One Less Lonely Girl

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It’s been a year since our foster girl first pointed out she could kill me with a steak knife–and it wasn’t the last threat on my life. Each time she casually mentioned killing me I casually responded that I had no fear of death and if she wanted to kill people she’d end up in a jail for evil kids who all wanted to kill each other. I said, “Go for it if that sounds like fun.”

It occurred to me today that those threats ended some months ago. She hasn’t picked up string beans off the floor of public restrooms and eaten them in a long time either. My big fear before picking up M last year (the week of the all important county fair) was that I’d find her unattractive. Yes, I’m that shallow. She was cute but a wreck. She was eager to be taken home (by just about anyone including two men she pleaded with the day before on the golf course after escaping the first group home). The group home director told me not to feel bad if the placement didn’t work out since no one expected it would. As she helped load M’s stuff into our car she said, “Oh, and by the way, don’t let M near babies–she wants to strangle them. Okay, bye!”

Think of abuse.

Think of all the different ways in which a person can be abused.

Think a thick stack of reports.

M had seen it all by age 8.

She came to us highly medicated and had a visit with her mother in a public park that first week where her mother asked her to pole dance in the park. This triggered M and put her in the children’s mental ward for two months where they drugged her even more.

Think soulless zombie slobbering and shuffling.

We took turns visiting her a few times a week. We visited her daily once her mother surrendered her rights and her sisters were set to be adopted by a family who decided they couldn’t take M (fair enough–they’d done all they could do).

Let me just say that cider donuts and coffee got me through those autumn weeks of endless travel to the very depressing hospital.

Halloween stands out as a low point. M begged us to come see her in the Cinderella costume we got for her, but by the time we arrived the staff had blackened her eyes with zombie makeup. She was angry, crying and “unstable” (the word they use in such places when someone is beside themselves with sorrow). M wanted her real mother. She wanted us to leave. She hated us. The staff took her to the padded cell–in her princess costume– and escorted us out. Later that night M called and asked if we’d come visit the next day.

The young, hipster therapist thought she’d intimidate me with big therapy words. She didn’t like me questioning the crazy meds (some of which are actually marketed as “foster kid drugs”!!). BTW, I knew what the big words meant. They meant money for the institutions housing the foster kids. One day the therapist saw me coming and ran outside. I kid you not.

It’s been a journey. Therapists, mental wards, group homes, sibling visits and evenings spent with cops looking for M. Last year M came to us taking about 10 different meds. Now she’s on none. She was afraid of open spaces and small places. Last week she sat in the quiet field with the sheep and goats for an hour with me in silence. At the end of the hour she turned to me and said, “You know, you’re right. The crickets’ singing is relaxing.”

M rides her bike, feeds the dogs and walks them, cleans her room and weaves pot holders like any slightly bored 10 year-old girl in summer. She’s still goofy but I don’t think she deserves the label she came with: low functioning. Who wouldn’t be low functioning after the life she’s lived? I think she functions fairly well these days.

When she comes back on Friday from sleepover camp (we can’t believe she’s actually still there!), we’ll go to the fair and eat fried dough. She’ll probably still make a mess of it–but this year she’ll know how to clean herself up! We’ll visit her sisters who happen to be adopted by a farming family we’ve become quite friendly with who show cows at the fair. Soon, if all goes according to plan and we adopt M we’ll practically be family. I hadn’t expected a  new family. I hadn’t expected to love this weird kid, but that’s yet another reason why blogging has to wait.

It’s hard to write with a chatty girl over your shoulder.

 

 

 

Dog Days of Summer

kids with dogs

Despite my best writerly intentions, late July brings a bevy of visitors (all of whom love our crazy dogs–and cat) and excursions. It’s the price I pay for living in the beautiful Adirondacks–I’m not complaining! I’m enjoying my time, but look forward to visiting all the wonderful blogs I follow. Hope you’re  having a great August!

