Thursday, May 31, 2007

Blogging for GLBT Families: The Way It Should Be

Spoiler alert

If you are a fan of Laurie R King and have not yet read The Art of Detection, which is the best Kate Martinelli novel to date, by far, don't read this post. After reading everything else Laurie King wrote I wasn't sure I wanted to read another Kate Martinelli novel. They were so simplistic in comparison. But Laurie King has matured and brought that maturity to this series too. It is wonderful. You should read it, and if you haven't, be forewarned. I am about to totally ruin the end of the novel. I'm not going to tell you who done it, but nevertheless...

So, those of you who are still reading probably don't know, Kate Martinelli is a detective in San Francisco and, oh yeah, she's a lesbian. She has a long term partner and in this novel, set in 2004, they have a four year old child. Her family is part of the novels in just the way it should be. They are part of her life. The book is about solving the mystery, and Lee and Nora are the people Kate loves.

I don't know about the rest of you, but when I am reading a novel part of me believes that the characters are real. Oddly, The Art of Detection revolves in part around a manuscript. Kate seems to have the same problem I do. She has to remind herself that the characters in the manuscript are not real. In my case, I simply cannot stop reading a book if the main characters are in peril. I cannot leave them there. My family has come to accept that. Today Hubby and Brian grilled steaks. Outside it was warm with a slight breeze and everyone wanted to eat in the back yard. I know I should put down the book, okay turn off my iPod with the audio book on it, but I could not. I hit the pause button and told them, "Kate is being held at gun point!" They nodded, understanding my insanity, and left me alone to eat and stay with Kate until she was safe.

It is not that I need to know what is going to happen next. I know what is going to happen next. Kate is going to be okay. She is going to get out of this situation. There may be some sort of unexpected twist at the end of the story, but I am not anxiously reading to get to that twist; I just really feel that somehow Kate is stuck there until I continue reading. The author may be the creator of this world, but I move it forward.

I do understand that Kate is a fictional character though. Perhaps that is why she needs me to continue to read. Without the reader to pull her forward she cannot progress. And when the novel ends, she will stay where it ends. That happens with all novels. Unless the author writes a sequel, the characters stay where the novels end. It might be inevitable that witty Elizabeth Bennett and stodgy Mr. Darcy would not really be able to get along for a life time. Perhaps Mr. Darcy would later regret having married beneath him. Perhaps, but they are safe from the angst of an unhappy marriage. They are forever newlyweds.

The Art of Detection is a murder mystery and so it starts with a dead body, but it ends with another death. It is a tragic death, public and horrible and destined to dominate the news. Kate goes home, to her family, seeking comfort and refuge. For just a while she hides from the world. Her home is a good place to hide. They are just another happy family. Two moms and a little girl.

But the novel was not over. Kate and Lee's friends, knowing that they have temporarily sealed themselves off from the world make them leave for a surprise. They take them downtown to the courthouse. There is a celebration. There are people, and flowers and cakes. It is February 2004, and gay and lesbian couples are lining up to be married. So often fiction feels like reality, at the end of this novel a moment of reality has entered the fiction.

And I cried. I sat, curled up with my iPod and cried. I remember the marriage marathon. I remember the pictures on television. It was a time filled with joy. I cried because it is such a simple thing. It was the right thing.

I cried because I don't understand why the courts over-turned it. I cried because I so desperately want that for all of my children, and they are not permitted it, at least not today. I cried because, unlike Kate and Lee, I knew what was coming next.

I do have hope. In reality the story, the battle, goes on. Acceptance increases. Marriage rights are being recognized in more and more places. In the real world I believe it will get better. Someday I will be able to dance at all my children's weddings, provided of course they decide to make that sort of commitment to another.

However, right now, I find I hope that Laurie R King does not write a another sequel in this series. I like leaving Kate and Lee there, in front of the courthouse, filled with joy and looking at the world the way it should be.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Update on Miss E

I've been driving Miss E to school every morning. We have settled into a non-awkward quietness, with occassional conversation. She usually comes out of the house without being called. I only call her if it has got to the point where I need to leave. Once last week I got caught up in a puzzle I was doing while I waited and time slipped by. I called her, but she was just waking up so I had to leave her.

She is clearly tired and stressed, but she is holding it together. She is doing evening classes on top of her regular schedule and anticipates have earned her diplomma by her birthday mid-summer.

Just in case you were wondering...

Monday, May 28, 2007

Building Foundations with Foster Teens

I just stumbled across the most inane article on building a relationship with teen foster kids. I won't give you a link because that would just generate traffic and it doesn't deserve it -- besides I'd have to find it again. Don't worry though I'm not talking about anything any of you wrote. This was from 2000.

Anyway, it suggested things like paying attention to what the kid likes and then surprising them with thoughtful gestures. Right. Because making traumatized, angry, frightened teenagers feel safe is just like making friends at camp.

It made me so annoyed that I decided to give my own list what I do, or try to do, that seems to help.

When kids first move in:

1. Explain the basic rules, including what they are allowed to do. Remember that basic rules do differ from home to home. So I tell kids these sorts of things:
- I have an "open kitchen." They are allowed to help themselves to food if they are hungry. I tell them if there is anything that is meant for a recipe and should not be eaten.
- I tell them the hours during which electronics are allowed.
- I ask them to tell me when they plan to get into the shower so I don't turn the dishwasher on and freeze them out.
- etc.

2. Have a list of basic safety rules, also called boundaries. Mine are:
-Everyone treats everyone else (and their property) with respect.
-Everyone knows where everyone is.
-Everyone contributes.
-Everyone does their job.
These are basic. The kids have to agree to follow them to live with us. Of course they will break them. They will mouth off, disappear, "forget" to do their agreed-upon chore, and cut school. What they have to do though is accept that these are the rules. If they show a basic refusal to follow them then they cannot live with me. We may maintain our relationship, but not in the same house.

3. Put aside the notion that good parenting means helping them to be better people. I know, it sounds shocking. Think about it from their perspective for a minute. Suppose you lost your apartment and a friend let you move in. Your friend might be fussier than you are about keeping everything tidy, and you will try to respect that because it is her house. However, when she decides that you need to exercise regularly and insists that you walk three miles before you can do whatever you want to do, how do you feel? I find that helping them to become more honest, considerate and hard working is a gradual process. If I have a part in that it will happen only after we have developed a relationship, which will take months if not years.

4. Remember that what is a big deal to you might seem ordinary to them. Think for a minute about how you express anger. Think about how you anticipate a child being angry at you. What is okay? What crosses the line? How would you deal with that? When my kids were small and they got angry they might say, "I hate you!" My response, on my good days anyway, was "I understand you are angry." When a teenager who has witnessed and been the victim of severe abuse gets angry she may call scream, "You f'ing c*nt!" The appropriate response is to take a deep breath and say, "I understand that you are angry." Then BE QUIET and listen. Don't take it personally. Don't escalate into anger with them. Breathe deeply and remember it is not about you. When they calm down, it may be a good time to explain that that language is not acceptable. Perhaps in your house there is a consequence for using foul language. Impose it calmly. (I'm not saying this is easy. G-d knows it is more than I can manage sometimes).

5. Listen to them. When they are ready to talk, stop what you are doing, give them your undivided attention and listen.

6. Don't push emotional closeness. They have been hurt and disappointed before. They won't want to get attached to you until after they trust you. That can take a while. Just give them a safe and respectful place to live and let them attach to you when and if they are ready. Remember that loving you can feel like an act of betrayal to someone else. It might help to think of yourself as a mentor, not a mommy (or daddy).

7. And there is nothing wrong with noticing things they like and surprising them with a thoughtful gesture. Go ahead, remember their favorite ice cream and pick some up for them. Buy the book because you know they loved another one by the same author. But don't be surprised if, especially in the beginning, they look on your offering with scorn, refusing to be "bought."

What about the rest of you? What would you add to the list?

Not an exact transcript...

...but we have been having quite a few conversations that go something like this:

Evan: "I'm going to make a phone call"

Me, somewhat absently: "uh huh."

Evan, flustered: "What! What are you thinking?"

"Um...that you're going to make a phone call?"

"No really. What are you thinking?"

"Nothing. Really." Except unfortunately I am now chuckling.

"What's so funny? I can't make a phone call?"

"Sweetie, go ahead and make the call. I'm not thinking anything."

"Yes you are. You are giving me that look and you are laughing."

The other day after a conversation like that I said, "You are so high maintenence."

"I am not. I take care of myself. I'm not high maintenance."

"I don't mean physically. I mean emotionally. You need a lot of reassurance."

"I don't think I do."

"Okay." I get my cup of tea and head off to my computer. I am truly ready to just drop it.

"Do you really think I am high maintenance? Really?"

