Adoption, Foster Care, Life, Parenting

Tiny stuffed creature of love

stuffed-creature

A little girl joined our family two and a half years ago. (Her super secret internet code name shall be KCup.)

KCup had a rocky start from the very beginning of her existence. Her birth mother drank heavily throughout her pregnancy, and KCup’s brain has damage from that, although it’s hard for most people to see it until they spend extended periods of time with her.

After doing so, it becomes more noticeable that she requires different parenting techniques, that concrete communication and predictable structure reign supreme, and that her emotional responses are more exaggerated and less nuanced than expected.

For a long time, I worried because she didn’t exhibit nearly the same complexity of emotional expression that I would expect for a little girl her age. She was either SUPER HAPPY BOUNCING OFF THE WALLS BLISSED OUT or she was completely despondent and morose, crying in the most pitiable fashion imaginable. There was not a lot of in-between.

As time has passed, her development has accelerated and we get excited about all of it.

Yesterday was a hard day…in the wake of Gabriel’s death, I’m finding it hard to consistently engage in “ordinary life” at every moment.

I wish sometimes that I could press a pause button for a little while, like floating in a pool, ears muffled to the noises around me, pondering the heavens and staring at the stars. (Hmm, this looks to be an outdoor pool…maybe Chena Hot Springs on a quiet night. Swoon.)

Yesterday morning was no exception…I had a mini-meltdown, crying in my husband’s arms before going to work. And KCup approached us and watched me for a moment. With her large, dark, probing eyes, she pointed at my face and said, “Sad. Crying.”

My face broke into a smile, not because I expect my toddlers to comfort me…God help me, I don’t want to be this person at all. Stoicism has my vote, especially when attempting to, oh, function.

But KCup recognized my emotions! She labeled them with her words. She showed the most heartfelt concern with her precious brain. Then she handed me this strange stuffed animal to help me feel better. Amazing!

What a privilege to play any part at all in the cultivation of this young woman’s developing self. It was hard to stay sad when she had just demonstrated a monumental breakthrough in her emotional development. Emotional displays for the win. 🙂

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Creativity, Life, Nonfiction, Poetry, Self-Care, Self-Medicating

Winter and her metaphors, part 2

icicles-and-moon

The moon behind icicles

Greetings, readers. I wanted to share another piece with you all, continuing with the theme of winter, along with a few paragraphs scrawled recently about loss.
~~

Arctic Circle

I think I’ll fly to Barrow.
No one there throws anything away.

I try not to email you about this,
As nothing tangible has ever stemmed
From our occasionally thawed surface.

Do you even understand
As I think you must understand
Why I need to translate
The Arctic Ocean into poems?

Aurora borealis
Does the same quiet dance like us
Through sixty-seven continuous days of darkness.
~~

The village of Barrow has a new name but my poem does not know that…my apologies to Utqiaġvik.

~~

 

Wanting Winter

In Alaska, we are obsessed with weather. We talk about it all the time because it is endlessly interesting. There is always something to say. It is never small talk. I love that about us.

By August, even those of us with a great fondness for sun begin to weary and long for the deep reflection of January. Snow falls with silent abandon. And you have done that. You have become snow, the silent, absorbent purity which traipses and intrudes over everything. Every surface exposed to the fresh cold has lost its identity in this blanket; you can only be moved by an active effort. And then, I have to bring you inside, I gather you in my buckets and warm you by the fire and drink you and bathe in you and wash with you.

Your face intrudes like snow, upon everything. I can’t go anywhere until I patiently push you out of the way. I shuffle to my car (which is life, you see) and the wipers are sealed to the glass and the mirrors are covered, because there you are. Back into the cold you take me, and I lightly drag my brush over everywhere, watching you fall away and reveal the color again (vehicle, life…try to keep up with me).

I miss you. I miss you so much. It is easy to say this from January. The winter has no end. The cold you are is harsh, there is snow all around. Some days, I sail so easily in the dank grey, feeling pleased with myself for continuing on with life in a meaningful way. Then a thought starts to override it all and I’m utterly consumed with the thoughts of you. They hide in the form of physical tension, tight shoulders, a constricted chest. I begin to swell with anger and pain and it’s not clear to me at first until I open my inner eye and realize you are right there.