So I thought I’d show a few pics of our RESCUE DUCK “Chip.” He’s now taken to spending his dog days on the hammock:

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Pleasures of the Picnic

More guests this week, so more summer fun (and less writing). Enjoy this tasty article about picnics!

outtathekitchen.com

by MELorden

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Whenever I see a red checkered tablecloth, I can’t help but think of a picnic. Turned into a colorful blanket, the symbol of eating al fresco is the classic canvas for a spread of old-fashioned American culinary delights. Add a green hillside dotted with daisies and a woven wicker basket. Now toss in a bottle of wine accompanied by plates of cheese, bread, and fruit. For good measure, bring along a few large brimmed hats, and the picture is complete.

9631361-picnic-basket-and-bottle-of-white-wine-on-red-gingham-blanket-beside-lake With summer now in full swing, the desire to picnic is picking up. This portable and often impromptu outdoor meal is a wonderful option with the increased selection of fresh, seasonal local produce at farm stands and regional cooperatives.  Browsing the produce and prepared food sections of  your grocery store or the stalls of local farmers markets inspires a seasonal picnic menu.

 History

Victorian-Picnic The ideal picnic has…

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Interpreting Race and Gender at Maggie L. Walker NHS

The Gettysburg Compiler

This post is part of a series featuring behind-the-scenes dispatches from our Pohanka Interns on the front lines of history this summer as interpreters, archivists, and preservationists. See here for the introduction to the series.

By Ashley Lookenhouse ‘17

The essence of Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site is to show how Maggie L. Walker shattered gender, racial, and even societal norms and expectations. She was heavily involved in her community by working with the Independent Order of St. Luke, a fraternal organization, for most of her life, and serving as the Right Worthy Grand Secretary-Treasurer of the organization for several years. She also founded a bank, being the first African American woman to do so, started a newspaper, ran a department store, and bought her house with her own money. Presenting a visitor with the fact that Mrs. Walker paid for her home – without the help of her husband…

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Fiction: Taking Chances on Lost Men

Thankful Crenshaw dismisses Buck’s warning and runs away to meet her childhood sweetheart . . .

William Weldon stumbled out into the Arizona sun. His friend said something, a joke maybe, but William didn’t get it. William laughed anyway and tripped on his boot lace. “Blast it.” The wool trousers he wore stuck to the backs of his knees and the front of his thighs as he bent to tie his shoe. The Buckskin Saloon was cool and comfortable, but William’s pockets were almost empty.

“Get a look at that, Bill. Now she’s some pumpkins,” William’s friend said.

William glanced up with a grin not expecting much. Haviland’s taste was not his own.

“William Weldon, is that you?” a girl cried out.

The glare from the sun behind the girl made her look almost a shadow, but her voice pleased him as ever. William stood up using a horse trough for balance and setting a distance between himself and Haviland.

“Your hair is so light now and your complexion—it’s not so pallid as it was on Tenafly Road. I’d hardly know you,” Thankful said as she ran up to William. She tucked a stray curl behind her ear and shielded her eyes from the sun. “William, is this how you greet a friend from home or don’t you remember me—it’s Thankful. . .”
Haviland laughed. “Bill’s awful bad off if he’d forget a looker like you, miss.”

“Thankful, I . . . of course I know you, but what are you doing here? Where are the others?” William asked, slicking his hair as he eyed the makeshift sidewalk behind her.

“The others? No, William, you misunderstand. I made the trip alone.”

William noted the way townsfolk eyed Thankful in her Eastern finery, bracelets and earrings glistening in the bright light of midday. “Your father never should have let you come here.”

“William, I had to get away from Mama’s and Father’s bickering. I took some of his money. I have over . . .”

William made to cover Thankful’s mouth, but didn’t touch her. “Mind your tongue. No one need know your finances.”

“William you look so different now . . . is that alcohol I smell?” she asked looking over Haviland with a disapproving eye.

“Thankful, I just don’t understand why you’d come all this way. It’s not right for a girl to be on her own,” William replied glancing around at the curious townsfolk. “There’s no place for you to stay.”

“You mean you’re not glad to see a friend?” Thankful asked, her bravery shaken.

“No, not really, Thankful. I mean . . .” William scratched the back of his head, impatient at his own perplexity.

