Tuesday, August 03, 2010


This is the world's tiniest dining room, located at # 9 in the house of kj and JB.
After my illustrious weekend return to Provincetown, I am home for three days of work before I start A THREE WEEK vacation that I am not able to comprehend is really going to happen. What if my Mother gets sick? What if there is a huge crisis with a client? What if Jess needs me?
That is my stubborn mind spinning. The reality is that things are looking good for this:

I had a big meeting today. I've been worried about three of my clients: children, ages 4, 5, and 6. I have written already about "Angelina." They were removed from their Mother's care because of neglect and something has happened to Angelina that I will not write about here, but it is something unimaginable done over time to a 3 year old child.
Her brother, Alex," age 6 has been in three foster homes in one year. He is a very very bright first grader who held it together until two months ago, when the foster family he shared with his little brother felt that they could not handle him.
I see Alex one a week, since kindergarten. Always I ask him how he is and always he says "fine." He says 'fine' so often I tell him I earn a nickel every time he says it and I tell him I have enough money from that alone to go on vacation. We laugh about it.
But when he got pulled from this last foster family, his emotional reserves got depleted. Alex has been acting out, having temper tantrums, crying and kicking and screaming. I am telling his new foster family that he is not being oppositional, because that's not what it is. He is feeling terrible about himself. Something is being triggered to the point that he cannot calm himself. How could he even think about fitting in to a new family when the last two have rejected him, when his Mother has abandoned him?
I tell his new foster mother, who is angry at him, "If a baby cries, you comfort the baby. When you comfort a baby, the baby learns how to be soothed. This is what we have to teach Alex."
I am telling you all this because today I attended a meeting with the Father of these three children. He speaks only Spanish and I don't, but there were Child Protective social workers and supervisors and his girlfriend all present, because this Father wants custody of his children. He cries when he asks me what actually happened to Angelina and how he should help her. He listens while I tell him that Alex is going to need special help to get through trusting again, that we must proceed slowly with Angelina, that very horrible people made a 'game' of what they did.
He has faithfully shown up at state supervised visitations for six months now. He works as a cook and he is poor. And he loves his children.
"Take Alex first," I say. "He has not bonded with this new foster family and take him so he is already with you when he starts second grade."
"Take J. next. He thinks his foster mother is actual Mother; he may have trouble leaving her but it is good you know her from church. Take a couple of months to visit J. at her home, to have him for a weekend while he is still living with her. We'll make sure he knows he will still be able to see her when he lives with you."
And Angelina....I have thought so much about this. She has been with one foster Mother for two years now. As fate would have it, her foster Mother now has a terminal illness, but she is still mostly active and she loves Angelina. She has asked to have her over Christmas, no matter what happens about custody, because she has promised to take her on vacation.
I provide details about Angelina. "Her foster Mother wants to stay in her life. Are you okay with that?" I ask her Father. Yes, he appreciates what she has done and he wants to meet her and will follow her routine and suggestions.
I suggest that Angelina's transition extend over five months, that she stay in her foster family during that time, while she gradually spends planned time with her Father and her brothers.
I ask the girlfriend if she is in this for the long haul. I ask if she knows how to braid hair and how to match clothes and sneakers, because Angelina loves the way her her foster mother helps her look. The girlfriend smiles, she says, "Yes, I can do that." I smile too.
They ask,"What do we do if we and the children run into their Mother one day? We need help to know what to do....(We will keep it simple, I tell him. I tell him to hold their hands and not let go. I tell him we will work with all three kids to talk about, plan for the possibility of seeing their Mother at some unexpected time.)
Their Father begins to cry. I tell him that his children will heal, that he should not think of them as damaged, that his love and care will change everything. I tell him I am and excellent Therapist and I care about his children and I will help him and his family.
He and his girlfriend cry. I am relieved that this is a family I can work with, that I will work with. They are going to do their best. I can see that.
I am relieved. This was a good day.
Okay. Is this too hard to hear? I'm sorry if it is. Sometimes I'm amazed I and others can do this work at all. But most times I am honored. It is a high privilege.
Okay. I would like to end this post with Mary Oliver. I admit I was a bit surprised at how many of my friends and visitors are not familiar with her poetry.
So please, take a moment, no matter what else you are doing, and read these two poems. I think when you do you will understand why she is such a revered poet and you will understand something about yourself and life.
And if like me you have already read these poems a hundred times, I know you won't mind reading them again. And again. ♥
Wild Geese
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
The Summer Day
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?