Again, I'm laughing. "Evan honey, I don't know what to say anymore. What do you want me to say?"

"I don't know. Just stop looking at me like that!"

Laughter on my part is getting a bit out of control. Deep breath. "You are so easy, Evan. Really, I am not even trying."

"Geez! I'm going to my room!" He walks out, "And I am NOT high maintanence!"

Do you want me to read your blog?

Then put up some bleeping introductory information on the front page!

Because you see, if I am bored one day and going checking out blogs on the blogrolls of blogs I like (got that?), and I jump to your blog, I'm really not going to spend half an hour trying to decide whether I want to read your blog -- even if you have really pretty graphics.

I don't need much. Really.

You could write a post and put a link to it in the side bar.

You could write it in a text box, maybe even the top banner.

Take for instance, Granny. One sentence in the top banner, and one post linked in the side. It is simple and just enough information to let you know what you are reading and invite you in.

Or you could do be just a bit more ambitious and follow Navigating the Maze, more information in the top banner and a list of half a dozen or more Noteworthy Posts. Reading the noteworthy posts gives you a good quick over-view of who they are, what sort of writing they do.

In a pinch, I will deal with clicking on your archives and reading the first couple of posts to see if I can figure out what the heck is going on.

But if you don't have nuthin, if the earliest post I can find doesn't introduce you, then I'm just going to assume that you don't especially want for me to read your blog.

In which case you probably don't give a flip about this little rant.


I have too many blogs to read as it is.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

I'm fairly ruthless

**Warning: references to sex will be made in this post.**

Evan comes into the room and returns cordless phone to its cradle.

"Um ,Yondalla, what exactly is the statutory rape law in our state? There's a four year window, right?"

He knows I know. It is one of the "talks" I have with the boys. It comes years after the first safe sex talk and right around the "why you have to register for the draft even though you are gay" talk. "No. It is a two-year window. If you are nineteen, it is not statutory rape if your partner is at least seventeen."

"But it's the parents that press those charges, right?"

"Not necessarily. If you have sex with someone under seventeen you can be charged with statutory rape by anyone." I remind him that just because an act is not statutory rape it is not necessarily legal. It could be something else. (We've talked about our state's rather draconian laws about sexual activity in public places.)

He is embarrassed and says, "I know! I just wanted to know the age range. If someone named XX calls it's for me."

"And he is seventeen."

"Why do you want to know that?!!"

"So he's younger than seventeen?"

"I don't want to talk to you about this! Why are you asking?"

"It seems like a natural question to me, sweetie. You have a conversation with a boy and then you want to know what the statutory rape law is. How old is he?" By the way, I'm trying not to laugh while I'm asking him. He's so easy to tease that you would think it wouldn't be fun, but somehow it still is.

"I can't have this conversation. I'm leaving."

He walks out and I yell after him, "If he's sixteen, he's off-limits!"

"Gawd! I know already!"

Homelessness and LGBTQ Youth

So we just all went out for pizza to celebrate Brian's 13th birthday. It's a week early, but David was here, so we went. I love having all the boys together.

Anyway, I picked David and Evan's brains about being gay and in foster care in our part of the country. I was thinking about the next time I write a column for the local gay monthly, which I do not do regularly. I thought I might try to write about gay youth in the foster care system. What is like for them? Do youth get to know their social workers well enough to come out to them? Are the families safe?

They were very reassuring. Social workers are cool with it; all the schools have several out kids and others who were accepting; most foster families "aren't like you guys, but they know better than to make a big deal out of it." They can't think of anything that I should write in the column. Things are okay. Of course that doesn't mean that we should even consider taking a straight kid. We have to stay open for the next gay kid who won't accept living with a family that is merely tolerant.

And then I came home and turned out my reader and there was only one new item:

Homelessness & Gay Youth at the Republic of T. Terrance talked a little about gay youth, but mostly the post was pointing to a series of videos. Take a deep breath and go watch.

Up to 40% of homeless youth self-identify as gay. 25% of gay youth are not welcome in their own homes. Sometimes youth are actually ejected from the home. Sometimes the kids just survive by not going home. They couch surf with friends and go home only when they must.

There are indications that life is getting so much better, and yet it can still be so very bad. I'm hearing from parents who are more ready to be supportive than ever. The kids in the high schools are largely accepting. The LGBTQ youth I know report that even the kids who think homosexuality is a sin (a thought that makes less and less sense to me) don't really care about it.

And yet homelessness among gay youth is still a huge problem.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Unfamiliar rules

When I was about 10 I went on a camping trip with a friend and her family. I had not spent much time with the girl's family, but she had played at my house quite a bit.

Much of the trip has faded in my memory, but a couple of moments are very clear. They are moments when I got in trouble, when someone was really angry at me, because I did something that I did not know I wasn't supposed to do.

At a meal there was a bowl of cut up tomatoes on the table. I don't remember what we were eating (burgers or tacos maybe?), but it was something that it made sense to put tomatoes on. I reached out and put my hand in the bowl and the mother slapped my hand. I don't think that my sin was using my hand. I think it was that I was apparently taking more than I was supposed to take.

I remember struggling not to cry. It was not that the slap hurt (though it did). The real issue was that I was "a good girl" and no one had given me any guidelines about the tomatoes. If I had known what the rule was I would have followed it.

I spent the rest of the trip being anxious. I watched carefully. I waited until someone else had done something before I did it, so that I would know how it supposed to be done. I noticed that my friend and her family were much louder than my family was. Much to my surprise, laughing and sqealing so loudly that you could be heard at the next campsite was not against the rules. When my friend did that, no one told her that she was acting like a wild animal and that she should be considerate of others. In fact I remember feeling like I was not impressing people with how much fun I was having just because I expressed myself quietly.

On the other hand, changing positions while reading when I should have noticed that the older very artistic brother was sketching me was terrible. It was taken as evidence of my lack of civil upbringing and my basic selfish nature. It is entirely possible that the way I remember this trip was not quite how it really happened, but it is how I remembered it.

I was so tense on that trip. All I wanted was to go home.

I wonder how often this happens to the kids in our care. How often do we get angry at them for failing to follow rules or standards of behavior that no one ever taught them?

My new toy

Though I fail regularly, I do try to keep this blog about parenting, especially about foster parenting.

This is another post in which I fail.

I drive a 1993 station wagon with more than 100,000 miles on it. It has character. The button on the driver's side to lock all the doors does not lock, although it will unlock the doors. The back passenger door can't be used at the moment because the inside panel is loose and it is almost impossible to shut once it is open. When you put down the seats for extra room it can be very, very difficult to get them back up. The rear window defroster has not defrosted for years.

And the antenna broke ages ago. When the car was new and shiny the antenna stayed hidden away under the hood until called to duty. As it aged however, it stopped performing as it should. For years it was bent and stuck at half-mast. A few months ago the whole thing started to wobble and when it started flopping around wildly every time I took a turn, Hubby cut the thing off at the base.

So I have been listening to the iP*d or the various rumblings of the engine as I drive around.

Yesterday Hubby took away my car to get me a new antenna at the Mega Electronics Store. I met him later for our belated anniversary dinner and then he took me to the car.

Not only did I have a new antenna, but Hubby had also found time that afternoon to get the car serviced and washed. It was very pretty. I was quite excited, but there was more. He told me to look inside the car.

I have a new radio! It also plays CD's (radios that were put in cars in 1993 don't). The face plate with all the buttons pops off so that it looks pretty much like just a piece of the dash when it is off. It can apparently types of radio signals we don't have around here and could, if I was so inclined, be attached to a CD changer. But the really cool thing is Hubby got an iP*d attachment.

A month ago, you may remember, I rented a car to visit my mother. I was very impressed by this little hole marked AUX which allowed me, after buying a $5 cord at The Evil Empire, play my iP*d through the speakers. I still controlled the iP*d directly.

My new radio however has iP*d controls. There is a circle on the radio which does not work exactly like the wheel on the iP*d, but it is basically the same. I can scroll through the menus, and all the information that is usually on the little iP*d screen is on the radio display.

There is even a little remote control which one could theoretically use to control everything. I'm not certain that it is really safer than reaching -- but I suppose I could hand it to a teenager in the back seat to allow them to control the radio. (Hah! Like that's going to happen!) more thing, perfect for me given the age of my car. If I ever manage to get a new car, Mega Electronic Store will re-install it at no additional charge.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Why haven't we heard?

I've written about this before (sorry, too lazy to create the links for you), but we have passed the six month point from the date that Evan moved out. The agency has known that I have been willing to get calls about GLBT kids for eight months.

Eight months and there is no one.

I got calls about five different boys in 2003. (One I wouldn't take because I didn't want to work for the state. One that got sent back home against his expressed wishes. One was David. Two whom I was asked to help find homes for.)

