Thursday, November 18, 2010

Monet & Me

Monet's Garden at V├ętheuil, 1881 (National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, USA)

This painting is following me around. Although it is quite a popular piece, I have been noticing it a lot lately. I was looking online for some new prints to put in my house, this one caught my eye again. I am going to need to buy a print of it. 

My love of the Impressionists flows naturally from my mother and grandmother, of course. For years and years before I ever had children, this seemed a perfect piece to hang in a nursery. It seems peaceful to me. As I was researching it this morning, I discovered that it was painted after the death of the artist's wife Camille, and that this garden, landscaped by Monet himself, was planted at a rented house. He had to get special permission from his landlord to do it.

To say that nurseries have been on my mind lately would be an understatement. The last week has been a flurry of activity and then nervous waiting to see if we can work out the details to move Little A and her baby sister Little B into our house. They are currently in an emergency foster care placement, and we would like to care for them. It is a huge unknown and a huge gamble. We could have them only for a few months. There is always the slimmer than slim chance that they would stay with us longer. Any other placement would have been unthinkable right now, as we are still waiting to finalize Little J's adoption. But A lived with us for 2 years, and to be honest I wouldn't mind visiting the piece of my heart that she carries.

So I have been seeing this print everywhere lately. The most recent sighting was in the restroom of an Italian delicatessen that Tony and I went to for lunch yesterday. Seeing it so out of context seemed a soothing omen. Either we are meant to get these girls and it is going to work out this time, or even if we lose them we are going to be okay.

Monet threw himself into his work after losing his wife, and painted some of the most lasting images of his career during that time in his life. I'm no Monet of course, but I know a little bit about epic loss and the dramatic and beautiful aspects of suffering.

Of course, I would prefer it if I could capture some of the peaceful cheerfulness of this painting. Who knows how Monet was actually feeling when he painted it. Perhaps he loved sunflowers because it is impossible not to smile while gazing upon them. Somebody remind me to plant some in the spring.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Angry Old Fat Women Need Love,Too!


Hey, guess what? I'm feeling a little pissed off today and here's why:

According to our popular culture:

It is okay to be fat as long as you are funny.

You can be hot if you are older, but only if you are skinny.

You can be sexy if you are curvy but not TOO MUCH.

You can be a feminist, but why be so ANGRY?

It is okay to be angry, but for cryin' out loud, get some botox so you don't LOOK angry. And don't be fat and angry.

But if you are middle aged, overweight, and dare to try to feel even the slightest bit attractive, good freaking luck. You can be old and hot or fat and hot, but both??? Nobody wants to see that.

I'm pitching fits. Culturally speaking, there is no place for me. Sexually speaking, at least in terms of popular culture, I am dead in the water, and any complaining about it is just old-lady bitching. Women who are younger than me seem to come away with the impression that because I look like a soccer mom, that I never had any fun when I was younger. I actually had a girl tell me that she just can't picture me ever being the type to wear a short skirt and drink and generally get into trouble.

In other words, I have become harmless. My femme-fatale days are over to other people, and apparently I was the last to get the memo. Whatever sensuality I possess is now expected to be subdued, refined, or, you know, invisible.

Not that I haven't mellowed with age, but that is just crap. I have no desire to be compared to a fine wine that gets better with age. I am different, but like all women in their forties, I am deeply aware of and interested in my sexual life. Like many women with naturally curvy bodies, I want to enjoy mine.

So here it is:

I'm aging, just like you are. ALL OF YOU. I'm also fat by many standards. I have little wrinkles from worrying on my forehead.

I also really enjoy sex, and I am probably better at it than you are. So there. I'm not self censoring any more for your comfort.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Dream: Hold Yer Own Tic Tacs!

I always have such  strange dreams when I sleep in a little. This morning I was dreaming that I was conquering my fear of heights by going skydiving. I was attending the safety class when some random guy said to me "Here, hold my tic tacs for me. Put them in your purse." So I did, only the lid wasn't all the way closed, and little white tic tacs went flying everywhere.

He was complaining to everyone about how I ruined his tic tacs. I got really pissed at him and yelled at him from across the room "Hold Yer Own Tic Tacs!!!!" and I started throwing them at him. Like, who did he think he was, presuming to take up space in my Coach handbag, anyway?? And why did he need the tic tacs for skydiving, anyway?

So there!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Sinking In

Image: Little J finding the light at the end of the tunnel. It isn't even a train this time.

Okay, so I had to create a new tag for my blog today. I can't believe I had never used it before: Happy.

