Fostering

Time

What do you fill your day with?

It seems in the summer at our house there is a lot of empty time. I wrestle with letting kids sleep until noon but acknowledge that if I make them get up there isn’t really anything for them to do. All they want to do is watch TV (him) or read (her) and I struggle with letting them do either of those all day.

We have talked about things they could do… about crafts and going outside and connecting with friends … but they aren’t motivated to do any of them. They want to sit… in front of the TV or with a book. With Covid-19 shutting so many activities down there is little opportunity to even schedule their time!

I have realized that it takes creativity to fill your unscheduled time. Imagination is critical.

Creativity and imagination in kids grows best in a secure and emotionally rich environment. Kids who are fearful and insecure don’t have the resources to invest in exploring and playing. Many foster kids come from a place of lack, both emotionally and physically and have not learned to play. I wonder how the other mother helped them fill their time? There is no information from the kids on this. Play seems like a strange concept to them.

Which brings us to this place where we as two fifty something adults are trying to teach two kids in their teens how to play! It’s not the best case scenario! Our default is to schedule activities to fill their time, which doesn’t solve the original problem, it just keeps them busy part of the time.

So if you have kids that know how to play… don’t take it for granted! What a gift imagination is in the life of a child. Encourage it and give them opportunity to indulge their creativity. I watched a Mom in a waiting room (stripped of all toys thanks to Covid-19 protocols) engage in an imaginary tea party with her son. She could have dismissed him, embarrassed to play along with other adults watching. She didn’t. The imaginary tea was consumed with gusto! The cake, pie and cookies that were offered were gobbled. In a fit of silliness tea was tossed and garbage scattered… and then picked up and deposited in the garbage. Without a single real object being involved! Imagination!

What a gift imagination is. It filled the time waiting.

It is what we need to fill the empty summer. Hopefully boredom gives it room to blossom. We shall find out.

What do you fill your time with?

In the midst of the mess

Marny

Fostering

Summer begins

What does summer mean to you?

For many it means slowing down to an easier pace. Lazy mornings, fun afternoons, endless evenings on the deck. I remember the summers of my childhood being idyllic! Long days of playing outside with friends. Popsicles in the backyard, sprinklers, bare feet and bicycles. Drinking from the garden hose and laying on the freshly cut grass watching the clouds. As the summer drew to an end there was cool evenings and the opportunity to be outside til it was completely dark watching for shooting stars.

As an adult I have become more aware that the tasks of life don’t go away in the summer. For some people summer is a time of chaos as they juggle kids at home while trying to work and meet the expectations of summer vacation. Even if you have time off from work is is not the same as the summers of my childhood. The realization that the lawn needs to be mowed twice a week, the weeds will take over if you don’t deal with them almost daily, and someone has to keep going to the grocery store to restock those popsicles! So how do we experience the beauty of summer and help our kids do the same?

We have just come through a really long stretch of rain. Everything is lush and green and growing with enthusiasm now that the sun has come out. In this environment everything seems to grow well… everything… even the things we don’t want growing!

So, what do you want your summer to be? It is your choice whether it blows by in a blur of the same old stuff or becomes an epic summer to remember. I think every year we have opportunities, but they don’t happen by accident! They happen on purpose. The habit of being lazy and not putting effort into anything can grow just as easily as being intentional about making memories.

I have a summer bucket list. I made it last year but it was completely missed. The summer went by in a blur of trying to figure out how to parent the foster kids we had welcomed into our home! We did things for them and with them. It was a good summer for them. They have never experienced summer like I did. The other mother was not capable of giving them something she had never experienced herself. The things that we did were intentional to introduce the kids to camping and show them a few different areas in our beautiful province. It was a good summer. There was a healthy tension between lazy and active. But at the end of the summer I hadn’t done the small list of things I wanted to do.

So this summer I have put my bucket list on the top!

