The Point of No Return

I vowed some time ago to be an honest voice in this sometimes dark world of foster care. I’m deflated and my focus is weak. Sometimes this journey hurts like hell. But these things need to be said and they need to be said now while they are real and raw.  Maybe I’ll delete them later.

Yesterday, a path came to end. Many lives forever traveling in a different direction. We’ve spent many years saying “yes” after many before us said “no.” We are not afraid of the tougher cases. The raging. The aggressive. The disconnected. The system savvy. The long time travelers. The children in which all others have lost faith. Until we are.

Just when it seemed we’d broken through, we got a horrifying glimpse of what lay on the other side. For safety’s sake we threw up the flag and turned away.

I am heartbroken. I am a bit more jaded. I will get back up again–I always do–but right now I’m just going to sit here for awhile.

At the point of no return just cross the line in the sand, I watch a lost child disappear into the dark, dark night. We were sunk before we sailed. Nobody really expected us to succeed–we were repeatedly given permission to fail. The wounds were too deep, the time too long, the wall too thick, the path too dangerous.

We spent seven months teetering between fear and hope, reassessing, digging deeper, employing new tools, searching beneath the fury for the hurting child…believing. Until the scales tipped on the side of danger and it was instantly clear that he was beyond our reach.
In this moment, the relief of restored safety is dulled by the weight of the grief. Grief for the knowledge of where his path now leads, grief for never having found the right tools, grief for giving up, grief that I live in a world where such a very small child can dwell in such a dark place. Grief that I couldn’t save him. Grief that my grief will not be understood or even recognized.
Tonight I’m going to collapse beneath it because tomorrow I have to throw it off and carry on. Before I’d even signed the final line, the call came with the next desperate plea.

One perfect moment in time

imageIn sixty hours, I will place her in her father’s arms, turn, and walk away. I’ll cry. He may too because he’s kind and gentle like that. I love her. It’s going to hurt. A lot.

For the past eight months, I’ve been her mother. At the end of the week, the choice to keep me in her life is exclusively his. He tells me he wants me there, but I know that desire may change in time. As his confidence grows, I may come to be an intrusion, a walking reminder of a time he’d like to forget. He is a good man and I will always respect whatever choice he makes. Although I hope our relationship will continue, I accept that my work here may be done.

I walked eyes open into the fire and knew all along this day would come. Reunification was always the plan-as it should have been. I’d do it a thousand times over if only I could always reach this end. I would love and lose again and again for this finish. For once, I walk away knowing a system wrought with corruption that so often harms children more than it helps them has, this time, properly served a child. A family has been protected and a child has known immeasurable love. Always.

Here’s where many will tell me that they could never travel this path and will offer me accolades. Please don’t. The gift is mine. I am ever so grateful for this moment of light along this sometimes dark journey. I’m no hero. Over the years, I’ve done as much wrong as I’ve done right. I have regrets. I am often weak and scared, angry and impatient. I am never as good as I want to be. I never stop educating myself, I’m always striving to improve, but did not have the skills years ago that I have now. In nearly eleven years as a foster parent, thirty children born to another woman have called me “Mom.” I failed some of them.

This time with this child, this opportunity to serve, and be an instrument in the preservation of a family is one of the greatest rewards I’ve ever received. There may be a hundred  reasons to be here, but this is why I came. To help. Giving my heart to a child who may never know my name, and supporting her father through her journey home has restored my faith in this work. It has granted me one more chance to know love, eight more months of time mothering an infant that I thought I would never know again, countless memories to feed my soul, and one moment in time when all is right in the world.

Blindsided

More than three years ago, for a few weeks she called me “Mommy.” Last night, I saw her face on the adoption photo listing. My stomach has been burning ever since.

I was forced to surrender her after her brother who was also placed with us experienced a violent psychic break and had to be hospitalized. I advocated for their separation. I explained that their relationship was toxic and he was a threat to her, but no one would listen. I was told that I was being unreasonable and a new home was found.

I tried hard to control my emotions as I strapped that tiny sobbing girl into the backseat of her worker’s car as she clung to my neck and begged me to make sure the other kids and Daddy knew that she loved them. I failed and could not contain my tears. Her time with us had been short, but her impact was huge. She was so clever, sassy, mature, resilient, compassionate, and loving. I never could get her out of my mind.

Little Guy and New Guy hiding. I like it when they hide--they're quiet.

Little Guy and New Guy hiding. I like it when they hide–they’re quiet.

Now there she is a lost child listed alone and as a severe risk. I want to inquire, but fear she is no longer the child I knew. Three years is a long time to stumble through the minefield of CPS foster care and separation from siblings usually only happens after they’ve done terrible, often unspeakable, things to each other. Even the most resilient children ultimately break down.

We are already battling ferociously to reach another small child whose time has been long and pain is deep. Another victim of a system that very often does far more harm than good. I don’t honestly know if I could handle another child of this intensity. Just a few days ago, I tossed our struggle in the message below to the Facebook universe as the weight has become to much to bear alone. I fully believe the prayers and positive energies of my friends that followed afforded us a peaceful weekend, but am not so sure I want to tempt fate.

I’m not whining. Really. I chose this path and take full responsibility for all the strife that’s come my way, but fuck it’s been hard lately. This work is hard. Harder than I could ever explain. Harder than you can imagine unless you’ve traveled this way yourself. It comes at great cost. A price, again, that is difficult to explain. A constant vigil, chronic stress, old traumas bubbling to the surface for all my children, honest introspection, committing every day to do better than the day before, finding the strength to never take the assault personally and always see the wounded child beneath the rage, unwavering perseverance when everyone around you shakes their heads and asks why. Because the price is greater if I don’t. Blowing out of here–this place where we will harbor the children that many before have turned away–is a ticket to an institution and all hope lost. Because if I don’t do this work, who will? Because I don’t want one more child to graduate from foster care to prison. Because I want to walk the talk and be the change. Because my inner warrior queen believes when all others have lost faith. It’s still really fucking hard sometimes. This would be one of them.

All that is rational and wise within me says to let this one go.

But the heart won’t hear reason.

I once told this child that I loved her and if I had a choice she would have stayed. I have never stopped thinking about her. I can’t explain what motivated me to browse the photo listing last night–the thought of adding another child now was not even on the radar.

