Friday, June 30, 2006

David's Story Part 32: The Troubles

It feels like there should be an introduction to the next part of the story. David turned 18 in February 2005. He did not anticipate graduating until the spring of 2006. Though he had said before that he wanted to live with us and be supported by the agency until graduation, in January 2005 graduation was a very long way away. He had friends in The City who had their own apartments, including Robert who was his on-again, off-again boyfriend.

I feel like the last 3 months of David's placement is a story in itself. It deserves its own title. How about: "A Portrait of A Codependent."

I obsessed. I analyzed. I schemed, or tried to. I fought with fate. I thought that if I found the right words at the right time I could make things be different.

On a discussion forum I participate in someone published a list of codependent jokes. Here are a few:

How can you tell if a codependent has let go of something? It has claw marks all over it.

You're codependent for sure if, when you die, someone else's life flashes in front of your eyes.

Why did the codependent cross the road? To help the chicken make a decision.

What does a codependent have in common with God? They both have a plan for your life.

You know you're a codie if your serenity prayer is...

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to figure out the best way to manipulate the circumstances so that he will see the light and ...

David's Story Part 1: The Beginning
David's Story Part 33: What happened over break

My birthday party

Well today is my birthday. We are doing a respite starting this afternoon so we all went out to eat last night.

We originally planned to go to a local pizza restaurant for which Hubby had been given a $20 voucher. (All the teachers got them. They can actually spend them at half a dozen locally owned places). Brian said that I would not like the pizza there; it was too greasy. Someone else said that it was hardly a treat since we have pizza at home all the time. Brian tried to convince everyone to go to his favorite restaurant (which was not on the voucher) because "It's Mom's birthday and we should go somewhere she would like."

There was debate. There was whining. I finally announced that I would really like to go to _________ (it's a national chain and I don't advertise).

First, the whining: we left the house at 4:20 and drove to the northwest corner of The City to drop Evan off at his relapse recovery group at 5:00pm. We then drove across to the southeast corner of The City to pick up David. We picked Evan up 15 minutes late and drove to the restaurant, arriving at 6:30. What's two hours in the car? Andrew took a nap and I frustrated entertained myself with sodoku puzzles.

The six of us had a good time. David and Evan carried on. They are very different. Evan is very butch and David is...not. David said something to the effect that "his" room probably looks different now that Evan is in it. Evan replied that the room finally has a masculine touch to it. Everyone laughed, even David. He is a sweet kid.

David is doing really well, for those who are interested. He is still working. He enjoys his job and tells me he is saving for a car. He is living a gay young man and that man's mother. It is the healthiest living arrangement, in my opinion, he has had.

The boys collectively gave me a gift certificate to a high end cooking store (another national chain). Everything there is over-priced, but I found something that I really liked that was on sale. The store was in the mall and everyone ran off to do their own thing, but David went with me. He is not interested in cooking, but he patiently investigated everything in the store. He jokingly tried to talk me into martini glasses because he thought they were pretty, but in the end agreed that the fancy saute pan was the best option...especially since it was 50% off and therefore exactly the amount of my gift certificate.

It was an idyllic evening. I got to go to dinner with all four boys (I thought a lot about Carl and how nice it would be if he were there too). Everyone had a good time.

If that last paragraph were the end of a post in one kids' stories you would be hearing ominous background music. You would know that something bad was going to happen. I started to write a paragraph assuring you that it was just a good day; it is not an omen; life is not going to suddenly get bad. But then I am leaving on vacation in a couple of weeks and Evan will be staying here alone. I'm afraid to jinx it.

next on evan

David's Story Part 31: December 2004


David's hemorrhoids and anal fissures are back and worse than ever...did I tell you? He is on pain meds all the time and missing school. I took him to Quik Care on Thursday last week. He was crampy and passing blood. The doctor gave him suppositories and we scheduled his flex scope for the 23rd. Sunday night he said the bleeding was getting worse and he wanted to see someone so Hubby to him to the emergency room. The doctor examined him and said the hemorrhoids look pretty bad and he cannot see how far up the fissures go. David came back from the exam in more pain than when he left. He was pale and nearly crying. He said that the doctor used some sort of lighted tube to exam him internally. He told the doctor that it hurt, but the doctor did the exam anyway. Hubby said he could hear David yelling from the waiting room.

He has an appointment with the surgeon tomorrow.

I told the surgeon privately how David had once reported having been molested and later denied ever having said that. I also told him how traumatized he seemed to be by the emergency room visit. He told me at the before he went in that he probably would have to do an exam, but afterwards he said he decided it was not necessary. He said that he did not think that an internal scoping was necessary but if it was David could choose between Valium or even full sedation if he wanted. David was visibly relieved.

The surgeon thinks that the hemorrhoids are minor and that David's real problem is the fissures. So he told David that he really, really had to take the stool softeners and the fiber supplements every day. He also really has to use the suppositories. When David said that it hurt too much to use the suppositories he prescribed a cream to use to heal the external fissures first. He told him that if they did not heal they could do surgery but that a certain number of people loose bowel control with the surgery. When we got home David asked if I could get him a pill organizer box so that he could remember to take everything.

Now if we can just get him to go back to school. We have worked it out so that he does not have to attend all his classes. He can go straight to the study skills room and work on his make-up packet while sitting in the comfy chairs they have there. The nice special ed teachers will help him with all the work. He can go for just an hour or two if he wants.

I do understand that it is difficult. He is in pain or he is feeling a little loopy from the pain meds. Still he has now missed 13 days this semester and will have to petition for credit. He can only get that if he has at least C's in the classes, and he won't if he doesn't get the work done.

In the end David had I think as many as 15 absences in some classes. We collected letters from all the physicians who saw him and filled out the petition. He did manage to get C's and he got credit for all of his classes.

He was miserable, frightened, and losing a lot of weight. He told people later that he almost died that Christmas. That of course is not true, although I would not be surprised if David was afraid he might die. He began to feel a little better during Christmas break, but not much. He was not working while he was sick and he was not in school. He was tired and weak.

He started spending a lot of time with Robert in The City. I don't remember to how much we argued about whether that was appropriate. I do remember that I decided it was not worth arguing much about. School would start up soon; David was getting better and would go back to work; everything would go back to the way it was very soon.

David's Story Part 1: The Beginning
David's Story Part 32: The Troubles

David's Story Part 30: Fall 2004

2004-2005 should have been David's senior year, except he had failed every course his sophomore. So he was a junior. His educational plan had shifted while he lived with us. Initially we expected him to do two years while living with us and then go to Job Corps to finish high school. He decided fairly quickly that Job Corps was not for him, and started talking about staying with us for three years. We loved the idea. David's main concern was how much freedom he would have.

There were two issues: our rules and the system rules.

First the system: until he was 18 he could not spend the night anywhere unless there was an adult who had had a back ground check. There were a couple of people he could stay with: Jose, the director of the youth group for GLBT kids; and Betty a lesbian who was also the director of the church youth group. He rarely stayed at Betty's. He liked her, but she was out of the way and then of course there was her partner and their three little girls. David has always been friends with girls, but there is a limit.

Jose's house was cool. He had a giant television, a large video library, and every sort of gaming equipment around. Carl had spent the night there more than once when the youth group was doing something that would run late (like a dance).

In the fall we were working it out okay. David had a finally got a job at a local restaurant and that and school kept him in Our Small Town most of the time. Usually we took him to church with us on Sunday. K, who attended our church, would take him with her and then take her to youth group in the evening. Every now and then he would have a Saturday night off and we would confirm with Jose that he could stay there and we would drop David off on Saturday with Robert.

On Wednesday nights the youth group all met at a coffee shop. There was no program, just kids hanging out. We had a incentive plan with his study skills teacher. If he was caught up on his work she would give him a "ticket" to the Wednesday night youth group meeting. He got a ticket nearly every week. He was keeping up with his work and I had an excuse to spend a couple hours with friend of mine who had moved to The City. Everyone was happy.

David often asked what would happen when he was 18, would he be able to spend the night with other people? We said yes. He wanted to know how much freedom he would have. We kept telling him that we did not have a fixed rule. If he was going to school and working a job, I would understand that I was not going to see him very often. I joked that I would hope that he would schedule in at least one evening a week with us, but that I understood that school, work, and his social life would keep him pretty busy.

David's social life was complicated.

Robert just a bit younger than David. David the year before had suffered harassment from other boys in his very small town and his principal had suggested that if he could, he leave. (I know. If we had known him then we would have called the ACLU.) So David moved in with his aunt and did a GED. When the boys met the spring of 2004 they were both 16. David was living with me and going to high school and Robert was living with his aunt a little more than 100 miles away. In the fall Robert decided he was ready for life in The City as a grown up and he moved into an apartment with some other young men.