  • I have had lunch on a rooftop patio! The bonus was I got to do it with all my bio kids and their significant others (minus the one in Japan).
  • I have had the ice cream I wanted from the summer ice cream truck.
  • I have been canoeing with my hubby
  • I have tickets to the zoo for this afternoon
  • I have a trip booked with my girlfriends
  • I am being intentional about the things I want to do this summer.

I want to remember this summer and all the things that we get to do. On purpose!

So whatever your summer looks like right now I hope you choose to grow the things that matter to you! Don’t let inertia take over. Get up and get moving. Do the things you love. Don’t let summer slip by without being memorable in some way!

If Covid-19 has taught us anything it has surely taught us that we really don’t know what the next season will look like. So get out there and enjoy what we may have taken for granted before! Make memories, be lazy, eat watermelon, play…

In the midst of the mess

Marny

Fostering

The Journey

All of us are on a journey.

That journey is the process of getting from where we are… to where we are going. Or from who we are to who we are becoming.

The journey doesn’t end in this life. No one arrives at perfection.

Some people enjoy a road with twists and turns, excitement around every bend and the unexpected always looming. It keeps them interested and engaged with the day to day. Others enjoy a nice long stretch where you have lots of time to see what’s coming at you. No hidden curves, no major hills to climb.

Most people enjoy a bit of both… but we often don’t get to pick which road we’re on. We might pick where we want to go… but the type of road that leads there isn’t our choice.

The roads that lead to the most beautiful places are often the most challenging roads.

Often we don’t know why the road was so challenging until we look behind us.

Mount Robson, B.C. in the rear view mirror

These are just some of my thoughts on the journey. I was thinking about roads as we travelled home on one of my favourite roads. It has many twists and turns and hills. I love to drive it in the different seasons and enjoy the changes. I usually prefer my life a little more predictable!

This journey of being a Foster Parent has not unfolded how we expected it to, but the journey has been beautiful. As we look back on the last year we understand a little more. As we reflect on the Covid 19 situation that we have all been living in we might not see all the reasons til we look back from further down the road.

The other mother is on a different journey. Her road has seemed to take a constant downhill run. The way back up is long and steep. It must look completely impossible.

So where ever you are in the journey I hope you enjoy the view. There is a reason for the challenges you face. Keep going!

Becoming all that you are meant to be is not easy!

In the midst of the mess

Marny

Fostering

Meh

My kids use the word Meh to describe that blah feeling…

It’s kind of how today feels

You know those days… you just feel irritated by the smallest things…

But you don’t have any feelings about most things…

a comic from one of my favourites Nathan Pyle

It is perfectly summed up by Nathan Pyle in Strange Planet. I just want to go back to bed.

I’m tired of Covid-19. I’m tired of kids who are either struggling with school work or bored. I’m tired of making meals. I’m tired…

The reality of the same thing day after day is wearing on me.

So… what do I do with that?

Remedies for Meh include but aren’t limited to:

  • Get out in the sunshine
  • Talk to a friend
  • Do something creative
  • Exercise
  • Plan something you can look forward to
  • Count your blessings
  • Do something to bless someone else
  • Laugh
  • What would you add?

I am struggling to want to do any of them, even when I know I will be glad to be out of this funk.

Sometimes we just need to get out of our own heads and start doing the things that will make a difference.

I can do this. I have before and I will again. I am aware that this is not true for everyone. Bad days have won for many people.

The other mothers that I do life with have faced different sets of challenges in this season. They have made choices to deal with them. We are all different.

We will continue to be there for each other. The other mother of the children I now care for did not have that. I am aware again today of how hard it must have been for her and for all the others who tried to go it alone!

So tonight I will go out and celebrate a dear friend reaching a milestone birthday! We will laugh together, eat yummy food together and be thankful for all that we have come through. We might even make plans to celebrate the end of this weird season of Covid, cancer, kids moving out, and all the other challenges that have tried to bring us down!

Something to look forward to!

In the midst of the mess

Marny

Fostering

Empathy

It seems this season there have been a lot of things that have caused people disappointment and stress.

