Have You Ever Been Fearful?

Last week I let my fears get the best of me — and it’s not  the first time.

Many of my bad decisions over the years have come from a place of fear. I wish the fears were related to grizzly bears or insects because it’s pretty easy to rid yourself of those types of fears since they’re obvious.

My fearful tendencies are usually more subtle because I’m great at rationalizing them or ignoring the deeper causes all together.

A few weeks back my husband got me a pony (actually a mini horse) and I was thrilled for about three days.

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Here’s what triggered an insane panic attack that also lasted about three days (not including the physical recovery time):

  1. When the lady dropped off Hobbes he was much bigger than I imagined he would be — and to be fair — much cuter. He was also skittish and head shy. This we had been warned about but it was still unnerving since he was at least a hundred pounds bigger than I thought he would be. The kind lady had spent a year working to get him used to people and did a great job but he still has a long way to go. The FEAR set in when she mentioned he needed his hooves trimmed ASAP.
  2. I called a vet-recommended farrier whose tone let me know right away that he thought I was an idiot for taking in an unknown rescue animal. The more he talked the more I could feel my excitement draining from me while fear flooded in. He said he’d come by in a few weeks. That meant each day that I woke in dread of his call since Hobbes was just barely letting me touch him.
  3. Randomly, this other lady who I’d been talking to over the last few months who does Christ-based equine therapy for humans called me about something. When I told her I had a mini horse now she was super excited for me, but warned me that if there was one thing I should know it was that  Hobbes should NEVER EVER be given second cut hay because it is too rich and the horse could die from founder (which is a sort of fever in the feet). She continued to give good advice that I don’t remember because I was pacing the floor waiting for her to hang up. As soon as she did I raced to the barn and tore the second cut hay outta there.
  4. I spent the day driving around to all the places in the county that I could think of that had first cut hay to no avail. I also forgot to eat. By nightfall I was a mess and spread the lovely anxiety all through the house as my husband called the guy he knew —  but the guy was drunk and didn’t have any hay.

Did I mention that I burst out crying to a few people I didn’t really know over the course of the day?

Now here’s the part I find so amazing. I had been praying to God to reveal my weaknesses and also to make it clear that the revelation would be from Him. I assumed if ever I got an answer it would be something about impatience.

As I walked through the two days of hell that I basically created I felt in my soul that God was answering the prayer: FEAR OF MAN IS MY IDOL OF CHOICE

The fear of man brings a snare, But he who trusts in the LORD will be exalted. Proverbs 29:25

You shall not fear man, for the judgment is God’s The case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it. Deuteronomy 1:17

If I were to say to you that I was afraid for Hobbes and his health that would only be the side of the thing I wanted you to see and maybe applaud me for, but the truth is as I ran around all day my thoughts were about the condemnation and shame I would feel if it were exposed to the unknown farrier and the unknown imaginary judges that I was imperfect and in way over my head.

Fear and shame run rife in my family, but that doesn’t mean I get to wallow in it. I wallowed for a little while until I remembered a sign advertising hay I’d passed many times. This is silly but even at my age I still feel a strong anxiety about phone calls especially when I’m in need, but I knew that I could not let my husband make the call. I knew God was basically saying that fear just wasn’t a foolish thing but a total lack of faith in Him and an idol that kept me from living a victorious life (church speak).

But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”Matthew 16:23

I called and the guy on the other end answered.

“I’m really hoping you have hay because I’m desperate and freaking out because we have a mini horse and there’s no way he’ll lift his feet for the farrier and I’m irrationally afraid that he’s going to die of founder by tomorrow morning — he won’t right???”

There was a long pause. “Hey, take a deep breath. Your horse will be fine. Okay, what I want you to do is enjoy tonight with your family. I’ll set a few bales of hay out tomorrow morning and you come by and I’ll give you some help since I have a few minis myself.”

There was something in his voice that was super Zen.

