Sunday, November 7, 2010

shrine reading

His pale blue feet, a color just this side of frostbite, are
bare. In both hands, drawn close to his chest, he holds an offering of
corn. He’s fallen and lost his face more than once, it’s been imperfectly
glued back on, much of his frontal lobe missing. The cardinal that once
perched on his shoulder, long gone.

I bought him for Uma and Balloo, my first pair of babies. His watchpost
on the sill faced out of the south picture window, out onto their favorite
barking spot. But that was then, at the old house. This is now, with my
second pair of babies, the human pair, in the new house. Saint Francis
has wandered, now standing in the middle of my bathroom shrine, my life in
two parts, divided by his feet. What am I to him?

Small. An inch tall to his twelve. I’m a glass screw top bottle, filled
with transparent almond oil, my lid a third of the spread of my base. The
words Dulcinea and LEIGH scripted in gold across my face. Dulcinea, the
deceptively real but imagined love of Hidalgo Don Quixote.

Saint Francis of the Missing Frontal Lobe, has morphed into my father and
towers in my family shrine. Imagine, born beneath that angry star.
Standing beneath his angry feet. My mother, the daughter of nuns, the wife
of an aspiring prophet, and the bearer of his evil progeny, me.
for Lighthouse Flash Forms Workshop

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Incremental Improvements in GETTING FIXED, for Short Story Class

When I met her, Corina was bald. Not chemo-patient bald, but male-pattern-baldness-bald; as though a tidy, even line had been drawn around her skull, temple to temple, separating shiny, tan skin from coarse, shoulder-length brown hair.

"Leigh, this is Corina, and Corina, this is Leigh", said Prego, the tiny, pregnant houseparent.

Corina's dark lashless eyes looked me over and then away as I set my bags on the empty bed. She wore a nightgown, a baggy, long-sleeved purple thing and laceless fake Keds. The pale yellow room smelled of Windex and musty feet.

"It's too bad that you're arriving during shut-down", Prego said, "but that's how it goes." She moved toward the closet, jingling the keys that she wore on a rubbery spiral at her wrist. With my back to Prego and Corina, I stripped down to undies and pulled a men's extra large t-shirt over my head, my current version of a nightgown.

"Corina knows the rules,"Prego said. "No talking and no leaving your side of the room. You'll eat meals at your desk", which she indicated with her chin, "and ask permission to use the restroom", which she also pointed out; a single closed door across from the two closets.

Corina was looking at me again, eyes round and observant as she noted the clothes I stuffed back into my bag.

"Remember, no talking", said Prego as she locked my things into the closet with a click of the dead bolt and jingle of keys. Two locked closets, side by side. One full length mirror bolted to the wall. "We'll send a menu around soon, though. We're having Mexican take-out for lunch, since we can't go to the cafeteria."

Alone with Corina, I sat on the edge of my bed, bare feet planted on the brown linoleum floor. I gave the mattress a test bounce and then pulled back the thin girly comforter. If I fall asleep, maybe I'll wake up some place else. As my head hit the lone, flat pillow, a piercing screech snapped me back up.

“Corina! No talking allowed! You know that,” yelled Prego from down the hall.

I looked over at Corina, her shoulders and head visible above the desk. Her naked eyes blinking back at me, staring.

If Corina's disorder had a name, we didn't know it. If we had known it, we would have used it. There were eight of us, who became a variable version of we during our time on Nelson cottage. Eight residents, requiring a rotating staff of about eight. Not that we required a 1 to 1 ratio, it was a standard rezy ratio of 1 to 4, give or take.

Nelson Cottage was the younger girl's cottage, as opposed to Scarborough, the older girl's cottage (right next door) and Moody, the boy's cottage, (catty-corner from Scarborough). Inhabitants of all three cottages ate lunch and dinner in the cafeteria, each with their designated corner and designated six foot, family-style round table.

