Tag Archives: women writers

End of the Line ?

Former foster children live a patchwork life, with bits of  small recollections of the past, often blurred by emotional pain. Most of their own heritage and lineage remains a complete mystery. Identity is shuffled and recreated in different foster homes. In adulthood it can remain precarious. A lifetime of sorting through a past they will never find, leaves them in the cold.

In my collaboration with other foster child advocates, we talk a lot about abuse cycles, attachment issues, success, stability and strength. What is often overlooked, outside of the adoption arena, is identity and the lack of a concrete past.

Me and my end
Me and my end

Dissimilar from adoptees taken or given away at birth, most foster children are taken from their biological families after attachments, negative or positive, have formed. Children enter the foster care system due to neglect, abuse, addictions of the parents, or abandonment.

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The Ebb and Flow of Letting Go

My nerves and heart were both tested this week. The realization that the world can intrude on the safe, secure space I have built for my mini me, came crashing. Former foster children who become loving parents are rocked hard deep in the soul even by minor intrusions on the children we have sometimes smothered for their own protection! 🙂

Me and my girl.
Me and my girl prepare for Santa’s visit!

Often our minds are flooded with the physical and emotional trials of our own past; innocence and trust ripped from us before we knew what either meant. The moments that flash like slide show images when insecurity, fear, doubt, and frustrations sit at our door as adults. It is startling. This is why many former foster children try not to love or attach to anything. For those like me, who ventured into loving motherhood, the slope is especially tricky. We are vulnerable, so is the object of our unconditional affection; it is a tough reality to face.

I have prided myself on being a good parent. Mini me trusts me, relies on me, she feels loved and wanted. Check. But what about what the rest of the world can do to this gentle creature I helped create? There are things I can protect her from and do; people I keep her far from, events and situations we avoid..but what about what is outside my grasp? This is something I had not considered.

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Getting Back on the Horse

 

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My proud girl and her new friend.

Sometimes I stumble. Actually, I stumble often.  Sometimes the past whispers in my ear, tells me I am not good enough, tells me my attainable goals are out of reach. It whispers I am not beautiful enough, smart enough, rich enough, strong enough, or worthy enough. My inner voice is polluted at times.

I heard somewhere, that as mothers, our words and actions to our children become their inner voice as adults. Nothing about parenting is more true. Being a former foster child, who was taken from  an abusive mother, my own inner voice sometimes has a deep, harrowing echo–it sneaks up on me at vulnerable times. It is especially loud during intimate moments and in small daily perceived failures.

Children who were foster children, or who suffered abuse by a  trusted parent often have a life-long emotional barricade. Physical wounds heal and people do move on. We look whole on the outside, we can grow and succeed, but that inner voice taunts. It pushes us to fail, to stop while we are on the path to emotional freedom.

It makes us hold our breath, it keeps us expecting hurt. Sometimes it invites hurt. Failures, personal or professional, seem par for the course. In fact, there is a comfort in being cast aside, or losing a professional goal. That nagging whisper tells us our negative inner voice is correct. It is  the lifelong impact of early abuse.

But, being a mother now always gives my soul another chance to drown that inner voice. This week, I watched my beautiful girl get up on a big horse and proudly trot around an incredible horse farm. Her bravery and confidence astounds me. Her inner voice is strong. When she is scared, she hears me telling her she is the most beautiful girl in the world. She hears her family telling her she can do it, telling her to try one more time.  She is whole and not fractured. She later climbed a fort, pulling herself up on ropes, and laughing at my fears. She is strong, where I am not.

My proud rider.
My proud rider.

She stumbles (not often), and she gets herself back up. I asked her how she is so brave. After all, she is now an aspiring artist. She is my little chef who studies french baking. She still climbs trees and likes to rock climb higher than I ever would! She nurtures every living creature, even the scary ones. Most importantly she always wants to help someone else. Only yesterday she asked me if she could do more to help foster kids. She is so proud of herself when she gets involved. She is selfless beyond any child I have met.

I felt so emotional watching her climb that horse. My daughter is everything I was not as a child. She is fearless.

On the way home, I told her I am so proud of her willingness to try so many things. Her response was: “I am so proud to have you as my mom, in all the universe there is not a better mom. That is why I get back up when I fall off!”

Me-- Just entering foster care after I was taken from my mother.
Me– Just entering foster care after I was taken from my mother.