I was shaking on the phone because as he was speaking I knew God was showing me what life could be like if I didn’t carry around a whole ton of pride and shame.

When I got off the phone I burst into tears. Our adopted daughter came beside me and said, “I didn’t know you were anxious like me. That’s another way that we are like twins.”

Apparently she was happy about it.

When I got to the horse barn the next day I was a lot calmer. I realized that if Hobbes didn’t get his feet done right away it wasn’t all my fault — after only a few days of knowing him. I wasn’t a superstar trainer. This would be a huge learning season for me. The man with the hay took time out to show me ways to calm Hobbes  (and me) down. He was so kind and not judgemental!

It reminded me of how in elementary school I was so humiliated that I didn’t already know the stuff the teacher was being paid to teach me. Irrational but me — STILL.

IMG_0250The lady who gave us the horse called and offered to come show me how to handle the hoof situation (this also made me cry because she offered to drive an hour and a half for free!). When she came Hobbes was a brute and didn’t let her do a thing which was oddly comforting.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear: because fear has to do with punishment. He that fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18

 

 

Further reading:

LAY ASIDE FEAR OF MAN

DETOXING FROM THE FEAR OF MAN

FEAR OF LOSING APPROVAL

The Tenafly Road Series

“Characters so deep you follow them into the abyss, hoping to come out unscathed, but never returning the same. They will haunt me forever.”

Sunday at Middlemay Farm

 

There is nothing so good for the inside of a man as the outside of a horse. ~John Lubbock, “Recreation,” The Use of Life, 1894

Look what my husband got me for Valentine’s Day! When my husband showed the picture of the mini horse to a friend at work he said, “I thought your wife wanted a quarter-horse not one quarter of a horse.” (I actually have my eye on an aged standard-bred but no matter).

Anyway in order to adopt a horse most organizations tell you that you need to have at least one other equine on the property as a companion. My husband sort of liked the idea of getting a donkey, but as I scrolled through Craigslist this little guy caught my attention and so I sent the picture to my husband — just to point out how cute he was.

My husband texted me back: You want him for Valentine’s Day?

He also told me later that to himself he said: we have to have him.

So Saturday morning the wonderful couple who had saved him from the kill pen delivered him to our house!

It is estimated that over 100,000 horses are shipped for slaughter every year to Mexico and Canada.

Some people think rescuing from kill pens does nothing to solve the problem of over-breeding and seeing horses as just a commodity, but, for the individual horses rescued, it makes a difference.

As so often happens when dealing with people from Upstate New York, I came away inspired. For no material gain this couple takes in animals and finds them new homes. Not only that but in this case they had an entire care package of grooming supplies, special feed and even a beautiful winter coat for the little guy my husband renamed Hobbit or Hobbes for short.

The generosity of some people just astounds me.

I spent all day yesterday with my first horse, just reading Tom Jones and allowing him to get used to me since he’s a little timid. At one point I could tell he was already pretty comfortable with his surroundings. There he stood, basking in the winter sun while the sheep sleepily chewed their cud. His eyelids kept drooping until he finally napped with the rest of the barnyard animals.

Save 150,000 Horses From Slaughter Each Year By Ending Auction And Export

Family Histories: Family Traits Good and Bad

“They said in the D.A.R.E. class that since my real mother did drugs Then I probably would too.”

(D.A.R.E. is the anti-drug class taught in many public schools in the U.S.)

This is why too much information given to children may sometimes be a bad thing. Our newly adopted daughter is only mildly intellectually disabled which really means that she seems “normal” until you realize that everything you say to her she takes literally. Some of you may remember the funny antics of Amelia Bedelia the main character of the children’s book series who constantly mixed up things like steaks and stakes.

In real life the concrete thinking goes more like this: My real mom does drugs and smokes. Therefore I will do the same by begging other students through email on my Chrome book during class to let me vape with them.  I will side with the devil and really believe that there is a tiny devil on my shoulder. I will then say I had to try since my mother did and the people teaching the DARE class said I would.