Corina was not alone in wearing her problems on the outside. We had cutters, eaters, pickers, washers, barfers, kleptos and those who loved to starve themselves. But Corina was my roommate, for awhile, and in the beginning, mesmerizing.

Her hand, usually the right one, would meander up to the dividing line on her head, finger a few strands of hair, select one and then pluck it out. She would study the hair, span its length with her fingers, check for split ends and then fixate on its minuscule white root, her eyes slightly crossed with concentration. Once satisfied, she would hold the hair root to her teeth, nibble it off and drop what remained to the floor.

I now understand that Corina was lucky, in one sense at least. Had she consumed the entire strand of hair, one hair at a time, instead of just its root, she might have developed a trichobezoar, which is a fancy word for hairball. Unlike cats and cows, humans don't have a natural mechanism for handling hairballs; cats barf them up and cow stomachs are numerous and big enough that the hairballs just accumulate until the cow dies of other, unrelated causes. Humans who develop hairballs usually need repeated surgeries to survive.

To end up in RT (rezy, or residential treatment) usually meant at least a dual diagnosis. Depressive and obsessive-compulsive or maybe oppositional-defiant and anorexic. Though staff tried not to focus on our labels, most kids who lived in rezy long enough eventually developed extensive, esoteric vocabularies. We practiced our vocabularies in daily group therapy, weekly individual therapy and as a source of perpetual peer support. Since four girls shared a bathroom, it wasn't uncommon to hear us jockey for the mirror, “You OCD-narcissist, let someone else have a turn."

"Trichotillomania, TTM or 'trich', is defined as "hair loss from a patient's repetitive self-pulling of hair"[2] and is characterized by the repeated urge to pull out scalp hair, eyelashes, facial hair,nose hair, pubic hair, eyebrows or other body hair, sometimes resulting in noticeable bald patches.[3]

Had I known the name of Corina's disorder, I would have enjoyed telling her that she would never, ever turn a real trick if she continued to be a 'trich'. Or , “Why don't you 'trich' like a magician and disappear?

needed: back story, astral projection scene w/Corina the more back story

Once, on a Saturday evening, my favorite house parent Mo, gathered those of us who were stuck at the cottage for the weekend. By this time Joy was my roomate, not Corina anymore. She led us to the bar, which divided the dining room and kitchen. It was just dark enough to notice candlelight flicker on the walls and ceiling as we passed through, but the flickers vanished in the florescent glare of the kitchen.

Mo, squat and squinting, stepped into the brightness and stood beside a stack of large stainless steel bowls. “This evening, we're going to play with food. No, she said, not a food fight. Listen, we've all eaten food", she started handing bowls around, "cooked food", serving spoons followed, "and cleaned up after making food, but what about healing with food?”

She turned to open the fridge and cabinets, poking and looking around. She found cereal, potato chips, coffee grounds, flour, coco, rice, mini-marshmallows and salt. With each find, she pulled out the package, handed it around and instructed each of us to pour some into our bowls . It was our job to feel, smell or taste each item- if we wanted to, only if.

We started with small dashes and tidy spoonfuls. Then Rosemary, standing next to me, took a huge, messy handful of flour, dusting and splotching me with her tailings. She plopped it into her bowl and giggled at the flour cloud exploding, then settling around her. Flour was soft and silky. Granola was tough to break up with it's sugary hardness; crunchy, but with your fingers. The coco went round and Corina tasted it first, expecting milk chocolately sweetness, getting bitter dustiness instead. Her face registered the surprise.

Then the wet stuff; first came the eggs. “Can you crack it without breaking the yolk?", Mo said. "Like this? Feel the yolk in your hand, squish, squeeze and pop it. You can also crack the whole thing in, eggshell and all.” Next came milk, then fake maple syrup, and peanut butter too. And last, the frozen stuff. Waffles, corn, ice cubes. All of it went into our bowls, and by the end we were squishing and mixing with our hands as Mo poured a little more here and little more there, all of us too messy to touch anything or help. It was a raspy concoction. Gooey, rough, sticky and cold. In the kitchen, along with everyone else, I rubbed the mixture from my hands up to my armpits; a glob of it stuck on my right cheek.

