If you want it
Come and get it
For crying out loud
The love that I would
Be giving you is
Never in doubt
My class curriculum includes considerable time spent on trauma-informed care and helping my prospective adoptive families succeed in parenting children who have suffered abuse or neglect. I use the example of a Bear in the Woods (at the 8-minute mark in this Ted Talk video on Childhood Trauma by Dr. Nadine Burke Harris).
Significant damage to the emotional and physical health of children who are exposed to high levels of adversity/trauma occurs over time (chronic trauma). They are more likely to engage in high-risk behavior, and to develop heart disease or cancer. Our brains have a stress response system, in the hypothalamic and adrenal glands, that governs our fight or flight response in a situation. Imagine you’re walking in the forest and you see a bear. Immediately, your brain sends a response to your adrenal glands: Release stress hormones! Adrenal! Cortisol! Your heart starts to pound, your pupils dilate, your airways open up, and you are ready to either fight that bear or run from that bear! And that is wonderful, if you are in the forest, with a bear. The problem is what happens when the bear comes home every night, in the form of domestic violence, or physical abuse, or molestation. This system is activated over and over and over again, and it goes from being life-saving to health damaging. Children are especially sensitive to this repeated stress-activation, because their brains and bodies are just developing. High doses of adversity affect their brain structure and function, their developing immune systems and hormonal systems.
$5 for a Bag of Books at the Worcester Habitat for Humanity yo, inching Less Than Zero, Doctors and a childhood favorite Island of the Blue Dolphins. 8 years old I was Marana on that island, struggling to find food and trying to avoid being killed by the wild dogs (while doing everything I could to steal one of their puppies).
I tried to drink it away, I tried to put one in the air
I tried to work it away, but that made me even sadder
I tried to keep myself busy, I ran around in circles
I slept it away, I sexed it away, I read it away
I tried to run it away, thought then my head would be clearer
I traveled 70 states, thought moving would make me feel better
An enlightening story from a man who grew up in the foster care system and aged out without being adopted. Take the five minutes to listen to his story, and you’ll be glad you did. If you don’t have the time to watch the whole video, scroll to the 5:28 mark and watch until the end. #adoptuskids
I’ve signed a 6-month lease on 10th St. in the heart of South Beach, 2 blocks from Lincoln and Collins and 3 blocks from the beach. The apartment is tiny (350 square feet) and the rent is half of my monthly slave wages, but it comes with a big built-in bookshelf and a pink bathtub (where I do most of my reading). I am excited! I have always wanted to be in the center of the action, and apart from New York, that’s Miami. Job:check. Apartment: check. Next up: Boyfriend.
The Swap Shop Flea Market on Sunrise. I have come to realize that the success you have at this flea market depends mostly on your energy level, having the willingness to dig in and pick through piles of mainly junk, and then having the negotiation skills to barter with those sharks (Haitian and Jamaican women). *btw, old Haitian women do not like to have their pictures taken, at all
I don’t exactly know what these people were selling or doing, but it was real busy and they were whispering and it looked shady, so I went over there and took their picture, and I said Aha, I got you!
My lone purchase, a $2 Powerpuff girl for Squeak, well this and a cold Coco Frio (sadly still tasted like nasty salty coconut water)
I’m the taxi cab driver for what I will call a precocious 4 year old. In addition to taking ALL the selfies of himself with my phone, devouring a Happy Meal, ice cream sundae and orange juice, he tried to run away from me out into the parking lot. Unfortunately he seems to have gone to the bathroom at some point today and not wiped himself properly. He definitely is a little stinky, but he will stay that way, I’m not changing him or nothing… ain’t nobody got time for that!
I have my highs, and I have my lows. This week I have been exceptionally lonely and prone to cry. My friend and co-worker Mike is in a training class, so I was volunteered to take one of his children for a psychiatric evaluation and psychotropic medication consult. Jenny (not her real name) is almost 4 years old, a chunky little nugget with pigtails and that raspy voice that some little kids have. When I pick her up at the daycare at the crack of dawn I am informed she hasn’t had breakfast, but we are running late so there is no time to stop. We get to the doctor’s office and wait, and wait, and wait. Jenny never gets cross, or pouts, or whines. I get in the floor and we play house, then she cooks me some food in the kitchen, then we color, then we are farmers with all of her animals, then she plays games on my phone until it dies. She knows we are going to McDonald’s and asks when we can leave every 5 minutes. At 11:45 I finally complain, and then I’m asked to bring Jenny back “around 1:30” because the doctor has a mandatory staffing and she can’t be seen until then.
