Posted by: fosteringcare | February 13, 2011

Simply being available…

Breast Cancer survivors are a completely unique breed of human beings that I have had the privilege to discover these past two weeks.

 Once my diagnosis was “out”, I began to hear from everyone who has ever known somebody with cancer. Out of complete love and concern I was given names and phone numbers, emails and websites of people who would love to talk to me or answer any questions I had. Dumbfounded at the amount, I was beginning to feel like I wasn’t being gracious, or appreciative by not reaching out to them, but I had no clue what to say. I didn’t think I wanted to hear their stories because I had no clue where mine was headed.

Finding out the process others had to go through, or how their bodies responded to various treatments wasn’t going to give me any answers about what I would have to go through, or how my body would respond to any treatments. I did not want to fill my head with possibilities that might not be anywhere near the path I have to walk.

Usually when something tragic or really big has happened in my life and people find out, I have been hit with, “Oh, I KNOW! When I, (my aunt, neighbor, cousin, teacher) had to deal with that…” blah, blah, blah…sharing every possible horror story without regard of my desire to hear it or not. This has not been true with Breast Cancer.  It has been, “You know I had BC last year (3yrs, 10yrs, 20yrs) ago. If you ever want to talk, or have any questions, I am here.”  And they mean it. I have not been bombarded with useless details or TMI; in fact it has been the exact antithesis. Truly, just knowing they were out there and knowing they have survived was good enough for me.

Or so I thought.

Absolute understanding of the need to process and not be invaded upon, while expressing empathy and willingness to simply be available must be an undocumented side-effect of Breast Cancer. Wisdom coupled with patience created the perfect environment for when I was ready to reach out.

The last three days I have encountered various amounts of “new to me” information. Information about procedures, treatments, recoveries and side-effects, information that I didn’t know I wanted to know. Suddenly I wanted to talk. I wanted reassurance from somebody that had to keep living their daily life, knowing they had cancer inside of them and could do nothing or make any decisions about it until they were given more information that wasn’t really enough information at all! Questions were formed from somewhere deep inside of me; about things I could only ask someone who had lived it. And there they were, at Wal-Mart, in the mail, in a message in my Facebook, on the other end of my phone (when I initiated the call), ready and willing to simply be available to me.

In my life, I have met a vast and varied cast of characters, but none have ever had the grace, compassion and wisdom as Breast Cancer survivors.

Posted by: fosteringcare | February 10, 2011

The New Journey…for Now.

 I was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma Grade two, two weeks ago. Next week is my surgery, and so I figured I would take you along my journey.  My “journey”; this is what I’ve chosen to call it until I can come up with a word I feel encompasses the enormity of all that IS my journey.

People keep asking how I’m doing. I think I have been mostly answering “Strangely peaceful”, although I’m not sure which word has the most emphasis, “strangely”, or “peaceful”. Right now and for the vast majority of the past two weeks, I have been peaceful. Not that there hasn’t been moments of unrest, there has, I simply can’t explain the underlying peace, nor do I believe that people really want to hear it.

Pictures of a sniveling lost woman, with haunted, fear-filled eyes, looking for anyone to grab onto for strength is what I think people have conjured up in their minds, and I almost feel badly robbing them of that. It simply isn’t me.

Since an explanation of my peace in any way, shape or form that might be comprehensible to those who are asking, evades me, I believe I add the “Strangely” to my “Peaceful” to sound more “normal”. It’s like this, if I’m too peaceful then people think I am still in some stage of denial, if I’m freaked out then they think me with pity. So, saying “Strangely peaceful” gives the impression that I didn’t expect the peace, and that it definitely isn’t “normal”, but here it is, “Isn’t that STRANGE?”  Honestly a little bit of some false humility is wrapped up in there too, because all the while I’m letting them know, “Hey, I’m doing pretty darn well, if I do say so myself!”  

Granted, I am also not ignorant to the fact that I am only two weeks into my Breast Cancer diagnosis. I’m sure there’s a chart somewhere with the timeline my emotions are supposed to follow, and who knows, maybe I am exactly where we all are “supposed” to be at two weeks in! The thing is, I have never been a very good follower and I wouldn’t exactly say leader either. I am simply me, doing my own thing in and out of the followers and the leaders, usually with a few strong, brave souls who have also been inspired to do their own thing amongst the masses. It’s a very freeing, peaceful way to be. So who does know whether or not my emotions and feelings are chugging right along that expect timeline? I don’t really care. This is where I am right now.

Some things I do know are;

I have Breast Cancer.

I will do what needs to be done, go through what I need to go through and still be me when it’s over.

I know I have absolutely amazing people intentionally placed in my life from every possible area of my life.

I know I have a God that doesn’t leave me alone in the hard places, and will not leave me alone now.

