My StoryCorps interview with my daddy

Back in October, I was able to participate in StoryCorps and interview my father. If you haven’t heard of StoryCorps, or don’t know what it is, you can watch the short video below. Also, visit their website at www.storycorps.org to learn more. Here’s a short snippet from their About page:

StoryCorps’ mission is to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.

We do this to remind one another of our shared humanity, to strengthen and build the connections between people, to teach the value of listening, and to weave into the fabric of our culture the understanding that everyone’s story matters. At the same time, we are creating an invaluable archive for future generations.

I had a lot of fun interviewing my dad and thought I’d share it with all of you!

I know he’s my father, so I’m biased, but I’ve always admired and looked up to him. It was a great experience getting to hear about what it was like for him growing up in Charleston, WV during the 60s and 70s, and also growing up with 9 other siblings in a house that’s less than 800 square feet!

It’s kinda long (40 minutes so you’ve been warned…) but I’d love to hear what you think!

My dad in “coach” mode
My father and his 9 siblings

Our Life will NEVER be the Same.

*Warning: This is going to be a raw (unedited), emotional post.

After almost an entire year, our first foster placement left yesterday.  We knew it was going to be hard, but knowing something in the abstract and actually experiencing it are never the same thing – NOTHING can prepare a heart for this…

We knew this day was coming

It’s not that we didn’t have time to prepare or anything. We’ve been boxing up their things and sending a little bit at a time for weeks now. With every box that was closed and sent away, a piece of my heart went with it, and I had to face a hard truth I’d been steadily denying for months…

These were never my kids. 

I never lost sight of that fact, really. I thought of and prayed for their mom every single day. I imagined myself in her situation and cried myself to sleep, hurting for her and for her kids who were sleeping so far away from her. I couldn’t imagine not knowing where my kids were spending the first year of their lives. I asked God over and over again to help her stay strong through this time, to give her the skills she needed to be reunited with her babies.

But in my heart, I wasn’t praying for “her” babies. I was praying for “ours.” Hers and mine.

I was there when the one year old met her brother and sister for the first time – the day we brought them to our home from the hospital. We threw a Minnie Mouse themed party for her 2nd birthday, waited for her favorite swing to open up at the park, sung silly songs, and laughed and cried together so many times over the last year. She’s grown so much and learned so much. And I was there for all of that, holding her hand through most of it.

We brought the twins to our home from the hospital after spending days visiting them there. I quit my job to stay home with them because they couldn’t be out in public until they were 3 months old. I got up with them in the middle of the night, heard their first laughs, fed them for the first time, watched them learn to crawl, saw their first steps, and so many more firsts… and I was as proud as any other parent would be.

But I was also hurting. Because every first I saw, meant she didn’t. And no amount of pictures can fix that.

So I prayed that they be reunited. That she not miss out on all the firsts.

The more I prayed, the more guilty I felt. Because I loved them so much and a part of me didn’t want to let them go.

No, they weren’t mine. But they felt like mine. They shared my home, my life, my everything. They were my daughters’ sisters and brother. They were every bit a part of my family as my husband and daughters are.

But only for a time.

We knew that going in. We knew it towards the end, as we sent box after box away. We weren’t prepared.

Why did we do this?

I remember when we first talked to my girls about us fostering. They were entirely on board and eager to start. But fostering wasn’t mine and my husband’s first choice.

We were well on the road to international adoption a year ago. Our home study was completed, our information had been sent away, all the background checks and everything had been done… we were excited.

But we couldn’t move forward.

When I was growing up, two of my best friends were sisters. They had been placed in the foster care system and honestly, it wasn’t the best situation for them. One of them died not too long ago and since then I catch myself thinking “if only she’d had a better chance…” way too often.

My oldest daughter has a friend who also spent some time in foster care. She was separated from her brothers during that time. When I found out about it, it haunted me.

And then it happened… my youngest daughter came to me in tears. Her friend was gone. She didn’t know where. They’d put her with a foster family with her sister and she didn’t know where her two brothers were. They had no idea when they’d talk again or if they’d ever see each other. 

The guilt was too much for me to bear. How could we, knowing what we knew, continue down a road so much easier for us when families were being ripped apart? These kids weren’t just being taken out of their homes and away from their parents, but away from their brothers and sisters! 

There’s no way to ease the pain of being separated from their parents, but we could take in siblings so they could still have each other. And we could give them a safe place through a difficult, awful time.

We could do better. We could help them. We would do what we could.

