Saturday, August 22, 2015

How Well Do You Know The Ugly Side Of Your City?

I shocked a new acquaintance recently.  Throughout our conversation, in context, I said the following things…

Not that many years ago, 15th street was the place to find a prostitute.

If you see a girl dressed pretty normally but walking down the middle of the street, that’s probably what’s going on.

The theater that Mission Waco now runs for plays and films was once a porno theater.  There has been a whole lot of redemption take place in that area.

“Lordy Anna, I never expected to hear all those words come out of your mouth. How do you know such foul things?

Well…Trent used to build houses for Habitat For Humanity, whose shop and office were on 15th street at the time.  He has worked for or been involved with Mission Waco for several years now, also on 15th street.  I drove a church van all around the hood once or twice a week for a long time to pick up some of our youth for church.  Our daycare is right next to a lot of government housing. We’ve been around the block, including the bad ones.

“Ok, so where do you go to live around here where you won’t get shot?”

You can live in Section 8 housing and not get shot.  There’s not really violent crime in our city.  Sure, it happens in any city, but the bad stuff here is mostly drugs, poverty and hopelessness.

“Ok, so how do you know that too??”

When you live your life in a ministry mindset, you just know things.  You view people as people, even if they are different from you, down and out, live in the ghetto or walk down the center of the street.  Your eyes are opened to rough stuff.  You learn things.  You just do.

Our conversation got cut short and I was left with a weird feeling in my gut. The person I was talking to is new to this city and shouldn’t be expected to know the things we were talking about, not at all. But as I sat in my car shortly after, I was saddened when I realized…I wonder how many people who truly live here do not know about the ugly side of our city.  Either from a conscious decision to overlook it and put it out of sight and out of mind, or a total state of ignorance and not even thinking to think about it.

Every city has an ugly side.  Whether it’s the ghetto that’s buried in a sprawling urban city or rural poverty outside a cute country town…it’s there. 

How much do you know about the ugly side of your city? 

Do you even know where it is?  Could you point out Section 8 housing?  Do you know what Section 8 housing is?  Where do the pockets of homeless folks congregate for shelter or hand outs?  What organizations or nonprofits are available in your city to help them and how? What is the history of the hurt and the source of the struggle in your town?

Do you know anybody from the ugly side of your city?

Shane Claiborne said in his book, The Irresistible Revolution“The great tragedy of the church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor, but that rich Christians do not know the poor.”

For a lot of us, our life is carefully crafted to avoid the ugly side of our city.  That area.  Those people.  We situate our life trajectory in a direction completely opposite, towards known comfort, privacy, safety, seclusion, success.  We elevate ourselves, while only a few miles away others are sliding down a vicious slope of struggle.  And we ignore them.  Maybe we step outside of our hemmed in existence sometimes for a service project, but even then, we view ourselves as the upper helping the lower, descending almost to their level, but not quite, spending a few hours contributing to an isolated pocket of need, then retreating to our comfy life to take a shower and wash off the ugly.  

I've got a phrase I tend to say when people give me a typical "oh my gosh" or "how icky" or "how dangerous" type reaction to how much our life crosses paths with the ugly parts of our city.  

People are just people.

When folks look at us from their government housing porch while we pick up our baby from daycare across the street.  When we wave at a homeless dude across the park where we often go play.  When my husband gives a lady on the roadside a ride home from CPS court and listens to her story of trying to get her kids back...

People are just people.  They may be caught up in the ugly side of our city, they may be down and out, they may be dirty, they may be poor. But they're just people, deserving of kindness and respect, wishing for common ground, worthy of more than ignorance.  

Monday, August 17, 2015

Family Stuff We're Into Lately

Swimming pool and/or redneck sprinkler rig

Texas is hot, hot, hot.  We bought a kid pool at the beginning of the summer, the rectangle kind with the inflatable sides.  Then Trent build an awesome sprinkler rig out of PVC pipes that stands up across it.  Holes and angles and washers pray water all over the place above the pool and the kids adore the "spalinkaller".  


We somehow made it through almost a year and a half of parenting before our children realized that donuts are a thing that exists in this world.  But now they know.  So we are very into weekend donut picnics lately.


See above regarding Texas being hot, hot, hot. But we found a newly refurbed playground near us that has plenty of trees as well as actual big sun shades built into it.  It's big, on a big open lot area, good for running around freely.  We plop Baby in the stroller and let the others run wild.

