While holding my fifteen year old cat last week, I snuggled him, cuddled him, and rubbed his belly just as I’ve done since he was a kitten when a sad thought came to mind. I am closer to the end of his life than to the beginning. One day, a lot sooner then I ever want to come, there’s going to be a time in which I won’t get to do any of this so I ignore the slightly old smell that he’s not cleaned himself quite so well like he used to, that his fur isn’t nearly as shiny or new and I held him close anyway and loved on him just the same. In that moment I knew that unless something happens to me that I will have loved my fur baby from cradle (he has been with us since he was 8 weeks old) to grave.

When you love something like that, no-matter the relationship, it changes you. Some people can’t handle that change and gracefully (or, not) back away when they need to and other people hold on a little bit tighter, kiss a little bit harder, love a little bit longer knowing all the while that they have been graced with this gift of being involved in another’s life no matter how long or short. I think about that term “cradle-to-grave” and what that means to me. Blessed and honored are the feelings I have. Also, there is hurt. I hurt for the future that I know is inevitable. A time where my kitty won’t be there. I hurt just as much for that time as I hurt for the babies Rent-a-Dad and I were never able to hold.

Somewhere in all this thought is another, a connection to a Japanese tradition of when a bowl or cup breaks that instead of just throwing away the pieces they fill in the cracks with gold (Kintsugi). And I think about what that means for me in terms of my blessing and how cracked I feel at this time. That how even when I feel cracked/broken there is a bit of grace to be found there. That I don’t have to feel there is a need to throw away the broken pieces. I don’t need to package them up in a box and shove them on a shelf. What I can do is let the gold fill in the cracks and hold it all together. Because I know these cracks exist and are a part of who I am. That by letting the gold (the grace, the love) fill in those cracks, that I am honoring what has happened, my part in it, and I am still letting the love wash over me and surround me. It also lets me know that there is still love out there in the world with animals and children and people who need and want my love. Whether that is for a season, a reason, or a lifetime. I’m going to take that opportunity when I have it and I’m going to let that gold fill in my cracks. I am going to let that love pour in and share that love.

Yes, I am going to love a little bit longer, hold a little bit tighter, and hopefully be stronger while I feel gracefully cracked.

Today is December 27, 2018. I always think of the in-between space for the holidays as being the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. The time jam packed with one holiday right after another from Hanukkah and Solstice to Christmas and Kwanzaa; and many more that I can not even bring to mind. For many Christians this short time between Christmas and New Years is a bit like a holiday coma, or that is how I have heard it described this week.

For me this time was always meant to be a catch-up time. Time to catch up with friends and family; a time to sit back and enjoy the moments before the new year takes over; a time to make sure the New Year’s meal is planned and bought for; and ultimately a time of reflection. This year really has been no different. Sure, I am sad and hurting still from the loss of my mom and that is playing a big part of my reflection, but I am also reflecting on who I have been, how I have grown and where I see myself headed. It is something I do every year right before New Year’s.

This year a big portion of my reflection has been sitting on family traditions. Since truly starting my own family (apparently until kids are involved people don’t take you as seriously in saying “my own family” or feelings get bent out of shape), I have been trying to figure out what traditions mean to me, to Rent-a-Dad and ultimately to the children in our lives. It has been this give and take of “yours, mine and ours” between all of the adults involved. There are birth parents and families as well as our own family and our own traditions to sort through.

In the past six years the biggest part of any tradition for all of us is making sure we are all included and represented in some meaningful way that we do not feel left out. That is what has been the most important to me.

As a child I often felt like I had no say in what we did as a family for the longest time. I was told I had to go along with traditions that had been established well before I was born. As I grew up and our family dynamics changed, my parents let there be a little more leeway (flexibility) in what we did and when.

What I learned from that experience is the importance of involvement, being accepted, and a developing need inside of me for holiday traditions that were flexible and relaxed.

Over the years, too often my mom was very stressed out because everything had to be perfect so we could have a perfect moment/time. Looking back with memories of her like a mini-tornado around the house fussing and stressing just sets off my anxiety.

The moments I remember fondly and miss the most? The imperfect impromptu ones like my dad and I horsing around at church on Christmas Eve when I was in 7th or 8th grade. It was one of the last times my mom, dad and I all went to church together. Or the times the three of us spent just driving around looking at Christmas decorations. The Christmas days we went to the National Cathedral to be together, be reverent, and light a candle. I remember feeling loved and protected in all of those moments.

So, what does that all mean to me now? Do I throw out old traditions? Make new ones? How do I keep a balance?

This is something I thought I had a good foundation with / a handle on until last year when I was told by a family member that I was not keeping family/their traditions in mind. It, and well a few other choice words, rocked my foundation a bit. I knew this family member had felt this way for some time so I wasn’t shocked by the admission of what I had known. Rather what shocked me was the vehemence and anger that went with those words. I was doing what I had thought of as my best to keep a balance between traditions I had grown up with while incorporating traditions from Rent-a-Dad and now the birth families of our kids.

So, what had I done wrong?    

What advice had I received over the years about traditions?

