The world is filled with stories we can’t quite deal with emotionally and physically (time or space). Not being able to have an immediate say or impact (to help or make change) can leave one feeling quite overwhelmed. At those times I feel like I need to say a prayer or two and place the problem in God’s hands.

Anymore this is how I feel about my news feed on Facebook. There is an overabundance of news stories and world events that I can’t change, issues out of my hands. It could be something political, a post on animal cruelty or even social commentary. Whatever it is somehow it is not just one article but a multitude of them from a variety of sources. This leaves me with a sense of not being able to escape from something when what I really want is to forget it exists for just a few minutes as I try to check in with friends.

While this seems to be something that is just going to happen from here on out, this past spring there was one story in particular that hit a few chords in my heart. My feed was inundated with post upon post about a terminally ill baby who I had no personal ties to and the doctors who wanted to take him off of life support.

Even when I wanted to tune out from the case I found my feed being inundated with opinion after opinion. The stories and the attached opinions ranged from how horrible the doctors were to how the parents needed a reality check. The case was an ocean away and there was nothing I could do to change any of what was happening. So I did what little I could do, say a prayer for the baby and his parents before placing the issue in God’s hands.

After spending several weeks reading story after story about this case I thought long and hard on something one of my mom’s closest friends told me over ten years ago.

About a week or two before my mom’s friend, Miss V, passed away in 2005 we had all gone to Luray Caverns to visit the town and have a nice day out with her. Miss V had not been feeling very well for some time and received some bad news on medical tests she had taken. All in all she was a little bit scared and we were worried for her. We wanted to provide her with a really good day and a lot of positive thinking. What Miss V provided me in return gave me a lot of things to think about in the years to come.

We talked a little bit about God, life, and the things that lie in-between. The piece of advice that sticks out most in my mind about that day was about loving and letting go. At one point in Miss V’s life there was a dearly loved family member with a terminal illness who was seeking permission to reside in God’s hands.

Miss V told me that her relative said something like this:

Baby I know you love me. I know you are scared of where I am going next in my journey but in this matter we have to trust that God knows best. I am placing my life in his hands so I need you to do me the biggest favor anyone could ever do. I need you to tell me that you love me and that you will miss me, but that you are ready to let me walk away from all this pain and be at peace with God.”

Miss V shared this story not to scare me, and certainly not to make me cry, but rather to let me know there’s a point in our lives where we are going to lose all of our loved ones. That all those whom we grew up idolizing and held so dear are most likely going to leave this earth before we do. What we need to do is work on letting go. That it is important, nee imperative to hold onto their memory but to let go of our loved ones when their pain and suffering is too much. In the end we need to trust in God that he knows best as to when it’s time for each of us to leave this world.

As a human being it is in our very nature to hold on to life, to fight for it and to keep fighting. It is who we are and an integral part of our genetic composition. But as creatures who believe in a higher being we have to trust that this higher being really does know when it is out time to depart the earth. Does that mean we just blindly walk through life hoping that this higher being will do all the work? Nope. What it does mean is having some faith.

Faith that when our loved ones are hurting and in pain that we trust that this “higher being” will take away that pain. There is a trust that we need to have that we will each receive release from this mortal coil, when we need it, and receive everlasting peace.

Now is that an easy thing to do? No, that is not easy. Most of us want to kick and fight and scream not just for ourselves but for our loved ones as well. We want them to live with us forever but life isn’t built that way.

When Miss V shared this bit of advice with me it was because she knew how much I love my mom and how tight I was holding on. She also knew that losing my mom would hurt more than anything has ever hurt in my entire life. Miss V wanted to spare me all the pain and hurt but knew she never really could. Instead of trying to erase the inevitable pain, she thought she could plant a seed to grow inside of me. That this seed would grow so that when the time came, perhaps I would be a little more prepared and ready for all of the pain that would come.

Miss V wanted also wanted me to realize that giving our loved ones permission to move on also lets them come to terms with their mortality and the need to move on. Sometimes our loved ones remain as long as they do because they worry about the living they are leaving behind. Giving them permission to move on can give them a sense of closure and release they didn’t know they needed. Miss V was hoping that by imparting this advice I would come to terms with the inevitability of loss and give my mom permission to move on. Will I know when that time is? I don’t know.

As I watch my mom’s health decline a little more here and there, I don’t know if I am the best judge of when is enough truly enough. Will I recognize that my mom is only a shell of the person that she once was?  I truly do not know.

