Fun Fact #15 – Sometimes Love Just Isn’t Enough

Fun Fact #15 – Sometimes Love Just Isn’t Enough


 

My family is broken, they always have been since as far back as I can remember and no matter how much I try to help them, there’s nothing I can do because they are not ready to help themselves. (At least some of them) The “System” it breaks you, the cycle of abuse that everyone talks about. It’s real. When I left foster care at eighteen I told myself I was never going back (I know you’ve heard me say this a thousand times) I told myself that my life was going to be different because even though I didn’t get to choose the family I was born into, or my beginning, I could definitely change my ending. Well, A few weeks ago I reconnected with a part of  my biological family that I had shut out, it was the first time in a long time that I let them into my life without restrictions.

I received a call from my grandmother. She was screaming and yelling on the phone, “Help! Save Me! SEND HELP!” but my uncle grabbed the phone out of her hand and hung up too quickly cutting the call short, before I could actually figure out what was going on. I spent the next 30 minutes on the phone with emergency services, giving an in depth explanation as to why they needed to send someone out to their house to check on her. I didn’t know her address, but I described the street to the best that I could remember. It had been so long since I had seen her, I felt guilty. A few hours later I received a call from my uncle, he was fuming on the other end of the line, I could hear it between the drunk mumbles and angry stutter. He knew that I called the cops, and I didn’t deny it. I spent the next two days at the hospital with my grandmother and for the first time in a long time, I felt something. Something other than this depression I have been dwelling in, I felt a simmering rage build up from the bottom of my bones. My grandmother was weak and bruised with infections that needed antibiotics. Weighing less than my eight-year-old, I could see the skeletal indents on her cheeks, and every vein in her body as it burst through her thin flesh. She had been abused, neglected, malnourished and held against her will in that house with him for months. 

It took weeks of emotional stress, depression, fragile encounters, and an acute mental breakdown before I’ve realized that I had made the wrong decision of letting them back into my life, or letting her back in. Then a few more weeks to push them out of my life. I spent the past few weeks with my biological family, working around the clock to ensure that my grandmother was well fed and cared for, “Nourished” in essence.

 Before I came back into the picture, my grandmother lived with her son, my uncle, in a small duplex in the heart of the ghetto. The kind of street where people get shot, and car windows get smashed; trust me, I know from experience (It’s pretty costly to replace a windshield) They live together and slowly they are dying together. He is a terrible alcoholic and suffers from bouts of aggression whenever he consumes a drink; he also is legally responsible for my grandmother because she’s disabled, slowly deteriorating and can hardly walk herself. Between the both of them, I’m not sure who will live longer.

Anyways, I had distanced myself from my family to escape the cloud of toxicity that surrounds them, but I left my grandma behind; mostly because she wanted to be there and I couldn’t stand the toxic environment. For the past twenty eight years she’s chosen her son over everyone and everything, but when I saw her in the hospital I could tell she was at her breaking point (or so I thought) Between making police reports, following up on those reports at the department, calling Adult Protective Services (APS) and collecting her things with police escorts, I barely had time to catch my breath and actually comprehend what was happening as my life picked up pace. She moved in with my sister, at the time it was the best option, though looking back now, not the best idea either. 

You see, my sister and I have a difficult relationship, between the never-ending arguments and drama it’s actually not healthy at all; just another example of the effects that our broken childhood had on us, and trust me, I’m not trying to give you a pity party or anything, It’s the damn truth. Childhood trauma effects you well into adulthood, no matter who you are, or where you come from. It’s that trauma which boils over and spills out onto everything we call life, making it difficult to sustain anything. 

Anyways, Between my sister and my grandmother… I apparently thought that wasn’t enough self inflicted pain, so I started becoming a part of my brothers life again as well. The first time I had seen him in over two years I was straddling a cold metal chair behind a thick wall of glass. As I sat there staring at him trying to make sense of everything, I kinda lost my shit internally but I couldn’t tell him that. Our relationship, much like my sisters, was toxic. I pushed him away, we pushed each other away (for good reasons) yet there I was holding a thick black phone to my ear trying to console him while he fell apart on the other end of the line. I tried my best to tell him everything I would have wanted to hear. 

