Thursday, August 27, 2009


It was not right
I didn’t think I could do it
Take the first day of school picture
With only 2 girls

How can this be?
Ever year, for the last 12 years, there have been 3 girls in these pictures
Something is wrong
It doesn’t feel good
I just want to cry

All day long I thought of that picture
how it said what I didn't want to hear
you have a child missing from your home

She is missing
She is not home
I am missing her
I hate this

I have to keep remembering
We are doing the right thing
Our family is too important to
Let her anger
Take over

We all need time to focus on us
Not to worry about making
Karen upset
And then be
Walking on eggshells
Waiting for the scream
The cries
The yelling
The throwing of items
The possible kick
To a wall
To a person
To a chair

We deserve better
My family deserves better
My other daughters deserve better
My husband deserves better
I deserve better
And, really
Doesn’t even Karen deserve more?
To feel more at peace
To feel comfortable with herself
And her place in the family

I know all of this is true
But the truth of it is
I just want her home
And I want all my pictures to have 3 girls in them

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


I don’t want to hear about
my daughter’s progress
from a stranger

I want to talk to her
I want to know she has a headache
I want to give her that advil

I want to hold her head
after she barfed
I am told
by these strangers
she is barfing every day

is it the food?
is it nerves?
is it the medicine?

is she sick?
is she dehydrated?
is she taking care of herself

I hate calling each night
to the nurse’s station
but we can only
talk to her
twice a week
the most she gets is 20 minutes
twice a week
for us
her sisters
her grandparents
both sets

we all care about her
we all want to know about her
we all love her
so much

we just wished she loved herself more
knew how special she is
felt good about herself
her body
her clothes
her hair

why can we see her beauty
but she can’t
why can the school see
her wonderful intelligence
but she can’t
why can the tennis coach
the soccer coach
the athletic director
see her sportsmanship
but her family can’t

why can she be so nice to strangers
and acquaintances
but not to her sisters
or me
or her daddy

we love her so much
but she hurts us

she gets hurt by others
or has been hurt by others
and holds her anger in
to take out on me
or her sisters
or her daddy

these strangers don’t understand her
the nurses
and doctors
and therapists
will never love her like I do

but can they help her
can they treat her
the way I have never been able to
can they understand her
like I do
can they find out the reason
can they help her find her way

I can only hope that these strangers
end up being her friends
and mine

Saturday, August 22, 2009


My husband is my partner

I knew when we met
my life was going to change
even though at the beginning he told me
“I don’t volunteer”
“I don’t want to talk about it”
I knew something special was there

we had so much fun together
we went out alone
we went out with friends
we laughed
we never fought
we talked about our lives together

we got married
at the ceremony
when the rabbi asked him
“do you take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife”
he answered
“you bet”
I laughed
I giggled throughout the ceremony
he does that to me

we enjoyed our time by ourselves
but we knew we wanted a family
we talked about kids
I wanted four
he wanted two
so we compromised and had three
we had no idea how much our lives would change

that is when the fighting between us began

how do you compromise your position when
child rearing is never taught in school
no instructions

again I had instinct
being a kindergarten teacher I understood about
rules and consequences
I believed in behavior modification

we began to discuss
how to raise them

when I was strict
he was lenient
when he was the rule follower
I enjoyed breaking them
we had “discussions”
we are both the oldest of our siblings
so we each think we know best

we still enjoyed vacations alone
we always talked about our girlies

on weekends
we would get babysitters
and go out on dates
sometimes just us
dinner and a movie
because we were too busy
to remember
to make plans
with anyone else

but we never minded being alone
we still enjoyed each other’s company

but when crisises happened with the girls
we would argue
we would get mad
we would point fingers
we would sulk

we both had instincts
but we didn’t realize it

I wanted rules and behaviors
also I wanted fun and a happy house
yin and yang
what was the right decision
where were the instuctions?