Mo gave us the option of taking the mixture back to the privacy of our rooms for a full body scrub; our legs, shoulders, feet, face, hair. Where ever and everywhere. It was the weekend, and the cottage was emptier than usual. My current roommate, Joy (of the pendulous breasts), was having a weekend visit with her mother, so I had the room to myself. So, why not? It was strange and naughty, a houseful of girls, collectively touching our houseful of bodies. I picked up the bowl from the counter feeling pleased and curious. Was this really therapeutic? Was this even good for my skin? I walked into my room, flipped on the light and then kicked the door shut behind me. I leaned against it, then set the bowl on the floor in front of the bolted, full-length mirror. Where to begin?

I laughed at myself and thought about my watcher, thought about Kelly (Moody Cottage boyfriend) peering into my bed room window. The weight of their observation made me suck in my belly, stand a little straighter, push out my breasts. What if there's a video tape running behind the mirror? Maybe this is just a test. Pass if you resist, fail if you don't.

With that, I grabbed the hem of my shirt and yanked it over my head. Bits of granola and rice hit the brown, linoleum floor in a spray. I unbuttoned and unzipped my shorts, let them fall to the floor and kicked them over into a pile. White cotton panties and a bra. A bra that fits and is stuffed with me now, not toilet paper. Hips that jut out of a waist, now beginning to curve. A summer tan just on the verge. I stepped out of the panties, and then unhooked the clasp of my bra, pulling first the right and then the left strap off. Nakedness and a bowl of slimy, crunchy goop. I picked up the bowl, swirled its contents, set it back down and reached in with both hands. With chin stretched up, I smeared, crushed and rubbed the mixture from my neck all down my body, trilling, stooping for more to cover my butt, then legs and feet. This handful is for my watcher, my ever-present companion. At least I'm never alone, I thought, as I circled and scrubbed each of my breasts, gently pinching and staring at each of my hard nipples in turn. I smiled and mashed some of the mixture into my hair, shellacking it away from my face. The space between my legs was the only spot left, so I scraped the the bowl clean and spread it there too. Touching, but not touching.

I looked down at my body and back into the mirror. Now what do I see? A squinting and naked mud wrestler? Yes, a wrestler, but with textured, formerly edible mud covering my entire body, nothing like the smooth stuff you see on TV. What I really need right now is a long, hot shower. But first, exercise. Arms out to the side, parallel to the floor, fingers lightly touching the temples, I moved my elbows open and shut, back and forth as I repeated, mantra-style: “I must, I must, I must. I must increase my bust.

needed: more back story

Being female in foster care, in addition to hitting puberty made touch really touchy. Apparently everyone who works with girls knows they will cry rape or sex abuse or something if a proper hug is given. So instead of regular hugs, I spent years getting side hugs, where you stand side by side and give a quick squeeze. Or hollow hugs, where you bend at the waist, and hug front on, but the only things touching are your cheeks and hands which rabidly pat on shoulders and back.

Skin hunger. Who doesn't need to be held or hugged? It's important to experience our bodies sensually, without sensuality always being tied to sexuality. For most of us on Nelson Cottage, our bodies were not places of happiness or fun; our bodies stored histories of abuse, hunger and fear. We were all 'over-sexualized', whatever that meant exactly. Maybe boy-crazy was the age appropriate term. Most of us were menstruating, having hormonal shifts and cravings. Cravings which weren't bad or unnatural. But cravings which were still somehow taboo and not talked about helpfully, even in residential treatment.