Are they are going back into the closet?

Has the new training for foster parents worked well enough that homes are safe, even if they are mostly not nurturing?

PFLAG increasingly gets calls from parents who want information on how to support their kids. The ones who call are no longer devastated by the news. Is this change also happening in other families, including foster families?

Are the kids getting enough support from friends, that they are able to just keep their heads down and stay closeted, or nearly so, at home?

I don't know. In previous posts I have tried to theorize, but I get caught up in pointless speculation and can't finish the posts. In the end, I know one thing, and I feel one thing.

If I am not hearing about them because they are safe where they are, then that is probably a good thing. Being moved is traumatic. Even if my home would be more nurturing, that benefit has to be weighed against the badness of yet another move in their lives.

If I am not hearing from them because they are closeted or because they cannot imagine that coming out to their social workers could result in a change for the better, then I am sad. I wish I knew what I could do about it. I wish I knew away to communicate with them.

Oh...and one more thing ... the social workers are not reporting to me that they are not calling me because all the GLBT youth are doing well. They are telling me that they don't know any GLBT youth right now. (Except for that one guy who "everyone" believes is closeted even to himself.)

And I am having trouble painting a picture to myself in which that is not a bad thing.


If you have children and you utter a sentence like, "I don't have classes today. I think I will work at home" that will be understood to mean "I will of course be happy to drive Andrew to school at 9:15 so he doesn't have to walk, drop everything at 10:00 to drive a library book to Brian's middle school so that he can participate in the end-of-year incentive and not have to spend it sitting in the library, then pick up Brian at 11:15 and Andrew at 11:45, since it is a half day.

I get so much done when I work from home.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

So far so good

Brian's new counselor seems to be working out pretty well.

I don't know if I ever told you, but he was working before with a highly recommended cognitive therapist who worked in the classy end of The City. Brian was resistent, thought that the questions the counselor asked were "none of his business" and refused to answer. These were questions like, "Tell me about a situation that makes you feel anxious." When he started making stuff up the counselor and I both agreed it wasn't working.

The new counselor is a local woman who works half a mile from our house. She gave Brian a piece of paper and drawing implements and asked him to draw what his anxiety felt like. They then talked about the different things in the drawing.

I wasn't there. She brought me in at the end to show me the drawings (with his permission) and told me a little of what they talked about. It sounds like he was able to actually tell her about what makes him anxious and what that anxiety feels like.

I am hopeful.


Me: Do you know what they are building over there?

Brian: It's the new extension on the mall. I told you before, don't you remember?

Me: No

Brian: You forget a lot.

Me: Well, I'm old.

Brian: That's just because you're a mom. If you didn't have kids you wouldn't be old.

The kid may be on to something.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Margaret so "gets it"

So many of us when we first become adoptive or foster parents of older children say really naive things. We think only about how much we love the kids. We imagine how we will love these kids and make them all better.

But this new home thing is not all good from the kid's perspective. Even if your home is the most wonderful place in the whole world, it is still a new place. It is still a separation. It is still a move.

For the kids it is scary. They are leaving what they know and stepping into what they don't know.

And Margaret gets that. She is looking forward to bringing him home and she is thinking carefully about everything that he is going through, about what this is like for him.

But it shouldn't surprise us that she gets it.

She's his mom.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Not most like Debbie, anymore

I just spent two and a half hours sitting at a booth in a local fast food restaurant with a mom talking about our gay boys. Ah yes, another PFLAG mom has been welcomed into the fold. I liked her. I really, really liked her.

I've met a lot of PFLAG moms. We come in all sizes and temperments. We enjoy all kinds of foods. Some of us are shy, quiet, and thoughtful. Some of us are outgoing, loud, and brash. Some of us are Debbie's and some of us are Jennifer's (bonus points if you know who Jennifer is).

But we all love our kids. We love them passionately. We will stand up for them, and we will kick ourselves later for all the times we didn't.

Sometimes it takes us a while to blossom. Over the past seven years I have held the hands of many moms. Mostly I have encouraged them, told them they can do this. They are strong enough. I have played Debbie for countless Jennifers.

See, I'm not Debbie, but until today I had to confess that I was as close as our chapter came. Though I am quieter, and far less confident of my own sense of style, I can be loud, and I am certainly willing to to be blunt and say what I believe needs to be said. I have embarrassed my children in my efforts to be genuinely supportive.

But today I get to pass the designation "local mom most likely to be compared with Debbie" on to someone else.

I mean it never even occured to me that I should make up for the fact that my adolescent boy did not have any gay uncles from whom he might steal appropriate "adult" materials.


Brian: Mom, did you just fart?

Me: Yes Brian, women fart too. You did realize that, right?

Brian: Well, I knew mom's did, but I didn't think women did.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Happy Anniversary to Me

So I married this guy twenty-two years ago. It was one week after I graduated from college and six weeks before my twenty-second birthday. Yep. I got married at twenty-one. The older I get the more surprising I find that.

I don't recommend graduating and getting married within seven days of each other. In my case however it meant that (1) my mother, who had to fly across the country, would be at both ceremonies and (2) I could move from the dorms to married student housing.

Actually the dean of students was not pleased about letting me move in a week before my wedding. Only married students were supposed to be there. I knew him fairly well though and so I said, "My mom is going to be staying there with me and Hubby-to-be will be living with his parents. Really, we probably won't be able to have sex at all that week, but if we do I promise it won't be in the apartment." His response was of course embarrassment. He said, "Please stop. Just take the key. Please."

Even then I knew that I would regret never living on my own. I considered putting off the wedding for a year. He was on the five-year plan and would still be in school. I could get a studio apartment and try to live on my own. It seemed unwise though. I knew he would end up basically living with me but still paying for room and board at the college. He would not be helping me to pay my bills, and I would be irritated. Living together without being married wasn't a solution. I knew I wanted to be married to him, and I knew that I was skipping over the part of my life where I lived alone. It is not a huge deal, but it is something that I think about periodically. It is something that people who meet me are surprised to learn. It is something about myself that I find surprising.

The wedding itself was simple and beautiful. My mother had always told me that I could have a college education or a big wedding. She said it jokingly, but she meant it too. I had gone to school on scholarship and with significant contributions from her. She had sacrificed for me for four years and I couldn't ask her to help me pay for a big wedding. So I kept it as simple as possible. I paid for as much as I could myself and in the end asked her only to pay for the flowers. I told the florist I wanted a mixed-flower bouquet, something that looked like it could be a bunch of wild flowers, but that I needed to keep the price down, so only use flowers that were reasonable.

I found a lace dress in a consignment store and a seamstress who made me a satin dress to go under it. I bought plain shoes and stockings. My entire wedding outfit cost me less than $100.

Hubby's parents had had only sons. FIL was an executive at a local company (very big fish in small town) and the in-laws kept offering to pay for various things. MIL really cares about photographs, could she pay for the photographer as a present? Would she like for me to mail out the invitations? Oh no, don't worry about the postage dear. I told her about the bare-bones reception I had planned and she asked if she could have a dinner afterwards for everyone.

She did it all lovingly and graciously. The invitation to the dinner went out with the invitations to the wedding. Though of course everyone knew that they had paid for it, nothing in any of the invitations indicated that.

And she thanked me. She said she never thought she would get to help a daughter plan a wedding.

Traditionally the parents' of the groom pay for the rehearsal dinner. She asked me what I wanted, and I told her she should do what she wanted because what I wanted wasn't appropriate. She asked me to tell her and I said that with all the stress of that week I wanted something really informal. If I could do whatever I wanted I'd just bring everyone back to the house and have spaghetti. She smiled and said she understood.

Later she told me that she had reserved a banquet room at a nice but casual atmosphere restaurant. I thanked her, knowing she was trying to give me what I wanted. I was pleased because I knew she probably would have preferred something much more formal. She told everyone it was casual attire and when we got there, there was a serve-yourself pasta bar. No one understood why I nearly cried when I saw it, why I hugged her and thanked her. No one except FIL who smiled and hugged her too.

It was the best evening.

As for the wedding itself. Well, my dress was so simple that I could not imagine a veil that wouldn't over-power it. I settled on wearing a small half circle of flowers. I had one made up in silk flowers so the hair-dresser (whom MIL paid) could practice. The silk version had tiny lavender flowers. It was very pretty. On the day of the wedding the flowers showed up and the flowers for my hair had daisies and full bloom roses in it. It was huge. They put it on my head and I looked like Mother Nature from the old margarine commercial. I suggested that I just get married with nothing on my head, but you would have thought I had suggested walking down the aisle bare-chested. In the end we cut rose buds and baby's breath from the brides maids' bouquets and pinned them in my hair.

