Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Changing some things up...

This blog is no longer in use, but the archive of posts will be left up. The email address of ndnsworld@gmail.com, will remain open, but will only be check periodically. To reach me faster, go to my FaceBook page.

Friday, February 10, 2017

"You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better." ~Anne Lamont

I haven't written much, recently, because this site was discovered by my son's father & became a source of continuous harassment. Sorta kills the mood to write, I guess.

I realized, recently, that I've become so accustomed to not speaking out when I'm mistreated & was shown how much my experiences can really help others. So, I tried an experiment. I tweeted one of the never ending string of harassing texts that I get.

I had never done this before, mostly because I don't want people to know what I put up with because then I get well-meaning, but largely unhelpful advice. But, also, because they normally go on for many more than the three screenshots that I managed to end this one in.







(No, his name isn't usually listed that way in my phone. But I didn't feel good about throwing his name out to Twitter.)


Immediately after posting, I started getting feedback from others who experience the same sort of issues related to their children.

I never used to understand when my elders wanted me against being with people who have incompatible cultures, but now I get it. And, when you add the controlling narcissist factor he's got going on, things escalate quickly.

So, last night, he discovers the tweeted conversation from 2/2. I received a call at 10:28 pm, which I answered, thinking something was wrong with my child, who is at visitation right now. However, when I answer I hear "Summer, I'm sick & fucking tired of being put on blast on your Twitter!" Naturally, I hung up, after calming telling him I was doing so, so that he would know he was not welcome to call me again. He immediately called back, which I did not answer; but did send his a text to tell him that I didn't wish to speak to him.  




This is a calm, normal conversation, relatively speaking. I refuse to fight or engage. And very often he ends up blocked from my phone. Unfortunately, I feel that isn't an option when our son is at visitation. So...

Anyhow, the moral of the story is: if even you feel like your own words or behaviors  make you look like a jackass...perhaps you should change those behaviors...

Thursday, January 5, 2017

With Every Breath of My Life I Will Be Ungrateful

People need to stop telling me to be grateful for the things that have happened to me because they "made me who I am." Really. Just stop. 

If that tired advice is the best you have, let's just discuss the weather. Because that topic will not end up anywhere you want to go.

I will not "thank god" for being brutalized. I will not "appreciate" being stalked. I will not "be grateful" for experiencing violence. I will not call it "god's plan" that I survived when others didn't. I will not say "god was watching out for me" because I'm still here, while so many have died at the hands of their abusers or, later, embraced and accelerated their own death to end the continual suffering that it had created in their life. 

No. With every breath of my life, I will be ungrateful.

The truth is, I can love who I am now, without "appreciating" the things that happened. Because if I embrace the idea that it's all for the best, in the end, then there is no reason to put in the work to protect others. And that I will always do. 

I am who I am in spite of the things that were done to me, not because of them. And I will do everything I can to keep such horrors from befalling any other human. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

On Stereotyping Natives as Costume & Privilege


In the last 24 hours, I've seen dozens of arguments about the costume issues, mostly from people simply wanting to exercise their privilege, and do whatever they want without care for the consequences to others--which is fine, if that's your deal, but be honest about it.

 I will be honest in saying that I have not read all the messages or threads that have been sent to me, in the last couple days. But I have something to say, as a Native woman and a community advocate that is actively working toward the betterment of our communities.

 It's easy for folks to sit around and argue these issues and justify why it is a "minor" issue or that it's "innocent" because no harm is intended, particularly when it has no real bearing on their lives. But the reality is that there are living, breathing people who are grappling with the fallout of these things every single day.

 I send my children out the door, every morning, and then I pray they come back unharmed because I know that they just walked out into a world whose ideas about them are based on lies told by Disney and horrible stereotypes formulated by Hollywood and history. I know my sons are in the group most likely, per capita, to be killed by police; my daughters 2.5x more likely than many of their peers to be raped. These realities aren't formed in a vacuum.

 Think inaccurate histories, mascots, TV shows, and, yes, even costumes don't matter? Of course they do. It all matters.

It matters because it teaches those kids something. It reinforces stereotypes, which continues structural inequality, which makes it difficult to address any of the social issues we have in Native communities. From suicide, to violence, to pipeline wars. It's all interconnected.

 When we teach them false histories like with Pocahontas, or let them dress in stereotypical costumes, it tells them that it's ok to marginalize groups; that it's acceptable to disregard them; that none of our serious issues matter. That is a message that they receive in many ways, from many sources, from the time they are born. And that is something we need to address if we ever want to progress as a society.

 

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Bitter Sweet Symphony

Recently, Beautiful did a photo shoot for an annual model search. She had such a blast & is really a natural in front of the camera.

It's hard to teach people to be aware of their face, much less have control over it on the level required to be a good model, but she has it. I postulate that it's because she spent so much time non-verbal, and had to find other ways to communicate. The challenges of our lives shape us, just as much as the triumphs (if not more), it seems.

The moment when I first saw her raw photos on the screen hit like a truck. I was simultaneously struck by how talented and gorgeous she is, as well as the renewed realization of how far she has come.

Before my eyes, she has gone from a toddler that was selectively mute & whose case worker was concerned would never be able to form healthy attachments; to a kind, compassionate, wonderfully artistic, and expressive young woman. 

I remember so vividly, holding her hand for hours, to help her feel safe, so she could sleep, when she wasn't even two. I can still taste the tears that I cried, as I held her tiny toddler body through seizures & prayed, like I had never prayed for anything, that she would be ok. So many hours poured into research, to figure out ways to help her & to get her services that she needs. 

Advocating for not just her, but realizing the toll on her biological family & advocating for them during times I felt they were being discarded by the system, fundamentally changed who I am. It made me more empathetic & compassionate, more human. 