That summer each of the three cottages were supposed to pick theme songs. The song had to be something we all agreed on and something we felt represented us. We talked it over in group, brought up names of a few songs, and unanimously agreed on George Michael's I Want Your Sex. The house parents argued with our choice, but in the end passed it along to Helen the cottage supervisor and therapist. We loved that song, blasting it while we vacuumed and polished our way through chores. Helen announced in our next group therapy session that our official cottage song was Greatest Love of All, by Whitney Houston.

Group eye-roll. Group groan.

Compare this short story with the October 2009 post: first day of residential treatment.

I'm working to piece scenes and exposition together in an understandable way and do a better job integrating dialogue with action. Didn't deal with tense issues this time around. Next draft.

Some questions that came up for people in class:
Where is Corina's voice, was she terrified of the place?
"If I fall asleep, maybe I'll wake up someplace else." Where does this attitude go? Do they change, grow stronger? Did the experience teach a lesson, provide strength?
Why was Leigh there? What happens to Leigh? Where did Corina go? The watcher appears suddenly. Why resentment for the watcher? Are the houseparents the same as the watcher?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Foster Princess and the Poop (a fairy tale writing exercise)

Once upon a time, in the seventies, there lived a little princess, and one day, her grandmother, the queen, made known a royal decree.

“Leigh Stephanie Assunta” said she,”your mother, well, she lives in a tree, and your father’s preaching business, it isn’t so peach-ee, and though I want to take care of you myself, I’m already so sick, that really, I need someone to take care of me.  And so, far and wide you must search for some other kingdom, some other family.”

The queen pressed a satin pouch into her hand, and asked “Leigh Stephanie Assunta, what is my oldest and most precious possession?”

“The royal petrified dinosaur poop” said she, “Which is about the size of a pea.”  

And so the princess, name shortened to Leigh, travelled a little too far and a little too wide, in search of just the right clan-to-be.  Time passed, and one after one, her hopes were dashed.  

Too Catholic,
too fat,
too smoky,
too clean,
too full,
too cheap,
too creepy,
too mean,
too sick,
too hick,
too freak show,
and as she developed breasts,
all too Lolita-esque.

One day, after years of moving, she found, tucked into the back of a box, a dusty but well-preserved black satin mound.  “Oh, right. My shit.  I’ve been carrying it around.”

any media is good media?

and my self-centered response to the reporter for using me as her sensationalist lead, without getting the details right:

Dear Reporter-

Though I appreciate the breadth of your article, I wasn't so thrilled with the depth.  The social worker and foster kid in me make it necessary to share my response.

List of corrections/thoughts:

-after birthing my first child, I become interested in digging up my past. (no one cares about that but me, but still, my need for records was a direct result of becoming a parent)

-the entire quote about feeling betrayed, part of the family, etc. applied to Casey Family Programs (CFP), not the state of Texas.  Out of context it sounds rather stupid, like someone using a word they don't really understand.  To me 'paternalistic' implies some controlling ill intent on the part of the power holder, which in this case is CFP, not Texas. Social service departments in most places are overworked state agencies prioritizing people with open cases. Most organizations suffer from the 'squeaky wheel syndrome', and now that former foster youth are squeaking louder, we're getting some attention. I'm fortunate to be benefiting from it, and adding to the chorus.

-most of the records I received are legible. Maybe 20%, of what I've read so far, isn't. There are no pictures so far, but because the disc is full of pdfs of the documents, I'm holding out hope. Pictures are often a missing link for foster people.

A common impetus for exploring the past and requesting records is having children. We are a people who don't want to repeat cycles of abuse with our own children--but that's much easier said than done.

Leigh Ecke

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Arrival- How it Went

I was home with one of my kids, and a cold. We were just up from nap time, having a snack. Out to the mail box, and there it was. A simple cardboard envelope stamped in red: CONFIDENTIAL- TO BE OPENED BY ADDRESSEE ONLY. Inside that, a square disc envelope with a clear cellophane center- the words Barr, Lee and (Leigh Ecke) neatly penned across the face.

oh shit. my 1200 pages, on a disc. secrets about me. details about me. about my parents, the people, the places.

