Monday, December 26, 2011

Foster Girl

Another day, another place. Strange smells, strange sounds. New faces, new rules. Of course they’re happy to have me. Excited, even, at the prospect of something new.

I’m not. I’ve run out of faith. I’m too tired to be excited, and I don’t have the strength to hope. Some would say I’m too young to be this old. I’m thirteen.

I can remember being excited like they are now. Hoping, believing that somehow this place would be different. That this would be the one. I’ve lived in 25 houses in the last 6 years. One time it was different, and I was happy. My strength to hope was renewed. That stay lasted 8 months, and when I left I cried more than I did leaving home for the first time.

There are two types of people that make up ninety-nine percent of all foster parents. The one type of parent opens their home and heart to do a good deed. They want to be good people, and they figure if they take care of one of us “unfortunate children” it somehow secures them a spot in heaven. Being classified as unfortunate before I even enter the house doesn’t help my attitude.

Sure, I have a rotten lot in life, but I do still have my pride! (Which in all honesty is the cause of many short stays in my past.) All any kid ever wanted is to be normal. I’m a foster kid, for goodness sakes! I'm not wounded, maimed, handicapped or made of china!

The other parent is almost more tolerable, because at least they’re honest with me about why I’m there. My stay pays their rent check. And their grocery bill. And anything else they need, or think they need.

I can hardly remember my mom. I’m told I haven’t seen her since I was 4. That doesn’t mean I don’t wonder about her everyday. I can't tell if my memories are my own or things I've been told. Some days I think she must be a phantom of my imagination. I close my eyes and try to remember what she smelled like. Rose perfume, stale cigarettes and something else... something I can't identify.

My Dad was in prison when I was born. I’ve never met him. I lived with my Aunt until I was 7, and was taken away. Since then I’ve been in and out of group homes and 25 other houses. My shortest stay was 8 hours. With the exception of that one place I stayed for 8 months, every one was a bad memory. You’d think that after 6 years they’d all start running together, but that hasn’t been my experience.

Well, that’s neither here nor there (I don’t remember where I picked up that line, but I kinda like it.) and the social worker is here to pick me up.

I forgot to tell you. I’m in a group home again. I’ve been here for a week waiting for another placement. My last foster family was all picked up by the police during one late night party.

Ms Casey walks up to me with the same tired smile, the same faded suit, the same scuffed heels. I can see in her eyes that she’s too tired too hope either.

“Ready to go?”

When I don’t respond, she gets down on the cracked tile floor and takes my chin in her hands.

“What’s the matter, honey?”

Most people don’t get away with calling me that, but Ms Casey is a good soul. I know she truly cares. She would adopt all of us if she could.

“What’s the use, Ms Casey? Why even bother going? I’ll be back here in a couple weeks anyways!”

“Aw, cheer up! Maybe this time it’s gonna be different.”

I look in her face and I know she believes it as much as I do. But there’s nothing else to do, so I pick up my backpack and follow her out.

Friday, December 16, 2011

I was huddled at my desk in the sub-freezing morning, trying to stay warm, trying to stay happy, trying to be positive.

I try to do things all the time. Try to build relationships, try to eat healthy, try to honor my parents, try to get along with my sister, try to be responsible... I need to stop trying and start doing.

Pulling out my journal I started counting the good things about this morning. It didn't come easy, but I forced myself to do it.

#488. A piping hot shower this morning.
#489. Sparkling clear mornings.
#490. Sleeping like a baby.
#491. Clean laundry.

The more gifts I wrote down and thanked God for, the more gifts I noticed. My pen started to flow with gratefulness and awe. God is so good to me all the time, I just hadn't taken time to realize it this morning.

#503. Psalm 16:2 I said to the Lord, "You are my God, apart from You I have no good thing."

What? I've written five hundred and three good things in my journal so far, and each one of them is from God! From the grandiose to the trivial.

#104. No guilt in life!

#243. Cranberry Apple Tea with honey

#473. Early morning sun reflecting on the waves.

My heavenly Father loves to lavish me with gifts each day and each day should be one overflowing with gratefulness, inexpressible and glorious joy, worship, admiration and awe. But I don't take time to realize it.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

"Excuse Me?"