So, in that moment, while I looked at her face light up in pride, seeing herself the way we all see her, I was both awe struck at the strength of this young woman and so unbelievably sad for her biological family.

I'd love nothing more than to share these photos with her mother. That was something we used to do. I remember how happy is made her to see the photos of our daughter, in her costumes for dance recital. And I know that a few years ago she found photos of our girls online & posted them to her Facebook. So, she obviously still cares and enjoys seeing them. Yet she hasn't opened the door back up to receive updates or anything else, since her release from prison. 

I can only assume it means she feels she's not able to handle that, which is understandable. It must cause a lot of pain to know you're children are out there but to not be able to care for them. It has been suggested that I contact her, but I have decided against that because substance abuse & mental health Issues are difficult enough to navigate without someone introducing additional pain and upset at a time when you aren't prepared for it.

So, I shall continue on, as I have, focusing on raising her two oldest girls, and trying with all my abilities to help them be the best version of themselves that they can be. If she ever feels ready, she can find me, as I told both her & her mother, many times over. But I will always carry a metaphorical burden for her, and will pray for her (there's nothing else I can do), because I am fully aware that each wonderful moment & milestone is one that she missed, and that they have many unresolved questions that make their puzzle somewhat incomplete.

Endless work, with mixed rewards and a constant balancing act. Finding yourself connected to & caring about people you barely know, some of whom may have even done things that break your heart & outrage your senses; but, still, recognizing the humanity & the connection they have to the child you love more than life, and honoring that in and way possible. THAT is the reality of foster-adoption, done right. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Thoughts from my day...

Social work means seeing the best & the worst of humanity. 

It means the horrors of it human depravity, and rejoicing when people overcome adversity and achieve success, no matter how small.

It also means bearing the burdens of others, some of whom we help, and others that we will never meet. 

And professional confidentiality, which we protect for the best interests of all those we help, costs us greatly, as individuals, because it often means that we are unable to purge ourselves of the sometimes overwhelming painful emotions connected with this journey. 

Today my heart is heavy. So many thoughts. So much pain out there. Services are inadequate & often there are no real answers to the problems faced by so many. 

Hurting people, hurt people. 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Timeline of an Anxiety Attack

***Trigger warning

I’ve mentioned anxiety attacks & PTSD trigger, before, but many people don’t know what they really looks like. A couple months ago, I began talking my way through them by messaging my friend a play by play, of sorts. It helps me to stay more self-aware & feel more in control while I work through the anxiety attack. She has suggested to me that I might share one of these episodes so that others can have a better understanding of what happens. 

 Today, while at work, I was triggered. At first, I thought I could manage & pull it together, if I took a few minutes alone. This normally works but, not this time. Once I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to, I decided to take sick leave or the remainder of the day, so that I could get home, where I could fall apart without people staring at me.

12:43: Triggered. Find quiet place to focus & deep breath. 

12:45: Feelings of uncontrollable panic rising. Heart rate is increasing. Recognize that my breaths are shallow, so start focusing on breath control. 

12:58: Chest pains begin. Realize that anxiety attack is inevitable. Must hold it together long enough to get permission to leave work. Compartmentalization still working, but is very laborious. Physically shaking, trying to hide the signs of emotions & stay in control so I can speak.

1:04: As I’m shutting down my workstation, the Director comes to check on me. She’s worried. I compartmentalize well enough that no one ever really knows when I’m struggling with anxiety. In my two years there, I’ve never had an attack bad enough that I had to leave work. My voice cracks while I talk to her. I tell myself: “NO…hold it together. No tears. You’re a professional. No breaking down until you’re out of here.”

1:11: Drive out of parking lot.

1:14: Tears involuntarily fall. Not the type of crying like when you’re sad. It feels more like the tears of frustration. They’re from having to work so hard to keep it together until a more appropriate time. Only a few falls, then my body starts shaking.

1:19: Depersonalization/disassociation begins. It feels like being detached from yourself. I don’t actively feel the panic anymore. My body still has the physical reaction, so the process is still happening, on some level, but I’m no longer consciously aware of it. I always describe it as being in a mental fog. Everything feels a bit 1 dimensional, and not quite real. So, I consciously focus on breathing & making sure I’m extra careful in my driving, because my reflexes will be slower than usual.

1:24: Still consistently telling myself to stay clear headed and drive safely. Mentally talking myself through where other cars are on the road, my speed, every maneuver, etc. because the fog makes reaction times slower. Plus, talking myself through that helps me focus on something other than the anxiety attack that is causing horrendous chest pains, shortness of breath, etc.

1:33: Pull into my driveway. My neighbor is outside & wants to say “hi”. I wave, as I rush into the house. There is no way I can speak to anyone right now.

1:34: Lock the doors, not just to the house, but also my bedroom, so that I have somewhere I can feel safe.

1:35: Set alarm for time for after school kid arrival.

1:36: Turn off lights & lay in fetal position.

1:37: Concentrate on controlling breathing. Must not hyperventilate.

2:02: Breathing is more under control. Chest pains persist. Text a friend who deals with same struggle, to help refocus.

2:12: Order pizza, to be delivered later, because I know I won’t feel like cooking dinner. Thank god that can be done quickly, from a phone app.

2:37: Lying in the dark. TV is on, to drown out all outside sounds. Chest pains are gone, but heart rate remains elevated. Muscles at base of neck are so tense it’s painful. Somatic symptoms, also called body memories, begin. I won’t go into what mine are, specifically, but it’s painful & triggering. Lie in fetal position, focused on breathing.

2:43: Having to focus so intently on controlling breath, to keep from hyperventilating, is starting to feel like work. Feeling twinges of anger that I cannot fully control PTSD, or make it go away, just manage symptoms.

2:46: Body memories seem to have subsided, mostly. Still lots of overall tension. Still focusing on breath control but getting easier. Mild chest tightness. Tension headache starting. Taking ibuprofen.