Well, maybe it has 1200 pages. My plan was to let my husband open it, but it's in my hands, and now I want to know if there is Data on the disc, or if this is going to be another unfortunate joke. The call, the disc, but still no files.

And so, with my son drawing on the driveway with his smurf-blue chalk, I fetch the laptop. Out come the digital pictures and in goes the file. The whirring as it begins to read.

A list appears. Summary and Numbers 1-12, each one a PDF file ranging from 4 to 6 thousand KB. I opened the case summary page, but it was useless. I clicked on tabs and it wanted to contact various locations for data, which didn't seem to be the point.

I opened another, and there it was, page after page after page of court documents. I forgot, that of course the file is organized in sections, this one must be titled- Legal. Court documents are mostly fill in the blank templates, accompanying pages and pages of legal phrases. Important bits scribbled in.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Arrival Plan

written May 19, 2010

holy shit cakes. My record arrived. The disc from Texas, the 1,200 pages.

A friend of mine put it this way:

"No kidding?!?! You are finally getting your file AND IT'S 1200 PAGES! That is crazy. Do you have a plan for reading it, support while reading, working through things you didn't know about or are false, and ideas for celebrating? Or how you envision success/goal to celebrate?"

My response:

"My reading plan for now, is NOT to read it. I'm curious, of course. I want to know, for example, when exactly I had that herpes problem down the back of my throat.

1200 pages feels epic, as though that one piece of paper, recording that particular doctor's appointment is the needle in some razor-wire haystack. I'm not going to dive randomly in and thrash about. I need to figure out a more respectful (less bloody) way to handle it.

The second time I read the two inches of records that I already have from CFP, I read it with a friend. I sobbed my way through. Not so much about the words as the fact that someone was sitting next to me, reading them aloud.

So, when the disc arrives, I'll have my husband open it, check for actual data, then he'll make a few backup copies, and in the meantime, I'll create a plan."

But that's not exactly how it went.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Author Bio for FLUX- Life After Foster Care

Leigh Ecke, alumna, age 36, TX, 9 years in care
Project manager, editor and lead writer

Leigh has been writing for a very long time. A letter she wrote to her grandmother, at age nine, began her journey in and through the Texas foster care system. During her nine years and more than 20 placements, she experienced shelters, foster homes, kinship care, adoptive homes, respite care, hospitalization, residential treatment and group care. So many people and so many places; through it all Leigh kept writing.

At 18, Leigh understood that she wanted to help herself, and somehow to help other people, and so she spent six years earning her bachelor's degree from the University of Texas at Austin. F's in Biology and Modern Greek, along with a passion for volunteering led to the field of social work. A year out of college, Leigh was providing case management for young people transitioning out of foster care. Though she loved the work, maintaining 'appropriate boundaries' proved to be exhausting and so she shifted her focus to a bigger picture of child welfare and moved into middle-management and administration. In this capacity Leigh developed an infiltrator's understanding of 'the system'. She learned about finance, distributed-team facilitation and organizational politics.

At 28, Leigh understood that she wanted to help herself, and somehow to help other people, and so she spent two and a half years earning her master's degree in social work. As part of her degree, Leigh spent time in a Lakota community, listening, recording and transcribing other people's stories. She learned about racism, endurance and tribal politics. Through it all Leigh kept writing. She kept writing and began to understand her own story, but in a different way.

At 36, Leigh understood that she wanted to help herself, and somehow to help other people, and so she spent a year writing a book with a team of seven people, from seven different states. Aside from marriage, motherhood and growing up in foster care, she swears it's the hardest thing she's ever done. So, naturally, she wants to do it again.

