Monday, March 31, 2008

Racial Identity: Unknown

This is a post which I have been trying to write, or to give up on writing for a year.

Every now and then someone will ask me what, meaning what race, Carl is. Usually the questions come from the side. Once someone asked where he got that amazing skin tone. I have been asked several times about his hair. It grows out and starts falling in Shirley Temple curls -- except of course for the color. I tell them that his mother had naturally curly hair. They are uncomfortable, because that wasn't really what they wanted. They already know that his mother was white. They want to know "what his father is."

But I side-step the question. I tell people that is father is from Belize and that the people in Belize are generally multi-racial. I change the subject.

Of course, I do so because none of us should care, right? It isn't supposed to matter.

And it doesn't. It doesn't have anything to do with our relationship. He is Carl, dear to my heart in ways no one else could be. He is the boy who changed my life. The gift I did not seek. I can bring myself to tears just thinking about how easily I could have missed him. What if I hadn't been in church that day? What if I hadn't followed through on that insane impulse to call a social worker and become a foster parent so that I could parent him?

And then again, it does matter. I know it matters to him. I know he would like to know. Everyone else can tell their story. Though it may be impolite to ask, we expect that people do know the answer. Barak Obama knows. So does Tiger Woods.

Everywhere I turn I see articles about race. In The New York Times I read about new discussion about what it is to be multi-racial. I read an interesting column in which a mother tries to explain to her daughter that she is Puerto Rican and Filipino all the time; she is not one first and the other second. Everyone knows "what" they are. The discussion is about what it means.

What does it mean to be a transracial adoptee? Harlow's Monkey can help you get thinking about that. Her posts are all about being a Korean adopted by a white family. She does not know her family tree, didn't even eat Korean foods until she was 30. Recently she wrote about parents responsibility to educate children about race.

But Carl does not have even that. He cannot ask what it means to have his heritage, because he doesn't really know what his heritage is. Not in terms that makes sense to us, anyway.

His father is from Belize which in turn is home to several distinct ethnic groups. There are Creole/Kriols; Garifunas; Mestizos; Mayans; people from Eastern India, Mennonites, and more. His mother told him that his father was an east Indian. She might have meant "from Eastern Indian," but she probably meant "from the East Indies." If the later, does that mean that his father migrated to Belize from the Caribbean, or was Garifuna, or did she just think of Belize as being part of the Caribbean? The photograph of his father is not much help. Perhaps the people in Belize could hazard a guess as to his father's ethnicity from his photograph, but I cannot. I imagine that most people in the United States would have the same reaction to his father that they have to Carl: how did he get that skin and that hair? It's unusual. Maybe Carl really did get his curls from his mother.

Things get more confusing when you look at other photographs. Carl's half sister appears to be unquestionably of African descent, as do his father's band-mates. Does that mean anything about Carl's dad? Probably not. In the US he had a child with a white woman. In Belize he had a child with a woman we would classify as Black, although she probably identified as Kriol or Garifuna.

When he first moved in I wanted to help him learn about and celebrate his heritage. Then I found out how complicated it was. I let it go and concentrated on helping him find his identity as a gay man while finding my own identity as the mother of a gay man.

What is race anyway? It is nothing. It is a social construct. Carl did not seem to worry about it, not much anyway. He was sixteen then and twenty-four now. It is not my job to figure this out for him. It is just my job to love him. He will have to construct his own identity, as he has always done. But I am surrounded by talk about race it makes me want to help him again. I want to find out for him. I want to give him the information as a present. I can't imagine it does not matter to him.

Because though it is rude to ask someone about their racial identity, everyone knows, right?

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Update on Brian

He's great!

It occurs to me that I only write about him when he is having trouble. I write that he is having anxiety attacks, then nothing for months and months, then another chunk of time when he is having trouble with anxiety.

He really is doing well. He is sad that Andrew is going to go away, but he is not broken up over the thought like he was a few years ago. It used to be that we couldn't talk about it without him crying. Even one year ago Roland and I thought it would best if we got a new kid in the house before Andrew left so as to help ease the transition for him. Having someone in the house to be quarreling with would provide a distraction, if nothing else.

Now however Brian can think about his brother leaving without doing more than feeling sad. I promised to add unlimited Text and Pictures to our cell phone plan and I think that will help. Brian doesn't chat on the phone terribly well. He gets lonely, but he doesn't always have a lot to say. However if he can send and receive pictures via phone he will feel more in contact with his brother. They also both have headsets for World of Warcraft and will play together periodically. Andrew promises to schedule some times when they can play on-line together when he is gone.

The play rehearsals at his school still go one. Brian is having a difficult time memorizing all the lines in Harvey. Elwood, the main character, does have an awful lot of lines. A good bit of it is essentially a monologue. Elwood may be talking to Harvey, but since Harvey doesn't actually speak, it's a monologue. He has been unwilling to have us help him, which is too bad. The play go pushed back a full month because so many people missed rehearsal when that killer virus was going around. The performance now is only a few weeks away. I am trying to resist getting anxious over whether he has learned his lines.

He very much wants contacts. He will be fourteen in June and I have told him for several years that as soon as I see him getting up on his own early enough to shower and be ready, I will let him have the contacts. He is quite convinced he can do that, although so far he has not. He decided that he would not get new glasses so that the insurance money would be there to buy the contacts as soon as he convinces me he is ready. We will see what happens when school starts.

So...that is the rather boring Brian report. He is doing well.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Treating the Kids the Same?

As Andrew's graduation is coming up I've been thinking about the ways I am treating his graduation differently than I did Carl's and Evan's.

When Carl graduated we were all very excited. We went to the ceremony. The social workers also went. We went out to a nice restaurant and we gave him a pretty good gift.

Evan did not have a graduation ceremony. He did not have a ceremony at all. He finished high school by taking the last few classes through the alternative high program and was done mid-semester. I imagine there would have been a ceremony sometime during the next year that he could have participated in, but it did not seem all that important to him. The social worker took the family out to a restaurant he chose, more expensive than we would normally take the family too, but not "fancy." We gave him a really nice present, but then it was also his early Christmas present. We did not invite David and we certainly did not invite Carl to any of the celebrations.

Now that Andrew is graduating it feels different. Not the graduation itself. Andrew has a close relationship with all three boys, much closer than they have to each other. He wants everyone to be together. I want everyone to be together.

So I we bought Carl a plane ticket to come for a long weekend.

I also told Andrew that I really, really wanted to take everyone out to this particular restaurant. It is expensive, but fun, and we are likely to spend hours over the food. I've told you about it before, I think. There is cheese fondue, then meats and veggies you grill yourself at the table, then chocolate fondue. It is good, and it is fun. It also takes a couple of hours, and the activity itself provides something to talk about.

Now Andrew would be happy going someplace much less expensive.


I mean you should have seen his poor little face when I told him that he shouldn't expect a graduation present. The ticket for Carl and the meal out added up to a significant amount of money and if he got anything to unwrap it would be very much a token present. He is a good sport and when I said later that he could take my barely-used iPod radio clock since I gave my iPod to his dad who doesn't want it, Andrew said that that could be his graduation present.

So Andrew understands that I am using the occasion of his graduation to do something I very badly want to do: have all five of my boys together at one time doing something fun. It isn't what he asked for. It isn't even what he would have picked. His friends are getting whatever cool things they are getting. He is getting an hand-me-down clock radio and a dinner out with his brothers. He is happy to see Carl, and he knows he will have fun at the restaurant, but he also knows this is what his mother wants, not what he wants.

But I worry that the other boys will feel slighted. I hope they don't feel that my treatment of them was less. I did not take them to a restaurant this expensive. I did, however, buy them actual presents.

So who is slighted? Did Carl and Evan get the short straw because they did not get such a fuss? Or is Andrew being slighted because I am using his special occasion to do what I want? Personally, I think Andrew can make a better case, but who knows what they think.

I find myself often making these sorts of comparisons, and worrying or wondering about how the boys would react. I might have been wiser to have a regular sort of meal out for Andrew along with a present and do the flying Carl in and taking everyone out for some other occasion -- like my birthday.

Of course I only just now thought of that option. It really is much less expensive to do it this way.

Poor Andrew. Totally co-opting his graduation to have the party I want to have.

It is all about me, isn't it?