That just shows how much I have been holding my breath the last few years. It occurred to me earlier today that Little J will be with us at Christmas for sure.  I have been so wrapped up in his legal concerns lately that I have not been able to think, with emotional safety, about the future. Just thinking about preparing a nice Christmas for him made me super happy.

Usually I am not super into that holiday. When we were going through infertility treatments there were too many Christmases that came and went without a child to share them with. The holidays became this loaded issue for me. Last year I didn't even decorate or put up a tree. I just couldn't do it. Now I have a new house and a new kid. I think I am going to dream of sugarplums tonight.

What the heck is a sugarplum, anyway?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Dream: L'Absinthe Rend Fou!

I had a dream about Ted Breaux last night. To be more specific, I had a dream that I was reading about Ted Breaux in a book from the library. This is an impossible scenario, because apparently the dream was set somewhere around 1982, when I was a pre-teen. In fact, I don't even think the phrase "pre-teen" existed then.

But my mother had found and old book in the library to warn me about the dangers of drinking absinthe, apparently. Because in 1982 it was a widely known fact that absinthe was pure poison that would make you crazy if you drank it. Why, look at poor Vincent van Gogh, who cut off his own ear!

The book anachonistically mentioned Breaux as a "drug-addled wet-brain", ostenssibly because he advocates absinthe drinking and distributes the stufff.

Now, I have never met met Mr. Breaux myself, but I do drink absinthe from time to time. I can't say for sure that it doesn't make you crazy. But maybe it is a good kind of crazy. I just thought I would share because the phrase "drug-addled wet-brain" is so fantastic.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Dream: Baby Elephant Water Rescue

I had this dream the night before last, and it lingered in my mind all day yesterday, so I guess I should write it down. I was out walking in a vast grassy/marshy place. I saw some commotion up ahead, which turned out to be a lone baby elephant struggling in the muddy water. He looked exhausted and about to give up. I waded in and let his heavy body lean against me while I disentangled him from the reeds and grass around his legs. I got him onto dry ground and he immediately fell asleep next to me, with a look of supreme contentment on his wrinkly little face.

Then, his herd showed up, and I thought for sure I was going to get trampled to death. The baby's mother was fussing over him and getting him to nurse, but the bigger female I was intuiting was his grandmother was inspecting me. Once she figured out that I had not hurt him, she nudged me closer to him with her trunk. He came over to me and was gently inspecting my face with the end of his trunk. I put my arms around him and gave him a hug. The grandmother elephant stood over us and made it clear to the rest of the herd that this was okay.

My dreams are not at all hard to figure out sometimes, even though they are weird. As Little J's TPR trial fast approaches, I wish like anything that his family would accept what is happening. I wish they would accept me. I wish they could see that their little one is in good and loving hands. Struggling to be seen as "good enough" is a recurring theme for me, sadly. It feels like my best efforts are misinterpreted or not seen at all. I feel like I have to be epic and extraordinary to be seen as barely adequate. I have to dive into the mud to be accepted. It is wearisome. This dream had a good outcome that felt significant. It would be nice if its success could be mirrored in my waking life. Little J might need a baby elephant painting in his room now.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Okay, Now What?

So I have passed the NCLEX exam and can check the whole "get a career" thing off my to-do list (again-I did this when I became a chef, too). It is a huge relief to have Nursing School behind me and a freshly minted RN license in my pocket. I'm in my new job and loving it even though I am "the new guy" and still grinding gears and finding my way around. My patients like me and the doctors are receptive to my input. I even heard an attending physician tell a resident that I know my stuff. (Oh my gosh that felt good!)

I'm also on the precipice of building my family in a more permanent way. Still holding my breath for the legal hurdles we face over Little J next month. We have reasons to be optimistic about that, although until he is finally adopted I will not be able to exhale. Too many weird things happen in the courts for me to be able to predict the outcome with anything like confidence.

After years of excruciating work and no small measure of heartbreak, all of the above came to fruition at the same time. We moved into our wonderful new house, I graduated, we got a kid the next day, and I passed the boards last week. Life has been pretty lively. I'm just now starting to enjoy the rewards of all this rapid-fire change.

As any good Warrior Goddess would, I thrive when I am conquering. Resting on my laurels has never been my thing. I like to look ahead and dream big and overcome the trials to get the prize. I'm trying to open my mind to what comes next. I am taking a year off of school so I can explore my new job and decide what path to take to advance in my career. At some point I will have to decide if Little J will remain an only child or if I dare tempt fate to ask for a daughter again. Big stuff.