Part of me wishes that I hadn’t looked, never knew. I could have gone on believing that she had remained with a relative as I had heard at last update years ago. But I did look and I do know and now I have to choose. Do I risk losing the ground we’ve gained with this small wounded warrior who just today summoned all his courage and laid his weapons and broken heart at my feet? Or do I turn my back on a child who I once vowed to always love?

Keep Your Crown Shiny Through the Shit Storm

It really sucks walking around this planet, sometimes. Even as a committed optimist you are going to take some blows that will sap your soul and drop it into a deep dark hole. Something like ten percent of the population have personality disorders. Some of them are going to cross your path. Sociopaths are going to crop up in surprising places. Some really bad shit is going to go down on occasion by no fault of your own. People you trust will betray you. You’ll find your self face to face with wicked malice that you cannot even comprehend. There will be loss. You are going to suffer.

Believe it or not, this is actually a post about protecting joy (hang on its coming), but the cold hard reality is that there is unavoidable anguish in this journey. I recently saw a quote that said something to the effect of every woman will reach a point when she has to decide whether or not to become bitter after years of dealing with life’s struggles. I would add that once you reach this place, you are going to have to make this decision again and again. You are going to have to decide day after day as life knocks you on your ass, to get back up again. It was only when I began to realize that the quest should not be for a life without strife, but rather for a badass attitude that fights ferociously to preserve joy in the face of adversity, that I became quickly able to recover from any shit storm that blows my way.

I’m climbing out of a rut now. We recently returned from an 11-day vacation that included a 2,000 mile round-trip drive. It began like this; two parents, one young adult, three teens, and two traumatized littles all smiles setting off for 22 hours in a 15-passenger van. It ended like this: two sleep deprived parents considering driving said 15-passenger van off a bridge.

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Let’s just say it hasn’t been my finest hour.

Physically exhausted from sharing a small hotel room with a child who does not sleep and is prone to disturbing misdeeds when unsupervised and emotionally exhausted from handling anxiety triggered regression into frequent toddler-like tantrums of another child, I returned to modern American life and stepped directly into the trap of the current soul sucker in my life.

It was dark for a minute, but I’ve been feeding my inner fire. As the self appointed Queen of my own life, I’ve developed defenses to protect my reign and there’s no hole deep enough to keep me down. Because I’m nice like that,  want us all to rule our own queendoms, and need a little attitude adjustment of my own, I’m going to share my methods for fortifying my crown.

Pajama Mama’s 10 Tips for Flipping off Funk

1. Find a group of intelligent women with whom you can liberally use the word “fuck.”  I’m not talking about some ladies who just tolerate it. You need some gals with a true appreciation of and are themselves well versed in the art of profanity. This is especially important if you live in a very religious or conservative community. There is great delight in the harmless juvenile rebellion and nothing quite so satisfying as a well placed F-bomb.

2. Guard your integrity. Vow to never say anything negative about anyone else’s appearance. Avoid personal attacks when dealing with conflict–stick to the behavior. It’s really as easy as that. Just don’t do it any more. I discovered when I stopped criticizing others, I began to feel better about myself. It’s really easy to slip into a pattern of pulling others down to lift ourselves up. In the end, we all just wind up in a heaping pile of ugly.

3. Find some people who will be ridiculous with you. I have the great fortune to have a daughter who shares my love of shenanigans and some imagefriends who aren’t afraid to play dress up. My darling daughter and one of my lady loves recently accompanied me to an eye exam dressed in feather boas and tiaras as I worked to overcome the trauma I have associated with my vision. If you want the details, they are here. Now, instead of recalling horror when I think about my last eye exam, I smile and remember my fearless friend Sharri telling the examiner who was not even slightly amused by our production, “You should have seen us at the gynecologist.”

4. Stop trying to please everyone (also known as the practice of giving zero fucks). You never can and you risk becoming a door mat to the sociopaths. Be kind, do good, be unapologetically you and don’t take any crap. Some people won’t be able to handle the paradigm shift and will walk away. That’s cool–I hope the door doesn’t hit them on the ass.

5. Steer clear of religious extremists. In my experience, the louder someone proclaims their faith, the harder they are working to conceal their corruption. Anyone spewing hate or practicing unethical behavior based on religion is dangerous and you need to turn your cheeks and run.

6. Exercise. You don’t need to run a marathon, just move your body. In the eloquent words of Elle Woods, ” Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t.”

7. Recognize that there are some things that you will always be sad about, but don’t let them define you. Weep when you need to-it’s good for you. Really. Crying releases toxins, reduces sadness and anger, reduces risk of heart disease, and can improve bonds with those who support you through your tears.

8. Surround yourself with people who make you feel good. Seek to love everyone, but be careful who you trust. Not everyone is on the same path to self-improvement and there are a lot of broken moral compasses out there. Keep the circle small and show toxic components the way out–again, the door/ass thing.

9. Learn to let go. Write it down and set it on fire, meditate, dump it on the profanity pack in step one, or do whatever you’ve got to do to put down the anger you’ve been carrying around. Recognize that much of the ugly that comes your way has everything to do with the deliverer and nothing to do with you. If after some honest soul searching, you can see that your own hands are messy, own it, clean it up, make amends and move on. You can’t change the past. You can’t control other people. put on your crown and keep moving forward.

10. Focus outside yourself. Be a better friend. Walk with others through their grief. Express your appreciation to the loves of your life. Throw yourself into service. When my Sailor Boy left for bootcamp, I was nearly disabled with grief. Within days of his departure, I took in two Foster children and in the coming weeks fostered multiple litters of puppies. I spent so much time managing maladaptive behaviors, cleaning up poop and taking puppies to the vet then adoption events that my pain was not my constant focus. I did, however, develop a contempt for puppies (at least 7 at a time.)

So that’s my recipe for keeping joy alive. Feel free to take it, leave it, add some optional wine, or print it out, write down your fury on the back and throw it in the fire. I’m going to get my head on straight over number 2, practice some 4, 5, 6, and 8, polish my crown and move on.

The Real Cost of the Vaccine War–Your Choice.

I wanted to walk away from this. I really did. I’ve found the entire debate completely and utterly exhausting. I didn’t want to talk about vaccines for awhile, maybe ever again.