“You’re going to be okay.” 

“Don’t worry, I’m here for you, how much do you need on your books” 

“I love you.”

“We have to be better than this, Parker. We HAVE to for our children. We need to be here for them.” 

“You’re not alone.”

I was actually pretty proud of myself after walking away from that glass window, I thought I had actually made some sense to him, got through to him and helped him see things differently in some way. Some inspirational voice inside burst through my seams and gave him one of the best speeches I was capable of giving at the time. After my sister and I buzzed through the steel door and made our way down the elevator, I took a deep breath. Speechless. Lilian looked at me with an odd expression and said, “What the fuck, that was awesome.” and it was, in that moment it was AWESOME.

After that, both Lillian and I called him, went to see him multiple times a week. I told him that I would attend all of his court dates and support him through the process (I did) For a while, I tried. We really tried. But between balancing my grandmothers drama and his upcoming needs, I was exhausted. I connected with the social workers on his CPS case so that I could potentially become a placement option for his daughter if needed. I went to family CFT meetings. [CFT meetings are structured, guided discussions with the family and other team members about family strengths, needs, and problems and the impact they have on the safety, permanence, and well-being of the family’s children. CFT meetings always have a clear but open-ended purpose.] I submitted fingerprints for processing and started the process on getting my house cleared to become a  foster parent. 

My sister and I delivered his rent check to his landlord so he wouldn’t lose his apartment during the time he was “locked up” and I picked him up from the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Facility at 4:00 AM in the morning. Why the fuck do they release people at 4 in the morning?!

I wanted to help him as much as I could, I drove him around town to do errands upon his release. I was there for him because at the end of the day all we have is each other. Mommy and daddy won’t come save us from a fucked up situation if we get stuck, find trouble, make mistakes or get lost along the way. At some point or another we all need each other, and even though we were at odds. I did as much as a good sister would do and then I became angry. But not at him, angry at life, at the situations we ended up in as adults. The struggles we all faced. The four of us kids (my siblings and I) magically lived through our childhood, and sometimes I like to think we survived it too. But a larger part of me knows that we are all fucked up in our own ways. So much that it all affects us differently and though mostly I want to believe it all happened for a reason, I still have times where I struggle. Like recently for example. 

Somewhere between feeling helpless and trying to be helpful, I became angry and hurt, upset, depressed even. I started losing MY ESSENCE. Then somewhere in between that anger I found, I started giving up. At some point, everything over the past few months became too much. I was doing too much, spreading myself too thin. And then I realized that everything I had been doing for people wouldn’t change a thing. My brother was still angry, and battling his own demons that I couldn’t help him with. My grandmother, abused and neglected still wanted to go back to her son and there was nothing APS could do about it, even after the multiple reports, police visits and removal. My sister, was still difficult to hold a conversation with, angry and volatile as hell, we would never get along. 

After everything that happened,  I realized I was beginning to lose myself, so I did the only thing I knew how. I left them behind and pushed everyone away, because I knew that I would fall apart if I didn’t. I love my siblings. I always will, but sometimes love just isn’t enough. Just because you love someone, doesn’t necessarily mean that they are good for you, or vice versa. I miss the version of us as kids. Little messy haired-bare footed-yellow stained-baggy t-shirt wearing- dirty – foul mouthed- rambunctious- kids. I miss us like that; before our innocence was stolen.

