Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Memories: Limbo

Daughter was now in limbo.  She was not eligible for adoption, and she couldn't return to her birth mother.  I remained her foster mother.  The Case Manager hadn't realized that they couldn't re-file the case without coming up with new grounds.  I think we were all exhausted from the long ordeal.  I didn't explore guardianship at this point.  I was aware of Daughter's precarious situation.  My physician sent me for a TB test because of some blood work or something.  I knew that if I were diagnosed with TB, Daughter would be moved to another foster home.  I knew that if something happened to me, Daughter would lose my entire family.  She had been warmly embraced as the first grandchild. 

The phone visits with birth mom continued.  I enrolled Daughter in school (a year late).  I continued to struggle in a difficult ministry, while owning a home in a very bad neighborhood.  We heard gun fire.  The police helicopter circled overhead, and some nights I would see the search light through my bedroom window. 

Then came the miracle.  One Sunday birth mother was looking in her Bible to pull out a picture Daughter had drawn for her.  Her Bible opened to the story of Saul ordering a baby cut in two, with half given to each of two women claiming to be the mother.  Birth mother decided it was a message from God, and she decided to voluntarily relinquish parental rights, making it possible for me to adopt Daughter.  I was happy, relieved, amazed, you name it.  It was the most wonderful gift Daughter and I could have received. 

Current: A Disturbing Call

Yesterday afternoon I received a phone call from Daughter, who was with Case Manager.  Daughter was obviously upset, and was crying.  They put the call on speaker phone.  Case Manager was confronting Daughter with everything wrong she'd done at the new house.  Apparently she's been getting up at 6:00 a.m. and blasting her music, and has not always been cooperative with staff.  I reminded Daughter again of the importance of respecting staff, and that she has both ear phones and ear buds for her music. 

Of course she wanted to die, and needed to leave right away, and....  Once she was done being dramatic, we were able to talk.  She was embarrassed more than anything, and couldn't figure out why the staff didn't come to her with the problems instead of going to the Case Manager.  I think she has a good point....

Monday, April 29, 2013

Memories: Court Part 3

Eventually, the psychologist joined my crusade to get the visits stopped, they got the guardian ad litem to court, and the visits were stopped.  Of course, I was still dragging Daughter to court as the hearing on termination of parental rights continued.  When the hearing finally concluded, the judge delayed ruling.  The speculation was that there was no money left for court appointed attorneys, and birth mom would need one if she decided to appeal the ruling. 

Finally, the order came down.  Dad's rights were terminated over both children (the oldest was living with paternal grandmother, and was not part of the case).  Mom's rights were terminated over brother.  They were not terminated over Daughter.  By this time, the judge realized that Daughter could not be returned to mother, but he'd already dismissed the case with prejudice.  He suggested the possibility of long term guardianship be explored.  Daughter continued to have a relationship with mother via phone and occasional visits (she had moved to the other side of the state to be close to her family, so wasn't in town very often for visits). 

I continued to be her foster mother, and nothing more was said about guardianship.  As Daughter grew more verbal, she began to ask more questions.  One night she confronted her birth mom with a series of memories, and after each one she said, "And what did you do."  The memories included a knife fight between the brothers and stepping on a nail on the steps.  Birth mom was amazed she remembered the knife fight, as she couldn't have been more than 18 months old when it took place.  She also commented, "All she remembers are the bad things."  Interestingly, she didn't confront her over the sexual of physical abuse.  Of course, like many victims, she thought it was her fault.  I remember the day she said to me, "Mom, I tried to be a good baby.  I really did.  I don't understand why they hurt me that way." 

The explanation I gave her as to why she couldn't live with her birth family was quite simple:  she deserved to be safe, and they hadn't been able to keep her safe.  I continued to offer lots of assurances that she was safe with me.  To this day, safety is her number one need. 

Current: Ten Hours

Last week took a heavy toll on me.  I had 4 12 hour days, 5 evenings at the church,  and was dealing with some challenging pastoral care situations.  Last night I slept 10 hours.  It helped.  This week I'm back to 3 evenings at the church.  I'm also beginning the countdown.  I have one more class to teach on lay pastoral care giving.  I have 2 more sermons to preach.  Then I have a week in Nashville for the Festival of Homiletics.  I'm looking forward to that week away. 

I love serving this congregation, and things are going very well here.  I'm grateful that Daughter is now in a safe place.  My life is much more flexible when I don't have to work my schedule around her schedule.  It's also nice to have her closer, which makes it much easier to pick her up and drop her off. 

I do recognize, though, that I need to pace myself, or I will burn out.  For now, though, I'm grateful for 10 hours of sleep, a lighter week, and an upcoming break. 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Current: Helpful

This morning, as I was getting dressed, I called Daughter to come zip up my dress.  She was delayed, and apologized, explaining that she was taking care of my laundry.  I had done laundry yesterday, but had left many of the clean items piled in a laundry basket.  On her own, she decided to fold them and put them away for me.  She put my clothing items on my bed, and she put the linens away in the linen closet.  She left the laundry basket empty.  I don't remember the last time it was empty.

Yesterday she worked with me in the yard.  I was edging, and asked her to sweep up after me.  She hates sweeping.  She did it all, and did a decent job.  I like the young woman she is becoming.  I realized this morning that it has been 7 years since she graduated from high school.  I don't know where the time has gone.  She has come a very long way in the those seven years.

I was talking to her Home Owner when I picked Daughter up yesterday.  When I went to the car, I explained to Daughter that I had been sharing with her all my secrets for handling Daughter.  She said, "Oh Mom, you don't have to do that.  HO understands me." 

Today I have much for which I can give thanks. 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Memories: Court Part 2

The county was trying to terminate parental rights over Daughter on the grounds that Birth Mom was psychologically unfit and that she had no bond with Daughter.  The only problem was the attorney tried to get the psychological evaluation admitted into evidence without having the psychologist there to be questioned about it.  So, dad's attorney challenged it, and judge ruled it couldn't be admitted.  After the county rested the case, dad's attorney asked to have it dismissed.  The judge adjourned to consider the request, and came back and dismissed the case for termination of mom's rights over Daughter with prejudice-- meaning it couldn't be brought back.  