From my own parents, and their lead, it was to keep sacred the ties with our faith, keep close to those we love, and once we had our own kids to make sure to stay at home and develop family traditions with them. That grandparents, and traditions with extended family would have to fill in around what we did with our family. Would it always go smoothly? No. Just do your best. And most importantly think of the kids.

A lot of the advice I have received from friends and other family members over the years has been very similar. As Rent-a-Dad and I have built a family through non-traditional means, the same advice has rung true. Friends have still stressed how important it is to build traditions with these children we love and care for; and how they admire that we are doing so with the birth families and still trying to hold some of our own traditions intact.

By those standards and advice, I hadn’t done anything wrong. I was listening to all those involved in creating family traditions with our kids and trying to make everyone feel heard. It was my extended family that was feeling left out (or rather one member) and marginalized because he didn’t want change to come to the traditions he grew up with. He wanted me to send our kids home to their birth families and celebrate with my family not with Rent-a-Dad included, or if Rent-a-Dad was he had to follow “our traditions”. The funny thing? This family member and the traditions he wanted held sacred were not always so important to him when I was a kid. His way and what he wanted was important. The same thing held true here. His priorities needed to come first. He did not want to be flexible and involve others unless it was his choice, his decision, his rules. That is fine in his own residence with his family.

It is important to evaluate relationships from time to time as well. Toxicity exists. At the holidays toxic relationships make memories painful and hearts heavy with sadness instead of letting the magic of children’s joy ring out or the uplifting words from a good sermon wrap you in warmth and light.

The holidays, and the traditions around them are supposed to wrap us all in love, magic, and fill our hearts with all things positive and good so we feel renewed and ready to begin this yearly cycle of birth, death and renewal all over again.

As I am wrapping up my reflection of 2018, and hoping for something a bit lighter and brighter in 2019, I want to remember a few things about traditions.

Traditions are NOT meant to be:

  • Hard and fast
  • Unbending
  • Uncomfortable
  • Burdens that make you, or others, feel left out

Traditions ARE supposed to:

  • Be source of identity
  • Bring magic/ light into your life
  • Be powerful and uplifting
  • Be done with a purpose (require thought, care and consideration)
  • Provide reassurance that all will be right (a sense of comfort)
  • Be done with love
  • Be (most importantly) what you make of them


If you have been following our blog then this post might bring up a memory of another post we made about traditions and the need for flexibility. The post, Traditions: Cornerstones, Hassles, or Non-Existent, was also a reflection in a way, about our journey into what traditions mean in the foster care system and how our own thoughts on traditions have evolved. I think back often to this original post and my advice to others as I am still journeying forward. It closed with similar sentiments “Focus on the happy messy moments, no matter how small (time or space), as they are the ones you will always remember and hold dear!”.  

While struggling with the anger of the words that made me question how Rent-a-Dad and I were going about establishing our own traditions, I did a lot of reading, reflecting and talking to others. A post from another blog helped me in my journey to squarely being on my foundation is Creating a Positive Family Culture: The Importance of Establishing Family Traditions.

Within minutes of receiving our first placement we were hooked. Those big blue eyes and chubby cheeks they both had. Going back to work would never be the same. Life would never be the same. The acceptance and reality of that change is not just a one-time deal but a constant ever “reminding” feeling.

Why is it ever “reminding” instead of just “is”?

For me it is because as a foster parent I know that nothing is permanent. Often I go along in what feels like my normal and then I am reminded that my life is a bit odd and not quite normal. It is like walking along thinking you are on firm ground when you then realize you were walking on top of a board covering a quagmire.

So how does that apply to my reality of school aged children?

We do not have any children of our own. In terms of our fostering journey, we have only had one school aged placement and that was for just one day. We have yet to really experience first day school jitters.

Yes we have dealt with daycare. And before this week I would have said dropping kids off at school is a similar feeling to dropping kids off at day care, but it isn’t. At least that is my feeling.

Daycare is a place I can choose to have my kids in, job or no job. Even mothers’ day out programs are at their base, optional. Even though I feel they are very necessary for a mom or dad. Every parent needs a break at some point.

School on the other hand has a more permanent feeling. No longer can you just drop by when errands are done or your work day is over. There are specific drop off and pick up times. Rules are rules.

I have been dreading this year. First because it meant I would become a weekend aunt. Then after plans changed, and we were asked to have a more active daily role, I dreaded all the things parents dread. I was worried I would not know things (very important things), be tardy, forgetful or worse. Am I a good enough role model? Please no phone calls about dirty words!!!

And my biggest worry… what am I going to do when I miss them more than they miss me?

Of course I have been working towards a balance of letting them be kids and striving for independence. But the reality that you have done well and have a good balance, well sometimes that reality knocks us flat. We are proud that they are prepared and confident but we miss the “mommy, please stay.” In this case I would have liked a goodbye hug or a wave of dismissal.

Rent-a-Dad took our eldest nephew, with his mom my adopted sister, to school on Thursday. We did photos outside of our home with both boys even though JoBe wouldn’t have his first day yet. I gave my hugs and kisses and then said goodbye. Rent-a-Dad got to feel his first day jitters with our oldest nephew.