After pushing everyone away, I felt better. For a while it worked. Life was back to it’s slow pace and things were quiet again. I have my family at home of course, but for the most part, there was a painful silence. And sometimes where there’s too much silence, I get lost in thought, memories, moments. LIFE. After a while of self inflicted solitary confinement, I started becoming lost. (So if you thought I was drowning during all of this, the struggle during the silence was worse) But if life has taught me anything, it’s that I’m strong. I just need to learn how to balance everything I guess. I suppose that’s why I’m here, blogging again. For some reason, being able to say “Fuck the world” makes me feel better. Though I don’t really mean that, because obviously I want to make this world a better place. Still, the power of turning thoughts into spoken word frees the mind somehow, so thus! Here I am. 

Every now and then I just need a little reaffirmation that I’m doing the right thing and maybe a little self care. I’ve never really had the opportunity to be selfish because i’m so busy taking care of everything else, everyone else.  But this time around it has to be different because I have to say fuck everyone else, It’s my turn now. It’s about time I nourish my mental health and stop letting this cycle of abuse drag me down. I’m tired of being consumed by what I went through. I want my daughter to never have to experience what I went through as a child, and what everyone around me continues to live through as adults.

 I’m going to give her a childhood she doesn’t have to heal from. But first, I know that I’m still working on healing myself, which is why after everything happened and life slowed down, I spent an obscene amount of money on seeing Mumford and Sons live at Bottle Rock Napa (post soon to come) They are so soul refreshing it’s ridiculous. 

So now what do I do ask? The fuck if I know. Hmmm..

Well, I started volunteering at my favorite foster care agency again, it’s been awhile since I’ve been there but it definitely lifts my spirits and puts me in a positive state of mind. Other than that i’m just cycling my favorite songs on repeat, feeding the stray kittens on my porch (anyone want a kitten? Seriously…Do you want a kitten?) and watching reruns of old tv shows until I can figure out what to do with my summer. I’ll probably spend my next few Saturdays around the Sutro Baths or Ocean Beach. Hell, maybe I’ll write more. Book number two? Lord knows I have enough to fill a library with. When’s my lifetime movie coming out? When do I get to watch that? 
PS: I need ideas on fun things to do with my daughter for the summer.. Drop a line below. Until next time.

America XOXO,

 

© 2018 All Rights Reserved America DeFleur

Fun Fact #10 – Foster Children Lack Confidence

 

Fun Fact #10 – Foster Children Lack Confidence


I must have heard it a thousand times growing up the way I did,

“You’ll never amount to anything”

“You’re going to be alone for the rest of your life”

“NO ONE will love you”

I still remember the look on my biological fathers face as we sped down the freeway – his hands flailing wildly in the air above him as he shouted and glared at me from the front seat of his red Chevy pickup. I always hated that obnoxiously loud truck and the way it roared like a diesel that was 3 bolts short of falling apart or losing a tire.

Every time I hopped into the backseat of that truck I would close my eyes and take a deep breath in an attempt to prepare myself for the toxic car ride that would soon follow. When he wasn’t screaming profanities at me, or howling from the front seat about what a failure I was, he was sputtering an exchange of hateful words to his wife in Spanish. Eventually, I learned to tune his voice out and found solace in the little things that flew past my window outside. I would watch people walk down the busy streets and stare at other drivers as we hurled past them, picturing myself in their backseat as someone else. Anywhere else. I grew accustomed to people telling me I wasn’t good enough and I’ll never be worth anything, After years of listening to the same things from different people it slowly bore a hole in my confidence and self-worth, I started believing them!

I mean, maybe they were right? Maybe that’s why my placements in the system never lasted. Growing up, I was extremely shy, withdrawn. and little rebellious. I hated being the center of attention and I had this terrible stutter that just wouldn’t go away no matter how many speech therapy classes my teachers enrolled me in,

I was broken and nobody wanted me– or so I thought.

It took a long time before I was able to extinguish those little voices in my head telling me I was worthless,  It took about 10 years and a few therapy sessions in fact.
________________________________________

Fast forward to now and it looks like my next adventure (in 10 days!) will be on a train to Monterey to join forces with a local Foster Care Agency so that I’ll be able to share my experiences and become a voice for youth still in the system. I’ll have the opportunity to help guide hundreds of foster parents while I sit on their “Former Foster Youth Panel” and give advice on how they can help children currently living in their home. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to shed a little bit of my perspective on what it’s like going through the system, in hopes they will be able to find something beneficial from listening to the story of a foster child that once was.