2:50: Breathing not yet normal, but no longer having to consciously control. Heart rate still elevated but returning to normal. Fog clearing. Starting to really become more consciously aware of the muscle tension & stressed feeling. Going to close my eyes.

2:57: Throat feels like it’s trying to close up. It’s like a crushing feeling, from the tension. Head hurts. Chest tightness gone. Base of neck still in spasm but rest of body starting to relax. Muscles are aching from being tense for so long.

3:03: Feel completely drained. Eyes feel heavy. Lethargic. Like my body wants to shut down. Going to try to take a nap.

3:04: Text from a coworker, about work. Really don’t feel like I can do this right now. I need to take care of me. Don’t people know how hard this is? When you’re in the middle of this, your brain tells you that you may very well be dying, so asking me to answer questions about anything that isn’t life or death seems rather…well, I don’t have words right now. The worst part: I answered, because I feel obligated to help people, even when I should prioritize self-care.

3:07 Almost dozed off. Child’s voice startles me through the bedroom door, asking for a cookie. Heart rate elevated, again, from the startle reflex.

3:10: Adrenaline rush has passed. Eyes heavy, again. Want to shut down for a while.

3:11: Another text from coworker. Answer quickly & back to nap.

3:17: Startled awake by text message. Work again. Quick answer, eyes back closed.

3:47: Once again awakened by text about work, but notice that, this time, it woke but did not startle me. Heart rate normal. Anxiety attack officially over, just emotional frustration left from not being able to stop it. Headache is still quite painful and I still feel drained of all energy.

4:19: Pizza delivered. First time lights have been on. Sign receipt quickly so delivery man will go away.

4:20: Give pizza to kids (only one kid at home for a few days) & tell her I’ going to lie back down because I don’t feel well.

4:22: Normal energy level has resumed & attack is over. Mild headache remains. Proceed to eat my feelings.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Canceled visit

My kids' scheduled visits, this past weekend, with their dads were cancelled. It was nice to be able to have the weekend with them.

I'm always happy to take them, because they want to see their dads but visit weekends consist of a minimum of 8 hours of driving, split into two days. This, of course, means almost nothing else can be accomplished during those weekends and limits our family time to only two weekends a month. Naturally, since I'm the only adult supporting these kids, often I have things that have to be done on at least one weekend per month, just to make the juggle, which limits out time further. 

Weekdays, naturally, are consumed by school and the evening by homework & prep for the next school day. Which means, on an average month, we are generally left with only about one day per month where we are all together and can have family time, just doing something enjoyable. 

So, it was nice to have an unexpected extra weekend thrown in for us to hang out, together, and even check out the local medieval fair. The kids noticed, too, that having the extra weekend made a huge difference in our family time, because a few of them commented how nice it was; which made me feel good because they've all complained about us not having enough time.

The Bigs took the visit cancellation rather well. Wasband called and told them he had to work, so they understood. 

Relations between he & them have been improving, somewhat, lately. The last couple visits they've had, the kids have come back genuinely happy rather than stressed. When I asked what the difference was, they told me the gf wasn't home during the last visit and, the previous, they said she stayed locked in her room away from them. 

Honestly, I was a bit surprised to hear them express so clearly to be relieved she wasn't around, since they try so hard to please their dad. But, it does make sense.

I'm not really sure what's going on with Wasband, since we don't talk. All I know is the gf announced online that she left him & now he says he's gone on a job. So, hopefully this means he'll start working steady, again, like the responsible adult that he used to be. Not that there is any guarantee of benefit to me, if he does, but it will at least set a better example for our kids. 

I'm fighting a constant battle, right now, with the oldest because he no longer sees the value of education because "dad doesn't have a job, I'll be fine without one". It makes me cry & scream because I've raised him better than to just throw away his opportunities & settle for less than his potential. So, to watch him considering following such a poor example is hard enough. To realize it's coming from his father, the one person who was supposed to help me push him towards better, is devastating. Though, it does remind me that I made the right choice in leaving. Just got to keep this kid moving in the right direction, as much as I can. That's what I keep telling myself. ..

Monday, February 29, 2016

A Message to Wasband

Yes, I am aware that you read my blog and/or have someone else who reads it tell you what it says. While it's a boundary issue, particularly if it's someone other than you (because 3rd party interference has been an ongoing issue) stalking my blog isn't a crime, as it's open to the public. So, continue to enjoy.

However, if you have concerns about what you see, you should address them with me. I take great care to make sure that everything written here is accurate &, because I'm a respectful person, unnecessary details are spared. Though, the fact that I'm having to communicate this through a public post should confirm for the entire world that our communication needs work. 

I'm not sure what your particular concerns or outrage are, at this moment, as there is very little that has been published here that you wouldn't have known. After all, you're party to the case with our children, so you already know all those details & you've long had knowledge of my history as a survivor & that it has never interfered with my parenting. 

I'm sure reading about what I found out about someone I had dated was a jolt, but take note that as soon as I became aware of a potential future threat, I eliminated him from the equation. I didn't even wait for an actual threat to materialize. My children's safety comes before me (and, yes, my relationships) and I was willing to risk everything to keep them safe. 

Fortunately, I was able to work it out and avert disaster, but I had no way to predict & I could never allow anyone who had violated boundaries, or shown the potential to do so, around my children. That is how I think a parent's priorities should be & the standard that I believe we consent to when we choose to become parents, and even more so when we make the choice to adopt another's child. Because they are already having to overcome adversity & should not have that compounded by adults who are supposed to put them first.

So, there you are. A post just for you. Now, please...if you have concerns, please email me and let me know so that we can make actual progress and, hopefully, co-parent again, like we did in the past.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Be Kind

I often say that being a social worker is to have your heart broken daily. We see people who are in pain and who are struggling for things that most people take for granted. You learn to value even the small triumphs and, if you have empathy, you share the pain of individuals that are essentially strangers.