As I left the dressing room one of my friend's ran over to tell me that "my cake fell!" I glanced over and told her that it looked fine. The top was decorated wrong, but it looked okay. Later, when we went to cut the cake and we took the top layer off I realized it was too light. The caterer had dropped the original top piece on the floor. This was a styrofoam fake from one of the display cakes in the window.

After the ceremony, reception, and formal dinner, Hubby and I drove off and then quietly drove back to our apartment where all our friends were waiting for us. Some had also just graduated, others had come into town just for the wedding. The week before had been so busy that there really had been no time that we had all been able to spend together without being at a party or event. We figured it would be the last time we could all be together. We were right. We finally left them and went to our hotel sometime after midnight.

And that, my friends, was literally more than half a life-time ago.

Though this post is really about reminiscing about my own past, I also look forward. I confess, I am one of those mothers who hopes her kids get married. I want sons- and daughters-in-law, and I want grandbabies. I understand that I don't always get what I want, and that they have every right to choose not to get married and not to parent.

But I want it. I want to dance at their weddings.

And though I know I cannot demand or even expect that they choose to get married, I can and DO demand that it be legal.

You hear that world? Are you listening to me Very Red State? Because I want this, and I am not going away.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Confirmed Sighting

I was not feeling very well this morning (nothing serious) but I decided to grade at home. So I was here when Evan got up. He works from 2pm-10pm. This means that he gets home after I go to bed, gets up after I go to work, and leaves before I get home.

I had not seen him since Sunday.

He was pleased to see me. He gave me the rent money and expressed regret that he hadn't been able to give it to me yesterday. He had committed to pay me every Thursday and he asked me to come up with a place where he could put the money where it would be secure.

Tomorrow morning he is going to the university for orientation and possibly to register for classes. He made sure all of his appointments are early so that he can make it to work on time. He will be off on Sunday and Monday.

Who is this responsible young man? Where did he come from?

Actually, now that I look back I remember that he planned that whole trip to Scotland on his own, didn't he?

He's a pretty amazing young man.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The pile

This act of generosity has resulted in 20 more items to grade.

Truly I must be insane. 5o intro papers, 20 misc upper-division things.

Oh...the dog pooped in his crate yesterday. By the time we got home he was filthy. Brian did not seem to realize that allowing the dog to run through the living room was a BAD IDEA. The dog was in the crate longer than he is usually (6 hours), but I think the real problem was all the people food he has been stealing recently. NEW RULE: No dirty dishes, left-overs, or other food stuffs may be left on kitchen or any other table.

I went with Brian to see his new counselor. I think this is going to be a match. She does art and play therapy and I think he will respond better to that than the probing questions the other counselor asked him. She asked him about his relationship with me and he said that he wished we that we spent more time together; that I had more time for him.

Sigh. I'm not saying he is wrong, but did he have to say that when I was sitting in front of a pile of 70 things that I must grade? School will be over in a few weeks. I promise to be a better mom then.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Why I won't be writing much for a while

Intro papers all turned in. 50 students. Papers 3-6 pages each. Do the math.

But because some of you may be wondering: Evan's body lives and breathes in the cool basement bedroom. His mind has been devoured by World of Warcraft. There are rumors that he has been seen in the kitchen foraging for sustanence.

I'll be back...

Sunday, May 13, 2007

I fogot about mother's day!

One of the things that I like least about the blogosphere is holidays. Sometimes, not all the time, but sometimes, it feels like we all write the same post.

And today is mother's day and most of the blogs that I read are parenting blogs and it is likely that everyone is going to write some sort of refective post about being a mom or a parent. (And if you are planning to, don't let me discourage you. I do understand that your blog does not exist for my entertainment and edification).

But I don't want to write one more post Mother's Day post.

But I will say that I forgot it was today.

And Carl called me first thing in the morning, and Brian brought me breakfast in bed to eat while I talked to Carl. The day is starting off well. My conversation with Carl was fun. He told me that he was no longer a "floater" with the make-up section of the Big Name Department Store he had been hired on by one particular company. He asked me where I bought the very few cosmetics that I used. I told him. He replied, "Oh darling, that stuff is fine if you are just starting out, but it really isn't very good. I will have to put a gift basket together for you." So now I know what I will be getting for my birthday in a few months.

I don't really have plans for the day. I might spend the day doing very, very little.

Hubby and Brian asked me what I wanted for Mother's Day. I told them that I wanted them to hire a TA to do my backlog of grading; and I wanted the kitchen to stay clean all day, the groceries bought, and dinner to appear without any effort on my part. They said they could probaby do most of that, in fact all but one.

"Okay," I said, "I'll go grocery shopping."

Later Hubby told me that he knows how much I enjoy time alone, so as a special Mother's Day Gift just for me, he will take the boys out to see Spider Man 3.

Now isn't that thoughtful of him?

Happy mother's day to you all.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

"Was it a date?"

He knew I was going to ask, eventually.

He went out to a late movie last night. He did not say anything about it in advance, just said around 8:00pm that he "had" to be at the theatre by 10:20pm. He didn't say much about the movie, just that he had to go to the movies.

So this morning I asked him if it was a date. He got embarrassed, laughed, and looked at me awkwardly. I said, "You understand that I'm expressing an interest in your dating life, not asking about your sex life, right?"

"Yeah. Okay. It was a date."

"Was it a boyfriend, or just a date?"

"Um...I don't know!"

"Well it becomes a real boyfriend, will you introduce me?"

"Absolutely. If I have a real boyfriend I will invite him over for dinner." This of course was said with sufficient confidence that I have no expectation that I will be meeting any "real boyfriends" any time soon.

Evan's job is in "customer retention." He works for a company to which people pay significant amounts of money every month for a service. When they are having trouble with it they call and go to customer support where people attempt to help them. When they get really upset and want to cancel their service, they go to customer retention where someone like Evan tries to solve their problem or bribe them into staying with a credit to their bill or an free "extra" for a few months.

It is known as one of the most gay-friendly employers in the area. They only hire high school graduates (hence David's inability to get a job there), have real benefits, and pay very well for the area and for the level of education the workers have. He said that he has asked to have the day of the Pride Parade off, but it seems like 25% of the workforce wants it off, so he doesn't think he will get it.

He's happy there, and he will probably be able to find a sufficient supply of not-real boyfriends to not introduce me to.


A couple of people have referred to the period that I am having right now as a honeymoon, and I as going to write a post where I was going to say that that was not the right word.

Except that I decided that it sort of is. I think it applies BETTER to what I am going through right now with Evan than it does so to the usual early days or weeks of a placement.

Evan and I already know that we like each other. We have lived in the same house; we have had fights. We have confidence in each other and in our long term relationship. Right now, he is particular grateful for being allowed to move in. He wants to demonstrate his gratitude, and prove to me that he won't be a burden. He probably also wants to demonstrate how grown-up he has become.

Things are not going to stay this easy. He is going to relax and his commitment to working hard and being expemplary is not going to contiue for three months.

Hopefully however after this stage is over we will just have something like normalcy -- no period of extended testing.

Friday, May 11, 2007

The first evening

The first evening went very well, of course.

The boys and Hubby helped Evan get the last of the things from the room carried out and his things carried in. (Odd how it took me the entire time to get the kitchen cleaned up after dinner. It was very dirty.)

Evan is happy with the room. It is smaller than his old one (now occupied by Brian), but is well equipped with storage space: lots of shelves in a good-sized closet; and a storage cabnet. Right now there is just a small child desk in there. We need to pull it out and put back the adult desk. Also the chest of drawers, which was never a quality piece of furniture, shows clear evidence of having been a stand for a pet rat cage. So Evan and I will do some thrift store shopping to see if we can find something better. If I don't find anything then we will switch those too.

What Evan likes most about the room is that it is cool (as in the temperature is low). Summers can get quite hot and this room will be the coolest in the house. Of course that room tends to be warm in the winter, but Evan is just here for the summer, so that is good.

Evan and Brian got along fine for the hours they were home alone together. Since I got home Evan and Andrew have been down stairs playing an on-line game (each on a separate computer).

Life here is peaceful.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Rent and chores

I came home to find Evan in the house. He handed me his first month's rent, without my asking. He also said, "You know I'm not going to be a troll in the basement, right? I mean I will do stuff with the family. I'll do chores."

"Yeah, I wanted to talk to you about that. What I meant was that we would be really flexible with what chores you would do, depending on your work schedule. If you eat dinner with the family though..."

He interrupts, "I'll help clean up!"

So I did not have to bring up the chores thing at all. He just volunteered.

Raise your hand if you think he's reading the blog.

(Love ya, Evan.)

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

I think I may have lied to him...

...although technically it wasn't a lie because I believed it at the time.

I started a post prompted by Trey a while back on the division of labor at our house. I sudden realize that this entry will be easier to write if I finish that one first.