A figment of my imagination, a little brain piece that won’t shut down…though I need for it to atrophy…become small and useless, even countermanding. I’m still choosing to buy into this idea that the brain has physical cells which each hold something. It gives me hope that the cell or two containing your memory can be spliced away with a laser or enough intention. But if the brain is actually holographic, I am doomed.

A soup fog yesterday, leaving behind an appearance of candy on the trees. Chunky wraps which appear solid but easily shake away with a jutting finger. Or maybe they appear like corral, as though we are encountering an ancient reef and yet we give a shake and the entire edifice crumbles, its existence as fleeting as petals on a rose. And you want to take a picture to share this beauty with anyone, but a picture cannot capture its delicacy, and anyone who’s not from here will ever understand why this moment matters. There are a thousand brief moments in winter which cry out for capture but doing so is impossible, it simply must be savored in the moment and then let go. You see, there’s a metaphor here for everything. You are winter. I am the trees.

In another rotation around the sun, I suspect I will be well over you. At New Years, I opted to hibernate. I wished them well, I blessed them on their way. They can celebrate freely, I will never drag them down into my cave. I am the mama bear in every way right now, I want sleep, I want quiet, I want the dark. I want growth but will have to waste away for a while, and then wake up renewed and anxiously looking around in the very space that I am for food. I will feast on what is freely given, I will forage among the growth and the life around me, rather than sniffing among the dead.