Having an overly developed ability to compartmentalize, I tend to be able to snap back pretty quickly, and carry on, even after having a woman cry to me about horrific abuse that she'd kept hidden for decades, but is finally reaching out for help, or whatever other scenario arises at that moment. Sometimes, though, there are cases that are familiar pain. Situations where you don't have to empathize to understand the pain, you just have to remember. Those are difficult.

Don't get me wrong, having endured the struggle means being better equipped to help, but those cases stay with you longer. Those are the tears you never forget, the people you continue to think about and pray for months, and even years, later.

Last week, I had one of those heartbreaking cases. Obviously, I can't disclose the details, but it certainly reminded me that some losses are felt forever, at least in some form.

If that had been the only hurdle, last week, it would've been manageable. Naturally, my life isn't that simple, and it was combined with an overly extended schedule (more so than usual) and some pretty significant stresses. The primary of which being meeting with my daughters' therapist to review Beautiful's treatment plan.

Due to the way things have progressed with visits with Wasband, and her increased anxiety, she had done an anxiety and depression assessment. Keep in mind, this had been done, previously, with no cause for concern. This time, though, she is officially getting an anxiety diagnosis and is showing as moderately depressed. This is sudden, and has only developed in recent months. When discussing all of these things, with her therapist, it always seems to come back to her dad (which is, of course, why he's now ordered to complete counseling but has so far not even scheduled it).

I cannot overstate how devastating it was to see that my previously well adjusted, happy daughter now reports that she "often" wishes she were dead. My heart hurts for her. I'm angry at her father for his contribution to this, and the fact that he doesn't seem to care. I believe that, if he can't prioritize the needs of his kids, when needed, he should just leave them alone; because they felt much more stable and were better adjusted when he was staying away. But I try not to think about that, because I don't want to invest energy into being angry.

In any event, I kept it together, all week, and saved my meltdown for Friday night. I let the kids fall asleep in front of a movie so that they wouldn't know I was crying in my room. When friends texted to chat, I politely told them that I didn't want to talk and they left me alone.

The next morning, I woke to a text that said, "Hope you're alive". I was still feeling some way, so I just said "I'm alive" before closing my eyes again. Then came the response "Good. I have had many a dark night. It's good to survive those." Wow. I hadn't even realized my response the previous night would cause concern, despite how out of character it is for me. I guess it never occurred to me that people worry about me.

I thanked my friend for checking on me, as I really hadn't realized how "not myself" I had been. In fact, I thought I had hid the pain pretty well, so I was surprised when it was seen as a red flag.

Don't get me wrong, I was not suicidal by any means, but my friend couldn't be sure so reached out. I remember sending that exact "hope you're alive" message to this same friend a couple years ago, after more than a couple sleepless nights, trying to talk through it, after my friend expressing to me the hopelessness that those who've struggled with suicidal ideations are all too familiar with. Thankfully, my friend has survived all those nights, and was still around to check on me. I am grateful for the existence of each person in my life. You ALL matter, and your life IS important.

It made me think of all the times, over the years that I'd done the same thing for friends, and even people I barely know. And I'm eternally grateful for the times people have been there for me, when j desperately needed it. Because, when you see someone drowning, you throw the life preserver that's sitting there, on deck. Maybe you won't be able to save them...but there's a much better chance than if you don't try at all.

So I made this post on my personal FaceBook, Saturday morning:
There have been many times I've wished I could drop everything & travel across the state or country, to be with a friend who needed somebody. Usually, I cannot, so I do what I can & listen.

There have been many sleepless nights, over the years, spent on phone calls or texting folks who were struggling, but I always wonder if I helped at all. But, this morning, I got a text from one of those friends, checking on Me & I realize how much it can matter just to have someone be grateful for your existence.

So I want to remind people that you can make a difference in the lives of other. Everyone has struggles, but the world is a much better place when we look for ways to help others with their burdens.

Even if you don't know how to help someone with whatever they're going through, just listen. Be there. Without judgement. Without religious guilt/advice. Just listen & let them know that they matter.


Honestly, I didn't expect anyone to read such a long social media post, but I wanted to put it out there, just in case.

As it turned out, I had multiple people thank me, and one tell me that it led to the mending of a previously estranged relationship. So, I'm glad I put it out there.

And now I will make the same request of everyone who reads this. Please, take time to check on those you care about. If you see a red flag, say something. Look for ways to help others in any way possible, even if it's only by being there to listen.


**In case you're worried, I am fine. I followed the advice I once got from a wise friend. Take one night to feel sorry for yourself and meltdown. The next day, though, get up and figure out which direction to go, to move forward. And, so I did. I feel better, now, thanks to the kindness of my friends, and feel like I can, once again, give strength to others.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Family update

I've been promising updates for a while, and have been frustratingly vague when folks ask me questions about the kids. For that, I apologize, but have been in court over my children's visitations with their fathers, and didn't want to jeopardize things. Likewise, I will be short on details in this update because I believe it's in the best interest of the children not to release any information that isn't already in the public records.

The Big Kids began visitation with their Dad in February of last year, after an extended period of him being absent from their lives, by his own choice. We were all hoping that it would go well and the kids were very excited about him reentering their lives.

Unfortunately, things didn't go as we had hoped. From the beginning, there were red flags, but it took a couple months for the kids to bring their concerns to me. The short version is, his live in girlfriend was engaging in inappropriate physical contact with our daughter, in his presence, as well as both adults saying things to her that would be out of line for any kid, but are particularly harmful to one who struggles with attachment issues.