  • missed graduations
  • cancelled holidays
  • re-imagined wedding plans
  • lonely hospital trips
  • modified birth plans
  • lay-offs
  • unexpected job terminations
  • disrupted placements
  • interrupted connections

All these things have resulted in grieving and pain for many. I have listened to the stories and shared in the sorrow and pain of others. How do we do this well?

I really like how Brené Brown explains it in this clip.

Empathy. It is right and good to listen without judgement and share in the pain and disappointment of someone. We are meant to share in the struggles of others. It eases the burden for everyone. But too often we carry away and accumulate other people’s sorrow or offenses. Taking on someone else’s offense can become toxic to you. You do not have broad enough shoulders or a big enough heart to carry it all. You weren’t designed for it.

I see this most often in families. A wife carries the offense that was committed against her husband even after he has resolved it. A parent carries an offense committed against their child long after the child has moved on. Grown children carry resentment for perceived injustices against their parents.

I feel it as we hear about a disrupted placement for a little guy we have had in our home for respite. He is moving to a new foster home next week and my heart hurts for him. I want to be indignant on his behalf. I want to judge the other mother who isn’t able to continue loving this little guy well. I can not.

Often we refuse to let others move on by resurrecting the pain and offense for them. It’s not helpful.

What do we do with these feelings after the opportunity to empathize is passed? How do we learn to let go? Where do we put them so they don’t grow and fester in us? For me that answer is found in giving them to Jesus.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.

Matthew 11:28

The words are simple! The reality of letting go is often hard.

I’ve heard it said that when we hang on to bitterness and offense it is like drinking poison and thinking we are hurting the other person. Even when it wasn’t our offense or pain it still applies. It’s not effective to carry other people’s struggles! You don’t help anyone. I have to bring them to the God I know cares about all people deeply, and choose to leave them with Him. People are responsible for their own hurts and offenses. We can listen, empathize and help them move towards healing and wholeness.

You might write it out in a journal, or vent to someone, or maybe you have found it easy to let things go. Whatever the process, our mental and emotional health is important. We need to deal with our own disappointments well, and look for joy in the everyday things so we are able to empathize with others.

I hope we all choose to continue engaging deeply with those who are struggling through this season. Don’t shy away from the pain others are dealing with. We need each other. But don’t try to carry it all. Find a way to let it go and look for joy daily. This is where the freedom to thrive will be found in this season.

In the midst of the mess

Marny

Fostering

Learning

I don’t know how you feel about Math but I used to like it! I used to be quite good at it. Math makes sense to me! My brain works with numbers. I like the simplicity of knowing that if you put the numbers in the right place in the equation or formula and follow the rules you will always get the right answer! So simple!

My feelings about math are changing as I try to help a Grade 8 student with math. Algebra was never hard for me…so I find it perplexing that it is for him. It seems so simple… follow the rules… the answer happens. Where is the difficulty? Apparently it is not that easy for everyone!

Talking louder doesn’t help him understand. Talking slower doesn’t help him understand. Going over the same point again and again doesn’t help him understand. writing it on a piece of paper… nope. Making him repeat it… nope. I’m running out of tools in my toolbox!! And then we started geometry…

The fact is that you can’t just jump into the middle of math and expect to understand concepts that have been built on earlier learning. My learning happened bit by bit without any interruption. It provided a solid foundation, so I was able to continue to build.

Example of an actual daily math problem for my Grade 6 student

Steady learning provides a good foundation. If you don’t understand basic multiplication and division then algebra is doubly confusing. If you constantly make mistakes in addition and subtraction you wind up with wrong answers. If you try to do the final geometry project before going through the worksheets that teach you how to do geometry, you’re in for a frustrating week! (True story!! Just happened! A whole week struggling to do something he hadn’t learned yet!)

Seems to me dealing with crisis is kind of like that. If you were living paycheque to paycheque in the good times, the bad times will be your undoing. If you were using unhealthy coping skills in the relationships in your life while things were going well you’re probably a disaster in the midst of these circumstances. Trying to deal with a more complex situation reveals where we were no longer learning, just coping!