I've been saving honoraria checks I get from the agency to use for the meal out. I just found one I mislaid that was for the project in December that made me cry. It was significantly higher than the checks normally are. That combined with the honorarium I got for the going to the day of training is going to pay for the meal out! Whoo Hoo! Everyone will have to purchase ordinary beverages that come with free refills. There will be no wine or Italian Sodas, but we are going. Roland agrees. Let the veterinarians and oral surgeons send their bills. If I want to spend my honoraria on a dinner out I can. So there.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Advice from my children

Dawn has a post in which she says she deleted something after her son advised her, "You know, when you get mad you can say, ‘I need to go work’ and just take a break in the cottage." In the next post she says that it sounds a lot like what she tells him when he is upset.

It made me think of all the times my kids have echoed me to me. Like my all-time favorite:

Resting on the sofa I pull off my glasses and let them fall to the floor. Four-year-old Andrew runs over to show me something and I stop him before he steps on them.

"Oh Mama, you should not have left your glasses on the floor."

"I know Andrew."

He looks at me with sympathy, sighs and says, "Well, you learned something, didn't you?"

What are yours?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Still Here

Andrew is recovering well. Feeling better all the time.

I've been busy. I am once again very glad that my colleague was able to take over the horrible department self-study document because I got an email last week calling me to another duty. I'm a member of one of those committees that doesn't even meet for years and when it does everything is marked CONFIDENTIAL in large letters.

Most of my colleagues of course would vastly prefer to write a dozen self-study documents. This for me feels more familiar somehow. Or maybe it is just that I know it is important. It is difficult and stressful but it is NOT a waste of time.

This job will either take ten days or two months, depending upon what happens in the next ten days.

Don't worry, I won't ever give you the details. Ever.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Dinner last night: steak, Snickers, popcorn
Dinner tonight: Raviolli, pumpkin custard

Such is the reality of wisdom tooth extraction. Andrew seems to be doing pretty well. He is a bit grump which catches me off guard because he is usually so easy going.

The Cattle Dog's teeth are okay. None of them are broken, just worn down. She was due for shots so it was good that we took her. Next the froo froo dog has to go for his shots.

Teeth, teeth, teeth

Andrew is home, feeling miserable, after his wisdom teeth extraction.

The Cattle Dog is going to the vet this afternoon because she has a broken tooth that is may be bleeding. It is a canine (the tooth that is, although the dog is too) and there is definitely a reddish spot in the middle of it.

And I am an evil person because we just spent $250 for her swollen foot (which is now better) and I am resenting having to spend however much more money now. I mean, one budgets for yearly visits and shots, but not for things like this. Terrible thoughts go through my head -- like how much I would be willing to pay for her if I was buying her and how I don't really like having two dogs anyway. I like each dog, but the thing where the Cattle Dog has to keep proving that she is the dominant one is annoying. Although the thing where the Cattle Dog uses her natural herding skills to keep the Shih Tzu in one place while the brain damaged cat that can't run or jump gets away is pretty cute.

I've been putting every cent of money I can identify as "extra" into the fund to take all seven of us out to dinner at a nice restaurant to celebrate Andrew's graduation. I'd like to take them to the fondue restaurant because I know they would all love it and because a meal there takes at least two hours. Carl and Evan barely know each other and I really want everyone in one place for that long. I want to enjoy the "big happy family" thing. Roland suggests that I just cook spaghetti and pay everyone $10 to sit at the table. He's joking of course. At the fondue restaurant there is something you must DO. It is an experience. I want it, and it ain't cheap.

Why is that relevant? Well, I found myself looking at the poor, sweet, obedient, GOOD dog and thinking, "If your medical bills cost me my dinner out with the boys I will never forgive you."

I am a bad, bad woman.

No really. When we took her to the weekend-emergency vet for her swollen foot they had to give her anesthesia in order to examine her -- the fact that she was snapping when you tried to touch her foot was the reason I brought her in. She never snaps. When I had to fill out the form giving permission for the anesthesia I had to check a box indicating if I wanted her resuscitated if she had a really bad reaction. Roland saw me hesitating and said, "Check it." I looked at him and said, "Well, if G-d WANTS to take her, should we really get in the way?" He gave me "the look" and I checked the box.

Roland, pet lovers everywhere will be happy to know, will take her to the vet today. He is much more willing to spend money; always confident that it will work out somehow.

I do hope the dog will be fine. I just also hope it isn't going to cost an arm and a leg.

Another Blogger

I know, you already have too many blogs to read, but it is my solemn, self-appointed duty to inform you of all new foster-related blogs that come to my attention (typically by the blogger in question commenting here).

You may have noticed our new commenter Eos. Her Blog is The Bumpy Road to Motherhood.

She just had an anxiety dream so you may want to run over and share your pre-placement nightmares with her.

By the way, I found something odd about the blog. When I tried to add it to Reader the usual way it didn't work (first time for that). I had to go to the bottom of the blog (main page!) and find the button for subscribing to the posts (atom). I used the url of the page that popped up and it worked fine.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Medical Updates

Today the boys and I went to the eye doctor. There is a new optometrist at the practice who seems very young. He graduated from the college where I teach. He was there when I was teaching although he didn't take a class from me. The boys got back to the exam room a few minutes before I did and he and Andrew were sharing stories about their favorite teachers at the high school. He tries a little too hard to be hip. He flips the settings on the machine and says to the boys, "So dude, do you like one better, or are you digging two?"

Brian told me to tell him about the nightmare I had a couple of days ago. So I told him about how I had a dream in which I got angry and was yelling at him and calling him "Dr. Dude." He got a kick out of that and said that he wouldn't mind being called "Dr. Dude." I confessed that we really do refer to him as "Dr. Dude" at our house. His last name is a little difficult to pronounce.

Everyone's eyes are a little worse. Andrew got new boxes of contacts. Brian got his glasses adjusted to fit his growing head and is planning on getting up on time without being reminded (starting as soon as spring break is over) so that he can have contacts. I am debating whether to get new glasses myself. I probably won't, it is only my need for prisms that has changed.

I see double without glasses, but everything is so out of focus that the two images sort of merge into each other. One optometrist accidentally had my glasses made without prisms and it was bizarre. Every time I blinked the world sort of jumped as my brain integrated two images of the world. Anything that isolates each eye (like a microscope) is hopeless. I just have to shut one eye or look at two slides. With my current glasses I am mostly fine. Dr. Dude says that with new glasses I would really only notice the difference when I was tired. I would be able to read a little later at night before the words started jumping and separating.

Dr. Dude is not sure if it would make a difference with the quarter moon phenomenon. When the moon is full the images apparently come to my brain slightly over-lapped and they get integrated -- I see one full moon. As the visible part of the moon gets smaller there is less overlap. By the time it gets to quarter there is none and the part of my brain that does the integrating work just doesn't think it's wrong. So I typically see two quarter moons. Sort of feel sorry for the rest you -- only having just one moon all month.

Brian's cold has spread to Andrew, but so far Roland and I are staying healthy. Brian also seems to be recovering quickly so I think this is just a normally head cold -- not the killer virus we all had such a hard time getting over.

It's really too bad though that Andrew is sick because he is getting his wisdom teeth out tomorrow morning (best spring break EVER). We went to the grocery store today and bought food. We bought food for after the surgery: yogurt, ice cream, mac & cheese, and ingredients for pumpkin pie. And we bought food for tonight. Dinner is steak (unusual at our house), salad and baked potatoes. We have Snickers for dessert and will be eating popcorn for a snack later.

Dr. Dude warned Andrew about anesthesia. Apparently when Dr. Dude had his wisdom teeth out years ago his mother interrogated him during the waking-up period. She found about the party he had when they were gone -- everything.

No to respite

The supervisor of case workers from my agency just called and asked if we would give respite to a boy. She said, "I think you had him before. His brother visited him."

Yeah. I called this particular boy "X" on my list of respite kids. I told her that I remembered him, "He and his brother stole Andrew's Nintendo DS and a bunch of games. I think the older brother was the real thief, but still Andrew and Brian would have a fit if I let him come back. So sorry."

She understood. Then she said, "Were you ever reimbursed for that?"

I told her that I hadn't been, that I had asked about it and never heard anything, and that I no longer had a copy of the police report or the receipts from my replacement purchases.

She said she would see what she could do about that, "Because that is just not right."

It would be nice.

Book Review

I wrote a book review for Three Little Words for Open Adoption Support. Take a look.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Colleges and Viruses

Andrew applied to three colleges. He used the on-line common application so all three schools saw exactly the same application. Well, his first-pick did have an extra page, but the essay and basic info was the same for all three.

One is the college where I teach. Princeton College Review ranks it as the most selective. Andrew was accepted very quickly. Being my kid is not supposed to make a difference, though I suppose it could have. Still he was accepted very quickly and without conditions. Even if he is mine, if they had any concerns about him, his application would have gone to the committee.

