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.
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