Robert of course struggled financially. He moved a couple of times. And there was always some drama going on. Some boy was angry at some other boy. David was either part of the drama itself or the person that everyone seemed to call.

David was fine with us, but his life outside of the family was getting more complicated and demanding more of his time and attention.

In December two things happened: David started passing blood again and Robert moved in with a 22-year-old who had had a background check.

David's Story Part 1: The Beginning
David's Story Part 31: December 2004

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Evan anticipates my father's visit

My father is coming to visit in August for just a couple of days. Evan is nervous because, well, he has not heard really positive things about my father. I assured him that my father would not show up if he were drinking, and that he has mellowed a lot.

Evan was worried about whether my father would be homophobic. I assured him that he was not. I have never heard him express anything on the issue, but he got along fine with Carl and David.

"So what does he do when he is here?"

"Not a lot. Let's see. He gets a room at the Inn and likes for the kids to go swimming up there. He usually takes everyone out and buys them presents, and he takes us out to dinner. Of course this time he is visiting my sister first so he might not be spending as much money as has he has before. Now that he is older he takes more naps."

"But what does he do when he is in the house?"

"Let's see... OH! Evan! He watches sports! You can tell him that no one has watched a sport event with you for a year. He will be happy to watch something with you!"

Evan lit up. "Really!"

Finally, my macho boy will have a "real man" to watch a ball game with. He is so excited.

David's Story Part 29: Summer of 2004

Much of 2004 was uneventful as far as living with David was concerned. There were issues every now and then. He did not do as well in school as he could. He failed to get along with an aide in his study skills class (that could be a big deal). I could see how he tended to see people as good or bad. It was like he was in many ways still that abandoned four-year-old boy. There were bad people in the world who hurt him and those he did not want to deal with, ever. There were also good people. Good people were those who failed to give him what he wanted/needed. I don't think he distinguished between what he needed and wanted.

David and the family rarely had any conflicts. He seemed to think our rules were reasonable. He liked us. He got along with everyone.

He and Andrew especially had a wonderful relationship. They could argue endlessly about nothing; and they were clearly both having a wonderful time. When we in an office waiting for someone they started arguing about where orchids grow (I probably shared this story several times). I stopped them and asked them if they realized what they were arguing about. Did they really think this topic was worthy of all that energy? They agreed it was a stupid thing to argue about and so agreed to find another topic. I don't know which they decided on, although I know they considered arguing about which cola was the best.


David's brother DB1 had his appointment yesterday with the supervisor at the agency for which I work. He is on his way into the program. His current H&W parents are being trained and will be licensed by the agency which will take two months or less. DB1 won't be officially in the permanency program until he is living with a family in the program so he will not be eligible for full services until they are finished. Still it is good that he is coming in. It will make it easier for the two boys to get together. If they have the same social worker it will be even easier.

David has begun to fib sometimes. He was so careful to be so totally truthful in the beginning. It is just small things. He says he wants to go to Jose's (the youth group leader) house for the 4th of July. "Well, has he invited the group over?" "Not the whole group, just a bunch of us that hang out a lot." "Did he invite you over, or did you invite yourself?" "He invited us."

Of course it turns out that David did ask if he could hang out there and Jose said yes, inviting the rest of the gang over too if they wanted. The essential part that interested me is whether Jose's privacy is being respected. The essential part to David is whether Jose is really welcoming them.

If these are my problems with him I am still count myself very lucky.

David is gone on the National Youth Event with the church youth group. He asked to room with K (a lesbian friend of his). The local leaders saw the sense of that, of course. The national organizers insisted that it could not be done. The gay boy would be roomed with other boys and the lesbian with other girls. You should know that at this event there are many sessions about gay and lesbian youth and how the church can do a better job at meeting their needs. The UCC is very progressive.

To be fair, the national leaders said that it was contrary to the policy of the university where the event is being held.

Still it is ironic.

Greetings from Maine!
It is as always breath-takingly beautiful here. I think it may be one of the loveliest places on earth. The water is so close. When it is quiet inside you can hear the surf even with the windows shut. There are moments when the sun is low and the water is active but without large waves and the light dances and sparkles across the water. I love it here.

David is doing better than Carl did. He does not complain about being bored.
He and Andrew and Brian go for walks along the beach. At low tide they go to Whale Cove to collect crabs, snails, and the occasional Grunnel Fish to keep in a bowl on the table for the day. We bought him yarn and he is about half-way through the afghan. He and I play Gin Rummy regularly. We decided to purchase a small spiral notebook and keep a running score throughout the vacation. For a while he was more than 500 points ahead of me. I finally caught up and was for a short while even ahead of him.

Brian has been keeping us on our toes with some sort of virus. Friday night his temp was 103. In the morning he was fine. Saturday evening it went to 101. Sunday morning he was fine. Sunday evening he had what appeared to be a migraine. He was nauseous (finally even threw up), and kept asking for more water. I looked it up on the web, thirst is a symptom of migraines in children. Monday night he had fever of 100.3. Last night he was fine...thank goodness. Oh...throughout he has had an ear ache which also gets better and worse. We talked to Hubby's cousin who is a PA. He assures us that if the temp and ear pain are fluctuating it is viral, not bacterial, and there is nothing to do but treat symptoms.

I hope that the migraine is related to the virus. I would hate for that to be a regular part of his life.

Andrew loves it here as much as anyone. He plays D&D here with his third cousin who is two years younger than he. That has never seen like much, but now Andrew is 14 and the cousin is 12. That is a significant difference.

David's Story Part 1: The Beginning
David's Story Part 30: Fall 2004

David's Story Part 28: A Health Issue


David, by the way, has given me something new to worry about. He has had blood in his stool. From his report he has had a lot of blood. We took him into the doctor’s office and they ruled out the simple things (e.g. hemorrhoids). They told him that he is hemorrhaging somewhere (don’t you love it when they state the obvious). He has an appointment on Tuesday for test results.


Daivd is still passing blood. At first I just thought he meant that there was blood in his stool, but apparently there has been more than that suggests. The physican thinks that it is probably internal hemorrhoids, even though the blood is dark and never bright red. (Dark blood means that it sat in his system for a while). He is sufficiently confident about this that he went ahead and gave David a prescription for that. David will be going in next week for an upper GI to see if he has an ulcer and the week after that he will have his lower colon "scoped." It is not a full colonoscopy though.

Of course when David is anxious he completely looses his appetite. The physican prescribed an anti-anxiety drug.

David has said that what he really needs a puppy. Hah! David's younger brother, Steven's foster parents' Cocker Spaniel has recently had puppies. (got that?) Of course there is NO WAY that is going to happen. Right now we have two cockatiels, two rats, two cats, a firebelly toad, and a dog.


IBS was on my list of things to worry about. Dr. Kunz seemed to rule it out based upon the fact that David had no other symptoms. He is losing blood. It is unclear whether to count his loss of appetite as a symptom since he does that whenever he gets anxious.

David is beginning to eat, just a little. He had a handful of cashews today.

His upper GI went okay. He said that the stuff kept moving through his stomach so he had to keep drinking more. We are thinking less that it is an ulcer though; the suppositories seem to be working. His appetite for solid foods is slowly coming back too. He is only eating enough for the average 4 year old, but it is something.

The doctor's office called and said that David's GI showed that his stomach is normal, no ulcer. Since the suppositories are working and since David really doesn't want to be probed, Dr. Kunz has agreed not to that test. So we are going to assume that the problem is solved. If the symptoms come back then David will have to have further tests.

David's Story Part 1: The Beginning
David's Story Part 29: Summer of 2004

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Communication with Hubby

I found this in an email to Mary while I was looking for writings about David. It has absolutely nothing to do with David or even with foster care, but it is so very typical of communication with my darling husband. I had to share:


Yesterday I asked Hubby if he would pick up a card shuffler for me. His parents had sent me money for my birthday and it is a silly thing that I would never buy for myself. On the other hand, the card games I recently bought have double sized decks and really stiff cards. And his parents like it when I spend their birthday money on silly things I would not buy for myself. So I told Hubby that I had $13 left from the money they sent and had decided to add $17 of my "allowance" on the shuffler. Would he pick it up for me? ( much does the shuffler cost?)

Anyway he came home and told me that he went to the store and told the man that he was here to pick up the $17 shuffler his wife wanted. The man told him that they no longer had the $17 model in stock..."Did she tell you it was here?" (Now it is clear to me that by "she" the man at the store meant the woman who works at the shop. It is just a little store and only the two of them work there. But Hubby says that he is sure that the man meant me. How'er it was, Hubby confirmed that "she" had told him it was there. So the man got the $30 shuffler off the shelf and told Hubby that he would sell him this one for $20.

