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Bad

I live in a room

The door is locked

My mother is on the other side

I have a blanket

It’s okay

I’m okay

Sometimes I sleep

Sometimes my mother brings me food

So I eat

Sometimes I poop in the corner bucket

Mostly I wait

One day, strangers open the door

One is a lady

This is bad, she says

Very bad

Very very bad, the others nod

I look around at my room

My room is okay

Do they mean me?

Am I very very bad?

Police come to my room

Police get bad guys

This is bad, they say

Very, very bad

And then they get me

I never knew I was bad

They don’t take me to jail but almost

There are other kids

The lady screams at us

BE QUIET!

BE STILL!

STOP PULLING ON THE DOOR!

She sits on me

I’LL TEACH YOU. BE STILL!

I bite

The stranger lady comes back

She takes me to a new place

No biting! Be good, okay?

Biting is bad.

Very, very bad.

This house is cold

I don’t know these people, another strange lady and a man

The man is loud and big

I hide from him

Come here, let’s see who they brought!

The lady laughs

Poor thing.

Why does she think I’m poor?

He reaches under the table

I swing my fists and crawl away

He grabs my foot and drags me out

He is laughing, too

Tough little man, we just want to see you.

I kick my other foot and uh oh blood everywhere

He stops laughing

She yells and brings ice for his nose

STAY under there, then!

Ungrateful brat.

The lady comes back, rolling her eyes

At the next house she says

Watch out he kicks and bites.

He’s wild, like an animal.

There is a big boy here

He says he’ll kill me in my sleep

I scream and scream

His mother says

SHUT THE HELL UP!

He hits my head every day

For months

He pinches

And touches

And makes me

NO

He will kill me if don’t

Or if I tell

This is too much

I slam his head into a wall

And kick and kick and kick him when he falls

The stranger lady moves me again

She says

This one’s violent.

Watch him.

I don’t understand any of this

These people are strangers, too

They smile and try to hold my hand

I just want to be safe

Don’t touch me.

I will not be sat on

Or dragged

Or hit

Or touched

Or scared

I will keep them all away with my spiky mean

No one will ever hurt me again

I am bad

I am very, very bad

 

***

I wrote this one day as I tried to imagine early life through our son’s eyes. He was a wild, screaming child when he and his sister arrived.

He came to us terrified and determined to keep himself safe, a need that still causes him to struggle to interact with others, to sleep and to feel secure.

As he grew more able to articulate his memories, much of his behavior became understandable, even when apparently unreasonable.

Hubby and I work hard to soothe his terror and tame his PTSD.

But I am not dreaming!

My dear friend wrote this brave post. I want you to see it, too. If you’ve had similar experiences (or know someone who has), you’ll appreciate this.  Really proud of her for sharing and letting others know they’re not alone. 

 

 

My throat is tight, I feel I am choking on air as my heart beats so fast! The windshield wipers go on in my car so I can see through the blur; but realize that its not the blur of a rain storm. Wip…

Source: But I am not dreaming!

Stranger Danger, Part 2

The elevator doors clunked shut just as I arrived, breathless. Slamming my hand on the stainless steel in frustration, I jabbed the elevator call button. Twice. Three times. A petite blonde woman rounded the corner. She eyed me and backed up a few steps. “You okay?” I must have looked as frantic as I felt.

“Yes, my daughter just got on the elevator with a stranger, and I need to catch up and make sure she’s okay.” I checked the numbers above her elevator. They’d stopped on the second floor. My truck was parked on the ground floor.

The woman relaxed and approached as the elevator chimed. We boarded. She was closest to the panel. “What floor?” In any other circumstance I’d be trying to place her accent, having a fascinating conversation about her home country.

Maybe my daughter hadn’t gotten off with him but I decided to take no chances. “Two, please.” The elevator lurched and creaked.

Her phone chirped and she answered. Her accented  “Hello?” echoed through the speaker on my phone.  She frowned at me.“How did you get my number?”

“I didn’t call you,” I said, confused. She waved the phone in my face. “This is not your number?” It was my number, but I hadn’t even touched the phone in my pocket. Distracted by her phone, the crack-crack-crack sound registered in my consciousness just a moment too late. Light exploded in my head.