“Well,” Thankful said after a thoughtful breath, “you could say I was your cousin or something and the army could put me up. I don’t eat much.”

“I’m not in the army, Thankful. They hardly need an invalid and they really don’t need women,” William lied.

“But your parents said the army men were very pleased with you.”

William tugged on his hat. “They didn’t make me feel at home. It just didn’t work, so I moved into town.”

Thankful surveyed the row of false front stores bleaching in the sun. “I’ve no place to go, Willy. Won’t you find me something somehow?” She played with a tassel on her bag. “I imagined you’d be an officer by now and you’d be happy to see a friend.”

“Oh, sakes alive, Thankful, you’ve put me in a tight spot. I feel right peart about seeing you, but . . .” He looked at her in tender annoyance. “You know nothing of the army. Me an officer? That beats all. Where will I put you for the night then? That’s what I have to set my mind on . . .”

Thankful looked on in disgust as William wiped his mouth with his frayed shirt sleeve.

“The guard at the post said you lived right here, but he was obviously fooling me—this looks like a saloon or a brothel even.”

“It’s what I can afford right now,” William said, annoyed at Haviland’s grin. “And it’s not a brothel.”

“Oh, my, well, that’s okay, Willy. It must be hard out here on your own with no real profession.”

“I’ve got a profession, miss. It just doesn’t pay much though.” William fished around in his empty pockets. “So, how were my parents before you up and left?” he asked as if he didn’t care.

“Your father was recovering well.”

“Recovering? From what?”

“Don’t you get mail?”

“Yes, of course, but Mother said nothing.”

“He seemed much better . . . some sort of fits or tremors that old people get or something—after Christmas. They missed you something terrible. Why didn’t you send your father a gift? What a mean thing to do. Anyway, your father wouldn’t be seen to and then he crashed with your mother on a sled.”

“A sled?”

Thankful laughed. “It was all very dangerous—my mother almost ran them over—you know how she drives!”

“Was my mother hurt? Why were they sledding?”

“For the frolic, I guess.”

“Was my father . . . was he himself?” William hated asking.

“He was himself, William. As sweet and silly as ever.”

“Yes, he was always so silly,” William said, rolling his eyes.

Now they stood at loose ends. Thankful dabbed her forehead with her white, neat handkerchief.

“Hey there, Bill! Billy!” A bold and loud woman with a painted face and no teeth waved from across the way.

“By the hornspoons!” William grumbled and pulled Thankful by the elbow.

“Willy, does that horrible looking creature know you? You were impolite.”

“Everybody knows everybody here and I’m called Bill now.”

“Merciful heavens, Bill won’t do. It sounds so common on you. William Weldon sounds much nicer—like nobility.”

“I don’t like royalty—it’s un-American,” William said.

“Well, this caps the climax! I come all this way on a dangerous adventure and you’re nothing but ill-tempered with me.” Thankful refused to be pulled farther.

“Thankful, you’re an uninvited guest. Give me a chance to adjust.”

William beckoned her to follow him around back where a saloon patron relieved himself. Thankful held her nose and glared at the man.

“What a filthy. . .”

“They’re men back from the field—the geological survey.”

A set of dried out and rotten steps led up to William’s home. He hesitated before letting Thankful enter. “It’s a little messy. Wait one minute.” William scanned the room looking for things that might shock an Eastern girl’s sensibilities. Shoving his drawings behind his washstand, he called her in.

Thankful’s dark hair glistened with perspiration. William threw a blanket over the dirty bed and dragged his chair to the center of the room. Thankful eyed it, patting the seat to make certain it could take her weight before sitting.

“Why would you take these quarters over the army?”

“This is about the size of the rooms I grew up in with my family in the army, miss. I was never as spoiled as you Crenshaws.” William had inherited his father’s disdain for the “big bugs” of the world, but at the moment he would have given anything for a small bit of their wealth. William had no idea where the last of his money had gotten to and he only had a bottle of hard whiskey to offer Thankful in a rusty cup so he offered her nothing.