There is nothing in the past for me. You have chosen to rot like the carcasses of salmon, and I can’t eat that, apparently. The wisdom of my foremothers grabs my chin with her pervasive hand, slaps me on the face, blinds me to the past. Let it go, let it go, she whispers in her wisdom. I beg her to let me sleep in my cave with these thoughts. She gives me a few moments and then tosses me back out into the daily hunt for peace.

~~~

© 2017 Mindy Goorchenko All rights reserved

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Adoption, Foster Care, Life, Parenting

A rare and unexpected time

I am exhaling, looking around, crying occasionally.

The purpose of this blog is not to guilt you into action, or inundate you with personal details about myself, my family.

I write this blog to share about writing, the creative process, the endeavors undertaken to bring that needed outlet and expression into my life–professionally, a life which focuses on child trauma.

However, my home life has also had its share of encounters with child trauma, as my husband and I have been foster parents for several years.

And two years ago this week, we brought home a little boy who was otherwise living in the hospital after undergoing horrendous trauma. (I cannot escape entirely from attempting to guilt you into action as there are actual living and breathing children staying at a hospital near you, waiting for someone to engage with and commit to their needs.)

Our state’s child welfare agency agreed to place him in our crazy home. Our family hoped that he would have peace, safety, and comfort. His long-term prognosis was somewhat unknown but not expected to be anywhere near the same as a healthy child. His brain had been gravely injured and he couldn’t do anything a typical child can do.

For two years, he was treated like a prince. We plopped his adorable, fat, 1-year-old self into a living space right in the center of our home so that he wouldn’t be stuck in a bedroom, waiting for attention.

After 15 months, we were blessed to adopt him, an urgent priority because kids like him need actual, legal parents who are invested in their lives and have the authority to make medical decisions. (He didn’t have any.) The process felt like pushing oatmeal up a hill. It took a lot of pressure to finally get all the parts talking to one another so that this could happen sooner rather than later.

He was the regular recipient of drive-by kisses and snuggles. He received nursing care on a daily basis. One nurse, particularly intrepid, took him out daily to the library, local coffee houses, and walks on the trails.

He developed a veritable entourage of folks who would spend time talking to him and appreciating his adorable self. He was deemed “the best listener,” no doubt because he couldn’t interrupt. 😉 I thought about starting a Facebook page to give folks a chance to document his whereabouts because I’d get texts from friends regularly that there had been a sighting of our guy out in the community. I loved getting those because it meant he wasn’t stuck in a hospital or living in a bed.

In short, this little man was loved to the end.

After having remarkably stable health for two years in our home, he woke up one morning extremely ill. His heart rate was high, his oxygen saturation was low, and he was struggling to breathe in a way we had never seen.

And within 18 hours of waking up that morning, our angel had passed away.

His physical decline was rapid and absolute. He thankfully did not suffer for long, and his passing happened peacefully and calmly in my arms while I poured tears over him and caressed his precious face.

So the last two weeks have been the rare kind that happen unexpectedly, even while known to be inevitable sometimes. Middle of the night phone calls. Breaking it to the children. Funeral-planning. Grieving, laughing, remembering. Being at the receiving end of intensely generous love, support, and outreach of our wonderful community.

And yesterday, cleaning. Packing. So many medical supplies, his wheelchair, his personal items and our many memories. We did all that yesterday.

And we would do it again, if it means a child will not live in a hospital or die without a real and actual family.

In fact, we will do it again, someday, when our other adopted son reaches the end of his brave journey, a reality brought into sharp focus in a way that I often blissfully choose to forget.

Rest in peace, our sweet Gabriel. You are dearly missed, although I know with certainty you are living the life right now in a way you never could here on earth.

…they shall shine and dart about as sparks through stubble. ~Wisdom 3:7

 

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Life, Self-Care

Stupid ice in stupid Alaska

crutches

So I earned myself a pair of these yesterday when I took a reverse swan dive onto my rear end in a parking lot. Thankfully, I didn’t then get run over by automobiles sliding on aforementioned ice, and I hobbled my way to a meeting.

Then the time came to actually stand and move after sitting in the meeting, which didn’t go so well.

Of all the times to do such a thing to one’s self, it makes sense to have this happen at a hospital with an ER conveniently therein. Even better when the meeting has lots of medical types, one of whom is among the kindest on the planet, who stayed with me to make sure I was able to get home.

Things in the ER went well, other than my general loss of dignity accompanying the disrobing process and having to sit around in an ugly gown.

I couldn’t have asked for a more thorough doctor, and he got me through the process rather quickly.

The good news is, my pelvis is not broken per the x-rays (yay!), but that does not mean I can use it yet. So I am hanging out in bed.

Wah.

But yeah, it totally could be worse. I’m very grateful it’s NOT worse…I received the world’s best nursing care last night by my older daughters who were trying to outdo each other in nurturing awesomeness, and my husband is ordering me Thai food. The house is quiet. And there’s plenty to do right here in my bed such as drink coffee and read books and write blogs and stuff.

I really should do more of this relaxation stuff, minus the ER.

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Creativity, Life, Poetry

Winter and her metaphors, part 1

 

Greetings from Alaska. Winter endlessly fascinates me…she is my muse. I am excited to announce that my first collection of poetry, The Latent Talent of Conception, will be published later this year, so keep visiting this blog for updates. Enjoy.

