Yep. I’ve thought about it. Done. Finito. Sayonara. How far will a tank of gas get me? Five years ago it was fall break and Karl and I were driving back to Indiana from visiting my parents in Wisconsin, with our 16 year-olds, Phoebe and Lianne, both adopted from China. Lianne needed to read and take notes on the book, 102 Minutes , about 9/11, an important book to be sure, but the worst possible read for an ENL (English as a New Language) student who had procrastinated and was now forced to do her homework in the car. I don’t know if you’ve read it, but it’s long, emotional and incredibly technical. Reading it aloud to Lianne made me want to gouge my eyes out. About an hour into our seven-hour drive, Lianne began the meltdown sequence. She was overwhelmed and had convinced herself that I didn’t care, I wouldn’t help her, and she would fail. Talking, cajoling, explaining, and reasoning weren’t going to stop the inevitable emotional crisis. Karl had a meeting in Chicago, so we got off the highway and headed downtown to drop him off. Lianne was in a silent, brewing fury in the backseat by this time, and Karl was reluctant to leave. In my crazy optimism and desire to handle every situation, I told him it would be fine. I was thinking, “We’re only a couple of hours from home. It will be okay.” We got on Interstate 80/94 and I was in the far-left lane, keeping pace with Chicago rush-hour traffic when Lianne refused to buckle her seat belt, and started playing with the lock on her door. Suddenly, I heard the sound of wind as the back door opened! I swerved over onto the far-left shoulder, threw the car in park and flew out of the front seat. I yanked Lianne’s door the rest of the way open and she tried to make a run for it! I ran after her, grabbed her, and wrapped my arms around her. She kicked and screamed. I picked her up and stuffed her feet first, into the driver’s side door. (As an aside, I lift weights to work out. It has come in handy quite a few times – a 16-year-old in full-raging tantrum can be deceptively strong). She kicked everything off the console as I climbed into the seat holding her tightly. I could feel my heart pounding wildly in my chest. While Lianne kicked and screamed threats at me, I said, “Phoebe, honey, can you reach up here and press the triangle button for Mommy? Can you call Daddy for me?” I have a weird underreaction to stressful situations. Sometimes it’s annoying because I can seem insensitive, but that day it was very helpful. I talked to Lianne until she eventually calmed down and stared ahead catatonically. I kept praying that a kind motorist or a diligent cop wouldn’t stop to see if we needed any help. I could just imagine the conversation, “Yes, officer, this really is my daughter. No, officer, I’m not involved in human trafficking.” About a half hour later, we were still on the shoulder of the highway when Lianne suddenly looked up and said she was sorry. I asked if she was really okay, because Mommy couldn’t drive during rush hour and hold on to her at the same time. She nodded and started picking up the things she had kicked off the console. We finally made it home. Lianne grabbed paper and went right to the kitchen table and started doing homework. I would have liked to go straight up to bed, but I had to clean up my disaster of a house before the window cleaners came in the morning. I trudged down the stairs to the basement and walked back up carrying a tall stack of dirty dishes. I kept thinking, “God sees me. He’s here. He knows what’s going on.” One of the glasses had moldy green juice in it, and when the dishes shifted in my arms on the stairs, the glass tipped over and spilled on my white carpeting. I stood for a minute staring at the disgusting stain and thought, “This is what my life has become, an ugly blot on what used to be beautiful.” I sat down on the steps and started crying. What had happened to my life? What did I think I was doing adopting another child? I obviously had made a mess of my life and hers. Phoebe and Lianne heard me and came over. They took the dishes from me and hugged me and told me everything was going to be okay. Phoebe got me a drink and Lianne brought over the apology letter she had started writing when we walked in the door. I didn’t give up that day. I did what you would have done and what I needed to do as a mom. I told them I was okay. I forgave Lianne. We cleaned up the mess on the stairs. Little by little, with God’s help and the help of our many good friends and family, we started cleaning up the mess that was our life. It was a long, hard process, but we rejoiced with every victory and focused on being happy and loving each other regardless of how we acted. Lianne was baptized the next year and she is a powerful example of how God changes lives. She has a reputation of being calm and extremely loving toward all who know her. Lianne has given me her blessing to tell this story. We may have been through hell and back as a family, but hey, we’re back. Wendy Volkmar