Miracle Mondays: “Paper Sack Kids” by Brenda K.

papersack-kidsLast November “Grandma K” got in touch with me regarding my “Best Books for Foster and Adoptive Families” at “Mommy Monsters.” She had a book she thought my readers might enjoy, called Paper Sack Kids. It tells the stories of some of the kids who have come through the home of her sister Diane, who with her husband Rex have touched the lives of foster children for more than thirty years.

In one fell swoop, the gray-haired woman opened her door, the passenger door behind her, and the trunk lid. There were no “hellos,” “sure is warm out, isn’t it?” nor any mention of how cute the new batch of puppies, scrambling at her feet, were. She was a burned-out bustle, ready to unlead the car of cargo and her commission, tired as the gray that permeated the windy afternoon.

Three children and one sraggly blanket huddled close to each other in the back seat. The woamn was already lifting the top half of her body out of the car’s trunk. “C’mon, kids,” was the first indication that the lady had a voice. She carried three worn paper sacks from the trunk to the front porch.

Diane bent down to receive her new kids. “Let’s see, I think you must be …” (her mind scanned again the note on her kitchen cabinet). “You must be Corinne,” she welcomed the eldest, who had dark brown eyes and flawless skin. Instead of the excitement and interest of childhood, there was a dull responsible look in Corinne’s umber eyes.

“And you must be Zack.” Diane saw the face of an emotionally exhausted little boy. His four-year-old fingers exhibited the sum total of all his faith as he tightened his grip on Corinne’s five-year-old hand. The social worker reached into the car to bring out a frightened two-year-old Shelly, who was clutching her well-worn blanket. In a glance, Diane thought she could tell that the tattered little comforter had once been pink. Long ago, perhaps, before Shelly’s mom had stuffed it in the wash with some of her boyfriend’s Levis. The little cover was the baby’s last tiny bit of tightly knit security and so she held it tight. Everything else in Shelly’s innocent and tender life had become ugly and unraveled….

Diane turned to the huddled, wide-eyed children and gave a silent prayer. It helped her survive the ache she felt at times like this. The prayer was also an acknowledgment that all of us are literally foster children. We each need a spiritual hug to still our hown heavenly homesickness once in a while. “Father, please bless our home to be able to bless these children.” Some days, life gets pretty hard to understand, even for social workers and foster parents.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a foster parent? What do you say when they come … and if they go? How do you handle it all? I invite you to go over to Brenda’s website, and get a copy of this lovely book. You’ll be glad you did. (To order your own copy of “Paper Sack Kids,” contact Brenda at  brenda7k@msn.com).

Anti-Adoption? Review of “The Adoption Mystique” by Joanne Wolf Small, MSW


adoption-mystique1My article “Anti-Adoption Advocacy: How Should We Respond?” drew a wide variety of responses. The ones that gave me the greatest pause came from those I mentioned in the article as being against adoption, who wrote to protest.


According to co-founder/executive director of Bastard Nation (B/N) Marley Greiner, “We are concerned only about the civil right of all adult adoptees to receive their obcs [original birth certificates] upon request without government interference.”  (Ironically, the most heated attacks concerning the adoption/abortion issue came from members of his organization.)  However, her comments reminded me of the complexity of the issues surrounding adoption, and that to seek reform in one area is not the same as wanting to eliminate the practice altogether. (In my next column at CE/CM, I will examine the issue most central to the B/N crowd: birth records.)


For now, I’d like to address a comment posted by the author of this book, The Adoption Mystique by Joanne Wolf Small, MSW. She contacted CE to correct my perception, saying that she is in fact pro-adoption. I admit it made me sit up and take notice. Reaching for her book, which was still sitting beside my computer, I read the bio: “[Ms. Small] is herself adopted [at six weeks] … Her belief in the adoptive family as a positive alternate is dissonant with a widespread, covertly held public image” (TAM, back cover). 


Hmm… how was it that I concluded that she was against adoption? Continue reading

Blue Moon: Raising Depression Free Children

It can come out of nowhere, and flatten like roadkill. Or it can send out little signals: The chaos, the irritibility, the restlessness, the scalp prickling and pulling tighter than a bongo. Then the tears start falling on the inside … and (finally, mercifully) on the outside, where they start to do some good.

If you’re prone to depression, knowing when and how to get help is imperative not only for your own peace of mind, but for that of your entire family. One book I’ve found especially helpful is Kathleen Hockey’s Raising Depression-Free Children, which offers practical help not only on how to keep your kids healthy, but how to stay healthy yourself. The second half of this is every bit as important as the first, since the stresses of parenthood combined with the intimacy of family life makes putting on a “brave face” next to impossible.

In her book Raising Depression Free Children, Kathleen Hockey identifies four aspects of effective treatment for depression, whether the sufferer is a child or adult: medical, psychological, environmental, and spiritual (p.81). Some people try to treat depression with just one of these — but, as Hockey points out, the four factors cannot be separated if the sufferer wants to get completely well.

Admitting you need help is the first (and often hardest) step. When I was a kid, my mother used to suffer from (what I now recognize were) depressive episodes and migraines. She battled it alone, afraid to admit that anything was wrong. “I just sing hymns till the blues go away,” she’d say. But we all knew better, having been on the receiving end of the effects of the disease. We promised ourselves that when the time came, we would handle it differently. For our children’s sake, as well as our own.

If you struggle with depression, it doesn’t mean you’re crazy or that you’re spiritually defective. In the January/February 07 issue of Canticle, Hockey contributed a wonderful piece on St. Elizabeth Seton, who struggled with depression for most of her adult life. (You can order a copy of this issue by calling 800-558-5452.) God gives each of us a burden to carry in this life, which forces us to lean on Him for strength and grace. He also sends points of light and hope, to ease the load when we begin to stumble. Just as Simon of Cyrene helped Him to carry His cross, He sustains us when the load becomes to difficult to carry alone. That sustenance comes in many forms: the healing graces of the Eucharist, the sympathetic ear of a trained professional, or a timely insight from a blog you stumbled on “by chance.”

Whether the source of your depression is hormonal (such as post-partum depression), environmental (stress-related), physiological, or spiritual, know that you are not alone in your suffering, and that help is available. Your “blue moon” will pass, and you will see the sun again.

Mother Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, you see your daughters wandering in the dark. Pray for us, that when we are weak your Son will strengthen us. That in our sorrow, He will be our purest source of joy. In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.