I appreciate the conversation with Miss V and her attempt to get me to a point where I could say “Mom I love you and it’s okay. I will miss you but it is time for you to be with everyone who has departed from us. It is time for you to walk with God.” I hope that when the time comes I will be able to love my mom and let her go.

As for the family with the little boy, my heart is heavy with sadness over their struggle and loss. They had to face something no parent should have to go through.

I don’t think it is easy for any parent to make a final decision like that about their child. It is a parent’s duty to fight and keep fighting for their child. No parent ever wants there to be a situation in which they have to say to their child “I love you and I will miss you forever but it is time for you to walk with God”

No I don’t think any parent should have to say that.

My heart goes out to this family. I am sorry their battle and pain was made so public. It hurt reading about the family, the child’s fatal illness, the court battle… and all of the details. The least I could do was say a prayer and to place my hope for the family in God’s hands.

Growing up I am sure I asked my mom about the origins of the phrases she used most often. Somewhere along the way of growing older I have filed that information away like old clothes I am not quite ready to part with. As a side affect of that filing, I tend to misuse a phrase or get the wording slightly wrong as I make a comment in the moment without really thinking. While watching a documentary I was reminded of where the phrase “waiting for the other shoe to drop” came from and how even in its origins it could be tied to anxiety.

Ah, those darn shoes.

The condensed version of the origin story goes back to early tenements in our country. The walls and floors were quite thin. Families depended on the income from the man of the house who usually worked long hours in some industrial job. At the end of a long day you could literally hear as one shoe from your neighbor would hit the floor and then the other. The documentary I was watching referenced several ways this would cause anxiety.

Young mothers would try to use the sounds from the surrounding apartments to determine if it was alright for her child to be loud or not. If they heard a shoe drop then they knew their neighbor was home and awake.

Another point of anxiety was the loudness of the dropping shoes. If one was having a conversation and heard a shoe drop then they might wait until the other shoe dropped until they resumed said conversation. Thus the waiting of the second shoe might cause some anxiety in both scenarios.

Anxiety

What an interesting word to describe a multitude of emotions and how we deal with them.

Since I was a child I have lived with this constant feeling as if there is this imaginary shoe always ready to drop. That shoe hung over my head in bad times and in good. When it was a really good time the weight of that shoe felt worse, almost foreboding. I grew up with this feeling like I wasn’t meant to stay happy. That being happy was not just fleeting but was something we held onto tenuously as if it were this fragile thing. Losing my kindred spirit, my grandfather, at such an early stage in life led me to always waiting for a shoe to drop during my “happy times”.

I learned that happiness can be fragile.

However, if one is always living with a sense of dread concerning happiness then it will become a self fulfilling prophecy. Much like any other mental health issue, one can not just simply say “Be happy. Enjoy what you have. Stop having anxiety over being happy.”

Sadly life is generally not that easy or simple. While happiness can feel unattainable at times, it is also not something we can grab onto and hold tight to when it does arrive. All we can do is enjoy happiness while we have it and hold onto the memories to get us through the harder times of life. So much about life is knowing when to hold onto something and when to let it go.

Even as an adult I am still pretty horrible about knowing the difference between holding onto something and the ability to let go. I have gotten better about being in the moment. The feeling of another shoe dropping does still loom over me at times.

When I start feeling like the anxiety of waiting for a shoe to drop is looming over my happiness, I have to remind myself to take a deep breath and live in the moment. I need to stop searching for bad things to happen because they will. We can’t really get rid of all the bad but we can enjoy what we have and when we have it.

Something that really helps me put life (anxiety, happiness, reality, sadness… etc) into perspective is the thought that no one lives without some kind of self doubt or anxiety. In some ways we are all waiting for the other shoe to drop on some subconscious level. Knowing I am not the only person to live with anxiety makes me feel better. The whole thought of a problem shared is a problem halved.

It is all about how I choose to move forward. Do I let my anxiety disable me from moving forward? Will I just sit and wait for the bad things or even go in search of them? Can I do myself the biggest favor and enjoy what I have? Most times I have to remind myself to stop poking everything with sticks.

If you also are someone who feels the weight of a dangling shoe, here are a few additional reads to help learn more about and deal with the anxiety and stress linked to that feeling:

Waiting for the Other…to Drop. When a pleasant early childhood memory turns unpleasant, By Arthur J. Clark Ed.D.

Stop Waiting… and Start Living Fully, By Lisa Edwards

Greetings and salutations!

In our house we are trying to start the year off positively on many levels including morning salutations, words of encouragement and an agreed upon drop-off mantra.