My first day jitters didn’t hit until the following day when we took JoBe to school. A month prior I had to soothe JoBe’s fears about attending school without me. He has always loved making friends. When he attended daycare as an infant he loved that experience too. My worries were about him realizing I wasn’t staying. I shouldn’t have been worried. He handled the whole thing like a pro.

After getting into his classroom, we found his cubby, he washed his hands and we worked on writing his name. Once he was finished with the tasks the teacher gave him he asked if he could play. That was it.

Tasks were done and he was ready for us to leave. No hugs, kisses or goodbyes. I didn’t feel totally deflated as he had given me hugs and kisses when we got out of the car. But after all of preparation for school, he was definitely ready. I was so proud… and a bit sad. Thankfully I had plenty to keep me occupied from doctor appointments to helping my brother with his move.

At some point early in the day I did have a moment of panic. The age old question that enters a parent’s mind from time to time “what if I am not needed?” Followed by the one that enters stay at home parent’s minds “What am I now going to do with my time?”

I knew I would be a bit sad when the boys started school. In knowing that I took measures to make sure I wouldn’t have time to focus on any sadness that might linger. Well in some ways it wasn’t that simple. Life has been reminding me I have plenty of things I have neglected over the past so many years of toddler life.

Truth is I am never truly bored. I have so many irons in the fire that having a little bit of free time may make me feel giddy, or even nervous, for a bit but reality always clicks into place. The little bit of free time I did end up having meant I could have a sit down lunch with my mom after a doctor appointment instead of my grab and go lunch that I have been used to for months. I also sneaked in some blog maintenance and a tiny bit of actual writing.

No, I don’t think I have to be too worried about what to do with myself. The reality for me of having school aged children is making sure I have all my ducks lined up so the boys have what they need. We are all very proud that the boys were as ready as we could all help them be for their first big day at school. I am just a bit sad that they are so growing up so fast.

Sometimes I feel like I am a glutton for punishment. Some days it is a Monday even when it is a Friday. So getting back into the groove of something ends up being about as easy as trying something new and complicated.

All summer long I have been doing what I said I would from getting the boys’ room ready to enjoying time spent with family and friends. At different points though a part of me would secretly wish that I had just an hour of time to myself so I could sit and write. I knew I didn’t have time to sit and write the way I like to so I didn’t even dream big.

An hour would have afforded me some time to write down titles and notes for future articles. That way when I finally found time to write I wouldn’t have this inevitable dreaded writers block.

Well time never did present itself to jot down some notes of thoughts on topics or titles. So when the first fully kid-free, and adult-free, day finally arrived…

Did I have writers block? Nope.

In fact, I had quite the opposite problem. Titles and topics wouldn’t stop flowing.

The problem?

I had a doctor’s appointment and a few errands that had to get done. So as I was driving around with no hands free device to take dictation for me all of these thoughts on the things I could write came flooding in. I tried my best to hold onto three of the best thoughts and write them down when I got to my appointment.

Dutifully I had set aside my tablet to come to my appointment with me. Sadly, I had forgotten that my word program on my tablet has been acting up recently and only really wants to work when I have a net connection.

Ok. Me being the person I am, normally I have a notebook and pen or pencil stashed in my car.

Nope. Not this time. Over the summer I had been trying my best to keep my vehicle clean from one adventure to the next. I was not always successful on this but at some point in all of the trips to and from the car I must have taken away my notebook. Sigh.

Thankfully the tablet took pity on me and I was able to enter my top three ideas into my back-up note pad program. Yay! Win!

Fast forward past the appointment, past the errands, past lunch with my mom… and I was able to share a few older posts I had written but not yet uploaded. Fast forward past the computer angst, it is now time to pick up a few munchkins and start our Friday night fun time.

Ok. Writing back on hold. Maybe I can get back into the groove next week? Hrm… We will have to wait and see.

While I am a good couple of years away from being forty, the topic of turning the big four “o” has come up several times this year. For starters Rent-a-Dad rounded that hill this year, sorry babe, and so have several good friends. Not so many of the men but quite a few of the women turning 40 on my Facebook list have made “40 b4 forty” lists.

Like a bucket list, this list is about setting goals of things you would like to achieve by X time. Like any big wish list it should be one that is filled with goals you can actually achieve.

I can admire having such a list and have considered making a 40 b4 forty 40 list. What stops me are many things that I know I would like to put on such a list but in reality probably would not accomplish. It is not that I would purposefully put something on a list and not do it. No, rather life (Murphy’s law) has taught me that if I make a list with more than five things on it that something will do its best to stop me from accomplishing those goals.

Considering that I have done some really cool things in my life so far, I don’t want to make a list of things I might not achieve in the next couple of years.

So why not make a list that seems more realistic, more attainable?

My life really has been about balancing lemons that come my way. Things never turn out the way I plan them to; sometimes badly and sometimes much better than expected.

