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.

 

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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

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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?

Rescue Mission and Adoption: Step Two

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Step one of our mission was making the decision to rescue the sick kitten. Step two involved decisions for care and what to do post vet visit. Did we adopt the kitten or find him a new home?

As we put aside all of our playful fun plans, I drove us to the weekend vet clinic to make sure this kitten received the care it needed. On the drive we quickly decided that I would drop Rent-a-Dad and the kitten off while I took the boys to look at Halloween costumes and get them something to eat.

During the short trip, we talked about what we should call the kitten. Rent-a-dad knows that when we name something in our family we tend to keep it. My reasons for naming the kitten were two-fold: I knew that the vet would want a name and I was concerned the kitten might be past saving. I always have a strict rule that every animal deserves a name. I couldn’t bear to think that this kitten who might not survive would pass on without a name. For me the act of naming something is like bestowing a mantle of love. This little creature deserved to know it was loved.

The whole time Rent-a-Dad was at the clinic he kept me up to date on the kitten’s condition and we discussed care. The kitten had a list of things wrong with him that kept growing. From a quick assessment the vet said he had respiratory issues, a mass in his abdomen, lesions in his mouth, and sores on his skin, missing fur, he was severely dehydrated, malnourished and had a bad flea infestation.

The vet wanted to know if they should do blood work or humanely put the kitten to sleep. I had warned Rent-a-Dad of this possibility as I had been through this step with other seriously ill puppies and kittens. We decided to have blood work done and make a decision following that. By now Rent-a-Dad knew this rescue mission also meant adoption because he did not want to return the kitten. Rent-a-Dad wanted to give this kitten every fighting chance that our other fur babies had for survival.

Several hours later and we knew the kitten had a severe infection as its white blood cell count was triple what it should normally be. Based on the other blood work results the kitten did not have feline leukemia. The vet also let us know the likelihood of feline parvo or FIP was slim. The kitten did have worms. They were also concerned because he showed little to no interest in food and water.

After prescribing four different medications and administering subcutaneous fluids, the kitten and Rent-a-Dad were ready for a ride. Following our costume and food adventure, I prepared a sick room for the kitten at our house.

Step two was also officially complete. Not only did the kitten receive care (and a fighting chance at life) but Rent-a-Dad had decided if we couldn’t keep it we would find it a new home that would. Seriously though I am sure this kitten has a new home… ours.

And his name is officially “Winchester”. Rent-a-Dad and I are both big fans of the TV show Supernatural as well as Jared Padalecki’s campaign “Always Keep Fighting”. We felt that the kitten needed a really strong name that would help him keep fighting. The name Winchester seemed just right.

We are almost to the two week mark of having Winchester in our home. In that time he has gained over a pound, re-grown fur, most of his wounds are gone and he is playing just like your average kitten! Even our vet who saw Winchester the day after our emergency visit says it’s a remarkable change. That he has gone from an animal on the verge of death to a healthy normal kitten. We go back in a couple of weeks for additional vaccines and to find out if he needs further testing before he can integrate further into our home. Our own cats have gone from avoiding the door to our sick kitty room to sniffing and being curious about the kitten on the other side of the door.

Rescue Mission and Adoption: Step One

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With the last post on our blog being fourteen days ago, it seems as if we have had a quiet time. Appearances can be very deceiving. In that short time we have squeezed in many activities including a rescue mission.

In my last post I talked about my hopes for never letting go (of foster children) and classes at our annual DCS Foster Parent Conference. Little did I know then that the same weekend Rent-a-Dad and I would be involved in a rescue mission and adoption of another sort.

Plans for that weekend had changed multiple times. As planned commitments evaporated and re-materialized in another month we were free to divide our weekend between our nephews and foster commitments. Saturday became all about the conference while Sunday was all about our nephews. Or so we thought…

Between late starts and other hiccups, Saturday went better then we hoped. Sunday had a much later start than anticipated due to errands taking additional time. With the unexpected errands we ended up arriving at our nephews around lunch time that Sunday.