My sons, who have been educated about abuse since they were small, recognized the grooming behaviors and one of them brought the concern to me. After talking to the children, and the therapist addressing the issue in multiple sessions, it seems that, to the best of our knowledge, that the conduct had not yet escalated to a criminal level, but was absolutely causing harm to her, and clearly inappropriate.

Discussing the matter with Wasband did no good and, unwilling to leave my child to be victimized, I had to file for some resolution in court. Once that happened, not surprisingly, the negative behavior during visits escalated, and therapy had to be increased to attempt to assist my daughter in processing things. There have been attempts to attack my character in that community, and many awful things have been said about me. But I accept that, because my first priority is to protect my children, so that is all that matters.

In any event, last week, I left court with an agreed and ordered safety plan for when the children have visitation. Wasband is to comply with all recommendations from the therapist, which will include therapy about appropriate boundaries and contact, as well as attachment therapy with our daughter. 

The offending girlfriend, who I recently learned has previously been accused of making sexual advances on a young teen boy, is not allowed to be unsupervised with any of my children. She is also not to have physical contact with the children. We will have a status hearing in 6 months, to see how things are going.

While it's not the best, it puts some protections in place. Unfortunately, our laws are extremely reactionary and won't actually limit his "right" to visitation with his children unless or until the offenses have become criminal, or if the court tires of him violating their orders. So, this is really the best outcome that we could hope for, at this point (other than him actually prioritizing the needs of the children and being a responsible parent, of course). 

At the advice of the therapist, I have gone over safety parameters with all the kids & the fact that they are all to stay together, at all times, while at visits. It's awful to have to put such weight onto children but, when the adults responsible for their safety blatantly states that he sees no reason for a safety plan and has no intention of following through, (which begs the question of why he agreed to it, but I suspect his attorney advised him to because he was gambling with the possibility of supervised visitation), there's no other real choice. So, for now, I will just continue to hope and pray they are safe each time they visit him.



As the first paragraph eludes to, I'm also in court with the youngest's dad, but that hearing isn't for several days, and I'm too emotionally exhausted with that situation, at the moment, to discuss it. So, I will see about an update once it's over.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Blessings

This morning, I woke up in an empty house. The eerie silence is unexpectedly lonely.

My family celebrates Christmas on Christmas Eve, so our holiday jubilation was over by nightfall, last night. Not wanting to travel home, today, when all the businesses will be closed, I chose to drive back last night, after sending the baby off to his dad's & sending the others to bed at the gradnparents'.

So, in between the research & writing that I've been working on, all morning, I hear the emptiness of my home, and am reminded of years past. In 2010, I was a 1L in law school, and having to live away from my children. Having separated from my husband, and unable to afford to support my children on my own, my children were living with my parents, while I was staying in my second mother's spare room.

I remember crying for days, in my room, because I couldn't give my children any gifts. I never said anything to anyone, but she knew. She asked me to bring them over, to celebrate with her, because she knew it would help me feel less depressed.

I'll never forget how happy my kids were as they opened the gifts that she bought them. Honestly, I don't think they even noticed that none of their gifts actually came from me. They just remember spending an enjoyable Christmas with me, and we recount those memories on occasion.

This year, I was feeling some way about only being able to buy each of my kids a new pair of shoes. But, I kept reminding myself, their actual needs matter more than holiday gifts and I've been meeting those, so I shouldn't feel bad...but I have been. Yesterday, though, my family gave them so much & they  were surrounded by so much love, they don't notice that Mom didn't lavish them in superfluous gifts. And, really, that's all that matters.

I've been blessed to have wonderful family, both by birth & in the family that I have found along the way. I am grateful for each of them & what they have contributed to my life, and I only hope that I can be as much of a positive force in the lives of others.

I'm still alive, folks...

Apologies for my absence of late. I've gotten a couple inquiries about the silence, so thought I'd let everyone know I, and my amazing little family, are doing well. I'm currently in litigation over visitation issues, so I try to refrain from posting anything, so that it can't be twisted for nefarious purposes. Once that's settled, I will elaborate further.


Monday, June 29, 2015

Adoption final.

Today Lil Sis's adoption was finalized.

There's lots of bittersweet in adoption. I'm happy she has permanency, now, to help her heal. But I also weep for the pain & loss she has endured in her short life. 

I could probably fill pages with my contemplations about the complexities, but, right now, I'm off to take her to culture camp. Please take a moment to think or pray for her future...& for her mother. I know she has a lot of pain & loss in all this, as well. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Baby sister

There've been quite few twists & turns since the girls' baby sister was born. 

The original placement backed out & never picked her up from the hospital. She was taken to a state foster home, which was not ICWA compliant. The status of placement fluctuated nearly every day, it seemed.

At one point, they said they didn't want to move her until paternity test comes back but, since he hasn't even given his sample, that's at least a couple months away. I implored ICW to push the state to comply with ICWA, to minimize respeated moves, especially as she gets older.

At one point, I was asked to take placement again. I agreed & the overfill request was made. In the meantime, the state was saying they didn't want to move her to me because the distance was inconvenient for visits with the bios. They make the same excuse about sibling visits. 

In the end, ICW & the state staffed the case & decided to place the baby in a kinship placement--a family member of the mother. Naturally, this concerns me because both of her other sisters were placed with maternal family members & it ended badly. Granted, these are not the se individuals, but it feels like a gamble, given the overall history. But, they say it's in her "best interest" because she'll still be with bio relatives, and I have too many kids already. 

I asked about the sibling contact. ICW says they will "encourage" them to do that but they won't make it a condition of placement because the girls have never lived together so there's "no existing relationship". 

This feels very much like a repeat of when Lil Sis was born & they did a 180, sending her home with her mother. I know it is out of my hands, so all I can do is keep taking care of the babies in my home & keep praying for the baby that's out there.