The one he most wanted to go to accepted him and gave him a scholarship. Yipee!

He decided that he should apply somewhere else, so he picked out another school and added it. They wait-listed him.


For those who don't know being wait-listed means that you may get accepted after the first-round people make their decision. Sadly colleges don't give you any idea how long the wait-list is or where you are on it. I understand that ranking is fluid. They want to accept the best bunch of students they can, which also means the students who are most likely to stay and graduate. Still, it is hard on the students not to have any idea at all how far from admission they are.

But of course it makes life simple for Andrew. He just doesn't return the letter accepting the wait-list. He never wanted to go to that school anyway.

Still, I just can't believe that piddling school wait-listed my kid.

We actually wonder if his essay hurt him there. It did demonstrate that he was an excellent "fit" for his first-choice school. It's all about social justice.

Oh...and everyone here is getting sick again. Brian is down: stuffy; cranky; miserable. I feel wrung out, but I am hoping that is just because Brian woke me up early with coughing and generally being miserable.

Moving Frankie

Well, his stuff anyway.

It is Spring Break for everyone but me. Roland is today taking the rest of Frankie's boxes, which have been sitting quietly in the spare room since he left, down to our agency. The book he wanted is in there somewhere. Roland will tell them which book it is and let them decide whether to go through his boxes.

I suspect that the phone call the other day was really about the book. All the rest of it was, I am guessing, about using up his allotted phone time. When he asked me what I would think if he got me on the approved visitor's list it sounded more like he was offering me a present, than requesting a visit. And when he asks if Brian is still afraid of him I am not sure if it is about wanting be able to visit here or just about not liking the idea that someone out there is afraid of him.

It is difficult for me to talk to him because I genuinely do not know what would be helpful to him. All the times he has made contact with us it has been in part about wanting something that belongs to him. The most cowardly part of me hopes that if I do not have his things he will not call me.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

GirlSpeaks asks, "Which kids?"

GirlSpeaks Asks:

1) Would you take an FTM vs a MTF?
2) Would you accept a lesbian placement.
3) If yes to either, what would the stipulations be, and how would
they be different from the boys you've taken on. If not, why not?
I'm going to handle the questions all in one swoop. I was distressed a year or so ago when a social worker at our agency asked me if we would take a lesbian. It is frustrating because I keep saying, "GLBT" and people keep hearing "gay boys."

Our position is that we are willing to take any kid who needs a place that is safe with respect to sexuality. Years ago we were asked to consider a young man who first mother had come out as a lesbian. They had just begun to re-establish contact and they wanted him to be some place where he could talk sort out his feelings about that. He came to visit and we decided he wasn't a match, but it wasn't because he was straight.

And what stipulations do we have?

Roland is very clear that he cannot come home to the same sort of behaviors that he has to deal with in his special education classroom all day. So that means no hyperactive kids and no kids who need constant behavior management/redirection.

We've promised the bioboys that we won't take any kids who have a history of violence or psychosis.

I tell people that we are good with depression, manipulation, deceit, and passive-aggressive behaviors. We just need for them to be able to sit still.

Frankie Called Again

I haven't written him for a while. The last time I was debating about it I did write. I did not hear back. I hadn't expected to, but it seemed a good way to let go. I would write the last letter.

But he called today. He wants me to look for a book in one of his boxes that is still here. I really don't know if the reason he called was that he wanted the book and all the rest was filler, or if he wanted to talk to us and the book was just an excuse to call. I will be taking all of his boxes back to the agency though. It is long past the time those boxes should have left.

His calls are not like when Ann's. At least not for me. I am always thrilled to hear from her. She knows she can't live here and that I love her. I want to stay in touch. With Frankie I don't feel that way. I don't know what to say to him. He doesn't understand why he can't live here again, and I can't explain it to him.

He just turned 16, did I know that? Some people who help kids get adopted came by to talk to him, but he doesn't remember where they are from. He is studying in the school at the treatment center. He is learning, "slowly but surely." He's decided he wants to be an interpreter. He is going to learn lots of languages and travel all around the world and interpret for people. You know, like a mercenary.

Is Brian still afraid of him? He's really sorry he frightened Brian that time. Did I tell Brian that he wouldn't ever hurt him? And what would I think if he got me on the visitor list? Oh, I'm on speaker phone, can I tell? They always make him have his phone conversations on speaker phone.

I don't know what to do or say. I really don't.

I have competing narratives I tell myself about Frankie's time here. In one we did basically a good thing. Frankie had spent several years living in group homes and treatment centers. He needed to try to live "on the outside" and we were the best place for him to try. While he was with us he came out about wanting to be a girl and learned that it wasn't something to be ashamed of. It turned out that he wasn't ready for ordinary family life, but it was good that we gave him the chance.

In the other narrative I realize that he is the only kid I ever took saying that it might not make it. I never made a commitment to him. We took him on a test drive and then sent him back. We shouldn't have done that. We should not have taken him in the first place. We will not do that again. We will be careful. We won't take a kid unless we can make a commitment. If we make a commitment we will stick to it.

And I suppose both stories are true. Both are stories that Frankie may tell someday. We may be the family where he first came out and felt safe. We may one of the families who made promises and then sent him back like a defective toaster. We may be both.

But he doesn't understand why he can't come back.

I went back and re-read the posts from his last week. (If you want to put yourself through that experience start here.) We can't go back there. I spent days trying to get him into the adolescent psych unit and trying to keep him calm so that we wouldn't have to call the police or take him to the emergency room. Brian packed a suitcase so that he could leave to go to a friend's if Frankie went into a rage. And we lied to him. We lied because we thought he would rage if we told him the truth. We lied because we did not think he would believe the truth.

He thought he was in control. He thought he was leaving because he hated the school he had to attend. He liked us and all, but he would do whatever he had to do to get out of that school, even if it meant moving. And it turned out that it did. He was angry about where he had to go, but he saw it as the result of his own demands.

So what does he think now? He think he left because he wanted to shift schools and he can't come back to visit because he scared Brian.

And I hate this. I don't know how to talk to him. I don't know what to tell him.

I don't have an explanation for him that is true and will make sense to him. He will promise not to scare Brian again, or tell me that he doesn't go into rages anymore. He is better now. I won't have to call the police. He won't make knives and stab his stuffed animals or slash his clothes again. But I don't want him to think that he is such a bad person that he can't live here. He is not a bad person, but he is a very sick boy.

Maybe being nice to him just makes it worse. He stays attached and wants to know what he has to do to come back.

I really don't know what to do. I really don't.

And the irony? He called as I was writing a post about wanting the agency to call about another kid.

Jumping into Politics

A few months ago I was excited. The Democratic party had several very good candidates. All we had to do was pick the best and go forward. Yeah us!

Two weeks ago I did the math and concluded that it was going to be Obama. I would have been happy either way. Obama and Clinton both are people I can support and I would be happy with either of them. Okay, it was theoretically possible that there would be do-over primaries and it was possible that the superdelegates would over-turn the results of the state primaries and caucuses, but surely they wouldn't. Surely our own party would not do to us what was done to us in the national elections some eight years ago. Unthinkable. It was time for Clinton, whom I admire, to realize that would be bad for us and to step down.

How I would love her for doing that, for saying, "I think I could win even should win, but the cost to the party and nation would be too great. The most important thing for this nation is for our party to take back the White House. Obama will be a good president and I support him."

I allowed myself to imagine her making that speech and in my imagination I adored her, knew that any time in the future that she ran for office I would vote for her. She would have my loyalty forever. But I really couldn't imagine her doing it. Still, I thought, the superdelegates can put an end to this. They can see, surely, that there are only two options: we rally around around Obama or we tear each other apart. In my heart I prayed that the superdelegates would save us.

And then I learned how far out of the mainstream I am when clips of the Rev. Wright's sermons started appearing and I thought, okay, rhetorically over the top for a public address, but it wasn't a public address. I thought about papers read at feminist conferences where women feel free to express their anger uncensored. Things get expressed in strong language. I know how people who love their country, and love justice speak. I have read the language in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. Sometimes it is disturbing. I got ahold of as much of Wright's sermon as I could find and thought well, I might say, "Here in America there is always enough money to build a bomb or fight a war, but never enough to care properly for children who have been starved, beaten and raped; enough for prisons, but not enough for schools. Does G-d look down upon us and say, 'well done, good and faithful servant?' No. G-d looks at us and weeps."