...okay, I'm back.

One of the issues that Evan was having with his Grandmother was that she got angry at him for not doing things which she thought he should just do without being asked. He reported to me that that was fundamentally unfair. He thought so because (1) he can't know what she wants done unless she asks; (2) he always does what she asks him to do; and (3) he works full time and she is retired.

I'm not going to comment on the last one. Regarding #2 all I can say is that my re-reading my blog provides evidence that Evan thinks he always does what he has been asked to do, but that he doesn't. He either just doesn't remember being asked to do the things that he hasn't done, or he was just about to do it right before you reminded him so you're the crazy one, not him.

I think the first issue is fundamental, and typical of young adults living at home.* If Evan lived on his own, no one would have to tell him to take out the trash, wash the dishes, or clean the bathroom. Of course, he might not take out the trash until after it was nauseating, only wash the dishes when there were no more clean ones in the house, and clean the bathroom only for company if at all. However, he would not live there thinking that he could not possibly be expected to do any housework because nobody told him what needed doing.

Anyway, when I spoke with Evan last week I told him that it would be a good idea if he picked a couple of chores, like trash and vaccuuming, and started doing them without being asked. That of course went in one ear and out the other. (That was not the only issue going on.)

What I think probably did stick in his brain, and I now can't believe I said was, "If you are living here paying rent I won't expect you to be doing chores."

Now, I think what I meant was that he could come and go as he pleased and if he was not in the house much, then he was not expected to do chores. I did not mean that he could, for instance, eat meals with us regularly and never take a turn cooking or cleaning up.

I'm going to have to think about this, because I told him that he would not be in a situation where what was expected of him would be unclear and that he wouldn't get in trouble for not doing things that he hadn't been asked to do.

Though I would love to believe that because believes he is an adult he would act like one, doing at least some housework because it needs to be done and not because someone (me) made him do it, I do understand that to be fantasy.

Division of Labor

Trey wrote about division of labor, suggesting that others discuss how the labor is divided in their homes.

We had intended to have a marriage in which we did not divide the work up along gender stereotypical lines. I think we were successful with that with parenting. With housework, well,
Hubby does the laundry, and is responsible for most (all?) of the cleanup outside the upstairs bathroom and kitchen.

Um...maybe that's it. He does what yard work gets done (not much). He pays the bills, but I keep track of how much money there is. I'm in charge of food (plan, shop, prepare, clean-up). He makes certain that the cars get taken care of, leaks get stopped, and heater/air conditioner filters get changed.

Though we would not have predicted this, and neither of us want to admit it, I tend to take care of Andrew more and Hubby takes care of Brian. It partly has to do with who was working from home when that child was a baby and toddler, and it has to do with their personalities (which may have something to do with who was home?). Since we are both involved parents with good relationships with the kids you would have to watch carefully to notice it, but it is there. Because Andrew is 17 and Brian is 12 this means that Hubby has more parenting issues at the moment (find the right counselor, talk to teachers about getting information regarding homework, make certain he has done his homework). Sometimes I feel a little guilty, but then I remember that I did all that with Andrew and I do all of it with the foster kids, and then I don't feel guilty anymore. You of course notice that I stress about all these things with Brian. It is Hubby though who does something about him. (I tend to say things like, "You're the special ed teacher. You should know what to do!")

Hubby definitely puts in MORE hours than I do in housework. This is partly because he does not make the boys do as much of his work as I do. I make them take turns planning, cooking, and cleaning up after meals, for instance. This requires a fair amount of energy and time, but eventually pays off.

Hubby does the laundry, all of it. He has chosen not to teach the boys how and to make them help. This, by the way, means that I own more socks and underwear than any other woman in the state. Have you ever heard that line about needing three of something "one on you, one in the drawer, and one in the wash"? In my house it is "One on you, one in the drawer and 20 in the laundry room." On those rare occasions when all of my clothes are clean, they will not fit into the drawers

Hubby's years doing home day care did a lot to change the gender dynamic. Prior to those years he did a lot of the work, but always and only when I directed him. I announced that we needed to clean the house. I hounded him to do the dishes (we switched dishes and laundry about 10 years ago when I realized that I could buy more underwear and ignore the laundry room more easily than I could buy more dishes and ignore piles of dirty ones in the kitchen). If anything went wrong, any part of the normal structure of life slipped, I was the one who had to figure out how to handle it.

It infuriated me in the early years of our marriage. That I had to remind him to do his chores made me insane in a way that he just couldn't understand. I tried talking to him. I tried yelling at him. I tried "forgetting" to do my chores ("Dinner? Oh, I forgot to cook. Could you remind me tomorrow?"). Nothing worked. Not until he was the one home full time.

To a certain extent that still happens. He still only takes out the trash when I tell him it needs to be done. He is still capable of saying to me with a straight face, "Geez, it's overflowing. Why didn't you tell me it needed to be taken out earlier?" I now tend to shrug, having realized that it doesn't actually help to say things like, "Why don't you remind me to buy milk before it's gone?" or "Why didn't you notice when you were throwing your trash away? Oh wait! I remember! You leave your trash on the counter and I throw it away!"
Now to be fair, there is a long history of my brake pads being replaced, oil changed, or tires replaced because Hubby noticed that it needed to be done. And just to be scrupulously fair, I will point out that those things need to be done a whole lot less often than the trash needs to be taken out. He would also point out that with respect to general clutter and messiness, he is just as likely to notice and more likely to do something about it than I am.
I don't know about everyone out there, but in my conversation with other heterosexual women, this is a major complaint. Early in my marriage it felt like my only options were: nag; do it myself; let it go undone. It took years before the option "live with an adult who does his fair share just because it needs to be done."

More on the award

Mungos_Mom writes regarding my Mystey Award post:

I don't mean to deny the presence of implicit homophobia (as a fellow resident of The Big Red State, I know it's everywhere), but isn't it possible that this is just a result of the chaos of producing one of these evenings? Our department has a banquet every year, and people are so caught up in figuring out various details that our award winner announcements always end up being pretty half-a$$ed. Last year the person doing the announcing forgot that we had two outstanding graduate award winners, and the person doing the announcing forgot to mention one of them (who had spent a LOT of money making sure her family was there and had given many of us thank you cupcakes). I was so embarassed that I'm still upset about it--still, it wasn't an intentional screw-up, just the result of flakiness. It seems like foster care agencies aren't necessarily the most coordinated organizations around. Either way, I'm sorry that your moment to be honored was unsatisfying.

What I think happenned, at the individual psychological level, was that the young woman who was handing out the awards did not think in advance about what she wanted to say. She found herself in front of 100 people needing to hand out an award and did not know how to phrase it. Had she planned in advance they might have said, "Yondalla has been doing some research on biological children of foster parents. [Hubby] has given presentations to school officials to help them understand the needs of some of our kids, and both have been leaders in community organizations that also support the youth of Our State."

Hubby thinks that they couldn't identify the issue because they don't want to have us identified as "the family who takes the queer kids." This not because we or any of our kids would care, but because it presents challenges for new kids. They would like to give us kids who are questioning or kids who are just getting picked on for not complying to gender stereotypes regardless of orientation, but if every time we go to an agency-sponsored event people assume that the kids with us are all gay, that will be a problem. (Notice that it would be a problem because of our heterosexist society. If we had a commitment to working with teen moms, any teenager girl who was with us might be assumed to be a mom, or mom-to-be. It might be frustrating for a girl who was not a mom. She might sigh and say that she got tired of telling everyone that no she didn't have a baby and wasn't going to have a baby. But it wouldn't be the same, at least not today.)

And I get that. Recently I did an interview with a local publication. I told her she had to choose between using my first name only and talking about the gay issues, or having my name and family photo and leaving it out.

We are working in an area in which there is real danger of harassment and what we say about ourselves affects what people will think about others.

I've learned over and over that being out is not a simple thing. One is not either in or out. One is out at work, with family, friends; or everyone who knows you personally. You can be out in all those ways and still decide not to hold hands on the subway. Being out, or outed, to an organization who will use that information to judge your children, current and future, is a different thing.

So I don't think it happened out of malice, and I don't think that the "right thing to say" was obvious. I can be understanding/forgiving with the social worker who blundered.

At the same time though I also think it was a blunder. I think the fact that it is difficult to agree on what should be said is a clear indication that heterosexism is alive and well. And though I don't feel the need to be outraged with the social worker, I do think she should have thought about what she was going to say so that she could have said something that made sense.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007


Evan is moving in Thursday afternoon.

Everyone ready?

The Mystery Award

We were given a "award" at the dinner last night. The agency had nominated us for a different award for foster parents who are engaged in activities to improve the lives of foster kids. We were nominated because of my "children who foster" work and because of our work in PFLAG, especially our work in PFLAG.