(once my husband caught her bringing to school an inappropriate note. The body parts mentioned in the note were spelled wrong. my husband sarcastically told her to ask her teachers the next time about the spelling — and so she did the next day).

Anyway, it made me think about how our parents affect us. Sometimes we like to blame parents for everything — I think  this is a trap to keep us from reaching our full potential –and sometimes we neglect looking back in gratitude for some of the better traits they’ve passed down to us.

With the holidays in full swing most of us are probably thinking a lot about family memories — the good and bad. Or maybe we are dreading seeing parents over the holidays …

Lately I’ve been getting deep into my genealogy and wondering which strands of DNA have been passed down to me. Am I more like the stoic and heroic men and women on my mother’s Dutch/English side of the tree or more like my father’s Irish side with its sentimental streak and love of the underdog? Am I fearful of the neighbors because of the peasant blood of my father? Am I rebellious when it comes to religion because my great grandfathers were all seekers?

On both sides of my family is a deep love for humanity and storytelling and for those things I am truly grateful — fear and self-loathing, not so much.

Now what about you? What family traits are you most proud of and which would you rather were tossed a few generations back?

Please let us know in the comments. It may be cathartic. LOL.

“Characters so deep you follow them into the abyss, hoping to come out unscathed, but never returning the same. They will haunt me forever.”

Foster Care to Adoption

Happy Thanksgiving!

For us this holiday comes a week after adopting our foster child.

Some readers may remember some of the more harrowing events of the past three years — years filled with doubt, fear and moral dilemmas.

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This girl is thrilled that I can finally share her picture!

This summer after a host of obstacles (some created by the system and some by us), we were asked to make our final decision. I’ll be honest, my husband and I hardly spoke to each other for the month of August as we each grappled with the finality of the decision. I realized that I’d been sort of waiting for this girl to do something bad enough to justify backing out.

Foster kids have a way of pushing you to your limits, and I wondered what my limit would be.

The county gave us a month to decide. No more hoping the kid would do something insane so we’d have an excuse  to say goodbye. We had to decide if we could love this girl “as is.” Plenty of people told us to cut our losses. Even the county workers had said this girl was a “hot mess,” but … my heart said she was already family. One day as I walked the dogs my decision was made. Biblical love is really hard. You have to lean into the pain. You have to work harder and you occasionally have to step back to see how far you’ve come.

I’m basically a selfish person who wants to write books and ride horses all by myself. I don’t feel like helping others all the time, yet in some deep way I know we’re called to do it.

My husband was driving home from work one day and suddenly felt that he was Jonah fleeing God’s calling on his life. Despite it all he knew McKenzie was already his daughter.

Not quite the Hallmark happy ending but that’s real life for you.

Once the decision was made, a weight was lifted. Maybe that’s God’s grace. McKenzie has come a LONG way. We all have.

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McKenzie with my niece (her new cousin)

At the adoption McKenzie gave an impromptu speech before the judge. Three years ago she was so jacked up on meds and so traumatized she could only drool and occasionally threaten to stab people. Now with her two sisters (adopted by another family), her new family, and countless county and foster care workers in attendance she spoke from her heart with power and eloquence about finally having a family. I was so proud of her. Even my son got choked up. The county workers were sobbing.

I didn’t cry, but I did feel at peace. I remembered the day I first met McKenzie. I told my husband that I already felt like she was my daughter. That feeling ebbed and flowed over the three years, but on adoption day it was as if we’d come full circle.

 

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Just some of the members of McKenzie’s new family. The entire family is coming to our house to celebrate Thanksgiving and the adoption!

The Tenafly Road Series

“Characters so deep you follow them into the abyss, hoping to come out unscathed, but never returning the same. They will haunt me forever.”