I love him...sometimes though... When I was researching for a place to board the dog while we went on vacation I told him that the vet charged $12.50/night. "A NIGHT? How much do they charge for the days?" The sad part is that he was really serious.

Anyway...I guess I got the shuffler for 1/3 off

We had a similar converstation the other day and afterwards Evan said, "You know. That's the only thing that you two yell at each other about." This time I was confused, so he explained, "The only time you get mad at him is when he doesn't listen. You two just don't fight about anything else."

next on Evan

David's Story Part 27: A Death


Queenie (the dog) has stopped harassing the cockatiels. We put down a scat strip which gives her a nasty carpet shock when she touches it and attached balloons to the seed tray thingy that surrounds the outside of the cage. (Hubby took Queenie into a different room and popped some balloons so as to show her how very terrifying they are).

Even when David moves the birds from their big play cage in the living room to the smaller sleeping cage in his room Queenie stays calm. Someone just puts their hand on her collar, but it feels like it is just a precaution. Queenie sometimes doesn't bother to watch.

And we let the cockatiels wing feathers grow out. The usual advice is to clip their wings so that they don't fly out the door but to let them grow if there are predatory animals in the house to that they can fly UP.

All good in theory, unless you have a particularly stupid bird who flies TO the predatory animal. Queenie did what any self-respecting dog would do if a bird flew to her. She knocked it out of the air and grabbed it. She had Angel by the wing and it took Hubby a while before he got her to let go.

Anyway, we took Angel to the vet's this morning. Her wing is severely fractured and they will splint it. She will have to go back to the vets regularly to have her splint and bandage changed for a while, but she will live. She will not fly again, but as the vet said, flying is what got her into this mess.

Angel died in the night.

We brought her back from the vet with her wing bandaged and antibiotic drops to put in her water. She was very sedate, but I was hoping that was just because she was in pain. David said that he had seen her eat and drink, so I took that as a good sign too. But in the morning she was dead.

I wrapped her up so that we can bury her this evening.

Al (the remaining bird) was moping. We got him a mirror but that did not seem to help all that much. I told David that I would let him spend some of his savings on another bird if he wanted. He decided to and today we got another lutino, like Angel, only male. They hit it off right away and are now both in the cage—making lots and lots of noise.

Angel was buried in what we have begun to call the "pet cemetery." Between the driveway and the fence there are now buried half a dozen rats and two birds.

David's Story Part 1: The Beginning
David's Story Part 28: A Health Issue

David's Story Part 26: The Prom

Now why can't I find messages to either Mary or Rita about the Prom. Probably I told Rita everything over the phone, but surely I wrote to Mary.

David at first debated whether he wanted to go to the prom. His study skills teacher encouraged him to go. She said that sure, out gay kids had gone last year. So he asked Robert, whom he had begun to date. He and Robert rented co-ordinating tuxes. They were adorable. When he first bought tickets they sold him two singles. He realized later that that he had over-paid and he went to the office and explained that Robert was his date and he should have bought tickets for a pair. He told me that the coach of one of the women's teams was the one who helped him fill out the paper work and get the refund. "She was really happy to do it. I mean really happy."

They went to the prom, hung out with David's friends, and had a wonderful time. They did not expect any problem, since there had been none the year before, and they did not experience any. A good time was had by all.

And then after the prom:


I just found out today that David was the first person to come to the Our Small Town High School prom with a date of the same sex. His study skills teacher, who had been encouraging him to go, had told him that there were several openly gay kids who went last year. It was only today that she mentioned that they had not come with (real) dates.

It was sneaky of her, but I am glad she did it. David might have been anxious otherwise.

There was no fan-fare. No protest. No publicity. Just two kids who went to the prom.

David's Story Part 1: The Beginning
David's Story Part 27: A Death

David's Story Part 25: David's New Counselor


I took David to see his new counselor yesterday. His name is “Tom”.

He works a lot with teens in the foster care system and has a style. I am not certain that it is the best with David though I can see how it might be effective with other kids. He was so very...straight. At one point he told David that he was from southern California and found The City to be very conservative, very redneck.

He asked how difficult it was for him to be gay here. Other than that moment it seemed to me that his style was calculated to make redneck kids feel comfortable.

David seems willing to give him a chance, so I will too.

He was very different from the other counselor I told you about in every way. When David would tell him about some horrible part of his childhood the other guy (who I really like) did not give any emotional response.

We were talking with him about how anxious David gets when I would be even a little bit displeased with him. The other counselor asked David to tell him about the first person who made him feel unsafe. David told him about his father … The counselor just nodded and calmly said, "So it is understandable that you don't feel safe when Beth is angry. Intellectually you know that you are safe though, don't you?"

Tom asked David to tell him about his parents and David did not have much to say. I asked David what was the longest his mother had left him alone to take of his brothers. David said maybe four days. "So you took care of everyone?" "Yes." "Made sure they got fed?" "Yes." "I like you. Good for you. But God! Don't you just miss the time when we could deal with people like that? Now we give them a welfare check and let them hurt their kids more. You can just hear the sucking sound."

I found that offensive, though I guess he was trying to give David permission to express his anger. So I will keep my mouth shut.

I always had mixed feelings about Tom's work with David. David had stereotypical ideas about what it meant to be gay, and Tom just fed right into it. It bothered me a great deal. On the other hand, Tom has a history of doing really good work with kids in foster care. Hubby and I agreed though. When the social worker to give us an assessment we said that we thought he was a good counselor for street-wise straight kids.

David's Story Part 1: The Beginning
David's Story Part 26: The Prom

David's Story Part 24: Reflecting on David's Decision

Rossecorp who makes me feel loved and appreciated by commenting here often (I reallly like comments) recently wrote a post about David's decision to separate from his brothers. It is also a comment about the social workers willingness to accept it.

My initial reaction was both admiration of David for being willing to do that, and anger at the world that it should make sense for him to do it. Unlike Rossecorp it never occured to me that the social workers should have fought that decision.

I don't know if anyone tried to talk him out of it. I don't know if anyone recognized the complexity of the problem and told him that they would look for a family that would really take care of his younger brothers so that he did not have to, and love him too. Certainly there was no documentation in his file of that being an issue. Just the note that they were put up separately but with notes that adoptive parents should work to keep the kids in contact with each other. I did not meet him until after his brothers had been placed in an adoptive home and David had been accepted into my agency.

Though the notation in the file was clear, if you asked David at that time what he felt about being separated he would tell you that he was relieved, that he had taken care of his brothers all his life and it felt good to just be a teenager.

I do understand Rossecorp's anger though. I remember when I first started caring for Carl and it would make me so angry when people who said things like, "He is so lucky to have found you." When Carl was giving us a little grief early on a social worker, who happens to be gay, told him, "This family is a gift from God. You know that, right? We don't have another one like them."

The problem with these comments can be seen using Rossecorps analogy. Would anyone tell a biracial child that he should be grateful that they finally found the one white foster family in the area that would treat him like a human?

Things do seem to be getting better though. Hubby was asked to represent PFLAG at a conference for state social workers a year and a half ago where they were all told that failing to be accepting and affirming of gay kids could result in losing their licenses. A friend of mine was told by a director of a private group home that contracts with the state, that he was unwelcome on the property. The director was told by the state that he had to reverse his policy on homosexual foster parents or lose all of his state contracts. Foster parents, at least at my agency, that homosexuality is on the non-discrimination policy they all have to sign.

So it is looking up, at least at the policy level.

I hope this post does not sound like I am trying to argue with anything that Rossecorp has to say. I actually agree and her post brought up all the feelings of outrage and sadness I had not felt for a long time.

I survive on hope. I lobby the legislators. I write the letters. I go to PLFAG meetings. I take every opportunity I have to educate. Sometimes I get angry and want to cry. Sometimes I do cry.

I also see more and more out gay kids. When Carl came out, he was the only one at the high school. David was cheerful, out and well-liked and other kids followed him out of the closet and into the world. Evan went to the high school and found other out kids already there, some of which had followed David out the year before.

So I see a gradual improvement for my boys, even in Our Small Town in this reddest of the red states.

David's Story Part 1: The Beginning
David's Story Part 25: David's New Counselor

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

David's Story Part 23: An Emotional Time


David's special education teacher called to today to say that David felt he could not cope with the day and really wanted to come home. I went to get him and he was actually crying. David doesn't cry. He told me that the last time he cried was when he was 8 and his mother told him that her new boyfriend didn't want him around and he needed to leave. (It is not clear to me whether she meant for the afternoon or forever, as he understood. In any case he "ran away" to a friend's house and she did not retrieve him for several days.)