I sincerely hope this placement turns out differently than the ones the other girls endured. I would never want another child to go through what her sisters did. And I sincerely hope that this family member's sudden interest in getting to know my girls & having sibling contact is real, and not just empty words to get placement. Only time will tell. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

ICWA

It is tragic that ICWA is even necessary. However, the reality is that it is not only necessary, but needs to be strengthened. The new guidelines need to be codified & enforced. There should be consequences for deliberately disregarding the provisions of ICWA.

During my time as a foster parent & as a tribal attorney, I have heard numerous district court judges and state child welfare officials express their disdain for ICWA and their clear intention of disregarding it. 

In fact, in my oldest daughter's case, we had to take the unconventional step of asking her biological mother to place her with us in a guardianship. This became necessary because, despite no progress on her ISP, even though the child had been in care for three years, OK DHS planned to place the child back into the home. This was over the objection of ICW, which the huge dismissed, with the wave of a hand, calling it merely advisory, since his was not a tribal court. So, in order to keep her out of harms way, her mother consented to a guardianship because even she knew that her home was not a safe place for our daughter.

Fortunately, my Nation's ICW department remained involved and helped us to later complete an adoption so that she could have all the legal protections that entails.

When my daughter's younger sister was born, the county planned to pick the child up at birth, since her sister was already fostered in my home (prior to the guardianship). ICW concurred. The judge refused. 

As multiple child welfare referrals came in, ICW continues to request the child be taken into care. Instead she was placed in a "safety plan" with her grandmother, who had been deemed unsafe by the tribe and at least three counties, and who had already served prison time for multiple counts of child endangerment. 

Soon after, the grandmother disappeared, moving to the other side of the state. So, there was no supervision and she suffered abuse and neglect for years until, when she was 5, her grandmother was arrested for domestic violence.

Upon taking her into foster care, OK DHS did not notify the Choctaw Nation, as required by ICWA, despite the fact that her case file stated she was Native and would have detailed all of the previous ICW involvement.

I would later be told, by the parents in her initial foster home, that they were told that the plan was to wait to inform the tribe until she had been placed in their home long enough for de facto status, so that they could challenge any proposed placement change. They stated that they were promised an adoption, from the beginning, due to the case history.

As it turned out, I learned of the arrest and contacted ICW to see if she had been taken into care. When ICW located her, we began sibling visits, as the girls had not seen each other in approximately 4 years.

Once the foster family learned that ICW, rightfully, would not guarantee them an adoption due to the early stages of the case, they abruptly asked the she be removed from their home. 

So, I was given a spur of the moment choice by OK DHS: take placement or allow her to go to a shelter. 

She has been in my home for just over two years, now. If all goes as planned, the adoption should be completed by the end of the year.

The girls now have a younger sister, born a week ago. She is not placed in my home, but I am working with ICW to create relationships with her foster family so that the siblings can have each other in their lives.

If it was not for ICWA my girls would not have each other. The siblings would have been forever separated. If not for ICWA, my daughters would not know their Nation or their culture, as they had both been previously placed with non Native homes who had no desire to learn about, or create relationships with the tribal community. 

Without ICWA, Indian Country would have lost the wonderful gift of my daughters and all the potential they hold. 

Most importantly, if not for ICWA, my daughters' basic human right to their culture and their tribal family would have been violated. That, in itself, is an act of violence.

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Call

This afternoon I got a call that I knew would come at some point, but I still wasn't entirely ready for it.

My girls have a sister, born a few days ago. A state child welfare worker had called to ask me if I could go pick her up from the NICU tomorrow & accept placement. "Ummm...I'm gonna have to call you back. That's not a question that can be reasonably answered in a 5 minute phone call." 

I did ask if ICW had any other potential placements, since they almost always have people ready to take a newborn who's case is relatively low legal risk. She told me definitely they did not & we're counting on me to take placement.

Fortunately, my tribe has a wonderful ICW department. Before I was able to find the number for the worker assigned to that county, she had already called me. 

She told me she felt like the state was trying to pressure me into taking the placement & wanted to talk to me to make sure that, if I accepted, it was because I wanted to, rather than because I was being told she had nowhere else to go.

We had a good talk and it turned out we agree on what constitutes an ideal place my for the baby: sibling relationships, a tribal home willing to become permanent should she become legally free, and a family with enough room to grow when future siblings are born. I can give her the first 2, but in a crowded setting that would result in sacrifice for all children in the home. 

Plus there's no chance of future siblings coming here. I'm already at capacity &, at a certain point, when there's not enough time or energy to make sure all the children get the therapy (which every foster child over age 3 should get) or to spend time teachings them age appropriate boundaries, it isn't in their best interest to take more regardless of relation. 

I think we're at a state now where we could handle one, but that's all. There's only one of me & I have enough sense to know that just wanting to help isn't good enough. I have to be able to teach them & not allow them to be wild destructo  children. So, I would consider placement with me second best to a home that can meet all the criteria.

She was able to find a home who can give all those things. They are a tribal home who wants to work with me to keep the siblings in contact. This was non negotiable for me. I would not have approved the placement otherwise & would have taken her into my home, instead.

But, this couple seems very excited & will be going to pick her up tomorrow. They told me to expect to hear from them soon after so that the girls can meet their baby sister.

I hope that they are, indeed, willing to help me keep the sibling relationship together. I am very thankful for my ally in ICW who intends to facilitate to make sure this happens.

In the years I've worked with them (wow, 10 years?!?) Choctaw Nation ICW has been amazing. They care so much for the kids & try to focus on their best interest. I wish every other child welfare department did the same. And I also wish our Nation would fund them better so that they can serve more of our children. They are our future. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Spring!

I have a lot to say, but not the time or inclination to put it all into words lately. Instead, I'll let you see my joy, today.







Tuesday, January 27, 2015

CW visit

After a few months, the CW finally managed to make a "monthly" visit.

