportation from and to the airport Friday and Monday mornings are provided as well.  Only “extras” will cost more.  Some women get mani/pedis, some get tattooes (we have a great tattoo shop down there we work with), we have a group that comes in and does massages cheap as well.  Every year there’s something different, it seems, but the extras are not required.

So if you’re hanging on by a hair, your last nerve is being twanged, and you feel utterly alone and not understood – come to the BeTA Retreat 2016.  It seems a long way off but as soon as you’re registered and assigned a house, you’ll start to meet the people online you’ll be sharing a house with.  You’ll get to know people before you get there.  Shy? Quiet? That’s ok.  Loud? Obnoxious?  That’s ok too.  (Guess which of those I am… ahem…)

Here’s the link to register.  And look me up when you get there.  (And Wonder Woman, yes, I know Wonder Woman.) https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1FfriI5sQhthdH0mQc_W555h_8x1KNNhauWQQq19OUyA/viewform

Welcome to Holland

WELCOME TO HOLLAND

by
Emily Perl Kingsley.

c1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley. All rights reserved

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability – to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It’s like this……

When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”

“Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”

But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around…. and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills….and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy… and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away… because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.

But… if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things … about Holland.