Family Planning with Foster Care

As of Thursday we will be officially done with our foster care classes, 30 hours of discussion on discipline, loss, grief, strength, and needs. We have filled out every piece of paper known to man, and when finished with that stack of paper, we were handed new stacks to fill out. We filled out profiles of our family, discussing how we live our lives and who makes our decisions. Do we have any communicable diseases or a jail history? Our marriage license, my divorce papers, social security cards, driver’s license, health forms, FBI checks, and insurance forms have been turned in. However, as time consuming as the classes have been, the hard part is just beginning.

Sometime in the not-so-distant future, a social worker will come to our house to interview us and make sure our house is a safe and healthy environment. They will make sure that our smoke detectors work and check to make sure that medication is under lock and key. We will sit down to talk and I will inwardly fret that we have framed horror movie posters in our living room. While we have pleasant conversation, I will fight the desire to blurt out, “Please know that I don’t approve of murder and the wearing of a mask made from human skin. We just really like Rob Zombie.” On my fireplace is a painting done by Selena that says, “There was a hand in the darkness and it held a knife.” I will quickly explain that it is the opening line from a book that I found to be beautiful and I am not a knife enthusiast. Still, the home visit isn’t the hardest part.

Once our paperwork is stamped with a big red approved, we wait for a phone call. At some point a child will need a family and they will call us to see if we should be that family. On what I can only assume is the worst day of that child’s life, we will meet. They may be scared, angry, or confused, and it will be our jobs to put them at ease. To give them structure and support. Hopefully we will bond and make a difference in a child’s life. Perhaps the child will need a forever family and we can be that for them. But in the here and now, all we can do is wait.

Carvell and I talk about our “faux baby” sometimes. We wonder if it will be a boy or a girl. After a lifetime of female children we have a difficult time imagining life with a boy. We wonder if they will be a different race than us and make plans to be mindful of cultural differences. We talk about football season and how different it will be with me trying to care for another person in the stands. That may seem like a silly thing to wonder about, but football consumes us from August to December. We eagerly anticipate adding to our family while also fearing other aspects of foster care. How do you parent another person’s child while also absorbing them into your family? We know there will be visits with the birth parents and then the emotional fallout from those visits. We are mindful of court dates that may not go in the way that we think is best for the child. We are unable to plan for our life with a new child because we know nothing about them, not their sex, age, interest, motivations, needs, or wants. Our “faux baby” is a concept that is waiting to become a reality. When you are expecting a child through pregnancy you have nine or so months to plan and dream, but when you want to adopt through foster care you can only wait until the moment you receive your first phone call. Still, I don’t believe this will be the hardest part.

My concern is I don’t know what will be the hardest part. Will it be the dealing with a system that is heavy with problems? Will it be the time, energy, and changes to our family structure? Will it be the emotional and physical issues that can come from abuse or neglect? There are more questions than answers and I am someone who likes answers. I can worry an issue until it is a twisted knot, loops turning in on each other until it is a maze that cannot be undone. While I struggle and worry about what happens next there are also things that I know for sure: In Kentucky there are approximately 6,800 children in the foster care system and my family can help at least one of those children.

 

 

Track #9

I found out Lou Reed had died between football games, house cleaning, and pumpkin decorating. During a quick Twitter break, I noticed a press release saying that he had passed away. I am sad for reasons that I do not completely understand. I have never been a big Lou Reed fan and can only name maybe a handful of songs off the top of my head. One being “Sweet Jane” and another being “Heroin,” which is really The Velvet Underground as was explained to me.

“Heather, Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground are two different things,” Trey, not so patiently, tried to tell me.

“Yes, but Lou is part of The Velvet Underground.”

“Yes, but they are different. It is like saying “Crazy Train” is a Sabbath song. It is an Ozzy song. The two things are very different.”