Here's some possible school options:
  1. Bridge to my BSN degree: This will most certainly happen, I just need to work out how soon to tackle that odious set of prerequisites. I need to take Statistics and some Chemistry. Ugh. 
  2. Become a Nurse Practitioner? Maybe. If I really like clinical practice and find floor nursing limiting, this would be a good option.
  3. Masters/PhD in Medical Anthropology: I LOVE this idea, but sadly UNR's Anthropology program is one I have ruled out as an option for a number of reasons. If I go with this option, we would have to move out of state. Not that I can't handle an adventure, it is just a really big move/investment. Tony would need to agree, and I just don't think he is ready for me to be heavy into school again like that. Nursing School was tough enough on our relationship.
Here's some possible family options:
  1. Adopt privately: Avoid the rigors of Washoe County altogether and find an agency I can stand to work with. Adopt a domestic infant or go abroad. Costly, but less uncertainty (only a little less) once a match is made.
  2. Continue to foster: Could we get lucky again or will we get our hearts broken? Big, huge gamble. Very low legal costs once an adoption can happen. Big time commitment. 
  3. Keep J as an only child: I dunno. I don't feel like the family is quite "done". Most parents can relate to that. You know when you are done adding members to the family, and I'm not there yet.
  4. Get another dog: We got Ember at a time when I was dying for a baby and it just wasn't happening. It helped me by giving me something small and helpless to nurture. Still, having only one dog now is less chaotic.
Misc. Goals:
  1. I need to do things to enhance my health and physical energy. In other words, get a grip on my stress-eating and get my butt off the sofa. Lots of options and classes, but have been waiting for my schedule to shake out.
  2. I need to get back in the groove of making art. That is: writing and also trying out other forms I have always wanted to improve in. I can't decide if blogging counts.
  3. Getting my spiritual house in order so that I can do ANY of the above with a little more hope and faith, rather than stressing out all the time.
  4. Take a vacation to Europe. This is way overdue.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Dream: The Priest and I Don't Agree

I dreamed last night that I went back to Ohio for a visit and was over at my father's house to see my sister. For some reason, their parish priest was there for a visit, in full high-ceremonial finery, no less.

He and my stepmom were talking about the Mel Gibson epic "The Passion of the Christ", and how he thinks that everyone should see it to gain an appreciation for the Christian faith.

I am my outspoken self even in my dreams, so naturally I said I had avoided that movie because it was just too violent for my liking. I don't need to watch a religious snuff film. My nightmares are fueled with enough images for several lifetimes already.

Sigh. This was not a popular viewpoint. The priest started in on me about it, and the fact that he felt my spirituality was flawed because I lacked a proper fear of God. We argued back and forth so much that I didn't even get to visit with my family and left in disgust.

An interesting observation that I had about this dream when I woke up is that my family, rather than coming to my aid, mostly just rolled their eyes at me and apologized to the priest for how I was offending him.

It is true that I am distant with my dad's side of the family. My father and I have had periods of estrangement to the point that my siblings (all much younger than me) barely know me. I am an utter stranger to my youngest sister Molly, which was never my intention. It just got too hard to bridge the distance of 2300 miles and the emotional gulf that still lies like an open wound from where my brother Ryan used to be. Without him to bridge the generation gap as it were, I feel totally old and separate and different from the rest of my brothers and sisters.

Of course, I am different in that I have a different mother than they do. And I live far away. And I am a whole generation older. And I am different from most other people in a lot of weird little ways, or so I am told. I feel vastly misunderstood sometimes. Luckily for me I have people in my life who at least mostly get me as a person. But the fact remains that it has always been a regret of mine that I couldn't rise above the hard times I was having with my father to be there for my siblings more.

When Ryan was alive, he did that. He looked out for them. I am a poor substitute for him in that regard. I'm trying, little by little, to let them know now that I am in their corner, that I have always loved them, that I am, unlike Ryan, still within reach. In still, small movements, I am just trying to be there.

I may have imperfect faith, but I do have perfect love, if not fully expressed yet. It is still a big gap, but when wounds heal, the edges get closer together. Healing is my business, so I guess Ryan would want me to do the work.For him I really will.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Dream: Showing up for Nursing Boards Naked

Plus Bonus Dream Subplot: Europe Won't Allow my Yankee Spices!

More wacky stories from the sideshow that is my subconscious.

I dreamed the other night that due to bad time management and stress, I showed up an hour late for my appointment for the NCLEX exam, plus I was naked. Plus, instead of a written test, it was to be a practical demonstration of cadaver dissection overseen by my old Anatomy & Physiology professor, Doctor Burke. He didn't approve of my lateness but didn't seem to notice the fact that I was nude. I had to dress in full isolation gear as if I was treating a patient with MRSA or TB, and go and quickly dissect a corpse without making a mess of it. In two hours.  Actually, I think that actually would be easier than taking the real NCLEX, but I digress...

