The boy with the face tattoo

The last several weeks have been very unsettling for Paul and I. We reached a fork in the road and we don’t know what way to turn.

We both feel that by being blessed with financial security, we have an obligation to help others living in poverty. We currently sponsor 4 children in third world countries and help supply for their most basic needs. We can send a check in the mail every month and pat ourselves on the back for the children we help but will never see. It seemed so easy until the boy with the face tattoo shattered our perception of what it means to really help others.

How can we help others far away yet turn away someone in need in our own front yard?

He ran away/got kicked out of his house mainly because of the poor decisions he was making. Do we really need another teen in the house with issues? Why do we feel like it is our responsibility to provide for his care? We discussed being foster parents to this boy, taking him in as a surrogate son. Yet, we have a problem with him being alone in our house all day while we are at work and the kids are in school.

He was living at our house off and on for a good month. He also has been staying at the houses of different friends.

Do we take him in or do we let him sink or swim?

He needs so much help, probably more than we can provide.

  1. He quit going to school and studies online. Someone needs to monitor that he is doing his work in order for him to graduate.
  2. Rehab at the very minimum counseling. I’ve seen him completely wasted several times. The last time we saw him like that, we thought that his path was going to lead him to addiciton or ODing. How can he afford drugs? Is he selling them? Do we want to invite all of that into our house? Can we demand sobriety? Is that even attainable for him without professional help?
  3. He needs to learn very basic life skills such as cooking and budgeting. He needs clothing.
  4. He needs basic doctor and dental care. What happens if he gets sick?
  5. He needs to learn how to drive in order to get a job and maintain independence once he becomes an adult.
  6. This is a big one. He needs to have his tattoo removed from his face. Tattoo removal costs a lot of money, but he will have a really hard time finding a job without it removed. Who on earth would agree to tattoo the face of a minor? It makes my blood boil to think about it.
  7. This boy tends to make bad decisions and gets into fights, although we’ve known him since he was little and he is basically a good kid. The odds are really against him for succeeding. He was raised by a single teen mom and also has a disabled sibling which really pulls at our heartstrings from our similar experiences. They have nothing which is really not much to run away from. He might rather live in our house. Do we allow that?

If we take him in are we enabling him not to work things out with his mother? Do we really want to accept that kind of responsibility? Do we have the energy to deal with this? Will he have a bad influence on our other children living in our house? Why do I feel like I need to fix him? Is that realistic or do I just want to feel like a heroine? Why do we need to take him in or cast him out? Why can’t he just stay once in awhile if he needs to?

We need to make hard decision and have firm boundaries. Sometimes we have to confront. Why is this so unsettling? Maybe it would be for anyone not used to dealing with these issues?

We don’t have a problem with him staying at our house when we are home. But the other day he was at our house without our permission. We felt angry and violated that he snuck in. What is he doing by himself in our house?? What do we do?

Do we call the police? Do we drop him off on his mother’s doorstep? He is her responsibility, not ours. I feel angry that she is shirking him off on everyone else. Is it her fault or did he run away? I can’t blame her for not wanting to deal with it, but that doesn’t mean I want to either. Could she get in trouble with the law? Will her other children be taken away? Would our son ever talk to us again if we turn him away? Could we be in trouble if he stays? Does anybody really care anyway??

At this point, there are more questions than answers. This has really pushed us over the edge. Paul set up a first meeting with a counselor to help us deal with all this crap. We also have a lot of inadequacies as parents from growing up in unhealthy and difficult homes. We are very high functioning broken people. I wish we had all of the answers, but we keep striving to grow and improve which is all I can ask for.

It has been stressful, but little did I know more difficulties were on the way…

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Lost, that is what I would call him.

Never to be found?

Wandering around.

Trouble, the kind he might never find a way out of.

Keep him in your prayers because no one else cares.

Homeless, yet at times living in my home.

It’s too cold to be sleeping on a park bench.

Sleeping on the floor in my son’s room.

Arms wrapped around the dog at night for comfort.

Keep him in your prayers because no one else cares.

Bouncing from home to home…only 17.

Skipping out of school.

No hope?

Will he even graduate?