For our family, the start of waking up right is figuring out a good evening routine. Since the boys spend their weeks divided between two households, a consistent evening routine is only as good as the adults can make it. Most weeks it is successful. Some weeks nothing works. Both boys may fuss about going to bed by 8 (7 if we have had an event filled day!) But they secretly crave a consistent schedule and a good night’s sleep.

When the boys get a minimum of 10 hours of sleep they wake up happy (mostly) and ready to tackle the day. Our morning salutations are filled with laughter, cuddles and even song. Even our grumpy morning munchkin wakes up smiling and joking when he is well rested.

How one wakes up in our house does generally set the tone for the day. A grumpy morning tends to make for heel dragging and tardiness. Happy mornings means most of the time we are ready to leave the house ten minutes before my warning bell goes off.

Our morning routine is a bit atypical in the realm that it does not resemble the morning routine of my childhood. I let the kids watch a half hour of TV while they wake up and slowly collect their thoughts. Breakfast fits in somewhere between collecting thoughts and getting dressed. Then comes personal hygiene, grooming, socks, shoes and double checking we aren’t missing lunches or folders.

The first week of the routine was the hardest and took the longest. Now after two weeks we are all getting into the routine so morning roundup takes a little over an hour instead of almost two.

The next step is loading into the car. First the boys get wished a good day by Grammie and are given hugs. As we walk to the car we talk about things to remember and words of encouragement for the day. Once all loaded up and headed for school we talk about another kind of morning salutation, our newest addition to our routine- the drop-off mantra.

When I was a child, my morning parting salutation, with my mom, was:

A’s and B’s, no C’s, D’s, or F’s.

My mom wanted to focus on our education. She felt that our education was paramount and that if we stayed focused we could achieve anything.

As an adult I get what she meant but I also have to wonder about children learning that there is a balance between work and play. That adults, and kids, with very little balance in one direction or another end up unhappy in one or more aspects of their life. There have been points in my life where I myself have felt this imbalance and have been unhappy.

I want to help children in my life try to achieve some balance. Respectively I also wanted our morning drop-off mantra to be more than about education. I felt that it needed to be both uplifting and about the balance in life that I would like to help them achieve.

With odd phase in days for both boys, our second week of school didn’t start until last Wednesday. This also happened to be our second day of school. Between all the first day of school jitters and making sure we took pictures, we had forgotten to decide on a drop-off mantra.

On our way to school, on our oddly timed second day we talked about what our mantra should be. We wanted to make sure kindness was mentioned and that we use only good words (no bullying or name calling). In the end we chose to borrow the morning mantra a friend uses with her kids:

Kind hands

Kind hearts

Kind words

Kind hands means no pushing, shoving or hitting. It is important to use our hands for positive actions like raising them to ask questions or lending a helping hand to someone in need.

Kind hearts is about being more than kind. It is thinking about our actions in relation to others and their feelings. Being mindful of our actions includes watching out for those around. It is also about being open to new experiences and ideas.

Kind words is being mindful of our words before they leave our mouths. To think before we speak because all actions, even the words we use.

Put it all together and it is a twist on the parable about treating others as you would want yourself to be treated.

There are a lot of various ideas and thoughts on early childhood education. This includes what age to start teaching various things like shapes and colors or numbers and the alphabet. One concept I have tried to latch onto is teaching respect and kindness. All of this is reflected in our morning mantra, our departing salutation.

Update: while we still have yet to have a full week of school, our mantra is sticking. We talk about kindness and respect. Some days they get the concept just fine and worry about others. Then there are the days where they worry about a stranger but hit their sibling on the head with a lego. We still have a long way to go but I think we are on a good path for now.

Even when we know that life is rushing by and things are piling up, we tend to forget to do things for ourselves, replenish, and even to just take a step back. At times this is my nemesis. While I am good at making sure everyone else has what they need, I always seem to be missing to do something for me like taking my own medicine. If you have spent a few days with me then you know I have an afternoon alarm for meds, and used to have a morning reminder to eat lunch. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that sometimes I need to be reminded that I am not superwoman. In late June I needed a reminder to cut something from my life and unplug.

With June’s post about my Roller Coaster Year, I openly admitted to feeling a bit overwhelmed and needing a breather. Since spring sprung I had been pushing to get a wide variety of things done from doctor appointments to school registration not to mention my ever growing “honey do” list. While I have been pushing very hard to shrink my ever growing list, not much else in my life has taken a break or slowed up.