Let Them Read Books Guest Post

Hi everyone~

Today my family is getting prepared for a big day tomorrow. After three years we are adopting that foster girl I mentioned once or twice 😉

But I wanted to share an interview the generous book lover Jenny Q over at LET THEM READ BOOKS did with me. I really enjoyed her questions so have a look if you feel so inclined (she loves comments — hint, hint).

INTERVIEW HERE

In the meantime it’s back to cleaning my house for visitors.

Slaying Dragons

Was the trial sore?
Temptation sharp? Thank God a second time!
Why comes temptation but for a man to meet
And master and make crouch beneath his foot,
And so be pedestaled in triumph? Pray
“Lead us into no such temptations, Lord!”
Yea, but, O thou whose servants are the bold,
Lead such temptations by the head and hair,
Reluctant dragons, up to who dares fight
That so he may do battle and have praise.
— Robert Browning.

 

It’s counter-intuitive this Christian walk. To battle against dragons with meekness …

 

“The quietness and openness and vulnerability of meekness is very beautiful and very painful. It goes against all that we are by our sinful nature. It requires supernatural help.” John Piper

 

My sinful nature says I should borrow someone’s shotgun and go coon hunting today after waking up to half of my chicken flock dead. My favorite Dominique who managed to live for years with crippled feet was one of the victims. Only two days ago we found one of our ducks dead, too. And then the other (right after I agreed to take a few ducks from a friend to keep the second duck company).

 

My sinful nature says we should re-home our foster kid. My husband fears this kid destroying our peace — and our marriage. After three years she’s only improving on ways to be deceptive. Frankly, we worry that her desire to be promiscuous will lead to us  raising her low-IQ offspring well into our eighties. It puts to the test our notion that every child is here for a reason and deserves love. Some days I just want to slink away to some cave and let the world fend for itself.

I don’t want to feel my blood rise at the sight of this kid who insists on touching upon each pet peeve of everyone in the family.

Examples:

My husband has trouble with his weight so she asks him constantly if he’s eaten her ice cream or done his time on the elliptical.

I have trouble dealing with her insisting she’s right about things she’s so obviously  clueless about. I spend countless hours fuming about the steps of long division and the proper way to engage strangers in public places.

rudolph jettmar

Rudolph Jettmar

Meekness is a concept I struggle to wrap my mind around. If I want to fight the good fight, I want it to be done in a series of active steps that leads to an outcome I’ve decided upon.

The notion of handing over these desires to a higher power seems ridiculous and insane.

In the face of evil raccoons (who happen to also be cute) and unfit parents who get away with abuse and then just disappear what does meekness offer?

I’ve always thought of meekness as a mousy way to be. I imagine a weaker version of me curled up in a corner somewhere (still fretting and wringing my hands).

But meekness is something different. I think it’s that point when you realize that, despite your handmade armor and big plans, you’re powerless in the face of sin and evil. Sure you can slay a few dragons now and again with only minor scrapes, but then you turn and realize that those were just the baby dragons.

For the last two weeks my husband has been battling his mother while, for the first time, developing a relationship with his mostly absent and passive father (who is now dying of cancer). My father-in-law’s pain had brought a certain poignant beauty to their encounters, yet a dragon that has stalked my mother-in-law for years in the form of depression and addiction chooses now to scorch anyone in breathing distance.

I’ve seen this wrath, delusion and animal fear before in other cornered addicts I’ve known. Meekness in the face of it shows true bravery and strength. My husband and I take turns fending off the flames with as much meekness as we can muster, but I’m seriously less patient than he is.

In the evenings after the dragons have gone to bed we sometimes (more often than I’d like to admit) find it hard to be meek with each other. I’m disgruntled and want to slash away. My husband is just exhausted and doesn’t want a battle-frenzied companion at his bedside.

The problem with dragons is that, if they can’t kill you outright, they equally enjoy recruiting you as ally before they send their flames when you turn your back.