They are very impressed that we do that.

Anyway, we did not get the award that they nominated us for and so they wanted to give us their own award at the dinner. It was nice and all. We certainly do appreciate the gift certificate that will pay for our upcoming anniversary dinner.

However, it was a very odd experience. They told us that they were giving it to us (so that we would be sure to come to the dinner). The certificate is nicely framed, but only says "Certificate of Appreciation." At the end of the dinner they called up the parents who had been working for the agency for 5 or 10 years (no 15, 20, etc were there) and gave them framed certificates which say:

Certificate of Appreciation
For 5 years of service

Then the young social worker who is now the family developer says that she has an award for me and Hubby.

"I really appreciate Yondalla and [Hubby]. I learned more about being a social worker from them than any of my teachers. [Laughs] We all really appreciate all the things they do. They are so involved in the community and they really care about making things better for our kids."

That was it. That was what she said.

Now there was nothing wrong with it, but if I had been one of the other parents I would have thought, "What did they do that was so special? Why are they getting this award? Aren't we all involved in the community? Don't we all care about the kids?"

At the time I just sighed and and took the certificate and the hugs.

Today I am feeling downright peevish about it. They were giving us the award because we have worked to make things better for the gay kids. We have worked hard in PFLAG; we have lobbied the legislators; I have written letters which have been published in local papers; Hubby has given presentations to groups of school counselors and psychologists. If I were being given an award because I had made a commitment to kids with any other special need, they would have mentioned it.

It feels creepy to me. I mean, they didn't have to give me the certificate or gift certificate at all. I don't do what I do in order to get recognized. But if they are going to give us an award, shouldn't they be able to say what it is for? Shouldn't they be able to say "for working hard to increase undersanding for gay and lesbian kids"?

If it is award-worthy, shouldn't it be speakable?

Monday, May 07, 2007


Tonight was the foster family appreciation dinner.

Evan went with us.

It was really wonderful. Sometimes it has been a bit tedious, but not this time. A current foster youth, a foster alumna, and a first mom all spoke. Everyone cried. The first mom (natural mom, REAL mom) got a standing ovation when she announced that she had been drug free for over three years. She described herself as a "dopeless hope-fiend." She thanked the foster parents for taking care of her kids and helping her to rebuild her relationship with them.

Did I mention that everyone cried?

When we got there we sat down at a table only because there were only two other people there. They turned out to be Marsha and her husband, Miss E's current parents! I don't know if I've been clear about this, but I never actually met them. I've spoken with Marsha on the phone and emailed with her a few times, but we never met in person.

Miss E showed up just a little late. I also don't think I remembered to tell you all that she is taking classes from a private night school so that she can finish high school before her 18th birthday. Anyway, she got to the dinner after her class let out.

I haven't seen her so happy in a long while. Miss E picked up a dropped name tag and stuck it on Marsha. Marsha pulled it off and stuck it on Miss E. Miss E pulled it off and put it in the middle of Marsha's back. They were both laughing. It was just wonderful. During dinner I asked them how many other kids they had. They said just the one little girl; Miss E does best when there aren't other kids.

I've decided I love them.

Right now I feel so grateful for all these fantastic kids and parents. I am privileged to know them all.

Really almost happening

The transition worker just called to confirm that I was okay with the plan. She's filled out a funding request to help reimburse expenses. She was concerned because she would like it to be approved today, but the person who would do that is out of the office. So maybe she should ask the deputy division director to sign it.

She suggested that I invite him to the foster family appreciation dinner tonight so that he does not have to spend the evening at his grandmother's, just in case it doesn't get approved today.

Evan must have really impressed her with the danger and/or pressure of the situation. I don't think it is that dire, but hey, worrying about that is not my job.

(Of course I would let Evan stay even if they refused to match what I asked Evan to pay.)

In case people are wondering, if Evan were not planning on going to the dorms in August they would probably only approve one month with me and his transitional worker would be helping him to find an apartment. Given that we are talking about a three month window, the worker agrees this is the best plan.

It looks like he is really, really moving in.

I'm torn between excited and terrified.

FosterAbba says she is not sure whether to congratulate me or tell me I'm crazy. Both are probably appropriate.

Hope4Future wonders if he will be easier to live with because he chose us this time around. If he is easier to live with, it won't be because he chose us. He asked for us the last time and though he is happy we will take him now, he is experiencing this as his only acceptable option.

He could be harder to live with because now he is paying rent (he doesn't know that the total amount of money is less that standard reimbursement rates, and I'm not telling him). He may have a sense of entitlement.

Or he could be easier because he has lived on his own, more or less, and has a better sense of self.

If he keeps this job it will be easier just because he won't be around all the time.

So I really don't know. Moving back in with your parents after you have experienced freedom is never easy. But I am going into this with my eyes open. I know what the range of possibilities are.

And of course I totally reserve the right to write long blog posts venting my frustrations at him, and get peeved at anyone who responds, "Well, you did ask agree to this."

He's moving back in

Well, nothing is final until it's final. Until he has actually moved his stuff in I would not be terribly shocked if his grandmother convinced him to stay.

So perhaps I should say that he had decided to move back in.

When we first talked, we agreed on rent. I told him how much I wanted him to pay and told him to ask his transitional worker if they would match that. If they do then he is covered for room and board, if they don't then we will talk about how much of his own food he is expected to purchase. (BTW, even if they match it, it is less that 80% of what they gave me in room and board payments when he lived there).

He agreed that the numbers were very reasonable and he is glad that I did not say he could live rent free. He feels like that is part of the problem at Grandma's. He doesn't have to pay rent and so is expected to be helpful. Grandma doesn't want to tell him exactly what labor is required in lieu of rent and he is always in trouble for not having done what no one asked him to do. So he will pay me a minimal amount of rent and will know that is that.

He has talked to his transitional worker who believes his moving out is a wise decision. He did emphasize with the change in the composition in the household, which I for one believe is the explanation for the change in his relationship with his grandmother. His worker will talk to whoever she talks to to see if they can help him to pay me. They are more likely to since I am a foster parent with them. But they might not.

In any case, the money is not so much about the expense of him living there (although that is part of it). It is about him not feeling like an adult who is paying his own way in the world.

I find I am rather excited.

So off the topic

I currently have the worst class in my entire career -- at least with respect to having turned in material. It is small, only five students, and no one has higher than a D.

This is not due to bad work. It is due to simply not turning work in.

I am going to offer a five day amnesty. Everything was supposed to be turned in electronically and I am going to tell them that for the next five days I will assume that everything I did not receive was swallowed by the Internet. Of course the statistical chances of it all having been swallowed when my other classes have had no trouble at all are pretty slim. Still. For five days I will accept whatever work their sorry little a$$es can turn in.

After that any late work had better be accompanied by tears AND a very large box of very good chocolate. Well, that or a note from an emergency room physician or funeral director.

Abandonment and Attachment

I wonder sometimes how many people read the blog and form opinions about young gay men based upon what I tell you abut my boys.

I hope almost no one.

I know other young gay men from work, through PFLAG, and as friends of my boys. They vary a lot. They range in all sorts of ways, including how stable their relationships are.

I've noticed something about them: they are remarkably like straight kids. The more they suffered abandonment or rejection, the more difficult it is for them to believe that they are lovable and to form emotionally healthy and stable relationships. All of my boys suffered abandonment. Two suffered physical abuse. David had the worst of it.

He was abandoned repeatedly, by a mother for whom I have great sympathy, but who was not equipped to take care of herself. She eventually abandoned him to the foster care system. David was experienced abandonment again and again. I even found myself in the role of yet another person who disappointed him.

The pattern he has had (so far) in his relationships with gay men has everything to do with his history, and nothing, I believe, to do with his being gay. Had he been straight it would have played out in a different way, but he would have been no more capable of forming honest, trusting connections.

Inside, David is just beginning to be more than the four-year-old boy who must always search the horizon for the next person who will take care of him. It is in the last year that he has begun to start to take care of himself. I am beginning to hope for him that he will eventually develop good relationships. It will take time.

Rejection by one's parents, whether it happens when you are four or after you come out at 24, hurts. That kind of hurt can make you feel unlovable. It can get in the way of your believing that anyone else can love you. It isn't that something that anyone can simply shrug off.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Went to visit David

David wanted to borrow my cutting tools and folding table so that he could do some sewing at his apartment. Brian and I drove down to bring him the things.

He is still sharing an apartment with the same young woman, whom I suppose I should make up a name for at some point. Previously they were subletting from someone, now they have a lease and are looking for someone to sublease from them.

I found myself thinking that I am so glad he has such a good woman in his life.

I've deleted my explanation of that a couple of times. Let's just say that he doesn't know very many straight men, and his relationship with other gay men always end with accusations. For a long time his living arrangements were tied to his confusing and volatile romantic relationships with other gay men. It was not good.