Basically, we did this because we had to.

We called the social worker and switched from international adoption to foster care one day and got a call for our first placement the day after the change was finalized.

My family mourns.

I remember my husband and I talking to another couple when we were about 6 months into the foster care experience. We loved the kids so completely and there was no difference between the foster kids and the other kids. We knew we were setting ourselves up for a pain beyond our comprehension, and yet, we couldn’t stop ourselves.

The response from them was one that will probably always stick with me and that is helping me process the pain I feel today. They basically told us that if we didn’t hurt this way, that means we weren’t doing it right.

The moment the kids drove away yesterday, a piece of my chest went away went them.

I keep reaching up and touching my breastbone to make sure it’s still there – because I need to be reminded that it is. The feeling of it though, is gone. I have no idea when it’ll be back again.

So we packed up our things and drove. 

My husband, my daughters, myself. We left the home we shared with our foster family for the last year and came to a cabin in the woods for a few days, where we can’t escape each other and can face our pain and process it all together.

Because as happy an occasion as it is for a family to be reunited, our family has been gutted. We mourn as though we’ve lost three children, because we have.

There is a part of me that feels selfish for that and there is a part of me that does not. Right now, the selfish me is winning. And I’m letting her win because I need that. Maybe tomorrow I’ll celebrate for them, but probably not… it’s going to take me some time. It’s going to take my girls some time. It’s going to take my husband a lifetime.

The truth is…

We may never get over this pain.

And yet…

We’ll do it again.

Not today or tomorrow, but when we’re ready to love another group just as much as the first. When we can give our hearts without holding back for fear of the pain to come… 

But today, we cry and we hurt and we pray.

Father Found, Identity Now Missing.

A few years ago, my mom found out that her father wasn’t her father.   She and my uncle had taken a DNA test and it turned out he was her half-brother.

The relationship between my mom and grandma was already strained, so this bomb basically destroyed what little bit of communication still existed between them.  On the few occasions they did speak, it always resulted in my mom insisting on knowing who her real father is and my grandmother insisting that either the DNA results are wrong or the hospital gave her the wrong baby.

While this revelation tore my mom up inside, it didn’t affect me at all.   (Cue the stages of grief…)

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I had never known her father… my grandmother had remarried by the time I was born and I had always thought of my mother’s stepfather as my grandfather.  Even when my grandma divorced and remarried again, I considered her new husband my new grandfather.  (I’m pretty adaptable that way I guess.)

I barely let any of it bother me and continued on with my life.  After all, what did any of this have to do with me?

Whenever I visited either of them, I listened as my mom and grandma berated each other and recounted their side of the story over and over again.  Each defended themselves as if I was the judge & jury and they were trying to avoid the electric chair.  Still, it barely registered as a slight annoyance on my “things I’m going to stress about today” meter. meter down

Then the day came when I got this text:

Call me.  I have a dad.

Continue reading → Father Found, Identity Now Missing.

The Anger Management Experiment

In general, I’m a pretty quite person.   One of my best friend’s uncle nicknamed me “Mousy” because I’m too little and too quite.

I can spend an entire day not speaking to another living soul and be completely happy and content.  (Truthfully, I could do this for days and get a lot of reading, writing, knitting and work done.  It makes me feel accomplished and whole when I get to do all those things and bonus if I get to do it without interruption!)

Unfortunately, I can also be loud.  VERY LOUD!

My entire family is LOUD.  Which is something I never really noticed until I married my husband.  His entire family, including cousins, can fit into one room comfortably.

Mine can barely fit into one house.

And when we do, it’s sounds a bit like we could all use hearing aids.  We’re all trying to have conversations and be heard.  The volume goes up and up and up until children are covering their ears and neighbors are wondering if they should call the police.

We are not yelling at each other.

We are, however, speaking in upraised voices that force attention to the conversation and has been known, on occasion, to make babies cry.

This is normal.

It’s what we do.

How else are we going to be heard?

It’s a problem.

When I’m not heard in my little mousy tone, I get a little louder.  When I’m still not heard, I get even louder.  I continue to increase my volume until I feel I’m finally getting through and that’s the volume I stay at until I’m done saying what I need to say.

It scares my husband.

So I’ve decided to make a conscious effort to stop yelling and screaming to get his attention.

Great plan… no idea how to put it into motion.

We’re really caught in a cycle here.  It goes like this…

Me:  [Insert random thing] really hurts my feelings.