Then Texas State Rep. Jason Villalba vowed to draft a bill calling for the repeal of the state’s conscientious objection waiver to vaccination. Legislators in California, Oregon, and Washington are also planning or have already drafted bills calling for the same. Big Pharma’s propaganda game is strong and I expect the dominos will keep falling across the nation.

This scares the hell out of me and not for the reasons you may think.
imageThe majority of the population is sitting idly by or perhaps celebrating as our right to informed consent to a medical procedure is stripped away. Even if you agree with mandatory vaccination right now, you need to consider the future picture and the precedent this action will set. Are you prepared to accept sight unseen the hundreds of vaccines in development? Are you prepared to submit to any medical procedure that your doctor dictates whether it’s experimental or risky or the government determines is for the greater good? Are you prepared to lose your voice in your or your child’s healthcare?

This is so terrifying to me that I’m going to share a nightmare that I have never before spoken aloud. I’ve seen what it looks like when your choices are taken away.

I was Seventeen and ten weeks pregnant when I started to bleed. Just slight spotting, but I was taken to see a doctor. She rammed her gloved hand inside me held it up smiling, said, “there’s not much blood,” and sent me home.

The bleeding continued for several days and I was returned to hospital and seen by a different doctor. He was a bitter man who made no effort to disguise his contempt. He came into the room and matter of factly announced that he was going to do a D & C–Dilation and curettage-which would end the pregnancy. He wanted to abort my baby without my consent. I don’t know if my mother had already agreed to this. We have never discussed it.

I screamed “No! No! No!” I ordered them not to touch me. I begged them not to touch me. I fought him and his nurses off physically. I tried to escape. They held me down and injected me with Valium. When the drug overcame me and I was physically unable to resist, the doctor tore my baby from my body without ever checking for a heartbeat.

When the sedative began to wear off and I struggled to regain control, they laughed at me. They. Laughed. At. Me.

The grief, shame, and horror of that experience still reside in me 30 years later. I am sick now as I revisit it. I will always have to wonder what might have been. I will never understand the cruelty of it. I will always be scarred. I won’t know till I hit the button if I can bear to bring this to light.

I suppose they thought that they were doing me a favor–acting in my best interest or for the greater good. But it was not their choice to make and it cannot ever be undone. Aside from a broken heart, I left with a distrust of obstetricians that remains today.

Flash forward 13 years. I was 10 weeks pregnant with my third child and I began to bleed. A lot. I called my doctor and was told to schedule an appointment on Monday. It was Friday. I was worried about the wait, but was told there was nothing they could do in the ER except a D&C. I would have rather bled to death than risk that again. After having had my first two children with a midwife in the hospital and then at a birth center, I had reluctantly chosen the  obstetrician who I despised the least because our insurance would not pay for midwifery services in our new home state of Texas.

Monday came and with a familiar callous air, I was instructed to disrobe so that she could use the vaginal wand for the ultrasound. Um, “no fucking way” was what I thought, but probably refused more politely. Nobody was ramming anything inside of my already bleeding body. She was annoyed and pressured me to comply. Eyes on the door, I held my ground and she grudgingly agreed to use the Doppler. The beautiful sound of my baby’s strong beating heart filled the room.

Relieved, faith restored in my body’s ability to carry this child, and sick of the authoritarian nature of the practice I left the office and never came back.

I had already secretly found a midwife who agreed to take me as a client in my final trimester at a reduced rate as long as I had been receiving prenatal care up to that point. My husband and I decided that the out of pocket expense was a small price to pay for the care we wanted and I immediately began seeing her. I exercised my right to choose.

Thirty weeks later, my healthy 10-pound, 1-ounce son was born at home. I had the beautiful birth I longed for in the presence of people who cared deeply for me, including my two older sons. My scars softened a bit that day.

I will never know what the outcome might have been with my first pregnancy if my right to choose had not been stolen from me and my body so violently violated by a doctor who decided that he knew what was best for me. I only know the outcome of his choice–loss of my baby.

I tell you this story now so that you might see what lies at the end of this road we’re taking. We give up our freedoms in increments not wholes. This vaccine piece is just the first step in surrendering our right to choose what happens to our bodies. I am afraid. I fear that my children, your children, our children will not know this freedom. I fear our daughters will see a return to the indignities of doctor controlled births that our mothers and we fought so hard to escape. If laying my heart bare can do anything to protect someone else from this tragedy, to change a mind, or preserve a safer and free future, I’m willing to risk the exposure.

My Right to Choose…the Measles.

I really didn’t want to touch this one. As I watched the frenzy become increasingly rabid, I would have preferred to keep my choices quietly to myself, but that seemed increasingly cowardly as the days wore on and so many other brave souls were walking shoulders square into the line of fire. It would be a betrayal not to join them.

Last week, I outed myself as a non-vaxxer in a local group of brilliant, daring women who I admire immensely. That didn’t go so well. I knew my position was unpopular, but was surprised by the unanimous stance in opposition by those who commented. The only support came in private messages.

imageThrough controlled, but not concealed anger a couple of members threw out the standard accusations of stupidity and selfishness, and one celebrated a measles outbreak amongst a group of non vaccinated Texas families in 2013, calling it karma. (Those families might actually agree as most non-vaccinators accept the risk of diseases and are thankful for the lifetime immunity that follows.) Another called for accountability (of non-vaxers for infecting others–I’m assuming)

The irony of this last one always blows me away given the pharmaceutical companies immunity from litigation despite the vaccine related deaths of hundreds–mostly children. The over $3 billion that has been awarded to families whose children have been injured or killed by vaccines through Federally controlled Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) was financed by the taxpayers.

Additionally, the fact that recently vaccinated children have been proven to be infected with and shedding the vaccine type measles virus in the midst of outbreak, nobody knows how many vaccinated people contract mild or asymptomatic cases that go undiagnosed yet pass the virus onto others, and last year’s case dubbed “Measles Mary” in which a vaccinated woman in New York was proven to have infected four other people (two of which were also vaccinated) with measles make it difficult to attach guilt to anyone accidentally spreading the virus. How could anyone be at fault for contracting a naturally occurring disease while others who are knowingly injecting a laboratory created variety into their bodies are proclaimed innocent?