My fingers are too cold to type I tell myself while debating whether I should work on that story I'm working on or browse facebook.

Sleep is better for me than that workout would be... (This one is both over-used and self-explanatory.)

Running could damage my knees.
I can eat healthy tomorrow.
It's too dark to run now.
My sister would probably rather I don't get underfoot in the kitchen.
I didn't mess up the kitchen, so I don't need to clean it up.
I did make that mess, but I did it for other people, so I don't need to clean it up.

I've known for awhile that I'm the queen of excuses, but I realized this morning (as I was driving to work on the later side of on time) that I've also developed quite a nasty habit excusing myself.

All my life I've always held to the belief that what happens to you is not your fault, but what you make of it is. (Keep in mind, I don't in anyway excuse those people who commit horrendous acts against other people, but I've read enough stories of real life survivors to believe that the power to change a bad situation into a good one lies within the individual.)

Merging on to the freeway I found myself rationalizing in my mind. It's not my fault if I'm late to work. I didn't load up all the bikes into the truck at the beach yesterday and leave them there. I don't even own a bike. The guys should have unloaded them before they left this morning. It's their fault I'm late.

I realized at the same time that while I didn't load the bikes into the truck, I also didn't UNLOAD them when I got home last night like I should have.

No longer having a valid excuse for being late I stepped on the gas, pushed through that yellow light and made it to work right on time. Yep. I'm convinced. The power to change a bad situation into a good... it's on me.

Friday, December 2, 2011

I'm pulling the plug on my weekend.

Literally. As soon as 5 o'clock hits, I'm shutting down the computer and turning off my phone. I'll hop into my brother's truck and drive until I get to the beach. I'll hug my little sisters, and kiss my niece and nephew. We'll do dishes by lantern light and watch the campfire burn out, and then we'll run and jump into our sleeping bags before our feet get cold.

I'm gonna watch the sunrise over the marina and take a walk down the beach. Grab a coffee with my brother, chat with my mom, read God's word on paper, hang out with my dad, ride a bike, write in my journal (on paper), play volleyball, cook, laugh, sing, play card games and sleep under the stars.

I want to live in the moment, relish every fresh breath of air, every smile, every inside joke. I want to snap photos in my mind of every ounce of beauty from the whole weekend. I don't want to take one minute for granted.

I'm not unplugging because I have a religious conviction against electronics or anything. I don't think it's going to give me a or more peaceful or spiritual experience. I just don't have enough time to do everything I want to do.

And I'll be checking my messages on Monday.

(P.S. In case of emergency, my brothers and sisters are still plugged in.)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Things that go bump in the night...

The wind is always a little spooky at night when it starts blowing, but not nearly as spooky as when it's both foggy and windy, and I'm home alone.

I got home from work and the house was all shut up, the gate closed and it was dark out. I took a deep breath and jumped out of the car, locking it behind me. Walking to the house to open the gate I heard music coming from my parents room.

"Maybe Dad left it playing so it would seem like someone was home" I mentally applauded my dad. He takes such good care of all of us, even going as far as to call me while I was at work to let me know he had left his handgun loaded and in the safe.

My family is going camping for a week. Without me.

I skirted around the house to the back door and tried the handle. It was unlocked.

So, I wasn't coming home to an empty house after all. My parents hadn't left yet.

Thank you, Lord! It's much nicer to be able to ease into this home alone thing instead of jumping in cold turkey!

By the time I went to bed the wind had picked up to the howling level. Unidentified objects scurried past the windows, something set the alarm off a couple times and the heater kept blowing out and starting back up with a whoosh. The wind chimes were ringing like you would expect, and the wooden "Give Thanks" sign on the back porch was adding it's own drumming to the sound track.

I curled up in my bed only to get up and shut off the alarm 2 minutes later. Sheepishly I pulled out Dad's handgun and put it in a more accessible place.

I crawled back in bed before I could get cold. Lord, I'm trusting you to keep me safe tonight

Rolling over, I slept like a baby.

"When thou liest down, thou shalt not be afraid: yea, thou shalt lie down, and thy sleep shall be sweet" Proverbs 3:24