Instead of focusing on 40 things I can do before I turn forty (40 things that will not go as planned) I chose to put a twist on the 40 b4 forty list. So here is my twist… 40 things I am proud to have accomplished by forty (heck… maybe I will add more to this over the next couple of years):


  1. Be there for my family (don’t loose sight of family goals)
  2. Share our family values
  3. Don’t loose sight of who I am and where I want to be (we all falter… am very lucky to say I have been able to find perspective and not loose sight)
  4. Worked in old towne Alexandria (specifically on King Street)
  5. Receive a college degree
  6. Operated my own business
  7. Member of Art League in Alexandria
  8. Artwork displayed in a museum
  9. Multiple art shows
  10. Worked in professional theatre
  11. Cut & style hair (in a theatre)
  12. Be a costume designer
  13. Run a nonprofit
  14. International travel (Ireland for work)
  15. Helped children other than my own reach for their dreams
  16. Inspired others
  17. Have a blog
  18. Define my own success
  19. Be able to continue passions had as a child into adulthood
  20. Keep in touch with friends
  21. Continue to celebrate and enjoy the fall season (festivals, farm visits and more..)
  22. Travel a road less taken
  23. Have a family vacation
  24. See the United States (been to 28 as of 7/17)
  25. Travel/Roadtrips with family
  26. Attend a variety of Renaissance festivals across the US
  27. See Williamsburg
  28. Go to Disney world (been now 3 of the big seasons)
  29. Show my husband some of my old haunts
  30. Visit the Wizarding World of HarryPotter in Orlando
  31. Go to a comic type of convention
  32. Meet David Tennant (bonus such a good picture someone thought he was my baby daddy)
  33. Meet and interact with people I loved since child hood (Captain Kirk, Bo duke, Hercules, Spike… yay!!)
  34. Be a foster parent
  35. Make costumes for munchkins in my life
  36. Enjoy bedtime stories with munchkins in my life
  37. Inspire the children in our lives to have passions (by sharing our own from cake making and photography to theatre and more)
  38. Share my creativity and love of “dreaming” with those I love
  39. Share our love of road trips
  40. Hike and have outdoor adventures with each other and the kids in our lives

Over the years I have had people tell me that they think the tradition I have with my mom for my birthday is sweet. Most don’t even know the reason behind the birthday tradition. About a week prior to my birthday last year I decided to share that reason on my Facebook wall.

Ever since I had enough of my own money, I take my mom out to dinner on my birthday. Fundamentally it is a big thank you to my mom. She is who nourished me and cared for me both in utero and post utero. But it is more than that. I wouldn’t have a birthday if it had been left up to my mom’s doctors.

My mom has suffered from poor kidney function most of her life. Between being pregnant with my brother and myself (a nine year difference), she had been hospitalized due to, and on medication for, her kidneys. Even though women have had children well into their thirties for a long time, I was still considered a change of life baby and hazardous to the health of a normal woman back then. Between my mom’s kidneys and her age, her nephrologist and a second opinion doctor both agreed she should terminate her pregnancy. Terminate me.

Yeah it is a bit much to hear that information as a child. The doctors saw me as a threat to my mom’s health and to her lifestyle. At one point they even asked my mom if she wanted to die and leave her husband a widower/single parent. Leave her son without a mother. The doctors laid it all on thick.

So what saved me? Several things.

My mom’s OBGYN was the family OBGYN. His practice saw my grandmother and all my aunts that lived in the area, later on even me. He let my mom know there would be risks and it was possible that both she and I would lose our lives. That said, he supported her decision, whatever that was, and he would be there every step of the way. The OBGYN also let her know he would work with all of her doctors to try and make the pregnancy as safe as it could be.

That’s the doctor side of things.

My mom is also Catholic. She wasn’t born catholic. As a child she was baptized protestant and raised in that faith. However also as a child she noticed my grandmother would slip out of the house very early on Sunday mornings. My grandmother was first generation American. She was also of French/Italian decent and devoutly Catholic. So even though my grandmother married a Protestant, and took his religion as she did his name, part of her would always remain Catholic. Most of my grandmother’s adult life was spent attending both catholic mass, by herself, and protestant mass with her children.

When my father, a Lutheran, married my mom they both felt disconnected from their own churches so they attended mass of various faiths as well as other locations of their own faiths. Finally they settled on Catholicism because it felt like a homecoming of the soul. Both of their families had roots in the Catholic church and it felt right to “return”.

Religion aside, they both felt strongly about every life having meaning and value. My parents had multiple failed pregnancies in between my brother and me. They had been trying to have a second child for what felt like a long time. Suddenly they were pregnant at a time where they had given up and they were told they should let go of the idea. But they couldn’t.

What my mom did, with my dad’s support, was very brave. She accepted the fact that she might die but that she was going to try to have her baby. To her, and my dad, I was a miracle they had almost given up on.

Those nine months had its fair share of ups and downs.

Medications, multiple hospital visits, lots of monitoring… and still when she went into labor the hospital refused to admit her because the OBGYN on call was not familiar with her case. There was a complication but still she was not admitted. My mom almost bled out in the waiting room waiting for the OBGYN on call to show up. Back in that day lawsuits against hospitals were rare and women did not receive recognition for “little” malpractice issues.

Thankfully when the doctor on call did show up he not only made sure my mom was admitted but that her doctor was called. By the time my mom gave birth her doctor was there handling everything as promised. In the end mother and child were both fine.

Having been raised with this tale, it is hard not to celebrate my mom’s bravery and perseverance while celebrating my birth. After all without her courage I would not have a birthday.