This group’s response came as a huge surprise to me as these women are all vehemently pro-choice feminists and the inconsistency of  harassing people who want to make their own informed health choices remains difficult for me to understand.

Choice Doesn’t End with Your Reproductive Organs

No matter what your opinion of the safety, efficacy, and necessity of vaccines is, you cannot be pro choice and support mandatory vaccination or any other medical procedure, for that matter. Kathi Valeii at Birth Anarchy nails it brilliantly calling out feminists joining the anti-vaxer public assault as subscribing to the paternalistic power structure that has for centuries controlled and violated women’s bodies.

“It’s interesting that the medical authority is not to be challenged in *just this* instance. There is an entire struggle in the feminist movement to reclaim women’s rights in birth around this very domineering power imbalance. Haven’t women, for centuries, been chastised, belittled, and held with contempt for questioning any authority – especially the man in the white coat?

The same doctors who brought us forced cesareans, who thrust their hands into our vaginas and when we cried out and scooted back to try and get away, shushed us and told us to be a good girls; the same ones who told us not to question them as they injected us with labor inducing drugs, who knocked and dragged out our mothers and grandmothers, who treated their filthy vaginas as sterile fields to be conquered, who sliced us end to end and yanked our flaccid babies out, as we lay, unmoving on our backs; who gave our husbands a *wink wink* as they threw in one last stitch to make us better than new.”

She further exposes the hypocrisy of feminists attacking other women for exercising the right to make informed health choices for their children,

“In the smear campaign against non or undervaccinating parents, nothing is off the table. While we would dare not trivialize or question or judge any woman’s desire for contraception or abortion, nor vilify a pregnant addict or challenge a woman’s investment in her fetus, we go to great lengths to efficiently marginalize and scoff and shame a woman’s decisions for her born child like she were an incompetent fool.”

You will find her entire post here: Pro Choice Movement Deployed Paternalism Vaccine War.

Liberty, Lies, and Profit Protection

Although freedom is at the core of this debate and what we likely will sacrifice if the pharmaceutical companies massive and ubiquitous advertising campaign is successful, it’s the lies and betrayal by these institutions that I once trusted that have kept me awake at night.

I began this parenting journey as a vaccinator. My first two children were vaccinated on schedule with all the recommended vaccines through toddlerhood and I believed I was doing the right thing–being a good mother. I bought what they were selling.

Then in 1997 (note this was before the McCarthy or Wakefield hooplah) someone placed a copy of Dr. Robert Mendelsohn’s How to Raise a Healthy Child in Spite of Your Doctor in my hands and I was horrified that I had made the vaccination decision without ever researching the subject–blindly accepting the pharmaceutical companies’ pitch.

I vowed never again and began doing extensive research ultimately deciding to discontinue vaccinating my first two children and never to begin with my subsequent children. As the years passed, more and more medical information/research became accessible, the unethical profit seeking methods of the pharmaceutical companies and their government cronies became completely transparent, and I became more convinced than ever that it was the right decision for my family.

Unlike so many, I did not arrive here after my child had been injured or killed by a vaccine, But I often wonder if we narrowly dodged a bullet. We are plagued with severe allergies and neurological issues, and have autism in our extended family. Contraindications to vaccination (as written in the vaccine inserts) include allergy to any of its contents. I don’t regularly administer neurotoxins, aborted fetal lung tissue, antibiotics, and monkey kidneys to my children so I would have no way of knowing if they were allergic to any of them until after they had a reaction or were dead. I prefer to take my chances with the measles, thank you very much.

Here’s where the mainstream media jump in with the message from their corporate sponsors, who bear names like Merck and Johnson & Johnson, that it is my duty to subject my child to this risk to protect those who cannot be vaccinated from contracting the disease du jour.

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This is nothing short of propaganda contrived to put social pressure on those who dare question their product and protect their profits. It has everything to do with marketing and nothing to do with an interest in anyone’s health. In the words of Dr. Suzanne Humphries, co-author of Dissolving Illusions and leader in unbiased vaccine impact research,

“Why must such a ‘wonderful product’ be forced on people?”

If you read nothing else outside the mainstream, read her well documented and comprehensive article “The Truth About Measles the Mainstream Media is Suppressing” and be prepared to be outraged.

But you need not believe me or her. Go right now to the Centers for Disease Control website and read the statistics for yourself. Measles is not the dread disease they want you to believe it is. During our recent US measles “epidemic” which I have to point has affected about 125 people at last report, no one has died. In fact, in this country over the last ten years, there have been zero measles deaths. Zero. In that same time period, there have been 86 deaths from MMR vaccine – 68 of them in children under 3 years old. And there were nearly 2,000 disabled, per VAERS data. Anyone can research disease incidence by reading MMWR (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report) from the CDC and accessing the search engine for VAERS.

To put it in perspective, go read the CDC tracking statistics for the flu, or mumps, typhoid, rabies, or any other reportable disease. People have far more to fear from the flu than measles, but Merck isn’t facing litigation after being accused of falsifying data to show invalid efficacy of the flu vaccine–they openly admit it doesn’t work–as it is facing litigation surrounding accusations of falsifying data regarding the efficacy of the mumps vaccine (a component of the MMR–measles, mumps, rubella combined vaccine) and CDC whistle blower Dr. William Thompson is not preparing to testify against the flu vaccine as he is about to testify in Congress that data showing an MMR vaccine/autism link was purposely withheld in a 2004 paper he co-authored.

In light of the scandals that are not being reported in the mainstream media, it’s hard to believe that the current media madness isn’t a perfectly orchestrated smokescreen.

Data Manipulation & Omission

While you are reading the statistics take note of a category of infected labeled “unknown vaccination history.” This is just one of the ways that the information is manipulated to scare you and gain public support of mandatory vaccination. While pro-vaxxers love to scream “pseudo science” at the independent studies that shed doubt (or outright disbelief) on the safety, efficacy, and necessity of vaccination, the CDC is basically getting away with saying “Duh, we just don’t know.”

I contend that they do know, but the telling would threaten their hold.  In a message to practitioners who must report all cases of measles and vaccination history to the CDC, doctors are told that written or electronic evidence of vaccination must be used to verify vaccination status.