Husband:  [blank stare]

Me:  Seriously, I’m upset because [Insert random thing] really hurts my feelings.

Husband:  That’s stupid.

Me:  It’s not stupid, you’re not listening to me.  [Insert random thing] really hurts my feelings.

Husband.  Yeah, and that’s stupid.  Just stop feeling that way.

Me:  How can you say that to me?

Husband:  I love you.

Me:  I don’t feel loved because [Insert random thing] really hurts my feelings and you think it’s stupid.

Husband:  Well, that’s dumb.

Me:  You’re being a jerk.  I know it’s dumb to you, but it’s not to me.  I can’t just stop feeling that way and I need you to quit doing it.

Husband:  Okay.  I’m sorry, I won’t do it again.

Me:  Thank you.

Husband:  Can you not yell at me anymore?

Me:  You don’t listen until I start yelling.

That’s the basic format of our arguments.  The last one we had got really bad and my throat is still raw.

This is not healthy.  I know that.

And I don’t feel like an angry person, but after talking with another couple, I’ve realized that I definitely am.  I mean seriously, who isn’t automatically on the defensive when someone is raising their voice to them?  And even though I don’t feel angry when I first start raising my voice, I am by the time I’m done.

I have got to find another way to express myself.

I stayed up until 2 a.m. last night trying to figure out how I’m going to handle the next time I need him to hear me.  I still didn’t have it figured out when I woke up at 6.

I talked to my husband about it.  He had no idea and then he had to go to work.

This was me on the inside:

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Kinda the exact opposite of what I was going for…

So I got proactive and did what every normal person does these days…

I asked the Google fairies…

Apparently no one else on the planet has a problem with yelling at their spouse.  However, people yell at their kids A LOT!

Google has lots of suggestions for not yelling at your children.

While my husband and I can be pretty immature and act more like our kids ages than our own, I’m not so sure I want to approach my issue the same way Google tells me to deal with a child.

Or do I???

I found a site called the Orange Rhino challenge.  It’s a 365 day challenge to help mom’s stop yelling at their kids.

On it, there is a list of “Orange Rhino” Alternatives to Yelling.  It’s a list of 100 things you can do instead of yelling at your children.  I’ve decided to steal this list (or at least part of it since I don’t actually own any of the 50 Shades books and have no desire to) and try it on my husband the next time I feel like raising my voice.

If you don’t have time to take a look at the list, here are just a few of the things my husband has to look forward to:

  • The Hokey Pokey
  • Somersaults
  • Me banging my arms on my chest like a gorilla
  • Him being tickled
  • Me flushing my screams down the toilet

I figure I’ll either get his attention or he’ll put me in a psychiatric hospital.  Either way, it should be interesting… and fun… and much better for my throat!

Wish me luck and I’ll let you guys know how it goes!

 

Note to Self: You’re failing miserably at…

So I basically suck at blogging.

If you found this blog when I started it last summer, then you may have noticed that I went from posting almost daily to  being almost eerily silent.  You may have also noticed that I’ve occasionally changed a background or something, but haven’t bothered to even post a quick “hey y’all, how’s it goin’?” since November .

Of course, it’s more likely that you barely noticed I’ve been gone at all – much like the tabs on my page that I just discovered disappeared at some point during my tinkering.

Oh, before I forget…

Hey y’all!  How’s it goin’?  

And now back to our regularly scheduled blog post…

No excuses, no reason, I’m just failing at being a blogger.

It’s not for lack of trying, or for lack of something to say.  (I’ve always got something to say!)   It’s just that I can’t stay focused on writing a post.  I start, then stop to browse other themes, then start on a completely different post, then move on to whatever in my real life requires me.

The number of unfinished drafts I have saved on my laptop is actually a little embarrassing.

But it’s not just blogging.  I’m really starting to think I may be failing at life in general.  (Yep, that’s right — you get a grade for this life thing.)

So let’s start with the last thing I posted about…  NaNoWriMo.

I won!  YAY!  I didn’t fail at writing a novel in 30 days!  I’m so amazing…

After finishing the first draft of my novel in November, I tucked it safely away in it’s little Scrivener folder and moved on to my next unfinished project.

Much like this blog, I’ve visited my NaNo novel many times and even done some editing here and there…  but that’s as far as it’s gone.  At this rate, it might be ready for a first reader somewhere around the year 2040.

So “F” number #1 goes to…  failing miserably as a novelist.

Let’s move on to “F” number #2, shall we… Continue reading → Note to Self: You’re failing miserably at…