So I brought him home and sat in the big comfy chair and comforted him. It turned out that the problems are pretty typical teenage stuff. Robert, the cute boy, has wanted to date him for weeks. David has been uncertain. He told Robert that he would have to know him a lot better first. Robert, who has not be molested or abandoned, does not understand David's extreme caution. Robert cornered and kissed him this weekend and David kissed back, which he thinks he shouldn't have. He tried to back off again and Robert pouted.

Meanwhile, another boy, who has a crush on Robert, called David a b*tch for not staying away from Robert.

K* got mad at David and called him a b*tch because David told her that he had to have a ride home on Sunday at the last minute since Robert was not going to give him a ride home after all. (In fact he could have called us.)

Andrew, not my Andrew but another friend of David's, recently came out to his mother (who is freaking out) and keeps calling David for support. Andrew called last night and kept David on the phone until 1:00am.

Once David got off the phone with Andrew he called Jeff, where Robert was supposed to be, to talk. Jeff told him that Robert was with some other kid. I forget this other kid's name but David says he is “a wh-re and ugly too.” Jeff also told David that he should not get involved with Robert because Robert did this sort of thing and he would just get hurt.

David was so upset he did not get to sleep until 4:00am.

So today at school David fell apart, and once he started feeling bad he could not stop. He said that he felt like throwing up; that he was thinking about cutting himself -- he would not really do it because it was stupid, but partly he thought it would help.

Anyway, we called his social worker who dropped everything and came to the house. Ruby and I agreed that David's feelings were normal, that he was not likely to hurt himself, but that he had not allowed himself to feel pain for so long that he did not realize that this is what it felt like. We also agreed that there was an up was good that he was letting himself cry and feel, it meant that he felt safe.

However, David got it into his head that he should check into the hospital. It had occured to him to cut himself and he knows that if you think you might do that then you should go to a hospital.

In the end that is what we did. Ruby took him to the psychiatric hospital in The City.

I cannot visit him until tomorrow.

I don't think that David needed to be in the hospital, but he needed to know that we would take him seriously if he thinks he does. I do hope though that he dislikes it there -- I want him to be more motivated to take care of himself.

When I said that David had never dealt with this stuff I did not mean that these sorts of things had never happened. I meant that he had never dealt with it; he had never let himself feel.

David's friend Andrew called twice last night. He is falling apart. His mother is crying because she wants to be in heaven with him and now he is going to go to hell. His cousin knows that he is dating a boy and has threatened to tell his mom. I was happy to chat with him, but I was glad that David was not in home. Andrew could not see past his own crisis to recognize that other people might not have the resources to help him. We need to get him mother into PFLAG -- or get her a visit with one of the supportive pastors in the area. I will put together a packet of information to give to her.


Well, I finally have the energy to write back.

David was released from the hospital Wednesday afternoon. Everyone agreed that he did not need to be there. He complained about all the silly rules, but in a humorous way. We hope that he has decided not to use running to the hospital as a coping mechanism.

I still think taking him was the right thing to do though. He did not need to be there, but he needed to know that we would believe him if he thought he did.

Remember David's friend Andrew? His mother received a note in the mail early last week. It claimed to be from the neighborhood watch association but there was no signature or return address. The letter said that though she might be unaware of it, Andrew had been seen kissing another young man in the front yard and, as they did not want predators in the neighborhood, they expected her to do something about it. If she did not they would call the police.

Hubby talked to his school's resource officer about it. He said that what happened to Andrew was harassment and that any officer in the Our Small Town Police Department could be counted on to help. What they needed to ask for was for the officer to meet with the neighborhood watch association president and to meet with Andrew and his mom on the front lawn. The officer would be very friendly and be certain to shake Andrew's hand where everyone could see.

K is the girl whose mother died in January. David went with me to the memorial.

David's Story Part 1: The Beginning
David's Story Part 24: Reflecting on David's Decision

David's Story Part 22: Report from a conference


Hubby, David and I went this week to a "shared learning experience" in Seattle. The agency is coming up with a new statement of core values and effective practices and they are bringing in workers, parents, and youth from different regions for feedback. We were fed marvelously and spent the entire first evening listening to people tell us how important it was that they not talk so much and that this weekend was about listening. (Oh the irony.) On Saturday after yet more being quiet and being told how much they wanted to hear my thoughts, we were put into discussion groups to discuss various points of the "permanency framework."

My group was supposed to share effective practices in areas of protecting youth from abuse and meeting educational objectives (remember that, it's important). I was paired up with another foster mother and we listed youth groups, working closely with teachers, and helping the kids to develop multiple community connections. We shared in some detail some of the ways we have set up incentive programs with the kids. Then all the pairs reported to the small group. We went first and all the social workers nodded politely. Then the social workers started talking about how frustrated they were with the current "strength based approach," and how difficult it was to find time to do assessment properly. Their conversation drifted around and they ended up agreeing that they needed to remember that they were not the "hub" -- the youth and the parents were the hub. Then when our group had to report back to the everyone our spokesperson left out the comments the other foster parent and I had gave and (I kid you not) reported that they had talked about how important it was to do a better job of listening and responding to the parents and kids.

As frustrated as I was with this aspect of the "Shared learning experience" it was a good thing for David. There was a graphic of a tree that was on everything for this conference. I was a drawing of a big shade tree and the roots were also drawn. During the speeches David was pretty bored and he whispered to me that the tree's roots were not nearly deep enough, so we doodled on it together and drew deep roots...lots of roots. His social worker saw it and later one of the conference organizers bought David a souvenir insulated coffee cup as payment for it. They said that they wanted to use his drawing for the next version of the conference.

David's Story Part 1: The Beginning
David's Story Part 23: An Emotional Time

David's Story Part 21: Lobbying the Senate


Monday David and I are going to the State House to participate in the lobbying the senate event. We will be in teams of three and will be assigned different senators to catch between committee meetings. I am hoping that David and I are teamed up with someone who has done this sort of thing before. I really wish the senators would be in their offices; the whole hallway thing bothers me.

I need to write to the senators this time. I am thinking about telling them that
I do not need a reply; it is so difficult to read all the responses from the conservatives.

I like reading the responses from the people who are on the correct side of the issue though. I want to be polite and respectful though. Will I ruin the tone of the letter if I say, "If you decide that you must support the amendment, it is not necessary to send me your justification for doing so"?

Well, the lobbying went okay. Andrew and Hubby wanted to go to, so we all went.
We were the most obviously heterosexuals there. Anyway, we were assigned 5 different senators. My actual senator clearly wants to vote against it and needs to know that he can and keep his job. When we asked him if he would support the committee chair if she decides to kill it in committee (as she is rumored to be planning on doing) he said "absolutely."

We had one senator say that she was absolutely opposed to it and another that he was in favor of it. One only senator said that he had not read the bill yet and was very interested in what we had to say. Another was very passionate about the definition of marriage, and kept telling us that it was safe to do this because "civil agreements" were available to gay and lesbians. (By "civil agreements" she means specific legal documents like durable power of attorney for health care.) If we can convince her that the amendment will endanger those agreements we may be able to get her vote.

I hated talking to her by the way. She had this huge engagement/wedding/anniversary ring. She kept waving her left hand in the air, telling me that she supported gay people but didn’t understand why they have to flaunt their relationships.

Anyway, the four of us made for a very sympathetic group. We may have done some good today.

David's Story Part 1: The Beginning
David's Story Part 22: Report from a conference

Evan: Absences

Evan, after a couple of phone calls, got an appointment for 2:30pm.

School called, "This is Evan's third absence. If he doesn't bring a doctor's note I will have to drop him." (He will get a note from the doctor that will cover the afternoon class. I am not confident that it will cover the morning.

I told Evan about the absences. He called the school. "I was there the 13th. I know I was." Conversation continues. Evan hangs up,"B*tch." (This last was spoken to the phone. He was polite with the woman at school.)

Me: "So what did she say?"

Evan: "She said she would look into it. You know. She's going to fix it."

Me: "Oh."

Now here's the fun part about Evan. He will give himself a good talking-to. He will be much harder on himself than I ever would be. All I have to do is look at him waiting to get to get a word in.

Evan: "You know I didn't cut. I was in school that day. I WAS! I am not a cutter. Okay, sometimes I have cut, but every time I cut I was here. You know that. Besides, what would I do in Our Small Town anyway?" (He has a point there.) "You don't believe me! I can't believe you don't believe me! Stop giving me that look!"

Me: "I'm just waiting to..."

Evan, interrupting: "I don't cut. There is something wrong with the record they will just have to figure it out. Do you believe me?"

Me: "Yes. And I have complete confidence in your ability to figure this out with the school."