when the girls would fight
I would think
oh sisterly squabbles
it will stop soon

but no
I don’t think it does
my husband has three aunts
who are his father’s sisters
they are in their 80’s and 90’s
they still fight
there is no hope

but we didn’t know
in some ways
when after the outbursts
they appreciated each other

we needed a plan
we needed structure

we listened to teachers
we went to parenting seminars
but everything we learned
we already knew

then we asked ourselves
why wasn’t it always working?

we had great kids
they did great in school
they got good grades
they had friends

but there was so much fighting at home
where did we go wrong

the situation was usually two against one
it wasn’t always the same design
but it usually was

we still loved each other deeply
we just didn’t know how to always show it
when we argued
we got so angry
we wanted right for our family
but we didn’t know the answers
we tried
we talked to more doctors
we talked to therapists

we wanted a happy house
but we didn’t have one

we needed it for us
for our girls also
but for us
it tears us apart
we both want what is best
without instructions
how can we tell what is the best method?

instinct doesn't help with this

we know we belong together
we lean on each other for support
there are days
he is strong and I am weak
and others
that I am the leader and he is the follower
we stick together
we stand by each other's sides
we know
that we can't do this alone

I am so lucky to have him as my partner
I am blessed every day
and for that
I am grateful

Thursday, August 20, 2009


we were never given instructions when we dropped our daughter off
at her residential treatment center last week

we thought they were the experts
we thought they had the instincts
were we wrong

we did not have instructions
about how to tell people
we were missing one daughter
how to handle our other two girls
when they asked some questions
about her therapy
about her living quarters

after 6 days
1800 miles
of a family road trip

never again
said my husband

we had our first
family therapy session
at the residential treatment center

my husband and I met with
our daughter’s therapist
we met with her on drop off day
she seemed generally interested in our daughter
she updated us on her treatment
her plans
her goals
we felt good

we had still not met the doctor
a psychiatrist
the MD
I had left him three voicemails
but had never gotten a response
he was the one who decided her treatment
her plan
her medications
her tests

the therapist had not heard from him
during our meeting
he called the therapist
he said he would be over soon

when he showed up
he said he was sorry
he had not returned my calls
I held back
I was strong
I wanted to find out what he thought
about our daughter

when he asked his first question
and the answer was obvious
I was surprised
the answer was so easy to find
in her history
I asked if he had seen her file
No he answered
she had been there for 8 days
he had been her doctor for 8 days
and he had not looked at her file

he said it was never given to him
and you didn’t ask for it?
I questioned
he had been too busy you see
he has 31 patients
and some are
sicker than our daughter
he told us
could I believe my ears
my daughter’s doctor
was saying he was too busy
to treat her
to care
to look for her chart
to read her files
to find out about her
to understand her history
to learn about her past treatment?

my husband and I
went ballistic
the doctor sat there
like a bump on a log
like he couldn’t care less
that if we took her out of her hands
she was one less patient for him to worry about
we did not have instructions how to act
but we had our instincts
and knew this was not how to be treated
by any professional
we needed instructions on
how to get the doctor to listen to us
believe us
know that only
was important to us
we didn’t care about the other
30 patients
to us
there was only one patient at this place

next thing I knew
the wonderful therapist
took us to the CEO’s office
we were letting this woman know how dissatisfied we were
with this doctor
with this institution
with the way things were handled

we told her we wanted this doctor
removed from our daughter’s
treatment team

that is unusual
she said
I don’t care
I replied

we were not leaving
the facility until
we knew that a new doctor was in place
we’ll wait I told her

then the 5 of us
Karen and her sisters
went to lunch together
it was so sweet
all 3 girls

we went to the visiting area
we told jokes
we gave Karen
new shirts
some candy
new underwear
some books
some magazines

we all walked back to the admin building
where the therapist said
she was waiting to hear from the medical director