One of the reasons I was stressed in the dream was that I had to pass on the first try, because I was moving to Europe to practice Nursing immediately afterward. It was in the back of my mind that the customs people had told me that I couldn't take my Dean & Deluca spices with me. Not like European countries don't have spices available, but I had purchased these at considerable expense and wanted to take them along. I was building an argument in my head that I should be allowed to take Herbes De Provence to freaking Provence! The nerve!

My dreams have been so jumbled up lately. I think I am finally processing all the changes I have been through since May. Life has been damn busy, and once I get past the NCLEX, things can calm down a bit. That is, if I let them. I am so accustomed to being in near-constant motion that I am not sure I know HOW to relax anymore. By the end of summer I hope to have fewer things hanging over my head and can enjoy the rewards of all this hard work!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Dream: Seth Green and the Burning City

I have been super tired lately. Last night I went to bed super early to try to get some decent shuteye. Apparently, my subconscious had other ideas. I went on a wild ride in my head.

First up, the setting was in Reno where I live now, only the State budget was so bad that all the firefighters and police had lost their jobs. Things looked broken down and burned out everywhere.It  looked bleak.

But I had a date, I guess. I was at a bar with actor Seth Green. Now mind you, I do not have a crush on Seth Green. I don't really think about him that way. But in my dream, we were drinking and carrying on. We went into a private room and things got steamy. I was digging it and really getting into him. Bizarre.

Then he told me that he wasn't really feeling the same way. I was crushed. Like, beyond unhappy. I was desolate. I pitched a fit. I made a spectacle of myself. I cried and begged him to take it back. He was looking at me with a mix of pity and disgust. I felt horrible.

I was driving home and crying in the car. There were buildings burning all around me and there were flaming cars on the side of the road. I felt like I had lost the only person who would ever love me. It felt really real.

When the alarm went off, I had to shake that dream off. I felt like crap for part of the morning. All because of some make-believe crap. Sheesh.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Trouble with Fashion

It occurred to me recently that now that I wear scrubs to work, any clothes that I wear outside of work can be truly for fun. In other words, I can wear WHATEVER I WANT. Gone are the days where I have to buy "business casual" clothes. I could buy clothing that expresses who I am in my purest form. I am free to dress like a freak if I want. I could skip down the street in a pink tutu as long as I don't mind humiliating my son and possibly my husband.

So, with a $50 gift card (a graduation gift from my mother-in-law) for Macy's in my pocket, I set out to find a garment that just spoke to me and said "Stacie" in no uncertain terms. That's where I hit a snag.

Either I have no idea what clothes are really "me", or Macy's had a slim selection of shirts that were not hideously ugly, or I am just a frazzled mom, but I was having a ton of trouble finding anything interesting. Add to that the fact that I am evidently invisible to the sales staff at Macy's. Literally nobody seemed interested in enhancing my shopping experience. Oh, and I guess I should just go ahead and mention that I am in my early 40's and shopping in the plus-sizes.

The fact that I was having trouble seemed to be something I took personally, like if I was thinner I would have had both more choices and more saleslady attention. I was feeling super-dejected. Eventually I picked up a pair of pants.

Beige pants. Beige capri pants.

Here I am with the world at my feet, personal expression-wise, and that is the best I could do? Or has it become, after years of corporate casual, the only thing I feel comfortable with? Have I BECOME freaking BEIGE?!?!?!?

Did it take me so long to get a career clue that I now have no personal style of my own? Am I doomed to look like a soccer mom until I succumb to some kind of granny cruise-ship gear? What the hell? Will I be buried in beige capri pants?

Oh, I suppose that shopping at a really mainstream store is at least part of my problem. I need to branch out. I need to learn to sew. I need to worry about more important things. Maybe I also need a pink tutu, just in case. What goes with a pink tutu?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Poetry: Fading


From dizzying heights I watch myself fade.
Falling out of your thoughts like a lost star.
No longer illuminating your world with love
I scarcely have a reason to shine.

You won’t forget me all at once,
But little by little you’ll think of me less
Until one day you’ll stop and wonder
When I last crossed your mind.

Maybe you’ll convince yourself
That I never loved you so fiercely
If I was able to walk away from you.
You might think it, but you’ll be wrong.

Inside my orbit, I burn and inward turn.
Despairing, I am a singularity.
My light can’t reach your lush blue world.
 And I’m forced to admit I no longer exist.

Please don’t believe such slander.
Though I fade in your mind you never leave mine.
My hand still reaches for yours in vain.
To offer safety and strength to you.

I may be  fading now.
I may seem translucent now.
I may seem far away now.
But I’m here, as close as a breath on your cheek.