“Meekness begins when we put our trust in God. Then, because we trust him, we commit our way to him. We roll onto him our anxieties, our frustrations, our plans, our relationships, our jobs, our health.” John Piper

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5

Moser-Franz-hfersv

Franz Moser

HOW DO YOU SLAY YOUR DRAGONS? I’d love to know! Tell us in the comments below.

LINKS:

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MEEKNESS AND HUMILITY

GOD’S CURE FOR PRIDE AND ARROGANCE

NOT TO WORRY

“The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in pure metaphysics. He is also concerned to prove that there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to do.” Aldous Huxley

One of the astonishing things I’ve learned raising our foster daughter is that abuse often makes its victims incredibly unlovable.

Long before we took in our foster daughter I had become obsessed with the ways in which childhood abuse not only affected my character Buck Crenshaw but also his siblings. Christians are called to love the unloved — and the unlovable. Many times it turns out that the unloved and the unlovable are the same person. Of course I know Buck’s heart and all that he’s been through so as a writer I love him. Yet some readers have expressed frustration at all of his wrong turns and bad behaviors.

As a  foster parent I’m given the benefit of the doubt. Everyone in the system understands unlovable behavior — a child who eats goat shit, a child who wants to have sex with your dog, a child who struggles with murderous thoughts. As a novelist the problem lies in the fact that readers want to love the characters they read about despite their flaws. But what is a writer to do with prickly characters who shoot quills and make one bad decision after another?

People tell us that our foster daughter is a changed girl but that change continues to take place at a glacially slow pace and even with the changes we must work each day to soften our hearts enough to love her — or even like her. Just like my fictional CRENSHAW siblings, our foster daughter always finds new ways to go left, not right. She finds new ways to annoy and instigate trouble — almost on an hourly basis.

The truth about foster care and abuse: Some kids are over medicated, some never receive the mental health care they need. Some seem fine but carry burdens into adulthood marked by drive, alcohol abuse or an inability to accept love.

As the god of my fictional universe it hurts when a reader doesn’t love a character who really needs to be loved. Writing about them is like being one of those photographers who takes portraits of troubled, desperate foster kids dressed in their best smiles and outfits. Yet the troubled, desperate character still remains.

Writing about unloved and unlovable people comes with heartache and risk. Maybe no one buys the book. In real life maybe the unloved child becomes a menace to society. Maybe he kills people.

I think about the creator of the universe sending souls into the world. What happens when no one loves the unlovable?

 

How many generations does it take to rid a family of behaviors and problems of the heart that sometimes lead to acts of evil? On the other hand, can there be enough human love devoted to someone to truly set them straight?

The recent shooting in Florida, the ramming of vans into pedestrians, the flying of planes into towers, the modern slave trade that dwarfs the slavery of the past, and the simple, daily, often secret abuse of children (so many cases around the globe that they hardly ever discussed) in homes that from the outside seem quite respectable — these things — these evils are problems of the heart.

We seek easy fixes. I’ve done it myself. Gluten is what makes my foster daughter think of stabbing me in the night with kitchen knives. Alarms on her door will cure her PTSD. All meds are evil. All meds are good.

The reality is that we are under a curse. Town Hall meetings, virtue signalling, talk of burning  NRA spokespeople — these things –are just frosting on the poison cake of life.

If there is no God and there is no truth then murder and abuse have no meaning. Fatherless boys and molested girls are just play things in a culture that regards pleasure and irresponsibility as its god.  If every human feeling is just a social construct and every human desire is equal then why do we even care who lives or dies?

We are flawed. That almost sounds trite. We are murderers, deceivers, neglectful parents. We are selfish and stupid much of the time. We are driven by pride. Gunshots fly all around us and we go on with our day until one shooting is deemed more important than others. We show how deep we are by posting pictures on Instagram  or write posts like this with no answers except one that makes no sense.

LOVE THE IMPOSSIBLE ONES TO LOVE. This act is so uncommon and revolutionary that it seems ridiculous.