Keep him in your prayers because no one else cares.

Numbing his mind with whatever he can find.

He could die on the streets and no one would lose sleep.

Numb, the word permanently etched on his face

under his eye with a vacant stare.

It’s been a long time since he cut his hair.

Keep him in your prayers because no one else cares.

He’s drowning and pulling others down with him.

We had to break free of his grip.

Our son, we can only help save one.

But he is not out of the water yet..

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The pharmacist

When he got expelled for selling drugs in middle school, his mother said that he had aspirations of becoming a pharmacist. 

I saw his mother this past weekend. I don’t know if she noticed me. Maybe she pretended she did not, like I did with her. In all honesty, I feel disgust towards her mixed with a strong dose of pity.

Looking back, maybe I shouldn’t have allowed my kids to have sleepovers. But I still fondly remember childhood sleepovers…popcorn and movies…staying up all night…laughter and friendship. Why would I take that from my kids for no good reason?

Did she know back then that her son was the pharmacist??

He seemed so smooth, so friendly. Almost too nice, too charming. He always used terms like Mr. and Mrs., please and thank you. Is being too polite now a warning sign?

Who would’ve guessed? For the record, Paul always had a bad feeling about the boy. But he was so young then, only 12, when he dragged the neighborhood boys off the straight and narrow down a deep dark path.

He left them somewhere along the way and kept going…deeper, narrower, darker…DMT, heroin…pills, needles, pipes…I heard he is in juvie now.

Sometimes, when it first begins, it’s hard to see the sole’s first tread off the path.

I didn’t know why he left school at the beginning of the school year. He went on ‘vacation’ for a couple of weeks after leaving. Something about going to visit a relative out of state, but his mother stayed home. Then he started homeschooling because his mother did not like the school anymore. Then there were the Saturday morning community service projects. The warning bells rang like sirens in my head.

I felt angry with his mother for not telling us what was really going on. But is it her fault her son is the way he is? Did she know what was happening in her own house?? Was it already too late when she found out?

Eventually, the neighborhood moms found out what was happening. Their boys were banned from seeing the pharmacist early in the path. But what happened while we were at work?? He only lived a couple houses down. It was a hard time. Teenagers sometimes need as much supervision as toddlers.

Could it have been prevented? We already made sure we had conversations with the parents before allowing our children over for sleepovers.

Keep vigilant when things seem off.

Don’t tell yourself that the empty Benadryl wrappers you found were from your child treating allergies when you don’t carry those pills in the house. You will second guess yourself at first especially when you are not ready to face the truth. Don’t tell yourself, he is only 13.

Then start hoping and praying that your child did not enter a path that they have a hard time finding their way back from.

The internet is a double edged sword. It’s sickening how much info is out there for kids who want to experiment. But on the flip side it can also be a great resource to parents, like me, who have no clue.

Keep talking, eventually the truth comes out. When the truth comes out, don’t expect it to be pretty. Whatever you do, don’t act out of anger towards your teen if they tell the truth no matter how hard it is to hear.

And don’t expect an apology from the mother. Expect to hear that her son has aspirations of becoming a pharmacist.

 

Wine versus exercise in the long run…

Most of you know me as a thoughtful, serious, worried, borderline depressed individual that has had a difficult past. You would be correct. But I’d like to think I have a sense of humor that balances everything out.

It is the weather, people. Yesterday I ventured out and several random strangers stopped me and asked me when spring is coming. Did they think that I know?? I haven’t had any birds trying to nest in my blonde straw like hair yet, so it might be awhile. I didn’t mention my bad grade in the 8 AM college meteorology class though.

I just looked at the weather forecast for this weekend. We are expecting another foot of snow/ice. I’m going to jump off of a cliff. I had to say that out loud and my cliff diving son gave me suggestions of where to go.

Anyway…I saw a funny plaque a few weeks back that I bought for the bar (remember I live in WI) in my new house. It read and I quote…

Exercise makes you look better naked. So does alcohol. Your choice.

Nice, huh? I was thinking of hanging it up next to my medal display. But, wouldn’t that be tacky??

I’ve seen some debate online lately about exercise and wine drinking for longevity.