At some point I realized the folly of my ways. If I didn’t slow something down, or cut something out, well I was quite likely to burn out. The anxiety of it all was physically wearing me down. Other than pushing forward and completing my honey dos, there wasn’t much I could do to ease the anxiety I was feeling. As one project after another was completed it was true that some tension subsided but the fear of burning out, or getting sick, stayed with me.

What would happen if I did get sick before the end of the summer? What if my summer “honey dos” got left undone? The big answer is that we would all survive. Life would continue to move forward.

Still I felt a need to get projects completed. What would give? The answer was step back; put projects into perspective (make a list); and see if anythjng could be sidelined.

The first thing to get evaluated was my limited free time.

After my first few kid free days, I knew the likelihood of having lots of kid free time was unlikely. Two weekends a month I watch one niece. That is always a given. While time with my other nieces and nephews is not always planned, my youngest nephew dislikes going more than a few days being away from his second home. So my free time is not really just mine. Yet my free time was the only thing I had any wiggle room with.

Ultimately the decision wasn’t hard. I needed to unplug and put our blog on hold.

After all, when would the kids ever be this age again? Answer: never.

I knew that once school started back up and really got going that I would have more wiggle room to write. The priority was to get the boys’ bedroom completed and then see what other projects I had time for. With my priorities straightened out in my head I plunged back into my long list of projects.

The good news was I had plenty time to do fun things with my family including a weekend spent with a college pal and her family and to have lots of adventures with the munchkins!!!

The downside? I was right about burning out. After a month of pushing, pushing, pushing… when I began to slow down a bit I did end up with a summer cold. While I needed to slow down for a few days I still felt like I was in a good place.

With school started and a routine firming up, I can see that there will be room for me to add writing back into my routine. As a family oriented person, I don’t always do a lot of “me” things. I tend to focus on time spent with my family and the things they want to do. Writing, that is all me. Even is Rent-a-Dad proofs a post for me or gives me his thoughts, my posts are my posts. It is important to have something that is mine.

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.

Becoming the Helpers

Posted by Rent-A-Dad | Fostering Love

While we were watching the news play out over the course of the weekend and trying to make sense of it all, I posted something on Facebook that several friends seemed to find helpful.

Here’s the original post:

I like to think that, if Mr. Rogers had an extra minute or so to address those of us who grew up watching him and are somewhat older children than we used to be, he might add something his message about always looking for the helpers. Something very kind that gently suggests that we try to be helpers in the sort of situations that make us sad whenever we can. And that not everyone needs to help in the same way, because there are all kinds of different ways to do that.

I like to think that, someday, we’ll get to the point that we don’t need Mr. Rogers to remind us of these things. That so many good people are already actively helping so much that fewer bad things ever happen in the first place. That when something bad does happen, we don’t even have to really look for the helpers because they’re the first thing we see.
I like to think a lot of things.

 

After a little reflection I was able to put more of my feelings into words.

As I was processing the news over the weekend and waiting for friends who live in the area to check in, my mind kept going back to my childhood. Mister Rogers, everything I learned in kindergarten, a world where I could imagine nothing more horrifying than missing an episode of He-Man or Voltron after school. In hindsight I can’t really pinpoint a moment when my awareness expanded to include the real unpleasantness in the world, so I’m sure that it was more of a process of gradually awakening than a switch being flipped. I thought about all of the kids in our lives, ages ranging from 2 to 5, and for a moment I was selfishly grateful that they’re not yet at an age where I’ve got to explain things like this to them. I know that those days are numbered and I don’t doubt that it will happen sooner than I’d like, so on that level it was a small wakeup call that I should probably prepare myself because that first unpleasant “why?” conversation will be here before I know it. That thought was immediately followed by a wakeup call that was broader and arguably more important that I haven’t been able to get out of my mind since, and that’s what made me think of Mister Rogers and that specific message.

In the middle of feeling pain for people I’ve never met, worrying for those I know who are close to the event, and the fact that these are current events in 2017, I’m thinking a lot of what the helpers look like in this situation. There’s a clear need for all kinds of people to pitch in after bad things happen, but wouldn’t it be better if we could invest our time and energy up front? I can certainly do a better job of modeling the behavior I want the kids to emulate if nothing else. I can try to be less grumpy, kinder in general. I can find organizations locally and across the country or the world and give time and money when I can afford enough of either that will improve the world to whatever degree in some small way. I keep thinking of that horribly overused cliche “be the change you want to see” and believing that it can’t hurt to try to be a better version of myself, to help the kids grow into responsible, kind adults in whatever way I can as long as I’m lucky enough to be a part of their lives, to find tangible ways to affect change at whatever level I can.