Evan: "Good. So if they give me a hard time will you tell them?"

Me, grinning: "Sure. I will be happy to tell them that if you weren't in school I have no idea where you were."

Evan, walking back to his room: "I can't believe this!"

next on Evan

Evan: school and doctor visit

Last evening Evan showed me an infected cyst on his chest, actually a cluster of them. There is a doc-in-the-box near my Al-Anon meeting so I dropped him off on the way (unfortunately he finished before the meeting really got going so I had to leave early).

The doctor (or nurse practitioner or physician's assistant) treated it, gave him a prescription for oral and topical antibiotics and told him to see his regular physician today. So Evan is staying home. His chest bleeds when he moves much, he tells us, and he is afraid it will bleed through to his shirt, besides he has to see the doctor today.

Now I know he feels badly and all. I know he needs to see the doctor. I also know that summer school has a two absence limit that they are pretty serious about. This is his second. If he doesn't get in today...

But this is me borrowing trouble. One day at a time and all that. I will feel better when he actually has an appointment for today.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Evan's Job and other frustrations

So a former student called to ask if Evan needed a job. She is now a manager at the customer service counter at the grocery store and really needs some new employees. Evan talked to her, found out that the grocery store pays $2.00/hour more than he is getting at the sandwich shop and took the new job (of course). He went to work at the sandwich shop on Saturday and gave his two weeks notice and worked his shift.

He came home complaining that the owner treated him poorly the entire time. Now it is difficult to know what exactly that means. I am sure the man is upset about it. He has an enormous turn-over there, but then he is paying minimum wage.

Anyway, on Sunday Evan called in sick and insisted he was sick even when the people who were there called him back saying that other people also did not show and it was just the two of them and they were swamped.

It makes me sad. I got angry at Evan about it. I want to be clear that I decided to get angry -- to show a little emotion. I did not make a big scene, but I did not want to have a long converstation and I did want to do my parental duty and clearly express my disapproval. So I "gave him a piece of my mind" for about 30 seconds and then let it go.

I had a long talk with someone yesterday about my anxiety about leaving Evan home alone. In the conversation I was able to reframe it all. What would I do if I were leaving any other teenager, who had never been alone and had no driver's license, alone in the house? Well, I would ask people to check in on him occassionally. Duh. I would make sure he had a long list of phone numbers of people he could call.

The recovery work is mostly really good for me, but it is also exhausting and confusing. I am still having a difficult time determining when my feelings are the sort of thing I should "let go" of and which are the ones I should act on.

But I am hereby giving myself permission to be a worried mommy.

Excuse me while I go next door to tell the neighbors that they ABSOLUTELY should call the police if there are loud parties or any sort of suspicious activity at all.

Now it is too bad that some of y'all don't live in town. I would SO be calling you right now!

David's Story Part 20:Planning Ahead

To Ruby

David wanted to talk yesterday about his "third year" (2005-2006). You know he had said before that he might want to stay with us that year, take a couple of classes at the high school and then graduate. He does not think he wants to go to Job Corps to do both trade and school; he says that he does not think he would like bouncing back and forth like that. Yesterday he said that he was also thinking that by that time he might not want to live at home either. He would be 18 and then 19 years old and usually people have more freedom and by that time he would not want to live at home. Even if we did not give him a curfew it would be strange ... Hubby often ends up sleeping on the sofa in the living room and he would disturb him coming in.

Anyway, we talked about two different options. I told him that if he was still with us it was at least possible that he could change rooms with Brian which would give him more separation from us. He wanted to know if the agency would allow him and Andrew to have rooms on the same floor like that. I told him I thought that after he had been here two years it was probable. He seemed somewhat reassured by that but wanted to know if the agency would still support him, since he was still going to high school, but in his own apartment.

We talked about it for a while and eventually I summed it up saying, "You will be 18 so it is not a matter of asking for permission. If you want to move out you are allowed. What you need to know is what transitional services you would be eligible for. Based upon what happened with Carl I would expect that Ruby would help you to get housing vouchers which pay, I think, about 1/3 of your rent. She would help you to find an apartment where they would be accepted and they would probably keep paying your medical bills. Ruby would keep helping you access services and she might be able to buy you some clothes. I don't know if there is anything else that they would pay for, but I am pretty certain that they would not give you any money directly." I told him that I was just speculating and that he needed to have this conversation with you.

I am pleased that David is thinking about this. Carl never wanted to think about transition. He wanted to pretend it was not going to happen. David is thinking about what he wants and asking intelligent questions about what other people will do for him and what he will need to do for himself.

From Ruby
Thank you for the update. He is thinking which is good. You gave him good information. Thanks again. See you soon. Ruby

David failed every single class is sophomore year. His birthday is in February and he would turn 18 in what should have been his senior year. Given that he had learning disabiities no one ever thought it was a good idea for him to take to English classes at one time or even take an overload. He never liked any of the options: stay with us a third year; go to the alternative high; go to Job Corps; get a GED. Officially he chose to stay with us, but he always expressed concern about how much freedom he would have.

David's Story Part 1: The Beginning
David's Story Part 21: Lobbying the Senate

David's Story Part 19: David's Brother


David called his brother, DB1, and his adoptive dad, “Jerry”, last night. You might remember that a while back Db2 left Jerry’s house, which is in another state, and came back to foster care here. Db2 is in a special home for kids with medical disabilities. In Db2’s case, the disability is FAS. Jerry did not want to give Db2 back, but his behaviors were getting too extreme. John already had a previously adopted son and John felt his son was not physically safe. There was a lot of debate about what to do about Db1. In the end, Db1 insisted on staying. He is 13 now and he knows what his chances are of being adopted by anyone else at his age.

Except that it turns out that Db1 is now lonely and miserable. He is failing classes (all except band) and hiding in his room all the time. Jerry is distraught. David spent an hour and a half talking with them and then was interrupted when Db1’s social worker called Jerry. She is planning on going to get Db1 early next week to bring him back here.

No one can get Db1 to be clear about what he wants now. He says he does not miss
Db2 (who after all just left) but does miss David (whom he has not seen for nearly a year). Db1 would talk about things he wanted to do with John in the future and then talk about how he was moving back here right now. John is afraid that if Db1 leaves (which he is) that he won’t come back.

David is very calm, but I know he is bothered. You may remember that David separated himself from them so that they could be adopted. That seemed to work and for the past six months they were safe and far away and no longer David’s responsibility. He was responsible for them for so much of his childhood; it has been good for him to know that someone else was taking care of them.

Anyway, the plan is that Db1 will be placed in a home close to Db2's home.
The two families already work together so the boys will get to see each other.
They will also be going to the same school as younger brother Db3. David thinks that this is a huge mistake. David would like to see Db1 be a in the same program and be close to him.

Ugg. All the drama.

Also…the State worker reports that David’s other brother is also back. She says he would like David to call.

Remember David's two brothers Db2 and Db1? Db1 returned to foster care in our state about 3 weeks ago. David talked to him on the phone as soon as he got here, but that was all. This morning Db1's new mother, “Cathy,” called to say that Db1 had been crying because he missed David so much; could we spend some time with them today?

So we met up in The City for lunch at Panda Express and then went to the Discovery Center. As soon as Db1 saw David he started grinning. I don't think he stopped smiling the entire 3 hours we spent together. Db1 is a quiet sweet kid.

Cathy has been doing foster care for only 6 months, and Db1 is her favorite kid.
She is hoping that Db1 will be accepted into the agency/program for which I work and she will be able to keep him. First though the state wants to put him up for adoption again. Cathy thinks it is a bad idea; he has already experienced 2 failed adoptions. David agrees. I think Db1 will probably end up in the program; he is 13 years old.

So we will try to get the boys together about once a month or so.

David's response to his brothers was always interesting to me. He had separated from them to give them a better chance and once he had he realized how much he liked not being responsible for them. When he found that their placement was not working out he was quietly frustrated. For a while I thought that maybe he would want Db1 to move in with us. We talked about it and I told David that if he wanted to share a room with his brother we would take him. David was quite clear that he really did not want to do that.

David never called his brothers, but he would periodically call their parents. He seemed to want to be confident that someone else was taking good care of them so that he did not need to worry. Whenever Db1 would want to see him though, David would drop everything. On this first occasion he was asleep. It was a Saturday morning. I woke him, asked him if he wanted to go and how quickly could be be ready. He got right up and said, "Fifteen minutes." I had no idea he could get ready to do anything in fifteen minutes.

David's Story Part 20:Planning Ahead
David's Story Part 1: The Beginning

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Positive influences in my life

Rossecorp asks: "Thank you for answering my question. Now I have another one for you: How have you managed to heal so much and become as healthy as you are?"

