Published by PaintingChef on 10 Nov 2014

Belle.

One of the greatest tragedies of the entire universe is that those who have the purest hearts and the sweetest souls spend the shortest time with us.

This past Saturday, our sweet girl, Belle, passed away peacefully in her sleep. She would have been 13 in January. A teenager. I imagine that she would have immediately began to roll her beautiful brown eyes at me at every chance.

Patrick and I got married in December of 2001. By January I was begging him for a puppy. We looked and we looked and we finally found someone whose dog had had puppies. We drove about 3 hours to see them when they were just a week or so old, still just a wiggling mass of puppy and poop. We just sat there and stared… “How do we pick one?” We started picking them up, cuddling them, I tried to stick a few in my bra and steal them, Patrick intervened… as he does.

I’m a sexist asshole and knew I wanted a female so that, at least, made it a little easier. Finally we just put all the females in a pile and watched. Waited. Suddenly one of them was squirming towards Patrick on her little belly and as soon as she got to him, she peed all over him. Belle chose us.

Patrick and Belle

She was our eternal puppy, even at 12 years old with a mostly white face and a hitch in her step from knee surgery when she was 7, she had a puppy quality to her face. She was always happy to see us. And you. And you over there, too. Every day was the best day of her life. But the ones where she got to swim too? Holy balls. (Which she did not have. Because she was a girl.) Those days were epic.

Maybe it was because we got her when we were newlyweds and didn’t ever plan on having children. Or perhaps it was because when you met Belle, you knew right away that there was no other way to love her than fully and completely and messily. But that puppy girl was our baby. She ruled our hearts. She owned them and carried them around with her.

I know that we are lucky. We didn’t have the struggle of wondering about the quality of her life. Are we selfishly prolonging her suffering because WE aren’t ready to say good bye. Belle was wide open Saturday afternoon. And then she wasn’t. She most likely had a stroke. We took her to the vet that evening because something was clearly not okay. Her xrays and blood work all looked good so the vet suggested that we let her stay overnight so they could keep an eye on her and check back with them in the morning. At 11:00 that night, she passed away in her sleep.

Before we left, we each gave her a big hug and lots of kisses and she wagged her tail and kissed us back. We didn’t know we were telling her goodbye but looking back, I think she knew.

Sweet dreams my puppy girl. I want to think that right now you are swimming endlessly, chasing your dummy and rolling around in the sand.

Dammit.  Play with me.

Published by PaintingChef on 12 Sep 2014

Unbreakable.

Oh internet. Is this what we’ve come to? Me checking in on my birthday? Being a year older? A year scarier? A year wiser? Bwhahaha. Yes. So wise. So sure that by 37 I’d have it all figured out.

This past year man. What the hell? A roller coaster of epic proportions. And I shit you not… every time we think we know what is going on, the rug is pulled out from under us. It happened yet again last week. A’s mom is back in an inpatient mental health facility. And their time is ticking down, you know? This is a HUGE step backwards for them and just more uncertainty for A. And for us but we are secondary in this.

I am exhausted from this process. It hurts my heart every day. But I love this child fiercely. She is the child that I was meant to have, for however long I am lucky enough to have her. I know I’ve said that before… news flash… I’ll probably say it again (although at this rate, it will be on her 10th birthday). As soon as we come to accept the situation, the outcome, it all changes. My head spins on a daily basis, I have no idea what is going to happen tomorrow or next week or next month. I want to protect her from it all but what am I protecting her from? Her family? Her future? Her genetics?

I never imagined that this process would raise more questions than it does answers. I don’t know what I expected, in hindsight. But I’ve learned more about myself in the past year than I ever thought I would. And I’m not going to lie… not all of it was pretty. I am far, far more selfish than I ever knew. I am petty. I am jealous. I am impatient and I am spoiled fucking rotten. But I’m also kinder than I knew. My mama bear instincts run deep and strong. I’m determined and loyal and fiercely protective of my pack. I’m more flexible. I’m sillier. And sometimes, I’m even the cool mom.

Fine. That happened ONCE. And she has no idea why she was wearing a Run DMC shirt so it probably didn’t even count.

I have no idea what the next year will bring. With A. Me. Patrick. Work. Home. No clue. But the experiences of the past year have made me want to do something for the coming year. So I’ve decided to give myself a theme for my 37th year. An idea to guide my life, my actions and my intentions. I am an Unbreakable Fighter. I will be a fighter for A. I will be a fighter for my marriage, for my well-being, for my health, for my future. I will not allow uncertainty or disappointment to break me.

