Posts Tagged ‘Family’

You made me cry a bit there – in a good way. My sis-in-law wrote to say that even she got a little teary from the comments and she is a total badass. (I am concerned about B’s privacy but not my in-laws, apparently!).

I am still a thinking — about Blitzen, self-preservation, a creative outlet, the support hat I really do get from the wonderful vibes anonymous people send my way and the ability to process this incredibly complex way of life that writing has created for me.

I am still a thinking — about what has shifted for me in the last few months that has made things so difficult in a new way.

I am going to take a little break for a week or two and try to figure out if there is a good way to move forward, perhaps with fewer public posts about Blitzen (although as several people have said — there are so many of the wonderful things about this kid that I have captured here, I hope to keep writing all that down for both me and for her whether or not I make those items public). Maybe it is time turn my attention more to some of the social justice issues that being a foster parent has brought into focus for me in a new  and very very real way.

I also just have to say that this past week, the entire world feels wrong which is likely contributing to this feeling that I am having. Everything that is happening in Missouri and the often disheartening discussions that I’ve had with other white people about it, the ridiculous and skewed press coverage, have just weighed me down.  I am deeply saddened, really struggling with how to contribute to this discussion in a meaningful way, how to help Blitzen cope with this tremendous injustice but also prepare for a world that doesn’t see her or respect her.  Even the air feels heavy and full of darkness.

Time to breathe and try to find some brightness.  I’ll likely be back, one way or another, soon.

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Andrew and I have both experienced, in the last 36 hours, that look.  That look from ‘professionals’ associated with Blitzen’s case.

That look that says ‘you are troublesome foster parents, you are making my life difficult by demanding that we do all that we should which is way more than we feel that we can.’

That look that says, ‘Oh, we’ve written your child off (not that we in anyway consider her to be your child) and you should too.’


That ‘When this was all headed for adoption, you were committed, passionate, model foster parents that we begged to speak on panels, rally new recruits, participate in city-wide ad campaigns. But now, you are a pain in the ass and we’re tempted to just accept false allegations against you so we can make you go away quicker’ look.

We’ve both experienced that moment when it has become crystal clear that this child is going back into a social system of grinding poverty, family dysfunction, racial and domestic violence, a broken and battered educational system that is really just a pipeline to prison/welfare dependency/homelessness/teen pregnancy/addiction, where she will be lost. And sadly, the look in their eyes says ‘we simply don’t care.’

I am sure you all are familiar with that look.

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We went for a stroll in Central Park to visit Dennis and Stan’s tree.  What, you may wonder, is a Stan and Dennis tree? Well, it is the tree in Central Park where we scattered the ashes of my wonderful father – shhh, don’t tell anyone, I am quite sure that it is illegal – and then later also scattered the ashes of our dear dog Stan.  Since the Marley book, we’ve been talking a lot about endings.

Now, this is an amazing tree and the perfect place for one human and one dog that acted like a human to rest in peace – especially since they were the best of friends.  Blitzen really seemed to take in the occasion and grasp the significance that the place held for Andrew and me.  She did a lot of processing along the way and asked questions like – What were the ashes like? Were we feeling sad? How did we pick the tree? We talked about heaven and reincarnation and that lots of different people believe lots of different things but that the people that we love are always with us in our memories and our hearts.

After strolling around the tree and agreeing that it is a very very fine tree, Blitzen said, “So now I guess your dad and Stan are living in the tree.  The ashes probably went into the ground and up into the tree.” Yes, I think that is probably right.

Dennis and Stan Tree

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Andrew and I were asked to speak to a group of new recruits at our agency this weekend .  You know, break in the fresh foster parent meat.  We joined the group at the end of their last MAPP training class to share a little bit of our story, discuss some of the challenges (especially the unexpected ones!) of foster parenting and to give the group some insight into therapeutic foster care which is pretty foreign to most folks.

We talked a lot, we always do, about many things.   But I didn’t really talk about something that has been, particularly at this moment in our journey, very difficult for me – the ‘starting in the middle’-ness of fostering.  I feel as though I have picked up a great novel, perhaps War and Peace, only to begin reading on page 347  of 1498 (or whatever it is).

I have been dumped into the drama  well past the starting point.  In addition to the sense of disorientation that comes from knowing that there is a whole lot that I do not know and may well never know, there is a sense of helplessness that comes from knowing that because I missed the beginning, I am going to be clueless, and make a whole lot of stupid assumptions and corresponding missteps from now until this fine story ends.  Of course,  I understand that all parents make mistakes – that is just a human thing to do.