When we arrived I noticed what I thought was a cute scene between a kitten and two small dogs taking place in the neighbor’s yard. I mistook the kitten for one that belonged to my nephews so I continued to watch as it walked a bit wobbly between the dogs. Quickly I realized that the wobbly walk was not just from taking a few first steps on grass but because the kitten was seriously ill. As the small dogs stretched out their yard cords and the kitten was forced to try and walk on its own it couldn’t do so. Instead of walking, even wobbly, it flopped over on its side and began panting. Based on my knowledge and past experiences with dogs and cats, I was a bit horrified.

When it comes to animals and kids in distress I tend to act without thinking. After shutting the car door I hurried over to check on the kitten. At close inspection it was very obvious that the kitten was in major respiratory distress.

About this time the neighbor came out of his house because his dogs were really barking loudly. We exchanged some pleasantries and I asked if the kitten belonged to him. By now I was sure the kitten did not belong to my nephews. The neighbor politely told me it was his but that I could have it if I wanted because he had others. I kindly told him I was just concerned because the kitten seemed seriously ill and just wanted him to know. Another exchange of pleasantries took place before I went on my way to get my nephews.

An hour later and we were all loading in to the car when one of my nephews asked what was wrong. When I turned to find out what he was talking about he was pointing to the kitten now on the porch laying there in the hot sun. Rent-a-Dad and I looked at each other not knowing what to tell our nephew at that moment. Finally I said the kitten was sick and our nephew asked us to “fix it”.

Even though the whole exchange with the neighbor had been very nice and pleasant there was just something bothering me about the situation. I had a bad feeling that if we dismissed the situation and mollified our nephew, that when I brought the boys home we would find out that the kitten had died. I couldn’t let that happen and neither could Rent-a-Dad.

While Rent-a-Dad went back up to the house of my faux sister (a friend who is like family), I went over to the neighbor’s house and picked up the kitten. The neighbor did say I could take it… When the door opened again I told the neighbor that the boys were so distressed by how sick the kitten seemed that we would in fact take the kitten (at least to the vet) if they really didn’t mind. The neighbor seemed fine with that response and went on about his business.

Now we had the cat in a carrier in our car. Step one of the rescue mission was complete. Step two was a little more difficult.

Click here for the continuation of this story.

Rent-a-Dad and I never really just do an open ended post about our current thoughts. We tend to save those for our Facebook page of the same title: Balancing Life’s Lemons. Sometimes that leaves our actual blog looking a bit sad with what appears to be very little in the post department. If you are a follower of our blog please also check out our Facebook page. Not only do we share our current thoughts but we also share information from other blogs, current events and information that pertains to current projects and aspirations like fostering.

Even though I always have several blog posts just waiting to be uploaded life has a way of reminding me that our blog, while important to us, is not our top priority. Our family is our top priority, as it should be. Lately for me that has been a reminder to let myself get pulled away from tasks to give more attention to the munchkins in my life. Beyond just being in the “moment”, I think it is always important to remember that this very moment will never happen again. Sure we can do the same things with the same people but it will never quite be the same moment.

This summer I have known it is the summer of change. One munchkin went home to her family before spring even came. We have been preparing two other munchkins in our life for head-start. For me this means my afternoon nap time with cuddles and stories will definitely change as they start their next journey! Since we aren’t even sure yet how much we will get to see them outside of head-start I am trying to soak up as much time with each of them as I can as they will never be this age again!

As a foster parent we get this feeling as if everything is always about to change but really that’s just life. Embracing that feeling and living for the now can be kind of freeing. It doesn’t mean you give up responsibilities or neglect things needing done but it does mean it is ok for one more story or an afternoon nap if your schedule can allow it. Enjoy the now!!!

We all have friends that like to play devil’s advocate to make a conversation a little more interesting and to encourage multiple points of view. The problem is when the devil’s advocate carries that conversation a little too far by always being the “Debbie Downer”. The person may or may not even know that they are doing it but you do as you realize when they say something you always feel emotional and not in a good way. This type of thinking is negative; plain and simple.

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What can one do about friends like this?

My initial answer is to eliminate them from your life but life is not that simple all the time. You may actually care about the person who is always negative. If that’s the case sometimes its best to keep them at arms length or to have more then one friend with you (if your interactions are face-to-face) so you can create a buffer.