I was asking the psychologist Daughter was seeing (who definitely wasn't the best) to get the visits with dad stopped.  She couldn't understand why I wanted to do that.  Finally, she observed a visit.  She noticed Daughter wouldn't touch any of the things from the toy cupboard that had been out for that visit following the visit.  Then she looked back over her notes, and realized that anytime Daughter had a visit, she regressed.  She decided maybe it wasn't good for Daughter to see him.  So we went to court to stop the visits.  But dad's attorney didn't want to consider such an important issue without the guardian ad litem present to give and opinion.  So they went forward with the termination case while waiting to get the guardian ad litem to court to stop visits.  I still don't understand why it was more important to have the guardian there to stop visits than  it was to terminate parental rights.  I am convinced that for dad's attorney, it was all a game.  He did lots of things to delay and complicate things. 

While he was playing his games, I got to deal with the aftermath of each of Daughter's visits to court.  One day I testified that Daughter had asked me to kill her daddy.  After I testified, dad's attorney came out with a calendar, asking when dad could next see Daughter.  I lost it.  "I hope you can sleep tonight, because Daughter won't sleep for the next two weeks.  You keep bringing her here, making her see her abusers, and then for the next two weeks she's afraid to go to bed."  The caseworker grabbed me and pulled me into another room.  I think she was afraid I was going to physically attack him.  I might have.  I think it was the first time I went into mother bear mode. 

Of course, I still had to bring her to the visits and to court, but I'd like to think some of the fight went out of the attorney at that point.  He stopped the delaying tactics, and eventually we were able to get the visits stopped.  The ruling on termination of parental rights took more time. 

Memories: Court Part 1

These memories are hard, and are going to come in small chunks.  It was a very traumatic time, and the memories still anger me.  It was my first inside experience with our judicial system.  It was during this period that I developed the conviction that we don't have a justice system, we have a court system, and there is a huge difference. 

The case to terminate parental rights took over a year.  We'd have a day or two in court here, and then a month later another day.  The court's attorney was a political appointee and not very bright.  That's the kind characterization.  Birth Mom had a court appointed attorney, who was going through the motions.  Dad hired an attorney from the largest county in the state.  He had previously worked representing the county in these cases, but had burned out on it and entered private practice.  He knew all the ins and outs, and for him, it was a game.  He was running circles around the county attorney, who was clueless. 

He started by sending Daughter a subpoena for every court date.  Daughter was about 5.  She couldn't put together complete sentences.  She was in no way a reliable witness.  Every court date, I'd have to drag her over there to sit at the court house all day.  He never called her to testify, and the county attorney was so dumb she never thought to have the judge rule that Daughter was not competent to testify and end the subpoenas.  So once a month or so I'd drag Daughter over to the court house and try to keep her entertained and quiet all day.  Once a month or so Daughter would be forced to see all the people who has abused her, and would regress for the next several weeks as a result.  Once a month or so the system would traumatize her one more time. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Current: Communication

I'm going to have to talk to Daughter's new house about communication.  She tells them things, and doesn't think they are listening.  They say okay, but when they don't immediately follow through, she thinks they aren't listening.  Today she was upset because she was running low on test strips, and the staff member said okay, but didn't give her another bottle.  I finally asked how many she had, and she had 5.  I pointed out that was enough to get her through the day, and she didn't need to worry about it. 

If the staff member had simply said, "You have enough to get you through the day, and I'll give you more when you need them," Daughter would have been fine.  Daughter is counting her pills now, and has had to point out she didn't have all her pills a couple of times.  This house is still far superior to the last one, but there are adjustments and frustrations. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Current: Odds and Ends

We have been working on recruiting volunteers to do some work in the office.  When I arrived, we had volunteers who came in to fold the bulletins on Friday.  Those two women died, so I've recruited two new ones.  Now we've added a volunteer who comes in on Wednesday and Daughter comes in on Thursday. 

It has made a huge difference in our ability to get work done.  We continue to find more things our volunteers can do.  It's nice-- people seem to be understanding that the office is often overwhelmed.  We are planning to do some cleaning and reorganizing this summer.  Hopefully with a slower pace, we will be able to accomplish that. 

After beginning the week with 3 12 hour days, my cold symptoms that turn up when I'm over tired have reappeared.  I'm almost ready for Sunday, and hope to be ready before I take Daughter home tonight after choir.  I'm looking forward to doing some work in the yard tomorrow.  We had some more snow today.  I think everybody here is ready for spring to come and stay.  It's been cruelly teasing us....

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Memories: Inner City School Battles

Daughter's first 3 years of school were exceedingly difficult.  We did not live in a good neighborhood, and her school was rather chaotic.  With her extreme PTSD, she found it very difficult.  It was a major battle every morning to get her off to school.  The school refused to believe there was a problem.  When her PTSD was triggered, she'd shut down.  They saw her as a quiet, compliant student.  They informed me that no child wants to go to school. 

She began cutting herself when she was in first grade.  Her first therapist was not very helpful.  She had done battle with a school before, and lost, so she was unwilling to go to battle again.  I remember sitting in a meeting with the school psychologist in which she informed me Daughter was like her children, and they were all perfectly normal.  I said, "Oh, do your children cut themselves on the fresh air return of the furnace because it's the only sharp thing they can find in the house?"  She was horrified, "Of course not!"  Daughter did.  They refused to acknowledge the problem.

Part of the challenge was she still was having trouble communicating.  She could now talk and form complete sentences, but she was unable to explain why she was so terrified of school.  She became obsessed with the Power Rangers.  I didn't approve, and didn't want her watching it, but then she began insisting she had to wear pink every day like Kimberly on the Power Rangers.  I realized she was seeing them as capable of keeping themselves safe from monsters, and that identifying with Kimberly was making it a little easier to get her to school. 