So do we just need to throw up our hands in despair and declare bankruptcy? Get divorced and give up our children because we’ve realized we never had it all together in the first place? I hope most of you laughed at that but for many people this might seem like the inevitable outcome to the current crisis. It’s not! This can be a wake up call that helps us to realize there are things we need to learn.

As Covid-19 puts new pressure on already fractured systems what can we do? We can choose to hit the reset button and start learning on almost anything. If your finances are a disaster stop and learn. Dave Ramsey has lots of great resources that we have found helpful. If your marriage is a wreck stop and get help! There are great books on every aspect of marriage, as well as counselors, conferences and support groups to help you learn. If you’re a parent, there are so many resources available to help you parent well. It doesn’t always come naturally! Choose to learn. You don’t have to figure it out on your own. We made a commitment at the beginning of our marriage to be life long learners and we have kept that commitment.

A small sampling of the books on my shelf that my family have learned from!

Learning should never stop. Can you tell me one new thing you learned in the last month? If you can’t, you might want to think about something you want to know more about. Preferably something other than Covid-19!!

There is a season of change ahead for all of us. This idea of “returning to normal” is going to be blown to bits. We will all need to learn a new “normal”. The ability to adapt will be a big factor in the days ahead. I guarantee you that if you are willing to learn new things the coming season will be easier for you!

The other mother could not adapt fast enough to her changing situation. It seems she might have been overwhelmed and gradually gave up hope. She had too many barriers to learning. Willingness to adapt is the first thing we need to be successful. All the resources in the world are not helpful if you aren’t open to using them.

So what do you want to learn about in the coming weeks? It can be as simple as trying a new recipe or craft, or as complex as learning a new language. What we’ve learned is that being willing to learn in one area makes it easier to learn in another. As strange as it might seem, learning to knit can open pathways to help you learn to communicate with your spouse.

If only it was as simple as math…

Don’t think it’s too late to change. Choose to learn, choose to adapt, choose to aim for the best future possible!

You won’t regret it!

In the midst of the mess

Marny

Fostering

Respite

res·pite/ˈrespət,rēˈspīt/noun

a short period of rest or relief from something difficult or unpleasant.

When you step into being a Foster Parent one of the supports they offer you is respite. The idea is that you can access 48 hours every month where the kids in your care spend time with another family or care provider so you can have a break. You might need it to spend some time focused on your bio children or time to reconnect as a couple.

It’s an amazing thing to have available to you. It’s a little harder to access in reality than on paper, but it’s there for you. We have had two kids with us for 11 months and have used respite twice. It was such a weird feeling to drop them off at a strangers house and walk away. We enjoyed our time “off” but it never felt quite right. The hope is you find a great place for your kids to enjoy a weekend so that it is a break for everyone.

The truth is we have been doing really well with these kids and didn’t feel we needed a break. The definition states “a short period of rest or relief from something difficult or unpleasant”. We did not find ourselves needing relief because our situation was not difficult or unpleasant!

With our bio children we were able to have them spend time with family so we could have a holiday occasionally. It was enough! Why should it be different for our foster children. The reality is we probably needed respite regularly in our early years of parenting but it wasn’t available… so we learned to get through the tough times with our kids and each other. That has become a part of our journey. We are in a better state of emotional health now than we have ever been and it makes a difference.

We were looking forward to a 10 day vacation in May to celebrate our 30th Anniversary. Thank you Covid-19 for squashing that dream! So we will make the best of the time we have and be thankful for how well we are doing in the midst of all this.

We have started doing respite for other families. The first child we had over I was worried about how it might upset the balance of our household. As we stepped out and served another family in this way we were truly blessed! We had a great weekend with him and he enjoyed our busy household. With 7 people trying to stay busy in the same space there was lots of potential for conflict, and there was none! So we said yes to the next one and this weekend welcome 2 girls to spend time with our family. Our goal is to be a place where they enjoy their time away and allow their Foster Parent to relax and not worry about them. We’re in process with our second experience of providing respite and it’s going well.

