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

The Books That Got Me Through 2018

We’re coming up on the end of 2018 and I’ve been thinking a lot about all that’s happened this year…

My oldest daughter graduated from high school in May and went away to university in August.

My youngest daughter moved in with her father in August.

My husband and I had our first foster placement come into our home on December 1, 2017, and we said goodbye to them almost a year later, in November 2018. So I went from daily caring for 5 children in our home to 0, in what felt like overnight.

Throughout the year, my blood pressure continued to do what it does… go crazy high for no reason and make my husband (and sometimes the doctors) start preparing for my inevitable stroke.

And during all that, I thought the stress occurring both inside and outside our home was causing physical symptoms (my right arm would get weak, I couldn’t turn my head, a lot of pain). Last week, I found out that it’s not some sort of weird stress thing, it’s arthritis along with protrusions hitting my spinal nerves and cord. (We’ve already got a ton of medical bills so this was disturbing on multiple levels).

Basically, 2018 has been a crazy heavy year.

Friends, family and acquaintances are always asking how my husband and I are holding up. And while I really don’t mind them asking how we’re doing, my mom actually shared this with me on Facebook today, which I found hilarious…

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I’m actually not sure which is funnier though… the above FB post, or what happened the day the foster kids left…

I have red, puffy eyes and am wiping my nose (so it’s obvious I’ve been crying), when my husband asks “Are you okay?”

I looked at him like he had 4 heads. “Did you just ask me that?”

“Uh, yeah. Are you okay?”

To which I responded with something like “No, I’m not okay. I’m not going to be okay for a really long time and if you ask me if I’m okay again, you’re not going to be okay either.”

Now, any normal man with self-preservation skills would have seen the “You can’t win here, walk away or I’m gonna murder kill you” look in my eyes and given up. But not my husband. He’s a fixer. After 6 years together, he still hasn’t figured out that there are some things that can’t be fixed and he has to just let me be upset for a while… so he says… “Yeah, I know, but I can I get you anything?”

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A lot of violent responses went through my head at that moment… Thankfully, I went with the only one that wouldn’t require bail money.

“A box of wine.”

“I was gonna go to the store anyway. I’ll get you a bottle while I’m out.”

“No, a box. I’ve decided to give alcoholism a try and it’s going to require an entire box of wine to get a good start at it.”

Something you should know at this point… I’m not really a drinker and haven’t been since I was in my 20’s. The box of wine comment has been a joke between my husband and I for years now. I never actually want a box of wine, nor could I drink a box of wine on my own, but ya’ll…

He got me a BOX of wine to drink with dinner that evening!!

Anyway…

While I didn’t turn to a box of wine, I did turn to the one thing I’ve always counted on to deal with the real world – the fictional world!

So here are the books I read in 2018 that helped me escape, laugh, cry, and deal with all the feelings of this past year:

(You can click the titles of books I’ve reviewed to read my complete thoughts)
  1. The Bible.
    Yeah, I know, some of you just rolled your eyes and others are scrolling on down to the next book on the list, but it’s true. I’ve poured over more scripture in the last year than I have during any other year of my life, and it’s definitely been the most beneficial book to help me get through the year. It’s easy to blame God and get angry when we hurt, but I learned a lot about suffering, love, acceptance, and how to grieve without falling down my normal rabbit hole of despair. I also did a lot of reading plans through the YouVersion bible app, which was great. I recommend checking them out!
  2. Beneath the Same Heaven37795839-_sy180_You would think that as emotionally wrecked as this book left me I’d be upset that I chose 2018 to read it in, but no… I’m saying the opposite. Sometimes, escaping into a familiar world filled with pain, heartache, confusion, etc. of other people is just what the doctor ordered when you’re going through all that in your own life. Beneath the Same Heaven is one of the best books I’ve ever read and I wish everyone would read it!
  3. Auschwitz Lullaby 36576005
    This book was also incredibly emotional and had me crying so hard my husband tried to take it away from me! Seriously, I was an emotional mess the entire time I was reading it!
  4. Edge of the Known Bus Line
    Okay, you definitely have to have a certain kind of twisted humor to enjoy a book like this… Cannibalism, murder, cults – what’s not to find humorous, right?? Yeah, I probably laughed a little too much during this one, but it was needed. It’s a short and disturbing read that had me looking at the bus with fresh, slightly fearful eyes!
  5. the_irrationalist_coverThe Irrationalist.
    Just when you thought I only listed depressing, emotional, dark on this list, I give you… The Irrationalist! It’s comical in both it’s dry and not-so-dry humor. The main character, Adrien Baillet bumbles his way through much of the investigation into the murder of René Descartes and his suspects pretty much do the investigating for him. He learns a lot though and comes out a different person at the end, but it had me laughing through the whole book. (Plus, it taught me the word defenestrate… which I threaten to do all the time now!)
  6. Mammoth
    Another lighter, happier book got me through 2018 was Mammoth. It’s a young adult book about a girl with dreams of becoming a paleontologist who’s hero turns out to be someone completely different from who she thought he was. It’s a super fun read!

So those are the books that helped me get through some tough times in 2018. What was 2018 like for you? Do you have a “go-to” book (or 10) for when you’re having a hard time? Let me know in the comments section below!

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.

Why Fostering is EASY and the loving is hard…

Fostering is Easy.

My husband and I began our adventure into the crazy world that is the foster care system the end of last year. We received our first placement – a sibling set of newborn twins and a 1 year old – on December 1, 2017. A friend of mine came over about a month later. She and her husband had fostered for a couple of years and we were swapping stories of our limited experiences. (I’d only been at this for a month. She’d already tread these waters and survived to tell the tale.)

Our toddler was in meltdown mode. It was past her nap time and she had an audience… cue the Terrible Two’s. Every toy she saw seemed to require screaming, crying,  and arguing about (with no one in particular – an imaginary friend, maybe?) and me, trying to keep her from waking up the babies and have a conversation with my friend, all while maintaining a smile and still trying to keep my home in a somewhat non-pigsty type order. (There are seasoned foster parents laughing hysterically right now at my naivete… I did mention I was only a month in at this point, right?)

My friend then went all sage-ish on me and broke down the foster care system in 7 words. The sentence she spoke was tragic, enlightening, semi-freeing… and incredibly sad.

You don’t have to give her toys.

Huh?

I looked at her like she’d just informed me she’s dodging the feds and – should I ever need her – she’ll be hiding out in Mexico with her lesbian lover AND she’s not taking her precious baby boy because that’d be too inconvenient. (Yeah, it wasn’t a good look on me.)

Eventually, I got my mouth to form words again: Continue reading → Why Fostering is EASY and the loving is hard…

When God Made You – a review

Now that my girls are older, I rarely get the opportunity to read children’s books.

Okay, that’s a lie…

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Image found on Flickr, Linda Jordon

On occasion (aka not so occasionally), you can find me sitting in my library/sewing/writing/soon-to-be-bed room reading Dr. Seuss — out loud.  (Not sure what it says about me that there’s a room in my house with an identity crisis) (Also, in case you weren’t aware…  out loud is the ONLY acceptable way to read a Dr. Seuss book!)

Since my girls are now 17 and 12, there aren’t many children’s books that I’m even willing to read, let alone take the time to re-read over and over again.  (Other than Seuss, obviously.)

For a book to achieve such an honor in my currently WAY overloaded schedule, it has got to be phenomenal.  To be honest, I would have told you such a book did not exist.

Turns out, I was wrong (again). Continue reading → When God Made You – a review