How many adults could produce this? I know that I was fully vaccinated as an infant/child according to the guidelines for my date of birth. Due to international travel as a child and young adult, I probably was vaccinated more than many people my age, yet I would be unable to produce any evidence to that effect. If I were to contract measles, I could not be listed in the vaccinated category even though I was. You’ll notice every outbreak includes some people who are able to produce evidence of full vaccination and often a significant portion of those infected fall into the “unknown” category. If only some of those in the unknown category were vaccinated (and I believe it would be more like most as those who do not vaccinate know that they do not vaccinate) the percentage of vaccinated people contracting the virus in every outbreak is much higher than is being reported.

Don’t take my word for it. Take a look at the most recent MMWR Report released 2/13/15. It says,

“Among the 110 California patients, 49 (45%) were unvaccinated; five (5%) had 1 dose of measles-containing vaccine, seven (6%) had 2 doses, one (1%) had 3 doses, 47 (43%) had unknown or undocumented vaccination status, and one (1%) had immunoglobulin G seropositivity documented, which indicates prior vaccination or measles infection at an undetermined time. Twelve of the unvaccinated patients were infants too young to be vaccinated. Among the 37 remain- ing vaccine-eligible patients, 28 (67%) were intentionally unvaccinated because of personal beliefs, and one was on an alternative plan for vaccination. Among the 28 intentionally unvaccinated patients, 18 were children (aged <18 years), and 10 were adults. Patients range in age from 6 weeks to 70 years; the median age is 22 years. “

Take note of the words “unknown or undocumented,” represent 43 percent of the cases cited.

In a final lie of omission nobody is mentioning documented allegedly vaccine preventable disease outbreaks in which everyone infected had been vaccinated.

 Pasting is So Much Easier Than Investigating

The current hysteria is characterized by some of the crappiest,lazy, inflammatory journalism I’ve ever seen. I am haunted by visions of my journalism professors and newspaper editors collectively rolling their eyes at the mass exodus from the mission of unbiased reporting. Where are the interviews with experts with opposing opinions? Where is the data research? What happened to objectivity? Most reports are 90 percent verbatim regurgitation of text from the local health department website (which often includes factual errors) and 10 percent sensationalized warnings.

Reporters use every opportunity to mention that most infected were not vaccinated. This indicates that some were, but there is apparently no need to talk about that.

I’ve read countless reports about the lone Texas confirmed measles case and nobody ever mentions his vaccination status. Hmmm. One report alluded that the Texas case was “linked-in part” to the Disney outbreak. It was not. He was returning from India.  Countless reports warned that “hundreds may have been exposed.” Now ask how many other people in Texas have been diagnosed with measles since the traveler’s return January 6. I’ll tell you. Zero. But you won’t find any sensational headlines announcing that.

Media driven hysteria is running rampant with the same tired headlines about impending doom covering the nation. One that stands out was the Oregon story about a “possible” measles case in a high school student. A large graphic that read “measles outbreak” was embedded in the online story. Twenty-two unvaccinated students were told not to return to school for 21 days. But guess what–the student did not have measles. Oregon recently had two other incidents of public scares with multiple media outlets reporting “suspected measles” but it was later revealed that they had been false alarms.

Another favorite is to falsely report that non-vaccination rates are climbing creating a threat to the immuocompromised despite the National Immunization Survey performed by the CDC indicating that vaccination rates have held steady at above 90 percent since 1996 and this alleged threat is simply not coming to fruition.

All this commotion is over a mild disease that has brought no lasting harm to anyone in this country for more than 10 years and appears already to be on the decline this year. See the graphic below from the 2/13/15 MMWR that shows measles cases dwindling in the hardest hit state of California. Remember the swine flu and Ebola were going to kill us all too. They need us good and scared to sell their product.
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What’s the Motivation?

And none of that addresses the groundless implication that unvaccinated children are walking vessels of diseases, or that their parents would purposely expose others, or that most adults in this country are not vaccinated according to CDC recommendations. Unless you’ve had a pertussis vaccine within the last year you are not immune as the CDC states immunity (if ever achieved) begins to wane after a year and recommends a booster every 10 years and in the third trimester of each pregnancy.  If you hold that unvaccinated children are to blame for the rise in whooping cough (a theory that the CDC denounces, by the way, admitting that the vaccine is ineffective) and you are not getting regular Tdap  boosters then doesn’t that make you just as responsible?

There is so much more to say about this multi-faceted issue as I haven’t even touched upon the natural design of immunity, the fact that in addition to having the highest vaccination rate, we also have the highest child mortality rate when compared to developed nations, or that disease and mortality rates were plummeting long before vaccines were introduced, but I suspect I’ve already gone on too long and this is best addressed in a part 2. So, I’ll wrap this up with a final thought. Consider for a moment that I have nothing to gain in making this argument. In fact, the mere revealing of my position could potentially cost me. I’m bracing for the backlash as I prepare to press the publish button.

However the price I might pay is incomparable to that of the doctors who risk their professional status and very livelihood by stepping out of Big Pharma’s good graces in the interest of providing the public the opportunity to make an informed choice.

No matter what your choice is on this issue, and I hope it forever remains your choice, remember that the pharmaceutical companies with hundreds more vaccines in the pipeline, on the other hand, have everything to gain in deceiving you.

A Whiney Self Indulgent Puke Post

It’s been a suckass week beginning with six hours of violent vomiting Sunday, rising to a mid-week farewell to my Sailor Boy, and culminating with Little Guy’s fist in my stomach Friday afternoon.

My illness triggered the avalanche, my slow recovery and Sailor Boy and his precious Love’s departure AGAIN, kept the boulders tumbling. My adopted kids do not cope well with me being anything short of vivacious. For them, any show of weakness is a warning that I may just disappear completely. The slide into their primal brains where they know only flight or fight is quick and easy and I wasn’t able to throw out any rescue lines from my nauseated puddle on the bathroom floor.

Little Guy has been aggressive and uncooperative at school and Little Sister has been honing her thievery and demolition skills while not sleeping EVER and resultingly becoming increasingly irritable. Throw in lingering nausea, malaise, and a teething baby and welcome to my week. Did I mention that it sucked ass?