This is what foster children, discarded children, and abused children need. They need what secure and loved children like my girl have; one consistent voice and presence urging them to be their best selves. Advocates can bring this to all children. Former foster children can create a new generation of givers in our own children. We can create strong women and men. Our own inner voices can be quieted for yet another day.

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This work by menaanne.wordpress.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

 

 

A Lesson in Living

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2002–Me, pregnant with my mini me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

As one of my favorite writers once said, when we rummage through our souls, we often find things we should have kept hidden. In my rummaging lately, nothing is more stirring than the first feeling of mini me’s hiccups in the womb. It was my first true biological connection to anyone, and it made me feel alive. Like I would have something that belonged to me. Like I finally mattered to something. Like the past was far, far behind. So, becoming a woman and creating this life..it was a lifeline. One I want again someday.

The smile on my face here is no mistake, I felt this miracle was an overdue payment from a higher power for early loss, fear, rejection and pain. I was taken from my mother at age 5, found abused and left in a basement, having been starved, unable to talk and obviously very isolated. I was placed in foster care and my sense of belonging to anything was gone. At first, I cried often for a sibling who was removed somewhere else. While I grew to develop relationships where I could, there was always something lurking and missing.

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Shedding Light on Forgotten Children

The last image I have of my mother is her sitting in a low chair, pregnant, with long straggly hair below her shoulders. I am maybe 9 years old, and she is crying to me. She is apologizing to me, she is promising me a new life, and then she is rambling nervously. Her eyes are mine, her hands even have the same texture. But she is so vastly different from my soft-hearted nature, she is starkly calculating and unnerved.

Even in my fear of her, I pitied her obvious weakness. We sat in a cell of some type that day, being watched by two social workers and a cop. I did not speak a word but felt hot tears nearly cut my skin as I tried to decipher my own feelings of hatred and fear. I saw her one time after that day and never again.

It is the stark image of her face, strained and nearly helpless, and the sound of someone kicking in a basement door that follows me sometimes. The smell of the musty air, the light being dim from a broken window, the cry of a boy beside me. And confusion. Mass confusion. Thankfully decades later, these memories are dull and they appear infrequently. They are sometimes jarred by someone’s touch, and other times, by my writing, my motherhood, and personal explorations.

This past week journalist Lisa Ling  gave viewers of the OWN network a harrowing look at the foster care system in Los Angeles in her documentary, “Children of the System.” The stories in the documentary re-opened old wounds, when  I was placed in foster care after being abused as a young girl.  In my advocacy writing, just as in my  parenting and all intimate aspects of my life, I do sometimes tread on thin ice.

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The Tracks–Home: Daily Prompt

railroad

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/03/03/prompt-our-house/

The train rushed past my house every 27 minutes or so bringing millions of strangers to and from one of the largest hubs in the world, Penn Station. The noise of the train rocked my street and at times, shattered its foundation. It trembled at odd hours and to me always seemed magical. When the temperatures dropped, you could see small blue flames light up the hot tracks. It seemed this beating heart was always present.

Nothing is more extravagant, noteworthy, historical, romantic, nostalgic, and more like a house with hidden stories, than New York’s railroad system. To me its pulse housed all the “home” I’ve known. It sheltered my hopes for love and life and mystery.

I spent countless hours as a child climbing over the platform to sit as close as possible to the track. Other times I would hide nearby and imagine stories about the businessman walking in a hurry, the Muslim woman carrying a child..the homeless man struggling for warmth on a train car. It was all fascinating to me. Where were they going? Were they happy? Were they at their last stop?

As I got older I would sometimes ride the train to Penn Station or any other stop just to feel the train beneath me. To see the magic of a new neighborhood, to roam the streets..to let the mighty car pull me away from my own lonely thoughts. Some of the greatest memories of my life happened on that train.

Riding with a lover, all dressed to venture the city’s music— to navigate our souls and bodies. ( I can still feel the sting of his facial hair against my skin as we huddled in the corner of the train car). I can see the sneering faces as we laughed over the noise of the rumbling engine. Young lovers can be so disruptive.

His body was as strong and as powerful as the MTA car it seemed.

I secretly wished that ride would never make it to its final destination. The train sheltered us from life’s blunders. From the realities of love and its inevitable losses.

Writing poems on the Metro North train while crossing the Hudson..watching the river beneath me almost crash through my skin from the dingy window. Bringing my daughter on her first subway ride, all bundled up as a wide eyed baby..just looking out in amazement at the world rushing past us.

