Fall ritual

A. & I seem to find ourselves trekking through Holmdel Park at every turn of the season -- winter into spring into summer into fall . . . Our mindful walk on the hilly path along the lake has become our own family tradition along with a side trip to our favorite country farm, Delicious Orchards.  Love me some honeycrisp apples, especially in the fall!

Sadly during our stroll, my thoughts wandered briefly to this past week's CCC visit to the Horizon Youth Detention Center in the Bronx, a secure facility for youth who've allegedly committed serious crimes, though more than half of them don't even belong in there.  Unfortunately, the juvenile justice system is wrought with grave errors.  Youth who commit petty crimes are thrown into prison and into an experience that ruins any chance of true rehabilitation.  Certainly there are young people who have committed serious crimes and deserve to be in prison.  But there are even more who should not be locked up and are forever scarred by disgusting practices such as physical and sexual abuse by prison staff.  Not to mention the fact that several New York State upstate youth prisons remain open for the purpose of keeping staff employed even when there are no residents in those prisons.  Abominable.  Children are not a job creation strategy.

No fall rituals for the young women and men at Horizon, other than wearing the same colored jumpers and walking with their arms behind their backs crossed in invisible handcuffs as they are escorted throughout the facility, never left alone.  

Every week, each CCC site visit has become my personal parent-in-training seminar as I learn more about the importance of advocating for children.  It's amazing that many of the social concerns related to child and family welfare are rooted in much needed support for parents, particularly preventive services.  While poverty plays a major role in the urgency for social services, so many parents lack general stability to properly take care of and love their children, resulting in hugely disturbing physical and emotional violence.  Yet, they don't require hundreds of pages of readings, group studies or multiple home visits before they actually become parents -- the way they require such for adoptive parents.  Don't need a license to parent a birth child . . .   

My thoughts weren't actually sidetracked for too long a moment during our hike.  My conscious learning makes me thoughtfully appreciative of life's blessings as I set intentions for healing and renewal in the world.  

Turn, Season, turn.


And 3

Last week, my CCC course brought me to Brooklyn Family Court, where I sat in on two juvenile delinquent cases.  Both 16, one resulted in being sent to a non-secure detention home because while on probation, he'd committed robbery, and the judge wanted to keep him from committing any more crimes as an adult. The other was a young man, who spoke no English, had been arrested for carrying a machete on school grounds.  I didn't stay long enough to witness the case's outcome, but the lost look in the young man's eyes was heart-breaking. More than 30% of juvenile delinquents have a history in NYC's foster care system, and more often than not, their IQ falls below average indicating they have grown with some developmental disabilities.  

My eyes welled up as the judge sentenced the first youth to detention as he handed his possessions to his father who sat in the back of the room.  In between cases, the judge clearly exhausted by the inefficiency and lack of improvement of 'the system', was kind enough to chat and share his insights with us.  Young people are under a tremendous amount of peer pressure, and for those who are from the poorest of families, that peer pressure is everything.  Not to mention their already traumatized lives as children who've been in the foster care system and who've also struggled through school without getting the proper assistance.  

My weekly site visits coupled with waiting for our child referral make for interesting processing.  A vast majority of young people seem doomed to fail in 'the system,' while I work my small piece to improve it . . . and while I am in the process of  bringing a child into our family.  Will we be able to provide the support that our child needs to keep him/her out of trouble, to succeed in school, to make the right friends, to make the right choices . . . ?

And 3

Our 10-year-old nephew, M. came over for a few hours last night while E. & W. attended an adult-only party.  M.'s visit gave us a short glimpse into what it'll be like when there's a third in the home as we sat for dinner -- turkey burgers with veggie fixins plus sweet potato fries and onion rings on the side AND pumpkin pie for dessert.

I'd just spent the previous couple of hours searching on youtube for adoption referral day moments . . . crying my way through a few.  I need to do this every so often, and it's been some months since I've searched for adoption day videos.  The referral day is just as important as the gotcha day.  Some days, the wait seems longer than others.  I find myself thinking about our referral day more as we receive invitations for upcoming baby showers, anticipate new family births and attend christening celebrations.  Of course, I am thankful to participate in these festivities.  But sometimes I am left aching fiercely for the moment we get to beat our drums loudly at the welcome of our long-awaited third.  

Yes, we're still adopting.  No, we haven't heard anything yet.  But every day brings us closer to our child.    