I enjoy Neil Diamond, Everclear, Johnny Cash, and Kanye West equally. There are bands that I had never really enjoyed that I became a fan of through listening with Trey, and I have high hopes that one day I will get Elvis Costello. I have no musical identity and I am married to a man who prides himself on his. This has led to the occasional argument and the occasional musical discovery. When we drive anywhere and have the radio on he says, “What is this? I have never heard this in my life.” This leads me to say, “Of course not, it was released after 1994.” He doesn’t find that joke at all funny.

In the 90s I was a fan of The Doors. It would be safe to thank Oliver Stone for this particular stage of my musical heritage. I fancied myself a poet at the time and Jim Morrison had fancied himself the same thing. I was 16 and full of hormones. Morrison was charismatic and had very tight pants and beautiful hair; he had also been dead for 20 years. It was love. I bought all the albums (on tape of course) and listened to them on the boom box that was seat belted into my yellow Cavalier. With the window down and my left foot propped up on the dashboard, I would drive to work feeling alive. After work I would change into one of my many Jim Morrison tees, shirts that were purchased in a hole in the wall shop next to a bowling alley. I bought poetry books by Jim Morrison and made a necklace of red and white beads to match one I had seen him photographed in. In the absence of my own identity, I decided to wear Jim Morrison’s instead. At some point I moved on from The Doors, but I never again felt so connected to a group and their music.

Maybe that is why I am sad for Lou, his family, and his fans. They lost something that connected them. Some spark that made them feel a certain way at a certain moment. Maybe they remember the freedom of driving with their feet propped up, warm sun on their arms as they hummed away to “Sweet Jane.” For me Lou Reed (and The Velvet Underground) will remind me of my parents and our Florida vacation when I made them play my The Doors soundtrack, and track number 9 was “Heroin.”

“Cause when the smack begins to flow
Then I really don’t care anymore
Ah, when the heroin is in my blood
And that blood is in my head
Then thank God that I’m as good as dead
Then thank your God that I’m not aware
And thank God that I just don’t care
And I guess I just don’t know
And I guess I just don’t know”

Today I thank Oliver Stone for leading me to The Doors and I thank The Doors for leading me to The Velvet Underground and I thank The Velvet Underground for reminding me of a long car trip with my family. I may not have much of a musical identity, but I feel for those who have lost a part of theirs.

That Time My Kid Was Kind of an Ass

As a parent I have always felt like my one job is making sure that my kids aren’t assholes. Overall, I am feeling pretty good about my success rate. The oldest two are neither racist nor homophobic. They are witty and have opinions. They work, travel, and have varied interests. I know that Kiaya would never walk down the mall corridor with her hand in someone else’s back pocket.  I don’t think that Selena would do that, but I do think she may have at least once made out behind a mall Pro Active machine. Selena has a larger sense of whimsy than her older sister. The one I worry about is Saidee. She is the youngest, only six as of this post, and she is our princess. She is sweet and loving. She weighs a lot and still wants to be carried to bed every night. She is our third daughter; she is both the youngest child and an only child, due to the large age differences. She also had an invisible vampire friend named Spike.

The girls and I are TV people. We love it and many of our conversations revolve around the lives of fictional people. We talk about them, dissect their intent, worry about them, and question their decision making. Here are examples of text messages I receive:

“What is Meredith going to do without Christine? Christine is her person, Momma.”

“If Jesse dies I don’t know what I will do. They won’t kill Jesse, will they?”

“I have really thought about it and I think I could be Jax’s old lady.”

“I need you to make sure Supernatural and The Walking Dead are Tivoing.”

These messages are not unusual; they happen at least twice a week. One of our biggest bonding experiences is a love of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I watched the show when it was originally on and I may or may not have cried once when I missed it. On a list of 100 things I wanted in a mate, number one was someone who will shut-up while I watch Buffy. They don’t have to like it, but they do need to be silent. Kiaya was the first to jump on my Buffy bandwagon and later Selena. It was Kiaya who introduced Saidee. They would spend long hours cuddled up together watching on the portable DVD player and later the laptop. The questionable parenting skill part comes into play when I bring up that Saidee was three when this practice started.

