Noted

Well, that backfired. Instead of being appreciative of the letter I sent, we were told today not to speak with their mom. Even though we were just encouraged to “make nice” so we could see them after they go home for good. 

I don’t fucking get it. We’re wrong either way. I’m so sick of watching kids get further victimized while their piece of shit parents get coddled. I’m so sick of being treated like a doormat. Not appreciated. Not taken seriously. Why are we even here??? 

And I’m not just talking about the bio parents in this situation. I’m venting here, so don’t go on about the poor parents or the people on the case being overloaded with work because even though those two statements can be true, it’s no excuse for treating foster parents like they are insignificant. Further, it’s no excuse to let these kids suffer because nobody gives a damn about what’s truly best for them.

The amount of times they have overlooked major shit just floors me. You wanna break the law? Suuuuure, go right ahead. What further irritates me is that there’s an entire group of people bending over backwards and going through stress and heartache because ONE person got their kids taken away, yet that ONE person isn’t mature enough to comprehend that we’re all bending over and taking it for HER benefit. 

How nice of her to sit there and piss and moan about how the entire world is against her, yet everyone in her world is fighting for what’s hers! Fighting for her to have something back she should have never lost in the first goddamn place! 

Honest to God, if you don’t agree with me or can’t understand my frustration please don’t comment. I’m coming unglued in my writing so I can stay put together in the rest of my world. Don’t use my safe place as a way to redirect me. I need these words left here so I don’t speak them into the air. 

xo,

a

Slumber Party

Our littles are about to leave us until tomorrow night. In fact, by the time you read this they’ll be gone. It’s their first overnight visit with their mom. We’re excited for her to have this experience. If I’m putting myself in her shoes, I can only imagine that she can’t wait for them to get there. She has never put them to bed. We know she’s been waiting a very long time for this. 

I wrote their mom a note and gave her a few pointers as to what the bedtime routine has been here. I know she may choose to burn the letter and do it her own way, and that’s her choice, but when it comes down to it, it benefits everyone if she knows what works for them. She can and should put her own spin on it and I’m sure she will. 

I went to T-Mobile last night to add a phone line to our plan so she can call us on that phone anytime she needs to. I realize that phone may never ever ring but I want her to have a little piece of mind knowing she has someone if it ever gets too hard, and don’t we all need that as parents? Someone to call when we just need a break. And if I’m being honest, it fulfills our selfish need to know she has a way to contact us now or later if she ever needs us. 

Trust me, it would have been easier to be petty and not write the note. Not get the cell phone. Alas, we did it because we know it’ll make this a little bit easier for them. As much of a struggle as this has been, we are trying to accept this. Don’t get me wrong, we’re nowhere near acceptance but we’re working on it. We’re doing our best. That’s all we can do right now. It’s a good start. 

Our hearts are sinking a little bit but we know they need this experience, and so do we. We don’t want them to go, but we know it’s part of their inevitable transition and we need to work through this…as painful as it may be. Here goes…

xo,

a

Hollowed Out

I have been searching for the words to help people understand the devastating pain we are in but I come up short. Every piece of us has gone to the girls and the tiny bit that is left of us will go home with them. We will be a shell of a person. Empty. Hollowed out. Nothing left inside.

Foster care is tricky because there’s always that “maybe” they’ll stay with you, so you risk everything and go for it and it hurts like nothing that can ever adequately be described when it doesn’t work out. You need a thick skin and a soft heart. Talk about extreme vulnerability. 

Foster parents are expected to be A+ parents while their biological parent(s) can get by with being a D parent. We are under the microscope constantly. There’s half a dozen people to have to check in with or notify when there’s a doctors appointment or you want to take them to Seattle for the day. 

We become the bad guy, the ones that stole your kids from you, the ones that get a say over your kids life. We’re the ones “doing it for the money” or because we ourselves want to abuse children not our own. These are just some of the things we’ve heard. Couldn’t be further from the truth. 

The truth is, we get no say in any of this. They plop those kids on our door with a bag of clothes, their trauma, and little to no further information from that point. What do you do? You look at them and love their little faces because that’s what they need. You give them a voice. You fight a battle you’re not prepared to fight. You empty yourself out and it is exhausting. 