Bethany the middle sister
started worrying
her haircut was in dallas
in just a few hours
she wanted to be home in time

we’ll work it out
we told her
we will get her there

the medical director came to meet us
along with the therapist
who was a godsend
she was our guardian angel
who did not leave our sides
during this crisis

he asked us our worries
he asked us about our daughter
he wanted to know more about her

he listened
he questioned
he explained

there is another unit on the facility
that was more social
although it would be hard for her
he wanted to move her there
and then
he would be her doctor
would we be willing
to make that move?

as long as we keep the therapist
as long as we can trust you
as long as you are honest with us
as long as our daughter is happy
as long as we can still talk to her
see her
visit her
write her

he assured us
he gave us better instructions

we drove away
after a week of dropping her off
the first time
in some ways
more apprehensive
in other ways
knowing she was in a better place

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Family Vacation

How can you have a family vacation without all your family?

we tried
there is a hole in this plan
I can feel Karen missing constantly

how can we have fun-
play in the sand
swim in the ocean
without her here?

we drove for so many hours to get to the beach
my husband and I kept saying she would have hated it
she would have fought with her sisters
she would have whined
possibly screamed
possibly cried
but we miss her

it just does not seem right

how can it be a family vacation without the whole family

then the storm arrived
go figure
we try to get some change in scenery
and a tropical storm comes and
rains on our parade

but, it is not really a parade
it is not a family vacation

it is survival
we need to survive
we need to heal
we all need it

the girls
my husband
and me

but, how can we smile
and pretend everything is fine?
how do I go about sitting in the sun
being on the beach
even if it is raining
when I know she is miserable
hating her surroundings
at her residential treatment center
thinking that everyone is mean
worried about the money
that it is costing us
and the time she will have to stay

how can I do this?
I am the mother
the woman
the instinctual woman who knows best for her children

but, maybe not
maybe I am just a stupid woman who
thinks she knows best
but knows nothing

I love my children
I would do anything to keep hurt from them
I stay up late and worry all night
I make sure they have what they need for school
for camp
for vacation

I told Karen years ago when she couldn’t read well
that I would always buy her books
then she read everything in sight
she showed me
her teachers
and her tutor
she could do it
she started to love reading
reading became her escape

I love reading on the beach
ah a book and sound of the ocean
with a cocktail in hand
it is heaven

will read anywhere
in her bed
in class
on a plane
in a car
wherever and whenever
she became so obsessed with books
the fantasy of books
the escape
the vacation of the mind

back to this vacation
without her
how am I going to make it
without more worry about her

it is not right
she should be here
she would love this

it is not the right time
I need to keep remembering

she needs help
we need help
we need saving
we need healing
we need peace

we need this vacation
even if we do not have the whole family

it just does not make much sense

Monday, August 17, 2009


That is what I always said happened when my first daughter was born
I knew what to do
it was instinctual
I knew how to hold her
burp her
swaddle her
soothe her
rock her
clean her
I was born to be a mother
it just came so naturally
And it kept happening
I kept having babies and it kept being instinctual
I thought I knew just what to do

I was not the type of mother to run to the doctor when they sniffled or coughed
In fact
I think I only went when I already knew what was wrong-
Ear infections
to confirm what I already knew
my 8 week old, a high grade fever
required a spinal tap even though I knew she was fine
Chicken pox
although I had already diagnosed it at home

“I am not a nurse, although I play one at camp” is my line,.
I actually went to school to become a Certified Nursing Assistnat
so I could spend more with my kids at camp
working in the infirmary
where I could watch over them when they were away from home
Being a certified teacher of k-8
I taught preschool when they were younger
so I could watch them at their school
see them from afar
without them always knowing I was watching
It was not like I wanted to be away from them
I have always hated when the beginning of school starts
I always wish summer wouldn't end, I want to spend time with my kids
Being a mother was my job
I have been blessed and lucky enough to be home with them
And I thought I was pretty good at it
Because I had instinct

But, now I am not so sure
I don’t know if I did the right thing

It has been 2 weeks since the police took my oldest daughter away in handcuffs
She has been struggling with depression and anxiety for over 5 years now
Social therapists
more psychiatrists
communication therapist
another psychiatrist
a day program at the children’s hospital,
outpatient therapy
what have we not tried?