We go to McDonald’s, where Jenny gets a Happy Meal, quickly making her cheeseburger, fries, apples and Sprite disappear. My little nugget has a few of my chicken nuggets as well. Not-her-case-manager buys us ice cream cones AND chocolate chip cookies, with me praising her for being such a good girl. When we return to the doctor’s office Jenny draws a picture of us, and then I show her a picture of my dogs and she draws them as well. She is still happy, laughing, playing…such a good girl! The doctor finally sees us at 3 p.m., and Jenny has her meltdown shortly after. She yells and cries and runs in and out of people’s offices. I explain to the doctor that she hadn’t had her nap and that she was tired and cranky. I have a bag of toys in my trunk and am forced to promise to give her three of them if she will stop running away from me, stop yelling and get in the car. Once she is seat-belted in and digging through the toys (choosing Stitch, the Cookie Monster and a meerkat) she is fine and happy again. As we near her foster home, she asks me if I am staying for dinner. I say No, I have to go home to my puppies. She asks if I will come in and play with her for “just a few minutes” because now we are best friends. My heart, which she already had, melts. Of course I do go inside and play Barbies with her for about 15 minutes, garnering a quizzical look from the 60-year old foster mother. I don’t care, I just smile and play with her dolls, because she has made me happy today, with her continued good mood and positive energy. I might be crying a little as I write this, but they are happy tears, given to me by a precious little one, a chunky little angel 🙂
“Such a perfect day, you made me forget myself…I thought I was someone else, someone good”
I am flawed, hopefully not fatally so. I am no longer young, and that makes me not as attractive, to most. I don’t make very much money, and haven’t lived up to my potential. But I’m empathetic, and kind, and dogs and children unfailingly like me. I still have the capacity to love. I have to believe that someone is out there for me, someone who will love the less-than-perfect me, someone who will see that I’m the same boy I used to be.
She Photographed Herself Everyday For A Year. This just looked like another one of those videos where someone takes a picture of themselves every day of the year, but by the end you realize it was something much different.
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When his girlfriend had to put down her beloved 10-year-old beagle, this thoughtful guy knew just what to do to help cure her broken heart. It’s a rainy Thursday night in St. Pete, and I am feeling kind of sad and lonely. I had a good cry watching this video.
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When I was a case manager in Pensacola, I had a big office all to myself. I would collect small toys at different thrift stores and flea markets, and kept them in said office for the children on my caseload. 2 years later, I still have bags full of toys. I had a home visit scheduled this evening, to see a three-year old on one of my cases. I brought my bag of toys for him, and the other foster kids in the home, and the foster mother’s grandbaby, with the plan that each toddler could have 2-3 toys. At my arrival, the “gang” and I do mean gang included my three-year old *Bubba, siblings *Peanut and *Bean three and 1 1/2 years old, and the foster mother’s granddaughter *Atari, 4 years old. All were observed to have snotty noses.
The five of us got down on the living room floor and I dumped the bag of toys out. They all started grabbing and pushing. Bean sat down right in the middle of the pile. I tried to help Atari pick out the few girls toys, but Peanut snatched up a My Little Pony and a Strawberry Shortcake, causing Atari to start screaming and trying to kick Peanut, who smartly remained just out of reach. His little brother Bean wasn’t as lucky. He was intently slobbering and putting toys in his mouth when Atari hit him over the head with a Triceratops, hard, and he started screaming and crying. I tried to explain to Peanut that he didn’t want girls toys, but his foster mother (who is ancient, older than her own mother, and whose voicemail jumps right into quoting scripture without so much as a hello) shrugged and said “Peanut be likin’ girl stuff, that’s how he do.”