Stacie Ferrante

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sunday Supper: Summer Berry Upside-Down Cake

I made this for Tony's Fathers' Day BBQ, and it was so good I had to make it again. Lots of people asked me for the recipe, and I realized that I fiddled with the original enough that I needed to re-write it so people could reproduce my results. I think I am going to start posting occasional recipes on this blog space, so I will call it the Sunday Supper feature, since I tend to put the extra special effort into my dinner on Sunday night for my family.

Summer Berry Upside-Down Cake

Special equipment you will need:

A 10-inch, well seasoned cast iron skillet

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

For the topping:

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
3 cups mixed berries. (I used one cup each blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries)

Melt the butter in the skillet over medium heat until foam subsides. Add the sugar, stir to incorporate, and let it cook undisturbed for 3 minutes. Add the berries in an even layer and take off the heat. Do not stir.

For the cake:

1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened.
1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar

3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
Zest of one lemon

1/2 cup half and half

Sift together in a separate bowl
1 3/4 cups cake flour (not all-purpose)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a mixing bowl, blend butter and sugars with a mixer until it is lighter in color and creamy. Add eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla and mix. Add sifted mixture and half&half in turns and mix until blended. Spoon batter over berries in an even layer. Bake 30 minutes, until top is golden brown and springy to the touch.

Remove from oven and allow to cool in the skillet for at least 10 minutes before loosening with a knife around the edges and inverting onto a serving plate. (Turn skillet and plate while pressing them together as one unit)

Serve wedges warm or room temperature with fresh whipped cream.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Dream: Things are Unfriendly in Portland

My dreams sure are strange.

In my dream I drove to Portland, and did half of the drive in my sleep, so I wasn't really sure where I was. Tony met me and we checked into a hotel. Unfortunately, our room had no privacy, because the elevator was inside it, and there was no door on the bathroom.

We found out there was some kind of film festival going on. This would have been cool if that was what we were there for, but we didn't want to participate. It seemed like there were people absolutely everywhere, and they were so focused on the film festival that they overran everything.

Then we came upon a street with lots of little shops and a pub on the corner that was painted bright green. I was remarking that I had seen it before in a dream, so I wanted to explore. Film festival people were everywhere, and they were very unhappy with us being there since we were not participating in the event.

At one point I asked a woman on the corner who was a local "Are people usually more friendly here?"

"Not really." she said. "Not like you'd think."

The rest of the dream was spent trying to get back to the car to get out of Portland and away from the hostile people. It was totally weird, because I know Portland is a laid back, cool place. I have considered several times to relocate there and have looked at schools up there for continuing my education.

If I ever see that pub in real life, I will laugh so hard.

Friday, May 28, 2010

He sees London, He sees France...

Little J sees my underpants!

Since I am on a small "maternity leave" with Little J and Tony is still working daily, the two of us are together constantly. It is great for bonding and murder on any kind of privacy. He follows me everywhere, which is fine because that is better than wandering the house and getting into trouble. He even follows me to the bathroom. *sigh* I guess I have to let him because if I go in alone, he'll be unsupervised and will also pound on the door and demand to come in.

So for now I guess I have a bathroom attendant. He hands me toilet paper and washes hands with me. He is very interested in my toilet progress, since so far he only uses his potty as a step stool to get up to the sink.

We have funny conversations in the bathroom. Since he is just now learning to talk, he is master of the obvious and asks me if I am going potty. You bet kiddo, and someday you will do this too.

Is it a little wrong to look forward to going back to work so I can use the toilet alone? Oh yeah, I am a nurse now, so I don't get to use the toilet because I am so busy!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Being a Mother

Image: Gustav Klimt: Mother and Child, 1905

Being a mother is a big deal. Not that it shouldn't be, because it is just about the hardest thing there is to do. There are about as many kinds of mothers as there are children to parent. I'm going to be a foster mother again very soon, and that brings up all sorts of feelings. Bear with me while I sort them out in writing.

Yes, being a mother is a big deal. Our culture idolizes mothers to the point where it is generally accepted that being a parent is by default just better than not being one. It is assumed that until you have had a child, you are incapable of feeling or expressing unconditional love or deep empathy or protectiveness for other people. Women who are unable for whatever reason to give birth or choose to not have children are creatures to be pitied.

I'm pretty sure being pitied is one of the worst feelings there is. Being pitied when you have suffered a great loss such as losing a child is so dis-empowering. For as long as people pity you, you are pitiful, no?

We have pictures of Little A all over our house, reminders of when we were her proud parents. She was a beautiful daughter and adding Little J to our family will not make me stop missing her or wondering how she is doing with her family.