Side note:

When I have chosen to share the story of my birth with others the take away starts with warm fuzzies towards my mom. Sadly it often ends with some pro-baby comment as if my story is a good poster child tale for being pro-baby. It’s not. If anything it highlights the importance of women needing to be able to make decisions about their body.

My family is pro-life but we are also pro-choice.

That statement often confuses people because I am Catholic so I MUST be pro-baby. But being pro-life is more than being pro-baby. It is about caring about life from start to finish, not just when it is convenient. Not just when a baby is in utero. It is about making sure there is a good life waiting for that child. Helping to ensure that child is not going to end up dead before it has a chance to experience the good this world can show it.

Another point here is for those who wish the mother to be dead if she even considers abortion. That means you are pro-baby not pro-life. That only venerates babies not life as a whole. Most of the same people who are pro-baby do nothing to ensure that women who choose life for their baby have any assistance. How does that make any sense?

Being pro-choice is more than about being pro-abortion. In general I am anti-abortion. I advocate choice. The right to say “This is MY body”. That a doctor should not make a decision without my input into the care of my body.

Too many women do not have a choice over what happens to their body. They can not receive decent healthcare. There is no “good” or “consistent” sex education in America. Being on a contraceptive is looked down upon and yet so is an unplanned pregnancy.

So please, before you put my tale in the pro-baby category, make a third category. My story proves you can be pro-life and pro-choice. I am glad my mom had a choice and that she was brave enough to pick life for me.

Some day when I feel like discussing religion a little further I will delve into the concept of sin and how taking away someone’s choice is not the same thing as saving them from sinning.

Almost every day I hear people passing out unsolicited advice (aka: personal opinion) but no real help let alone understanding of a situation. In previous posts I have mentioned people talking out against co-sleeping, telling me how to parent, or letting me know I need to cherish my mom more. Not one of those people passing out the advice actually knows me. So how are they qualified to give me real advice let alone truly give me the help I might need?

This question came up tonight as I was having a conversation with my brother concerning our mother’s health. Somehow he had missed hearing the unsolicited advice I receive while at the grocery store about my relationship with our mother. While the audacity of people floors him, it doesn’t surprise him that people think they are duty bound to pass out their opinion as advice. I agree but have to take it one step further.

Not only do people feel duty bound to pass out their opinion as advice, they could really care less about your true situation and they in no way feel it is their responsibility to then help. Personally I feel that is a sad reflection of our society especially that it is not at all surprising. After all we have some of real good examples of this epidemic. The biggest one concerns the government telling women they can not have control of their bodies. At the same time the government also wants to deny health care, welfare and student lunches. So the government cares more about babies being born then they do about the lives of those same children.

I have to agree with the statement of how can you call yourself a Christian if you do not care about all lives to some extent. But that is our society. We pick and choose what we want to feel ethical about, what is convenient for us and our lives. The moment something becomes tricky, less black and white, well if it doesn’t fit into our neat little box it has to go.

Life isn’t black and white. It isn’t even just shades of gray. There is this whole box of crayons that our world is painted with. It is complicated and messy. Not everything fits into neat little boxes. And we shouldn’t be just passing out unsolicited advice unless we are truly willing to listen and help.

I am a full believer in that old adage of “if you can’t say something nice then you shouldn’t say anything at all”. The meat and bones, face value, of that adage is what it appears to be. Dig a little deeper though and well you have this saying that wraps up this problem nicely. If you aren’t willing to help then don’t keep you opinion to yourself.

See someone in line at the grocery store using food stamps? Instead of making some rude remark about getting a job, just be patient or get in another line. Silence is definitely golden in these situations when understanding is lacking. Perhaps that person is a foster parent or caseworker. Maybe the person just came from their fifth job interview in two days. Making a rude remark is more of a poor reflection of yourself than it is of the person attempting to get groceries to feed their family.

Speaking of grocery stores, please stop telling moms buying formula that they are neglectful. As a foster mom I am tired of this. I can not magically make milk flow from my breasts for a child I did not give birth to. Short of some National Enquirer level miracle it just is not going to happen. So just stop with this advice. You don’t know why that mom is buying formula so before the judgment you have passed leaks out of your mouth, just walk away.

The same thing can be said for children acting up in public. Our society may know more about mental health and disabilities but it still wants to blame the parents for any visible bad behavior. And when someone speaks out about a child’s bad behavior in public and how the parent should keep the kid at home, isn’t this just as bad as locking children up in asylums? If kids don’t have experience in public how will they ever learn? Is keeping them at home because they have a disability that might be disruptive the real (only) answer?

That is only mentioning a very small portion of issues I have dealt with let alone seen and heard. That is very sad in my book.

Instead of being a society of opinion givers, commentators and voyeurs, would it not be great if we were truly a society of doers?

A kid is screaming on a bus. The parent (s) look embarrassed and ready to fall apart. Instead of giving a sideways glance or sneer, maybe ask “are you ok?”, “is your kid ok?”, “is there anything I can do to help you?”. Once an answer is given then turn around and pretend like it is normal. That kid could be autistic not throwing a tantrum. The parents could be at their wits end because they tried everything to make that bus trip go right.