I thought things peaked the morning Little Sister decided to chew up her fish oil capsule and spit it all over me–nothing like the smell of fish oil mixed with someone else’s saliva  in your hair to soothe an upset stomach–herself, and the kitchen then throw a fit in an effort to avoid going to school and facing the music for getting caught stealing the day before.

I was wrong.

Earlier this week, Little Guy had his Nintendo DS privileges revoked for being aggressive at school. He was told he could earn it back with three days of good behavior. The third day came and he reported all was well. In fact, his teacher had taken the time to write “Great Day” on his behavior log. I returned the DS, went to check the log and the festivities began.

Turns out he had failed to mention a physical altercation with a classmate the day before. I confiscated the DS and he attacked. He came at me with closed fists and seething rage. He screamed for half an hour. I haven’t seen him act like this in almost two years. It shook me. It hurt my feelings and left me wallowing in self pity.

It’s dark in this place at times, but I’m not supposed to talk about that. At a recent training with our Foster care agency, I was asked to comment on working with children diagnosed under the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, but was quickly shut down when I mentioned the static nature of these kids’ issues and the need to change the environment rather than trying to change the child (because in most cases of FASD it is not possible.) That doesn’t fit into the sugary sweet rescue model and heaven knows we wouldn’t want to frighten the new families with, well, the truth.

I’ve attended trainings focused on the need for respite and assistance to prevent secondary trauma and compassion fatigue to caregivers of special needs children.

Lovely sentiment, but these services do not exist.

I can’t even find an occasional babysitter for my infant foster daughter and in 2.5 years, I have never been able to find respite for my 8-year-old with FAS. My attempts always yield responses, but said responders slink back into the night when I begin to talk about the issues.

The neurologist is sympathetic and validates my woes as I let down my guard and weep in his office, sharing that his other parents of children with an FASD describe all the same behaviors, he pats my shoulder tells me that I’m doing a good job, and writes out prescriptions that we both know will likely do no good.

I subscribe to a Facebook support group for families parenting children with an FASD. Our stories are all the same. We are in chronic crises. We are exhausted. Our other children are suffering. Some of us are being physically abused by our children. There is no solution and outsiders often undermine our efforts. Just this week, my daughter had a teacher lie to cover for her after she stole school supplies from another teacher. The second teacher claimed to have given them to my daughter even though my daughter confessed to having stolen them. The teacher who was the victim of her theft failed to require my daughter to make amends with a service or chore, as I directed, for reasons I cannot explain. She hasn’t responded to my requests for a team meeting so that we can all revisit her IEP and make sure it’s being followed–as required by law.

It is a never ending battle on every front. Usually I’m a mighty warrior, often even enjoying the quest for victory, but this week when my internal forces came under attack, as well, I was defenseless and threw up the flag along with my guts.

I’ve cried. A. Lot. I’ve been unforgiving. I’ve been angry. I’ve confronted my family about their failings. I’ve asked “why me?” I’ve cursed every aspect of this process that has often left me lonely, afraid, powerless, and at the receiving end of blows from a child who I would give my eyes to save. I’ve been pissed off at their birth parents, their workers, a system that runs on deception, a lack of services, a lack of understanding, uneducated educators, inept practitioners, and the fucking rain. I allowed myself a long overdue meltdown.

I’m done now. My appetite returned on Friday relieving the weakness I had felt all week. By Saturday I was able to resume exercising. After a meltdown of his own, Little Guy was overcome with remorse and eager to regain my favor. I’ve never been able to resist his charms long and we are good again. We forgot to set the bedroom alarm last night, and Little Sister raided my purse in the night to which I responded unemotionally accepting this is a product of her disability and not a personal attack.

It stopped raining.

Navigating the Minefield

The last two weeks with her have been torture and I am feeling defeated.  I no longer believe that my adopted daughter will ever attach to our family and the misery of the effort is becoming unbearable.

We’ve been dealing with escalating behaviors that nobody wants to hear about, but I’m going to talk about anyway.

imageShe hates me. She hates our family. She hates herself. I can’t say that I’m her biggest fan right now, either. Her internalized sense of worthlessnes manifests as rage. Her brain damage keeps her from recovering. Too many moves, too many broken promises, and a brain damaged by in utero exposure to alcohol and narcotics have broken her.

This is where most people want to offer encouraging words about love and time. Please don’t.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome results in static encephalopathy. Simply stated: unchanging brain damage. It is not going to get better.

Ever.

Throw in a heaping dose of Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)–mental illness caused by a breakdown in early parent-child attachment–and the already gloomy picture darkens. In her recent Yahoo News story about adoption dissolution “Giving away ‘Anatoly Z.’ author Lisa Belkin called RAD and FAS “the twin land mines of adoption.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

She’s gone and she’s not coming back. In fact, I can only realistically expect her behaviors to worsen as she ages. The general consensus is that despite usually normal IQs, kids with an FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder–an umbrella term for all diagnosis related to in utero alcohol exposure) tend to operate at about half their chronological age. This means an ever widening gap. Most have learning disabilities and deficits in executive functions. They have problems with impulse control, self regulation, memory, judgement, cause and effect, and abstract concepts. This translates into a child who is measurably “normal” exhibiting out of control behavior, is academically delayed or stagnant, and never learns from past experiences. There is a need for someone to always act as an external conscience because they never internalize one.

For many there is also a hypersexualized element surfacing at a very early age. There is an expression in this bizarre world in which I now reside that summarizes the outcome-“The boys get locked up and the girls get knocked up.” We already must keep constant vigil with my 8-year-old to prevent inappropriate behavior with boys and men–including her own brother.

Although kids can sometimes recover or at least improve from RAD with therapeutic parenting, those with the dual diagnosis FASD/RAD usually do not. There are exceptions. They are few and far between. The norm is thousands of families living in crisis with children whose behavior is difficult and strange at best and dangerous at worst with no hope of ever getting better.

I live with it everyday and I hear the stories from others on the support boards I belong to. Every time I begin to believe we have made some progress, I am slapped in the face with a reminder that things are actually worse than I thought. Although her overt raging tantrums have subsided, she simply traded them in for more subdued and more disturbing passive aggressive behaviors. She’s becoming more skilled at dysfunction.