And I did not see that what I wanted to say about the country I love too much not to criticize was in substance all that different from what the Rev. Wright had to say.

And as the videos played over and over I said to my family, "See, they were afraid that Obama was a secret Muslim, but truth is that he is secretly a black man." Someone asked me if I wasn't upset that Obama was associated with someone who expressed himself with such extremism and I said no, that if it wasn't his pastor it would have been someone else. Somewhere the would have found a relative, an in-law, a room-mate, a co-worker who said something "scary black." Obama would be asked to disown someone he loved; he would be asked to prove to us that he wasn't the sort of black man that makes white people nervous. You know, one of those people who is angry about injustice.

I waited. Obama wrote a good speech, a speech that I could not get as excited about as some others because I hated that he had to write it. I hated that someone I admired so much had to distance himself from someone I found admirable. Republicans can make nice with evangelicals who scream that my children will destroy America and go to hell, but Obama must save his skin by distancing himself from someone who is angry about injustice.

There are only two paths. We can unite around a candidate who is articulate, smart, inspiring, and possibly able to help our country move forward in ways it badly needs to, or we can rip each other apart and pave the way for McCain to win.

Please, please superdelegates, save us.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Happy News!

Okay, so Andrew doesn't actually want me to go crazy "telling everyone" so I will just say that we got the letter from his first-choice school detailing his financial award and we are all very happy over here.

Really, really happy.


In some ways parenting foster kids is easier than parenting biokids.

Oh, mostly it is more difficult. Kids who are or have been in foster care have suffered trauma and they present challenges. They can wear you out emotionally. Most of them are professionals at finding your emotional weaknesses and exploiting them.

It is difficult, exhausting, and frustrating.

But sometimes, when you are parenting children whom you have given birth to and raised from that birth, you miss the foster kids.

See...with foster kids I never felt any guilt for the existence of their problems.

I'm just saying.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Hi, I'm still here.

My mom is doing well. Sis is visiting with her. I'm not jealous that Sis is there and I am not. Really. And if I repeat that enough I will start to believe it.

The Cattle Dog's foot is getting better, although telling a Cattle Dog she is not allowed to run is torture. Didn't I tell you about the foot? Oh, well, no big deal. She hurt it. She limped. The vet gave her pills and said not to let her run for five days.

Evan is working out his situation. He is moving to "sunrise" shift, aka NIGHTS. It is the only way he could work full-time and go to classes. No comment.

I keep trying to find the full text of the the Rev. Wright's sermons. I found the full text of the Audacity of Hope sermon. I loved it. I see why Obama was inspired by it and why he will not disown the man who gave it.

Brian has decided to keep going to the Arts Charter School. I think it will be good for him, and I am trying to reconcile to the whole car pool thing. It really isn't so bad now that I have refused to do more than two afternoons a week. Roland does one, and sometimes two monings a week. We will figure it out.

Roland is learning to sleep with his CPAP machine. The machine is very QUIET, and that is not sarcasm. It really doesn't make hardly any noise at all. The pressure builds very slowly so that it is not very difficult for him to fall asleep with it. He does wake up in the middle of the night though, feeling like he just can't tolerate the machine. He doesn't always fall back to sleep easily. However even with half a night's sleep he is doing better than he did with 9 hours before.

I feel further removed from foster care. Wondering if they will call. Wondering if I should just move with my life. Oh, I'll keep my license, but I find I am beginning to think of myself not as someone who is "between placements" but as someone who used to do care. I'd like to do it again, but it doesn't seem like it is happening.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


There's this post I want to write that I can't really write because Evan reads the blog.

It is a fun story. It involves me giving really good advice and offers of assistance and then Evan deciding to do it all on his own in his own way. Later in the story it turns out that Evan valiant attempts to do it his way don't work out so well and he needs our help. This part of the story is painful because we really don't like either of our options. We can do the genuine love and logic thing and refuse to help, or we can do the magnanimous parental thing and rescue him. Doing either well would mean acting with love and confidence, not being resentful or trying to make him feel guilty.

If you are putting the puzzle pieces together you will know that we did do it and with only a little bit of guilt-tripping. And in doing it, we accepting a promotion to being Evan's parents. We also decided that Evan would be thrilled if we took the money I had from selling his never-used microwave and spent it on a thank-you fast-food dinner for the family.

Anyway, there is more to this story I can't quite tell you. After we did the magnanimous thing, Evan's plans still went awry and did so completely without us. And that is a good thing. When kids perceive that the consequences that are happening to them are happening as a result of parental action or inaction, they tend not to learn from them. What they remember is that their mean parents didn't help them or punished them, or some such thing. They don't tend to connect the consequences to the action. The most successful consequences are the ones that happen without us.

Not that those always work, of course, but those are the ones that are most likely to work.

And that is what is happening to Evan right now.

And I have all these emotions. I am very proud of him, because I know he can and will figure this out. I am relieved knowing that there really and truly is nothing that I can do but be sympathetic and supportive. This is not something I can fix. No guilt, no pressure, no debating what I should do. I just need to keep telling him that I know it is stressful and I am proud at how well he is handling it.

And deep inside, and evil little voice is giggling and saying, "If you had just followed my advice in the first place, none of this would have happened."

Of course, I am far too good of a parent to say that to him.

But I am petty enough to publish it on the blog.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

More improvement for Mom

I called her this morning and she is home and sounds like her old self: no searching for, repeating, or twisting words around. She has some tests coming up and is on a new med, but she sounds really well.

I suggested that I could visit her in a few weeks or in the summer and she jumped on the summer. She really does like for us to visit as much as we can, just not right now. I mean, she's got that quilt frame up in the guest bedroom!

I have a busy day, but I wanted to let you know that she is sounding MUCH bettter -- and to thank all of you for your support!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Mom's Okay

Well, as okay as you can be if you have just had a stroke, even a small one, technically a 'transient ischaemic attack.'

I called my sister earlier to tell her about it and she called Mom at the hospital and then me. She said that Mom was irritated that her BFF had called me, "She's such a busybody" and was saying that she didn't want anyone to come visit her. From what my sister said I determined that my mother was in the place where she would feel really good knowing we wanted to visit and feel good about being strong enough to tell us not to come.

So I called her and when she said hello I said, cheerfully, "Hi! It's my turn to call and keep you from resting!"

She laughed. She told me that she had "A transee... um ishac attack" She was stammering, clearly not able to pronouce the words and frustrated. She is a retired nurse after all. She knows these words. She pushed on and said, "And that is the best kind to have." I said, "Well, thank goodness you had the good kind of stroke!" And she laughed again.

I could definitely hear that she was having trouble speaking. She told me that when she tried to write the check, "I got the the name down, but then then I tried to write the the amount and I couldn't! First I wrote the LETTER [she meant number] for three and I thought 'that's not how you spell that.'"

I told her that I could come to visit soon and she said that she thinks it would be easier to "cuper know that word?" "recuperate" "Yeah. that. You see what I mean about my language?" "Yeah, I noticed. So you think you will recuperate better without us?" "Yes. I don't even have two beds up. I have the quilt frame in the the other bed bedroom. I can see the end and I don't want to to take it down!"

She notices when she can't pronounce a word, but I don't think she notices when she repeats small words, which she does quite a bit. Well, except when she did it at the end of a sentence, and then she turned it into a joke, "I will know more later later...later, later, later, later!"

She was very cheerful and happy that we called, and I think she means it when she says that she would just as soon we didn't visit. She isn't sick enough to need us to take care of her, or she won't admit it right now, and she would be very frustrated at not being able to do things for us. I told her that I would plan on visiting her again soon anyway. She made me promise to let her finish the quilt first. She may be more interested in having a visit once she gets home, but right now she is very invested in the idea that they will give her some pills and she will go home and be just fine, thank you very much.

In some ways this is not a bad thing. It is possible that she will continue to have difficulty with language, but she might not. Though it is frustrating to her not to be able to pronouce words with more than three syllables, or even remember what word she wants, it is not difficult to understand her. She is also having every test in book and using this as an excuse to change to the physician she was meaning to change to anyway. Her next test is an ultrasound to look for blockages in the arteries in her neck. It is possible that she will have to have some procedure done, but she hopes she will go home tomorrow.

But she is peeved that she can't go to the quilt show.

My mom....

...had a small stroke.