Recently I was reminded of how negative one friend (more acquaintance) in particular is.* I know this friend feels he means well and is trying to provoke thought and get me to see things from another point of view but our interactions generally leave me frustrated, angry and ready to slam a door. There is a reason I keep this friend at arms length. My positive attitude never seems to seep in and I have long since stopped trying to let it seep in because this friend has to want to be positive. I can not make him feel anything he does not first want. Even though I know he always upsets me and I want to scream by the time out interaction is over, I have not fully severed contact for multiple reasons. However I need to be aware of how this friendship makes me feel. As the answer generally is “frustrated” or “upset”, I keep this friend at arms length because to fully let him in means my mostly positive attitude turns negative in a flash.

Why can’t I just sever the friendship?

The good news is that most of the time this type of negative person is a just work colleague so while you are outside of work you have control over who you interact with. In this particular situation this friend has belonged to a lot of the same groups and organizations over the past twenty years, if I eliminated those activities to avoid this friend that would be just a bit much. Life is a bit complicated at times.

For me there is a need to believe that if we are involved in a lot of the same circles there is a reason this person is in my life, even if it is peripherally. If I let myself over think the interaction I tend to gravitate to “maybe I am supposed to help change this outlook on life” or “is there something about my life that this interaction is supposed to change”. The answer is probably more mundane “I do you a favor and you do me a favor”. With friends who gravitate to the negative that is actually the best thing I can do, let my interaction be more mundane. If I get too involved I turn into a Debbie Downer myself and that is neither who I want to be nor the path I want to take.

Back when Rent-a-Dad and I were first dating we realized that you can not try to fix all the problems your significant other has but you can help that person brain storm possible fixes. Since then when ever I feel as if I am stuck in a negative rut Rent-a-Dad and I sit down and figure out all the positives to a situation.

I know better then to share this positive thinking technique with this particular friend because past interactions have proven that if I say something like that he will respond with something like “the list of negatives outweighs the positives so I don’t even bother anymore”.

There is a huge part of me that doesn’t know how to respond to this type of thinking as nothing I say has any positive reaction. As my mom would say “Sometimes the better part of valor is just walking away”.

With this friend I let my life be an open book so that they can see what positive thinking can do for someone. When the comments get negative I thank them for their opinion and remind myself that I do not have to collect their comments and hold onto them.

* To protect the identity of the friend/acquaintance I refer to in this post, I have chosen to use words like “friend” and the masculine voice to be the constant theme.

My Corner of the Sky: Finding Purpose

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If life were a musical then Stephen Schwartz wrote mine. The musical Pippin is one I often think of when my life feels a little bit off course. The search for purpose is one that the lead character is burdened with and is a burden I sometimes feel I share.

Finding purpose, more specifically finding MY purpose has been a life long journey.

As a child I would sit and wonder “what did life have in store for me?” I thought about my purpose A LOT. I was one of those children who in so many ways was older than her years but still a child with childlike thoughts, hopes, dreams, and aspirations… and yet… I felt as if I was missing my purpose. So I thought… and I thought… and I thought…

I felt as if it had to have weight and meaning. I HAD to do something with my life, something that MEANT something.

I didn’t dwell on things like “become a doctor” or “become president” as those titles in so many ways do not have the same meaning for me as they do to those who wear them.

Neither of those jobs was my purpose. I just knew that like I knew the sky was blue.

But what was my purpose?

I am me. I have my thoughts. I feel my feelings. Surely that means something? Surely that means I was put here with a reason. Surely… right?

As I grew the thoughts of meaning and purpose filled me. I became anxious about it. I needed to know what was MY plan, what was my purpose.

It was almost like I was haunted by this need. It was something that loomed over my shoulder, just out of reach, intangible… yet weighted… with such… purpose.

So as time went by and I developed from a young child to a child to a young adult, through the difficult years of self-awareness and self-awakening, this sense of needing a purpose took root and made a home in my head.

As a young child, when I would be asked what I wanted to be when I grew up the answer changed from dancer to artist. Never once did I want to be an astronaut or doctor and for that adults often dismissed my answers and tried to convince me that I had a higher calling and meaning to my life. That I needed to put more thought into that answer. Ultimately what I wanted to be was not enough for those who asked.

So I would sit and think. Ponder. What was my purpose?