I was asked not long ago,

“Well, what do you want people to gain from your speech in Monterey?”

and I didn’t really have an answer until now, I guess the truth is that — I know that being a foster parent is not easy, and I know that it gets overwhelming and frustrating at times, when you have a child that is rebellious or withdrawn, or when you have children that come into your home and leave quicker than you expected… It’s difficult to encourage and promote the development (FYI READ THIS AWESOME BLOG) of these young children when you don’t understand their background or where they came from. I know this because I was both a foster child and foster mother, and I hope that by the end of our talk, I’ll be able to give them a fresh perspective or new tool for patience.

Sometimes, patience comes with the ability to understand and I’ve learned that if you’re struggling with patience it’s likely because you are not able to understand someone’s past and if you can’t understand their past, then how can you help shape their future?

Other than that, I’m sure there will be a million questions that I’ll be able to answer. I’m so beyond excited for this opportunity to help Foster Hope Sacramento. This is going to be such a positive and uplifting experience for everyone involved. I was told there are going to be a lot of team building activities and group exercises to help encourage and promote one another, and I think that’s exactly what I need right now! It’s going to be amazing I’m just not sure that I’m entirely ready? I mean do I prepare the speech beforehand? Or just wing it? I’m usually pretty good at “winging it”

Well, I suppose I’ll have 10 days left to prepare a little confidence and muster up the courage to stand there in front of everyone including my fellow peers and former foster youth on the panel.

**Takes a deep breath **

Alright Monterey, Here I come!

© 2018 All Rights Reserved America DeFleur

Fun Fact #8 – It’s Ok to be HUMAN

Fun Fact # 8: It’s okay to be human.


There is something about the way music illuminates my soul. I typically listen to that really depressing kind of music that makes you want to cry or scream into a pillow. You know, the kind that’s really impactful and deep and when you listen to it, it almost feels like ripping open old scabs that haven’t fully healed. I love the sad stuff because it makes you bleed and feel again. I think the ability to feel and embrace a variety of emotions is so beautifully human. Emotion is what drives us to make every decision we’ll ever make, whether it be out of love, anger or hate. If your taught properly how to channel those emotions and deal with your feelings then it helps you to become a stable person as you grow into adulthood.

When I was younger I had no idea how to deal with my thoughts or feelings, My opinions and viewpoints were never validated and I believe for children that are learning and still growing – THAT is so important. Validation, if you’re never taught the importance of validation then its very difficult to become empathetic and for me, I would have to say empathy is my favorite feeling of all. It’s what gives life meaning and value. I feel like without knowing that its O.K to feel and be human, we spend a lot of time and energy focused on beating ourselves up over things we don’t understand, we become selfish and focus on us, forgetting that the world isn’t just about us. Its about US (as a whole) if that makes sense?

Anyways, sometimes I ramble. so yea, back to what I was saying!

That really depressing music is what makes me feel most alive and it usually ALWAYS involves some type of screaming over an acoustic guitar, piano or banjo. Music is what pretty much what pulled me through the foster care system, music is what changed my life and helped guide me to where I am today but every few years I’ll come across a song that just tears into my soul,

This song gets me EVERY TIME, I’ll be honest. I cry like a baby! I love the soft melancholy keys that play in the background while Charlie Puth rips into the intro with an undeniable passion, like its pulling at the seams of your heart. I love the hope that lingers behind each word as the lyrics embrace loss yet somehow manage to instill hope. There’s just something about the way he sings,

“I’ll see you again”

This song reminds me of the time when I fostered my niece. I thought growing up in the system would give me some sort of insight on what it would be like to be a good foster mom. I used to tell myself when I was younger: I’m going to grow up and take in LOTS of foster kids.