With second grade came a new therapist and psychotic episodes.  Her teacher was off sick, and the subs couldn't control the class.  A little boy mooned the class one day (but Daughter couldn't tell me).  She was convinced there were snakes in her desk.  She began poking herself with sharp pencils in school.  We had her evaluated and an IEP meeting.  The teacher insisted there was absolutely nothing wrong with the child, the problem was the parent.  We set up a safety plan-- if she felt like injuring herself, she'd go to the principal's office.  I began getting calls to come get her, she wasn't safe.  They still refused to acknowledge that it wasn't working for her to be in the regular class room. 

The principal observed, and reported Daughter was quiet and well behaved.  A special ed teacher observed, and reported Daughter looked terrified and didn't seem to understand what was going on.  Finally, we got an independent psychological evaluation.  The psychiatrist wrote a letter, explaining that Daughter was having psychotic episodes.  Sister took a day off from teaching her class of emotionally disturbed children to come and advocate for Daughter in a second meeting.  Daughter insisted on being there to speak for herself.  She informed them that there were snakes in her desk and monsters in the classroom and the teacher couldn't keep her safe.  The teacher scoffed, the independent psychologist informed her that for Daughter, those snakes and monsters were real.  We finally got her into a smaller class for children with emotional problems.  She was less overwhelmed, and it was easier to get her to school. 

I realized that part of the issue was that I was often the only white person in the room at these meetings.   I was seen as the enemy, depriving Daughter of her cultural heritage.  The other children, knowing Daughter had a white mom, began calling her a skunk.  I didn't find out about this until years later-- she couldn't tell me at the time.  It was an ongoing guessing game, trying to figure out what she needed and why she was acting out.  I spent hours rocking her and singing to her in the evenings.  It was a hard time. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Current: Blackout

Daughter claims she blacked out at her program yesterday.  I was busy with a pastoral call, and didn't get the phone message until long after the event.  She was sobbing hysterically, saying nothing like that had ever happened to her before.  They handled it well, remaining calm, and by evening she was fine.  I haven't even talked to her today-- just a few text messages. 

I think she is continuing to grieve the loss of her dreams.  It's not easy being Daughter. 

I'll try to write more of her history tomorrow.  This is a very busy week-- I'm into my third 12 hour day in a row, so I'm tired and don't have the energy to write it now.  Plus, I want to get as much work done as possible so I will have Friday off this week.  I think I wrote everything I need to write for the newsletter today.  I'm doing  premarital counseling with a couple tonight, but first I'm going to go get some supper.  I'll take some work with me.  It's a good thing I love what I'm doing so much....

Monday, April 22, 2013

Memories: Seeking Safety

Safety has always been very important to Daughter.  She has special difficulties at night.  Of course, one of her brothers testified in court that when she cried at night their dad would go in and backhand her.  I'm also pretty sure she was molested at night. 

For years, she sought a safe place to sleep, especially when other things were triggering her PTSD.  She never wanted her bedroom door closed-- though she now sleeps with it closed.  I remember the day she was throwing a tantrum.  I picked her up to carry her into her bedroom and put her on her bed.  When I started to close the door behind me, she panicked, holding up her hand and saying, "No!  No!  No!"  I told her she needed to stop crying then.  It was a struggle for her, but she stopped.  She did not want to be alone in her bedroom with the door closed.

Once, when she was afraid of the monster in the closet, I asked her what the monster looked like.  Her response was quick, "Daddy." 

After watching the Start Trek episode Shore Leave, in which Dr. McCoy stands in front of a female crew member to protect her from a knight on a horse, she named my big teddy bear Dr. McCoy.  She took him everywhere to protect her.  She slept in her bed for a while, then she moved to her closet.  She tried the guest room, then my closet.  She slept on floor of my room.  It finally reached the point where she couldn't sleep unless she was literally sleeping on top of me.  She wouldn't go into the bathroom without me, and she wouldn't take a bath.  She would only take a shower if it was with me and I stood between her and the drain.  She was afraid she would slip into the drain, where her brothers and father were waiting for her.

She had also begun hearing voices.  At age 7, she went on her first anti-psychotic.  For the first time in weeks I was able to shower alone.  I couldn't believe how good that felt.  I hadn't realized how stressful it was to have her next to me all the time.  She no longer needed to be sleeping on top of me, which meant I slept better. 

For years stress would drive her to the floor next to me bed to sleep.  I can't imagine what it must be like not to feel safe in your bedroom or the bathroom, but that's what her birth family had done to her.   

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Current: Meltdown

Daughter is now sleeping on the sofa in my study.  A little while ago she was sobbing as though her heart were broken.  She wants to be normal.  She wants to live independently.  It's not fair that she was born with mental issues.  She wants a real job.  It looks like her life will be moving from group home to group home, and that's not what she wants.

So what prompted this?  I think the big thing was people asking her how she likes her new home.  It got her to thinking about the things she doesn't like about it.  She doesn't feel they are listening to her.  She says they write things down, but never act on them.  The owner has been promising to get her cable TV in her room, but hasn't followed through yet.  She feels like they are making empty promises, that she isn't being heard.  She saw this as another step towards independence, but she doesn't see them doing anything to encourage her independence.  She wants to be responsible for her own meds and insulin.  I told her she needed to learn to be responsible with her money first.  She doesn't see how that can ever happen.

It's hard being Daughter.  Very hard.  She has escaped into sleep, I have too much to do to sleep.  So I'm looking at her and grieving for her.  We will be heading to the nursing home for worship soon, and then I will drop her off and come back here to finish my preparations for the class I'm teaching at 6:00. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

History: Communication

Daughter gradually began to talk, and as she began to talk, I began to realize what all she'd lived through.  I remember one evening she was just in a bad mood.  I finally asked her what was wrong.  She said, "[teen brother] snake mouth."   I repeated it, and pondered.  Suddenly it hit me.  "Are you telling me that [teen brother] put his snake in your mouth?"  She was adamant, "Yes."  Then she waved her hand in front of her mouth.  "Yucky." 