I'm still waiting to get information, as is everyone else. It seems that it started last evening around the time she went to bed. She was unsteady and had a sense of not being alone. In the morning she was still unsteady, and missed her coffee cup when she tried to pour her morning coffee. She realized that something was wrong when she sat down to pay bills and couldn't remember how to write the numbers. She called my aunt who came over. Mom was having trouble getting words out and when she did she often used the wrong words. My aunt made an appointment with the physician and then called my mom's best friend, who is also a nurse. Mom's friend insisted that they leave right away. Mom was sent from the physician's office straight to the hospital where she is currently undergoing tests.

And that is all I know. Mom's friend promises to call me whenever she has information.

Right now I am thinking that I will go visit her when I have Spring Break in three weeks, unless my aunt or Mom's friend think I should be there sooner.

We have CPAP!

I want to tell you that I was concerned about Roland's snoring for awhile. I wasn't very concerned though because the only time he seemed to actually stop breathing was when he fell asleep in a chair. Then one night I couldn't sleep, because he was snoring, and I really listened to his breathing. I noticed that there seemed to be a 4-breath cycle. He would breathe once deeply and then each of the next three would sound more labored, more like he was breathing through a closing tube. The last one sounded like he just wasn't getting in hardly any air. That would be followed by a gasp and a deep breath.

That's when I decided he had to go in. I figured it was mild to moderate sleep apnea, because he didn't really STOP breathing. The pause between the last most labored breath and the gasp was almost tiny. It turns out though that if you define breath as an activity that brings oxygen into your body then that last effort wasn't really a breath.

Roland got his results today. On his sleep apnea test, the one in which he doesn't think he slept much at all, he stopped breathing 160 times. One way that sleep apnea is rated has to do with how many "events" a person has per hour. Anything over 30 is severe. Roland had averaged 44.

He got good results on with the CPAP machine, so that is how they are treating it.

He called to tell me about it. He was very excited -- very.

And I said, "Aren't you glad you have a wife you insisted that you get it checked out?" He acknowledged that he was.

Which was good, because, you know, it is all about me.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

One Mother Among Others

A couple of days ago I wrote a post in which I said that if you ask me how many kids I have I give different answers. One answer, "Four or five, depending up whether you count my nephew...," is officially off the list. Henceforth the answer is some contexts is necessarily "two" but in all others it is "five."

Just to be clear, this has nothing to do with Evan's real, natural, legal, biological mother who diapered him, fed him, and raised him for most of his childhood. She could not always take care of him, but she is a good mother and I am in not in the least interested in replacing her.

It's not a competition, or if it was, I would lose, and that is okay.

Still, I am ditching the distinction between him and the other boys. In my world I shall no longer refer to and think of Andrew, Brian, Carl, and David as "sons" and Evan as "nephew." Nope. They all are getting stuck into one pidgeon hole.

Why, do you ask?

I suppose I could talk about our relationship, what expectations we had, or didn't when he moved in and how things have grown, about how close I feel to him. I could, but that would not get to the point. Something happened today.

Roland and I went somewhere to do something for him and I was greeted with these words, "Hi! Evan said his parents were coming. That's you right?"

And I said, "Yes. That's us."

And I don't lie.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Wiped Out

I am emotionally exhausted, and I am about to vent the tiredness just a little and I am not going to tell you what it was about. Sorry.

We agreed to do something and, as so often happens, found ourselves asked to do something bigger than we had originally intended. And that is okay, but it is just that the slow deliberative process we expected became something hurried, and the person we had agreed to be helpful to had backed him/herself into a tight spot. Or at least it would be tight if we said no.

So I knew that in the middle of the day. Then I spent two freaking hours in the car: my car pool day so out to get everyone except my kid who has rehearsal; back to drop everyone off; back to the school to get Brian; and then back home again. AND throughout Roland keeps calling me asking me to give him answers to questions about things that I don't normally keep in my head.

We spent about an hour debating what to do. Should could we do what was asked? Perhaps we should insist on only doing exactly what we had intended. It would mean that someone else would have to deal with some pretty crummy consequences, but maybe still we should, but really, neither of us wanted to.

So we talked about it and talked about it. I'm doing the whole self-therapy for co-dependency thing. The co-dependent response, for those of you who do not know, would be to feel like I had to do it, do it, and be resentful about it. The non-co-dependent response is to decide really and truly what I can and want to do and then to do that without resentment, perhaps even with joy.

I almost made it. I did pretty well for a recovering co-dependent. We figured out what we were willing to do, which was somewhere in between what we had originally intended and what we were being asked. We also realized that our compromise option was actually better for the person we were trying to help. So happiness and joy all around.


I confess to just a little bit playing the guilt card, but well, I am a recovering co-dependent.

But the whole process was stressful for me. Not just because of changing of the specifics of the situtation but because it has to do with stuff that makes me feel stressed out anyway. There are a whole lot of things that make me feel stressed -- like public speaking and signing my mortgage agreement. Did you know that realitors are not the least bit surprised if you have to put your head between your knees so you won't pass out after signing those?

And now I am all worn out.

But I got lots of good news. Roland gets his CPAP on FRIDAY and Evan is coming home for the weekend just 'cause.

So woo hoo!

Now where's my chocolate?

Remember Roland's Apnea?

Here's a timeline, because it will help me not SCREAM.

Jan. 8: Roland goes for sleep study 1.
Jan. 9: We learn it should take about three weeks to get the results.
Feb 15: We get a message that says nothing other than that he needs to make a second appointment. For those of you who don't have calendars handy, that's five and a half weeks.
March 6: Roland goes in for the second study, the first appointment he could get, which turns out to be to test different pressures for a CPAP machine. He is told that he needs to make an appointment with the local person to get the actual machine, or a prescription for one, or something.

Today, March 12, I finally get around to telling you that he tried to make the appointment but was told that he can't until they get the results back, which should only take about two weeks. And no, he can't just set up an appointment for three weeks from now. Let's just wait for the results to come back.

People, this guy is hanging on by his fingernails. He has not had good sleep for years, but he thought that was just life. He was buckling down, coping, taking 90+ minute naps every day, accepting this as the reality of life. Then he was offered hope. Then he got to sleep with the machine for several hours. He got real, deep, actually refreshing sleep for the first time in years. That evening he didn't need a nap even though he spent less time sleeping, by far, than he usually does. A starving man was given a taste of food and said, "Yes! That is great! Give me more!" only to be told, "We'll call you."

If we are lucky, he will get his CPAP four months after his first appointment.

UPDATE: they called. He has an appointment on Friday, presumably to be fitted for a machine.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

How many siblings?

Much about Andrew's essay is cool and praiseworthy, and more or less what I knew he would be likely to say on the subject. The sentence that got me was, "I have one younger brother through birth, three older ones through fostering, two siblings both younger than me who didn't end up staying with us, and a bunch of other kids who have stayed with us for respite (temporary care.) "

He counts Frankie and Ann.

Neither of them lived with us for more than three months. Both of them were kids that he thinks we should not have taken. He was relieved to see them go.

And he counts them among his siblings.

THAT is the part that made my heart jump, that makes me want to cry, because I did not expect it.

I think of Frankie and Ann as kids were were almost one of mine, almost one of the family, but in the end were not. When people ask me how many kids I have I choose between several several answers. In a few contexts, the only appropriate answer is "two." Often I say, "Somewhere between two and five, I'm not exactly sure." Or, "Four or five, depending upon whether I count my nephew. He has lived with us and he certainly feels like one of ours." A lot of them time though I just say "five -- all boys."

I never say "seven."

When Andrew was filling out a college application months ago he came to me and said, "They want to know how many siblings I have. What do I tell them?" He had that look on his face, the expectant one, the one where you know your parents are about to do something to be proud of. I took a moment before I answered, before I let him down. Then I said, "Just one, honey. It's a legal thing. You can only claim Brian." He was crestfallen. I thought, "He wanted to know if should say three or four." Now I think, "He wanted to write 'six.' He wanted to claim them all."

What would it mean for me to claim them all, for me to answer "seven" when someone asks me how many kids I have? What would it mean to think of them not as children who were almost mine, but as a son and a daughter that couldn't stay?

Just thinking about that hurts. Could I hold them in my heart that way? "Look, here are photos of my son and daughter that I never see. No, I don't know where they are or how they are doing. The last time I heard anything..." I can barely imagine it. How would I respond when they asked, "Why don't they live with you?" What answer to give? "I wasn't strong enough, skilled enough, brave enough. I wasn't enough." I couldn't say, "They were too much for us." My usual way of putting it, "Their needs were greater than our abilties to meet them" isn't enough. And besides it isn't true with Ann, except that is sort of is, although it isn't.