But the reality is, I could only do it once. I know there is such a huge need for more foster parents, Trust me, I KNOW. Maybe one day in the future I’ll be ready to foster again, but for now that little girl left a hole so deep that it still hurts two years later. Every now and then when a 50 ft wave comes crashing in (read this post to understand my reference) I somehow find my way back to this memory.:

I still remember the way her tiny hands felt against my face when she would look at me and call me “momma” her little fingers were plump and soft and not yet fully formed. I used to take both of her hands and place them on either side of my cheek as I looked her in the eye and say ” I love you girly”

She would spread her little fingers wide across my cheek and squeeze, ” I love you, momma”

I would then take her little open-faced palm and softly nibble while she giggled and pulled away laughing, only to place them right back and my cheek and make me do it all over again. She loved it! She loved us, we were different than everything she had known before and she felt safe, I could sense how happy she had been with us. She made everything brighter when she was around.

At one point, before my marriage dissolved we had this big oak table that sat in the middle of our dining room. It was a beautiful hand-carved piece of furniture that, funny enough, was given to me by an ILP Worker when I turned 20 and moved into my first apartment. The table was round with a thick base that made it extremely heavy to move around and was difficult to squeeze through doorways, but we somehow managed to haul it around over the years. By the time I was 24 and fostering my niece it had already taken so much of a beating that I was nearly ready to throw it out, so when she began carving pictures into it with a pen, I wasn’t really upset. Instead, I told her,

“baby, we are not supposed to use pens like that”

She looked at me as though my words had peaked her interest. Squinting her eyes, I watched them shift from the table and back to me as her mouth slightly dropped in awe.

“if you want to draw, let’s use paper, okay? ”

“look we can do it together,” I said.

I placed a crayon in her hand and slid a piece of construction paper in front of her.  Sitting beside her, I watched as she spun the colorful wax in circular directions on the paper. Licking my finger I placed it atop her scribbled letters and pressed hard into the oak, but it was useless, The damage had been done. Rubbing away the ink only revealed the depth of her carvings. They were permanently etched into the top of that oak table and weren’t going anywhere. A few months later before she left she asked me with tears in her eyes,

“Are you gonna keep the table momma?”

“Yes baby, Yes. I’m going to keep the table” and just like that we never saw her again.

© 2018 All Rights Reserved America DeFleur

 

Fun Fact #3 – NOT GOOD ENOUGH

3. Foster kids will always wonder “Why wasn’t I good enough?”


I’m smart. I’m funny and I’m a little shy, but once you get to know me and we get past the awkward stages I’m pretty much one of the best people you’ll ever know. And I don’t say that with a cockiness. I say that with a wholehearted honesty. I’m not judgmental at all, I’ve seen too much and have experienced so much more than you can imagine that it taught me to be appreciative

But I’m also naive and at one point I was young and stupid.

At one point, I was so afraid of being alone that I held onto to the first boy who gave me his hand. I had no one when I turned 18, No parents to teach me basic life skills, no friends to guide me. I was so terrified of everything ahead of me and not sure how to cope with being alone in this big world. I was 18 and no longer a ward of the court, I had nowhere to go.

Unexpectedly, this beautiful boy took me in and kissed me sweetly so I loved him and stayed, never looking back.

I told myself marrying him was a good idea because Well! I was pregnant and it sure beat sleeping in trees at the park. We had a lot of good times back then.

  • Back when life was simple and we didn’t have to be productive adults.
  • Back when all we worried about was ourselves
  • Back when we didn’t pay rent
  • Back when jobs were just for fun
  • Back when we could ride bikes all day and have picnics in the park
  • Back when we weren’t sick of each other
  • Back when love was simple
  • Back when love was restless

Not the restless-I’m-bored-shatter-your-soul kinda LOVE.
But the innocent and sweet want-to-love-you-all-the-time-i-need-and-miss-you kinda LOVE.

