Sunday, March 28, 2010

What's in it for me?

I was staring at my blog just now, and noticing the quote in the margin. I was staring at the words "selfless service". In the past if you had asked me to comment on what I believed that meant, I would have expounded at length about what selflessness meant. Sometimes these days, my brain gets a bit stuck. It feels numb. I looked at the word selfless today, and I saw it as pretty self-explanatory. If you wanted me to teach a class on selfless service today, I would say this:
"There's nothing in it for you. You will work hard, and receive nothing in return. You will be tired, but there will still be more work to do. You will be discouraged, and no one will stop to encourage you. You will feel like you are failing, and yet you will keep trying. There is nothing in it for you."
I'm pretty much okay with that now, but it doesn't make me the life of the party oftentimes. I'm okay with that too. Being the life of the party is highly overrated. Last year around this time I injured my back. It was pretty bad. I couldn't even get myself to the toilet without breaking out in a cold sweat. I prayed to God, that if I could just get up and walk again, and get back to my work without the pain, I would be happy. And I am. I don't love always having my shoulder to the wheel, and being so tired it hurts. But I love that I can. I don't love that I am raising children that are largely unattached to any human being, and that they would just as soon be anywhere else but here. But I love that I can. I don't like that I find myself missing my husband and our relationship the way it used to be. But I love that I'm missing him, not resenting him.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Waiting For a Bus

This blog post was originally posted on February 17, 2009, on a blog I am gradually shutting down. If you've already read it, feel free to find something else to do. Otherwise, enjoy.

I think foster care must be kind of like waiting for a bus. You sit at the bus stop and you wait and wait. People told you that a bus was coming, and maybe they even told you what time to expect it, but the bus seems as though it never comes. You don't have a bus schedule, so you don't really know for sure about anything. People come and go at the bus stop. Sometimes you overhear them talking about when the bus will come, and it sounds as though they have different information than they gave you. Sometimes the bus comes, and the people get on the bus, but then they won't let you on because, they say, "This isn't your bus."

Different children have different reactions to spending so much time at the bus stop. If I talk to my fearful child about the bus stop the dialogue goes like this:

Me: So how did you feel about waiting at the bus stop for so long?
Child: I didn't like it. The bus stop was scary.
Me: Why was it scary?
Child: I don't know. It just was.
Me: Were you happy when the bus came?
Child: Kind of. But I was kind of scared of the bus.
Me: But the bus brought you here.
Child: It did? Oh yeah. I was scared when the bus brought me here. But now I'm not scared anymore.
Me: Do you think about being at the bus stop?
Child: Sometimes. It makes me worry I will have to go back and wait there. I don't like to think about it.

If I talk to my impaired child the dialogue goes like this:

Me: So, you were at that bus stop for a long time.
Child: Uh huh.
Me: How did you feel when you were at the bus stop?
Child: Ummmm.....bored?
Me: I don't know, maybe. Did you hope the bus would come?
Child: Once the bus came and took me to the pool to go swimming! It was awesome!
Me: Did it take you back to the bus stop?
Child: (sadly) Yeah. I wanted to live at that pool!
Me: But you were at the bus stop for a long time. Tell me about that.
Child: Well.... they gave me sandwiches to eat at the bus stop. They were salami sandwiches on wheat bread. With mustard. I love mustard.
Me: So that's what you remember about the bus stop?
Child: Yup! Those sandwiches were GOOD!

But these are the children who wait at the bus stop, who largely get ignored. In general, they wait quietly. Then there is another daughter of mine, who is highly intelligent, easily bored, and demands some control over her destiny. I can see her pacing the bus stop impatiently, grilling each person waiting for any information about scheduled buses. I can see her demanding a bus schedule, and cursing the idiots who run this whole bus thing. All the while she has a pretty clear picture of what her bus should look like and where she thinks it is taking her. But the problem is, it never seems to come. Over a short period of time, this child gets angry and fed up. She decides her bus is never coming, but she'll be damned if all these other people are going to get to ride buses and she won't.

She begins muscling her way onto "wrong buses". She knows they're wrong buses, and she knows they won't take her where she wants to go, but riding a wrong bus is better than sitting at that stupid bus stop. Eventually riding wrong buses becomes a way of life. Finding yourself in a strange part of town, being lost, figuring out how to get back to the bus all becomes an adrenaline soaked pattern. Sometimes you meet cool people on those buses. Often they give you things because you are lost. Most of the time their sandwiches are better than the ones they give you at the bus stop.

The problem is this, when your bus finally comes, it looks lame. It's a boring older bus, headed for Boringsville, and this child isn't sure if she really wants to ride that bus after all. But they grab her and hustle her onto that bus, and off she goes. No more bus stop. When she gets to her destination, she discovers that buses generally don't stop there. She wanders around trying to get lost, but the folks from Boringsville always seem to find her and bring her back. She spends a lot of her time trying to figure out a way to get back to the bus stop, but she just can't, so she is angry and frustrated all of the time.

The folks at Boringsville don't think it's so boring anymore. In fact they never really did, but now it's way more interesting than even they could have imagined. Sometimes they wish they had a bus stop in Boringsville, so that Mom and Pop Boring could get out of town. But then, that might be way too tempting. But I did hear that some of those buses go to some pretty nice places, and they've got good sandwiches too!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Love Stories

This china doll belonged to my grandmother as a girl. She named her Vivien. For many years she lived with my Aunt, and now she lives with me. Some day my children will fight over whose house she will go to live at.