I do not think I will ever list them as a son and daughter who could not live with me. Living THAT reality is too painful. I'm not that strong. I know it is not the same, quite for Andrew. To have siblings from foster care who couldn't stay just doesn't mean the same thing. He does not bear responsibility for them. Not the same way. It is not the same thing.

But it is something; a big something. Andrew claims them as sister and brother.

It makes me happy, and humble to know that.

I wonder how Frankie and Ann would feel to know it?

Monday, March 10, 2008


Andrew didn't send in his applications until just before the deadline. (He so takes after me). He was told he would hear back by the end of March. He got his acceptance letter from his first pick today!!!! I quote: "The Admissions Committee has reviewed your credentials and believes you would make a positive addition to our campus. Additionally, we were inspired by your essay and loved reading every word of it. You truly grasp social justice."

You may or may not remember that this school was his favorite because of their diverse student body and strong commitment to social justice. The fact that it is also located in a favorite city is a plus. Since his essay came from answering questions several of you asked him on his blog, he agrees that I can share it with you. I don't have the final version, but this is close.

My name is [Andrew] and my family has been fostering since I was around ten years old. I have one younger brother through birth, three older ones through fostering, two siblings both younger than me who didn't end up staying with us, and a bunch of other kids who have stayed with us for respite (temporary care.) The older brothers I have gained through foster care are all gay. This has led some people to ask me how having gay foster brothers has affected my life. My answer is usually that it hasn’t but the way people react to that fact has. It’s a short and easy answer to give but not to explain.

Several years ago, I went with my family to lobby state senators about a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. “It doesn’t bother me that these people live that way. What bothers me is when they flaunt it,” said the senator waving her hand emphatically, a huge golden ring with a large jewel resting on her left ring finger. “I mean we all have the right to choose how we live. But they can’t expect any special exception just for them.” It was about then, standing in front of a state official, that I realized there was something seriously wrong with the world.

In school everyone is taught in history class about slavery and segregation. They know that it is terrible and all about the wonderful people like President Lincoln and MLK Jr. who fought to end it. Despite this almost universal education there is almost no real understanding of racism and discrimination. When you ask most people why people held racist beliefs they will say they don’t really know, or they’ll say it’s because they were ignorant or just bad people. This is only a small part of the truth and profoundly misleading. Discriminatory people aren’t in wholly stupid ignorant or bad, and even more terrifyingly, they can be otherwise intelligent and nice people.

If, when I was growing up, there had been a few mean kids who used nasty words and spouted hateful junk I would have been fine. It would have been unsettling and I would have disliked it but I would it wouldn’t have bothered me all that much. There are some mean people out there; that’s the way the world is. What makes me angry is the institutionalization and intellectual defense of homophobia. Really ignorant hateful people commit terrible hate crimes, but people all too often see that in a vacuum. It is the general acceptance or even the simplest validations of it which allow such things to happen.

I remember when I was a kid out on the playground and hearing some one loudly yell “faggot,” but what makes that memory stand out is that there was a teacher walking by. She did not stop she did not look around and she most definitely did not punish the kid. Perhaps she didn’t hear him, but the fact that I can only remember about two or three instances where I saw a kid being reprimanded for saying something along those lines makes me doubt that. Kids at my school are a hundred times more likely to get into trouble for saying “G*d d*mn it,” or “f**k you” then they are for using homophobic slurs. I hear them yell them in class rooms and in the halls. Though the “n word” would be a shock to hear, it is a rare delight and relief when I actually see a teacher reprimand some one for an anti-gay slur.

What bothers me is not hateful jokes, but when my teacher who went on protests for civil rights in the 60’s off handedly refers to the constitutional ban on gay marriage as “the homo bill.” What bothers me is when a kid is suspended for calling a girl a “c*nt,” but another who reads an entire poem about a football player being a “homo” is left alone. It bothers me that a kid is suspended for saying “wet backs” while another who hounds kids calling them “faggots” everyday is left alone. What bothers me the most is when someone intelligent gives a long winded speech claiming homosexuality is against nature and a choice.

It’s obvious that the people in charge have an understanding of hatred and know it’s wrong. When the topic is racism they understand it, and yet they haven’t any ability to identify that same hatred when it is applied to something only slightly different.

Real discrimination is in the people who understand and still refuse to see the hypocrisy. Real discrimination is in the people who have thought it out and still cling to hatred. Real discrimination is in the powerful who refuse to act when they see hate and bigotry around them. Having gay brothers has attached faces to the sickening amount of hatred that I hear. My brothers are just like any others brothers and I love them very much. The fact that my brothers are gay hasn’t meant much at all, that I was seriously asked “Haven’t you ever been afraid of having gays in your house?” has.

Pretty cool kid, huh?

And I was finally able to give him the sweatshirt from the school I bought months ago!

***Thanks for all the kind comments! I will be printing them off and giving them to Andrew as they come in.***

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Safety Plan

My father called and gave me the dates my sister is flying in, but he didn't have the times. So I called her and my father had the dates wrong. She told me that she had told him several times that she could not fly on the days he gave me. She just can't miss that many work days, but he doesn't remember. Our father tends to be forgetful, but it sets of alarm bells for her in ways it doesn't for me.

She told me that in the years after I stopped visiting Dad and she continued to spend the night once a week with him, she spent hours waiting him after school or in his vehicle outside bars. I'm glad she told me. Not just because I am glad that she shared but because it clarified memories I had from the years in which I was visiting him with her. Sis remembers being forgotten and being hungry, I remember insisting that he feed us. I remember demanding that we stop at a grocery store to buy our food for lunches the next day and go to a restaurant before we went to his house. I don't have any memories of actually going hungry. I wonder if I just figured out the need to ensure we were fed before he got home because there was never food in his house, or if we did actually go hungry on some visit I no longer remember. Those of you who have parents with substance abuse issues will also understand the necessity of getting food before you get home.

Anyway, Roland and I talked. I told him that if Sis had any credit cards I might not take responsibility for her like this, but she doesn't. (This is part of the fall-out from her broken ankle and lack of insurance). So she has no way to take care of herself if Dad falls through. So Roland agreed that we would re-structure our trip so that we all have a plan in which we all feel safe. I am sending the following letter to my father:

Dear Dad,

I just talked to Sis and we worked out some of the details. Hope you don’t mind me being travel agent person.

She lands on [date/time]. We decided that it would be fun to meet her there, and having our mini van to move that many people is probably a good idea too. I looked for a hotel near the airport and the closest is Local Inn. Do you want to give me your credit card and I will make a reservation for all of us?

We would be thrilled to see you at the airport, or you can meet us in the morning at the Inn. Or if there is anything you need to do at the cottages we can just meet you there the next day. Just let me know.

Sis's flight leaving is [date/time]. That means they have to be there very early. Again, send me your credit card number, and I will go ahead and make reservations at the Inn for the night before for them. Since it is so early, I am sure Sis won’t mind if you just give her money for a taxi to the airport in the morning.

We can also help transport her to the Inn the day before the flight, but I think I will make reservations for us somewhere between there and Our Small Town so that we can make progress getting home.

I don’t want to forget to thank you for building the cottages and paying for us all to have a vacation together.

Thank you!

Roland will call him for me. Roland is an angel about calling my Dad since I am so phobic about this. I told him that what I need for him to do is get the credit card information from my Dad so that I can make all the hotel reservations we need. I don't care if he tells Dad that I am making reservations for Sis too. Roland can tell him or not depending upon his judgment of how sober and likely to remember Dad is.

There's something that some of you will understand and will seem strange to the others. When I told Sis I had written the letter and read it to her she said, "that sounds great." I noticed that neither of us questioned the necessity of sending him the letter. He needs to have it on a piece of paper. We need to know that he has it. Even so, he will probably call me on my cell phone anxious when Sis does not appear at the airport on the day he asked her to come in.

So we all feel safe. Sis says if Dad is drunk the entire week she can handle that just fine. She's good at ignoring him drunk. She just needs to know that she has a place to sleep and food to eat.

We both have bad memories of life with father, but our worse memories we do not share. We both remember the five years after the divorce in which my father played with us and things felt sur-real to me. I know that I took charge then, as I am doing now, "managing" my father to insure that we were taken care of, and doing it in a way that was designed not to anger him (usually but did not always work). She does not share my memories of "before the divorce." She does not remember being hit, though she was. She does not have memories of being "on guard." Perhaps because I was or did she just forget like she did the physical violence? On the other hand, she has memories from her teen years, after I was no longer visiting my father, of being forgotten and hungry.