Leigh believes that one way to find our collective voice is through sharing our individual stories, even the messy stuff, and so she continues to work on and blog about the making of Foster Princess, her memoir about a privileged life in and just out of foster care.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

bio-mother relations

After a thirteen year gap, I've started 'writing relations' with my bio-mother. Her artist's-scrawl handwriting is distinct. Her pattern of reaching out on birthdays distinct. The inevitable waft of patchouli, also distinct.

This week it arrived. A little early. Her initials on the envelope: j h-b. Just like that, lowercase and hyphenated. juliet hapsburg-bourbon. The card, a color photo of beagle puppies 38 and 42 days old, on a palest-of-pink background.

17th of July 2010 FOR
28th of July

A good 38th yeAR FOR
you with hARd woRK +
FuN! love summer doors
+ wiNdows All oPeN.
Much love, juliet

P.S. iN RelAtivity theoRy
tiMe doesn't flow
but is, AS the 4th diMeNSioN
AS stAtic As SPACe.
what A PeAceFul


I appreciate succinct. I'm working on a letter for her, though, that may open the floodgates. I might be wishing for cryptic and succinct then.

One translation of her note: "forgive me, because the bad parenting was inevitable and in the end, meaningless."

Maybe when you're 67ish this is how you look back on parenting, but as she notes I'm near 38 and still integrating my childhood as I parent my young children. 4th diMeNSioN or not, I'm still putting some effort into it. That must be all the hARd woRK + FuN! that she mentions.

Just in case she's become internet savvy, and ever lays eyes on this, let me say: Juliet, I'm easing into forgiveness in our own version of relativity.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Form 4885 nets 1,200 pages

A woman from Travis County (TX) called yesterday to tell me that my records would be in the mail soon- not in paper form, on disc. I asked how many pages approximately- she said 1,200. Redacted? No, she said, but a lot of it is hard to read.

Pretty cool.

And this morning, a call from Casey Family Programs, now looking into my records request issue with them. It appears that CFP does not release ANY third party documents as a matter of policy. A policy which apparently preceded HIPAA.

I explained that I wanted all of my records regardless, and asked what she would recommend that I do. I explained that I have no desire to be antagonistic about this stuff, but I want my records, and if I need to hire an attorney to acquire them, I will. she said she wouldn't view that as antagonistic, but that it might take something like that (a lawsuit) for an organizational policy shift to occur.


The Landscape Project (formerly known as African Titties)

The invitation image for our community art project. Thank you Lisa and Corbett!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

"AT"- Community Art Project

African Titties, remember?

It all started when my friend was describing her breasts. She was
thanking me for the slight breast lift I'd given her in a plaster cast we did of her pregnant belly and breasts. She said that now, especially after pregnancy, nursing, gaining and losing weight- she had African Titties. Nipples pointing down. And I said, What makes them African? They look pretty American to me.

But I knew exactly what she meant. The National Geographic African
Titties, and she said, yep. Those are the ones.

I was fascinated the first time I ever laid eyes on a pair of those. Hanging down, farther than I really thought possible. A little horrified, somewhat scandalized.

(How many pairs have there been I wonder? African Titties, appearing in National Geographic? How many children have stared in wonder?)

So, I knew exactly what she meant, in just two words. And yet I don't think the Africans have singular license on saggy titties, much less the wide variety of breasts that don't fall into that category at all. I think we women of the Americas need to see examples of what real bodies do, how we age, how we start out -- it's all beautiful. Our flesh is landscape that changes over time, and I think recording the change is cool. How to display all the anonymous breasts? Help decide, come participate.

And now, I've found the perfect backdrop for an African Titties
photo-shoot. A four horse show trailer, past it's prime, with a beautiful rust-patina... let the project begin!

So, save May 16th for our African Titty photo-shoot. We'll have a
photographer on site to capture the best of our breasts. We will meet at a location in Golden, directions and start time will be determined, and dependent upon the weather forecast. In the meantime, please confirm your participation so we know how many to expect.