The number of times I am at my wits end because three munchkins in my shopping cart are pressing my buttons and acting up in public sometimes feels uncountable. What makes those moments livable are the people that give the kids a sticker. Not the ones that tell me the kids could be worse let alone the people shaking their head and muttering things.

If the world was filled with true doers/helpers, then maybe, just maybe that would be a wonderful place to be.

Born out of sadness; Used to cause pain.

The past two weeks have had its fair share of ups and downs for my family. Ups have included the munchkins in our life. Downs have included finding out my mother’s ever dwindling health is even worse. Watching those you love slowly die without being able to help them can be shelved up there with some pretty horrible life moments. Another down moment was a teaching lesson for me, a moment of sadness imparted in what I thought was a private setting that was then shared to cause others pain.

While writing a post this month I created a meme that pulled out a very specific moment in a post, a moment born out of sadness. I shared that post on our Facebook page and the meme with our state fostering community. The thought process behind sharing the meme and not the post was that it was a quick thought, no need to share an entire post. Something from one foster parent to another. After all if I couldn’t share my sadness with them who else could I share it with?

The meme was shared in what I felt was a safe place for foster parents, something advertised as a support group for foster and adoptive parents. In support groups you don’t judge those hurting, right? A support group is a safe haven, right?

What I couldn’t predict was that meme would be shared outside of our fostering community. Whomever the person was who shared the meme, they apparently shared it with birth parents who are currently in pain over their loss and fighting through a system that is failing them. The meme outraged and further hurt some of those people.

Outside of the context of how my husband and I foster, the meme would paint me as the enemy to struggling birth parents. They wouldn’t have the opportunity to know I am an advocate of reunification. Let alone how our method of fostering has created a loving village and refuge for both foster children and birth families.

The post I am talking about is Some truth in being a temporary parent and the meme is included right here.

Suddenly that meme has had many more views than I ever had intended. While it has brought people to our page wanting to share their story, to be heard in a way they thought they might not, it has also caused some unnecessary pain.

Could I have made the meme friendly for all, even those outside of a foster parent support group?

Should I have used the word “stolen”, as was said in one comment, instead of the word “borrowed”?

I write as a foster parent. I hurt as a foster parent. The point that I can sympathize and help birth parents with reunification does not change my own struggles or the fact that I am a foster parent.

To put all of the words/emotions I feel about the bittersweet moments of happiness and joy, as a foster parent into one meme is nigh unto impossible.

The meme was created with the picture of an art project one of our former fosters made. It was an art project that I scanned in so I could have a copy while I gave the original to the birth mother. The birth mother cried over the picture as she loved it. We cried together. We talked about borrowed moments, her words.

When I wrote the post mentioned above, the comment I made in reference to our relationship with my nephew and his family was:


“Because I feel as if our happiness comes at another’s expense.

We are living on borrowed joy.”


I used that phrase of “borrowed joy” because that wording has come up multiple times in our fostering journey.

My nephew’s own mother and I talk often about “borrowed joy” and how precious our relationship is to each other. That she enjoys sharing her children with us as any mother loves sharing her children with aunts and uncles. She thinks of us as siblings separated by space, time and birth. That we were brought together because God knew we needed each other. Even with all of this in mind, I still feel like I am taking moments away from her but she says it is not taking but rather borrowing something she wants to share.

Right now a high percentage of the birth parents we have worked with see our relationships and interactions as blessed. They have talked about the moments they have missed as their own fault; how they are grateful for what we have done for them. Moments are talked about as shared, as much as one can share them, even described as borrowed, but not stolen. I have been told by them to get over this thought of feeling like I am taking something away from them because they feel like I have given them so much more in return. Should I doubt their sincerity?

Should I have used the word “stolen”?

Not for a meme being shared on my Facebook fan page or in the privacy of what I thought was a (closed) support group for foster parents (it is an open community page support group because of government funding).

Does the wording make a difference?

Yes, obviously it makes a difference.

Even though I am someone who believes in working with birth families and reunification, I am also someone who sees a rainbow of foster parent personalities. Foster parents do not see themselves as thieves.

Those who are bad apples will never see themselves as anything bad.

There is a spectrum though. You have good, bad, and those that fall in-between. Sometimes circumstances can make you appear as more of a villain than a savior.

Most who choose to foster mainly (or only) to adopt a baby generally has their mind closed off to the idea of theft (“You can’t steal what someone else doesn’t want.” And yes I have heard that insensitive and inflammatory statement used before).

Those who are decent or good foster parents are doing so out of the goodness of their heart; because they feel they have a calling; and not for any of the income (even as small as it is).

To use the word “stolen” implies stealing/theft. Using that word would be like putting salt into an open wound as many good foster parents make daily sacrifices to be foster parents.

As in my case, one of the daily sacrifices I make is splitting myself and my time up, sometimes at the detriment of my own marriage and own self-care. Having a job, being a foster parent, staying involved in the lives of former foster children (and providing aid to their parents), being a care-giver to my mom… it all comes at a price and that price generally is I have less time for me or any kind of private time with my husband.