Saidee was never scared of the violence, she was oblivious to the sex, and didn’t get the humor. What she did get was the knowledge that if something went wrong you could blame Spike. Spike was a few hundred years old vampire who looked like Billy Idol. Actually Billy stole his look from Spike. He was funny, crafty, evil (but with a heart of gold), and the best part was he wasn’t all whiney and put upon like Angel. The three year old was pretty quick with blaming everything she did wrong on that blonde vampire. Some of his crimes included: coloring on the walls, coloring on shoes, throwing toys, shredding paper, and trashing bedrooms. Spike was a busy invisible friend/petty criminal.

To Saidee, Selena’s room is a fascinating land of things she isn’t allowed to touch. It is a toddler Vatican, filled with figurines, paintings, art supplies, and treasured baby dolls from Selena’s youth. Much of Spike’s atrocities took place in Selena’s room. We once found a strip of blue fabric on the floor. When I asked Saidee what it was she shrugged her toddler shoulders and said she didn’t know. When we found a second strip we began to investigate and noticed that “someone” had taken scissors and cut up the bottom half of Selena’s sheets.

“Saidee why did you cut up the sheets?”

“I didn’t.”

“Saidee, it was you, you are the only other person in the house.”

“I didn’t do it.”

“Saidee, really.”

“It was Spike.”

At this point we have tears.

“Saidee it wasn’t Spike it was you. Please, admit it.”

“It was Spike. Or it was my toes.”

I put a high premium on creativity; but come on, this kid and her vamp were just being assholes. Kiaya and Selena were busy when they were little, but their busy was nothing compared to the busy that Saidee and Spike laid down. I refuse to blame the 15 year age difference. I am still young and spry, right?

One night I had been in the back of the house and had lost track of the toddler. Only a few minutes had passed when I started walking towards her bedroom. With each step I took I heard a small voice.

“Spike did it.”

“Spike did it.”

“Spike did it.”

With each step I took her voice became louder and more insistent. It held a panicky waiver.

“SPIKE DID IT!”

I found her covered in lipstick. Most of her face was covered in a lovely Revlon wine color. It was on her hands, the wall, and the mirror. She cried hot tears and swore that this was all the work of that blonde vampire. Carvell had come running and we were unable to stop laughing.

“God, Heather, that vampire is a fucking asshole,” he laughed.

Eventually Saidee stopped blaming Spike. We tried to convince her that he had moved, that he had packed his bags, blacked out his windows, and drove off in his DeSoto. She really just outgrew him and no longer needed someone to blame her crimes on. Oddly, I miss him sometimes or more likely I miss the three-year-old she was.

One of Spike's crimes, of course.

One of Spike’s crimes, of course.saidee spike 1

 

Why I Believe Dolly Parton to Be the Most Universally Beloved Person in the World

In the 6th grade we had to pick a song to sing in front of our music class. There I stood in my awkward adolescence. My stomach was round and my breasts were insubstantial. My hair was a dirty blonde Prince Valiant. My stomach was in knots and there is a high likelihood that I had a fever blister. In my Sears “Pretty Plus” outfit, I opened my mouth and started to sing.

“Islands in the stream
That is what we are
No one in between
How can we be wrong
Sail away with me
To another world
And we rely on each other, ah-ha
From one lover to another, ah-ha”

This song was at that time the most beautiful and heartfelt thing I had ever heard. Kenny and Dolly were in love. You could tell by the emotion in their voices. These two people couldn’t stand to be apart. I assumed they were married and lived in a big Nashville mansion with mirrored furniture. Because, how could I have assumed otherwise?

