creating a timeline

Our 16 year old daughter doesn’t live with us. I supposed there are many parents who live this ugly reality, although for different reasons. It wasn’t the way things were supposed to go.

We adopted her when she was four, from foster care. There were all kinds of fiery warnings that came with her, along with her sweet six-year old sister.

Sometimes I wonder if people think we were just naive, thinking we could save the world. I know this isn’t the truth, though. The truth is we had a long list of reasons why we should NOT adopt this sibling group of two young girls.

The problem was this: every single reason on the list began with I
I don’t want to adopt a child in kindergarten…
I don’t want to adopt a child with anger issues…
I don’t want to adopt a sibling group of girls.

It was a selfish list.

The more we considered the adoption, the more we realized that it didn’t matter how unreasonable it seemed, the fact remained that it didn’t feel right to say no.

There is a quote that keeps spinning in my mind, much like the obnoxious lyrics of the childhood song, This is the song that never ends…it goes on and on my friends…

The quote fills the quiet space in my mind…

Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.

— Soren Keirkegaard

It taunts me.

And it teaches me.

I’ve realized I need a timeline to attempt to chronicle and understand the events between saying yes to an unreasonable adoption and learning to still be a parent to a child who doesn’t live with you.

I’ve been going through pictures and after being overwhelmed by the memories, finally decided to simplify and only allow two or three photos per year. It is my hope that by putting together pictures + words from each year, I will be able to understand more than I do now. At the very least, perhaps some of the story will become manageable enough to write with more clarity than what I have now.

At first, I thought I would start at the beginning, but then I really listened to Keirkegaard’s words — life can only be understood backwards…

I’ve decided to create this timeline by starting now and working backwards to the beginning. I’ll be working between the most current photo and the first first photo. If you want to follow along, I’ll be posting some wisps of each year, just to try and sort my thoughts. In the end, if I’m lucky, I’ll have a timeline.



  1. Ruth, You always amaze me by your writing that I can feel in my heart! Blessings to you and your family!

  2. The quote you shared reminds me of the opening jingle for the tv show The Goldbergs: “I don’t know the future, but the past keeps getting clearer everyday.” I have always liked that line. I am looking forward to following your reflections backward in time!

  3. Taking time to understand is something many don’t do, Ruth. It feels like that’s why there are memoirs, to figure out the past in order to move forward with our lives. Best wishes in this journey.

    • Hi Linda,
      I needed to hear your wise words. I just finished writing the 2019 part of the timeline and it is rough. I find myself wondering if this is a writing project that is worth the time. I know the answer is yes, and even more, I know your comment will keep me writing. Thank you.

  4. Take it step by step. I enjoy memoirs for the grit that I feel the authors show in order to ‘really’ consult their lives to make connections, to find both the good and the not-so-good of what they missed. And I learn from them making my own connections. Each of us is different and allowed to do it “our way”, so best wishes in doing what you can & when. Hugs to you, too!

    • Making Toast, now years later, stays with me, by Roger Rosenblatt, and more recently – Heartland by Sarah Smarsh and Praying for Sheetrock by Melissa Greene, not exactly a memoir but a powerful history of one man who didn’t give up. But there certainly are many, Ruth. I hope you find a book that is just for you!

  5. Stumbled back to your blog this morning when I read Bonnie’s post. I can’t say it better than Elsie did above. Hugs as navigate this journey.

  6. Reading these the night before Easter. I have treasured you words for many years and admire your strength in being able to write your pain and love. I will pray for Steph and your family…you love her so. Our God directs your path. We got our Kelly at age 18… it has been the most challenging 13 years of my life… I will consider doing a backwards timeline also… finally I am reconciled that our relationship is the way it is and I’m okay that. Most days. Love nancy xo

    • Nancy! I’ve been wanting to be in touch with you…hoping you might consider blogging again. Thank you for reading and commenting. It matters to me. I’m realizing I can write better when I’m pet of a community who is sharing their stories.

      The backwards timeline has been enlightening (and hard to write).