Crumpling to the elevator floor, I remembered the article I’d read earlier that week. Some thieves could pick up credit card information by walking near your wallet. Cell phone thieves used similar technology. A phone thief, now? The irony seemed too great, but then I felt her slipping the cell from my pocket.

The elevator doors opened on the second floor. “All done?” The cheery male voice boomed into the small space with incongruous levity. My head lolled sideways; I saw the man from the hallway. “Yes, almost,” answered the woman.

Not a phone thief. She’s with him. She leaned over me again with a smirk. “Don’t you know?  Never let a child out of your sight. There are just too many crazy persons in the world.”

I tried to fight, to stand, to move, but my muscles betrayed me. Helpless, I watched as the man turned away, carrying the slumped form of my daughter.

Once again, I heard the taser, felt the surge. The woman spoke one last time as consciousness slid away. “Sweet dreams. Or, not.”

***

Heart pounding and sweat-soaked, I woke from this dream four nights ago. The terror, in my case, was imaginary.  For many victims of child trafficking, it is all too real.

Arkofhopeforchildren.org says 20.5 MILLION are victims worldwide. 1.5 million of these are within the U.S. And HALF of those victims are children.

Do something about child trafficking. Don’t wait for the elevator.

Visit hislittlefeet.org to start your research.

50 Shades of Disney Lies

Fifty www.flickr.com slash photos slash ellebnere

I just had a conversation with a friend about why I’m boycotting the 50 Shades movie.

In an article about 50 Shades (which I recommend) Kurt Bubna makes the excellent (and downright funny) observation, “I don’t need to taste poop to know that it’s bad . . .”

Right or wrong, I read the first book because everyone was freaking out—half my friends loved it, the other half despised it. I skimmed the second book, then read the last chapter of the third book because I overheard, “It’s okay; their story turns out fine,” and was interested to know the definition of “fine.”

Here’s my problem.

A young friend, 16 years old, mentioned that she and her mom are reading 50 Shades together. She thinks the series is phenomenal. I’m pretty sure this mother would not hand her daughter a porn DVD. However, she reads and discusses what I’d categorize as “NOT FOR MINORS” with her child. I’m all for sex education beginning at home, but—allowing our children to fill their minds with graphic depictions of sex acts? That’s just crazy talk.

These books are selling the same lie Disney movies have been cramming down impressionable little throats for years—which might be the reason so many have embraced the series. We’ve been well-prepped.

Storyline: Semi-socially-inept-super-clumsy-and-incredibly-naive young woman meets rich-handsome-older-arrogant-and-experienced man. She feels inadequate and unattractive. He sees her as a challenge and pursues, bolstering her self-esteem. He introduces her to new sexual experiences which she learns to like, and eventually he marries her.

Girl meets out-of-her-league Boy and changes herself completely to fit what he wants. They then live happily ever after.

It’s The Little Mermaid all over again. Oh, right, with sex and riding crops.

Anyone who has any sexual experience can tell you that it’s not like meeting for lunch. You don’t just walk away with no repercussions. It touches every facet of your life; emotional, mental, spiritual, physical, even medical. I know, I know, there are people out there who claim they can have a sexual encounter without any effect. They’re either sociopaths or liars.

My main concern is for the young women who are receiving the following messages:

1. Casual sex with a guy you just met is okay.

“Everybody’s doing it with pretty much everyone else” is just not true. Check out the statistics. More than half of high school students are virgins. If you believe the media (and 50 Shades), casual sex is the norm. However, Psychology Today highlights a study presented by Martin Monto and Anna Carey from the University of Portland showing surprising results, and according to a report from a 20-year study cited on the CDC website, high school sexual activity has either declined or remained static.

True, the numbers climb as survey participant ages rise, but even so, it’s important to research what the numbers really mean. An American Psychological Association report notes,“The term hookup focuses on the uncommitted nature of a sexual encounter rather than focus on what behaviors ‘count.’ The ambiguity of this term may allow individuals to adaptively manipulate others’ perceptions of their sexual behavior. Operational definitions of hookups differ among researchers.” (Underlining mine.)

In other words, “hookup” could simply mean kissing (and in some studies, kissing is included in the definition). Saying, “Alex and I hooked up last night,” might lead friends to infer you got busy, when you only just managed a slide into first base.