The truth is I wouldn’t share this meme on a birth parent support group page. I would share something inspiring to their plight. Words of encouragement like:

“Once a parent, always a parent”

“Birth parents are NOT the enemy”

“Never give up! Keep fighting until they are in your arms again”

Inciting the anger of birth parents and keeping that anger fueled is more destructive than helpful. I would rather empower them, inspire them, and raise them up so that they can complete their plan, get their children back and beat the system, not cause them pain or undue sadness on top of what they are already experiencing.

Between growing up in a blue collar family and attending a private Catholic school, I have spent my whole like caught between worlds. Most people I have talked to say they feel “caught between worlds” because they feel out of place in their family. For me, being caught between worlds is really about being involved in different groups and social circles that do not seamlessly fit together.

Most of the time it feels like being on the end of one magnet as another magnet is pushing it away. What feels like polar opposites but in reality is something far too similar. As someone who likes to observe, I tend to notice things like how alike two very opposite seeming groups really are.

My first experience of feeling of being “caught between” was with my extended family. Being the youngest of my generation, sometimes by ten years, meant that I was often too young to really hang out with my cousins or even my brother. When I was nine, my cousins started having children. From that moment I have been a bit caught between two generations. I was too young to be involved with the experiences of my older cousins and yet I was too old to be more than a babysitter to my second-cousins.

Looking back, the next instance where I felt caught between worlds was my nine years in Catholic school. Before my father’s health declined my parents could just afford to have both my brother and I in private school. After it was a financial struggle to let me finish out my last couple of years in middle school.

For the first few years at private school I did fine. I had a good set of friends, most of whom were children of military families, and I didn’t feel left out. My life seemed full and I never really questioned who I was, whether I fit in, or if my family had the right kind of house. Slowly as my friend’s parents received new orders and were assigned to other bases around the world, I lost friends without really replenishing my social group.

When I was the sole member of our circle of friends left, I began floating between other circles searching for additional friends to be close with and a place where I felt I belonged.

As that happened I began to notice how the children of blue collar parents hung out together while the children of white collar parents did the same. The few exceptions were the children of wealthier blue collar families squeaking by into the next social group.

What is probably weird about this was how young I was when I began to notice the social class difference. As a direct result I became hyper aware of what we didn’t have, how small our house was, or how my family acted. being hyper aware made my preteen years a bit more awkward and often left me feeling like the odd person out.

At that time of self awareness, my family tried getting me more involved in groups and activities outside of school. I would love to say my parents noticed how awkward things were for me but it was honestly a happy accident. Far too many things were changing, not just within me but within my life. My father spent months at a time over a few years being hospitalized.

When my brother began driving it took a weight off of my mom’s shoulders. She could split herself between my father and having a new job. That left my brother to help with driving me, and him, to school and after school activities. My brother didn’t want to be stuck driving his baby sister to all of her things thus missing out on his own. We began finding groups we could both be involved in like Saturday morning bowling. He could be in the older leagues while I could be there at the same time in the younger leagues. So I traded my cleats (soccer and soft ball) for bowling shoes.

This new adventure added an additional element to my feeling of being caught between worlds. No one else from my school was in my bowling league. I now I had a clearly defined school life and a life outside of school.

At school there were definite social castes based on the income of our parents and the lifestyles we lead. I was lucky that in the confines of my bowling league I felt accepted.

However at other activities not connected to my school, I learned that public school kids felt that ALL private school children were stuck up, and did not readily accept me. This was interesting as my family’s income and lifestyle more closely mirrored that of other public school children. Yet, I had to prove that I was one of them. This feeling continued a bit when I transitioned from eighth grade private school into ninth grade at a public high school.

The constant feeling of being caught between worlds gave me an different perspective. It is also where I learned some of the survival skills I still use today. If you were to meet me at a party I will either seem to be very open or aloof, maybe even snobbish. When I feel very comfortable in a situation I talk about my family, my career choices and my life. In situations where I feel less comfortable, I tend to sit back and observe a lot. I let others do most of the talking and I share very little.

Sitting back and observing may be something I love doing when I am at the mall or in a crowd. When I am at a party it is most definitely a survival skill. I learned to not overshare because my life would get picked apart and the things I love would be ridiculed.

So I hid. The better of an actor I became, the easier it was to be the person everyone around me wanted/expected me to be. I can easily “fit in” with those who have money as I know how to dress the part and what to say, or more importantly what NOT to say. But I also know how to fit in with those of lower social standing because I lived that life too, and honestly am more comfortable at times in that social circle.

Sometimes I think that this whole experience of constantly being caught between worlds has made my life less or even lonely. The truth is that it has also placed me in the perfect position to be a foster parent.

Rent-a-Dad and I bought a house we loved, not one we were told we should have based on our income. So our house is not grand but it suits us and our lifestyle. It is also warm and inviting. Our house does not make birth families feel out of place or unwelcome. Rather it makes them feel like they are being invited into a home, a place they always wanted, a refuge.

Just as our house is a warm and inviting home, I feel as if being caught between worlds has made me a more rounded person. I can help navigate a tricky doctor, and a tricky system, while smiling and letting the birth parents open up. So I could look at my experiences of being caught between worlds as something bad or I could look at it as something that shaped me into me. How the person I am today, a person who is happy with herself (mostly) is someone living her life and is providing a home, a refuge, to those who need one.