He missed November & December because he waited until the holidays & called to make same day visits. Naturally, this doesn't work well, since we travel 3 hours away to be with family for every major holiday, as he is well aware.

Today he called for a same day visit, as the concept of planning ahead apparently doesn't suit him. Since I was available, I obliged.

Nothing earth shattering happened, but he does estimate the adoption process will take approximately 6-8 months. 

That is insane. When her sister was in care, the process was to change to concurrent planning, have the adoption staffed, and have the child profile & homestudy complete by the time TPR trial happened so that the adoption petition could be filed as soon as the appeal period expired for tpr. Her mother consented to guardienship when we went to pretrial for TPR, so we didn't file until much later, but that entire process had alreay been completed. 

Apparently, despite claims that the objective is to achieve permanency for children faster, the department has actually extended the process such that it takes sugnificantly longer. Now I'm not asking to make the time for parents to work their plan obscenely short or anything like that, but the process after their rights have been terminated should not take that long, particularly for kids who have an identified adoptive placement that they are already integrated into. The whole point is supposed to be the best interest of the child, after all.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The adoption process begins...

Just received a call from the adoption worker. The case has been staffed & the process of getting a completed social & medical history is starting today. They have up to 60 days to complete this & pretty much nothing else can happen until it's done. So, it's not a quick process, for sure. 

Hopefully we'll be able to finish this all up by mid summer. I'd like to move when my lease is up & I want to be able to do it without having to go through another home study and all that. Plus, it would be nice to be able to make decisions for her based on her needs & not the department's policy. Most importantly, though, she won't truly feel safe as long as there is a possibility that they could move her--and that is always a possibility while they are still foster.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The fight against progress...

Last night, I attended a forum about the Oklahoma City School Board's decision to eliminate Capital Hill High School's racist mascot. This morning, due to sparse media coverage of the event, I was asked to write down my observations from the evening. Here it is, as published on NativeNewsOnline.net

ETA: I am honored to learn that my article will be used in the academic setting: 



OKLAHOMA CITY—The Educational Forum on Native American Mascots, sponsored by Oklahoma City Public Schools Native American Parent Committee, was an attempt to reach out to help community members understand why the Capital Hill mascot was being changed. An honorable intent, based on the optimistic premise that, if those who oppose the change just understood that damage caused by racist mascots, surely their perspective would change.

Sitting in the audience, it was clear that most did not come open to learning, but rather to simply register their protests, at times hatefully and disrespectfully. When panelist and OKCPS alumus Rance Weryackwe introduced himself in the Comanche language, an elderly man whispered loudly that he didn’t wish to “listen to him talk like that.” There was a fair amount of eye rolling and head shaking from change opponents when the moderator, Sarah Adams-Cornell, made a presentation about the documented harms caused by race based mascots, including the hostile learning environment created by enshrining them in educational institutions, explaining “by not changing, we are in violation of students’ civil rights.”

Only a half hour into the forum, the man who had previously mocked a panelist for speaking his language announced, loudly enough for at least my side of the room to hear, that he didn’t care what “the Indians think,” before storming out of the room in a huff. A woman in the audience laughed condescendingly when panelist Johnnie Jae Morris spoke about stereotypes and how they are foundational to many problems faced in Indian Country. Overall, most of the whispering and hateful comments were the basic “get over it” and “that’s in the past” type sentiments.

When it came time for the question and answer session, Moderator Sarah Adams-Cornell announced that no questions had been submitted on the topic of the forum, asking for questions on the issue of education and Native American mascots. A female snarled “it’s because we don’t need to be educated,” in response, and the majority of the crowd who opposed the mascot change stood up and walked out together. None asked any clarifying questions or expressed the intent to understand.

Some paused in the entryway to speak to media. Pam Townley, who graduated from Capital Hill in 1973, lamented the school board’s vote, stating “no one knew about it!” In reality, people all over the world knew about the impending vote, thanks to social media. Townley’s solution is simple: segregation. “If they don’t like what is going on at Capital Hill, then go to a Native American school, where you don’t have to worry about it.” Ironic, considering panelist Jacob Tsotigh spoke about the not too distant past, where businesses posted signs stating “no dogs or Indians allowed.” Her comments illustrate the point made by Brady Henderson that “the past cannot be divested from the present . . . It defines us.” Racism and segregation are indeed alive and well but, as Brady also said, “the past is in the present [and] change is part of the process.” Progress is possible.

Some individuals aren’t willing to allow that change, without fighting it every step of the way, however. Capital Hill alumus, 84-year-old Roy Meler, interrupted the meeting, demanding to be heard. “Instead of talking about this foolishness, we ought to be talking about education. You’re the ones stirring this up.”

When Adams Cornell spoke about bullying and ridicule faced by her children, who are part of the school district, Meler shouted “I don’t believe it!” Later, I overheard him stating to others that bullying of Native students have no connection to the mockery inherent with mascots and that the solution is simply corporal punishment against those who bully.

Meler wasn’t the only one who vented his anger so emphatically. Carrel Wilson carried on quite dramatically, ranting in the hallway for several minutes, calling the research and ideas presented by the panel “propaganda.” Carrel stated that the panel discussion was “an unbelievable performance by a group of people who are making money off this themselves,” yet gave no indication as to why or how he believes that panelists are profiting. He did, however, try to link the use of racist mascots with the state name of Oklahoma, erroneously translating it as “home of the red man”. Wilson went on to state that panelist Dr. Matthew DeSpain was incorrect as to the history of violence against Native peoples, saying that “redskins were admired. It was a term of admiration,” but failing to address the fact that the term was used in connection with bounties placed on the heads of Native Americans.

In the end, the message from the Parent Committee was summed up concisely by Johnnie Jae Morris, who said, “We’re not trying to take anything away. We’re trying to get something we can all be proud of.”