A new study says that drinking wine is better for longevity than exercise. Of course I had to make a comment…We’ll see who lives longer. Wait! How will you know I am right?

I didn’t bother reading the stupid article. But my question is this…Where do you draw the line??

How much exercise? How much wine??

Last month I went to a party and my best friend asked a doctor friend if running a marathon was healthy. She said that the jury was still out on that one. Talk about safe answer! As most of you know, I signed up for my 4th marathon. I said I would quit after the first one.

Wait! Does that sound like a problem??

How much wine? A glass a day…a bottle a day?? I know people that do both. Again, where is the line?

I have friends that run marathons and are alcoholics. Will they live forever??

Sometimes I wonder if I should say something about their drinking. Now maybe I should say something about their running too. Honey, the exercise is going to kill you long before the drinking ever will.

I think that most people my age (40’s) truly know almost everything there is to know about themselves. They have had enough time to contemplate their lives. At this stage in the game, I am well aware of my strengths and weaknesses. Most of my friends are probably aware that they drink (or exercise) too much. Is it my place to remind them of that every time I see them? What a buzz kill I would be at the post marathon party.

One of my biggest weaknesses (and strengths) is my critical eye. I love to solve problems. I want to fix things that are broken, i.e. people. I want to be in control over the domain beyond my person. I have a natural tendency to nag, complain, and nit pick. I have no problem providing that service to the people closest to me in my life. But most of the time I find myself biting my tongue. Who am I to play God??

Think about it, you probably don’t need me telling you what you suck at. You probably already know.

I know that some of you think I am crazy for running hours at a time. But running actually makes me feel less crazy.. If you’ve never run a marathon, I don’t think I could explain it to you. If you have, you know. Sometimes physical pain provides a release for emotional pain. It clears the troubled mind.

I have nothing against drinking in moderation (because that is what I do). But I don’t exercise in moderation. I’m even thinking of doing an ultra race which is longer than a marathon.

Is that healthy? Or is it a problem??

We’ll see who lives longer.

 

 

A little green

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Yes, I am Irish. I even know the name of my ancestors that came over from Ireland.

I love corned beef and cabbage, but apparently that is not how the Irish celebrate the holiday according to some WP friends that live there. I even heard that St. Patrick is not a real saint. But I am not here to talk about Irish culture because I haven’t a clue. I know how the people in Wisconsin celebrate. Most people wear green and get drunk. Kind of like a Packer game, but in March. Except this year St. Patrick’s Day fell on a Saturday calling out every drunk, moderate, and light drinker.

First of all, over half of America’s most drunkest cities are in my state. There probably would be more if we had more cities. I live near one of the top 5 drunkest cities in America. I might go as far as to say that I live near one of the drunkest cities in the world…a fact I am not proud of, but it is what it is.

I saw something on Facebook the other day about state motto’s. Ours was something like, ‘It’s too cold to be sober’. Here I sit on the first day of spring and our high temps are not going to be above the freezing point.

This year my friend Lisa was in town for St. Patrick’s Day. Our mutual friend Cori invited me out. I kind of had a hankering for corned beef and cabbage with green beer, so I said yes. We haven’t had the chance to get together for 6 months since Lisa moved away. Apparently, Cori and Lisa started celebrating before going out. Then Lisa said she had a tall margarita on the ride there.

Cori told the waitress that when she saw her finger up she was supposed to bring over 2 beers. It seemed like her finger was up about every 15 minutes. Cori told me that she was worried about her adult son. He drinks too much and has blackouts.

The one thing I respect about Cori is that she never drives drunk. She has been bringing her daughter out with her since she got her driver’s license. This is where I have the moral dilemma. Cori told me this past weekend that she created several fake ID’s to get her daughter into bars. Her daughter doesn’t drink. She drives people home that should never get behind the wheel of a car.

I am torn. I am totally against the whole fake ID thing, having someone in high school hang out at bars…What kind of example is that?? But I am for a safe ride home. It’s not like an Uber is easy to get.