I am a Fighter.

I am Unbreakable.

Fighter

Published by PaintingChef on 10 Jun 2014

Because you just never know what will end up being a good fit.

All my life I have been a creative person. And while I never really settled on one particular thing as my best outlet of expression, I don’t think that anyone who knew me for more than 5 minutes would ever imagine that I would be in a field that didn’t involve some degree of creativity.

So imagine the surprise of… well… all the people when I agreed to come work for my father as his office manager. Accounting. Human Resources. In a nutshell, a very dry and seemingly analytical job. And it is. On the surface, my job is about numbers. Debits and credits. Health insurance. Office management. Not exciting.

And I’ve never really admitted this to anyone but I took this job not for me but for my husband. He was slowly suffocating in his previous job. Giant, global corporation. Day in and day out, unpredictable hours, tiny raises, little to now recognition, meetings to plan meetings. He was being crushed by it. And coming back home to work for my father’s company was like a second chance. On the surface, it was a pay cut (for him… quite a nice raise from me but then again… I was working part time so that wasn’t exactly hard to do.) But I was terrified to take this job for so many reasons. I’m bad at math. I wasn’t sure about working for my dad. I was apprehensive to move back home. The idea of sitting at a desk day in… day out… I really wasn’t too sure if this was going to be a good idea. But we were a package deal and for him, for his happiness, I would happily do this.

I was shocked at how much I liked it. I think that I underestimated the fulfillment I would get from knowing that I had a direct impact on a company every single day. And the longer we are here, as we drive around this area where we both grew up, I am able to point to things and say “Our company built that. That is our foundation. That is our retaining wall. Those are our sidewalks.” I LIKE that feeling.

And no… my contributions to those buildings aren’t immediately visible. I didn’t design a wall or figure out how to make that foundation strong. But I helped the people who built them. I impacted their families. I worked with them to get health insurance. I helped them with their vacations and sick days. I sat down with them to talk about benefits and retirement plans. I filled out forms so that they could qualify for car loans and mortgages. And when things went badly for them, when they had to talk to me about wage garnishments or child support, I did it with compassion and without judgment. Those are MY guys out there working. And many of them have been at this company longer than I have. They are my extended family and I would do whatever I could for them.

So as we drive around and point to something, yes, I see it as something that I helped build. Because MY guys built it. And I hope that while they were building it, I was able to make their lives a little easier. I never thought that I would find satisfaction in this job. But every day, I love it a little more. I’m good at this. Mostly… my organization leaves something to be desired. And… sometimes I get distracted (right this second, for example… I have a stack of invoices next to me that need to be entered and I’ve made it through the “H’s” but then for some reason this whole thing popped into my head and I decided to get it out before I lost it) but having the freedom to get distracted is invaluable. I’m here alone right now. Patrick and dad are both out at jobsites. My aquarium is bubbling happily behind me (except for that one dead fish… I know he’s in there somewhere and I know he’s dead because I haven’t seen him in a week but I CAN NOT FIND THAT LITTLE ASSHOLE… or what’s left of him at this point, I suppose). I have Netflix open also because everyone has watched all of Orange is the New Black but me and I’m not even done with episode ONE! I’m such a slacker. I could have watched it this weekend but there was sun and lake and pool and now I’m tired and bordering on sunburnt but oh so very content.

It’s not even in the same universe as the contribution I imagined myself having. But I’m part of something. It matters whether or not I show up every day. I may have taken this job more for Patrick than for me but I’ve gotten so much more out of it than I ever thought I would. And for some reason, I just felt like I needed to get that out and remind myself that there are other things in my life besides the batshit crazy roller coaster we find ourselves on with being foster parents.

(Oh yeah… about that… her parents are no longer allowed to have unsupervised visits with her. Long story and I would love to share the details but suffice it to say, everyone in the room at the last meeting left there shell-shocked because that outcome was NOT what anyone was expecting. But only two of us were happy about it…)

But we build stuff. And the guys that build that stuff are my people and I take care of them. Here is what my people built…

Published by PaintingChef on 30 May 2014

Getting ready to say goodbye.

My heart is shattered. There is no other way to put it. I feel like I am standing in a field watching a train wreck happen (not even in slow motion anymore) with my hands tied behind my back and duct tape over my mouth. Never in my entire life have I felt this level of helplessness. Irrelevance. I’m drowning. I love this little girl with everything I have. She is my heart. And in July, we have to pack her little life that she’s built while she has been with us and tell her good bye.

