Which Family?

The picture above is of my guys at the History Colorado Center, formerly known as the Colorado History Museum. We went on an outing when I had the day off but Bri-Bri had to work.

A few weeks ago my guys (minus Daniel) visited my mom. She wanted all of us to take a picture together that she could use for her Christmas cards. She got a picture of herself with Matthew and I.

Earlier this year, we all went on a family vacation to visit the Abraham relatives (Bri-Bri’s dad’s side of the family) and Simonson relatives (Bri-Bri’s mom’s side of the family) in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

At one point, we were all wearing our Wisconsin shirts at the zoo in Omaha, Nebraska.

A family near us thought we were from Wisconsin and started talking college football with my brother in law. This Denverite girl just smiled and nodded haha.

All these family things got me thinking about which family I am from. The obvious answer is all of them, but when do I focus on my identity in each one?

I’m a mom to my boys. I’m an extra mom to one and a legal and biological one to another. I’m a spouse to my Bri-Bri. I am part of the Abrahams and Simonson families through marriage. I won’t cringe if Grandma Rosie buys Matthew a Packer’s jersey. And I have grown accustomed to generous servings of ham, potatoes, and various dishes cooked in butter and cheese that my mother in law cooks for Abrahamic gatherings.

I grew up in Denver. At the Colorado History Museum History Colorado Center (seriously, why did they change it?), I explained to Daniel that the Barrel Man was a thing. An awesome symbol of Denver Bronco Pride. And heck yeah, I was proud to show him that little nugget of Denver history. Pa (Jesse O. Sutherland) was born in Colorado Springs, Grandma was an army brat, but all seven of their children were raised in Denver. And everyone except Uncle Jess was born in Denver. I consider myself a naturalized Colorado native even t though I wasn’t born here. When I visit my mom, grandma, or aunt, I remember family gatherings, life growing up, etc. and I’m reminded of my Sutherland roots.

When I read to Matthew, I know my mom’s and grandparents’ emphasis on education is what drives me to encourage him to say words and to want to read rather than watch TV.

When I look into Matthew’s Asian eyes, I’m reminded of the family I never met. I’m reminded of my family in the Philippines. I have no legal connection to this family, but they give me my genetics and they are part of the culture and country of my birth. Matthew will learn about the Sutherland and Abraham families. He will grow up a Colorado native and a Broncos fan. But both of us will have to work at connecting him to the culture of my birth. It will be complicated, but it will enrich his story.


Uncertainty and Abandonment

Within the past two months, hubs and I have had to figure out where we’re living starting in November and childcare for the toddler. Tot’s grandma was our primary childcare provider, but due to health issues, she can no longer continue in that role.

Thankfully, we do have an apartment lined up beginning in November, but having two very large unknowns happen at once really stressed me out.

I’m sure these two things would stress any working mother out, but for me, this uncertainty made my anxiety shoot nearly through the roof.

Apparently anxiety has always been a part of my life. This article on trauma, brain development, and anxiety mirrors countless other articles written over the past decade because researchers have concluded that those of us that have experienced trauma are more susceptible to anxiety. We are always wondering what’s next because we’ve experienced real fear and danger.

I spent hours alone in a crib in an orphanage.

I was sick and only had medical staff to hold me when they had a free moment.

I moved between two orphanages and a foster home before I turned 18 months old.

So, when I fear that I’ll be left alone, that I’ll be abandoned, that I’ll have no one or nothing, that really scares me.

That triggers the anxiety response.

I know I’m loved by my husband and he provides for us. I know I have a stable job. I know I’ll do everything I can to provide for my family. But the fear is real too.

Thankfully he knows that I need some time to myself when I get overwhelmed. Thankfully, he listens when I need to voice my fears. Together we work through my anxiety. And I know that because of my past, this will be a lifelong struggle.

I started out life with a lot of trauma. That will never go away. But I remember that love came into my life, and the love of people around me help get me through.