First let me point out that Rossecorp correctly does not ask how it is that I am healthy. I am on a journey and am some days quite unhealthy. However, as I see it: here are the factors that have contributed to my well being.

My mother:
My mother left my father for the first time when I was five and kicked him out for good when I was seven. She was lonely for much of my life, but she never brought another abusive man into our lives. I understood that my mother thought we were worth more than that. We deserved to be treated well and it was better to be lonely than to be hurt.

She always let me set my boundaries with my father. Well, not always, there is the famous dentist phone call, but most of the time. When I announced at thirteen (fourteen?) that I was not going to be visiting my father anymore she said, "Okay." She did not even ask why. I told her in a day or so what had happened between us, but she did not ask right away. That was important. It was clear to me that my not wanting to see him was reason enough. I did not have to justify it.

She always pushed me to take on a little more responsibility than I wanted. Much of this was due to the fact that she was busy and tired. When she said, "I don't know how to do that! Figure it out yourself!" she was not trying to build up my self-confidence, but that is what she did.

About half a year before my announcement that I was not going to see my father anymore my cousin, who is four years older than I, pulled me aside and told me about how our fathers used to drink together, that her father had stopped and started going to AA and that I should go to Alteen. I went for several years. I was the only kid there whose parents were not also in AA or Al-Anon. It was just the right thing at the right time.

Well, this is a mixed bag. Some of my religious experiences contributed to my feelings of guilt. I was also lucky that by the time I got to high school I found a good liberal church with a liberal pastor. He helped me to read the scriptures in a more rational way. His wife taught me that "feminism" was not a dirty word.

Other adults
My sister and I made different choices. At every point during my childhood I can remember someone who was an extra parental figure to me. I don't remember all of their names, but there was always someone whose kitchen I hung out in who had a loving and caring relationship with someone else. No one of them had an enormously powerful affect on my life. Together though they made it clear to me that it was possible to live in a different way.

If I have to pick out one thing that was most important I would definitely say it was my mother divorcing my father AND never bringing another abusive man into our lives. I cannot tell you how deeply I know and have always known that I should walk away from anyone who hurt me.


The "event" that happened with my father when I was about fourteen was really very simple. Having gone to Alateen for a while I knew that the way things were at my father's house was not the way it should have. I had not gone long enough to understand that changing things was not within my control. Calm and collected I went to my father and told him how miserable our visits had become for me. I cried every time I visited (which was one night a week). Trying to make him understand just how hard it was I concluded with, "Sometimes I think about just not coming anymore." His face went from sympathetic to cold and he said, also completely calm and collected, "If that is the way you feel, don't come."

I sat there in stunned silence waiting for him to say more. He looked at me with cold eyes until I left the room. Those were the last words we spoke to each other for the better part of a year. I finally called him, because I felt guilty! We met in a park and before I could say anything he started crying. He forgave me for walking out on him, for causing him so much pain. It was my first real moment of detachment. I looked at him and thought, "He isn't human. He looks like a human, but he is just not like the rest of us." It was the first time in my life when my father did something hurtful which failed to really hurt. At that moment I put up a wall which has never come back down.

What I tell them

Rossecorp asked what I tell the kids about my history with abuse.

I share the basics with them. Mostly I just let it come up, which it does.

Usually what happens is that they witness me startle at some noise and they look at me funny, laugh, or say something. Even David was surprised; he startled at movements, not sounds. I will acknowledge that my reaction was extreme and say something like, "Yeah...that's a left-over from my relationship with my father. Fortunately the physical stuff stopped after the divorce when I was seven. I still hate to see a belt being pulled off." I am pretty matter-of-fact with them about it. They understand. I think only one of them asked, "but why noises?" I said, "Well, snapping the belt in our faces was his warning." Sometimes I add in a little educational piece, "Of course the warning was not effective. People who beat kids don't do it because of what the kids are doing. They beat them because of who they are."

The other way it comes up is when one of the kids will tell me not to be so upset about something or not freak out about something. This almost always happens, like with David, when I am in complete control. I can usually laugh a little when I say, "I spent the better part of my childhood being told by my father not to feel what I was feeling. So let's get one thing clear. In this house everyone is allowed to feel whatever they feel for as long as they feel it." After the first time I am likely to say, "Don't tell me what to feel. It pisses me off."

In the whole get-to-know you phase they are likely to ask about our parents. I tell them then that my father is an alcoholic. That he joined AA when I was in my 20's but still has periods when he is drinking. He has lost two wives and nearly lost his job a couple of times. I tell them that we get alone okay when he comes to visit now. He only contacts me when he is sober and I try to avoid contacting him since I can never be sure and I don't like to call talk to him when he is drunk.

I am actually more open and more casual about it with them than I am with most people. I know that they will respond to it matter-of-factly. I won't have to deal with pity. I think that it is good for them to know that there are people who have had abusive parents and then grow up to have healthy families.

And one story in our house has mythological status. Myths, in case you didn't know, are not fictional, or at least they don't have to be. They are stories that explain. Some stories about our childhood get told over and over, often not by us, but by others because it explains something important about us. The bioboys don't tell this story, but they will refer to it and they prompt me to tell the other kids, "Mom, tell him about when he thought you wanted him to meet you in Mexico."

Here is that story:

I was about 10 or 12 and I had a dentist appointment. My mom had a staff meeting and she could not pick me up for over an hour. I told her that I would take a book or do my homework. I did not mind waiting, and I really didn't. She insisted that I call and ask my father to pick me up. I knew it was a bad idea and we fought about it, but I finally gave in and called.
"Dad. I need you to pick me up at the dentist."
"Who is this?"
"It's Beth. I need you to pick me up at the dentist on Wednesday."
"I can't go with you to Mexico! Why would you ask me to do that? Who are you anyway?"
"This is BETH. Your DAUGHTER. I need you to pick me up at the dentist on Wednesday."
"I said that I cannot go to Mexico."
So I hung up, and I don't think I ever called my father again.

The kids usually ask, "So, did you just read a book?" "No. My mother could not tolerate that idea. She skipped her meeting and picked me up. At the time I thought it was stupid, but I now realize why she did not like the idea of me sitting in the office for an hour. It would not have looked good."

David's Story Part 18: Permanency Hearing


Yesterday was David's permanency hearing. That is a routine event, but it was still emotionally significant. David went to so many of these. He went and he waited for his mother to show up and try to get him and his two brothers back. She would fail to show, the judge would decide to give her another chance before terminating her parental rights and they would all be back in another two months. So though David down-played it, it was a big deal that Hubby and I both took the day off from work to go to the hearing. None of us, not even David, had to be there. But we were. This time David was in court with parents.

We all got to say that we were very happy and the judge said that it looked like David's permanency plan was a good one. We also got news about David's brothers. His oldest younger brother, Db1, who is 13, insisted on staying with the adoptive father even though Db2 (10) is being sent back to foster care. Db1 will be adopted and David and Db2 will be able to go visit them in the summer. Db2 is with a foster mother about 20 miles away from us. She specializes in tough kids and has had an excellent track record with them. Littlest brother Db3 is still with their birth mother who has been tracked down and is living with friends. She seems to be coping well and social services is keeping an eye on things. David may have been misinformed about there being yet another child. (A friend of his had seen her with a baby.)

After the permanency hearing we went to eat at a horrible fast food Chinese place. I got a fortune cookie that said, "Stop searching forever for happiness. It is right next to you." David, who was sitting next to me, grinned.

David's Story Part 19: David's Brother
David's Story Part 1: The Beginning

David's Story Part 17: David copes with fear

The agency set David up with a couple of appointments with a really great counselor. Unfortunately the really great counselor was on his way to England and so we only got to see him a couple of times before we had to switch to the adequate counselor.


The counselor asked us what we wanted to talk about and we ended up talking about a couple of topics that ended up being the same issue, I think. I told him that when I am the least bit displeased with something David has done he tells me that I am yelling at him which sometimes makes me feel frustrated because in my mind yelling is exactly what I am NOT doing.

I understand that he does not feel safe when someone is possibly angry, but I did not know what to do to make him feel safe. I had thought that the counselor might give me behavior tips, but apparently he thinks I was doing okay. He talked to David about that fear and suggested that he might want to make dealing with that issue a goal while he lived with us. The counselor suggested that since David knows he is safe with us (even if he does not always feel it) this could be a good goal for him. The he asked David who was the first person who made him afraid and he said his father. The counselor asked for an example and David said [example deleted, even I have my limits].