But it feels different.  The fear of these future errors,  looming somewhere in the distance, coupled with my very complicated feelings about Blitzen’s family of origin, have created a great and genuine sadness in me. To have been there at the beginning, not only to know, to learn, and to understand but also to have witnessed the many early, wonderful moments of Blitzen-ness, what a magnificent gift that would have been.  But alas, I am here on page 399, slowly working my way through, trying to pick up on the context clues and figure it out as I go along.

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I am in red rock country, settling, centering, quieting myself. I visited the same petroglyphs that I wrote about a year ago. And once again, I am awed by the beauty of the art carved deep in the rock, equally awed by the need of human beings to connect and communicate through space and time. To reveal their story and explain (or maybe discover?) their origins.

Lately, Blitzen has been fairly obsessed with hearing the story of the day we met. She will ask Andrew and I to tell the tale, from our own point of view and then, she’ll ask to hear it again.

I try not to get too much inside Blitzen’s head. But this new, oft repeated topic of conversation, really has me wondering what she is thinking and feeling. On some levels, it is pretty transparent, as she struggles to feel like a part of our family, this memory is something big, important, a moment that we all share. And, of course, it is the beginning. Hard to know where you should go next, if you can’t come to terms with where you have been.

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When we started this blog, Andrew and I, I think we mostly wanted to force ourselves to produce a record of what we expected would be an unusual, amazing, heartbreaking, confusing, joyful journey.  And it has been those things.  It has been a little bit of an electronic lifebook of the past year plus, a public journal of our attempt to parent/love/engage/give to a creative, bright, sad, angry little girl.

For me, the blogging has been way more.  It has been something that I have done for myself in a way that I did not anticipate.

I really enjoy writing – who knew?  It is cathartic and liberating and forces me to be mindful and experience this experience now, as it is happening.

It has also built a community of support.  When I feel tired or like I am not a good parent or think to myself, why on earth did I sign up to do this exhausting, maddening job? Somebody always hears me and responds in a way that makes me take a deep breath and reminds me that I can do this.  That I am doing it and I am doing it pretty darn well, actually, so I should let go a little bit and accept and relax.  And often the responder is a total stranger which is oddly validating because, wow, someone that doesn’t even know and love me, is taking time to send me good internet vibes.  How thoughtful, how kind, how helpful it is to hear from you, internet peeps.  And I also feel, as corny as it sounds, that creates an atmosphere of love for Blitzen.  She doesn’t know about it but I do — a kind of shockingly large number of geographically diverse people are rooting for her and interested in her story.

All this to say, thanks for talking me into blogging, Andrew.  It has totally been worth it.

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Blitzen asked me last night, crying her little worried heart out.  Sigh.  I knew what she meant but I asked her some clarifying questions.

Me, “Blitzen, I need a little more information, honey.  Why are you so upset?”

Blitzen, “Sob, sniffle, because you are white and I am american.”

Me, trying to keep a straight face and not 1) laugh 2) cry, “Do you mean that I am white and you are African-American?”

Blitzen, “Yes, we’re not the same culture so we can’t be in the same family.”

Me, “We can be in the same family.  People in the same family don’t need to look the same – some can have blue eyes or green or brown or different colored hair or skin.  It doesn’t matter that we don’t look the same.”  Now, this is a really complex issue and I am oversimplifying in this conversation with Blitzen.  I know that people notice that we are not the same and I know that she sees it.  And I am certain that it is really a mind fuck (excuse my language) for a little kid who simply wants to belong to somebody / some family and wants everyone else to know that she BELONGS.

Blitzen, “It does matter.  People will try to tear us apart.”

Me, “Blitzen, look, our friends M and C have different colored skin and they are married and they have a beautiful baby, F.  And it is all ok.”  I brought up this example because we had just a lovely playdate with this particular multi-racial family.

Blitzen, “But F is both their cultures.”

Me, to self – This conversation is really hard and she has got me, F does have both their cultures.  What to say, what to say.

So, naturally, I started talking about the Irish potato famine.

Blitzen, “What culture are you?”

Me, “Well, I guess you could say that I am Irish.”  And I am, a lot but not totally.  My mother’s family is Irish and very proud of it.  So I talked about when my great, great grandparents came to New York.  And I talked a little about poverty and immigration and well, believe it or not, it calmed her down.  Because Blitzen is a really curious kid and she likes to learn new things.

Segue to the next portion of evening where Andrew gives Blitzen her medication and she is responsible for doling out a chewable, dinosaur shaped vitamin for everyone.  We take our ‘meds’ as a family and Blitzen says to Andrew, who had not been privy to our crying culture conversation, “Do you know there is an island, where all the poor people had to eat potatoes but then the potatoes stopped growing so they all moved to the United States?  That is Carrie’s culture.”

Next time, I’ll tell her a little more.  I certainly know that being Irish is about a whole heck of lot more than potatoes.  And I know that this big, complicated, scary thing called ‘culture’ is about a lot more than looking alike.

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