In the midst of Covid-19 I think there are many families in need of respite. They keep extending the time we need to remain under the current restrictions… which may be difficult and unpleasant for some. There have been new pressures put on everyone and not all people are coping well. Don’t be afraid to reach out to another family. Offer what you have. Maybe it’s time, maybe it’s resources, maybe it’s just a listening ear. You reaching out to others might be the blessing YOU need in this time. I recognize that there are restrictions and social distancing rules to be honoured, but it doesn’t mean we have to be paranoid and self-centered.

This situation is going to surface all kinds of fractures in families and there will be repercussions for many for years to come. There will be people will be in need of respite. How can you take the time in this season to become a place of peace and safety in the midst of this storm?

I read a great clip about the fact we are not all in the same boat but we are in the same storm. I don’t remember who wrote it to credit them but I thought it contained a lot of wisdom. The boat you are in makes a big difference in how you view the storm! My boat is doing well! How is your boat?

In the midst of the mess

Marny

Fostering

Taken for granted

As we enter week five of being home with kids and the restrictions keep getting tighter I have heard a lot about what we have taken for granted.

  • stocked grocery shelves
  • kids at school
  • family occasions
  • coffee with friends
  • playing in the park
  • hair cuts
  • manicures/pedicures
  • dinner out
  • travel
  • health
  • sports
  • movies in the theatre
  • the list continues…

When you look at these things you realize just how blessed we have been! So much of how we live is framed by ease and convenience. We have done what we wanted, when we wanted to do it with whomever! And we assumed it was normal, maybe even our right. We often complained at minor inconvenience. Grumbled about perceived injustice.

Covid-19 has changed that for many of us. A trip to the grocery store that gets everything on the list is a blessing. The thought of having to make lunches and get kids up to go to school seems like heaven when we now have them underfoot all day. Those family occasions you grumbled about attending because of timing or location are now longed for. The things we have given up have taken on new significance.

Having Foster Kids at home 24/7 has taken things to a new level as well. Our kids had missed almost two years of school when they came to us eleven months ago. We were on track to finish their first uninterrupted year of school in a long time… connections were being made with peers, academic habits were being established. And then yet another disruption in their lives! We took for granted that we would provide a stable year for them… we were wrong. I wonder how many times the other mother found herself in that same situation.

We could all learn a thing or two from teachers right now (pun intended). Three weeks in and I have a new appreciation for them, not because of what they did in school everyday, I always appreciated that, but because of what they have done in the last three weeks to adapt to this situation. They are still doing their very best to educate students. They have been learning technologies, rewriting lesson plans to be delivered online, figuring out how to assess work and help students… all the stuff we took for granted! Many have had to set aside how they have educated for years and start over… and they are doing it!!

We learn a lot in our Foster Care training about trauma and how it affects the kids in our care. It doesn’t just apply to kids in Foster Care! We all need to understand how trauma and/or disruption impacts us! Find yourself on the chart above and ask where you are and where you want to be. This situation doesn’t have to be all negative. We are all going through this together. Perhaps it will give us new empathy for our kids? We need to be reminded our outlook will help shape whether this is all negative or whether we find the positives and grow.

For many of our kids there will be opportunity for healing as we manage this disruption with love and patience. For them disruption probably meant disaster in the past. They may have watched the adults in their world fall apart when things changed. Their anxiety might be high. We have the opportunity to show them something different if we choose to. It will be messy and we may not feel up to the task, but one day at a time and we can model a healthy way to deal with disruption.

There are other things we took for granted that have now become incredibly valuable.

  • Time at home
  • Rest from all the busyness
  • the ability to adapt
  • the technology to connect
  • the dusty board games you haven’t played in years
  • The backyard
  • The patience you didn’t know you could have
  • The baking you just hadn’t got to for so long
  • Meals around the table with no where to rush off to.

I hope that we don’t just focus on what we are missing… I hope we choose to look at what we have gained! Truly we are safe at home, not stuck at home.