Now however he is rooming with a very nice straight girl. There is no confusion about the nature of the friendship or their responsibilities towards each other. Together they can afford the rent on a very reasonable apartment. So I'm happy for them. I'm glad that David has found such a good roommate.

In case you are wondering, I have not heard from Evan since he left the other day. I'm curious about what will happen next, but I know I could go two weeks without hearing from him and then get a phone call saying he was on his way over. Who knows.

Evan and Old Posts

The thing about having a blog is that it makes it much more difficult to lie to yourself about the past. I went back and read the posts I wrote during the last couple of months that Evan was here.

It wasn't easy.

I think it will be a little easier in some ways. When Evan moves out in August he will only be moving 30 miles away, not over an ocean. I am no longer worried that I am going to loose him. He will be in a basement-level bedroom, has his own car, and may come and go as he likes.

It won't be easy though.

I wonder if anyone is asking why I would agree to do it, why we were all so quick to agree that if Evan needs to come back he may. Aside from the simple fact that this is what we do, Evan is now part of the family. End of explanation.

While I was strolling down memory lane I came across quite a few posts that I did not publish. Apparently at the time I thought they were unfinished, but now I have no idea what I thought should be added to them. I'll probably publish them soon. I'm not going to change the publication date, so those of you would read by surfing and not via a reader may not see them. They weren't essential to the "plot line." Mostly they are reflective posts.

I am still hoping that by calming Evan down, letting him know he is not trapped, and trying to give him a new way of looking at everything that he will work everything out at Grandma's. I told this to Hubby and he chuckled.

At least he didn't howl with laughter.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Evan might come back

I have not let David and Carl come home when they would have wanted to because I was convinced that doing so was enabling irresponsible behavior.

If David were to come to me and say that he really wanted to finish high school and could he live here while he did so, I would say yes so quickly and so happily it would make his head spin. There are other circumstances that would make me also welcome Carl with open arms.

Evan still plans to move into the dormitory August 24. He is working full-time and making very responsible decisions.

I would not let him move in if it were a simple matter of him having trouble getting along with grandma. I would think it was important that he learn how to handle relationships.

I will say only that other relatives have moved in at Grandma's, and it is not a good situation.

So I told him he is not trapped. He has cried, vented, talked, and I tried to give him some ideas for coping in his current environment. I recommended Alanon and he laughed and asked if I thought it would really help. He ate dinner and is going back in better spirits knowing that if he needs to leave he can. That alone may reduce the anxiety he is feeling and allow him to stay. He will shortly move to working evenings which means that he would not be in the house during the hours that are most tense. That should help too.

But maybe not. We will see.

Process & Bacchus asked what this would mean for other placements. I guess it means the same thing it meant while he was still living here in the autumn. My commitments to the kids I have come before the commitments to all the other kids out in the world who might need me. Evan will move out in 3 1/2 months. If during that time the agency finds a kid they want us to meet, we will meet him or her. Any new kid can certainly move in on August 24th. Are there situations that would persuade me to do a bedroom shuffle? Probably, but who knows what will happen?

What will be will be. I'll keep you posted.

Oh...I did ask the boys and Hubby what they thought before making any offers to Evan. No one hesitated. Evan might not be the easiest person to live with, but this is his home too. If he wants to come back, he is welcomed by everyone.

Evan and his grandmother (update)

Evan is having basically typical issues with living with his grandmother.

He is a young adult working full-time for the first time in his life and anxious. She doesn't want rent, but does want him to help out and does has expectations for his behavior. Meanwhile his younger sister and her father have apparently moved in. That has brought up another level of tension and he says that he would not be bringing it up to me except that it has gotten really bad.

He says he wants me to tell him what to do.

I think that translates to, "Will you offer to let me come move back in?"

I told him to give me a call and we can talk. In my email back I did not bring up the idea of him moving back in. I pretended that it did not occur to me that he might be hoping I would offer that. Heartless of me perhaps, but that's what I did. And I would prefer that he actually ask, not hint, but that may be too much to expect from a 19-year-old.

He just called...sobbing. I could barely understand him and I told him to get into his car and drive over.

More Respite

I forgot that I was doing respite this weekend. I mean, I remembered about it on Monday and on Thursday, but completely forgot about it on Friday until Mandy showed up unexpectedly to drop off two girls.

Olivia, whose real name is the same as my real name, is Mandy neice. Mandy would not normally take her because she is not a "high level kid" but, being Mandy's niece and all, she's in. She asked me about the sort of kids I take. She is a candidate for our house, but only if she gets into the program for which I work, which is unlikely as she fully (and reasonably) expects to go home. Besides, she is in a kinship-placement so even if they decided she wasn't going home the state would not want to recommend her for my program. Too bad, since she seems to be a really good kid.

There is no reason that Mandy knows of for Pam to be in the behaviorally-challenged program either.

Other than Evan, these are the first kids I have had in a long time who have not spent most of their childhoods in and out of the system. I don't know their stories, and won't ask, but they have recently been with their families and expect to go back soon.

I hope it all works out for them. But it looks like they will be easy to have here. They get along and really just want to hang, play video games, and chat. It's good to have more kids in the house, even if it is just for the weekend.

Jackie, by the way, is past her 18th birthday and so does not need to be in respite. She is spending the weekend with friends while Mandy and her husband take their weekend off. She is working on a plan to move out, but not working as hard on it as Mandy would like. It's tough, being 18 and suddenly expected to be an adult.

Although it isn't really more as both Brian and Andrew have deserted us for freinds.

Friday, May 04, 2007

A Moment to Mourn

Today I pause to mourn with Granny after the death of her daughter.

It was a peaceful death after prolonged illness. That it was peaceful and that Granny had a chance to say goodbye is good. That anyone must ever bury their child, even if that child is an adult, is tragic.

Carol Kathleen Breeze
June 2, 1956 - May 3, 2007
May she rest in peace and may all who loved her find comfort.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

"When will they get us a new kid?"

On my recent trip there was a moment in which it seemed completely obvious to me that as long as Brian's anxiety is still an issue we shouldn't take on more kids. It didn't matter whether doing care had some part in creating the problem, the problem was here. Brian was having anxiety symptoms, and he needed more of my attention, not less.

And then I got back.

Aside from those four days in which Brian could not speak, he has done wonderfully since he went to half days. He has been the least anxious he has been since before he went to school. Hubby thinks that the voice thing was a not-quite-conscious attempt to get out of school altogether. In any case, he is once again that non-anxious happy boy.

Except not entirely happy. He keeps asking me things like, "When are we getting another kid?" "Are you sure the social workers are looking?" "I miss Carl, David and Evan. I need someone else around here to do stuff with me."

To that last plea I responded, "You can't count on the new kid being a play mate. He or she might not enjoy the same things. You might not get along. You might even fight."

"Maybe. But even that would be better. At least I wouldn't be bored."

Oh dear. Can I pretend that that means that he is enthusiastically committed to care? Or is it just that he would rather torment another older brother (Andrew just doesn't take the bait anymore) than entertain himself?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

An Interesting Date

Andrew had asked me to calculate a particular date a year or so ago. I did a rough approximation and had planned to figure it out exactly and celebrate it somehow. I wasn't sure exactly what I would do, but I did want to mark it, be aware of the day on the day. Unfortunately I did not calculate the exact date, and I now realize that it slipped past without notice. I just did the math, and it was on or very near March 30, 2007.

What was the significance of the date, you ask? It was the point at which I had been married for exactly half of my life.

Last Post on Trip

A lot of the anxiety I had about being with my mother and sister was needless, of course. It turns out that the two of them have been regularly communicating and developing a rather healthy relationship over the past year or two. I quit as their mediator a couple of decades ago, and I am healthy enough not to be miffed that they learned to get along without me (but unhealthy enough to notice that I am not miffed).

It really is a good thing. Oh, we all drive each other nuts a little and they get on each other's nerves. When Mom was teaching Sis how to applique, each of them "threw me looks" whenever the other did something annoying. I found myself wondering when they might have been rolling their eyes at each other over something I had done, but it was all in good humor. We spent more than 3 days together and I never once had to listen to one vent about the other.

It was a good visit.

Sis almost never travels and so she felt it necessary to buy her brood presents. We went to a bookstore and she told me what each of her kids had been reading most recently and I said things like, "Oh yes, Jane Austin did write more than P&P and S&S. Has she read Emma yet?" "Detective novels? There's this book in which a fifteen-year-old bookish young lady meets an elderly Sherlock Holmes who takes her on as an apprentice." "For your son? Here are two Newberry winners that Andrew just loved." My sister told the woman at the customer help counter, the woman waiting to get help, and the woman at the cash register that she had to buy two books for each of her children because "It's not every day that I get to go to a bookstore with a college professor!"