I have been not-a-mother yet, a foster mother, a former mother, and now a foster mother-to-be again. While being a mother (and I was that in almost every sense to Little A) taught me many things about myself, it didn't make me better than anyone else. I am proud to say that I already knew about love and empathy before she became part of our family. I am a purposeful person and examine myself and my motives on a regular basis, so there was no big a-ha moment there.

It is a little hard for me, around holidays like Mothers' Day, to not feel a little annoyed at the cult of the Mother around me. That in-club that I have both been included and excluded from. It is a rite of passage to be a parent, and it is almost like I am not considered fully a woman unless I am a frazzled mother.

But having a functioning uterus doesn't make you a woman any more than having a functioning appendix does. All sorts of people have babies that have neither the coping skills nor the interest to parent. As a foster parent, I see that side of it and just can't wrap my head around it.

I will say that I have known people who have suffered illness and loss and personal tragedy, and not one of them would trade places with me for a million dollars. I carry my loss of Little A like a piece of secret shame, even though I lost her due to no wrongdoing of my own, but to a court system that places a higher value on her biological mother's rights than to what was clearly making Little A happy and healthy. I can't tell that story out loud without being like a black raincloud that brings unwanted sadness to anyone who hears it. So most of the time I just gloss over it, or say nothing at all, even though to do so makes me feel like less of a mother, like it was all a dream that ended badly. I'm like the mother that other mothers must not touch for fear of my bad luck rubbing off. I honestly try hard not to touch pregnant women, just in case.

In a few hours I get to meet the little boy who will hopefully be my forever son one day. He is his own person and is not coming into my life to heal my hurts, but to have his own soothed. He has his own issues and cannot bear the burden of my anxiety. I have to teach him that I can be trusted to provide comfort, as if he were a newborn. Today I will start slow, like a first date, hoping for love but not letting a show of it overwhelm. I cannot merely claim him and expect him to fall into my arms in gratitude. In fact, at first, he may reject me for moving him away from his current foster mother or the even more distant figment of the woman he never sees but who gave birth to him.

Being a Mother is a big deal, but not in the ways popular culture would have you believe. It means being a whole person and showing a child how to rise above pain and still have an open heart. It means accepting a child as a person with flaws like any other. And ultimately, it means eventually saying goodbye to that child, hopefully because you have successfully raised them to adulthood and not some other, sadder reason. It means becoming an archetype in the life of another person, expanding beyond yourself into mythic proportions before you even have your morning coffee. It means dead-lifting cars and making healing food that, if you are lucky, will be remembered long after you are ash in the wind.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Buzz: It's a Boy!

The news on the Ferrante Family front is that we are taking another Flex Family placement of a 2 year old boy. He's not a newborn baby, but he'll be our "baby". For the purposes of the interwebs, I will call him "Little J". His privacy is very important, so I will not be discussing the finer points of the reasons he came into foster care other than to say that it was because of neglect, which has given him a few special needs for which he is receiving therapy services. I also, alas, will not be posting pictures of him on my facebook page or my blog, at least until his legal status is more secure.

Being a Flex family means that we take him as a foster child, and are able to adopt him if that is the way his case plan goes. This is what we did with Little A, and we all know that we ended up on the losing end of that particular gamble. It is scary to venture into this arena again, but with great risk there is potential for great reward, or so I explain to my frazzled nerves.

It's like we are on the county's radar at the moment, because now that we are committed to Little J, we are getting calls for all kinds of situations. I got a phone call yesterday to see if we could take an emergency placement of a 12 month old baby girl. That tugged hard on my heart strings, but we want to take time to get Little J moved in and settled and bonded before we go adding more kids to the family.

If this post sounds all somber and serious, don't let that fool you. I am super freaking excited about it. We are meeting him next week, and will move him in in about a week or two. I'm buying paint for his room today. I know I will feel much more ready after we get things put together in there.

After having a super girly girl for two years, I am now trying to figure out how to raise a son. I have my own ideas, but I am open to suggestion as to what cultural touchstones are important for raising a boy to be freethinking and sort of hip and unconventional. Does he need comic books in his life, which ones? Are ninja movies essential? Any really good books? I'm shaping a person here, and I want him to be someone you can stand to hang out with. I don't want to raise him to be pretentious, but to have discerning tastes.