Once she'd told me and I'd understood, her mood improved.  I just felt sick.  She talked about it several more times, once telling me that soap came out of it.  I didn't want to believe it, but it certainly did explain so much.

She continued to have court-ordered visits with dad.  I didn't tell her in advance that I was taking her for a visit, because I didn't want to distress her.  I'd tell her when we were on our way.  One day as we headed to the visit she said to me, "Mommy, you killed my daddy."  As you can see, she had begun speaking in sentences, though it could still be challenging to figure out what she was talking about.  I was horrified by her accusation, and assured her I hadn't killed her daddy.  She repeated this several times, and then she said, "Mommy, I want you to kill my daddy."  She was sitting in the front seat, and having said that, she reached across and grabbed my arm, wrapping herself around it.  It took a very long time to get the visits stopped, and I'll talk more about the court battles later. 

Current: Drama Queen

Thursday night I accidentally left my cell phone at the church.  It had been a long day, and I was tired.  Yesterday morning a friend and I went for a walk, leaving a little before 7.  Daughter had not yet called, and I didn't think to call her.  She knew I'd forgotten my cell phone, and I knew there would be lots of messages from her on my voice mail when I got home.  When I arrived home a little after 8:00, she had left 3 messages.  I was relieved, because she didn't sound scared, just angry.  Sometimes when she can't reach me she convinces herself I'm can't answer the phone because something terrible has happened. 

I called her immediately, but she didn't answer.  I left her a voice mail explaining what had happened.  When she called back, she was furious.  The bus service that transports her to program didn't have her on their list when they picked up her housemate.  They called the bus service, and they had forgotten to put her name on the list.  They didn't have any buses available to pick her up.  "I can't handle being here all day!  You've said yourself I can't handle it!"  I tried to calm her down.  I told her I was sorry they'd messed up her schedule, and while it would be hard, I knew she could handle being at her house all day.  I reminder her I'd never said she couldn't handle it, I had said it was hard for her to handle unstructured time.  She was trying to reach the home owner to get her to take her to program.  She didn't want to miss program.  It was her fun day.  She went on until I told her I had to get to the church. 

On the way to the church, I stopped for gas.  When I got to the church, Administrative Assistant (who has a daughter with drama queen tendencies) was smiling.  "Daughter called here.  She's not happy.  You are going to have a long day."  About that time, Daughter called again.  She was still ranting and raving about how she couldn't handle being home all day.  I shared her frustration with the bus company, and reminded her of the variety of things she had that she could do at the house.  I refused to go get her and rescue her. 

Another phone call.  The home owner wasn't responding to her calls.  She couldn't stay home.  I'd said she couldn't handle staying home.  She interrupted my ever attempt to speak.  Finally,  I said, "STOP!  Now close your mouth and listen to what I'm saying.  In fact, maybe you should hold your mouth closed so you can listen to what I'm saying."  I heard a subdued, muffled, "Okay."  As she spoke through lips she was holding shut.  I repeated the four things I'd said before, this time numbering them. 
  1. I was sorry they'd messed up her schedule. 
  2. I had never said she couldn't handle being home, I had acknowledged it was challenging for her, and I was confident she could handle it.
  3. I suggested some ways she could keep busy.
  4. I loved her and had confidence in her.
I got a subdued acknowledgement of what I'd said.  Administrative Assistant was still very amused.  A little later Daughter called again.   Home Owner was sending someone to take her to program.  She'd talked to the bus company, and they would bring her home.  Daughter was happy.  The day was saved. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

More on the Early Days

Birth Mom had Borderline Personality Disorder.  She once told me that being a mom meant taking your child to the doctor's office.  She had a lot of appointments scheduled for Daughter.  I was just taking care of her temporarily, so Birth Mom was involved with all the doctor's appointments.  It quickly became obvious they didn't have much of a connection.  I would pick Birth Mom up and transport them both to appointments.  I tried to step back, as this was temporary, but Birth Mom wouldn't hold her hand in the parking lot or do other things I considered appropriate to keep a young child safe. 

I remember one day when Birth Mom took Daughter back for a blood draw.  Daughter came out, sobbing.  Birth Mom was walking beside her, quite excited, "She's just like me!  They have trouble finding my veins, too."  I was the one who comforted Daughter.  Gradually she stopped calling all women mommy.  I became mommy, and Birth Mom became "other mommy."  (She now refers to her by her first name.)

She was having court ordered visits with Dad.  I noticed that there was much regression following those visits.  I will talk about the court battle to get those stopped in another post. 

I remember one day grandmother brought teenage brother and cousin over to visit her.  Grandmother was trying to get her to say her cousin's name, and Daughter would just repeat the last syllable.  Grandmother began yelling at her.  I finally stuck my head around the corner and said, "She can't hear you."  Grandmother was surprised, and demanded to know how I knew.  I said she had a severe hearing loss and would be getting a hearing aid soon.  She stopped yelling at Daughter to say the name right. 

Once she got the hearing aid, she began to learn more words and talk more.  It was slow going.  I began to wonder if she would ever speak in sentences.  There were times when her inability to communicate was very frustrating.  One hard night I decided she needed to know what had happened to the rest of her family.  I explained that none of them were living together.  Teenage brother was with grandmother, Birth Mom and Dad lived apart, and her school age brother had a new family.  I was rocking her, and at that news she sat up straight and looked at me.  "[Brother] new family?"  I affirmed he was in a new family.  Her face lit up, and she clapped her hands, cheering.  I wondered what all had gone on in that home. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The First Months

When Daughter came to me, she was almost 3 years old.  She didn't talk, and wasn't potty trained.  Her hair was a short, tangled mess.  The first Sunday I took her to church with her hair braided, one of the women came over and nodded approvingly.  "Good, now her hair will grow."  Seeing my blank look, she explained, "We braid our hair to make it grow."  She was right, it did begin to grow.