Couple time

We celebrated A.’s birthday this past Tuesday, October 19.  I wanted to surprise A. with a local day trip, so I provided him one clue per day leading up to his birthday.  1. Among NJ's best meditations 2. Along the President's gardens 3. A place that combines the best of outer & inner 4. Dining with Claude Monet 5. Peacocks mean integrity 6. Whimsical wonderland PLUS two bonus photo clues.

We had a most meditative day at Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton (NJ), where we lingered along the grounds for five hours making our way through meticulously landscaped nooks and crannies.  Tiptoeing through the Forest of the Unconscious, sitting for a spell with Renoir’s boating party, and climbing Monet’s scarlet poppy hill, to describe just a few of our reflective moments.  The most exciting part of our trek was lunching next to founder/sculptor J. Seward Johnson at The Rat’s Restaurant, where the feel was a scene from the book, The Wind in the Willows, and the view as if we were right there with Claude himself, alongside his lily pond and bridge.  Mr. Johnson was kind enough to share that he noticed my eyes light up (I wonder why) as he and his business colleagues began to discuss Republicans, whom he mentioned, happen to be the ones who buy his works.  (He made $35M this past year.)  After our 20-minute conversation, A. & I thanked him for the experience of his wonderfully whimsical gardens.  (And we secretly hope Mr. Johnson will consider creating a sculpture of us [me?!] once we send him our personal note in the mail with a photo of us enjoying our day!)  To have a glimpse of our not-so-artsy cell phone montage, click here
together we stroll
through these enchanted gardens
admist the magical drizzle
the sun peeks out
and we beam in charmed delight
marveling in the marriage
of nature and playfully chiseled forms

Happy Birthday to my heart, A.  Enjoy another trip around the sun, my love!


Protecting every child's right to a loving home

As my CCC course delves deeper into child welfare issues, I am crushed to learn the realities of how the American foster care system fails so many families, especially the children. While I’m sure there are lovely stories out there, the majority are harsh truths.  My last site visit brought me to Lawyers for Children, where we had a converation with the individuals who direct the attorney/social worker teams who assist foster care children. Lawyers for Children specifically advocates on behalf of the youth, really listening to their wishes and advocating on their behalf in court.

Most gut wrenching was the documentary we viewed, Why Can’t We Be a Family Again?, which chronicled a set of Brooklyn-based brothers in their grandmother’s care because their absent mother was a drug addict. When given the opportunity to legally separate from their mother, the boys could not bring themselves to do so even after multiple disappointments and the knowledge that their mother did not want them.  The complicated layers of love, protection, and care are evident in the film and left our small group of mostly women advocates reaching for some kleenex.

Upon our return to CCC to discuss our morning treks, a 19-year-old young man was our guest expert. Hassan articulately described his life in foster care since the age of 10, in and out of group homes, as well as the physical and emotional abuse he suffered from his mother. One of 13 children, his mother made him stand in the corner facing the wall for hours at a time. She would jump from a chair with a belt to have the most impact when she hit Hassan who described, ‘When you hit your kids, you usually don’t climb on a chair, you just hit them . . . ‘

Among the memories he recounted was the time during winter when he walked from his home to a friend’s to seek refuge, wearing nothing but his boxers because his mother told him to get out of the house.


He shared that group homes don’t work because young people don’t remain long enough to develop worthwhile relationships with any adults. They’re in and out every couple of months based on their therapeutic needs. What young people like himself need are loving families, adults who will support them, listen to them, and consistently be there. Hassan, who still lives in a group home, talked for over an hour and openly answered our questions. His amazing resiliency was a testament to his strength to continue to survive and grow into the college man that he is today, pursuing Coporate Law because he wants to be a future humanitarian/philanthropist.




to others
i am
more than 
i am we
who blow 
hopeful wishes 
dance upon us
like butterfly kisses
leave us aglow
in tenderness


About to . . .

waiting for the leaves
to . . . turn
shades of marigold, olive, and clementine
like apples just about 
to . . . ripen
waiting for the exact moment --
worthwhile seeing
(worthwhile) smelling
(worthwhile) tasting
hoping for the exact moment --
worthwhile treasuring
the moment that phone rings 
to let us know
"You have a match"
and autumn's colors fall into each other
fusing into an image of you



how many ways can i say, 
thank you so much
salamat agyamanak mahalo gracias grazie danke !
blessings follow us
like moving billboards of loving kinship
flashing best wishes
as we stumble upon life's milestones

Thank you to N., W., C., E., E., A., R. & M. for walking alongside us to celebrate A.'s 4th healthy heart anniversary at the 2010 Heart Walk.