Which is why, I suppose we need different safety plans. My sister's memories of my father drunk are memories of him passed out. My worst memories are of violence. I need to know that I can drive myself and my child away, even though my rational mind tells me that it is unlikely that he will get mean or violent. Sis doesn't need to know she can physically escape him, just that there will be food and a place to sleep.

There is part of me that thinks that our safety plan goes beyond what we need, that my father really wants this vacation to be idyllic and he will be drinking just enough to keep the DT's at bay. He wants to be appear to be the loving, adored patriarch and he will do his best to play the part.

But Sis and I still need to have a plan.

And there is still the part of me that wonders why I am increasingly determined to go. I think it is because if he is sober, or close to it, then this could be a good vacation. I will really enjoy getting to spend five days with my sister. If he is NOT sober, then it is a different sort of opportunity. It is like going to a spider exhibit when you are afraid of spiders. Not because you think it will be fun, but because you need to stand there and face the thing that scares you and say "I'm not afraid of you anymore. You can't hurt me."

Update: we've made some revisions to the plan. First we have decided to ask Dad to just send us the money so we can pay for everything. Based upon past experience he is likely to prefer this, and it means no worrying about cards being rejected. There are a couple of routes to take to get from here to there. The one that allows us to pick up Sis is perhaps one hour longer, but is almost entirely freeway driving. The more we think about it the more we think that will be less stressful and reliable than the country highway route. We talking a total predicted 13.5 hours instead of 12.5.

Someone asked about getting Dad to rent Sis a car, which would work if she had credit cards. Since she doesn't, she would have to depend upon Dad or us showing up, signing, and agreeing to pay for any damage, etc. Now that we have decided to take the "we're going right by there anyway" route, it doesn't seem to be that big of a deal.

Friday, March 07, 2008

A time line

I've written so many posts that I have not published that I cannot remember what I have and have not actually put out there. Anyway, I thought I would give a brief summary of the story of me and my father.

Ages 0-7 -- parents married. No good memories of my father.
Ages7-12 -- a strange time in which we saw him once a week, he drank lightly while we were there, and often played with us. I had a sense of un-reality, watchfulness, waiting for the other shoe to drop. You get the idea.
Ages 12-14 Dad has more trouble controlling his drinking around us. Gets mean. At every weekly visit I get picked on. I cry. I get yelled at for being too sensitive.
One day when I was 14: I had been in Alateen for a while and knew I shouldn't be treated this way; hadn't been long enough to realize I really couldn't control him. I told him that I couldn't deal with what was happening. Suggested that we just agree that I was too sensitive and he could stop yelling at me. Finished prepared speech by saying, "Sometimes it feels so bad I think about not coming." Father responds "If that is the way you feel don't come." That is literally the last thing he says to me for the better part of a year.
One day when I was 15: I called my dad and suggested we get together and talk. He says, "Why?" I stumble for words saying that it seems like we should. We meet at a park. Before I can say much of anything he forgives me for walking out on him and breaking his heart.
Ages 15-24: We have polite conversation, sometimes go to plays, I keep myself carefully protected. I get married at 22 (okay, 21, but very close to my birthday) and he doesn't come, according to my sister it is because I don't want to be given away. If I just call and tell him how much I love him and want him to be there, if I just let him give me away (which he has dreamed about ever since I was born), he will come. I inform my shocked sister that I would prefer he not come.
I tell pretty much anyone who will listen how terrible my father is. I bitch until I can't stand to listen to myself anymore. At one point I have a revelation that I just have the father I have and all this whining and yelling and crying won't change that. I feel like I have made peace with who he is.
Age 24: He sobers up. I laughingly tell people that I'm angry about it. First it is about 20 years too late, second why did he have to wait until right after I found peace with him being a drunk? I am not certain exactly how I am supposed to respond. Later I get his "amends" letter in which he tells me he wants to apologize for anything he might have done that hurt me. He cannot apparently think of anything specific but wants to cover his bases. I decide that he is still a jerk and ignore him.
Age 26: We get invited to his wedding. Dad buys tickets for everybody. I really like his wife. She reminds me of my mother.
A few years later: Wife leaves him after he starts drinking. We do not hear from him for several years.
Age 30+: New girlfriend in his life wants to come out to meet us. Andrew adores her. I like her very much. They get married, she wants to be "grandma." I tell her that I don't want Andrew to loose another grandmother. She makes a commitment to him. Did I mention that Andrew adores her? They talk on the phone when he is sad. Dad and new wife bring my family and my sister's out to visit at least one other time. Their marriage lasts about six years, I think. It ends when Dad starts drinking. Ex-wife continues to call Andrew. They stay in touch for about a year and she drifts out of his life. Dad does not talk to us for a year. I learn that he is nearly fired. He goes to rehab again, and reestablishes contact.
Age late 30's - last summer/fall: Dad seems to be holding it together. Visits once a year and is always sober when he gets here. Brian thinks he is the coolest grandad ever, which has everything to do with the money he spends. Andrew never really forgives him for not staying married to the last wife. He, along with me and Roland, are all polite to my father. A visitor would think we got along fine. We talk about nothing in particular. There is no significant sharing. He seems small to me, somehow not connected to the monster of my early childhood memories, but also not someone I want to get close to. I do Alanon, therapy, get a grip on many of my adult-child-of-an-alcoholic issues. Realize I'm not angry at him any more. I sometimes feel sorry for him. I also realize that not being angry at him doesn't replace the work I do in therapy and Alanon.
Spring/Summer/Fall 07: Dad retires, finishes cottages-by-the-lake project he has talked about since forever, and starts drinking again -- not necessarily in that order.
Spring 2008: (um...I'm 44 in case you're wondering) I realize that we are three months away from the vacation and my father is drinking heavily. My sister and I deal with the reality that we are going to be with our father during a time when he is not sober -- something we have not had to deal with in 20 years. I have visions in which my father puts his arm around Brian and says, "You still love me, right Brian? Your mother hates me. I don't know why. I tried to be the best father I could, but she always was a sensitive, moody bitch. But you're still my buddy, right Brian? You still love me." My sister expresses concern that she will arrive at the airport and our father won't pick her up because he is passed out. I worry about whether there will be food. Roland reminds me that we already decided to refuse the offer of plane tickets so that we could leave whenever we wanted and that we can buy the food. I remember my therapist telling me that when I start to have those "little-girl" fears and anxieties I am to hold my car keys and say, "I am not a little girl any more. I am a grown woman and I can drive away if I want to."

I write rambling blog posts and delete most of them. Many of them are about how strange it is that I still go through this, still have to deal with childhood demons, even though I don't feel angry at him. I think a lot about what it means to forgive, and not to forgive and how little it seems to have to do with my own stages of recovery. Not that it doesn't have something to do with it, but just not as much as I thought it would.

And just in case you are wondering, I am actually doing much better than the blog would indicate. I am finally getting healthy, my classes are great, the boys are good, and Roland may be on his way (finally!) to being able to get enough rest.

He joked today that the CPAP made him feel so good when he slept with it that he was going to wear it all day long. Once he finally makes and appointment with the local guy.

Sleep Study updated report

So Wednesday night Roland had the second sleep study in which he spent some part of the night wearing a CPAP. He's not sure because in order to sleep he took a sleeping pill and that messed up his sense of time. He knows that he was only able to sleep from 11:00pm to 5:30pm, far less than he normally does.

And yet after work he did not need a nap.

Anyway, the next thing he needs to do is make an appointment with the local guy. Hopefully it won't take forever.

In the good news category, the insurance is really kicking in on this one. I was afraid they wouldn't pay, but they are.

The Pain of Loss

Steph is suffering that grief and loss that prevents so many people from considering care. To deeply love a child for months, for year, and then to say goodbye.

It is hard, hard, hard.

A piece of your soul is gone.

She can still use all the support she can get...she's here.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Sleep Study, Take Two

So the second sleep study was last night, not last week as I expected. Believing that he was going because the last time he could not sleep and they did not get enough data, he went armed with Ambi*n.

He slept.

They woke him in the night and put a CPAP machine on him.

They came back and put a chin strap on to keep his mouth closed so he would breathe through his nose.

Now he needs to make an appointment with the local doctor who can't make a diagnosis based upon all the data, but can prescribe a treatment, or at least talk about them, something. In any case, there's this other doctor he needs to see next.

Wouldn't it be cool if when he starts sleeping better he stops bringing home every single virus that passes through the school?

Because it is all about me.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Too many posts

I have like five posts in which I try to write something about my father, but I can't seem to finish them.