I miss that feeling.

My daughter is the closest thing to real love that I’ve ever known. “I suppose that’s why all us foster kids get knocked up so young huh? I know that’s what your thinking – because its true. Most kids HAVE kids because they are

1. uneducated
2. lonely
3. want someone to love them

how terribly sad is that? Young women running around creating babies to fill that emotional void. I guess if we are all being honest here, I was one of them.

“Did you know that Young women in foster care and those who have “aged out” are more likely to experience teenage pregnancy than their peers in the general population; repeat pregnancies by age 19 are also common.” (I was also 19)

Even still, I would never trade her for the world. If there was a god, and he came down here ready to strike our souls! I would make sure to sacrifice myself so that my baby could live. I couldn’t bear the thought of anything bad happening to her. In fact, I’m stressed out and worried to bits EVERYTIME she is away from me. I don’t even like taking her school some days.

what if something happens and I’m not there to protect her? She’s too precious, she’s perfect.

She’s not judgmental, in her eyes I have no flaws. She’s young and her beautiful innocence inspires me, she’s the reason for everything I do and will continue to do until the end of life as we know it. I wish there were more people like her in this world. Sweet, Caring, Generous loving and just kind people.

Sometimes I feel this overwhelming sadness wash over me when I’m holding her hand though. If I could love her this much, IF PEOPLE! HUMAN PEOPLE are capable of loving their little creations THIS MUCH…

Then why wasn’t I good enough? Why didn’t my parents love me enough to stay? and How the fuck did I end up in the system alone.

Most foster kids will always wonder “Why wasn’t I good enough?”

© 2018 All Rights Reserved America DeFleur

Fun Fact #4 – LOSS

4. They never teach you what its like to lose someone that you love.


I had a dream of him last night, I saw us together in a moment that was beyond wonderful.

There we were walking alongside a beautiful river on a cold winter morning, With gloves on our hands and scarfs wrapped around our necks, we walked in sync giggling along the path beside the river’s edge. The sound of rushing water softly echoed in the background, thankfully keeping my nerves at bay. There was a peacefulness about the water that ran downstream. For a moment I thought I would pass out or fall over as this nervous tension rose from the tips of my toes and towards the base of my neck.

For a moment I couldn’t breathe and suddenly my body felt extremely light, luckily he had placed his hand over mine and squeezed lightly, almost as if to say,

“Are you okay”

His touch was comforting, and it kept me grounded. His voice was warm and sweet like we had never been apart.

Chatting, I walked with him slowly as we stared beyond the river and at the sun rising in the eastern skyline. As the rays of light spread through the atmosphere above us, illuminating the shadows that surrounded us, I took a deep breath and inhaled. I wanted the moment to last forever.

As we walked, he told me sweet nothings and his silly jokes were lighthearted and amusing. he was so delightful, I wanted to kiss him and just then, he suddenly stopped in the middle of our conversation and pulled me close. The tip of his nose brushed mine as he swept me into a passionate kiss,  I wrapped my arms around him and his hands found their place alongside my waist as he held with a firm but gentle grip.

“I miss you” I whispered in his ear.

“I know,” he replied.

His warm breath against my body melted my core as I ran my fingers through his hair kissing him.


Moments later I awoke in a puddle of tears wishing I could go back to sleep to see him once more. I just needed to see him one more time, all of the moments we’ve shared were lost somewhere in the back of my mind.

They never teach you what its like to lose someone that you love. Instead, you bounce through the system broken and confused experiencing more loss than anyone should ever have to endure. Then as you become an adult and move in and out of relationships as you get older, the pain of that loss sticks around longer than it should.

Rather than learning how to accept it, you become infuriated that it keeps happening AGAIN and AGAIN. So you cut people out and close yourself off, because at least THEN… You won’t have to feel like that again,

At least not until you fall asleep and become lost in another vivid dream that is..

© 2018 All rights Reserved America DeFleur