You know, I can actually understand how stressed out people reach the end of their endurance and hit kids. It is horrible, but I understand why and how it happens. I can have sympathy with those parents, at the same time that I want to tell them that they absolutely have to find alternatives. If I was in charge of the world I would treat them with respect and understanding and find ways to give them support and time off. Maybe they need not to live alone with children. Isolating adults with kids in separate houses is not the way humans have evolved. We need to live in small communities with several adults spending the day together while the children mill around.

But there are other things I cannot understand. Why would anyone torture a child? This is not losing your temper. I just don't understand.

Fear was always an issue for David. He had a very exaggerated startle reflex. I remember one time we were in the car and he put down his visor so that he could look in the mirror just as I was trying to look for traffic. I reached out and flipped it back up while making an small exasperated noise. David threw himself back, pushing his head as deep into his head rest as possible. Then he was embarrassed, very embarrassed because he realized that I was not reaching over to hurt him.

On that occasion I pretended I did not notice.

I saw it often though. There were many times, some when I was irritated and some when I was not, when he would jump or cringe. He was always looked so embarrassed, even ashamed.

I know that reaction, that feeling. I do it too, though not to such a degree. Something happens which triggers a panic response and before your conscious mind can stop it, your body has jumped, cringed, ducked. People notice. They always notice. And so you are ashamed, because you imagine that now they know that you were beaten when you were little, and that you hid like a coward.

I have moved further along than David, of course. I have learned that the violence I suffered is not my shame. My automatic response was a survival mechanism. It is normal.

Whenever David jumped like that I wanted to hold him like a baby and rock him until he felt safe.

David's Story Part 18: Permanency Hearing
David's Story Part 1: The Beginning

Saturday, June 24, 2006

David's Story Part 16: Thanksgiving


When Carl first moved in I asked him what was important to him for Thanksgiving.
He said "the usual" which turned out to be foods that I never cooked.
I want to call it "Americana" for lack of a better word: Pillsbury crescent rolls, that nasty green bean casserole and "real" cranberry sauce from a can. The rolls were a hit with my family and have stayed part of the meal.

This year I asked David, but I knew he did not necessarily have any Thanksgiving traditions. He said he wanted to make a chocolate pie. We searched the net and he finally found the recipe. A pre-made Oreo pie crust filled with Jello chocolate pudding, but made with just a little milk and one whole carton of Cool Whip. David made it himself. The kids, of course, like it and I wonder if they will want to make it after David is gone.

While I was cooking I was listening to an NPR show about food and history. People were calling in and talking about some dish that their grandmother made that they cook. I kept thinking about how our meal changes with the kids who move in...and will that keep happening? Kids in foster care do not have rich family traditions. Even if their parents did have recipes from previous generations, the would not have been in a position to have them year after year. So I make gingered cabbage, brussel sprouts with clarified butter, a gravy that starts with boiling the neck and giblets in broth and wine the day before, and canned crescent rolls and Jello pie.

David's Story Part 17: David copes with fear
David's Story Part 1: The Beginning

David's Story Part 15: The New Bird (Update)

I have a series of emails to Mary talking about David's second bird, but I can't find anything that I wrote to anyone about the first bird.

When David had been put up for adoption he insisted that it be clear that he was gay. He did not want to deal with anyone who was not okay with that. It also said that he had chosen to separate from his brothers in order to increase their chances of being adopted. A gay couple from another state saw it and sent a letter with a check to his social worker. They said they were not in a position to adopt him, but that they admired him and wanted him to have something. David agreed to put most of it in savings, but he took some and combined it with allowance to purchase a cockateil whom I suggested naming Alcibiades. (David did ask me to suggest names, and he did describe the bird as beautiful and full of himself). Some time later:


David wants to get a new cockatiel. He says it is because Alcibiades (current cockatiel) is lonely all day without him. I think that is part of the reason, but I think it is also because he wants a white one. We have told him that he can get one with his own money. I wanted him to buy a second cage in case Alcibiades gets defensive of his territory. David does not think he will need one, so we have compromised. If he does, I will buy it and take it out of his allowance.

David has been doing pretty well, by the way. He has not been moaning about being grounded. I think he accepts the consequences as normal. Now if he will just start doing better in English. He has not been doing work there at all.

We stopped by the breeder's house yesterday. There was a lovely female lutino...still pretty yellow (they get whiter as they get older). She was very docile and unfortunately had lost her tail feathers (which happens with young birds). David put a deposit on her and will have enough money by Sunday to get her.

I am going to have him call around to thrift stores this afternoon and see if we can get a second cage cheap.

We picked up the new bird this evening (technically yesterday). Like I said before, it is a young, female lutino. David named it "Angel." We decided to introduce the birds somewhere that was not Al's territory. We covered the kitchen table with newspapers, put down a dish of food and one of water and let her settle. Then we brought out Al. It was love at first sight. All started whistling like crazy (amusing all of us by starting with a cat call). Angel just watched him as he posed, jumped and sang. She decided that she liked him and moved close. Within half an hour they were preening each other.

Al seemed determined to challenge each of the boys to a whistling contest. It was like he thought he had to prove to her that he could whistle louder and longer than anyone else.

David tried to take the Angel out of the room to see what would happen and Al whistled very, very loudly until he brought her back.

David thought that getting Al a friend to keep him company would make him be a bit quieter. Maybe in the long run, but only after he has sufficiently impressed her. He was louder tonight than he has ever been.

NO. I do NOT want David to breed them. I do not want baby birds. The birds do share a cage, and will continue to do so. I read that birds are less territorial if they have a sleeping cage and a play cage, so I might still pick up one if I can find it cheap. The people we bought the birds from said that though the Angel might lay eggs, they will not hatch without a proper nest. (Otherwise the parents are not successful in keeping the eggs warm). The baby birds at the breeders' house were horribly noisy. They were hand feeding, which is why Angel is so sweet, but no, I can't imagine wanting to do that. I also can't imagine David being willing to put up with the noise.

One of the main reasons he got Angel was the hope that Alcibiades would be quieter.

Much later:
Last night David's birds mated...on top of the cage in the living room for over 5 minutes. Brian found it to be very silly. I have been trying to do some research and apparently even if they mate the female might not lay eggs if she cannot find an appropriate nesting spot. Or then again she might.

No one is really clear about that.

Update: for a comment on David's decision to separate from his broters and the social workers' willingness to accept it see:

What Does It Mean?

David's Story Part 16: Thanksgiving
David's Story Part 1: The Beginning

Thinking about leaving for vacation

We are about to go to Maine. We go every summer. It is on the water, north of Bar Harbor. It is two weeks on peace and calm: waves crashing on the beach; juvenille bald eagles (I don't know why we rarely see the adults); the occassional seal. Once we had to stop the car for a moose crossing. It is 20 minutes to the bad grocery store. 45 minutes to the first town that looks big enough to be considered a town.

It would even be possible for me to go to a Naranon would only be 1 hour 20 minutes away. (The closest is 7+ hours from here). I might even give it a try...maybe Hubby and the boys will make the drive and go to a movie or something.

At the cottage though the cell phone does not work and there is no internet service. I can ask my father-in-law if I can go into his study and use his computer, but I would only do that for something quick. No more leisurely reading blogs and writing mine. (Well for two weeks). But, though I love you all, who needs blogs when you are sitting on a deck watching the tide come in and waiting for the next batch of cookies to be done?

So why am I posting this?

evan is staying here. Alone. In my house. Yep. I am going to go far away and leave a currently-not-using codeine addict alone in my house.

My husband is testimony to the claim that not everyone needs a 12-step program. He has never been near one in his life. He asks me what I am worried about, "Let's see...that he will start using again. His new dealer friend will realize that he is alone in the house and will trade the drugs for the right to set up a meth lab in our kitchen and will blow the house up." Hubby's response, "That's why we have insurance."

And of course there is the regular sorts of anxiety...what do teenagers do when the parental types go out of town? Dear's going to be a two week long party and sex orgy. Every gay boy in two counties will be hanging out in my house. Maybe I should put a new lock on my bedroom door. Maybe I should tell then neighbors that if there are any loud parties I want them to call the cops. Hubby's response, "Evan doesn't even like parties; and do you really care if he has sex while we are gone? He's 18. Whether he is having sex or not is his business." (No...I don't care if he is having sex...just not in my bed. That's gross.)

So I hired the same kid I have hired before to come over and feed the animals. Evan said he would do it, but I will worry. I own that. That is what I need so that I will not worry about the dog, two cats, two rats, and the toad.

He still does not have a driver's license. So he will have to walk to school and work. He will be given rides to counseling and relapse prevention group. If he does not show up at those meetings someone there will call a social worker (not his...his has the audacity to be getting married and going on a honeymoon while I am out of town) and the social worker will drop by and check on him. Why exactly are we doing this? I don't know. I suggested it to the social worker. She said she thought it was a great idea. It is making us all feel happier and less anxious.