Through those young formative years I would search for this purpose, this meaning of existence, sometimes in the oddest of places. I quickly found out that kids my age felt talking about ones existence was just crazy. I was even told once by a classmate that I thought too much so I should become a nun, which at the time hurt my feelings. After feeling like no one my age understood me or my thoughts, I began writing down my ponderings, and hiding my feelings. To the kids who called me “friend”, I sometimes felt like a shadow or a person looking through a store window. I felt out of step with my reality. Most deep and meaningful conversations were held with the adults in my life that openly cared about what I thought. My biggest supporters were my mom and brother.

Still… what was my purpose? Not much had really changed since I was a child. Sure my father had been in and out of hospitals since I was in the third grade and I spent a large portion of my time with my brother and his friends all who were about nine years older than me so life and circumstance made sure I was more mature than some kids my age but fundamentally I was still me. So I still saw an artist who lived within.

I had given up hopes of being a dancer by the time I was 14 as I had almost shattered my ankle. The break(s) in my ankle were so bad that the doctors considered pinning my ankle together and told me that I should choose another dream, go back to the drawing board.

The constant theme since childhood was that any adult who barely knew me thought my dreams were too lofty and I needed something more grounded.

By the time I was a teenager I appeared to have life all figured out. Don’t most teenagers think they know everything? Well honestly I didn’t think I had it all figured out but I was now good at “faking it”. I had a timeline in my head of what I wanted to do and when. Surely that was what I was supposed to do. Surely that gave me purpose.

It didn’t always feel that way. I still questioned my purpose and sought answers. I still knew that the sky was blue and I knew what path I couldn’t walk down.

To some it appeared as if I knew what I was doing and where I was going, that I was playing life safely. And by a lot of teenage standards I suppose I was. For those that really knew me, they had worries that I might be spinning out of control just in my own way, as usual.

In so many ways college was the same as grade school or high school. The adults in my life did a good job of pretending that they knew what life was all about and attempted to guide me down the path I should take… but by that point in my life I could see behind the bravado, see behind the façade, and I knew that they, like me, only had just a clue.

While I did learn a lot in college, I still felt as if so much was left undone, unsaid, unlearned…

What held the most meaning were the friendships I made and the bonds I formed. There were a select few that got to see the inner depths of my mind and truly know how I felt. Those few helped me stay focused and stay in college. They were my anchors in a sea of murky waters.

But did I know my purpose?

It didn’t feel that way. I still sought and still questioned. My peers still treated my questions as though they were ramblings of an unhinged person.

Post college there was a friend who I would have deep conversations about life with as our spouses worked on their computers. During one of our conversations I was told to stop looking for the meaning behind everything. That if I kept this search up in the same way I had been doing since I was a child that I would never truly be happy, that I would always be questioning everything around me. That the meaning and purpose we have in life is not one that can always be found in books but rather in the living of it.

Although I can only paraphrase the conversation because the exact words are fuzzy hues to me right now, I remember how the conversation made me feel because it felt as if this great weight had been lifted. The burden of finding my purpose no longer lingered like a ghost just out of the corner of my eye. In that one conversation I knew that whatever I chose to do with my life was THE purpose and THE meaning I had been searching for. That I could stop seeking a bigger reality and focus on just being me.

Sounds easy

It wasn’t

While I don’t go around searching for a higher purpose these days, I still wonder if the path I am on is the right one. I still ponder the meaning behind my life. I still second guess myself at times where I need a clear decisive me.

Honestly…

… The past couple of weeks have been one heck of a topsey turvey ride that I was not even planning on taking.

That’s life though

Right…?

Well that is life as I know it

Some days are just plain Jane types of days while others I look back and wonder “who did I piss off today to deserve this?”

So yeah… sometimes it feels as if I have spent my whole life trying to find MY purpose. Well… I have. I think we all do it, just some of us don’t think about it all the time.

While there are times that I ponder over the path I am on it doesn’t mean that I don’t realize what my purpose is right now or that I disregard its weight. Saying I have spent my whole life searching means I feel as if I am not done yet.

My story is still in progress.

As for Pippin, and his creator Stephen Schwartz, well I can’t argue with the need to find the Corner of the Sky.