She was also diagnosed with a high pitch hearing loss.  I remember when I brought her home with her loaner hearing aid.  I put a video in for her to watch and went in to the kitchen to start supper.  Then I realized she was too quiet.  I went to see what she was doing, and she was standing in front of the TV, transfixed.  The video had a female narrator, and I realized she was hearing it for the first time.  It was amazing to watch her discover sounds.  She began to drag out her s.  I realized she was hearing it for the first time.  She stopped saying "yeh" and started saying "yessss." 

I couldn't afford daycare, and until I was licensed, they couldn't pay me for doing foster care.  She went almost every where with me.  I had a couple of people who'd help out when I needed to go to the hospital or something.  I quickly realized she was afraid of closed bedroom doors.  Bedtime was hard, and a ritual began that continued for years:  a story, a hymn, a prayer, and then the reassurances, "You're safe here and nobody is going to hurt you."  It was years before I could walk by her bedroom without her waking up, terrified.  There were nights when I sat rocking her and singing for hours.  She quickly began calling me mommy.  Then I realized she was calling all women mommy.  All men were daddy or papa, depending on their age.   It was a great day when I became the only person she called mommy. 

One day she fell asleep on the sofa in my study at the church.  As I began to put her coat on her to go home, she woke up.  "Come on, I'm taking you home."  Silent tears began to roll down her cheeks.  I was puzzled.  "We need to go home and see the kitty cat."  Her face lit up.  I realized in horror that she thought I had been referring to taking her back to her family. 

She was no longer standing with her back in the corner, observing, now she was greeting everyone in sight.  The church I served was not in a good neighborhood.  One winter day as I was getting ready to leave, I heard shouting outside.  I was frustrated, because it would soon be dark and we needed to get out of that neighborhood.  I didn't want a disturbance delaying us.  After I'd packed up my stuff, I glanced out the window.  There were some men standing in the street.  I couldn't hear anything, so I assumed they were talking.  After I'd set the alarm and locked the door behind us, I looked more closely at what was going on.  There was one police officer frisking a guy who had his hands on the car.  There was another police officer holding a gun on them.  At least I assume, they were police officers-- they weren't in uniform. 

We had to walk toward them to get to the car, which was parked in the street.  Daughter began waving and kept saying hi.  I tried to get her to be quiet and ushered her to the car as quickly as I could.  I didn't relaxed until we'd turned the corner and were no longer in the range of gun fire. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Fateful Phone Call

Daughter's family were members of the first church I served.  They were not super active, since they lived about 20 miles from the church.  As an interracial couple, there weren't many churches where they felt welcomed, and the church I was serving was multi-cultural.  Her mother was so excited when she became pregnant.  "I'm going to give you your first baby to baptize!"  I first met Daughter while she was still in the hospital due to some complications related to her mother's diabetes.  Her mother was excited to finally have a daughter.  They had a son in his early teens and a boy in 2nd grade. 

When Daughter was 2, her mother called me one day.  The younger boy had been beaten by his father the previous night, leaving bruises.  She went to the school for help, and they helped her connect with the battered women's shelter, where she moved with the 3 children.  I made the drive over to visit her in the shelter.  I remember Daughter, standing in the corner with her big eyes, watching everything that was going on.  Her mother had given her an apple to eat.  I was surprised she hadn't cut it up for her.

Over the next few months the family continued to disintegrate.  They were in family counseling.  I went over to visit one day, and was uncomfortable with the way the boys played with Daughter when they got home.  I wondered if there was some sexual content there.  I made sure they were still in family counseling.  The older boy beat up the younger boy, necessitating separating him from the younger children and eventually hospitalizing him.  He moved in with his paternal grandmother.

Then one night in early March the mother called me.  She'd fallen and broken her shoulder.  If I didn't come get her kids "for the weekend" the county would come take them.  I made some phone calls, and then headed over to get them.  I dropped the boy off with a couple in the church, knowing I couldn't handle him, as he was already getting in trouble with the law.  I took Daughter home with me. 

I took them back so the boy could go to school Monday.  Tuesday I was back over there to get Daughter again, as birth mom wasn't coping.  She's been with me ever since.  At first it was just temporary.  Mom was going to get back on her feet and make a place for Daughter. 

I  had no intention of becoming a parent.  I was busy being a pastor.  By the time I realized this wasn't going to be short term, I was hooked.  I became a licensed foster parent. 

Happy Adoption Day!

18 years ago today I officially adopted Daughter.  It was the day after Easter, and family and friends were in town for the celebration.  The judge usually handled adoptions in his chambers, but there were too many of us, so he cleared the court room so we could do it there.  Our attorney forgot, even though she had two families there to finalize adoptions that morning.  The bailiff called her and she got there, fortunately.  Daughter was 8 years old and had lived with me for just over 5 years. 

She called me early this morning to wish me happy adoption day.  She was crying as she sang this song to me.  It has been a rough road.  I'm glad I didn't know what I was getting into, because I would have decided I couldn't do it.  I do not regret adopting her.  She has made me a better person and a better pastor.  I think I'm going to do a series of posts about the Daughter's journey to me and our journey to adoption. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The First Problem

Daughter called yesterday evening.  They were out of syringes and couldn't give her her long acting insulin.  It seems the old house still has boxes of them, but didn't turn them over.  I wasn't happy that they decided not to go get them last night.  I also wasn't happy that they didn't realize until bedtime that they were out.  I haven't addressed this with the house.  I don't expect perfection.  My hope is that they have learned from this, and it won't happen again. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Hurting People

There are lots of hurting people in the world.  I spent some time listening to a woman who is dealing with the impact of mental illness in her family, including threats and completed suicide. 

We had a couple of people at the hospital today, and both are very difficult situations. 

Then I received a text alerting me about the events in Boston.  I grieve.  With all the pain, I wish we could learn to have compassion for one another.  We are living in a society that promotes and celebrates hatred.  Those who are different are seen as the enemy.   We can show compassion for those who are hurting without fanning the flames of hatred.  That is my prayer, that we discover the power of compassion for all God's children.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Loving It

It's been a long, good day.  Friday I received an email asking whether I'd consider doing a nonmember wedding.  I responded with what I would charge, and told them that if they were still interested, they should come to worship, and if they liked my style, we'd talk.  I figured that would be the end of it.  My experience is people think the minister and church should just donate their time.  With premarital counseling, a wedding takes 7-8 hours of my time.  So I was surprised when the response asked about when worship was, and pleased when the couple actually showed up in worship today.  They were greeted very warmly by the congregation.  I'm meeting with them next Sunday at 1:00. 