I didn’t stay out late that night. I left before things got too crazy. There was a creepy older man dressed in black that kept coming around checking out the women on the dance floor. A woman tapped my arm and said, “You are beautiful” three times. She was young and had green hair. A wig? For a fleeting moment, I felt happy to hear the words spoken by a stranger that were never spoken by my father. I want to be beautiful forever. I grip onto her words vainly as time slips them back through my fingers. I am afraid to get old. The creepy man’s finger nail scratches my back as he steals by.

As I was leaving the parking lot, I saw the creepy old man leave with the nice girl with green hair. Did they arrive together? I feel sad. Is this her life? Why didn’t I say something kind back?

Late the next morning, I had some errands to run with my daughter. Less than a mile from home, we almost got hit by a drunk driver…probably still drunk from the night before. She swerved from the ditch into our lane…slowly weaving in and out as we pulled aside and watched her parade through.

That is St. Patrick’s Day in Wisconsin.

 

Out performing

Last week my daughter Angel was home from college for spring break. We watched a couple of rockumentaries. We watched the Kurt Cobain documentary “Montage of Heck’. I found the documentary to be rather disturbing. It showed raw footage of his drug addiction. What a tragic story of a brilliantly troubled mind. He was so talented, yet died so tragically young. Sadly, it really isn’t unusual anymore to hear of talented performers dying from suicide or drug overdoses. I wouldn’t wish the life of a performer on my worst enemy.

Then it occurred to me that this is the kind of life two out of three of my children want to have. They want to be performers.

My firstborn, Angel, is in her second year of college for vocal performance. Recently she competed in a very elite competition and was one of the very few students from her college that was chosen to sing in front of an opera star. She never had singing lessons before college. It might even sound stupid, but maybe I never fully realized her talent. She was the only one ever in the history of her high school to get as many perfect scores at state for her vocal performances. Now she is in college competing with students that have had singing lessons for their whole entire lives.

But don’t all parents think that their children are the brightest, most talented, most intelligent children even if they are not? I also had the opportunity to listen to performances of strangers for solo and ensemble. I sat through one of the worst vocal duets I ever heard to look around to see parents recording the blessedly miserable event on their phone beaming with pride.

Parents often wear blinders. Why would I be any different?

My son is going to state for a piece that his piano teacher couldn’t even play the accompaniment for. It has a difficulty rating of 9. She said that it was a PhD piece. The ‘second chair’, who is a senior, played his level 4 difficulty solo from last year and bombed it. It was the song that my son got a perfect score on at state as a sophomore. After my son played his solo this year, the girl’s mother introduced herself to me. She told me that my son is a genius, a savant at music. She went on and on to the point that I almost was embarrassed. What could I say back to her? Her daughter as a talented senior bombed the solo my son aced at state last year as a sophomore. It was awkward.

I have two children that are the top performing musicians from their small town school. They are joining the hordes of a million other talented young wannabe famous musicians who are just as good if not better than they are.

In all honesty, who doesn’t want to be a star?? I sure would love to have 20,000 followers on WP. How about you?? If you have that many followers, how worried are you about continuing to write brilliant posts? Point made.

But do I want the life of a performer for my children?? I am not so sure anymore.

I picture them searching from city to city for a mirage they can’t seem to grasp onto. They will deal with the fear of failure. But guess what? The fear of success is just as terrifying. Rejection. Not having a stable lifestyle. Not having a steady income. The possibility of finding permanent residence in my basement. Not being able to pay off college debt. Maybe being famous? Having to keep performing at a stellar level to keep their fame. The possibility of drug addiction. Fans worshiping them but not knowing who they really are. Haters. Critics. What do you think a beautiful girl might have to do to make it to the top? A life on the road. What about a family? Broken relationships. Constant pressure. The isolation from a lack of anonymity. Broken dreams from not succeeding. Not being able to handle fame.

Why do I worry that it might not go well for them either way?? Didn’t we teach our kids to follow their dreams when we followed ours? Performing is one of the most exciting career journeys that anyone can follow.

Who knows? Maybe it will end well. As I overthink about it, maybe I am just worried because that is what I do as a parent. Worry. Sure, my kids are talented. But are they talented enough??

Maybe not pursuing a dream gives a life of more regrets.

And maybe I shouldn’t have watched that documentary.