I thought I had knew what to do with her
I thought I could understand her
Some days,
after hours of discussion
I would think
that THIS is it
this time we got through to her
she understands the problems
the issues she needs to work on
Then we would wake up the next day
but, nothing would change

Her sisters have been supportive
even if they have their moments
They trust her even when she doesn’t realize it
My husband protects her because he can’t stand to see her upset
although sometimes we both coddle her
I am the strict one
the one who keeps to the rules given
because instinctually I keep thinking something will work

But no
2 weeks ago we had to call 911
All I said to her was “Karen, you need to pull your bra strap up”
well, actually that was the first sentence,
when she just shrugged her shoulder
I said “Honey, you need to reach into your shirt and pull it up”
that was it
I did not hit her
I did not yell at her
I didn’t even touch her
She went ballistic in a parking lot
We had to get in the car to come home
all at me and my husband
When we got home
she hit her sister
She just would not calm down
We threatened to call the police
she said they were worthless
she said they couldn’t do anything
I wanted to call,
but my husband kept thinking she would calm down
when she continued screaming at us
being physically and verbally abusive
at last,
he called
Since it was the 4th time to call the authorities
4 police cars showed
the other sister was on the roof to get away from Karen
she was so scared
then they approached the door
next we had 8 police officers in my house talking to her
I heard her crying
but I was too angry to care
I was shocked at myself
I am instinctually a parent and I had to call the police on my own child
What kind of mother am I anyway?

One police officer came in to talk tous
He said he was not sure
they might have to take her to a mental hospital
She had a short
less than 24 hour stay
over 6 months prior to this
she hated it
She thought she didn’t belong there.
I had felt so guilty
that they had to take her that time
I cried uncontrollably and just could not stop.

But, not this time
I was too angry
Over her actions
Over what had happened to our family
Over what she did to me and my husband
Over the fact that I never really feel like she tries to change
use her coping skills or cares about how we feel
I was just frustrated and angry

They did take her away
in handcuffs,
she didn’t even cry.
My husband and I had to watch them walk away to put her in the car.
They drove her to the mental health facility
the one where the doctors try to stabilize the patient

My anger was instinctual
I was again acting from my gut
I was overwhelmed with madness about what happened to all of us

The next day my husband and I met with the case manager
she had spoken to the doctor
because of the history they were recommending a Residential Treatment center.

A what?
A different type of mental health facility
Someplace where our daughter should live to try out new medications and new behavior methods
Someplace where someone else takes care of her

But, what about me?
I gave birth to her
I raised her
I taught her to sit in a chair
eat her food
and sleep in her own bed

What did I do wrong?

My husband and I spent the whole weekend researching
So many places were out of state
with 9 month treatment plans
but we didn't want her gone that long
We wanted her home
but we knew we had to do something
our family was falling apart around us.
Instinct again
I knew we had to do something and get her help

She was happy in this place
the short term one
She made "friends"
she felt accepted
she was not angry or sad
she was comfortable
my instinct felt
that this did not seem like a good sign
instinct told me

last week
I did the unthinkable
I registered my daughter at a mental health facility’s residential treatment center.
I admitted failure.
I said to everyone who knows me and doesn’t know me
that I can’t raise my own daughter.
I tried, but I failed
My instincts failed

My husband and I left
hardly talking
both crying.
We were either on the phone with one of our parents
one of our daughters
or one of our friends
Helping each other relay the story of leaving our own child in the care of doctors
nurses and therapists
whose names we did not all know

We tried to think of our other daughters
We tried to talk about the future
But we could only reminisce about the past
About our baby girl with the curly hair and green eyes
Our first born
The one who made us a family
What happened to my instinct?