Those facts bring me peace. I guess in this world that is being “Strangely peaceful”.

Posted by: fosteringcare | February 10, 2011

Back from Blog break, but so much to share.

This is now going to take a side-track off of the Foster Care track, and Jump clear over the tracks to my 2 week old Breast Cancer Diagnosis. Feel free to follow along on this Journey.

Posted by: fosteringcare | August 3, 2010

“Re-uniting” Families…Lofty Goal

We never will know the extent to which we impact a child’s life for good or evil.         

           Briefly mentioned in an earlier post, we did have one little girl who was being fought over in a custody battle.  As much as we liked the scenario of a child being so loved that her parents were fighting over her, there is no such thing as a “happy” scenario for a child who is taking from her home and put into foster care. First of all, since she was brought to us, that meant there was not one single other family member that was able or willing to take her in, and two, the courts will usually issue “temporary” custody with one parent until the court date. Since there was no temporary custody granted…there must have been some very serious issues going on. Instead, the Judge sought a place other than with one of her parents, that he felt was safer for the precious little girl, a sad revelation.

          She was a tiny, waife-like little girl who looked as if her shoes actually were keeping her on the ground. Pale and wispy, white-blonde hair, with huge blue eyes framed by the dark circles of her glasses. Once inside our home, she looked up at us and slowly blinked, which is how she blinked every time, as if it were not an involuntary response…slow and deliberate…B-L-I-N-K. My entire family noticed her resemblance to my young childhood appearance, it was strangely uncanny, but I do not recall a single person ever thinking that I might float up into the sky the way her little presence threatened to do at any moment. Picking her up and holding her seemed to be the most natural thing to do. Even though she was six, her diminutive stature and timid behavior gave the illusion that she was much younger and needed protection. Her classmates at school thought so too and were constantly reminded that she was their age and did not need to be carried everywhere. Giggling in her hight-pitched fairy laugh, she begged to be tickled and we complied if only to see the change of her countenance when a smile erupted over her face. Sadness was the emotion conveyed most often throughout her stay with us, those huge, blue, blinking eyes just staring at us, answering every question with “I don’t know”, B-L-I-N-K. 

          She never spoke about her life before us, giving away secrets or insight to how and why she came into care like most other foster siblings had. Her young, tender heart was so protected or hidden away, any fear or desire for either parent, was not expressed and we had no idea who to “root” for. State mandated visits were enforced every weekend. Each weekend she would spend the day with the opposite parent of the weekend before. She came home from those visits with presents and trinkets from whatever it was they had done, but she never cried when they left. That still haunts me. Those blinking eyes would look up and simply say,”Bye Mommy”, or “Bye Daddy”, and that was it.  Court dates came and went for both parents, either proving the things they had accomplished towards being a “fit” parent, or being reprimanded for what they had not done. If I recall correctly, one parent had drugs involved in their life and the other was not mentally stable. When we found that out those details we were hoping she would become one of the more permanent foster children. That was not to be.

          The entire purpose of  Child Protective Services is to re-unite families. Although that sounds like a lofty goal, years and years of following-up with various foster siblings and from my later life experiences, I have seen first-hand that re-uniting is not always in the best interest of the child, no matter how it looks on paper! After only two or three months, a parent was chosen for her. I honestly do not recall which one it was, but to my family there was not going to be a “right” choice. They packed her up after Christmas and off she went to live with her parent. I have no clue as to what ever became of her, but I like to think that in the memory of her little 6-year-old mind, she can feel laughter and love and being held and tickled, and that it made a difference in her life.

Posted by: fosteringcare | July 30, 2010

Continuation Tomorrow…

This week has been extreemly full…I will be continuing the “story” tomorrow, so no worries, I have note left it on the wayside as I have many other projects!

Posted by: fosteringcare | July 27, 2010

The Letter

          All of the conflicting emotions I had been ignoring, telling myself they were unreasonable, were finally bubbling to the surface. I honestly don’t remember what had caused my parents to call a “family meeting” that night, but I do remember the anger welling up in me as we began. When one of my foster sisters said something about being tired of me telling her what to do, that was the proverbial straw, I was done.  Never having given my true feelings a voice, there on the brink of erupting, I could not find the words for anything that was going through my head. Sobbing, I ran from the dining room table, grabbed my notebook and purse and left for my babysitting job two hours early. Since my job was right around the corner I walked down the street, sat on the curb and started to write my parents a letter. I poured out everything, three years of everything. I began by making sure they knew that I understood the value of our being a foster family, how blessed we were to not have had to live through what they had and was thankful for the differences we had made in kids lives. Then I went on to pour out the hurt in my heart. All the mixed-up, pent-up emotions were finally released. Twelve pages later, I was purged. My parents, on the other hand, were just realizing the extent of how deeply things were really affecting me. I got home, left the letter on the counter for them, and went to bed.