I realized tonight that I’d rather go through the heartbreak and rejection process that separated me and my dad than feel this pain. This shattering, devastating pain. The pain that says to me, “You can’t do this.” It’s true. I can’t. Yes, we will get through this because we have no choice but to, but as for owning any additional strength – that waved goodbye long ago. 

My poor Mitch, he’s familiar with this pain. He has said it hurts like when his mom suddenly passed away. The tragedy in his eyes when he tells me that shifts my energy in such a way that it freezes my body from being able to fluidly hug him. I feel rigid and cold as I try to hold back my utter heartache for him. Inside, I’m crashing to my knees and drowning in an ocean of my own tears for him.

As much as I believe I simply cannot come back from this, there’s a microscopic twinge in the deepest, darkest corner of my broken heart that says that there’s a little nugget out there waiting for Mitch and I to be (his?) parents. If I quit after the girls go home, will I miss the chance to be the mom of the most incredible son ever? But what if I stick to my guns and realize that Mitch and I need a break to reprioritize our own lives. Those girls walked in the door and all traces of previous Mitch and Aubrey disappeared and we became unrecognizable people with a life we couldn’t have imagined. 

I just don’t know. I really don’t. I’m so scared. Truly terrified for that quickly approaching date to come. The day their mom, who hates us, will gleefully have her family back together after almost 2 years. The day we heartbreakingly go from having a family to having nothing but a quiet house, toys that won’t be played with and smells of our sweet girls all around us, yet they will be nowhere to be seen, hugged, cuddled, and kissed. The day our spirits will be undeniably broken. 

xo,

a

The End of Week 2

So it’s the end of my second week at my new job. You can read about where I work here. I’m the assistant to the Chief of Resident Treatment. Basically, my boss oversees all of the clinicians at the facility. Because she has a big job, I have a big job. I have quite a few different areas I’m responsible for and it’s nothing like I have ever done before. I really like it!

My Criminal Justice degree is finally being used and the extra work I put in to earn my specialization in violent offenders is paying off, as I knew it would. The fact that I can carry on an informed and educated conversation with people who carry a PhD makes me feel really good about myself, but the fact that I have an understanding of the resident population that I work with makes me feel like it was all worth it. When I was in school, there were a lot of late nights and early mornings, many sacrifices, and it was all worth it. It’s exciting to know I still have the opportunity to learn a lot and I’m loving the work, so far.

I’ve heard a lot of people say that they hate the commute. Admittedly, it’s not the most convenient route to work but it’s not as terrible as I feel like it would be to drive to Seattle every day. You have to make sure you’re at the Steilacoom Ferry dock, parked,through the security checkpoint at the dock house, and on the boat by 7:20 AM or else you’re going to wait two more hours for the next boat to come. Our boat only carries McNeil Island employees to/from the island. We don’t pay for parking or the ride over since it’s owned by the facility itself, which is nice because that would add up quickly! Personally, I enjoy the ride over to the island. The water is beautiful and I get to watch the seals, see the porpoises jumping in and out of the water, and if you’re lucky, you get to see the bald eagle. I use the boat ride home as a way to leave all of the “icky” stuff I might hear, see, or read about at work behind. The distance between the island to the mainland is plenty of time to let my day drift off of me so I don’t get burnt out by what could become challenging.

Other than the obvious, one of the unique situations is that you can’t have your phone on you at all. I have to leave mine in my car, so I don’t see or hear from anyone till I get to my car at 4:45 PM. Then I have to drive about 30 minutes home. So I’m seeing 97 Facebook notifications, 29 texts, 3 missed calls, 2 voicemails, 7 Snapchat notifications, and God only knows what else popping up on my phone. I have to admit, it’s kinda like Christmas to see all of that at the end of the day. Even more, I’ve noticed how nice it is to not be distracted by a phone at work all day. And in a place like that, you need to remain alert.

Overall, I think I’m feeling positive about things. I like the people I work with and they seem to like me, I know I can learn and grow professionally there, and I get to be on the water twice a day. For me, that’s a treat, but I’m told will wear off – we’ll see about that. So many of you have been curious to know how things have been going so I thought I’d make it easier to send out a blog post to update everyone. I would love to hear your questions since I didn’t really get into specifics. I’ll answer anything I’m allowed to. Thanks for reading!

xo,

a

 

The Day That Broke My Spirit – Part 1

Become a foster parent, they said. Change a child’s life, they said. It’ll be an amazing experience, they said. 