I empty the pencil shavings and shredded paper she hoards from her pockets and pillowcase. I keep constant watch. I can never leave anything unattended within her reach or she will break/shred it as soon as my back is turned. I must send her to her room and set the alarm so that I can use the restroom. I must ration toothpaste and soap or she will fingerpaint all over the bathroom with it. I can’t leave a toilet brush in the bathroom or she will use it to play with her feces. She spits and urinates on the bathroom floor. She steals school supplies and hair clips from her classmates. She raids my purse. She discovered that if she opened and closed her bedroom door quickly enough, the alarm wouldn’t sound long enough to wake anyone and was prowling the house at night. I discovered this when I found a video on my phone she had made of herself singing and acting seductively. That was pretty disturbing to watch.

I regularly “flip” her room to find scissors and countless other stolen items and rotting hoarded food wrapped up in clothing hidden in her drawers. I also find the shredded remains of items destroyed by said scissors under her mattress and mounded in strange piles in the corners. She never expresses any concern or remorse when confronted about these transgressions. I feel like I live in a prison.

Save the other families who live in this world, we are alone. Many of our kids are master manipulators and we deal with an ever shrinking circle as those within it buy into the performance and become convinced that we are either lying or crazy. The concept of mental illness in children is so disturbing that we’d rather call it anything else and blame the caregiver. I rarely talk about any of this to anyone but her therapist because I really can’t handle the empty future projections or judgement.

My daughter’s personality is so fractured that she can become a completely different person with a change in audience. She is the master of doe-eyed feigned helplessness in the presence of other adults, a controlling bully with her peers, and wildly extroverted and sassy with older kids/young adults. A favorite behavior of hers is to follow me around at a gathering making repeated requests for me to get her food. After the fourth or fifth time when I tell her “no more” she’ll wait for an audience and ask again so she can appear to be the victim of the heartless mother who won’t feed her.

This was especially delightful when at a recent gathering round the fire, she stood to make sure she had everyone’s attention and said in her best polite innocent voice, “Mommy, may I have a kiss?” She was talking about a Hershey’s chocolate kiss and had already been told “no more” after several servings, but the shocked response was palpable when I told her to sit down. I gotta admit, it was a pretty clever tactic and we all had a chuckle when I explained. Later, at the same event, I had to physically move her after she nestled up next to an adult male friend.

Our efforts to protect other people and property from our children who lose all control when unsupervised is perceived as fanatical and controlling. I watch my daughter always and her IEP requires constant supervision at school. This is for her protection as well as other children’s. She cannot control her impulses when unsupervised and is also very easily led. Although not inherently aggressive, another child convinced her to throw a rock at a classmate on the playground last year. FASDers are rarely the masterminds behind the crime, but are easily convinced to drive the getaway car.

We live with locks and alarms. Some are afraid of their own children–the boys, especially, but also many girls tend to be aggressive and I’ve read countless stories of parents and siblings being seriously harmed by their children/siblings. I’m talking broken bones. Some parents sleep with weapons bedside.

Our lives are full of acronyms like ARD and IEP. We can’t find any resources for help (because except in tiny corners of the planet, they do not exist.) Therapists fire us. Knowledgeable practitioners are rare and overbooked. My daughter has waited nine months for her three month follow-up with the neurologist because his schedule was full. I made 29 calls and spent hours on hold before I could find a pediatric neurologist an hour away who accepted her insurance and was accepting new patients to begin with. In the time that we’ve waited to see him again, her sleep medication prescription has expired twice and I was never able to get them to call in a refill the second time. I now have a sleep deprived mentally ill, brain damaged child under my roof. It’s very bad.

It’s not going to get better. As all parents of children with an FASD eventually do, we are about to venture into the world of psychotropic meds to try to mitigate some of the behaviors. Most of our kids wind up on a cocktail of a sleep aid, stimulant, and mood stabilizer after much trial and error and often worsening symptoms. Even when a workable combination is found, it is ever changing as children grow and meds cease to be effective. Always a proponent of an unmedicated approach, it is with deep sorrow that I find myself here.

Her sleep deprivation and resulting foul mood, the unpredictable holiday scheduling, and visitors creating a parade of new audiences has had her spiraling out of control. She has told me point blank many times that she does not want to be here and is doing everything in her power to break my will to make her stay. As I worry about her treatment of my younger son who was also adopted, but is attached and thriving, see her glare at the new foster baby who just joined us, and look down the endless road to nowhere, surrender seems more and more the rational decision.

Christmas Kerbobble

I wish I could say the season had my eyes all aglow. I truly envy friends who love Christmas and are full of joy this time of year. Complicated by the parenting special needs adoptees thing, a child who is not coping well this season, and haunting feelings that my aim has fallen short, I must admit the whole christmas thing has me a bit kerbobbled. It has been evolving for me over the years and now that the bustle has quieted a kind of sadness is seeping in.

I spend the entire holiday season engaged in internal battle. I’m torn between my desire to abandon the entire thing and take a cruise and my desire for my children to experience the magic. There is never enough time and there is always compromise. I try to convince myself that I’m doing it all my way only to emerge on the other side feeling a little dirty.

My older children were all homeschooled through the “Santa years,” their television viewing was pretty limited, and we were far removed from family leaving them mostly free from outside influences. Their desires were few and their joy contagious. It was so much simpler then. Now, that seems like something that happened in another universe.

My younger children attend public school and have been submerged in the cultural madness that has turned a single religious holiday into an all encompassing national seasonal phenomenon of over indulgence. My youngest recently informed me that it is Santa Clause’s job to bring him presents with an air of entitlement that I’m still coming to terms with. His demands for an “elf on the shelf” pushed my patience to the brink. Although we chose to eliminate Santa visits after wish lists began to sound more like ransom notes, the school provided a spin on the jolly elf’s lap without my consent.

imageMaybe we didn’t venture out as much back then, or maybe it’s the in your face nature of the Internet, or maybe I’m just more raw now, but I find the intensity and duration of the season overwhelming and a bit soul crushing. I don’t have the endurance to maintain the enthusiasm for months on end and wouldn’t want to even if I could.

Everywhere we go someone asks, “Are you ready for Christmas?” The children are asked what Santa is going to bring them. I’m bothered by the assumption that we participate and my heart aches for those who don’t. Not because I think they should, but rather because I find it annoying and it is my cultural tradition. I can only imagine how horrible it would be to have this all crammed down your throat when it is not. I’m tortured by my attempt to find a balance between showing those I love how much they mean to me and waking December 26th with my integrity intact.