De-trashing said playgrounds

When we go to parks and playgrounds, we make a round with the kids before we leave, pick up bottles and papers and such and put them in the trash cans.  The kids think it's a fun game and are learning to leave something better than they found it.


Before we even got the kids, a coworker of mine gave us a tote bag full of those classic wooden train tracks that fit together and the wooden magnet train cars.  Our kids sort of ignored them until recently and now...oh man.  I'm not sure who is more into them, the kids or their dad.  He has since ordered about forty more miles of track from Ebay.  Ok, maybe forty feet, but still.

Moseying around stores that have carts that fit three kids

After Baby came to us, we quickly learned we can't go out to eat as a whole family.  Nope.  Never. Not even with other adults to help us.  Something about adding that third kid made it quite impossible. combat severe cabin fever at times because Texas is hot, hot, hot, we go to stores that we know have special carts that fit all our many children and mosey around in their air conditioning.  Target and Home Depot specifically have spots for three little kid booties or two booties and a baby car seat.  Trent pushes said giant carts at higher than average speeds, making obnoxious and amazing race car noises while our kids giggle and I huff along behind, trying to keep up.

Saluting every other Honda Odyssey we see

We adore our minivan.  It represents space and practicality and many good things.  Every time we see another Odyssey, we feel a sense of camaraderie and solidarity.  So we salute from our car as we drive, a quick double pump of a fist against our chest then we throw a peace sign.   Because we are ridiculous.

Air conditioning

A couple months ago, my van AC's condenser went out and it became a toasty ride.  $200 to fix. Shortly after that, our house AC's evaporative coil went out and it became a toasty casa.  $1450 to fix.  A week ago, our house AC's fan motor went out.  $770 to fix.  At the same time, my van AC's compressor went out.  $777 to fix.  We're pretty sure everything is squared away better be!!! we're basking in the glory of sub 90 degree temps in our house and sub triple digit temps in our main vehicle.

Living room dance parties

Sometimes we come home from work and daycare and have super rad dance parties.  Our current top picks that we're trying to teach the kids are the Cupid Shuffle, the Cha Cha Slide and the Wobble.  Let's just say, we have a ways to go.  But we shall persevere...

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Takeaways & Tidbits Vol. 14

So what I'd like to suggest to my fellow Christians is that perhaps taking up the cross means laying down the persecution complex.  A spirit of fear and entitlement does more to obscure the gospel than elucidate it.  The persecution complex blinds Christians to our own privilege, which then blinds us to the challenges faced by the genuinely underprivileged in this country. ... We get so focused on ourselves and our own concerns we forget the admonition of the apostle Paul to "not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others" (Phil 2:4).  Reality check...facing disagreement is not the same as facing persecution.

For the sake of the gospel, drop the persecution complex by Rachel Held Evans


When you're lonely, but you're terrified of being judged by people who haven't walked the same ground, well, you do what it takes. You hoist yourself up and you hug those kids harder. You make new friends, because your family is so worth it. If you can't understand us, you don't deserve to. (That's what you say to yourself on the worst days.) ... We have so many good days. We're working now, not nearly as broken as we used to be.  ...  But we are entitled to these days, too. We've earned the right to sob our guts out until our hair clings damp against our foreheads and our eyes are rubbed raw.  ... I would give my right hand to erase their hurts, but I know the scars aren't wasted. I'm not confident in my ability to say the right thing or explain it perfectly to my kids when I can't wrap my own head around it, but I do know this: 1) I will love you every single second of your life, no matter what. 2) I will never give up on you. 3) You can say whatever you're feeling and you won't be in trouble. Tell me the truth. Tell me.  ...  
I believe childbirth is the most intense pain a woman experiences. I don't have to have felt it myself to trust it's true. If there's someone in your life who has adopted, you can offer them the same. Be their safe place. Get loud about the ways you see them. Cheer them on. Root for their kids. Do they parent in strange ways? I sure hope so. Do some of their kids have massive feelings that spill out in some pretty frustrating and annoying ways? I'm sure of it. Love them anyway. Love them just the same as if they were quiet and tidy. Let them be sad with you. Celebrate success. Believe what they tell you. ...  Morning came, just like it always does. Today is for eating French toast with puffy eyes and forgiving each other for the thousandth time.

Labor Pains by Shannan at Flower Patch Farmgirl 

Speaking of which...

My sister: When so-and-so was pregnant, her abdomen muscles literally split in half.
Me: Reason number 502 that I will likely never have a baby....reason number 1 being that I already have three babies...