Every time I saw Dolly with her tall blonde wigs, huge breasts, and tiny waist on the big screen I felt sure she was in a relationship with her leading man. She was too beautiful, too sweet, and too sexual for each of those men to not fall in love with her. Her impish giggle and business sense make for a powerful aphrodisiac. Now, I know that she is married and has been since the beginning of recorded time and it seems like Carl knows she is both powerful and beautiful too as Dolly once said, “He (Carl) says he’d think less of any man who didn’t fall in love with me. But he really respects what I do and would hate to stand in the way of that. He always makes me feel pretty, even when I’m not.” So, what I am seeing is a smart, powerful, talented, beautiful, sexual, and loving woman.

While Islands in the Stream is what introduced me to Dolly, what sealed my love is hearing Jolene for the first time. Jolene is for me a Nick Hornby moment. When I sing Jolene I absolutely must close my eyes; I must be fully engaged in the moment when I hear this song. If it comes on while I’m driving I have to pull over. Jolene is just that strong.

“Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene
I’m begging of you please don’t take my man
Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene
Please don’t take him just because you can
Your beauty is beyond compare
With flaming locks of auburn hair
With ivory skin and eyes of emerald green
Your smile is like a breath of spring
Your voice is soft like summer rain
And I cannot compete with you, Jolene

He talks about you in his sleep
There’s nothing I can do to keep
From crying when he calls your name, Jolene

And I can easily understand
How you could easily take my man
But you don’t know what he means to me, Jolene”

That is some painful shit right there. Who hasn’t felt that about a relationship they were in? I know I have. That terrible ache of feeling that you aren’t enough compared to someone else. For some reason I do not fully understand (deep seeded emotional shenanigans, maybe?), I was under the impression that Jolene was a sister of Dolly’s. Think about that. Knowing you are losing your man to your beautiful sister ups the pain level to an eleven.

I have yet to meet someone who does not have a guttural reaction to hearing Jolene, and it doesn’t matter who is singing it either:

Olivia Newton John = heartbreaking

The White Stripes = heartbreaking + haunting

Me First and the Gimme Gimmes = heartbreaking + fast

Miley Cyrus = heartbreaking

Fiona Apple = heartbreaking

The list could go on forever, because everyone knows that this song is as beautiful and heartfelt as it comes. To put the power of Dolly’s writing in perspective I Will Always Love You has been a number one hit not once but three times. Twice with Dolly and once with Whitney Houston who helped it to be an earworm for the entire year of 1993. But, back to her business tactics for a second, Dolly was so savvy that she owns the publishing and copyrights on all of her songs. When Whitney Houston did that song for The Bodyguard soundtrack Dolly received all the writing and publishing royalties. She said, “When Whitney did it, I got all the money for the publishing and for the writing, and I bought a lot of cheap wigs.” I enjoy the quip, but with a booming theme park, a water park, The Dollywood Foundation, The Dolly Parton Imagination Library, and various other business ventures, I am pretty sure the money didn’t just fund her wig collection.

Dolly is at heart a writer, business woman, and a philanthropist. She takes her perceived stereotypes and breaks them up. You can’t help but love her.

So, out of curiosity, what are your favorite Dolly Parton stories?

Lord, don’t even get me started on my love of 9 to 5 and Straight Talk.

Frustrated: A List

 Here is a list of things that currently frustrate me.

  1. The timing that some people have is questionable at best.
  2. Rape – the world is too damn rapey
  3. My house will never be clean again.
  4. I need at least three clones of myself, and science has not caught up with my needs.
  5. Laundry
  6. I don’t like the show Girls and I feel like I should
  7. Work
  8. An article I read where wealthy people are hiring disabled people to get through lines quicker at Disney World.
  9. OJ Simpson
  10. That giant rubber duck in Hong Kong.

Marriage Equality and Toothpaste Removal

There is a great deal of conversation happening today about marriage and what it means. Whether, this is a religious issue or a civil rights issue. My Facebook wall is full of red equal signs and in between are postings saying, “I believe in God’s definition of marriage.” I am naïve and I do not understand why this has to be such a divisive issue. It seems pretty clear cut (to me) that you can’t offer a portion of the population a right and not allow the same right to another population.