It’s going to take a while to process a lot of the thoughts and concerns that the last 72 hours or so have brought to the front of my mind, but I know that I haven’t been comfortable with the status quo for a while and that I want the world that our children inherit to look better in as many ways as we can make it. I’d like to help.

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

If you are a foster parent, you have probably heard at least one person say some version of “God bless you. I don’t know that I could do that.” Rent-a-Dad and I have heard that phrase so often that we don’t even blink anymore if it is said. In all honesty… it is just fine with us if you admit that.

For the first year, as foster parents, when I heard some version of that phrase I would jump into explaining my choice to be a foster parent and talking up the rewards. I really wanted others to see the positives of being a foster parent. Perhaps even help convince others considering fostering to take that final leap.

Sometime into the second year I began just saying “thank you” and leave it at that unless questions were asked. Most times questions were asked.

This past spring, I flip flopped between being actively pro-fostering and pro-privacy.

After several conversations, both with foster parents and those who have no thought of ever fostering, and sitting on several foster parent panels, I now have a new take on and response to that phrase.

Being a foster parent is NOT for everyone.

There is no shade or hate in that statement, nor is there any judgment.

Being a foster parent takes a special commitment that not everyone can handle. It is just as important to admit (acknowledge) what you can not do as it is to acknowledge what you can.

As a seasoned foster parent, someone in the “trenches”, we have this part of us that knows how taxed the system is and how spread thin foster parents are. We have this second nature to nurture and protect others, and ourselves.

Naturally we want others to stretch themselves and reach out to become foster parents. It helps everyone involved.

Yes, being a foster parent WILL change a child’s life.

But if at any point you question your ability to foster, then don’t do it.

I have said the same thing about marriage to friends who have asked how I knew Rent-a-Dad was the one. It’s not that I didn’t have doubts about marriage in general or that I wondered if the timing of getting married was right. Everyone has doubts. What I knew was this: I couldn’t imagine my life with anyone else. When ever I tried to really picture someone else as my partner I felt physically ill. Doesn’t mean we are a perfect match and never have any relationship issues. Hint: All couples fight about something. I just couldn’t imagine not spending my life with Rent-a-Dad.

For me being a foster parent was a bit of the same thing. It has always been about timing not questioning the actual act of fostering. I have always wanted to be a foster parent and had no doubt that someday it would happen, when the timing was right.

If at some point, any point, I had any doubts then I would have put the brakes on.

Being a foster parent takes commitment, reliability, accountability, love, attachment and so much more. Some of these qualities come naturally to people. For others it is a struggle to tick off a few boxes. Sometimes having an abundance of one will overcome any challenges or struggles with the other qualities.

Regardless of any of these qualities, knowing yourself is the key.

If you don’t think you can be a foster parent and freely admit that then I admire you for knowing what you can not do.

Seriously.

I would much rather someone admit that than know they can not do something, absolutely do NOT want to do something, and try it anyway.

Kids in the system deserve to have people committed to them. They do not need people who are trying to be something they know they can not be. That only hurts everyone.

I once thought a foster trainer was being a little harsh when she made a similar remark but she wasn’t wrong. Being a foster parent involves a lot of harsh truths. If you can not take harsh truths, then definitely walk away. With that in mind, Rent-a-Dad and I have put our heads together to come up with five topics a couple should consider if they are trying to decide if becoming a foster parent is really something they should do.

Have you been thinking about becoming a foster parent but not really sure? Are there misgivings holding you back? Deciding whether or not you have what it takes to become a foster parent is a big decision for you and your family.

Rent-a-Dad and I have spent a lot of time talking about fostering and convincing others they have what it takes to be foster parents. Certainly there are times where we don’t feel that someone should become a foster parent. Often it is not because we think someone is “sketchy” but rather they are already so over committed and spread thin.

Recently Rent-a-Dad and I got into a conversation about topics couples should consider when deciding whether to foster or not. Whether you are hearing this for the first time or have had a great foster parent trainer talk to you about these topics…

Here are five topics to put some serious thought into if you deciding if becoming a foster parent is for you:

1. Time

Being a foster parent takes a lot of time between DCS (department of children’s services) procedures and actual care of the child. In the first week alone there has to be a health center visit/health care provider visit, court appearance, and meetings at DCS in addition to getting the kid registered at school/daycare and any shopping needs.

There are support systems in place to help with various aspects of the time needed to be a foster parent. But sometimes the support systems do fail.