After worship, I took Daughter to lunch and then took her home.  I went back to the church, where I had a 2:00 meeting.  Following the meeting I started on next week's bulletin. 

At 6:00 I taught a course on being a caring church.  We have set up a system to turn much of the pastoral care over to members, and this class was part of it.  This morning some members were talking with a woman who is caring for her husband with Alzheimer's.  The stress is taking a heavy toll on her, and tomorrow she's going to the hospital for testing.  They suspect she has an ulcer, probably caused by stress.  This evening I received an email.  Two of the class members tonight will be at the hospital with her tomorrow. 

This congregation truly does know how to love one another, and it's wonderful to see them taking responsibility for this kind of care, freeing me up to focus on worship, teaching, and moving the congregation forward in exciting ways. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Keeping Up

So last night we began a new ministry, and I was there to support it-- over 5 hours on my day off.  I was not involved in planning it, and I wanted to be there to greet the parents and the children, as half were not connected with the church.  It was a wonderful opportunity to make connections.  Plus, it was just plain fun. 

Tomorrow, we are beginning a new class to educate people on visiting and caring for hurting people.  I'm spending time today finalizing plans for the class.  I didn't have sufficient time this past week due to being out of the office so much. 

Some members are sponsoring an opportunity to try curling Monday evening-- after a church meeting I need to attend-- I think it begins at 9:00 and ends at 10:30....  Even though I'm delegating lots of things, there are times when it is hard to keep up with everything that is going on.  A member was trying to convince me to come to the curling event I didn't guarantee anything, but I will probably feel guilty if I don't at least drop by. 

Today I'm trying to get some things done around the house while finalizing plans for tomorrow.  I'm very grateful that Daughter is now living in a group home.  It means I don't have to impose this schedule on her.  It also means I have the freedom to work more hours and do more things. 

I think an additional 24 hours a week would be helpful.  I'm flexible-- it could be in the form of an additional day, or it could be 3 1/2 hours added to each day.  Even the ability to function well on 3 1/2 to 4 hours of sleep a night would help.  Until the extra 24 hours appear, I'm going to have to continue to prioritize carefully, delegating what I can and choosing carefully where I will become involved. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

A New Ministry

We had our first Friday evening program for children tonight.  Kids came for an evening that included music, a Bible story, craft, games, and piƱata.  Parents had the opportunity for a date night while we entertained the children.

I was the story teller.  I had so much fun, and I'm so proud of my people.   Half of the children who attended were not from the church.  None of the children were ready to leave when their parents arrived to get them.  I love spending time with children, and I haven't had much opportunity here.  Tonight I had plenty of time to do that, and it was so much fun.  The workers were talking about ideas to make it even better next month. 

Our numbers weren't huge this month, but I think that was good.  It gave us an opportunity to test the program with a small group.  I'm confident it will grow.  When all those kids go out and talk about how much fun they had, their friends will want to be a part of it.  When the parents talk about how nice it was to have a date night, their friends will want to know more.

It is wonderful to be a part of a congregation that is willing to try new ways of reaching out to the community.  I am so blessed to be here.  Daughter called and wanted to come help this evening.  I told her maybe next time....  We'll see.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

So Much for Planning

We had an all day regional church meeting on Tuesday.  The regional church committee that I convene was scheduled to meet this afternoon.  Last week I emailed the committee members (8 total), asking if they would be able to meet today and offering another option.  This was the best day for the majority of the committee with all but one saying they would attend.  I wasn't thrilled about a day and a half on regional church stuff in one week, but I decided I would make it work.

Yesterday 2 committee members cancelled out.  This morning a third one did.  Yes, I was frustrated.  One of the four of us left attending had to take half a day of vacation to attend, so it wouldn't have been fair to him to cancel the meeting.  The four remaining committee members plus a staff person gathered this afternoon.  None of us were on time.  It was, however, a productive meeting.  We have done more since I took over as convener last month than we'd done in the previous year I'd served on the committee.  Hopefully people will realize the meetings are worth attending now.  Of course, after all the time I've been out of the office this week, I will be in the office tomorrow.  Fortunately, that doesn't happen too often.

I had to drag Daughter to the meeting.   Sister Best Friend was also going to be attending, so she texted Daughter last night to ask her if she'd be willing to fold bulletins during the meeting.  After finding out how many were involved, Daughter agreed to do the job.  When she called me last night, she said, "One of your friends asked me to fold bulletins.  How did they know to ask me?"  I told her the friend was Aunt SBF.  She liked that she'd get to see SBF today.  She also saved SBF's number to her contact list.  SBF may end up regretting having sent a text to Daughter, giving her the cell phone number.  I know Daughter has already sent her at least one text.  Then again, she did get her bulletins folded.  The other minister at the meeting was pondering what office work he could bring for Daughter next month....

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Come On, Spring

Today I had another conversation with a member insisting they were moving south.  Everybody is more than ready for spring.  It has been very gray.  We've had winds and thunderstorms and lots of rain.  We have snow in the forecast for Friday.  I have some crocuses that have bloomed, but the daffodils and other spring flowers haven't yet. 

This morning at breakfast a colleague said, "I vowed I wouldn't complain this year.  Last year our early warm up followed by more cold destroyed the fruit crop.  So I'm not going to complain that it's still cold and gray."  She looked very tired as she said this. 

Daughter has had meltdowns the last two days.  I walked through the grocery store this afternoon talking to her on my cell phone and trying to get her to calm own.  She was terrified.  The other woman in the house had a meltdown and threw things at her.  She was genuinely worried about her safety there. 

I don't think there's anything wrong that some sunshine and warmer weather wouldn't cure.  I've had several conversations recently with some or our returned snowbirds.  I think they all wished they'd stayed in the south longer this year. 