Summer Wesley is from the Choctaw Tribe of Oklahoma.  She is an OU Law School Graduate and Former Tribal Attorney & Social Worker. 

Monday, December 29, 2014

A kind word

I don't write here as much as I think about writing. Life gets busy, or I don't know how to put into words what I'm thinking...or I the topic is personal & I feel too vulnerable to put it out there.

But I do write when I can, mostly because people who I've been friends with for years will start sending me individual messages for updates on life, so it's the most efficient way to keep everyone in the loop. Ok...so that sounds some kinda way...but you know it's true & you wouldn't love me if I were anything but honest. 

From time to time, though, I get feedback from strangers that catch me off guard. Recently I got a comment on a post I'd completely forgotten about. One word, but was simple & appreciated. Today, I saw a notification on Twitter, with a quote I recognized. It sorta took my breath for a moment. 


I recognized the quote & all at once felt strangely exposed, while also grateful they took the time to leave the comment. 

I won't lie, it's hard for me to have people know these things. It's something I don't talk about much, except with others who've been there. 

Years ago, I helped others talk through their own experiences & shared with them, but it was in a protected space, not exposed to the world. But, still, I leave those words out there because I have been contacted by survivors & secondaries who tell me it's made a difference to them. 

So, today, I ask this: make a difference to someone. Even if it's just in a small way, with a kind word or appreciation. You never know who's feeling alone, or unappreciated, or who could just benefit from an extra smile. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Big news

Just got an email from Lil Sis's attorney. The tribe got their affidavits in & rights have been terminated on both parents. So we can move forward to adoption.

While I know this hurts her mother so much, this is a huge step towards helping her feel secure, which is a major part of helping her heal.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Busy, Busy

Lately, there have been a lot of building projects going on. I didn't plan on them all happening at the same time, but that's how it happened.

I'm a big fan on Freecycle & managed to get a load of pressure treated lumber. Free stuff is great. Free lumber is a miracle. So, my older boys (11 & 13) helped me build a new set of bunks for the boys' room.


They love their new beds & I'm happy because it's way more stable than the metal loft bed that was in there previously. 

And, because I despise throwing anything away, I turned the loft bed into a greenhouse. I have to say, I'm happy with the results so far. We're still harvesting peppers, even though we've already had a freeze & my garden is now gone. My greenhouse may actually help me to not hate winter.







Our other big build was a chicken pen. Our city allows us to keep a few backyard chickens. The kids' old swing set frame was bent & no longer safe, but it makes a great frame for a coop. I also covered one end with a plywood roof, covered in shingles fashioned from aluminum cans. It's ugly, but functional. And I'm happy to have some birds again.







Monday, September 22, 2014

Court update from last month

Looking at my calendar, it occurs to me that I forgot to update on court last month. My apologies, but the death in the family took precedence. 

Tpr has been file on both the mother & unknown father. A motion for default termination on unknown father was taken under advisement, pending receipt of an affidavit from the tribe's ICW department, stating they have no objection.

Her mother failed to appear, but the judge called her to have her appear telephonically. She says she plans to start working her plan, but still hasn't done anything yet, nor does she know when she will. 

Pretrial is scheduled for October & tpr trial for November. However, the stand-in attorney for the child (usual attorney was unavailable) made a motion for default judgement against mother, as well, which is under advisement by the Court. What this means is, if she fails to appear at any future proceedings & no attorney appears on her behalf, the judge can terminate her rights without the jury trial. She was informed of this.

So...we shall see...


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Second Mother


"Although you're not my mother
You mean as much to me,
As though you were,
As though you are, 
And~as though you'll always be.
For mothering is so much more
Than simply giving life
It's loving understanding
In times of pain and strife
A love that's freely given
And many sacrifices made
Have made a debt, that all my life, 
Shall never be repaid
I know what good there is in me
Has come from knowing you.
And so~when counting mothers,
I find I have two."

My second mother left this life today. The above poem was hung on her dining room wall; a gift from one of the many "extras" she parented along the way. 

She took me into her family when I was 17 & taught me so much. She helped me find my voice & encouraged me to do what made me happy, regardless of the judgements of others. She encouraged me to repair my relationship with my parents & gave me a place to live when I needed one.

She was a remarkable person. Imperfect, like us all. Through her triumphs & mistakes, she taught me how to live...&, now, how to die, with dignity & grace. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Not broken, just bent

"I can't believe you've never seen The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo! You have to watch it. Do you want to borrow my copy? It is so good."

"I can't watch that. I tried. I can't."

And suddenly the tone of an otherwise friendly conversation changed, as often happens with someone who knows my story. There was the stammering apology. Followed by the awkward not knowing what to say to me. And, always the worst part, the air of pity that sweeps in like a thick, choking fog.

I stopped the conversation immediately.

"Don't do that. It's ok. It's not something that you think about on a regular basis, and that's ok. But the truth is that the things that have happened to me actually change people's perceptions of me more than they actually effect my daily life." 

This conversation has replayed in my head several times in the few days since. What I said was true. Rape changed me. It shattered my reality & changed my view of the world. But I am not broken. I am not hopelessly damaged goods. I do not need pity or for people to feel like they have to treat me as fragile glass. 

I'm sure people mean well when they do that, but it's actually the reason I don't tell people. It changes they way they look at me. It alters their perception of me. And, sometimes, their reaction may alter my perception of them.

The inability of some people to get past this condescending attitude has, in the past, interfered with relationships &, quite honestly, is the reason that very few people know about my history. It affects me, sure; but it doesn't define me & I don't want it to shape who they see me as. I don't need to be fixed.

Just like everyone else, I am perfectly imperfect. Judge me on who I am now & how I choose to treat other people, rather than some detail if my past that was beyond my control.