Blogging Journey Day 18: To New Friends

I believe that this was the primary reason for beginning this blog, to know that we are not alone and to let others know the same. Life is hard but it is so worth it and much more enjoyable when we have others to walk beside. So, thank you for being by our side.

WOW! I never would have guessed that only 18 days into this journey that we would have had a day yesterday with over 500 views reaching more than 1700 views to date. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for letting us know that we are not on this journey alone.

I believe that this was the primary reason for beginning this blog, to know that we are not alone and to let others know the same. Life is hard but it is so worth it and much more enjoyable when we have others to walk beside. So, thank you for being by our side.

There are so many different avenues that we discuss because there are so many different aspects of our lives that we feel others may also be encountering. A lot of our views have been related to our CPS case and I pray that we are providing a sense of hope for those who are going through this and a greater awareness to those who continue to believe the assumptions about CPS. Ashley has opened up about her relationship with Mikey and has found support from other men and women who have a significant other serving in the armed forces. There is a great pride for their loved ones but also a loneliness that can be lessened through these friendships. Ashley has also been able to connect with other mothers to discuss tips and swap stories. I have met countless of other families of children with Down’s Syndrome and we have been able to discuss the beauty of celebrating every milestone. You all have celebrated my Gloria’s birthday with us, prayed for my dear friend Heather as she nearly lost her life and underwent amputation. You have tagged along to the beach and heard the wisdom of my granddaughter, Clarabelle. There are so many journeys to come and more details to provide. We look forward to continuing to meet others and grow as a community who will overcome all obstacles together!

Together, we are better!

“Gigi”

Why am I pretty?: Toddler Talk

Pretty, for so many of us, is a natural reaction to someone’s appearance. We hear that beauty is skin deep with confirms this reaction. Beauty, or being pretty, is taught to be something that we see with our eyes. 

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This morning, sipping on coffee on the front porch, Clarabelle joined me with breakfast pudding (yogurt) still shimmering in her curls. Now, as I have said before, she has officially entered into the “why” stage of childhood where everything that we say,  we must be prepared with a follow-up explanation. This morning, however, as I looked at her dimples and blonde girls in the morning sunlight I immediately said, without planning for a follow-up, “you are so pretty” to which she replied….(insert drumroll), “but why am I pretty?” and I knew that I was at a significant crossroads with this young, impressionable little girl.

Pretty, for so many of us, is a natural reaction to someone’s appearance. We hear that beauty is skin deep with confirms this reaction. Beauty, or being pretty, is taught to be something that we see with our eyes.

Beauty is NOT skin deep! It comes from within!

Now, every time we speak to a child we are teaching them. We have the power to shape their perception of the world and of themselves. We have the power to teach them why they are pretty!

Back to the immediate conversation. “but why am I pretty,” I thought for a moment and responded, “you are pretty because you are smart. You are pretty because you are sweet. You are pretty because you say please and thank you. You are pretty because you are nice to other people.” “REALLY?” she asked with a sparkle of amazement. “Yes, those are the things that make you pretty!”

I took this conversation and thought about how it applies to our daily lives. We become so attached to our physical traits, our appearance, our body that we forget what truly matters about ourselves. My dearest friend, Heather from Why do we Wait? and My Dear Friend.. , is at this very moment being prepared for an amputation of her lower leg. When we faced this possibility a couple of years ago, she could not imagine that she would be the same person following such a surgery. She believed, at that time, that she was only the sum of her parts. I am so proud to state that she is braving this surgery with the open eyes of a nearly three-year-old as she now knows that her beauty, her kindness, and her intelligence is the whole of who she is.

I realize that, as my granddaughters grow, they will be faced with the world’s version of being pretty. It is my prayer for them that they always remember that they are beautiful because of who they are and that they are not who they are because of their physical appearance.

Beauty can only be seen with our eyes closed,

“Gigi”

Making Sense of Diversity: Toddler Talk

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So yesterday, Clarabelle and I were sitting on the back porch just chatting away when she reaches over to pick up a toy and notices that there is an ant crawling across it. Her first reaction was to shake it off of the toy but then she stopped as she watched it crawling around to place itself back on the top and said, “it wants to play with me!”

Of course, I told her we do not play with ants or any types of bugs and this through her for a loop with her nearly three-year-old obsession with the word “WHY.” I explained that bugs do not play like people do and that it is best to just leave them alone. This was met with “WHY” to which I responded, some bugs have germs and some bugs bite. This was met, again, with “WHY” to which I responded that bugs are just different than us. This, stopped her in her tracks as she took the role of explaining that “everyone is different so who can I play with?”

Uhmmmmm, kids do not see different as bad! I repeat, kids do not see different as bad!

They learn this from us. Kids do not believe that someone or something being different should stop them from being friends or playing together. Kids do not know understand that grownups had to make a word (diversity) to understand that differences are a good thing.

Just play!