I actually look forward to complaining about the heat in a few months....

Monday, April 8, 2013


So this evening I received the question I knew was coming.  I was at a committee meeting.  "What's going on in your garage?"

I'm in the process of building raised garden beds in my garage, so my car has been sitting in my driveway.  My house is close to the main road, and I know there are some people who check it out whenever they drive by.  I explained I was building more raised garden beds.

"Call when you need help putting the in the ground." 

I knew that was coming, too.  He and his wife helped me put them in last year.  Once I get them built, they are too heavy for me to move around.  This is a wonderful place to be. 

The Crisis du Jour

Daughter has to call me at least once a day with some terrible news.  I can tell how well things are going at the new house by the nature of the news:

  • The prayers before meals are too long (Sister's comment:  "How can she complain about that when you have such long prayers?")
  • Her Sound of Music video tape won't work.
  • The menu has clam chowder down for her lunch.
She doesn't appreciate it when I refuse to get all uptight over her crises.  She gets mad when I laugh.  I told her last night that she should be grateful she has a TV and DVD/VCR in her room.  I think she knew where that was headed, because she stopped complaining. 

Anyway, I'm enjoying the fact that her crises are now so easy to dismiss.  Yesterday I was explaining to a member that she'd moved into a new group home.  She objected.  Her last place was a group home.  This place is just home.  I like that. 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Sunday Snippets

During Sunday School:  It's hard to spend time in prayer that is just being in God's presence.  We are so focused on doing that we have a difficult time just being in God's presence.

Worship:  Baptism and Communion.  It was a full service, and it went well.

Fellowship meal:  We had a pasta bar today.  The planners were stressing about it last week, but it ended up going very well. 

  • A woman who buried her son in the fall was talking about how hard the first Easter was. 
  • Our college student nursery attendant is having an MRI this week.  She is having symptoms consistent with MS.  She hasn't told her parents, as she doesn't want them to worry.  I hooked her up with a nurse and a woman who was diagnosed with MS 35 years ago-- when she was about the nursery attendant's age.  It was a God thing-- I had put our bag at a table downstairs, and NA sat down to eat there, not knowing we would be there. 
  • I mentioned the suicide of Rick Warren's son in worship today.  A man came to talk to me about baptism and heaven.  I suspect he was thinking about his son, who committed suicide as a young adult.  We had a good conversation-- I hope I addressed the sub-text of the conversation and gave him what he needed. 
  • A man came over and was talking about the frustration of not being able to do the yard work he'd like to do because of back issues.
  • A young woman in the congregation is going to see a specialist this week.  She has melanoma on her leg, which was discovered last week. 
Daughter was eager to go home, so she's back at her house.  I considered doing some more work on my raised garden boxes today, but decided to relax, instead.  I was up until midnight last night watching basketball.  I'm going to start some more seeds in the basement this afternoon and putter in the kitchen, but no construction projects today. 

Saturday, April 6, 2013


I picked Daughter up this afternoon.  Instead of a tub filled with all her medications, they gave me her meds for the rest of today and tomorrow morning.  I like this.  Her blood sugars have been excellent since she moved-- her morning numbers are a bit high, so I have to figure out how to address that, but the rest of the day her numbers are great.  This house is going to be good for her.  She has stopped calling insisting I rescue her.  She told me when she heads out in the morning one of the staff members hugs her and tells her she loves her.  Daughter said, "That makes me feel good." 

We spend some time working in the backyard.  Spring clean-up was complicated by 2 things:  the removal of a large locust tree in November and the running of TV cable last month.  They didn't do a great job of picking up all the sticks when they cut down my tree.  They also left a number of holes in the yard where large limbs fell.  The people running the cable moved one of my compost bins, dumping the compost all over the garden.  I returned it to its proper position and put the compost back in it today.  I also raked up lots of sticks and some thatch, which Daughter put in the yard waste cans for me. 

I made nachos for supper, and Daughter loved them.  For snack she agreed to try cottage cheese with pineapple-- and loved it. It's been a good day.

Friday, April 5, 2013


I didn't work in the yard today, but I did start a spring project.  I am constructing two more raised garden beds, and also trellises to tame my raspberries.  So today I bought some more lumber and some paint.  I spent the later afternoon and evening cutting lumber and painting it.  It's easier this year, because I know what I'm doing.  It also helps that I purchased a couple of saw horses.  I'm not sure when I'll get them finished and in the ground.  I suspect the ground is still frozen, which would make digging the holes for the posts a definite challenge. 

I have crocuses blooming now, but still no daffodils.  It is supposed to get up to 58 tomorrow, so hopefully I can finish my spring clean up in the back yard.  My 4 cans of yard waste got emptied yesterday.  It was a long day, and I was delighted to discover when I got home (after 9:00) that some kind soul had moved the cans from the curb to up next to my garage door.  It certainly made it easier for me. 

I love spring, and am eager to spend more time working in the yard.  A member of the church emailed me, seeking advice.  She is considering moving to the southwest.  I asked her how much of the desire to move was simply that it is the end of a long, gray winter.  We're going to get together for breakfast this week to talk about it more.  Maybe we'll have enough signs of spring by then that she'll have decided she doesn't want to move.....

Volunteering at the Office

Yesterday was Daughter's first day of volunteering in the office.  She shredded offering envelopes from 1994 and did some filing-- beginning with items from the end of October.  There are plenty of things she can do around the office for the foreseeable future.  There are too many things that don't get done due to time constraints. 

I don't think Daughter realized I meant it when I said she'd have to work.  She doesn't like shredding, and has burned out the motors of shredders to prove her point.  I gave her guidelines for her shredding yesterday-- no more than 3 envelopes at a time, and give the shredder a rest whenever it got hot.  I also told her that if she burned out the motor, she would be buying a new shredder.  She followed the guidelines and did well.  We kept the box she emptied, and will refill it each week for her. 