Excerpted from WEARY OF RUNNING. Read more about Buck Crenshaw and his misadventures when you buy the book today!

“The second installment in The Tenafly Road Series definitely did not disappoint. With the introduction of new characters and the return of familiar ones, Weary of Running made for an exciting read. The protagonist, Thankful, is the real highlight of the novel. She consistently makes very poor decisions but in the end, you can understand why she has made every last one of them. The story ranges from love and romance to questions of faith and morality. It does all this without being preachy and explores many angles of different aspects of life. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time.” Amazon Review

“Buck Crenshaw is my favorite dysfunctional lovable character.”

PART ONE HERE

PART TWO HERE

PART THREE HERE

PART FOUR HERE

PART FIVE HERE

PART SIX HERE

PART SEVEN HERE

PART EIGHT HERE

PART NINE HERE

PART TEN HERE

What Would Cyrano de Bergerac Say?

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DeviantArt.com

Our son broke his iPhone screen the other day. He also failed his driver’s test so we didn’t have the heart to deny him a trip to the mall (an hour’s drive away) to visit the Apple store. For about 10 minutes we stood around at by far the busiest place in the mall wondering how to get help for my son’s ailing phone. The staff armed with ear pieces, tablets and matching polo shirts (allowing for just the right touch of hipster/tech geek/diversity/self-expression) scurried around answering questions and tapping away on their tablets with a surprising amount of patience considering the constant tugging at their shirt tails by the desperate iPhone-obsessed crowd.

After pushing our son to talk to a worker we were directed to a crowd of people huddled at the back of the store all waiting for HELP (not sure they were going to get it at Apple!). I playfully herded my son (who towers over me) into the sheep pen. He was not impressed. There was nothing funny about being without his phone for the two hours it was going to take to have his baby fixed. The idea of having to spend two hours at the mall wasn’t funny to my husband and I either though I figured it would be a nice, lazy day of people watching.

Not so.

We waited in the corral for a while until we couldn’t take the whining/crying toddler a minute longer. The kid’s mother was having trouble squeezing him with one arm while constantly texting with the other hand. How long would this go on I wondered aloud. That’s when my husband suggested we find the pretzel shop. Yet it was no better elsewhere. Most people had their heads down making love to their phones. The three women in full burkas were the only people who offered food for real thought.

A few nights before we went to see Cyrano de Bergerac performed at Congress Park in Saratoga Springs. As I don’t get out much I was much surprised to discover the Pokemon Go craze and how it transformed the park. Zombies everywhere–some sheepish zombies who knew they played the fool standing by lovely statues collecting imaginary, infantile monsters–missed the fact that  actual living actors would soon be performing a play about real and pretending people.

A husband and wife out for a stroll with their infant child  on the type of cool summer evening Saratoga has been famous for for centuries  grunted replies to each other as they scrolled through important info on their phones. A group of teen-aged boys who should have been hunting down cute girls and flirting with them cheered at a monster instead.

The play begins on a comic note. Young military cadet Christian de Neuvillette falls in love with Roxane but has no faith in his intelligence or romantic prowess to woo her though the two have made eye contact and he is certain they should be together. Roxane meanwhile asks her distant, big-nosed cousin Cyrano to watch after Christian when they go off to war. Christian reluctantly agrees to let Cyrano, a gifted swordsman and poet, write Roxane letters in his name.

  Hi jinks ensue for a while until Christian, showing a depth heretofore hidden, comes into his own and realizes that relying on devises to gain love is shallow at best and complete falsehood and tragedy at worst. Basically he throws away his cellphone, becomes a man and dies a noble death.

Cyrano refuses to tell the grieving Roxane the truth for various reasons and dies declaring that at least he lived with panache. I suppose we will say the same for ourselves when we die with the latest iPhone and have caught the many generations of Pokemon monsters set to come out. My daughter says that the makers of Pokemon wanted to do humanity a service by getting them out of their houses and into the public square a bit more. They lead sheep, they create pretend worlds that change real people–they are the tragic Cyranos of our day  who mask real humanity in brightly colored packages.

Now where are the Christian de Neuvillettes?