The more breasts, the merrier. So please share this with interested friends!

this email was sent out to a fabulous group of women... and the energy is building. We're doing some test shots today!

Monday, March 29, 2010

mother-in-law series 2: what's in a name?

In our household, my mother-in-law is referred to as Oma (grandmother in German), and as it turns out, I have a 12 year old dog named Uma. Even though we've been sharing space FIVE weeks at a time for the last FIVE years, still when I fuss at Uma for begging in the kitchen or begging in the dining room, Oma responds; she can't help it.

I'm sorry, I say to Oma, but Uma preceded you.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

mother-in-law series 1: Get to Know Oma

I have a quirky and energetic East-German mother-in-law, who visits once a year for FIVE weeks. By quirky, I mean the bright orange lipstick, the black, felt beret, which she seems to feel naked without, and her asymmetrical touch (the one big clip-on earring, for example, instead of a matching pair).

These extended visits (five weeks instead of four or five days) started when the first grandchild was born, and I was (am) thankful for the help. I'm thankful for her presence, how she saturates my children with her doting love. How she saturates their ears with German.

Gratitude, however, doesn't always get me through an entire five weeks. Living in close quarters with anyone can be challenging, but my bottom line is that I don't have much to offer in the way of grandparents from my side of the family (foster princess, remember?) and so I feel it's my duty to suck it up, make it work, and even enjoy the experience once in a while.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The first line of the first batch of records

Casey Family Programs' documentation included written summaries called the "Quarterly Narrative". So, the first line of my first quarterly narrative with CFP goes like this...

"Visits: July 5-August 18 Leigh on vacation in Greece"

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Form 4885, again

It's been three years and three months since I submitted the request for records to the State of Texas and Casey Family Programs.

The state of Texas became involved with me in 1981, through investigating allegations of abuse. I don't know who reported the abuse, though I do know that I wrote a letter to my grandmother during that time, asking for help. My 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Hildebrand, mailed it for me.

In 1988, Casey Family Programs, a private non-profit child welfare organization, became my 'permanent managing conservator'. I was 16. I assume my record with the state ends at this point, unless annual court documents were logged.

Fast-forward to December of 2005. I'm a relatively new stay-at-home mom, with an eleven month old son, and I have no idea how to be a stay-at-home mom, except for the stay at home part. On the surface, my life is filled with standard indicators of happiness and success- education, great place to live, fabulous partner, new baby, family- at a good distance, and yet, depression knocked me flat.

Flat then round. Having next to no pulse made making new 'stay-at-home' friends rather difficult. It made leaving the house rather difficult. Which left me with a baby, a refrigerator and two dogs as constant companions. I couldn't understand why I wasn't a happy-bouncy mom, loving all of the 'freedom and time' on my hands.

I wrote in demented spurts, whenever I could squeeze a few words through the pea-soup fog of tiredness and depression. The demented spurts led to writing classes, for the structure, and I began to record the mismatched and vivid stories tumbling out. I recorded them, in some attempt to understand why I couldn't enjoy and connect with the life around me, a life I'd worked so hard to create.

Oddly enough, recording what you do know, makes what you don't know all the more prominent. How many placements did I have, exactly? Good question, and don't I deserve to know? When did my bio father have those pesky kidney transplants? Another good question, and don't I have some right to know?

And so, I requested my record, three years and three months ago.

Texas ignored me, despite my frequent follow up calls. Casey Family Programs sent me about two inches of a record that I believe to be at least a foot thick, most likely more. They also sent a partial list of provider names for me to contact individually. I'm willing to bet some of these 'providers' aren't even alive.

Here's the kicker. After graduating with a bachelor's degree in social work, I worked for Casey Family Programs for more than eight years. They told me I was the first 'alumni' they'd ever hired to do direct practice work. During those eight years, I had access to my file and I could have reviewed it, I could have acquired a copy of it, but I didn't, mostly because I wasn't ready for it. And since Casey Family Programs had a copy, why did I need one? More boxes to lug around as I moved from one place to the next? No thanks.