  1. kj, what a struggle between wanting to be able to go on vacation, yet knowing that these kids are needing you, their dad needing your guidance. you are a really good person. god bless.

    i love these poems. especially the second one.

    "I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
    I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
    into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
    how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields"

    a quote from joseph campbell comes to mind that i came across earlier today that seems somehow to fit:

    "participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world."

    there are times to reach out and help and then there are times when you need to recharge your spirit. you deserve a holiday. i hope you can enjoy. xoxo ♡

  2. yes, it's hard to hear this kj.

    but could it be that if each reader breathes in a little of this familys pain, it could in some way ease the weight a bit?

    can, by sharing, not lead to more caring, and compassion out in the world, one breath, one word at a time?

    i'd like to think so.

    Wild Geese is one of (if not the one) my favorite poems ever. published in 1986, the year my (middle) son was born. That was a very good year.

    And don't pack the whatifs when you head back to Ptown. (that's why you have your stunning iphone, to alert you)


  3. that was huge!

    life is big sometimes and that's why we all need a little holiday :)

    have your well deserved vacation so you can once again return to care for all that you do.


  4. Oh dear girl I feel so grateful that there are people like you out there. A heartfelt thank you to you and my love across the miles to you and to these precious children. Look after yourself.
    ps mary oliver's poetry never fails to move me...

  5. Anything we (I) can do to help that family make a success of it? it worries me....

  6. This be the verse by Philip Larkin
    They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
    They may not mean to, but they do.
    They fill you with the faults they had
    And add some extra, just for you.

    But they were fucked up in their turn
    By fools in old-style hats and coats,
    Who half the time were soppy-stern
    And half at one another's throats.

    Man hands on misery to man.
    It deepens like a coastal shelf.
    Get out as early as you can,
    And don't have any kids yourself.

    I have this on my wall behind my kitchen door and when I read this sad post, i think of it!!!

  7. amanda, i will go on vacation and i am sure within a day or two i will be lazily loverly falling into the zone of whatever, whenever! i am a good vacation-er. this joseph campbell quote is so wonderful and so timely for me. lately i've been talking about witnessing, accepting, experiencing the inevitable sadness of others and within myself. so this quote is a huge gift to me, amanda. thank you! ♥

    lori, yes, yes, yes. i see it that way too. we do what we can do, one breath at a time. there is also a responsibility, i believe, to accept joy where ever it appears, because doing that ripples out far beyond ourselves. i love you, dear friend. xoxo

    hi robyn! i sit up a little taller whenever you leave a comment here or post from your end. three weeks is one hell of a vacation! my rhythm will change. thank you for your well wishes. i will follow your advice! ♥

    chrisy, i know the provincelands where mary oliver walks and observes and attends. do you think i might absorb her ability to also write like an angel? hahaha! i don't think so! but i agree: she is incredible. xoxo

    mim, your heart is so HUGE. surely you know that!!! if there is anything that can help, i will let you know. meanwhile, you continue your good deeds as i do. we are doing ourselves and the world right, mim. that's alot. ps i love you!

    joss, you are unique in all the world and your honesty and bravery touches me, teaches me, AND makes me laugh! TSUP!!!