Bubba was stockpiling toys behind him, and Peanut and Atari started grabbing again. Peanut put poor Boots up his nose. Atari was trying to be sneaky and was hiding toys underneath her, looking off into space so she wouldn’t have to make eye contact with me. Bubba and Peanut started grabbing up toys and running them to their bedroom, in the back of the house. Old Mother Hubbard didn’t say shit. Atari refused to stand up, because she was sitting on several toys, including Stitch, Eor and Oscar the Grouch. She never stood up until I left, furtively watching me with her little thievin’ eyes. As soon as I had three or four toys in front of one of them and thought I was good, the others had grabbed up more, except baby Bean, who needed changing, BADLY 😦
All three of the older gremlins got 5-6 toys each at least, and when I started putting the remaining toys back in the bag, all four of them started screaming again, yelling No! Stop! Mine! Peanut even started crying. As I made my exit Bubba and Peanut were wrestling and screaming over a giraffe, Atari was nesting on her stolen loot, and Bean was gnawing Miss Piggy’s face off.
* Not their names
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I read this book last week, sitting with my mom in the nursing home, until she passed away. Zippy’s sharp humor and funny observations helped me through a tough time in my life.
“…she waited until she and my grandfather Anthel were just home from their honeymoon, and then sat him down and told him this: “Honey, I know you like to take a drink, and that’s all right, but be forewarned that I ain’t your maid and I ain’t your punching bag, and if you ever raise your hand to me you’d best kill me. Because otherwise I’ll wait until you’re asleep; sew you into the bed; and beat you to death with a frying pan.” Until he died, I am told, my grandfather was a gentle man.”
“That cat doesn’t have a lick of sense,’ I said, sighing.
Well, honey, he’s not right in the head,’ Dad said, flipping his cigarette into the front yard.
I glared at him. ‘And just what do you mean by that?’
Dad counted on his fingers. ‘He’s cross-eyed; he jumps out of trees after birds and then doesn’t land on his feet; he sleeps with his head smashed up against the wall, and the tip of his tail is crooked.’
Oh yeah? Well, how about this: he once got locked in a basement by evil Petey Scroggs in the middle of January and survived on snow and little frozen mice. When I’m cold at night he sleeps right on my face. Of that whole litter of kittens he came out of he’s the only one left. One of his brothers didn’t even have a butthole.’
“I stand corrected. PeeDink is a survivor.”
“What kind of good deeds? Like Girl Scouts? Because I got kicked out of Brownies and they won’t give me another chance to keep my clothes on at camp.”
“My mother was good at reading books, making cinnamon biscuits, and coloring in a coloring book. Also she was a good eater of popcorn and knitter of sweaters with my initials right in them. She could sit really still. She knew how to believe in God and sing really loudly. When she sneezed our whole house rocked. My father was a great smoker and driver of vehicles..He could hold a full coffee cup while driving and never spill a drop, even going over bumps. He lost his temper faster than anyone.”
“I respect every way in which you are a troublemaker, now get up and do what your mother says.”
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My ex came and got Squeak from me, to spend the weekend with him and Possum. He has also made it painfully clear that we will never be together again, also that he never really loved me, at least “not the way I am remembering it.”
It’s 4:30 in the a.m., and I’m not sleeping. I take Cricket for a long walk, there’s a full moon and the air is electric.
My mother is 61 years old. She has refused her dialysis and it is simply a matter of time. Over the next week, I will take her lunch and sit with her, reading my book or watching TBN. She continues to pray that I will “be healed” from my homosexuality and will find a nice Christian wife. I lie to her and tell her I am going to church in St. Petersburg, and it gives her some small comfort, so that’s okay. If she doesn’t pass away this week, I will be forced to have our final goodbye on next Sunday, as I am financially destitute, plus I’ve used up all of my PTO and my bills and rent await.
I feel like my mother’s mental health robbed her of happiness and that she never really enjoyed a good quality of life. When the moon is full like this, and I am feeling restless and anxious, I worry that my mental health will soon betray me as well, and I am pessimistic most of the time. I fear I will always be alone, ending up in some nursing home with nothing, just like my mother.
Cricket knows something is wrong. She is a good girl, smart and intuitive and empathetic. Cricket gives me a lick, then curls up next to me on the bed and starts snoring. She will be there for me in the morning, tucked in and sleeping against my stomach…she knows she is loved and cherished, anyway.
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I was so excited to see this new breed of cute Chow, until I figured out they are dyed to look like pandas 😦 Too much work for me, my pandas rarely even get a bath. Of course this practice is ultra trendy and popular in China right now…oh well, at least they ain’t gettin’ ate.