          By this time, my mother had become a “foster parent trainer” and taught some of the classes for prospective foster families. After reading my letter and having some pretty deep, heart to heart talks about it with me, she realized that this needed to be addressed during the training process. Parents needed to know beforehand some of the possible feelings their birth children could have in response to long-term placements. She asked my permission to read the letter during class and then began having me come with her to answer their questions. Hearing my letter and hearing my answers seemed to encourage the families in training to discuss more deeply the impact it would have on their own children. Focussing not only how much they’d be helping a foster child, but on the sacrifices and emotions that would come while they stayed with them. Acknowledging that at some point everyone involved would feel resentment and would wonder if they made the right choice when they opened their home. Possibly preparing  them a little more by making sure they knew that those feelings were normal and ok. I truly enjoyed speaking to the classes and answering the questions, but still the foster sisters came, and with each one, a whole new set of issues and emotions.

Posted by: fosteringcare | July 26, 2010

All is Fair…or Not…

          When we begin to belittle our own feelings, we lose the capability to truly know how we feel.

           Normal, teenage behavior, personality differences and living in a house with five children would have been a difficult enough road to navigate without the added pressure I put on myself to uphold the “perfect” image I thought I had. I assumed that since I had been spared the horrors of living through abuse, I should be completely happy, content and grateful all the time, so when I would get mad or annoyed at anything my foster siblings did, it felt like there was something wrong with me. Somehow I began to belittle the fact that I was a human being with my own emotions and issues, constantly comparing my “problems” with what they had been through. Since there was really no comparison, I believed my feelings were invalid.  As I was creating this paradox of emotions within myself, another foster-sister was brought into the mix, and although it did allow me to regain my own bedroom, it also ended up triggering my melt-down.

          One thing my parents were amazing at was making any child that came to us feel as though they were truly part of our family. No matter how long they stayed, a day, a week, a month or years, my mother’s deepest desire was that  they believed there was something different out there, that not every family was like what they had been born into. My parents were as “fair” as they could be, expecting all of us to do chores, and do our part as a family. The longer the girls stayed, the more comfortable they became, truly blending, as if we had always been sisters. The thing was, they weren’t…not really. I already did have a sister from birth, and a strange thing about birth siblings is that you have no underlying guilt about their past, which frees you up to fight and scream and throw fits about things not being fair. Complaining about my foster sisters made me feel like an ungrateful, selfish brat. When my birth sister would have an attitude about a chore, did it half-way, or talked back to our parents…that felt normal. When my foster sisters did the same…it made me furious. The unrealistic ideal I had for myself, being happy, content and grateful all the time, I had inadvertently put upon them for the exact opposite reasons. Since they were “saved” from their former lives,(as opposed to being “spared” like I had been) and given a safe place to live, with clothes, food, shelter and lots of extras, THEY should be happy, content and grateful all the time. What unattainable expectations I had for all of us, I just didn’t know it. To me it simply felt wrong.

Posted by: fosteringcare | July 24, 2010

Churning Emotions

When a foster family says “Yes” to taking a teenager, they stamp your file “Sucker” and send them all to you! 🙂

          Nobody realized it at the time, but we found our “calling” when we said yes to taking a 13-year-old girl as our next foster child. She began the trend for the next ten years of teenage girls coming and going through our home.

           Being a very…shall I say…outgoing child, the thought of having another girl close-ish to my age was wonderful. I was more than willing to share my room, imagining the fun and late-night talks we would have, a little bit unsure of what she would be like and if we would get along. When she was brought to us, she came with a big, black trash bag and her school backpack. That was it.  A social worker had picked her up from school, made a 10 minute stop at her house to let her grab a few things and came directly to our house. I’m sure she would have packed her backpack differently that morning if she had known what was going to happen. Later sitting in my room, she began to explain to me why she had to leave her home, that day. For whatever reason, she was finally able to tell a teacher that her father had been sexually abusing her and that her parents were using drugs. Of course the teacher reported it to the counsellor, and the Division of Youth and Family Services was called, before the end of the school day they came for her. Never had I known someone who had been sexually abused, or at least I didn’t KNOW they were, it was not talked about, yet here in my bedroom was this real-life girl, telling me the details of her experiences. My world was officially rocked.