“Gigi”

 

Are they family? Questions from a former foster child

She was one year old when they took her. Family, to her, was a group of people who had always been there. It was the group of people who mommy and Gigi trusted to be around and, by default, so could she. Family was who took care of her and who was there every day. Then, family became what the state defined. Family became the people that kept her from what she knew. Family became people who, despite our best efforts, she could tell that we did not trust.

She referred to them as Mamaw and Papaw. That made them seem more like family because they had family like names. She was accepting of this because we, against our own emotions, accepted these titles for her comfort. There was no way to explain it other than to accept that one component of this hellish nightmare.

Then, she came home. She and her brother were removed from Mamaw and Papaw and returned to their true family. For weeks we had to promise that we would never take them back to Mamaw and Papaw’s house and that they would stay with their real family forever.

Fast forward to the present trip I discussed in Why do we Wait?. We are only a few hours from my father’s home and were discussing stopping by while we were near. My daughter refers to him as Papaw and my granddaughter had a breakdown in the car about this potential threat to her stability. The very mention of a title, of a name, sent her into a regress that we have spent months trying to overcome.

After more than an hour of explaining the family tree and how some people are actual family, some people treat us like family, and some people pretend to be family, she finally calmed down enough that we could continue on the road.

When we finally reached my friend at the hospital, her family greeted me with hugs and tears. My granddaughter looked up and asked me if they were family… I could only respond with “Yes.”

There is no handbook that tells us how to help former foster children to become secure again. Will she ever know who to trust and what it really means to feel secure without there always being that question in their minds?

Some questions do not have answers, only perceptions of circumstances,

“Gigi”

Why do we Wait?

Last night, I did not know what to pack. Do I pack clothes to stay at the hospital? Should I bring a blanket since the ones that they have there are so thin and often smell of sickness? Should I pack a nice dress and shoes for a funeral? Would I be attending this one without her by my side? I did not know what to do but I knew I had to go. 

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Last night, as I sat down at my computer to type about my day and dig into the world of blogging, I received a text message that stopped me in my tracks. When we talk about best friends, we often discuss the person who has most recently been involved in our lives in our current situation. That’s not the case for me. When I discuss my best friend, I am speaking of a person who has rarely, since our adult lives, been involved in my current situations. She has her own. However, since literally before I was born, we were pre-set to be there for one another. If best friends were included on a family tree, our families would be overlapped for generations. This girl, this woman, has been in my life and the one person who, regardless of my situation or hers, has always answered her phone.

Last night, when I looked at my phone, I saw all of that disappear. Unresponsive! Likely brain damage! Life support! Pray! These are the words that I saw and the rest of the night all I could think was that her son graduates high school this year. We have trips planned. I NEED HER! Quickly I made some arrangements for my grandchildren and my daughter took off work so that we could make the 10.5 hour drive to go say our goodbyes. I have not made that trip in a long time. In fact, the last time I saw her was over a year ago at a funeral because we never let each other go to these things alone. Before that, I had been busy with the grandbabies and, even though we were only a few hours apart then, just never seemed to make the trip.

Last night, in the face of her death, I was preparing to make the trip. I was not going to let her die without me getting to say goodbye. This was not for her. She was unresponsive. She may not have even known that I was in the room. But I needed to say goodbye. To somehow relieve my own guilt of not being there more often. To somehow diminish the loneliness that I was sure to face once she drew her last breath.

Last night, I did not know what to pack. Do I pack clothes to stay at the hospital? Should I bring a blanket since the ones that they have there are so thin and often smell of sickness? Should I pack a nice dress and shoes for a funeral? Would I be attending this one without her by my side? I did not know what to do but I knew I had to go.

This morning, against all odds, my best friend woke up! She woke up alert and recognized everyone that was by her side. She cried when her mother told her that I was planning to drive up and smiled when she told her that I love her. My friend is going to make it. She has a long road ahead, but she IS going to see her son graduate. We ARE going to take those trips.

This morning, I considered the long hours of the drive. I thought about the traffic left over from the eclipse. I wondered if I should put the trip off until she is released from the hospital and maybe feeling better so that she could enjoy the company better. Wait!!! What did I just say? Only a few hours ago, I was ready to drive straight through to say goodbye and now I am thinking about the laundry that needs done and what the grandkids might need? I had this covered to relieve my own grief but reconsidered when all was fine?

This morning I realized that last night could happen at any minute. Any time could be our last time. Every time could be our goodbye. Next time there may not be a moment to make a choice about a visit to the hospital. Next time may not come when I am able to cover things at the drop of the hat. Next time may come all too soon.

We will be leaving first thing in the morning. We will be driving and telling stories about my friend. When we arive, whether or not she is alert and ready for company, I will sit by her side and tell her exactly how much she means to me. We should not wait until someone we love in unresponsive. We should enjoy their response, their time, and their impact that they have on our lives today!

Live and love as if it were  last night,

“Gigi”