So take it easy on yourself! Breath. Relax. You don’t have to do it all never mind do it all perfectly! You just need be a safe place to weather the storm. Count your blessings. Then count them again. I guarantee there are more than you realize. Figure out what you need so you can be your best in these trying times. You can’t change the circumstances but you can change your response to them!

Learn the technology and connect with others. Video chat with coffee is actually pretty therapeutic when you can’t meet in person. Reach out to others regularly because people do better when they try to care well for others. Find space and time to be alone in a crowded house when you need it. We are all in this together.

In the midst of the mess

Marny

Fostering

Interruptions

There have been some big interruptions lately! Jobs interrupted. School interrupted. Occasions interrupted. Sports interrupted. Routines interrupted.

How are you dealing with it? What keeps you grounded in the midst of all the change and interruption? Do you live in a place of fear of what’s next? Do you withdraw to avoid the next change? Do you worry constantly about everybody and everything? You can choose your response. Looking for the blessings and choosing not to sweat the small stuff can make a big difference as we face the future.

Dealing with change is not my favourite… I’ve shared that before. In the midst of these big interruptions which I feel I’m handling fairly well, the little interruptions are driving me crazy!

I can handle that the kids are home from school… but do they have to ask me something every five minutes… all day… no matter what I’m doing! I can handle that hubby doesn’t have work anymore… but why does his routine mess up mine! I can handle not going out… until I remember this means my favourite weekly coffee doesn’t happen. And for the record… I don’t miss sports at all!!

How do you deal with interruptions?

This is a small glimpse of what children in Foster Care deal with. They live in a space of life interrupted. For many of them interruption is just normal. Their homelife was interrupted. The parenting they should have received was interrupted. School was interrupted. Friendships were interrupted. Then they come in to care and we hope to provide stability for them. But a new home and Foster parents is an interruption. As Caseworkers change it is an interruption. And now Covid-19 has provided yet another interruption.

For our kids interruption has been the norm. They talk of where they lived, the schools they attended, the people that have cared for them so casually. Yet my heart breaks for the lack of consistency. They seem to be dealing with it all fairly well. And yet…

  • Maybe their lack of attachment to stuff is a defense mechanism since they have no idea how long they’ll have it. Owning things has been interrupted.
  • Maybe the nonchalance about friends is a way of coping with the changes they expect to come. Knowing people has been interrupted.
  • Maybe the need for constant reminders about the normal routines is because they’ve never had “normal” routines long enough for them to become the norm. Stability has been interrupted.
  • Maybe the need to know what the next meal will be comes from a place where the next meal wasn’t a sure thing. Nutrition has been interrupted.
  • Maybe they live expecting the next interruption.

It’s also Good Friday. A significant day in the calendar of faith. I think of what an interruption this day was for the disciples. Their hopes and dreams were interrupted. The days events did not fit in their idea of what Jesus was supposed to do. Their long awaited Messiah was dead… They sat in that space for a couple days. Let’s allow ourselves to process what interruption means for all of us. We know from history that Jesus death was followed by his resurrection. That event changed the world at that time. We don’t know what the world will look like after Covid-19. We are living in the days of interruption.

So as we wrestle with the new normal caused by the recent interruption of Covid-19 I hope we all look with new eyes at those who face insecurities as a normal part of life. Count your blessings as you wrestle with interruption because it is new to you! Be thankful for the consistency you enjoyed and let’s continue to hope that better days will return. This season of interruption may have given you a new level of empathy for those who lack the stability you enjoyed. What are you going to do with that new information?

Did you count how many times I used the word interrupt? 😉 Was it starting to annoy you?

In the midst of the mess

Marny

Fostering

Bits and Pieces

Having all the familiar routines and distractions stripped away and being told to stay home has caused quite the ripple. Thanks Covid-19 for throwing us all into disarray.

Being limited in what you can do puts most of us into a bit of funk. We live in a world that is always busy and for the most part we like it that way. It keeps us from looking too closely at the mess that we are.

But I believe that we can choose to see the beauty in even the darkest times and in the most difficult situations. Your life has not been an accident and all those bits and pieces you’ve been avoiding can only hurt you if you continue to keep them hidden away ignored. Why not take the time you have to drag out the scraps and give them a good look!