I told him that I would stock the kitchen with food for him and that if he saved the receipts for any groceries (ingredients, not pre-prepared foods) that he bought while I was gone I would reimburse him. "Will you remind me?" "No." "But I might forget!!" "Evan, honey, it's not important to me that you remember. If you forget, I don't have to pay."

So I have been going to Al-Anon, working the steps, and generally getting better at not controlling, not obsessing, "letting go and letting God", all that stuff.

I look at this plan and I think there are two possible responses
1. Wow. Look how far she has come! Of course there is still some anxiety there, but what progress she has made.
2. WTF??? Has this 12-Step sh*t turned her into a complete IDIOT? Somebody an intervention!

next on Evan

Friday, June 23, 2006

David's Story Part 14: Joy Riding


Does the foster care system teach irresponsibility? Oh how funny you should ask that right now. I know his school performance sounds pretty awful, and it is, but it is a major improvement over last year. (Of course last year he failed every single class.)

That really is an interesting question. Of course it would be difficult to sort out all the different influences. The kids spend their early childhood with such messed up people, it is not clear where they get what. David clearly gives up quickly. He can be very persistent about something he wants other people to do, but he is not persistent with himself. When he falls behind he gives up before he can fail.

He also has a tendency to hear what he wants to hear. I have learned this and now make him repeat what I have told him. I'm pretty sly and do not ask him to repeat what I have just said, but before I drop him off I will act a bit forgetful and ask him what exactly did we agree to? Where will he be when? Where did he leave the phone number?

Before I tell you the following story, let me remind you that it is about time for David to test us. He is really, really liking us. I can tell he is beginning to 'fall in love'. That is dangerous for him. He has been thrown away multiple times in his life so before he can go further in the relationship he has to know if we will still keep him if he is very, very bad. Cutting classes and failing may have been part of that...but last night's fun was too.

By the way, it is kind of a long story and so I have cut and pasted the meat of it out of the email I sent the social worker...hope you don't mind. The character is in the story are: Michael, David’s best friend since 3rd grade, Penny, David’s mother. David was to spend Saturday night at Michael's house. David does not, you may remember, have a driver's license.

As I understand it David asked Penny if he could borrow her car. She said no. Some time after that a friend of hers dropped by and asked what happened to her car. She realized that David and Michael were gone. She called me and then drove down to the Flying M and found them there. She said, loudly and in front of David's friends, that she wanted her keys back, that she was angry that he took the car and that the police were coming (she had not called them). She called me to say that she had found him and I went down to pick him up.

When I got there David, Michael and Michael's sister were waiting on the curb for me. Michael wanted me to know that he was certain that David thought he did have permission "When Mom is on the computer..." I interrupted and said that it did not matter as David did not have a license. I asked to speak with Penny. Penny said that David had asked for a hug when they got back and she had told him that she was too angry. She said that she was not going to press charges but was agreeable when I said that I wanted to scare David for a couple of days and would tell him that she was thinking about it.

After we talked Hubby and I went to talk to him. We asked him what happened. He thought it was all just a big misunderstanding. He had asked Penny if he could borrow the car and she had said yes. Michael was surprised and asked her "like seven times" (this is implausible since Michael told me not that they both thought he had permission but that he was sure that David thought he did). David thinks that since she knew where he went that demonstrated that she must have said yes (I can't make sense of that reasoning at all). I pointed out that if she had given permission that would just mean that she was in trouble too...he did not have a license. "I have been completely honest with people about the fact that I drive. I have been driving for some time." Deep breath....I began to get a little frustrated. I told him that I wanted to make it very, very clear that he did not have permission to drive our cars or any other cars. If he ever thought he heard us say that he did have permission that would mean that he misheard. "I know that. I know you would never give me permission...I mean I think I read people pretty well." (I did not point out that this evening’s fiasco was evidence to the contrary...but I was tempted.)

Anyway, I told him that he had no privileges: no phone, no friends, no gaming system (including watching while others played), and no TV control (he may watch what other people are watching). I asked him if he understood the difference between natural and artificial consequences and he said he did. I told him that he would not be able to have the same level of freedom with his friends and that was just a natural consequence of what he had done. I did not know when or if Penny would let him stay again and I did not think there was a chance in hell that his social worker would let him go out of state (with the church youth group) next weekend. It might take
a long time before he got back the same level of freedom.

He said, "I know, at least I will get it back next year when I turn 18."

Okay...I should have let that go. This was not the right time to be going over life in more than a year. I told him that that was not how it worked. "I know, I know, if I stay in the program I have to follow the agency's rules." "No, I mean if you live in this home you have to follow our rules. As children get older they get more and more freedom, and you may have a hell of a lot of freedom the day before you 18th birthday, but you will not have any more the day after than you did the day before."

I heard from Andrew today that David is worried about Penny pressing charges. I am glad about that. I want David to figure out that this is a big deal. "Borrowing" a car without permission and driving (in The City, not country roads) without a license is a big deal. I understand that they only went a couple of miles to a coffee shop, which as teenage trouble-making goes is fairly tame, but this is not just a misunderstanding.

Anyway, I hope this is David's "permanency crisis" by which I mean that I hope he does not need to do anything worse. According to his record this is about as bad as he has ever been.

Unfortunately in order to drive before you are 18 your legal guardian has to take legal responsibility for you. David's legal guardian is the state. No one else can give him permission to drive and the state only gives permission to a very few of its wards. Typically they would only give permission to kids who are exceptionally responsible (excellent grades, recommendations from foster parents, no disciplinary problems of any kind) AND who have a demonstrable need (important work or educational opportunities they can get to no other way). Only country kids are far enough away from H&W offices and their interns to qualify under the second criteria.

David is meeting with Ruby tonight. Ruby will have talked to Robin (Ruby's supervisor) to see if Robin has any better ideas, but it looks like David will have to sit down with Ruby to write a letter of apology to Penny and to take Ruby's class on "error free thinking"....for a total of 8 Friday nights.

From Mary:
For another point of view, I told my husband about David's escapade and he thought it was pretty amusing. He admitted that he once did exactly the same thing (sans license and all), except that he managed to put his father's truck into a ditch and had to be hauled out by a neighbor. Though he never told his father about it, he is pretty sure Earl knew and was getting a good laugh out of it.

I asked what the motivation was for this whole thing and he shrugged and grinned and said, "It's a guy thing."

To Mary
Hubby and I have laughed about it, when David is not in the room. This is clearly the sort of story that people tell as adults under the heading of "My Wild and Reckless Youth." If "borrowing" a car to drive to the local coffee shop (a really cool one, by the way) is his most wild and reckless, I will be content. I am trying to think of my most reckless teenage moment, and I think I really was a nerd. It is not that I never screwed up, I just can't think of many intentional reckless acts.

to Mary
Last night we told David what his consequences would be...he would get back basic privileges (phone, TV) on Friday but would not be allowed out of adult supervision for 3 weeks. And we told him that Ruby was working on getting him into her class on error-free thinking, but that we did not know the details.

Ruby gave him a lesson earlier that evening in "loser thinking." I mean that literally. She sat him down and drew circles and lines on her white board and explained how a series of mental states were starts with self-centered thinking, includes being willing to break the rules, getting punished, getting angry, acting out....(there were lots of loops and lines). Anyway, she ended up telling him that we wanted to help him move "off this page" to other-centered thinking. Then she asked him what he thought I said in my first voice mail message to her on Saturday. "That she was really angry at me?" "No, she was worried and scared. The first thing she said was, 'I don't know where David is.'"

Anyway, when she started the lesson I thought it was just going to make David defensive. I mean she started off calling it "loser thinking" and then started asking him questions which were clearly intended to make him identify his actions/thoughts with the ones that she was writing on the white board. She even asked him to consider whether this described his birth mother (he said yes). She told him that this could be learned behavior and that we wanted to help him learn another way of relating to people.

Maybe that was the right way to go. It is interesting, pulling back and talking about a whole cycle of thoughts and reactions.

Normally when David goes to bed he leans over my chair (the comfy recliner where I am almost always grading papers or reading) and gives me a quick hug. Last night he sat on the arm of the chair and put his head on my shoulder and wrapped his arms around me. After a bit I asked him if he was going to get up and he held on tighter and said "no" in a child voice. When he started slipping into my lap he laughed, got up, said "good-night" and went to bed.

The whole time all of this had been going on no one yelled at him, or called him names, or made him afraid of being hit. That should be normal, but it hasn't been for him. Hopefully he feels safer now.

Of course it is probably naive of me to hope that this is the worse thing he will do, but I will hope anyway.

David's Story Part 1: The Beginning
David's Story Part 15: The New Bird