The other day, my friend Christine blogged about the fact that everyone has a story, and that until we understand this, we should be slow to stand in judgment. I believe that this is indeed true, and I have been thinking about it a great deal. Something that has come to mind, is this; we must be careful when "hearing" a person's story, to understand who is doing the telling of it. I suppose it's often best to hear the story first hand, but this isn't always practical. Some people just won't tell you their story, and others can't.

My grandmother died this past week, and I have been thinking about her story; the parts she told me, and the parts that I have been told. I realize that I never really knew my grandmother all that well. She was one of those who never told much of her own story. She told you her opinions about things, and she had quite a few. She told you stories about things that had happened far into the past, but she never revealed much about her own story. The story of my grandmother mostly came to me through the telling of my close family members. Her story was not told with love, and so it came like this. "Your grandmother is a nasty, opinionated woman. Don't get on her bad side or she'll write you a nasty letter." Or like this. "Your grandmother is a greedy, selfish thing. If you give her something nice you'll never see it again. She'll just hoard it away." Or this. "Your grandmother doesn't like to spend time with you. She just wants chat you up, to find out what's going on here at home, behind closed doors. She's nosy."

As I got older, I learned to question this steady flow of information, but I never had anything with which to replace it. Then, several years ago I talked at length with someone who told my grandmother's story with love. The story went like this. "Your grandmother cares very much for you. She prays for you often, and loves to hear about what you are doing." And like this. "Your grandmother is afraid a lot. She lived through a lot of hardships, and was mistreated by people who should have cared for and protected her. She is afraid to enjoy the nice things she is given because she is afraid of not having enough later on."

This is what I know about my grandmother. I know that when I was a child she always made me something beautiful every year for Christmas, on her old treadle sewing machine. I know that she always made me "Cambric tea" and Lornadoones when I would come to visit her. She would spend hours walking our family through her gardens, and she grew the most beautiful peonies. She always had dogs, so her house always smelled a little doggy, and she treated them like they were her babies. She put plastic on everything, to keep it clean from the dogs and "your grandfather's smelly pipe". She even had plastic lace curtains in her bathroom. She had everything in her kitchen wrapped up in a plastic bag with a twisty tie, and everything she ever bought, she labeled with the date and the price. I suppose I might have joked with her, that they have medicine for that, if I had known her better. She had marvelous taste in fabric, and I have many of her unused pieces in my bins, marked with the date and price, of course. She always wore her hair long, twisted up into a crown of braids on top of her head, covered up with a kerchief, and she was quite vain about her trim self, her hair, her teeth. She would cover her mouth like a school girl, and giggle when she thought something was funny, self consciously, as if she was afraid to be noticed too often. She never wanted to hold babies, but would sit with her purse clutched on her lap, watching their every move. I could never picture her holding her own babies, or taking care of little children.

Now she is gone, and in the next few days I will travel to her funeral. I am certain I will hear more of her story, from those who loved her, and those who did not. I hope that when I am old, folks will know my story because I shared it freely with them. I hope that when I cannot do the telling, that it will always be told by someone who loves me.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Stitches of Love

This entry was originally posted on January 30, 2009 on a blog I am gradually closing down. If this is a rerun, feel free to skip. If not, enjoy.

This is a post about why I don't quilt (much) anymore. Once, long ago, back when I was younger, more energetic, had stars in my eyes, was much more insecure, when time hung heavy on my hands, and I had not yet acquired so many children...I used to make quilts. I had this idea that quilts equaled love, and all the endless hours I spent meticulously cutting, piecing, tying, quilting, were evidence of my deep and abiding affection. I had visions of my loved ones feeling my embrace every time they wrapped themselves in my creation. I foresaw into the future a day when my offspring would be telling some grandchild, or great grandchild, how I had made this beautiful enduring quilt, and maybe they would make cookies, and tell stories about what a great Mom/Grandma I am (because you don't think I expect to be dead already, do you?). I also have to confess that I really liked to impress people. I liked the idea, that when people came into my home, they saw these expressions of my skill and love, displayed at the foot of a bed or over the back of a rocker. Wow! What a Mom. You guys sure are lucky.

But time marches on, I have become the Mom of more children, and I don't find myself pulling out the quilting supplies very often. In fact, none of my adopted children have a quilt, made with love, by me. Partly this is because I can't EVER get involved with anything that does not in some way involve them, and dragging out my sewing machine is just a signal for them to set their hair on fire. And partly this is because they don't place a whole lot of value on things like that. They blow through belongings like they are disposable, and a Disney Princess blanket from Target makes them happier. Also, it is partly a time issue. My life is busy right now, just keeping the basics rolling along, and at the end of the day I'm more tired than I used to be, so I go to bed instead of sewing.

But there is something deeper still. I no longer care if I am impressing anyone with my mothering prowess. I realize this about myself, that I spent hours hunched over a cutting board, or a sewing machine, or with needle in hand...and all the while I was trying to escape my children. I would be snappish and withdrawn, and I would expect my children to suffer that gladly because I was making them love and a heritage. And of course no one could fault me for this because I had all this beautiful, tangible evidence of my love draped all over my house.

I still love the quilts I once made. We use them every day. I still love beautiful fabric, and every now and then I get a creative itch. I see a day in the future when I will not be buried in child rearing, and laundry, and therapy. A day when I will once more sit down and create beautiful things with love. It will be nice then, because I will not hold onto the things like trophies. They will not have strings attached that say, "You better appreciate all I do for you, you ungrateful little punk." And I will only ever give them to the people I wish to, and I will never feel pressured or obligated to give them to anyone else. I will probably need more therapy before that day comes.