On the few occasions I had snippets of my file shared with me (one foster mother read aloud from it, one social worker pulled a few medical records)I was enraged. At just how wrong some of the perceptions were. Of the terrible tone. Of the hopelessness. And when the rage passed, I was just a spent crumpledness. My dried out shell. So why do that to myself? I mean really. Working, living, dating, schooling... these things take time. Who has the energy for rage? The time to dwell? Keep moving, keep doing, don't slow down. Slowing down can led to the disastrousness of stop. Stop is paramount to stuck. And stuck leads to the gray fog of depression.

So why do I want the records, my file? Because I'm as ready and supported now as I'll ever be. Because motherhood demands it. I don't want to unknowingly repeat behaviors and patterns, I don't want to be a reactionary and push to do the 'opposite' of parts of my childhood, for opposition alone. As much as I know that all parents go through some version of this... some version, of "oh my god, I sound just like my mother." How do you think it feels to have seven mothers running around in my head? Or ten, and not much of a relationship with any of them, except through the parenting now seeping out of my pores.

And so now, I'm requesting my record again, but with a bit more help. Turns out I'm not the only person of former foster care descent, that would like a copy of their records. Imagine that. So, as of March 4, 2010, the clock is reset, and ticking again.

in a note to the attorney who is graciously helping me out:

"I'm reaching a place now, of enjoyment, with the records that I do have. The first few times through, not so much. But now, the truths and half-truths don't sting, and I love all of the detailed dates and thoughts that I have to expand upon.

Finding my truth, in and among so many other truths is honestly crazy making. Stirring things up, before they can settle back down. But I'm doing it a little bit at a time. With support. By the time the other records come my way, I'll be ready, or at least more prepared."

Friday, January 29, 2010

brain dump: emotional business plan

so, the holidays wear me out, along with seasonal illness and general upkeep of four people, two dogs and a house.

Sanity first.

so, my brain dump for today is this:

my power training class this morning reminded me that I have a new annoying thing to track. My food consumption. I must start a food journal, they say. It's the only way to make progress. Progress being defined as more in shape or less body fat. All good, except I exercise, SO I can eat. Whatever, whenever. Food deprivation is one of my triggers, so I don't deprive myself. Period. The more fit I am, the better choices I make. But still. Whatever, whenever, I just work to pay attention and stop when I'm full.

So far today:
1 mug of black tea, 1 tsp sugar, 1 glug 1/2 & 1/2
1 pc grainy bread, butter, strawberry jam

1 big bite of lemon chicken (leftovers)
1/2 pink lady apple
1 square barely-dark chocolate

glass of water (working on that)


Working on Foster Princess knocks me flat on a regular basis. It's a daunting emotional ride. But I'm on the ride and
I've come to realize that I have an emotional business plan in place, which makes the work possible. One component is physical care. I have a standing goal of intensive exercise at least every other day.
Otherwise, I'm a bitch. (I tried other words and phrases, like needlessly grumpy, ass and so forth, but bitch just captures it).

more on the emotional business plan soon.

Monday, January 4, 2010

personal stat- dark chocolate

I've been saving the wrappers from my very favorite chocolate bar,
Chocolove-Dark Chocolate- 55%. In 2009, I consumed 8 bars, 2-3 squares at a time. Consumption of dark chocolate is part of my emotional business plan and is promoted by Jen, my insanely fit friend, who also happens to be a trainer (Spanked by Jen). She swears a little bit of dark chocolate every day, keeps the doctor away. That and exercise.

So, the eight bars of chocolove does not account for all of 2009, just the parts working on Foster Princess. Oh my, and I'm nearly done with my first bar for 2010. At this rate (one bar every six days or so) I should consume about 60 bars this year. Or maybe I should do without and save $240 bucks... hmmm.

I'll save my wrappers and see.
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