One of the arguments I have heard, besides the classic Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve, is same sex marriage will make traditional marriage less valuable.  If I wake up tomorrow and same sex marriage is legal in all 50 states, I will still be married to Carvell. I will still love him and hate the fact that he is fundamentally incapable of rinsing the sink out after he brushes his teeth. My parents would still have been married for almost 40 years. That doesn’t change. What would change is that in a moment of crisis, perhaps after a car accident, a same sex married couple would be able to make decisions about their loved ones care. If there was a tragedy and the husband or wife died, the spouse would receive bereavement leave and have access to any pension. These are just a couple of the benefits of being married.

On average married couples live longer, have fewer risky behaviors, are in better health, and have higher incomes. Being happy and married is just generally good for our population as a whole. As a married couple, Carvell and I are seen as one unit, our incomes are considered to be one, and we receive discounts on our home, health, and auto insurance because of this. Our home and anything inside is jointly owned under the protection of marriage. If something unfortunate happens to Carvell, such as a giant glob of toothpaste coming to life in the bathroom sink seeking vengeance on him, the property in the house is immediately mine. This is a protection that is offered to me because we are married.

Another argument that I have heard is, “What’s next? What if someone wants to marry their dog?” No one will marry their dog, because dogs are assholes that dump garbage cans and pee on my dirty clothes. Wait, only my dogs may be assholes, but still it is safe to say that bestiality will continue to be frowned upon.

Yesterday I heard an argument against marriage equality that I had never heard before. It was argued that marriage was created for the purpose of procreation. This one threw me for a loop, because I have married friends who have made the decision to not have children, and their marriage is still recognized as valid. Under this argument marriages where no children are produced for personal or medical reasons should be annulled. We will just pretend that these marriages never happened because without children a marriage cannot exist under this argument. This seems like questionable logic at best.

Children are being brought up in the debates. Everything from what happens to the children to how do I explain this to my child. My children are very open minded and I have worked hard to be honest with them when explaining things. Here is the conversation I had with Saidee who is five.

“Momma, why are those guys kissing?”

“Because they are in love, Saidee.”

“Like you and daddy.”

“Yep.”

That was the entire conversation. When explaining that friends of ours are getting married there was no need for me to explain in detail what would be taking place on the wedding night. Marriage is about so much more than sex. It is about joining your life together with another life. It is a promise to love and protect each other. It is a partnership. I think that these are the things that need to be discussed with our children not so much the dynamics of a couple’s sexual relationship. A friend once asked me if I would let my children spend the night with a same sex couple if their child had asked mine to a sleep over. I answered yes. First, let me put your mind at ease. If your child ever spends the night at my house I can absolutely without a shadow of a doubt guarantee that Carvell and I will not have sex in front of them. We will cook popcorn, put in a movie, let the kids play games, take them out to eat, and yell, “Go to sleep.” I may nag Carvell about rinsing the sink out after brushing his teeth. But, what we will not do is be sexual in any way, because we are adults and have common sense. I feel confident that same sex couples act in much the same way.

If this issue is truly a religious issue and not a civil rights issue then as Christians we should no longer accept the legal benefits of marriage. If our spouse dies without a will then we should accept that the state or their families will dictate where the assets are distributed. We should agree to no longer be carried under a spouse’s health and car insurance. No longer should we be able to receive wrongful death benefits or bereavement pay. With the arguments being made, we as Christians should just be content that our union is recognized by God and not worry about the benefits given to us on this worldly plane. I do not believe that marriage equality is an attack on Christianity. I am confident that God still hangs out in Massachusetts where same sex marriage has been legal for a few years now. What attacks Christianity is forgetting that it says in Matthew 22:37-40 – Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

Just so Damn Random

I fear being part of a crime and having what is under my finger nails collected for evidence. Today I have picked both my nose and Saidee’s nose. I scrapped something sticky off of my favorite bracelet. I dug my nails into the softness of the steering wheel as I drove. I scratched at the pimple on the back of my neck. I ate a Weight Watchers peanut butter cup (okay, I ate four).  The remnants of this are collected under my weak and misshapen nails. So what I picture happening is David Caruso swabbing under my nails after I scratch a would-be assailant. The techs would process the nail gunk and the results would come back that I am disgusting. They would never find the criminal I scratched because they would be focused on how a single person can be so gross. I wash my hands, I swear I do, but I also just scratched my ear, so whatever gunk was on/in my ear is now transferred to my fingernail bed and just waiting to be mocked by a crime scene tech.