At one point she got mad and went outside, but she came back in and returned to work.  At the end of the day, she said we were like yo-yos.  We asked for clarification, and she said we were going back and forth and up and down and doing lots of different things.  A fairly accurate assessment.  I was not feeling well yesterday, and spent much of the day  coughing and blowing my nose.  I took Daughter out for supper, and then we were back at the church for choir.  I was glad to take her home last night.  It was nice to be able to sleep in this morning.  She's always had to be ready for the bus at 6:30 when she stayed with me, so it was a treat.  I'm feeling better today after a good night's sleep. 

I realized yesterday that I am once again over scheduled next week.  I have all day Monday and Wednesday afternoon in the office next week.  The rest of the time I will be away for various commitments.  We got the bulletin done for the 14th yesterday, so that helps a bit. 

Overall, Daughter seems to be doing well at the new house.  It certainly is more convenient for me.  She wasn't too happy about not being able to spend Thursday night with me, but I liked it.  I'll probably pick her up tomorrow afternoon and let her spend Saturday night.  She'll like that. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Roller Coaster

Yesterday evening Daughter called, quite happy.  "They know what they're doing here.  I'm safe."  She went on to thank me for all I've done for her.  She told me she appreciated my support.  I will keep remembering that phone call.  I will need to remember that.  What goes up, must come down-- or at least with Daughter that seems to be the way it is. 

This afternoon Daughter texted me to tell me she needs a new ipod by Friday.  I replied that she'd best start saving her money. 

Tonight she called to tell me she couldn't stay at her house-- it's hell.  I asked what was wrong.  She said the prayers before meals are too long.  I didn't drop everything to run over their and rescue her.  In fact, I didn't even show her any sympathy.  I told her she'd adjust.   

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


Yesterday evening I received the anticipated texts and phone calls demanding I come rescue her immediately.  As she knew I would, I refused.  I was in a meeting, so didn't talk to her until it was over.  As I anticipated, by then she was calmer.  She was upset over "blood sugar issues."  Her blood sugar had ranged from 88 to 119 that day.  Excellent blood sugars.  I pointed out that those were extremely good blood sugars.  She said, "I know, but I'm not used to them."  Too true.  She went to bed early, exhausted, and slept well. 

The bus service didn't know they were supposed to pick up Daughter today, though it was set up several weeks ago.  Daughter doesn't have the punch card she needs to ride the bus, though she should have received it....  Those are minor bumps.  I had a phone call this morning and a couple of texts this afternoon about getting her hair done. 

All in all, things seem to be going well for Daughter. 

It was a low key day in the office.  Both Administrative Assistant and Treasurer were shocked to see me filling out the paperwork for my March mileage reimbursement.  Treasurer was happy because the books balanced easily for March.  We had a number of people drop by for various reasons.  I wrote a bunch of birthday notes and several other notes.  We figured out Sunday's bulletin.  I was delighted to discover I had most of what I needed from a pulpit exchange I did the Sunday after Easter two years ago.  I'll do some tweaking and reworking, but it will be an easy week in terms of worship prep.  That's good, as I have several meetings tomorrow and need to spend some time planning out the class that begins a week from Sunday. 

I'm planning to host the young single women in the congregation for supper at my house some Friday night soon.  I was going to do all the cooking, but decided instead to have a salad supper.  I'll ask everyone to bring their favorite salad.  I'll provide dessert and drinks.  I think it will be fun.  The oldest of the group emailed me today seeking advice.  She said something about me being motherly.  Once again I am reminded that I am no longer young....

Monday, April 1, 2013


Daughter is safely ensconced at her new home.  Four Guys and a Trailer had it done very quickly.  Sorting through the meds and paperwork took a bit longer.  Tidbits: 

  • Her old house wasn't handling her meds properly.  Insulin should be thrown out 30 days after it is opened.  She had 9 unopened boxes of her long acting insulin.  They had a 4 month supply of her patch.  I could go on, but you get the idea.... 
  • The other woman at the new house is the daughter of a staff member at the old house.  (Does that say a lot or what?)
  • The House Manager at the old house acknowledged the challenge of finding decent employees and the constant revolving door there.
  • There are lots of people having issues with billing with the pharmacy. 
  • In 9 years of running houses, the owner of the new home says no one has moved out. 
Daughter handled it well.  There were some tears, she was showing some stress, but overall she did a fantastic job.  When I got there this morning, she had removed the linens from her bed and stacked the mattress and box spring against the wall so it would be easier for the guys to remove the headboard and collapse the frame.  I was impressed. 

The next few weeks will have challenges as everyone adjusts, but it will work out, and I'm grateful. 

Mixed Emotions

As I was driving home after dropping Daughter off yesterday evening, a praise song was running through my mind as I struggled with tears.  I'm glad the move day has arrived, I'm glad there are possibilities for Daughter.  We've had many conversations as I've sought to help Daughter with her stress.  I've tried to normalize her experience.  She mentioned that she was just moving to a new room, and it didn't feel right.  I told her about the many different dorm rooms I lived in when I was a young adult.  This helped her.  For me, it added to the pain. 

I went to college at the normal age.  At 27, I had completed college, seminary, and was ordained.  Daughter most likely will be moving from room to room her entire life.  It's not fair.  It's not the goal I had for her when she came to live with me 23 years ago.  It's not the dream she has for herself.  It's hard.  Very hard.  At what point do I kill her dreams and tell her it's very unlikely she will ever be able to live independently and adopt a special needs child (her stated goal)? 

So as I drove home last night, I sang on a song of praise, grateful for the resurrection, Daughter, time with Sister and Short Niece, and the fact that Daughter will be moving today.  I struggled with my grief, grief over impossible dreams and unfair limits.  I had mixed emotions. 

Daughter has called this morning, sobbing.  "I accidentally snapped."  She is saying good bye to the people she has lived with and come to care for over the last 15 months.  She knows she won't see some of them again.  She fears for their safety.  Her fears are real, and reality based.  I worry, too.  Will she be able to advocate strongly enough for her self to assure her safety when I'm no longer around. 

Time to get dressed and go walk through a difficult day with my beloved Daughter.