          Processing the information I was given was almost impossible, my brain could not wrap around it all. That was when the guilt would come creeping in again…my life had been so “good”, hers had been so “bad”, I didn’t know what to do with that. She wore my clothes the next day since she hadn’t brought many, and she was enrolled in “my” school. My friends became her friends until she met new ones and my youth groups also became hers. We did get along most of the time, we did have fun and have many late-night talks, but as the weeks once again turned into months, my conflicting emotions churned up once more. Part of the problem was that everyone was constantly telling me how incredible my family was for doing this, for taking these children into our home. They were so impressed by my unselfishness and outwardly, I was. Logically, in my head, I knew this was a good thing, we were providing a safe place for her however long was needed…she had literally been through Hell, but in my heart I began to resent that she had invaded my life.

Posted by: fosteringcare | July 23, 2010

No more Brady Bunch…

  “You have to have a license to drive a car, but only have to have a uterus to have a baby.” 

             So many variations of that thought have been created and repeated that it almost becomes benign, that is… until somebody walks into your house with some of those “babies”. A lanky, bright red-headed, nine-year old boy, with an endearing smile and the charm of a politician came through our door first, followed by the case worker who held his eleven month old, precious little brother in her arms. Knowing how old he was, it was obvious that he was tiny for his age. Head full of curls, huge brown eyes and a very serious little face, he took us all in. Putting faces to the story I had been told about their life, was unreal. I could no longer go about in my Brady Bunch world, immune to the horrors some children have to endure, my young tender heart was bruised a little that day, but I was ready for us to “save” them, to be heros. All of the training, was about to be put to use, finally we had a “placement”, children that needed us! I had no clue how badly they really did need us. 

           No matter how much training you go to, or how many books you have read, it cannot prepare you for actually having a child taken from their home and everything they’ve known, and brought to you. All you know is what’s in their “file”, what’s been reported…you slowly come to learn so much more. The baby did not cry tears. No tears. He would begin to cry, face contorted, no tears coming from his eyes and then proceed to hold his breath and pass out.  The first time he did this, his brother casually said, “Oh, that’s just what he does”, my mother nearly passed out with him.  What was so horrible in his short 11 months that his only defense mechanism was to make himself pass out?  We would never know, but offhanded comments, randomly mentioned at no particularly special times by his brother, gave stark insight to the everyday existence of what was not reported.

             Apparently this was not going to be a temporary, emergency placement as we had planned. The boys stayed for weeks, which turned into months, which turned into a year (for the little guy it turned into forever).  Excitement of having them in my life quickly grew into a less-exciting reality as the months went by. My “tender” heart became annoyed at having another obnoxious boy (like my blood-brother) around 24/7. The baby was adorable and not really an issue for me, but I thought that the 9 yr. old should be more grateful, not fighting with my brother or having an attitude with my parents… I mean REALLY, did he forget what we were doing for him?! What we saved him from?!?  Oh how fast my bleeding heart dried up when things weren’t easy, or fun or when they cost me something I considered a sacrifice. Guilt became a running theme in my mind. I felt guilty because he had such a horrific life which wasn’t his fault, and a lot of his behaviors were a direct result of that, yet I was still so mad at him for how he was behaving! Reconciling those two facts was an impossible feat, so I floundered between telling myself it wasn’t his fault and being furious at him. Not much fun. That was when I realized how huge this fostering thing was. It was going to consume my life, every part of it would be affected and it would not all be in a positive way.

 

 

         .

Posted by: fosteringcare | July 22, 2010

Breaking the “Rules”

One of the unwritten rules of foster care is that you should not take any children older than your youngest child.

            There are many reasons for this rule and that is what my parents had decided. We were an “Emergency Placement” home, which meant that we would take children immediately from “removal” until they were able to find a permanent foster home…and since my brother was 7, none older than 7.  Well, that first call for a sibling group was about two brothers, one was 11 months old and the other 9. We broke the rule. We said yes. What happens is that you hear their stories and your heart breaks and you think,”How in the world could we not take them? We have so much to offer.”  Your broken heart takes over and all of the logical reasons for “suggested rules” fly out the window. Bringing those boys into our home, our family was my initial reality-check about the reasons children are placed in foster care.

           My mother liked to say her dream was that children in foster care would either be so loved by two divorcing parents and they needed a place to stay until custody was decided, or that their mother was in the hospital, dying, and they needed a place to stay until she decided who would adopt her children.  Actually I know we did have one little girl placed with us once whose parents were in a custody battle, but that was one in 10 years. Reality is always far off the mark of our ideals and dreams. These little boys showed me that for the first time.  While their mother was out at bars or with boyfriends, the 9 yr. old was doing his best to take care of the baby…for a year.  When the social worker arrived, there was no food in the house, the baby was in his crib with a days old diaper and roaches, and he had Pepsi in his bottle. Shocking, utterly shocking.  In my Brady-Bunch world, things like that did not happen. Those things were not even on the “After School Specials” on TV. Little did I know that my Brady-Bunch world in the next few years was going to be blown wide open with a reality that I could not ever have imagined, even in my worst nightmares.

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