DCS does not require foster parents to be at court appearances. However, if a foster parent is serious about the care of the foster child then attending court dates matters. It is important to talk to the caseworker(s) involved to figure out which court dates need you in attendance.

Foster parents are not always required to attend the state mandated family visits. When possible, DCS will help with transportation arrangements for the foster child. It is often recommended that a foster parent not be the only person observing the family visitations so they can not be blamed legally if a visitation does not go according to plan. That said it is still important to form a working relationship with the birth family when reunification is the goal. Relationship building takes time.

If both foster parents work and the child is too young for school, DCS can help with childcare arrangements. The level of the help changes not just from state to state but even from jurisdiction to jurisdiction or even depends on the caseworker or program involved.

Between meetings, court dates, and doctor appointments there is generally something going on weekly. That doesn’t take into account the life you are helping to build with/for the foster child like play visits or after school activities.

It is possible to balance all that you do currently as well as all that is expected of you as a foster parent. Thinking about your time constraints is important. If you and your spouse have jobs that are not flexible, then being a foster parent may be very complicated, tricky, or even impossible.

2. Privacy

Rent-a-Dad and I often joke about how when you have children you should throw any thought of having privacy out of the window. Being a foster parent doubles the sentiment.

If you are a private person and do not like it when others poke your “bubble” of privacy, then being a foster parent may not be for you.

DCS will do a criminal background check. The home-study writer will interview both you and your spouse asking very personal questions. Personal questions about your life will also be asked of the friends and family you have given as character witnesses on your home-study form. An inspection of your home will also be conducted to make sure you can provide a safe living environment.

Once the home-study process is completed the scrutiny only subsides a little. Depending on whether you have a foster child in your home or not, your home will be visited at least once a quarter by one case worker to once or twice a month by two caseworkers (this depends on each case and state).

Foster parents often find that they have to justify many of their actions on a daily basis not just to DCS but to birth families, teachers, doctors, lawyers, judges and more… This type of scrutiny never really ends. For most foster parents it just becomes a part of daily life and you either live with it or walk away from fostering.

3. Your Family/Loved Ones

Before becoming a foster parent, it is very important to think about how fostering will affect the lives of your loved ones. I am not talking about an aunt who lives five states away. Think much closer to home like your children, and yes, even your parents.

I have heard some foster parents talk about how they didn’t realize how fostering would impact their grown children’s lives.

Often we can see the impact of something as it directly relates to us but forget how hard our actions will affect those close to us. Small children will have to learn that mom and dad have to split their time up between them and the foster children. Some kids handle this well while others become very resentful.

I have talked with a few friends whose parents fostered. They expressed that what hurt the most was losing contact with the foster children after reunification. That it hurt like they were losing a sibling or a piece of themselves.

Trauma affects everyone. Losing loved ones is traumatic. Sometimes being a foster parent can cause trauma to your own children.

On the positive side, some of the same people said they are still glad their parents chose to foster and make a difference.

Now some grown children have expressed their displeasure with their parents fostering in their twilight years. Why? Because they feel that grandma and grandpa are not as present in their own grandchildren’s lives as they are for their foster children. The grandparents/foster parents I have talked to in this situation feel a little torn because they love their grandchildren but also feel the grandchildren have safe homes. The point being they want to provide a safe place for children less fortunate.

As for your parents, in my situation I had to take into account my mom and her health. Currently my mom still does a lot on her own but at some point soon will need a lot more help. In most areas (not sure of one that doesn’t) any adult living in your home has to attend the same foster training classes as the people who want to become foster parents. Every adult also needs to be criminally background checked.

4. Your Health (physical and mental)

If you are young, twenty-something or thirty-something, you might not think your health is an issue. Even still it should warrant a thought depending on how long you want to foster. Most foster parents foster until they adopt and their home becomes “closed” because they lack additional room.

If you are someone who has a hard time handling trauma (loss like that of a family member), then you may want to sit down and have a serious “think” about fostering short term versus long term.

On a long term basis, being a foster parent you will find yourself in an assortment of situations. You will also be dealing with a variety of traumatic experiences your foster children have had to live through. This doesn’t even bring up your own feelings when/if reunification happens and the foster child leaves your home.

It never hurts to ask yourself if you feel you can physically and mentally deal with a situation. Your own physical and mental health is just as important, if not more so, than the children you are going to be caring for. I am always reminding myself, and others, about self-care and taking time to replenish.