I have a post on how I think that reflecting upon and understanding my own abuse and its effects on me makes me a better foster parent.
I have a post about forgiveness and what I think real, genuine forgiveness is, and why I think it is literally impossible for people to forgive abusive parents. Not psychologically difficult, impossible. When you really forgive someone part of what you do is agree to try to somehow take that thing out of your relationship. You forgot my birthday, but I will not let it count against you. I said something that hurt your feelings, but you will "let it go." We both agree to at least attempt to return to the relationship we had before the offense.

But there is no relationship before the offense for survivors of abuse. There is no way to even try to "let go" what happened, take it out of the relationship and have anything left. I can imagine "letting it go" but in doing so I also imagine letting him go.

And so what could it possibly mean to forgive this person? I can somehow let go of the anger, probably. I can get to a point, have got to a point, where I genuinely wish that good things happen to him. I don't want for him to suffer, not anymore. Is that forgiveness?

Is it forgiveness if I am still jealous of his ex-wives becuase they are allowed to divorce him and move on? No hosptial will identify them as next-of-kin if he is dying. No one will be shocked that they don't have the expected reactions.

One of the things I figured out in the past year, something Gawdess has in her post today, is that even if we forgive them in all the ways that are possible, that still doesn't make us better. Because it turns out that the wound in us is not about them. Our problem isn't that we hang onto anger and won't let it go. The problem is that we were injured.

I have a post about all the good reasons for backing out of this vacation and the reasons that I know I won't, unless my sister does too, and she won't. That post includes parts where I try to figure out why Roland is committed to going, and to thinking about what it will mean to take Brian. I feel like I am not going to take Brian to visit his grandfather, who is a man who shows affection buy spending money and falls asleep while watching TV, but to meet my father for the first time.

And I wonder if it will break his heart to see the other side. I wonder how much my father will keep it under control.

I tell myself Brian will be 14 and I have never hidden the truth from him. I have warned him, and told him that if it is bad we will leave.

I see flashes of things that could happen. I see my father being surprised that we want to get food for the cottages, that we are all hungry, really? I see him wondering why we won't just wait until tomorrow to buy food. I see him getting angry and telling us if we have to have food now then go and buy it. Giving us too little money and trying to make us feel unreasonable. I tell Roland that I think these things and wait for him to reassure me that my imagination is running away with me. Roland says, "Don't worry. WE will buy the food."

It is what I am afraid of, what my sister is afraid of, that we will be with my father and be those little helpless girls again. The little girls who are told that we are loved so much that he would do "anything" for us, but who are made to feel guilty because we are hungry.

There is a post about why my sister seems to need to go, and I feel compelled to go. I wonder if it is just co-dependence. Have we just not broke free from him? Does my sister also have a sense that this really could have be the last time we see him? For years I have thought that after he retires he will have nothing but this project, these cottages by the lake we are going to, to keep him together. Once that is finished what will be left?

Will he have any reason not to drink himself to the grave?

And now he is retired and the cottages are built and he is drinking and calling my sister and crying.

And I wonder if my sister also feels like she has to go to this vacation because this really could be the last time to face him.

And do what?

Maybe nothing.

Nothing except stand together and say, "Yes. What we remember is real. It really happened."

And wouldn't it be ironic if I start to think of this trip as a journey to face the demons of my childhood, to face them and not be afraid, only to find that he has managed to sober up?

Wouldn't we all have a good laugh over that.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008's like this

My father called today during normal working hours and spoke to Roland who is home trying to shake off another virus.

My father told Roland that he (Dad) thought that I was angry at him because I snapped at my sister when she last tried to talk to me, and he wasn't sure I was going to go on the vacation this summer.

So I called my sister to ask if she knew what Dad was talking about. She said yes. He called a few days ago and asked her to call me and ask if I was going to go on the vacation this summer. She said she wouldn't do it because I had told her that I was getting annoyed at being asked that question. I had said I was going to go and I didn't want to be asked anymore.

So that is what she told my father, and that is why he called here when no one should have been home and told Roland that he thought I was angry at him and wasn't going to go on the vacation.

Um...did I mention that my father is drinking again?

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Reasons to Foster or Adopt Teens

So Jo also asked about the best part. In general the best part is the kids. Of course, that is not terribly specific, so I thought I would try to write about all the best things about taking kids who are teenagers.

1. That younger kid you're adopting? He or she is going to turn into a teen anyway.
Okay, I know. I understand that you are hoping that by the time your kid turns into a teenager you will be ready for it, and that the relationship with the kid will give you a foundation to navigate the teen years. Still, I did have to get this point out there. If you adopt you can decide to skip the baby years, but there is no way you can skip the teen years.

2. Contrary to what you may think adopting a 15-year-old doesn't mean that you will only be parenting for 3 more years.
Human beings need pretty intensive parenting well into their 20's. That can mean different things, but they do need it. Some may need or want to live at home longer. Others just need a lot of emotional support. All of them need parents.

3. You know what you are getting.
It is not unlike voting or hiring someone with experience and a track record. If you know what issues you are good at dealing with, then you can be MORE confident that you are matching with a kid whose needs fit your skills.

4. They can just be so cool.
Okay, I don't know how to say this in ways that don't sound particularly offensive, so here goes. The younger the child is, the more competition there is. By the time kids are 15 most people aren't even considering them. There are so many wonderful kids with no history of criminal behavior and relatively-minor psychological issues. I mean, there are really cool kids wanting families.

5. They may share actual interests you have.
It depends upon what you are interested in, of course. Let's be honest though. A lot of parents talk about the joy of watching cartoons with their kids, playing with their little plastic toys, and reading Goodnight Moon two dozen times every night. To some of us though there just isn't a whole lot of attraction in that. How about instead of watching Dora the Explorer with your kid you got to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Huh? How about that? What if they wanted to go to the art and craft fair with you? How about taking a jewelry-making class for adults? I am not saying they will or should be thought of as a substitute for a friend, socializing and entertaining you, but I am saying that your bonding parent/child interactions can be done in activities you actually enjoy.

6. They do their own self-care.
Really. They are usually even willing to do their own laundry. Okay, so instead of bugging them to take a shower you are worrying about how to pay for all the hot water since they don't come OUT of the shower, but still, the icky, gross part of parenting is over. When they are sick, they don't crawl into your lap and stick their running noses into your hair.

I may add to this list, and you are welcome to do so to. I am going to publish it, and I am going to try to write a post on some of the basic ways that parenting teens, especially kids who come to you as teens, is just different.

And I am still open to more questions!

***Hey! Spell check is working again!***

Saturday, March 01, 2008

The Worst Part

Jo asks about the best and worst parts of doing foster care.

What Steph is going through RIGHT NOW is the worst part. I want to ask you to give her a virtual hug, but that feels so inadequate.

Do it anyway, please.

Life is good

My very best IRL (local) friend in the whole world stopped by this morning. Our lives have become so busy we don't see each other much. Years ago she lived near where I worked and she worked from home and at least once a week I would take my lunch to her house. She and her kids were at our house for dinner at least once a week. We got out together at least once a month. Now months and months pass and we seem to keep missing her.

So that was good. She asked Brian about where he was going to school next year. He told her about going to Our Town High. He has such confidence in his voice. He is not the least worried. I don't know if I can explain, but he really does sound different from how he did a year or so ago. HE has decided and HE is confident. We told him that it was his decision and he has made it and he has listened to our concerns and knows what he is going to do. He didn't sound anxious at all. He sounded like a young adult.

And that is a good thing.

One friend who knows more about how stressed I was at work right at the same time as I was trying not to be stressed about kid far away suggested that his anxiety attack a week or two ago may have been a reaction to my over-the top level of stress. I was trying to hide it from him, but I was seriously trying to keep from running screaming into the hills. Finding out that one of my colleagues can take over the departmental review makes me feel like I lost 20 pounds over night. Knowing that there are no decisions to be made about this boy, is good too.

I'm not quite ready for an inter-state processes. I would have done it, if it had all come together. It would have been enormously stressful though. If they called today and said there was a kid in the shelter, I would be fine with it. I would be able to read files and talk to people whom I trust who would have met the kid. I also would not be asking a yong person to move far away from everyone he or she knows. I can see doing an interstate adoption, even of a small sibling group, after Brian leaves home in four years. If we did though we would do it in the right order: first do an adoption home study, then let the matching specialists help us find a family.

But all of life has settled down to a managable stress level. The boys are all doing well. My job is really busy right now, but suddenly everything I have to do are things only things that I feel confident I can do well and don't require me to work with passive-aggressive, apparently loving and generous people who end up making me feel three inches tall. Yippee!