It’ll probably be messy… the bits and pieces have not been neatly stored away. There will be things you wonder why you’ve held onto all this time. There will be things you have no idea why you even have. There will be things that cause pain and sorrow. But take heart. If you start to work through it a bit at a time things will become more manageable.

Still tackling it all might seem overwhelming. A plan can help… find a way to deal with each thing and bring order to it. A pattern of life to follow. A set of guidelines to help you make sense of it all. I believe there is a Creator who knows you well and wants to see you thrive. All of those bits and pieces can be part of a grand design!

Once you have some things tidied up it might not bother you anymore… but don’t stop now dear friend. There is beauty waiting to be revealed. All those bits and pieces are a part of you! Not one thing is wasted by a creator who wants to see you become the masterpiece he created. Once you have worked through things and organized there is more yet to come. It is time to start making things out of the bits and pieces that will reveal order and beauty to the world. It takes time. There will be painful bits and set backs. You will get tired and wish to be anywhere else but stuck working on it.

But slowly the beauty and purpose will emerge. You might not see it at first. Other people might have to point it out to you. But over time if you continue the work it will all make sense. The bits and pieces all combine to make a masterpiece that is you!!

There are many things that this process of using what I had to build a quilt made me think of. We are all a work in progress.

Being a Foster Parent means being handed the scraps of a child that should have been a masterpiece and helping them rework the pieces into something beautiful. Nothing is wasted. We don’t throw out what’s there and start over… we work with what we have and watch beauty emerge. It is an ongoing process.

The other mother has had to rebuild her life from the scraps that were left after the death of her husband. She is still a work in progress. Nothing is wasted. The beauty that emerges if she does the work will be built from the scraps of these dark times.

To all my friends who are facing challenges they did not expect and can’t understand… even this will be a part of the beauty one day. Just keep doing the work.

In the midst of the mess (which for the last few days has been in the sewing room)

Marny

Fostering

Birthdays

Our foster kids had birthdays this month! They have shared with us that they have never had a birthday party with their friends! This makes me feel sad. We enjoyed making our bio kids birthdays a special event with friends and family. The day they entered our lives is worth celebrating!! Our kids probably have at least one great memory linked to a birthday party with their friends. But having a friends birthday party for a 14 year old feels a bit daunting!! We are way past pirate cakes and treasure hunts in the playground here!

The other mother chose not to celebrate her kids birthdays this way. Maybe it was cultural or maybe she just didn’t have the community connections or mental health to pull it off. Her kids were raised in Canadian culture though, so they felt the gap.

So we tried to fill the gap and help them experience a birthday party with friends! We got through one birthday successfully at the beginning of the month! Party with friends happened at an amusement park. Great connections with friends, memories were made! Then Covid-19 swept in and everything changed! The new found connections with peers were lost as isolation became the norm. The look on his face when I told him he couldn’t get together with those friends in the coming days broke my heart. For him it has been a long stretch of isolation and loneliness… before Covid-19 stepped in! Her birthday had to be postponed… no friends over. But we celebrated at home as best we could!

Each year that we celebrate a birthday is another year to reflect on. What marked this year as unique for you? Was it a good year? Did you enjoy an adventure or two? Did you check something off your bucket list? Did you meet a goal you’d set for yourself or complete a long task like education or building a business? Were there challenges in the past year that make you glad the year is over? How do you define the past year?

The past year for our two foster kids holds some black marks that they might rather forget. But it also holds some really good things. They arrived in Alberta one year ago today. They’ve been in Foster Care for almost 11 months. There have been a lot of firsts for them in this past year of their life. So how will they choose to define the year? The choice is up to them…

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

A Tale of Two Cities. Charles Dickens

As we face the current challenges that this year has brought what will we choose as our takeaway? We can focus on the negative impact the economy has had on our community or the restrictions Covid-19 has inflicted on us all, or we can choose to look at what has brought us joy and hope this year! I am thankful for our continued ability to be Foster Parents who are engaged in making life better for kids at risk! I am thankful that we continue to be healthy! I am thankful that this year we have taken steps to live intentionally in a way that honours who we are and who we are becoming!