Casual sex is anything but. Another study found that “those who participated more in casual sex tended to have higher levels of anxiety, social anxiety, and depression.” Contrary to what 50 Shades suggests, having sex with someone you just met is a seriously bad idea.

2. Abusive sex is not a problem.

I have a serious issue with the way 50 Shades portrays abuse as “just another interesting lifestyle.” Sure, she’s a consenting adult, and in BookLand, this is all very safe and he is careful not to cross lines. Most of the time. (For the record, before proponents of BDSM call for my crucifixion: not all of the story’s interaction is abusive; however, there IS abuse involved throughout.Since originally publishing this, I’ve also been informed that the book does not accurately portray BDSM.)

Here’s the reality. An American is sexually assaulted every 107 seconds (I don’t have worldwide stats, but feel free to add them in the comments). 80% of those victims are under age 30. An unbelievable 44% are under the age of 18. In other words, almost 129,000 CHILDREN are assaulted each year. 68% of all assaults go unreported because of shame, threats, etc. Now, we’re telling our young women (and young men) that abuse is just a new kind of fun.

“Not only is it okay to try letting him abuse you, Honey, there’s no need to report it, because, well, your ‘inner goddess’ will like it. Eventually.” (One moment, while I have my tongue surgically removed from my cheek.)

3. If you change yourself, he will love you.

The book makes sort of a big deal that he pursues her because she is intriguing and challenging and different from all the other women he’s known. But then…he slowly molds her to be like those women, and she follows his lead. Soon, she’s allowing him to boss her around and inflict pain. But only in the Red Room, so…that’s okay then. (Wait, please. Sorry, more cheek-tongue surgery. It’s outpatient; this won’t take long.)

50 Shades isn’t the only offender in this arena; Disney begins the education early. Here it is: Naive girl needs rescuing (from her situation, from her abusers, from societal constraints, from herself). Therefore, strong, handsome—and usually rich—young man rescues her.

At our house, we are very selective about Disney movies, because the Disney Effect is a real thing. (We also don’t let them read 50 Shades…)

I am seriously concerned that my young friends (heck, even my adult friends) will read this book and think, “If only I do all the things he wants me to do, I will be able to keep his interest and we’ll live happily ever after.” 50 Shades is simply Disney Lies for Adults.

4. This lifestyle leads to Happily Ever After.

At the end of the trilogy, they’re happily married, romping with a child. Think back through your life. Did you marry everyone you dated? Of course not. Were those break-ups free of mess and pain? Likely not.

Take a moment to Google “dumped after sex.” Go ahead; I’ll wait. (Open a new browser, so you don’t lose this riveting post.) Here’s what I got: About 8,140,000 results (0.38 seconds). Yeah. Eight MILLION related articles.Now sure, some of those might be only semi-related, but let’s be real…nobody clicks past the fifth page of results anyway. (Just for the fun of it, I checked page 10…still related.)

The truth: in the book, this guy has left a trail of broken women, one of whom shows up. She’s mentally and emotionally destroyed, ready to kill herself. Sure, he marries the protagonist, but what about all the others? They certainly don’t get Happily Ever After With the Hunky Rich Guy.

In real life, Happily Ever After doesn’t just materialize. Relationships are hard work. Marriages end in disillusionment because, “I thought he was Prince Charming. Turns out, he’s just a toad.” No other human can meet all your needs. If you expect a man or woman to make you whole, you’re lame out of the starting gate. No way you’ll make it to the finish line.

We are all broken; Happily Ever After only occurs if we put in the time to make the relationship work, realizing that we and others are prone to mistakes. It CAN happen, but it won’t happen spontaneously. Unless you have a Fairy Godmother (sorry to burst your bubble…she’s imaginary), happy endings take work, forgiveness and commitment.

So there you have it. My 50 Shades rant. I thought about writing this post a few weeks ago but felt it was redundant; everyone has an opinion, and most of them are already published. After this morning’s conversation, I had to get it out. If you think I’m wrong, feel free to expound.

Just be sure to disagree nicely.

Don’t make me get my riding crop.

***

Photo courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/ellebnere/

The Letter

Writing 101 Assignment: You read it a letter. It affects you deeply, and you wish it could be returned to the person to which it’s addressed. Write a story about this encounter. Today’s twist: Approach this post in as few words as possible.