5. Vision of your future

A lot of young people considering becoming foster parents today are dealing with infertility. Whether they have been unsuccessful in their attempts at becoming pregnant naturally or through fertility treatments, they are considering other options. The big three are open adoption, international adoption, and fostering to adopt. I urge any couple going through fertility troubles to think long and hard about each option. Weigh the pros and cons of each. Talk to as many people as you can about these options.

If you are fostering with no thought of reunification, then you are fostering for the wrong reasons. Reunification is the first priority of each case. If reunification with the parents is not possible then family and friends will be sought. Only when all options are exhausted are foster parents then considered. Adopting a baby through fostering happens but it is the needle in the haystack scenarios (the extenuating circumstance and not the norm).

If the end goal is adopting, and you truly do not care about age, then you should consider just adopting an older child through the foster care system. A large portion of children in foster care, sadly, age out of the system annually.

Rent-a-Dad and I are an infertile couple. What makes us so different? In some ways we absolutely are not.

Our biggest difference is our intention. We had discussed becoming foster parents during the infancy of our relationship. Rent-a-Dad knew it was something I always wanted to do and why. It became a dream of ours. We had always thought to become foster parents when our own children became old enough to understand what we were doing and why. The hitch in our plan was that we didn’t know we would be dealing with infertility.

With the original plan I am not sure how we felt about adopting through foster care. Certainly we had talked about it. It was always an option. As an infertile couple it certainly becomes more fore-front.

Even though adopting is something we want to do as a couple, it is not what drives us as foster parents. We want whatever is best for the child in our care. Whenever possible the answer is reunification and we support that.

These are just a few versions of a vision for the future. It is important to sit down and speak with your spouse and family about what your vision is.

Again I come back to a bit of advice given in a previous post: If at some point, any point, you have any doubts then put the breaks on.

Becoming a foster parent is an important responsibility that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Just because Rent-a-Dad and I have had some good experiences doesn’t mean it is all sunflowers and roses. Each person and family is different. What works for us may not work for you.

Deciding if you have what it takes to be a foster parent deserves lots of serious thought. Even if you disagree with the points we feel are important for consideration, check out this article on deciding is fostering is for you?

Have you ever felt a bit erased? Everyone experiences this on some level daily without ever giving it a single thought. Each passing day we stop doing something we once did. Most times it is something very small and innocuous while other times it is a big deal, even life changing. As a kid this process is referred to as making bridges or reaching milestones. This is because as a kid we don’t just give something up we make a trade off with a new and improved skill. It is something we are all expected to do, just another part of life.

At some point, as adults, we may realize that we have done more letting go, or compromising than we thought we would do. The trade off may not feel like an improvement. It could be this realization that through natural change, or compromise, you have slowly erased the person you once were. Perhaps you even realize that the bits that have been erased were pieces that you worked so hard to hold onto or become.

Ever found yourself here?

I have found myself in this position a few times in my adult life. When I find myself feeling a bit erased, and wondering what is left of me, I sit back and look over how I got here. Then I ask if the “me” who I am right now is happy. I also have to ask if I am ok with this version of me. It is important to take a moment, or two, to take stock of “who I am” at this moment.

The answer is not always right in front of you at this very moment. Sometimes it takes a couple of days, a week, a month, or even a year to figure out the answer to those questions. Certainly it takes time to put things into perspective. Sometimes the perspective is not so easy to find.

I knew this past year was going to be one of change. There was an expectation that a lot in my life would never quite be the same.

The munchkins in my life are getting older and ready to begin school. At one point we even thought we would become weekend “auntie and uncle”. Now we are going to be helping with the schooling of two of our munchkins. Not to mention that for over a year we have been in a foster parent holding pattern. Sadly my mother’s health continues to decline. With all that is happening and flying by, I have tried to cherish all the moments. Breathe them in a little deeper and hold them close just a little bit longer.

What I never expected was that one day while I was in the middle of making plans for my family that I would suddenly feel like I didn’t recognize myself.

Sure I can look in the mirror and I can see an aging version of myself, someone who has fought hard to be confident while staying strong for everyone around her.

However as I move forward with plans for our family and house, I found myself also packing away pieces of me that I always thought were integral to who I am. At this time I am unsure of when these items will be unpacked, if ever. As I do this I am left wondering when will this the packing away of “me” end? How much of me has already been erased? How much more will continue to be erased? When I am done will I still be me?

The good news…?

That was the start of a post from several months ago.

Rent-a-Dad and I have wanted our nephews to have a bedroom they can call all their own at our house for a while now. The original goal was to create this space for them for when they visited. Now that they are going to live with us part of the school year, well that goal is more of a necessity. So a room for the boys while maintaining a separate room that can be used for foster children. That means saying “bye-bye” to our home office.