Yes, that train was home to me. And it still is. When I go back and feel the familiar rocking below me, see the strangers altogether as a family for one short ride–I feel safe. I feel hidden.

I’ve often wandered if my very elusive idea of “home,” will ever find me. By this age, I pictured myself on a rounded porch, overlooking the landscape, huddled in the kitchen over a pot of sauce, writing by the window…watching the leaves and our lives change. Finding peace in my heart. The house smelling like garlic, the warmth of candles, the hissing of a heater, the low toil of family life, mini me stumbling in for meals.. the security of the same strong, handsome face coming down our long driveway.

They are delusions long buried under those tracks by now.

And while those daydreams are simply, well… childish fantasy, the tracks past my early home are very real. They are waiting for me to step on and feel that long lost feeling of hope and love and maybe magic just one more time.

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This work by menaanne.wordpress.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

Motherless Daughters and Womanhood

As a child in foster care, nothing was worse than seemingly meaningless holidays like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. As an elementary school girl, being forced into making empty family trees and pottery gifts brought the sting of unworthiness and a not-belonging that was at times difficult.

Me. the year I entered foster care.
Me. the year I entered foster care.

I was put in foster care at age 5 after I was found locked and hidden in my mothers-basement abused, not fed, unable to walk or speak. I was found with other children who were also abused. I did have adopted parents for a few short years, but they both died a couple of years after the adoption.

So for me, as a child, the idea of “parenting” was elusive. I heard stories and complaints about tough parents from friends. My friends complained about rules, regulations, bad marriages and the usual identity crises of my female friends with their mothers. To me, it was a foreign land.

Having a past that is strewn with missing links can make becoming a woman feel like a bad carnival ride. Lines are long and the scenery is dizzying.

Through years of mandated court visits with my mother, I found myself finally at age 10, studying her for those few quick moments with her. She was so mysterious to me. She was a violent woman, she was a neglectful woman, she had allowed abuses against me and other children. But she was always smiling and playing the part of victim during those visits. Her skin, her hands, her hair were like looking in a fast forwarded mirror. It was challenge not to feel a hatred and love or pity for this elusive woman who was so transient and confusing. I cared for her but feared her.

It was hard to catch up to my idea of her. Once she vanished for good, my young mind created fantasies of her. Maybe she was some lost, desperate soul who really thought the world of me, if only she could get past things that happened to her? If only. But truth is, that following year she was long gone, and at some point so was the fantasy of her, or of a father or male figure. And so I navigated alone and sometimes the compass I used was shaky at best.

I identified myself with friends’ parents, only to sometimes feel the sting of jealousy when I could see I was not truly apart of their circle. I did identify myself with other women, foster sisters, and again found myself as a person apart from them. Without sharing the same childhood or environment it was hard to build a deeper connection. Their influences though, were invaluable to me.

As I got older, it was easy to fall into place in lover’s families. I was always the first to attach to someone’s mother, more so than the man who shared my bed. I reveled in this idea of motherhood, womanhood, long before I was a mother or a woman. I found it intoxicating. This idea of steadiness, of sometimes craziness, this idea of protectiveness; it was foreign to me. It was also the driving force of many dreams.

Me and my mini me, 2013
Me and my mini me, 2013

Becoming a mother to me was the pinnacle of these hidden wishes. Looking at mini me’s face when she was born gave me a purpose. It was not just the purpose of creating a life, it also gave me some type of lineage; a source of pride instead of pain. I finally had someone who looked like me, someone who would feel that sense of protection,love, discipline, fairness from me….just as I had sought as a child.

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Should Pandora’s Box Be Opened?

My favorite writer, Rainer Maria Rilke says that we should leave certain questions unanswered in our hearts. Instead, he reiterates we should love the questions themselves, taking from them a curiosity and peace in their mystery. This is not an easy feat. When I was taken from my mother, I was found broken, burnt, nonverbal and locked in a basement, with a boy just a few years older than me. For years as a young child, the identity of this young boy plagued my dreams and instilled a child-like fantasy of lost brother and sister running down the street into each others arms.

ME!-1981 - Just entering foster care.
ME!-1981 – Just entering foster care.