 

The social worker brought a letter. Their family finally made contact. 

Should I burn it?

 

Adoption= Witness Protection (Chapter 2: Reclusive Parenting)

Here’s something they don’t tell you in foster care classes: when you bring abused children into your home, you also have to avoid the abusers. Easy-peasy, if the kids are from Chicago and you live in Montana. When you live within a few miles, you have a choice. Move to Hawaii (yes, this happened…sadly, it didn’t happen to us) or stay away from places those parties may frequent.

Let me back up.

Prior to the kiddo’s arrival, I had a serious problem. A habit. Not crack, not weed. Not even CHOCOLATE. It’s shopping–but it’s definitely not what you think.

I don’t max out credit cards. I love hunting for deals. I was once applauded (not kidding) by a crowd of strangers at a local grocery store for saving 80% of my bill.

If I can get almost-new for almost-free, I am thrilled. If I can get NEW for almost-free, I’m even happier. And I was having an affair with Walmart. The first step in getting help is admitting you have a problem, but I didn’t think going to Walmart more than seven times a week was a problem. Getting help was not on my to-do list.

The second step to getting help is quitting cold turkey.

Everyone shops at Walmart. Everyone. Cute little grandmas, homeless guys, families with eight children, construction workers, young couples, bargain hunters…everyone. Including the people who used to house your newly arrived foster kids. And their biological family members.

This became crystal clear to me the first time I took them to Walmart. Suddenly, gazing at the crowd milling past us, I realized that if we ran into a family member, any of the following could happen:

1. The individual may take the children’s mental, physical and emotional well-being into consideration, be responsible and keep walking.

2. The individual (who had not been taking the children’s mental, physical or emotional well-being into consideration thus far) may approach us.

2a. The individual may hug the children, thank me for caring for them, and walk away.

2b. The individual may create a scene or even attempt to take the children.

I work as a recruiter, and “past behavior predicts future actions” is my rule of thumb when determining whether to hire a candidate. Unfair stereotyping or not, option 2b seemed the most likely, based on the information I had about the bio family’s prior behavior.

I left the cart full of groceries in the aisle and towed the kids straight to the car. Strap in. Let’s go. NOW.

(My apologies to the re-stocker…at least I hadn’t gotten to the frozen section yet.)

Thus ended my love affair with Walmart. Cold turkey. And I don’t mean the lunch meat I left in the cart.

For the next twelve months, Hubby and I took turns watching the kids at home whenever shopping was necessary. We went only to school, church and a local family restaurant (and even there, I scanned constantly for bogies). We spent free time time playing in the yard or the house, watching rented movies and playing board games. We didn’t talk about the kids on social media. We didn’t even tell extended family about the kids for almost a year.

We attained an unbelievably high level of appreciation for families in witness protection.

Their earliest years were spent in a much smaller environment, so the kids never even noticed, but the constraints were very difficult for Hubby and me. The toughest part was not being sure it would end.

A few things that help:

1. Explain the situation to those close to you. Most people have never seriously entertained the though of bringing a child into their home. They can’t even imagine your circumstances. Almost everyone will be interested and thankful you’ve shared, and will be willing to do what they can to help.

2. Don’t feel you have to explain to everyone. Honestly, over-sharing is my downfall. Strangers and those on the edges of your circle may be interested, but if they aren’t a key part of your lives, skip the details.

3. Get a babysitter. YOU NEED A BREAK. Don’t try to be “the strong one.” You are a better caregiver when you care for yourself. It’s not selfish; it’s survival.

If you’re in a similar situation, please remember that it won’t last forever. I once heard comedian and singer Mark Lowry say his favorite Bible verse was, “And it came to pass…” (Luke 2:1, I believe). It came to pass–it did not come to stay. Eventually, you move, or the kids get older and change, or you adopt them and realize that if anyone tries anything, the law is your friend. You stay aware, still have eyes on every stranger, still get raised eyebrows from your mom when you won’t let her take your kids to the mall without you. But know that it gets easier.

On the bright side, I lost 15 lbs thanks to the stress of being constantly vigilant, and I saved approximately $4,283.12 at Walmart. Or rather, not at Walmart.

Maybe one of these days we can use that money to move to Hawaii.

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