I will choose to look at birthdays with a new perspective this year! The day someone enters this world changes things forever. There is no one else exactly like you. You have something to bring to the world. We never know how many birthdays we will have or the circumstances in which we will celebrate them. But they are worth celebrating!

So as you navigate the world Covid-19 has forced upon you I hope you choose to celebrate the occasions, enjoy the little things and look for the joy! Spring will come! How you remember this time will be up to you!

In the midst of the mess

Marny

Fostering

Tension

Covid-19. Just mention it and you feel the tension. What is the right response? Are we doing all we can to stop the spread? Are people taking it seriously? Is the media exaggerating? What’s the big deal anyway…it’s rarely fatal? It’s just the flu, are we going to shut down the world every flu season now? Do I really have to be home with my kids for the next 6 months? Why did everyone buy all the toilet paper?

The opinions are many, the perspectives varied, the reactions heated.

Tension

How do we act responsibly and yet not bury ourselves in fear. How do we continue to live well and care for those around us? How do we accept and support decisions made by authorities that may have a negative impact on our economic situation and freedom!? How do we deal with accepting restrictions when we are unlikely to be personally affected by Covid-19 in a detrimental way? Can we do it graciously just to help others?

Our Foster son recently came home upset and told us he has been being bullied. It is a loaded word in the current school environment. Zero tolerance for bullying is a motto tossed about freely. Bullying is not acceptable… ever… for any reason. No one should have to feel unsafe at school, physically or emotionally.

The tension comes into this situation when you try to have a clear definition of what is bullying and what is not. When your friend teases you, you laugh, and maybe even feel loved and accepted. When someone else teases you it can be labeled bullying. When you’re goofing around with your friend and they push you into the locker, or grab your hat off your head and throw it down the hall, you pretend to be angry with them and then head to the Rec Centre together happily. When someone else does it… it is bullying.

We’ve all heard it said, or said it ourselves… “I can say things about my sister/brother/ spouse that are less than flattering but “”Woe to you!” if you do!” The same actions from the perspective of a different relationship changes everything.

So for kids in school bullying is muddy water! Our kids are new to this school. They come wanting to make friends and believe the best in everyone. Kids in school are required to “be nice” to everyone in class and in front of teachers. This gives the illusion that everyone is friends. A child who struggles to comprehend the social cues that guide interactions is at a disadvantage. At face value they are all friends. And what’s a little roughhousing between friends… especially teen boys!

The true tension is who are your friends in the ever changing landscape of school? How do we teach our kids to be wise in reading the intentions of others and yet encourage them to be a friend to everyone? How do we navigate something that was interpreted differently last week when they were friends but isn’t okay this week because they aren’t? How do we help them be strong in the face of teasing or bullying and yet take it seriously when they tell us they have been bullied. Really our actions are judged by the level of relationship.

The reality is that we all should treat people like we want to be treated! Jesus calls us to love others. I believe that means to treat everyone with respect and compassion. Bullying is never respectful or compassionate! Friendship always should be! Let’s model what respect and compassion for everyone looks like for our kids. If your words about someone are not respectful and compassionate you shouldn’t be saying them. If your actions aren’t respectful and compassionate you shouldn’t be doing them.

So what does relationship look like in the midst of Covid-19 and social distancing? Our actions say more about how we love people than our words ever do. We show that we truly love our neighbour (translate that to the others in your community) when we choose to stay home, protect the vulnerable and not go out for non-essentials. We show love in this new reality by reaching out to others and checking on them through whatever means are available. Truly this is a test of relationships! Who will you choose to stay in touch with in the midst of the challenges? What will loving others look like for you when you have a directive to isolate and stay home?

Encourage people

Speak hope

Share laughter

Be good news.

Be someone who eases the tension.

In the midst of the mess

Marny