It’s easy in fiction writing but I have a long way to go in the real world.

“I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning; and consequently assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption. The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in pure metaphysics. He is also concerned to prove that there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to do. For myself, as no doubt for most of my friends, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom. The supporters of this system claimed that it embodied the meaning – the Christian meaning, they insisted – of the world. There was one admirably simple method of confuting these people and justifying ourselves in our erotic revolt: we would deny that the world had any meaning whatever.” Aldous Huxley

“There are some men and some women in whose company we are always at our best. While with them we cannot think mean thoughts or speak ungenerous words…

…Their mere presence is elevation, purification, sanctity. All the best stops in our nature are drawn out by their intercourse, and we find a music in our souls that was never there before.” – Henry Drummond

George Muller’s father was a tax collector. By the age of ten young George was an expert thief, liar and gambler who pilfered government money from his father. While his mother lay dying, George was out playing cards and getting drunk. Nowadays we’d look for a cause. The parents were lax or some such thing.

I sit at church sometimes and wonder about the perfect families seated in the aisles in front of me. Many of the children are schooled at home, taught 10 different musical instruments and sit quietly taking sermon notes. Marriages are intact. The fathers attend services and participate in church planting.

I imagine my family being much more like George Muller’s. Deaths, remarriages, wayward children and absent parents. Misspent youth, deaf ears to truth and heartbreaking regrets.

George described himself as wicked and unrepentant in his young adulthood: “Despite my sinful lifestyle and cold heart,  God had mercy on me. I was as careless as ever. I had no  Bible and had not read any Scripture for years. I seldom went to church; and, out of custom only, I took the Lord’s Supper twice a year. I never heard the gospel preached. Nobody told me that Jesus meant for Christians, by the help of God, to live according to the Holy Scriptures.” George Muller’s Autobiography

Yet the supernatural is obvious to anyone who looks. The miracle of life is a trite phrase to some but worthy of contemplation. How is it not a miracle that we live, talk and watch seasons change?

Hedonism has many pleasures. What convinced a young liar and thief to embrace miracles?

George attended a Bible study at someone’s home that he credited with changing his life (a small miracle?). Something made him pray. Something convinced him that his prayers would be answered. Most people scoff at such faith (myself included), but the truly insane thing is that his prayers were so often answered.

orphansGeorge and his wife decided to open their rented home to 30 orphans and rely solely on contributions that came through prayer. No flyers, marketing campaigns or begging.  One morning George and the children (now 300 of them) prayed for food. The cupboards were bare. A passing milk truck broke down outside the home and a baker felt compelled all through the night to offer free bread and arrived just after morning prayers. This story is well-documented but still my jaundiced heart rebels. How can such a thing be true?

“Every morning after breakfast there was a time of Bible reading and prayer, and every child was given a Bible upon leaving the orphanage, together with a tin trunk containing two changes of clothing. The children were dressed well and educated – Müller even employed an inspector to maintain high standards. In fact, many claimed that nearby factories and mines were unable to obtain enough workers because of his efforts in securing apprenticeships, professional training, and domestic service positions for the children old enough to leave the orphanage.” Wikipedia

After living life as a thief George obsessively documented incoming contributions. As contributions poured in people were amazed by George’s transparent bookkeeping. More contributions poured in. More orphanages were built.

orphans 2

George was one of those rare individuals who remained dependent from day to day on God’s provision.  Even as I write this I have a hard time imagining such a person really  existed, but he did. In his lifetime he cared for 10,024 orphans and opened 117 schools!

One man and prayer!

What is more miraculous: Answered prayer or the heart ready to pray for 10,000 orphans?

Do you believe in miracles? Have you experienced one you’d like to share?

GEORGE MULLER’S WORK LIVES ON!

 

 

Cinderella

It has been two years since we brought our foster daughter her Cinderella costume at the mental health hospital.