  8. I think what you do is wonderful. I really do. I would love to foster kids, although handing them back would break me, especially if I knew they were going back to something not good. I would never give up on the so called 'tough' cases. sigh, i hear so many people just speak negative about them, even my 'ex' who is a primary teacher with very low socio economic kids in his class. I used to say to him, if you give up on them, there is no one to help them see the good that exists within them. sigh sigh sigh.
    kids just should be kids and lead happy and safe and loved lives.
    yes i am naive, (and no i refuse to change) yes i see the good in everything.
    hugs for your sweet kids, thank god they have you at their backs.
    Thank you kj

  9. I'm glad you posted this. It moved me again even though you had told me this over the phone.
    Bless that dad. Man, he has a big challenge ahead and it sounds like he's going to roll up his sleeves and leave his heart wide open for his kids.

    They'll never forget you KJ. You know I know this. We don't ever forget the ones who first started believing in us and let us know what love and trust is.

    I think you need these 3 weeks in P-Town. Restore your sweet self. That's part of the reward for the work you do.

    I'm with Mim, let me know if there's a way I can help. Perhaps Christmas? Of a gift card for the dad so he can shop for them.

    I'm just thinking here.

    Hey, talk to you later.

    Love you,

  10. Kj-I cried reading this, of course anyone would. You do such beautiful work, it is too close to my own childhood for me to be able to do it, but I am glad there are people like you out there. The father sounds sweet and the plan you worked out sounds great. Alex broke my heart, I wish I could hug him and hug him!
    You picked 2 of my very favorite poems of Mary Oliver's, soul sister that you are.

  11. P.S. Count me in with the idea of helping in some way.

  12. How sad....yet how uplifting for all of these people to know YOU....you, who can infuse people with your love, your care and your knowledge of what they need to go forward with their lives and the lives of their children. Amanda's comments are apt and true.

    The Mary Oliver poems are BOTH favourites of mine....

    Sending you love and strength and more love,

    ♥ Robin ♥

  13. You are going to Cape Cod, not the moon - if an emergency arises you can be found. Ste it all aside and go enjoy your three weeks!

  14. Oh....... I have the same now. Just worried all the time now that my holiday is so near, that something will come between it.......
    I have a few what ifs at the moment.
    Hope nothing will happen this month!

    But you deserve your holiday dear, although you can't be missed at work. So you have to enjoy it and get new energy!

    And that poor story about those children, so sad.

    Love the 2 poems! My gosh they are both very special ,. Thanks!

    See u soon!!!!!

  15. Tsup*!* I'm glad those three little kiddies have one parent plus you in their corner if anyone can bring them together I think it's you Kj*!*

    Enjoy your time away to recharge and write.

    Those two poems are lovely and thought provoking.
    The Philip Larkin poem is a favourite of mine too, pleased to see it here.

  16. What a special bridge you are between this dad and his kids.
    Any one of them would likely be unable to cross over without you.
    God blesses your kind of love,,,and your vacation is one of these blessings.Enjoy it.
    The poetry is exceptional, thank you.

  17. I sometimes wonder what Foster Parents expect. These children have come to them because they have issues. They aren't all going to be angels. So glad that you're negotiating their return to their father. It might not be paradise but at least they'll be together.

  18. I was a foster mom for years, although the kids I "mommed" were all teens. I'm so sorry that foster mother was angry at Alex. As a foster mom, it's one of the first things to learn...a child coming into your home from god-knows-what kind of background is not going to be a model child. I pray and hope she changes her approach.

    And I pray for this family to become unified and filled with laughter. I think it can happen, kj, with you in the picture. Thank the stars for you!

    Have a very happy holiday and I can almost smell that ocean! Love the photos!

    And I kid you not...the word veri is unifier. So there ya go!

  19. It sounds like the sad story will have a happy ending kj and to know that you have a hand in that must be wonderful. Enjoy your holiday - it's well deserved! x

  20. Had to come back to read the poems again.
    Soon I will tell you why these are so special and soon you will see nothing in life is coincidence......

  21. children and animals...it so saddens me when abuse happens, and it does no matter how we wish it differently. But to make a difference in their lives, and to see them heal and trust again...it's why we do what we do, isn't it...