Oh me and my lofty ideas. A month from now all I will want is some sleep! ;)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Dream: Crab Cracker

Onward with the crazy dream odyssey. Last night I had a ton of wild dreams that had a lot of traveling themes. One part in particular that sticks with me this morning is a journey taken in a Winnebago with my mother and a younger blonde teenage girl. We drove out to see a man who lived on a rock outcropping jutting into the sea. He was waiting for us and was going to make us dinner. When we got there he asked us to help him set the table. There was a huge pile of silverware on the table, and not just the ordinary stuff, but also crab crackers and shrimp forks and special butter knives and things. I was the only one who knew how to set it all up relative to my plate.

The man brought us a bottle of white wine, and paused while he was pouring it to note that outside the panoramic windows in the dining room, the sun was setting, He said "Watch the waves." and as the sun set, the waves settled down from crashing against the rocks to lapping them gently. He continued. "It always amazes me that the ocean knows that the day is done and it is time to rest. It is so peaceful."

The young blonde peered at the waves through the green glass of the half empty bottle of wine and smiled.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Dream: Action Gopher

My dreams are like being in a surrealist film every night. Here's the latest proof that I have lost my mind:

I dreamed that on the spur of the moment, I would leave a bar where a blond man was buying me a shot of tequila, and instead go white water rafting. Wait-it gets weirder. I payed money to rent a raft and they made me take a safety course. In addition to giving me a flotation vest, they also gave me the following essential items:

A live blue parakeet
A live black kitten
And a pound of ground beef wrapped in butcher paper

But no sunscreen

So I took the elevator down to where I was supposed to present my receipt and get my raft, but to my horror the parakeet flew into the space between the floor of the elevator where the track of the closing doors crushed it to death. I went back upstairs and tearfully confessed that I had killed/lost the bird. To replace it, they gave me a gopher named "Duncan". He seemed a little more sturdy than the parakeet and I set off.

I was worried again about the lack of sunscreen.

At the first set of rapids, I lost the kitten and the ground beef overboard, and was very upset. I was determined that I was not going to lose the gopher.

We made it through the rafting trip, and I took the gopher home, where I housed him in a cage and he made friends with another strange, possibly alien creature that I had in there. Duncan the gopher cuddled up with the other creature and seemed glad that his rafting days were over.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Dream: Torch Singer

I had a strange stress dream last night that all the students in my nursing class and I were in some sort of stage production that involved singing and dancing. That is, I was singing and they were dancing. For some reason. there was a choreographed dance sequence that I was not involved in. I was going to sing a torch song instead. I was sort of relieved, since I am short and way overweight for hoofing it in the spotlight, but I was very aware of this in the dream as being the reason I had been given something else to do.

The main action of the dream was taking place in the few hours before curtain, when everyone was dressing, curling their hair, and putting on makeup. The pace was frantic and we were all scrambling to get ready. I had been forcibly strapped into a very tight corset, stockings, and a black off the shoulder evening gown. I had my makeup on and I was wearing deep red lipstick that I kept touching up. But I needed help with my hair and couldn't find my sheet music to give to the pianist. Everyone was so busy that I was having trouble getting help.  In the end, I was stretching the limits of the cord of a curling iron to try to do my own hair in front of a mirror that was a few feet away from the electrical outlet.

It reminded me a bit of my old vaudeville days at the Gaslighter Theatre. Nursing School is almost over. Am I the proverbial Fat Lady Who Sings?


Friday, February 26, 2010

Poetry-Dreaming of Trees

I dreamed I owned a giant house
With room enough for everything
And tall trees living monuments around it
With whole societies of fauna therein.

I dreamed my life was lush with love
And I took each step in validation
That my existence was cherished and adored
And that my love was returned full measure.

I dreamed about a sumptuous feast
Surrounded by loved ones with raised glasses
Toasting our good fortune in a golden sunset
Letting the air echo with our laughter.

I dreamed this, and on awakening,
I was suffering a terrible thirst.
I hungered for a loving touch on my skin.
I was alone in a hungry world.

The color drained from my vision.
So that all I could see was the black and white
Of my endless to do lists and mundane chores
To even gain a fraction of my dream.

I long for dreams and untroubled sleep
For a glimpse of what my Heaven holds
But equally, I dread the nightly shadows
That stretch long into my waking days.

Oh Pieta! Have pity on my soul!
Begone, Morpheus, and your tormenting visions!
Unless you are here to place the tools in my hand
And help me, to the temple build.

Unless these things can all be mine,
Unless I can earn them through my patient industry,
Don’t instill me with such hunger and longing,
So that every day I burn with want.

I can shine in gratitude, now, for all my blessings.
I will work harder, now, for the things I need.
For in my dreams, I am larger than life.
In my dreams, I am the authentic me.

Stacie Ferrante 2-26-10

Poetry-Grey Dove

Soft and grey, on branch of evergreen.
Your voice low and mournful in the morning stillness.
Sweet peace, perhaps in your avian heart
As you call the filtering dawn’s rays by name.