I would watch tearful television reunions of mothers whose separation from their child (voluntary or not) somehow impacted their life. Forgiveness and tears always followed and everyone reunited years later, running off into the sunset, full of new colors. As a young, confused child, these Hollywood images were indeed saddening in many ways. Foster children, aside from dealing with abuse or neglect challenges, do also have a whirl of mystery surrounding their life. Identity is equally as challenging as safety and trust. Some, if not all foster children, use this fantasy as a self defense mechanism; it gives an abandoned or abused child the hope that they were loved in some way even by perpetrators of abuse.
Even into adulthood, some foster children remain hopeful that the orphan Annie musical is somehow written for them. Surely, every parent loves their child? Surely every parent regrets abusing/neglecting/ abandoning a child? Sadly, those statements are sometimes wrong. There are indeed many foster children and adopted children who go on a hunt for “real” family many years later and are successful. Wounds are healed, transgressions forgiven, and sometimes well-intentioned parents live up to the fantasy of loving protectors. They loved their child, they lost them due to some mistake made, and they have good souls.

Sadly, not all parents are benevolent. Not all biological families had good intentions. Abusers NEVER have good intentions. For foster children whose past involved physical, sexual or emotional abuse, I would say this “fantasy” does more harm than good.

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For Him (Daily Prompt)

Botticelli

 

His power is raw.
He unravels and exposes
me.

Dissects me.
Heals all of me.

His dark eyes startle me.
Stir me. Ache against me.
For me.

In dreams,
He trembles and climbs inside me
again and again
under our bare sky.

And I heal him.
Unravel him. Expose him.
Shield him.

And he stays…stays because
only he hears
the stifled knocking
coming from my heart.

-P

 

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/hes-shes-so-fine/

 

The Tao of Womanhood: Leadership..Pass it On

History’s strongest leaders rerouted their army when food supplies were cut off, they found creative ways to overcome hardship. They were respected, not just feared..and most importantly they sat across the table from known enemies and compromised for the sake of those that followed them.

Leadership is something we all need; as children and adults we need guidance..something or someone whose strengths outweigh our weaknesses. Someone who values our leadership qualities. For children who have not had a strong/moral/reliable/stable leader, such as former foster children, finding leadership as adults can be daunting.

Some revert to finding abusive leaders in relationships, just to feel safe. We all know the pitfalls of lack of permanency, abuse and neglect. However, former foster children also have the innate ability to be stronger leaders than the missing or abusive adults in their young life. It is my past pain in foster care as a child, that makes me a better mother and a better person now. This is possible for any former foster child.

Me and my mini me!
Me and my mini me!

To me, great leaders can reinvent themselves. They adapt to different situations with great stride. They come up with plan D when A, B and C fail. Most importantly, they are intelligent enough to know their own weaknesses, to seek help or self-improvement solutions. Leaders do not blame everyone else for their failures, they change their lifestyle to stay accountable to themselves through action.

True leaders earn respect by being personally successful, not just materially. Leaders stay in the game when things get tough, they are the last to leave under stress. And so they earn trust.

Former foster children are adaptable, they had no other choice. While other children were holding mom’s hand, some were stealing bread to survive. Others never slept for fear of who may come into their bedroom at night, but still got up and faced the world at age 7. Some walked the streets all night with no one calling them home. The safety boats and nets did not exist, and so they successfully navigated by themselves from infancy on through violence, neglect and chaos.

These horrible early experiences, which can reshape brain and emotional development, makes them more resilient to loss as adults. That pain can be re-harnessed into a positive sense of worth and leadership ability unequaled elsewhere.

My goal as a mother, given my childhood experiences in foster care, is to make sure mini me is a good leader as an adult and has the safety net to propel herself anywhere she wants in life. I think in many ways my past does cripple me, it does still keep me awake at night. I look in mini me’s innocent eyes and remember the pain I felt at her age. It is tough not to hold on tight to her. I am protective about who my daughter meets, where she goes; my past fears play a role in my close relationship to her.

But the past also has allowed me to accept things sometimes as they are, to try my hardest at anything before I give up, to pursue improving myself and to be consistent. I value people and am careful of what I discard. I have always been the main leader in my daughter’s life and I’ve earned her trust by putting other goals aside to be by her side every day.

I hope my leadership qualities, as a consistent, trustworthy, strong person stand out to her when she looks back on her childhood. By modelling this ability to be creative when life gets hard, hearts break,or dreams fail, I am creating a leader in mini me. And I hope she seeks a spouse who is a strong leader and respects her unique leadership abilities.

All I have ever wanted for her was to show her what I never knew; safety, security, and loving leadership.