End Note

Often we can not see the BIG picture and feel downcast by our circumstances. It is hard to sometimes find our way through what feels like a miserable period of time. I know I often felt that way as a preteen whose world was changing both internally (hormonally/physically) and externally (school, home life, and more). It was very hard to find the positive at times.

My mom was my grounding stone. She helped me focus on something happy like an upcoming holiday, an after school activity, or even a new book coming out by an author I followed. Sometimes the simplest things can bring us the most pleasure in a darker time.

When I have walked through the fire, come out with my scars, and can turn around to see the completed picture, I start to find how a situation shaped me for the better. Sure I went through hell and came out the other side, but I went through hell and came out the other side a survivor. I lived. Now I hope my struggles can help others come out the other side and find the pieces to their big picture.

Creative and Judgmental Creatures


By our own curious natures we are also judgmental creatures. The thing is we can be curious without being judgmental. Is there some middle ground we can find?

Most people say children are not judgmental but rather curious. We hear that children are taught to be judgmental by viewing others’ actions. I was one of those children that fell in a between spot on the subject. If I didn’t understand something then I didn’t like it and made quick judgments even when I was curious. My parents had to teach me to not only be patient but to sit back and review what was going on before making a decision. This certainly meant thinking before opening my mouth and sharing rash thoughts.

My dad defined himself as being a company man because of his years in the navy. As someone who served his country, my dad felt that his country came before himself. As he got older he would joke that all he did was switch companies. The companies being (in order): the US Navy, Ma Bell (the original AT&T), husband and finally family man.

As a company man my dad would say “Mine is not to reason why. Mine is but to do or die.” The quote was my dad’s adaptation of Tennyson’s Charge of the Light Brigade. What my dad meant by sharing those words was that he had a job to do. That he felt as if he didn’t need to question his job and that his position was to fix the problem and help, not hinder or harm. At times questioning does lead to judging and he felt as if his job was not to judge.

My father’s interpretation of not judging or being judgmental has stayed with me my entire life. Whether I am trying not to judge or if I feel the need to be a follower rather than be a leader, I tend to quote my dad. Sometimes people get it and other times I have a few blank stares and maybe an odd look. As long as I know what I mean by sharing those words that is what matters.

At times that quote is my internal and external monologue. It serves as a reminder beyond not being judgmental. The quote inspires me at times when I want to give up, take another route, and/or to move forward. The quote helps remind me of a need to be a follower at times where I want to be the leader.

That said… Here is a BIG judgment:

People need to THINK before they speak and act

Recently I have read quite a few thoughts of how teachers are viewing the next generation. The reaction is worry and concern that the next generation doesn’t know how to be bored and they expect instant gratification.

It is human nature to want to NOT be bored and to want things instantly. That is why we invent gadgets to “make our lives easier”. The next generation is in an interesting position because so many things are instantly at our finger tips.

This strong need for instant gratification can lead to detrimental effects and overall bad behavior like being overly judgmental. Also reacting and speaking without thinking about the cause and effect. If we have things instantly at our fingertips we do not always take the time to think before we speak and react.

Right now most of us bear witness to this by how others interact with us in public or through what we read on social media.

So how can we stop judgmental behavior? How can we help teach the next generation that there is a balance?

Truthfully I don’t think there is just one answer or a good solid fix.

Social media is plastered with stories of displeased adults taking to the internet to call out someone. A nee to let the world decide who was right and who was wrong in a situation. That form of shaming on social media is an option towards taking others to task for their quick but thoughtless actions. While an option, this action in itself can be seen as a negative response to something already negative.

There have been times I myself have asked for thoughts (of my Facebook friends) on a situation I found myself in without wanting to call a specific person out. It is a hard urge to fight. What comes to mind as I am fighting this urge is the phrase “two wrongs don’t make a right”. Even when you are the correct party maybe your response is just as wrong or maybe not. I can tell you after making the post and asking the question sometimes I feel guilty. Should I feel guilty if my action is the “right” one?

In terms of social media, un-friending and un-liking is an option if you personally know someone who always seems to be judgmental. While this tactic is a bit on the passive aggressive side sometimes we all need to walk away from negative thinkers. Walking away is better than feeding into the situation further.

Leading by example is a good, but more difficult, option. Subtle hints and actions take time to exact change. Knowing when it is the right time to stand up and speak out, let alone what words to use, is a challenge.

In the articles I have read they state that society needs to teach children how to be bored as boredom is the opposite of instant gratification. Personally I feel boredom and creativity go hand in hand. If necessity is the mother of all invention then boredom is the catalyst for creativity. Boredom activates the creative mind.

So we want to teach the next generation to be less judgmental? We want them to THINK before they react?

Then we need to teach children that being bored isn’t something we can fix by just turning on our smart phones or electronic devices. We need to jumpstart their creative mind.

I remind my nephews that the world is not always as it appears let alone what we have wanted or planned. Sometimes the world is even better than imagined. To see beyond one must put aside judgmental behavior and accept that not everything is for us to “know” right this minute. That is a very hard task to carry out let alone teach.

What do you think the cure for boredom is? Is there something more to this next generation and their potential for great harm due to quick judgments and rash decisions?