My mother on the other hand told the owners of two quilt stores, a total of 6 check-out clerks at various stores where she regularly shops, and two neighbors that we were her daughters who had come just for her birthday. I think she even told the youngish woman at the ice cream parlour when she bought us frozen custard.

Both of my aunts dropped by to see us, as surprised as my mother since we had told no one but the BFF that we were coming. The aunts of course pointed out that they had not met our youngest children, nor seen our older since they were toddlers. We were told often that we must come again and not to wait so long the next time. One aunt even brought us cookies.

Mom was even more thrilled when my sister announced that she wanted to go to Mom's quilt guild meeting Tuesday evening (this was after I left), even though it was really just business and show-and-tell. Sis continued to be committed to going even as it became very clear that she (Sis) was going to be Mom's show-and-tell object. "Look, this is my daughter! She came all the way from XX for my birthday!"

By the end of the three days I could definitely see that Mom was getting tired. Though I had done all the driving and helped with the meals, she was beginning to show some strain. She was still sad to see me leave though and I think it was probably good for her to have one day with just Sis.

I can't really imagine it having gone any better.

Traveling back was just tedious. Now all I need to do is catch up on sleep.

What do you mean by "liberal"?

My sister goes to an indendent fundamentalist Baptist church. Her particular church is big on sin. What I mean is that it seems that they spend a lot of time thinking and talking about what is sinful and how important it is not to do those things. There is a church school where her now-teenage kids have all gone since kindergarten.

It's getting smaller and smaller though and she sometimes debates moving them to a different Christian school. "It's just that they're all so liberal."

Confused, though I shouldn't be by now, I ask, "Liberal? How are they too liberal?"

"Well, you know. The girls wear pants to school. The teenagers are allowed to date and they listen to contemporary Christian music."

Yep. That's my sister. Trust me, her friends are just as surprised to learn that her sister is a foster parent to gay kids.

A sense of humor is a must...

... since so many things never really change.

Mom is still neurotic about dishes. If you leave your water glass and tea/coffee mug on the counter to use over again, she will tease you about how even though you are forty something years old you still don't put your dishes in the dishwasher, and if you put your dishes in the dishwasher thus requiring you to get a new cup later she will complain, lovingly of course, to her BFF that she can't believe how many glasses "those two girls" use every day.

Sis and I still try not to compete. She does cross stitch and sews cloths. I quilt and knit. We both however parent and we find it difficult to talk about our children, especially in front of our mother, because we (or is this just me?) feel that Mom will be deciding who is the better parent.

We can still quarrel over nothing. We went to a quilting store closeout sale where there was literally one box of patterns left. The quilting books were 40% off (I scored), but cross-stitch patterns were free. I carried the pile over to my crippled sister and pointed out the several beautiful patterns of angels. She threw me a "I thought you were smart" look and told me that those angels weren't Biblical. Real angels were not anything like those pictures of beautiful women with clingy dresses and big wings. Had I read the description of seraphim? Later when she was going through Mom's old cross-stitch pattterns and, with permission, taking away as many as she wished, I did in fact feel that it was necessary to point out that teddy bears, toy airplanes, and Raggedy Ann and Andy were also not in the Bible. When we started good humouredly arguing about whether the cutsie farm animals were Biblical (my position was that, just as with the angels, some farm animals were mentioned, but not THESE adorable cartoony ones. The farm animals in the Bible were real ones with dirt and poop) Mom did have to roll her eyes and leave the room commenting that we hadn't changed at all.

The three of us can still spend hours in the living room working on needle work, laughing and not be able to remember what we talked about.

Mom was delighted we were there. On the first morning she said she woke up thinking she had dreamed that her daughters had just shown up on her doorstep, but then she realized that she was in the guest bedroom so it must have been real. (Sis and I shared her queen-sized bed.)

It was a good time. It was, according to my sister, the perfect girly vacation. We cooked, ate, crafted, and did a little shopping.
Brian tells me that they ate out every single night. Hubby insists that one night they did eat at home and Brian doesn't remember because it was just a "scrounge for yourself" evening. They really did intend to get the kitchen clean before I came home. There weren't any clean glasses left, but the dishwasher was running and there would be soon. The counters would have been clean, except that it was Brian's job to do it, and he went to bed early and that is why no one found the incredibly moldy cream cheese behind the mixer.

I'm back

So... what do you know about the fam?

Mom moved to her current location in order to live with her father after Sis and I graduated from high school and her mother died. He died two years later and she decided to buy a house in the area. Mom's friend then sold her house and moved 2000 miles to buy a house less than one mile away from Mom. That qualifies her as a total BFF (Best Friends Forever).

Anyway, the BFF was supposed to pick up Sis at the Very Tiny Airport while I rented a car from One of The Most Livable Large Cities in America (MLLCA). The car, by the way, was supposed to be the standard cheap sub-compact economy car. Sadly they were all out and asked if I minded having a free upgrade to a PT Cruiser. I told them I understood and would accept the car. There was this embarrassing moment when I thought I would have to drive back to ask how to roll up the window, but I did eventually discover the buttons in the middle of the dash above the radio. (Silly me, spending all that time searching the door!) The PT Cruiser had a display in the dash that indicated which direction you were going, which turned out to be very, very important later on.

Two months ago Sis had a sledding accident and managed to dislocate her ankle and break the bone just above the ankle in four places. Sis never called the BFF and though I tried, I never got her at home and did not want to leave messages since my mother might hear them (this I am now assured would never happen). So the BFF assumed the trip was off.

So the BFF and Mom went to a quilt show and out to dinner, while my poor broken sister sat in the Very Tiny Airport that closes at 8:30 calling me on the cell phone to ask if I had managed to get out of the MLLCA and how close I was to her. I told her that I did not know. I was driving a country highway that gave no signs telling me how close I was to Mom's Picturesque Tiny Town, but that I was just driving past Funny Name Town. She checked in with the locals who said that I was 45 minutes away and someone would wait for me to pick her up. (She volunteered to wait at the local Walmart which apparently made them nearly pee their pants laughing).

Of course I had directions to the BFF's house, not the Very Tiny Airport, so I made a wrong turn. I stopped at a convenience store where I was told to drive up to Freedom Junction and turn right.

I say, "Is there a sign there that says 'Freedom Junction'?" The woman behind the counter says, "Of course." The woman buying the gallon of milk says, "I don't think so, but it is at the top of Turkey Hill." The woman behind the counter says, "Isn't Turkey Hill over at such and such?" "There are two Turkey Hills." "That's right. There are, aren't there? That's strange."

I say, "Excuse me, but I have to get to the Very Tiny Airport very soon because they are going to close and my sister has a broken leg and she is waiting for me. I don't know the area, please tell me how I will recognize this turn." The woman buying the milk says, "You are turning East on Route #XX."

I nearly kissed her.

"Then just go a couple of miles and look for the hospital. It is off the road and the sign isn't easy to see in the dark, but you want to turn left one block after the light past the hospital. After that you will see signs for the airport."

"Do you know what road that is?"

Other than that it is the road to the Very Tiny Airport, they do not know.

So I leave looking for the hospital set back from the road with a sign which I never see and so miss the turn. I do eventually see a sign for the Very Tiny Airport which seems to be telling me to make a turn, so I do. It takes me onto a small country road appearing to be heading away from anywhere that there could possibly be an airport. Thanking all things good and holy for the invention of cell phones, I call my sister who puts me on the phone with the nice man who is staying late so that Sis does not have to sit on the sidewalk, "Where are you?" "At the corner of Cove Cross and Cross Lane" (I kid you not. Those are the real names.) "Which direction are you heading?" I look at the dash and proudly announce "East!" He gives me directions and I actually find the airport!

The nice man gives me directions to my mother's house. He does not know her, but he knows how to get to all 10 roads in the Picturesque Tiny Town. The directions involve things like turning right on the road one block before a certain light. The road I am to turn on may be Spring Street, unless it is the road right after Spring Street. It is definitely the one just before the light, and there is only one light. He asks me to repeat them back. He laughs kindly and tells me that I am already lost and has me repeat them again until I get it right.

As I pull out, we call the BFF and gods be praised, she is home. Keeping the phone on speaker she gives me directions all the way. Including how to get back after I turned the wrong way and end up on a dead end at the county high school. We consider sticking with the original plan and going to her house and seeing Mom in the morning, but the BFF insists that Mom will be thrilled to see us now. We drive up to her house, and I help Sis hobble up the stairs. It is 9:00pm.

We knock; she answers, and we yell, "Happy Birthday!"

To be continued....

There are over 200 posts in my reader!!! Everybody STOP POSTING so that I can catch up!