What do I say to her? What piece of wisdom do I try to leave her with? Is it more important that she know how much I love her, that I would do anything in the entire world for her? Or do I remind her, one more time, that she is smart and strong and capable and that her dreams are never too large, no matter what anyone tells her or what she sees around her every single day? How do you leave that with a four year old?

The child welfare system is broken. When I compare the hoops that Patrick and I had to jump through to become foster parents with the very few boxes that birth parents have to check to get their children back, my head hurts. I don’t understand. The rights of birth parents are sacred. They are placed above even the welfare of the child. No. They are not physically abusing her. I don’t think that they ever have and I pray (in my own way) that they never would. But isn’t there more than that? Shouldn’t there be more than “are you PHYSICALLY safe?” How about are you providing a nurturing home? A place for her to grow and learn and explore her potential? Are you feeding her healthy food and letting her run and play outside every chance she gets? Do you read to her and play games with her and sing silly songs? Do you let her mind grow in every direction and build her self-confidence at every opportunity? Are you moving heaven and earth in every way that YOU are able to give her a better life? How are these not questions that every parent should say yes to? And how are these not things that are factored into the decision to return a child to the home they were removed from?

You, my dear friends, have seen every bit of this motherhood journey. From day one. In July, when my sweet girl leaves us, that journey will be over. We are done. Our hearts are tired. Yes there are other options. More fostering. Adoption. But I don’t want another child. She is mine. She was the child the universe meant for me to have, for however brief that time was. I desperately hope that we have made some difference in her life, shown her that there are other ways to live. That someday she will remember something about being with us and it will encourage her to keep striving to break the cycle that she will grow up among.

I’m not sure what is next. For us. For this corner of the internet. For anything. I don’t know how to describe it other than I’m walking in a cloud of nothingness right now. I am so very numb and in other ways, every second is excruciating. God… that’s so fucking melodramatic. I have to keep reminding myself that we knew what we were signing up for but I’ve learned that we had no idea. DCS is a nightmare. This whole experience hasn’t made me want to keep fostering and helping these kids. It’s made me want to go to law school. The only way these children can be helped is if the SYSTEM is changed. These children deserve so much better.

She deserves better. I Love you chicken little. With all of my heart. And I will always be cheering for you and wishing good things for you.

pc.com Abi Beach

Published by PaintingChef on 05 May 2014

On inadvertant life skills and why sometimes Michael’s trumps Lowe’s.

We remodeled our kitchen. It’s almost done. We didn’t kill each other.

Yet.

But that’s where I’ve been.

Such a lie… I’m a lazy and terrible blogger and just between you and me… I’m a little sick of being like “parenting is hard and four year olds are assholes and seriously… what did I used to DO with all the time I wasn’t putting someone in time out?”

Pictures of the kitchen to come, I promise but first, let’s talk about tile and why I can’t lift my arms above my shoulders anymore.

Out of the two of us, in our little world, Patrick is by far the handy one. He can build shit. Whatever I need, he can build it. He knows how to do things like change out sinks (which he did) and convert a can light to a gorgeous pendant light (which he is about to do) and install a garbage disposal (check). He can do wiring and plumbing and carpentry and painting and installing wood floors. He can change the size of a gorgeous built-in entertainment center so that it never stops looking like a gorgeous built-in. He can do all these things and I’m really damn lucky.

But this weekend? We learned that he cannot tile a backsplash. I’m not sure who was more shocked by this revelation. Him, when he realized that there was something seemingly simple that he was just struggling with or me when I put two and two together and came to the conclusion that I was going to tile the backsplash.

Life skills translate in funny ways. Patrick had all the right tools and followed the direction exactly on how to spread that tile glue gunk but it just wasn’t happening. It was clumpy and awkward and he was getting really frustrated… really fast. But the more I looked at it, the more it looked familiar to me and then it dawned on me…

Dude. This shit was just like icing a cake. I took a look at all the tools he’d gathered, laughed my ass off, and dug through the boxes that have become our kitchen over the past couple of weeks and found my favorite icing spatulas. Yup. Offset icing spatulas. You can do Lowe’s and Home Depot all you want baby… my tools of choice? Fucking Wilton.

wilton

**Image stolen from www.wilton.com

We managed the project with only one really big fight and nobody broke anything. I only dropped tile mastic on the dog once, we made 5 trips to Lowe’s (I only forgot to change out of my pajama pants for one of them) and had hamburger helper for dinner at 11:30 Saturday night.

You’re jealous. I know you are. Sometimes I can’t believe that nobody has wanted to make a movie out of my super exciting life yet.

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