I guess I don’t really know where to begin. I’m having a tough time sorting things out in my mind. My crazy, argumentative, advocating, envelope pushing mind. The mind that is so confused. The mind that keeps asking, “why?” Our job as foster parents is to love the child, care for the child, protect the child, and give the child a voice. Until it isn’t your job anymore. It becomes not your job when being told the kids are going home. It becomes not your job when you’ve provided piece after piece of concerning documentation that seems to fall upon deaf ears. At that point, you’re harshly reminded that your “job” is to lay down on your back, look up at the sky, and watch it crash down on you – and be okay with that happening. I think it’s safe to say that we are failures at the latter part of our job.

I said to Mitch last night, “I’ve never been so exhausted, yet so determined to keep fighting in all my life.” The email came through this afternoon and I got it just before I drove home from work. The date of their return home has been given to us. Hence, the title of this blog post: The Day That Broke My Spirit – Part 1. As you can imagine, part 2 will come in about 6 weeks. I’m going to keep the date to myself because I don’t want to acknowledge it, but the gigantic, choking lump in my throat tells me that my heart is already a swirling fester of sadness. My eyes are welling up and I’m trying so hard to keep the tears from spilling over the edge. I am not successful.

For the first half of the girls being in our home, we were supportive and understanding of their return home. Don’t get me wrong – we weren’t going to throw a celebration, but we acknowledged how wonderful it will be for their little family to be back together. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen atrocious behaviors develop into bigger and bigger parental deficiencies, we can no longer support the transition home. As noted in the beginning of this blog, our opinion doesn’t matter. We feel used up and spit out. The depths that our sorrows are reaching go far deeper than we realized we had within us. The idea of losing the most precious gift we’ve ever had in our lives is unfathomable. Imagine, for just a moment, what it would be like to have to give your kids away and never hear or see them again. I know some of you know this feeling. For those of you without kids, think of the person you love more than anything in this world. All of the memories, love, ups and downs, everything – gone. Forever. 

I literally physically ache when the idea of them going home forever comes to mind. It hurts so deep and so bad. I have never experienced pain like this before. When the emotions hit my body I feel like a porcupine – swiftly exposing my quills in order to protect myself from thoughts or feelings of them leaving. I can physically feel this. God, I wish I could describe to you how strongly I feel what I’m writing. Being unable to eloquently express my grief is frustrating. I feel like crawling into a dark hole and never coming out. I feel like just being angry because the world is unfair. I feel like even if I lost my shit completely it still wouldn’t get it all out. The ache that is lurking deep down will remain in that spot forever.

How do you love something so hard and be okay with letting it walk away? Those tiny little steps we helped them learn to make teetering off in the direction opposite of us. Can you not feel one tiny shred of our pain? I’m sure you can because so many of you have been invested in us and our unorthodox family since the day we announced we were going to become foster parents, since the day we got our girls, since the day we made the first post of their faces, since every milestone, since the beginning you’ve been there. Right there along with us trying to understand our story, encouraging us, celebrating with us, and now, feeling sad for us. If you say something nice and we don’t respond in the way you are hoping us to, please do not take it personally. The truth is that nothing is going to make us feel better right now. We are inconsolable at this point and I’m honestly scared to death of the day they finally go home. Forever. What will that be like? What will we be like?

Thank you for sharing this with us. We know that you didn’t sign up for the emotional mess that we are, but you’ve stuck with us and many of you have been so understanding. We’ve noticed, even if we didn’t say so, and we should have. Please just keep our little family in your thoughts. We’ve made a life together. We love kids that aren’t ours to love.

xo,

a

You Are Always On My Mind

I feel like talking about my dad today.

I think I have to point out that he was a good provider when he wanted to be. We had nice things like music and movies, which is where Luke and I get much of our interest in it from, my mom always had a neck and fingers full of nice jewelry, we had nice vehicles, we lived in nice places. All of that being said, it came at a cost.

My dad was the kind of guy that was the life of the party. Funny, a good entertainer, and vivacious. People were drawn to him in every arena and he was always the one ready to party and have a good time. The problem was that he never knew the fine line between fun and fury. As grand as he was is as atrocious as he was. He was a Jekyll and Hyde of the drug and alcohol world. He was vicious.