What do you long for? Such simple things.
Shelter from the rain and wind.
A place to anchor your downy bed.
And a future for your nascent progeny.

Only the spare economy of winter fruit
And rare desert dewdrops concern your consciousness
If they concern it at all, as you thrill to fly
Over the rooftops of worried men.

Stacie Ferrante

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Be More Real

Image :

One of the things I am trying to do with my life, assuming my life is a canvas for art, is to be authentic. What that means from day to day varies, but it mostly has to do with ridding myself of the desire to compare myself with other people and just be myself.

I don't know if that sounds easy or not, but who I am is a constant work-in-progress. I set lofty goals for myself. I work hard. I am my own worst critic. In spite of that, I need to be more real.

When I get into trouble is when I try to be what my perception of a societal role should be. When I try to be what I think a "good wife" or "good mother" or even "good artist", I fall into a trap of trying to be what is expected, rather than taking the time to think about what that means to me. Does it matter if I put honest effort into something that ultimately is not natural to who I am? Doing that just leads to feeling like a failure.

Example: When I was Little A's mom, I did a lot of things with her. I wanted to be a good mom, because I loved her and also because some measure of my self image was wrapped up in that. I kept beating myself up because some of the things about parenting I wasn't so jazzed about, and I felt like if I was a "good mom" I would naturally enjoy them more. For instance, I dreaded bath time. Not mine, hers. I felt like if I was a good mom I would enjoy bathing my child. I would laugh through getting splashed with soapy water, I would be good-natured about getting that slippery kiddo to wash her hair. Tony was way better at it. Frankly I didn't enjoy it.

I also, for some odd reason. didn't enjoy playing on the floor as much as Tony did. Little A always wanted me to play with toys with her on the floor, and I did it, but I also had to make dinner and do laundry, so those moments often felt conflicted for me.

What I did enjoy were the afternoon tea times we had together, when we would have snacks and listen to music (often Mozart), and we would do drawings and color together. We had lovely closeness in those moments. Is that somehow less valuable than playing with a commercially ubiquitous plastic doll with her? I don't think so.

But when we had to reunify Little A with her biological mother, the first thing I noticed was that she played with Little A on the floor a lot. And even though I had my shit together in a lot of ways, I felt some harsh self-judgment feelings. I was glad for Little A that she would get that play time like she wanted, but after she was gone, I missed those more contemplative moments making fridge art the most. I missed most what came most naturally to me.

Little kids and friends and artistic audiences can smell it when you are not giving full commitment to the moment. I got up and read some of my poetry at an open mic recently (my first attempt at such a thing). I was nervous and unable to fully commit and I think as a result I got a tepid response. I had also chosen to read some stuff that I thought would have a broader appeal and be less about my inner persona. In retrospect, I think that was a wrong choice, based on what I thought a "good poet" would read. I made my selections based on what I thought were good representations of my work, instead of pieces that revealed something visceral and real about myself. If (or when) I decide to do it again, I need to not be afraid to show what is real about me. I need to bleed a bit, be a bit more raw. It is scary to do, because what if is isn't accepted? What if it makes people laugh?

But for me to be able to be satisfied with it after the fact, I need to experience being real with other people watching, even if that means I am not understood by everyone. Playing it safe will do me no good. Doing what others expect or worse, what I think others expect, will only prove that I can be superficial and concerned with the opinions of others. I don't even think that kind of art would ultimately resonate with anyone. It might be pretty, but ultimately forgettable.

I don't want to be forgettable. I don't want to blend in. I don't want to be "whatever is in these quotation marks", but the real thing. Even though it takes more energy and involves more risks, I want to be, as much as possible, more real.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Dream-Dragon in the living room

Dreamed this morning after I went back to bed with a gnarly red wine hangover. All kinds of mixed up things, including living in a house with lots of family, and someone had brought home a young dragon, who had set up a nest in the living room. The room always hung with smoke from its breathing, and I wasn't sure I could live in a house like that much longer.

Little A was in my dream again, just being there in her proper place, misbehaving and just being a kid. It is always so sad to wake up and have that not be true. I miss her.

I also dreamed that I went to a large specialty fish market, and a friend of mine who worked there had set aside a package for me with 4 different sizes of shrimp, from tiny bay shrimp to large Vietnamese Tiger prawns as big as a man's hand. I remember thinking it was thoughtful of him to pick them for me. I had to stand in a long line to pay for them.

When I woke up my headache and nausea were much better, but I had lost much of my day to paying for last night's frivolity. Oh well, that is pretty rare for me. Have to have some fun sometime.