I despise the idea that I “should” do anything the last six weeks of the year and have been working to define our own practices. I stopped sending Christmas cards years ago and pledged to express my gratitude to those who impact my life every day of the year. Courtesy of Hallmark, I’m fully aware that this choice may be perceived as a slight by some. I remember years ago a friend telling me that if someone went two years without sending her a Christmas card then they were off her list. Ouch. Beware the Christmas wrath.

Ugly Sweater party --one of the season's highlights.

Ugly Sweater party –one of the season’s highlights.

We’ve scaled back gift giving, limiting it to small doses for immediate family, choosing to host a party for our friends, and focus more on doing and being together. Again, there is the danger of hurt feelings in this choice and that is the core of my unease.

I completely reject the practice of enabling entitlement and have forbidden my children from making lists or writing to Santa. This became necessary after I heard Little Guy complaining about the one request that wasn’t granted last year–a skateboard because he was 5 and lacked the coordination for it–but couldn’t name a single item that he had received which among others included a new bike.

As the month of December wore on this year, I became increasingly disgusted with the thinly veiled and escalating requests for handouts on my community’s Facebook page by mothers lamenting that they couldn’t give their children the Christmas they “deserve.”

I’ve heard everything from grief to panic expressed by friends and strangers. And from those parenting special needs children whose wires are already crossed and often suffer complete meltdown under the holiday stress, I’ve heard outright hatred spoken. The existence of the phrase “holiday stress” should be an easy indication that we’re not doing it right.

Even as I write this I know that I may be misunderstood and receive one of those monikers reserved for nasties with no holiday spirit. There in lies the kerbobble. Anyone who knows me will testify that my nature is generous and I care deeply for my fellow travelers. My discomfort is not with giving, or sharing, or a lost spiritual meaning. No “reason for the season” bit here–that’s not my shtick. I’m not even suggesting that anyone should stop doing anything that brings them joy.

It’s just too much for me. I’m perplexed as to why we are all expected to buy in. Why do we year after year participate in this colossal merchandizing scheme when, for so many of us, it is downright painful or financially impossible. Why is opting out risking becoming a social pariah or crushing guilt? You’ve seen “Christmas with the Kranks,” right? Not so far from the truth.

I wish I could wrap this up with a final tidy sentiment, but I’m afraid I don’t have it quite figured out. I usually wait until my emotions are more settled before I put it in ink, but I need to get this funk out and move on.

I wish that I could rewrite the script to go something like “Hey, you do you and yours however you see fit and I’ll do the same. I will accept and appreciate any way you choose to or not to include me and mine and you do the same. Oh, and let’s cut it down to a couple of weeks next time and see how that goes.”

Maybe next year I’ll get it right.

Don’t Be a Richard

The subject of Internet anonymity and resulting hatefulness it seems to inspire has been heavy in my world lately and yesterday the weight became unbearable.  Recently, Big Sister created an Instagram profile @rethinkfeminism_  to explore feminist topics inviting polite debate with the goal of growing and learning.

Yesterday this debate took a terrifying turn after she shared a meme calling for the halt of verbal abuse toward women who had procured an abortion. One follower believed this to be a death worthy action and under the cloak of cyberspace was not afraid to tell her.  Here’s what I have to say to him.

Dear Captian [sic] Richard,
You don’t know me, but we need to talk. Seems yesterday you called my daughter a monster and wished a violent death upon her, assuring her that no one would care that she had been murdered, because she voiced a political opinion that differed from yours.

I’ve posted a screen shot of your public posts below just in case your memory is hazy.

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If you were looking to land a stinger, congratulations Dick–we can drop the formalities right, given your death wish and all?–you were successful. I admit I was wounded. In my defense, I never expected anyone to hasten the death of my beautiful, brilliant, precious, loving, generous 15-year-old child so I haven’t had opportunity to prepare–to still my mind and face this event without emotion.

My first response was defensive and protective. I’m a fierce mama bear and an attack on my children is an attack on me. I would protect them to my last dying breath. But I’m working on my zen so I took some deep breaths and a step back from myself to look at you.

But I can’t see you, Richard. You are hiding in the shadows of anonymity veiled by a screenname spewing hatred. I have to wonder if you would be so brave if I knew your real name? What if I knew your address? Could you be so vicious in front of her father? In front of your Mother? What if you had to own your words before all who can see you–would you have chosen more carefully? If you are not willing to attach your identity to your words then you are not brave, lost soul, you are a coward. A coward who hurts others is nothing but a bully.

You see, Richard, I’ve been at the business of parenting hurt kids for a very long time and though I claim to be an expert on nothing, I do know a thing or two about trauma. I know that such a rageful hate could only fester in a deep dark place of sorrow and fear. Anyone who would need to lash out in such a vengeful way must be in a lot of pain. For that I’m sorry. Really, truly sorry. My wish is for us all to always and only know love. Clearly, you’ve met something else.

I don’t know how old you are, but I want to believe that you are young. Firstly, because it means that you have lots of time to have other experiences that open your mind and grow your heart and secondly, because I would feel better knowing your words are born of immaturity rather than bitterness.

Lest there be no confusion, I want you to know that I have no problem with you disagreeing with my daughter. I would fight for your right to  express your opinions even though they are very different than hers (and mine), but we need to talk about your tactics. Apparently you have strong feelings on the subject, as so many do, but you are not doing your camp any favors with the name calling and death wishes. In fact, you may just get yourself labeled a maniacal loon and then nobody will want to play with you.

And could we take a last look at the contradiction that you are. You are vehemently pro-life, but hope for the death of someone who is pro-choice. So where exactly do you jump ship? Are you only pro-life situationally, like when everyone is agreeing with you? Is there an age limit? Are their racial or cultural criteria? Is it only my daughter’s life that has no value to you? C’mon Richard I’m afraid your behavior has left me confused and I’m not exactly sure what it is you stand for.

But I don’t need to understand. My mighty daughter was unmoved by you and has already handled your transgression (and improper word use) with a grace and maturity that you might want to take note of. Peace to you, Richard. I couldn’t tell it any better than she already has.

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