She was trapped in the facility where she spent four months being “snowed” (a term insiders use as code for the state of over-medicated kids). Children in foster care have seemingly endless access to facilities, group homes, hospitals and drugs.

M was thrilled by the costume that trailed glitter every time you touched it, but on Halloween when we came to visit her we found her face painted as if in some sick joke. The meds gave M’s pretty face deep, dark circles. The staff exaggerated those circles with paint making her a zombie Cinderella. M was too disturbed to care. Only days before she’d been told her mother had given up her rights and would never see her again and her sisters were going to be adopted.

As a zombie, M spotted my daughter and me from across the sparsely decorated visitors’ wing. She cursed us, called us bitches and told us she never wanted to see us again. When we left we were almost relieved. Maybe she really meant it. Maybe this experiment in foster care was over. M called that night (after processing her anger in the padded room). She apologized and begged for us to return the next day.

So much has changed since those early days when an invisible force kept nudging us to stay connected. So many layers have been peeled back, and, with each layer, new and sometimes ugly revelations and behaviors emerge. Kids who’ve been abused to her extent often take their anger out on the mother figures in their new homes.  Many women report having suicidal thoughts after adopting extremely abused children (not there yet).

Survival for kids who have been hurt before the age of two, before real words to name their abuse, suffer from fears that make no sense—even to them. An Irish fishermen sweater may have the texture of a blanket in a child’s crib. How does a toddler understand the time her mother fractured her tiny sister’s skull and broke her clavicle  before throwing her into your crib? Stress and neglect damage the brain.

This year has been tough. Loving a low-functioning kid with bizarre survival skills is loving a dog who keeps biting you. Yeah, they’re cute but you have to wonder if you’re a little crazy too. Luckily this kid is only verbally abusive—and it’s more a constant need to control me. It’s like being locked in a bubble with a crazy person. She wants help yet she’ll fight for three hours (if you let her) insisting 3+3=7. We have to keep an alarm on her door now because she threatened committing suicide with kitchen knives. Once we got to the hospital (because as foster parents we must bring kids in for evaluation after suicidal talk), M ordered some food, flipped on the TV and admitted she was just angry at me for not letting her date (tests say she’s functioning at between 3 and 7 years old mentally).

While there’s a whole host of more important issues to deal with, the one that drives my husband and I crazy is her Cinderella dress from two years ago. The experts say to pick your battles, so we let her dress in the torn, too small dress over her play clothes after school. She gathers a bunch of toys, rocks and pieces of string into a bag, hops on her bike and parks it a ¼ of a mile down the road where it curves around a neighboring cow farm. She practices cheering imaginary teams with her tiara tilted on her head. On ninety degree days she wears the princess outfit, 7 scarves and a Shrek-like furry vest someone gave her at the group home. M thinks it’s fashionable.

Last week our son’s friend drove to the house. “I almost hit some crazy person in a crown blowing bubbles in the middle of the road!”

“Yeah, that’s my sister,” our son replied.

We’ve considered throwing away this costume so many times but it’s so important to her we haven’t had the heart. We’ve considered keeping her on a tighter rein but she’s finally not afraid to be out in nature on her bicycle. We’ve considered cutting our losses.

This weekend she came to apologize to me yet again for picking a fight. She knows she seriously may not be able to stay with us if she can’t begin to follow our safety rules (children of neglect believe they actually do know best about most things).

M stood before me in the open fields waving her arms with emotion. “Yeah, I do take everything out on you! I’m afraid to go to school tomorrow because the dog ate my paper (true) and here’s why I wear the princess costume. You really wanna know?”

“Okay, I guess so,” I replied, waiting for a lame excuse and not really wanting a discussion about fashion.

“So when I wear it, it’s the only time,” she began, her brown eyes welling with tears. “It’s the only time–when I wear the tiara and the dress—that I don’t feel like who I am for real: the ugliest person alive.”

 

***Photograph Library of Congress