icicles

The Selfish Act of Winter

No matter how it falls,
Snow can never fall hard,
And that is the posture
I now adopt,

The occasional pine
Dusted with snow.
Hester’s wedding dress,
Exposing all her secrets.

I beg in three seasons now.
Spring finds me pleased with color.
Summer wilts me with my own heat.
Autumn begs to differ until

Blessed winter comes again.
I can quit roving the grass—
The hair of the earth
As Whitman said.

I make of you dirt,
Baked fields of warm sod,
While you assert
That you are ash,

Charred remnants of holiness.
How can I argue with that?
Our paradigms
As different as fall and spring,

Opposing poles
Pointing in some
Unknown direction.
And which is worse?

That you always sound
So composed,
Or that I’m still
Writing you,

This stalled facet
Of my inner life,
A brave faction
Holding out

In the face of all
Physical evidence.
The probability
As unlikely as the spring.

© 2016-2017 Mindy Goorchenko All Rights Reserved
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Life, Nonfiction

In the wake of Christmas

Weeping at the beauty of this.

Today, I take inventory of Christmas.

My husband and I had a conversation about this song—how he prefers this version while I will forever remain a fan of the original. And I send condolences to Leonard Cohen, who may be turning in his grave to hear this more neatly Christian version of his offering.

Regardless, I tend to experience Christmas in a state of regret. I have incredibly fond memories of the experience, which consisted of two doting parents at one house, faithfully preserving traditions year after year while showering me, the only child, with presents. And then, later that day, a visit to my other doting parents, who would also shower me with presents. I had a stepbrother in that house, a pesky detail that I didn’t let detract from the ultimate focus on yours truly.

This was all a completely secular and utterly wonderful experience. However, akin to how my brain was already primed to pray the rosary from so many Los Angeles encounters with beads swinging from rear view mirrors and tattooed images of Our Lady of Guadalupe, I was spending a month of every year immersed in the lyrics of Silent Night and O Come All Ye Faithful and other traditional carols. They were everywhere: the radio, my bedside music box, our school’s Christmas presentation. While my family never claimed to be Christian and did not attend church (on Christmas, Easter, or any other day) I feel certain the spiritual underpinnings of Christmas were communicated nonetheless.

Fast forward a few decades and here we are with our own children and all the build-up. The focus paid to a single child in a home is impossible when there are 8 times that many, and a 9th one living on his own for the first year. My husband and I spent the month of December with me working more than usual due to the demands of my academic program, trusting blindly that my husband will pull off Christmas the way he usually does, and him sending me texted pictures from this or that store while he does his usual Santa magic.

In the last dying hours, I feel certain the point of it all has been lost.

Our traditions manage to persist. We gather each night for dinner, lighting the candles of our Advent wreath and singing “O Come Emmanuel.” My faith sputters currently like how the matches are lit so tentatively by the children.

Then we come together on Christmas morning (read that: the parents stumble down the stairs, the children bound excitedly). Bleary-eyed from Midnight Mass, we marvel year after year at how our children will wake up at 6:30 a.m., regardless of having stayed up until 2 in the morning. Every single year I know for certain they will sleep in this time. It never, ever happens.

But one moment from Christmas morning stands out. I have a little video clip of it, to prove we are not breeding a bunch of self-centered minions. The toddlers have just pulled off the final shreds of the wrapping paper around the huge box that holds their new, toddler-sized slide. And then my older kids start handing presents around and arguing playfully about which of them will open the next gift. And yet, they are not advocating for themselves—they are arguing for the other.

“It’s your turn now.” “No, it’s your turn!”

All is not lost.

hello-everybody

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Creativity, Fiction, Poetry, Writing

Writing fiction that doesn’t suck

help

That title may be unceremonious but, in general, I continue to be largely bored by my fiction-writing attempts, and I’ve gained a few insights along the way.

  1. Back story is not the same as a good story. As I write on a daily basis for at least an hour each morning, I’m realizing that most of what makes it to the page is back story about the characters, not the actions in which they are engaged. Thus, my sense of boredom is very real…because they are not doing anything.  I am getting to know them better and that is entertaining, but as far as compiling a story with these people, not much has actually happened yet.
  2. A literary style is probably more my thing. One of my pieces from earlier this month is largely a string of consciousness with key events mentioned along the way, giving it structure. Poetry’s my girl. Can I just write poems in story form?
  3. A process has emerged that works for me. I think. Mostly, my first drafts are proving to be boring beyond boring. Going over them a second and then a third time, rewriting paragraphs and making the language more interesting, accurate, and descriptive along the way seems to be working for me. However, this only addresses the writing style, not the actual plotting of events. Any tips on plotting would be appreciated. I keep waiting for the characters to come alive in my mind and start doing things. I will give myself over to you and let you write yourselves into life, but for the love of all things, don’t make me do it for you.
  4. I need to read more. My life has revolved around textbooks for years. It’s no wonder my imagination is shit right now. A synthesis of interests and artistry will be good to have, eventually. Reading Toni Morrison these days is watering my brain in all the right ways.

So, one month in, there has been improvement, insight, and all that exciting personal growth stuff. (yikes!)

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