I fear farting during sex and killing my last sexy moment. Sometimes bending in an odd position just causes you to pass gas. I understand that there is nothing wrong with this and it is a natural occurrence. I am self-aware enough to know that I am holding onto any remnants of sexy by a very thin thread. I think that I lost my sexy card the week I had Saidee. In an attempt to fix damage done by previous C-sections my doctor cut me hip bone to hip bone. A grown man could have been pulled out of the incision that was made. To make the pain less they threaded a pain pump in with the incision. So, this left me with about 30 staples holding my insides in, a pump dangling from my body, a poorly groomed vaginal area, a stomach covered in iodine, and greasy knotted hair from being on my back for two days. I needed a shower in a bad way. I made my way to the shower, hunched over like a 90 year old women with osteoporosis, shuffling my feet the entire way. Once in the shower I became deathly ill and called Carvell for help. He held me up and a nurse found me a chair that I could sit in while I showered. The entire time I was in there he stood next to me and held the pain pump that was tethered to my body. To me sexy needs to have just a hint of secrecy and that day I felt like I had been sliced open and all my secrets were pulled out one by one. That was the day I turned in my sexy card.

I fear having a car accident on a day that I don’t wear underwear. On days that I don’t wear underwear it is not because I am trying for sexy. It is that I can’t find a pair of clean panties in the mound of clothes that rivals Mount Everest that blocks access to my washer and dryer. Normally, I get out of the shower and walk to the laundry pile and start to search. I then become quickly irritated and give up the hunt for my plus-sized underwear. I get dressed in an outfit that will be least likely to show that I am a trollop without any panties on. My fear of being in an accident with no underwear on is directly related to a car accident I had in which I was wearing underwear two sizes too small. I was driving down a road that I didn’t know on a night that was dark, cold, and rainy. As I got ready to turn into a driveway, two idiots who had stolen gas and were trying to make a quick getaway hit me. They didn’t just hit me once. They bumped me, which caused my car to turn, they then t-boned me, which crushed in my driver’s door and pushed my car into a propane tank that busted and began filling my car with the gas. I managed to escape out the passenger side and went for help. While this seems traumatic enough for most people, the real trauma came while I was at the hospital. One of my favorite people in the world showed up at the hospital, Trish “the Dish” Estes. She knew most of the staff and was using any pull she had to get me into a room quickly. She also proceeded to take pictures of me in my too small underpants that kept rolling down onto the middle of my ass. This was not the only time that Trish would photograph me in a compromising situation. She also documented the night I broke my leg and my friends rolled me over like a beached whale in an attempt to straighten my pants and drawers. I love that girl like she is my sister and I know she would give me a kidney if I needed one. I also know that she would poke at the incision from the transplant and photograph me while my hospital gown gapes open from behind.

Other things I fear are birds in flight, sink holes, the fact that there are websites dedicated to the eating of other humans, big scary crickets, mice, large groups of people, and panic attacks. I am working on not concentrating so much on the things that scare me. I will concentrate on the knowledge that Dairy Hill is opening back up and soon on a warm spring day we will go place an order for a cheese dog and some onion rings. I am concentrating on taking Saidee to the park and watching her run and practice cartwheels. I am concentrating on watching my daughters strap skates to their feet and lining up for a two minute jam.  I am concentrating on my love of Pine Sol and just how good it smells.

Today I try for fearless and I concentrate on unconceivable joy.