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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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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Creativity, Editing, Fiction, Poetry, Self-Medicating, WIPpets, Writing

Update on the writing life: Month #1

writing

It has been one month today since undertaking the goal to complete 52 short stories in 52 weeks. I am nowhere near meeting it but I do feel encouraged by what has happened in the past 29 days.

  • 3 & 1/2 rough drafts of stories on their way to completion
  • 2 drafts of poetry
  • 1 submission of poetry to HOOT literary magazine
  • 1 sketch (a portrait)
  • 1 plan to self-publish my first manuscript of poetry, The Latent Talent of Conception
  • Participation for the first time in a “write-in,” six of us scrawling/typing a total of 8,114 words in each other’s company
  • Only one half of one book read: Sula by Toni Morrison
  • Subscription to Duotrope for manuscript submissions and tracking
  • Subscriptions to Glimmer Train and Alaska Quarterly Review
  • So many cups of coffee and Americanos. Black.

I continue to find fiction more challenging than enjoyable to write. However, a process is unfolding and it’s getting easier and even fun!

Last night, during four separate sprints in which we wrote continuously in chunks of 20 minutes, I hashed out about 400 words at a time and then returned to add layer upon layer of detail and interest until I could read it without dying of boredom.

As evidenced by my list above, I have a problem finishing stories. On a side note, I write boring plots and characters; I have little imagination.

However…it does seem to be getting a teeny bit easier and the writing has improved.

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Editing, Feedback, Fiction, Self-Medicating, WIPpets

“It won’t feel good, but it’ll make you grow.”

help

My good friend ReGi McClain graciously took the time to read my first story, a take on “Frog Prince,” and responded with the following email, complete with a “shredded” draft that I have almost gotten drunk enough to read (LOL, kidding…). Still. YIKES! Here’s what she wrote:

Hi!

So what I did was what my beta buddies and I refer to as shredding. It won’t feel good, but it’ll make you grow.

This story has tons of potential and the chance to convey an empowering message in a fun way, and therein lies the greatest strength.

What’s not working so well is the amount of information you’re trying to put into the space you have. In a short story, tangents are not allowed. Every sentence has to move the action forward or explain why it’s moving the direction it is. About a quarter of this draft is background we don’t need, but we’re missing pieces we do.

So here’s what you do. Read my feedback, give yourself a week or so to hate my guts, get over it, then come back, read it again, and see what you can do about incorporating the advice you think is worthwhile and ignore the rest. Way the by, you could make it twice as long, if you wanted to.

Whatever you do, don’t give up or let yourself be discouraged for more than a day or two. Every time you write, you’ll get a little better. 😊

Love you! For reals! Even if it doesn’t feel like it right now. 😉
~ReGi

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