As I was packing up our office I was also packing up all of my art supplies, craft supplies and everything sewing related. Giving up our home office puts my home business on hold. I have been fine with that aspect for a lot of reasons. But packing away all of my supplies suddenly felt like I was packing myself away.

Essentially I was packing away everything that I felt made me who I am. Over the years I have struggled owning the title of artist but seamstress… I have been sewing since I was old enough to be a Brownie. Begged my mom for a sewing machine by the time I was five. Both of My great-grandmothers sewed. One worked in a leather glove factory while the other was a personal seamstress. Sewing is in my DNA. Suddenly I was asking myself: How can I pack away the biggest piece of my identity?

As I packed up these items I wasn’t sure where in my house I could make room for a craft/art/sewing station; especially one that toddlers or possibility of infants in my home could grab stuff from. It left me all a bit confused as to how to take a step forward as me, an individual. I felt a little bit heartbroken if I’m honest.

Rent-a-Dad and I have plans for an addition to our home. This addition would help alleviate some of this concern while helping create additional space for my mom at our house. It would be a win-win situation for everyone. However, until those plans come to fruition I was left a little bit confused as to where exactly I fit in as a person within my family. I’m the one who sews costumes, the one that hems pants and fixes holes. I am also the one who gets crafty with gifts. So, what was I supposed to do now?  It left me feeling like my only purpose would be that of purchaser of stuff, cleaner of the house and maker of the dinner.

I spent a several evenings after the kids went to bed thinking about “what did this all mean for me?” A couple of those nights I even spent talking to Rent-a-Dad. We brainstormed ineffectively over what I could do and where my things could live. Like my sewing machine when it wasn’t being used could live in our closet. That didn’t give me any idea of where I could use it. Our dining room table is not a good place to sew. So the question arose “where WAS I going to sew?”

Neither one of us had a really good answer.

But I didn’t let that hold me back from continuing on with the boys’ room. I had been waiting for over a year to work on the room and get it completed. It was May 2016 that we had decided that our office was going to turn into the boys’ bedroom. That was before termite issues and other fun family drama. For me it was a long time coming. I am sure the boys felt the same way. At this point I needed to keep moving forward.

As the room is an interesting shape we knew the nook area within the room was going to turn into a workstation Rent-a-Dad and the boys. So that was one problem tackled.

But again the question came up “where oh where would I sew?”

I kept packing and wondering; and packing and wondering. Then over the course of one very sleepless night a thought came to me. If the boys were getting their bedroom, and a good portion of the toys were moving from our family room into the boys’ bedroom… Well then why couldn’t I set up a desk in our family room? Sure all my supplies would have to be boxed up and kept of reach but when I needed them I would have my own work station. The work station could then be used by the whole family for anything from homework to folding laundry.

Later that day I ran the idea by Rent-a-Dad. He liked the idea too. By putting the desk in our family room it opened up more than a window of not losing “me”.

At this point I felt a great weight lifting from my shoulders. I wasn’t really losing myself as much as I was rearranging myself, assessing myself, and finding new possibilities in an area where I thought none existed. And that’s what we all need to do sometimes: self-assess.

When we feel that a door has been closed on us, we are sometimes left wondering “when will the next door open?” Many times we are so emotional about that one door that we can’t even imagine a window existing.

Often I feel like I am the one who has to make her next opportunity possible. Sitting around waiting for things to happen has never worked for me. If waiting is involved I need to be working on another project while I am waiting.

In this situation I started to worry that I have packed away so much of who I am, compromised on who I have wanted to be, that I began to doubt the steps I was taking and the plans I had made with/for my family. Growing up I spent so much time wanting my kids to know who I am that I suddenly felt worried that I had botched that all up. I had to ask myself if I had compromised too much.

The answer was no but I still had to figure that out.

In so many ways I am a much different person than I was at 20 but in so many more ways I am exactly the same. Something as simple as putting a desk in our family room helped me see that clearer than before. Painting clouds for one of our nephews’ bunkie board drove it home. Just like that, all was put back into perspective and I no longer felt slowly erased. For a while though I was admittedly feeling a little lost.

I just needed a moment to sit back and see I was still me. A moment where I knew I am still an artist, a seamstress, a dreamer and so much more. Things like not reading nearly as much as I used to seemed like small pieces of the picture instead of big systemic issues. The realization was not lost on me that while these aspects may seem hidden at times, that when they do get to got o the ball they still very much shine. I am not gone or slowly being erased. I still remain.