My dad has had several wives and there are six of us kids all spread out between the marriages. Not a one of us has a close relationship with him. That wasn’t always the case, though, as I spent many of my fragile childhood and young adult years putting his needs in front of mine. I fostered his demand for acceptance, love, and encouragement well beyond the call of duty, especially for a child. I spent well over a decade trying my best to instill the love I had for him that I could only wish he had given me. It was never enough and for a long, long time it made me believe that I was not enough.

Experiencing rejection from a parent is an incomprehensible blow to a child of any age but as a young girl who desperately wanted her father’s approval, it completely broke my spirit. To watch him replace me with his insatiable thirst for a world I couldn’t understand, yet hated, shattered my expectations of ever having a normal relationship with him. Drugs became his new wife; alcohol became his new children; addiction his new career. His soul was a vagabond on the precipice of defeat more often than not. There has always been a good person underneath those layers of skin that hold his hatred, shame, and guilt like a cloak of failure.

I cringe when I hear the phrase, “I’m just going to sit this one out…” because that’s what he told me when I was two weeks away from my wedding day. After having spoken to him about the most important day of my life and making plans for over a year, he had promised me he’d be there. I foolishly believed that he would be but he wasn’t. It was then that I knew I could no longer allow my father to hurt me. I was about to start a new life as a married woman and I refused to allow the turmoil my dad poured all over my fragile heart for the first quarter century of my life affect my marriage. So when the phone rang the morning of my wedding day with the word “Dad” across the screen, I simply ignored the call and that was that. Easy? No. Necessary? Absolutely. Regretful? Never.

I had to realize that I have to be OK even if he is not. I have to make good choices even though he has chosen not to. I have to parent our kids in the ways that he chose not to. I refuse to be the insufficient source of love, protection, and acceptance that I was aching for as a child and sometimes even today. Walking away from a parent is not easy. The comments that have been made to me are bewildering. As if I hadn’t already thought about the repercussions of living a fatherless life would bring.

This hurts me every. single. day. Especially at times where I wish he was here, like right now as we struggle with the idea of sending our girls home to their mom. And speaking of mom’s…how unfair is it that my mom has had to shoulder the weight of two kids and two parents? Did they not create this family together? Why should she have to be the one left standing? It doesn’t seem fair. She has experienced her own trauma at the hands of a man who could be so loving, yet so damaging. What a toxic and confusing way to live. It was awful.

Today, I am free from my dad’s presence but I am not always free of his emotional stronghold. All I can do is keep moving forward and reminding myself of the exceptional reasons I choose to live and be happy. I wish I could have seen him do the same. What a sight he would have been.

xo,

a

Pushing Through 

Violent. Sexual. Predators. 
The interview offer came yesterday and the interview was today. I reluctantly accepted after misinterpreting my own boundaries. I was nervous all day yesterday, had nightmares last night, and was terrified today.

I went anyway.

The interview was out on McNeil Island where there used to be a prison. Technically, the prison is still there but it isn’t being used but if you go on the north side of the island you’ll find their compound that houses violent and non violent sexual offenders that have completed their prison time and are being further screened to be sure they are ready to return to civilized society.

Having been a sexual assault victim, I believe I had every right to feel terror about going. Nobody knows what I live with on a day to day basis and I sure as hell wouldn’t want them to. So why go? Trust me, the idea rolled around in the pit of my stomach since the original interview offer came through. Some said I should strongly consider not going, some couldn’t understand why I was scared to go. And then there was my opinion. The only opinion that mattered.

I went because if I let myself cower down then the men that did (or tried) to take advantage of my body still win. I went because I have a degree in Criminal Justice with a specialized focus in Violent Offenders that I spent years of late nights busting my ass to graduate with honors from. I went because it was my way of winning; my way of saying, “Fuck you for the anguish you have brought upon my body, mind, and spirit.” I went because it was my chance to have a say in things. I went because I owed myself the privilege of getting to tour an intriguing and secluded location that many wonder about but few understand.

I was a bit of a mess as I got to the dock to ride the boat. I fumbled through getting my visitors pass. My mouth was dry and my eyes bulged. I smoothed my hair about 10 trillion times. Finally, we set sail and it was a beautiful ride across the Puget Sound. I think it calmed me as I have always been drawn to the water. The more time I spent on the island, the more at ease I was. I needed to see what it was like in order to make an educated decision as to whether or not this was somewhere I would want to work every day. I needed to go for me.

xo,

a