After getting some fried chicken from a drive thru...

Brother (from the way back seat in the minivan): I want some chicken.
Trent: Sorry buddy, I can't reach you.
Brother: Throw it!


Joey: You know, for how often we were taught about stop, drop and roll as kids, I just really thought there would be more occasions to be on fire as an adult...


Sister: Where mama?
Trent: She's not here.
Sister: Mama not home?
Trent: She's in Pennsylvania with OmieJean and Sarah and Abby.
Sister: OmieJean home?
Trent: No, she's in Pennsylvania too.
Sister: I poop.


My dad, Opie: Anna Pie, I heard this Willie Nelson song on an ad and it's going to be mine and Brother's song.  It goes like this: "You're my buddy, my pal, my friend. It will be that way till the end."  But don't tell him my plan.  I'll teach it to him next time I see him and it'll be our song.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Company On Foster Care Island

A while back, I got to meet up with a friend for a glass of wine after work.  She is an attorney who does a decent amount of work in the CPS and family law realm, so she's familiar with a lot of the stuff we've dealt with in our foster care case and some parts of our conversation would have sounded like code to an unknowing bystander.

Her: So I guess Texas has PMC now?
Me: No, it's still just TMC.


(Permanent Managing Conservator and Temporary Managing Conservator, for the unknowing bystanders...)


I took Brother to his three year old doctor checkup recently.  At our clinic, there is a team of doctors and you may not necessarily see your primary doctor each time.  The doctor that we ended up seeing for this visit was a nice young man. I handed him the CPS medical exam form and said my typical "he's in foster care with us and we have to have this form filled out at doctor visits. I've marked the areas that you need to fill out and I've completed the other sections."   He looked at the form, looked at me and told me he and his wife are foster parents too.  He saw our kids' caseworker's name on the form and said "she's our caseworker too!"   He knew how to fill out the form.  He knew to ask if there had been any abuse such that the his examination of Brother's diaper area would cause him stress. He knew that I don't know a thing about Brother's medical history prior to him coming to us and did not act frustrated by those blanks.  He began his inquiry about the status of their case with "May I ask how their case is going?" instead of launching in with the typical "What did their mom do to them??"  When I told him we are nearing the end and heading to adoption, he rejoiced with me but also acknowledged the bittersweet nature of that end and told me the child in their care had just had a goodbye visit with birth mom, meaning they're heading to the same bittersweet adoption end.  


My cell phone buzzed at work the other day and I saw it was the daycare calling.  The daycare director quickly assured me "All the kids are fine, you don't need to come get anyone" then alerted me that Brother had fallen and busted his lip.  "He's ok, it stopped bleeding, but I wanted to go ahead and tell you in real time because I know you have to monitor and report any injuries." 


Foster care plops you on an island.  

You sign up for something that few people pursue or know much about.  You have to parent under different rules and norms than your colleagues.  Your kids may not look like you.  You may face unfair assumptions and rude comments.  People in your life may not support your decision and most, though they mean well, will surely never understand all the ins and outs, the lingo, the systems, the rules, the standards, the emotions, the sorrow, the joy. 

It is beyond refreshing to find company on this island.

The conversation with my friend about PMC and TMC seems technical, but it brought me joy.  I was understood.  The care and camaraderie from the doctor was at a level rarely found in our encounters with professionals.  And our daycare director is so on board with our situation, from her day 1 comment of "They've found a home with you and now they can feel at home here with us too" to her regular reports to us of accidents or other need-to-know items that she would not otherwise report to parents so quickly.

When we embarked on this journey, I pretty quickly realized that there was no wave of support and understanding heading our way on its own, so I sought community.  I stalked blogs and sent Facebook friend requests to strangers at the mere mention of "Oh I know so-and-so who is a foster parent."  We consciously built our team of babysitters, mentors and supporters and continually let them know how much they mean to us.  We've got our people on our island with us now.

Do you have company on foster care island or are you poking around it all by yourself feeling very alone?  Either way, let's connect.  I've got some plans brewing for this blog for ways to connect and empower folks in this foster care arena, but for now, if you've been reading this blog in the background and want to be known and heard and feel like you're not alone, leave a comment below or send me a message via the contact form on the sidebar.   I have developed some great online connections with people who have just taken a moment to say hi and share their story here.  Are you my next island friend?

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Field Notes From The Rocking Chair

I am back in the rocking chair once again.  The baby I used to rock to sleep now lays down by herself with her Bear Bear and I'm rocking another baby girl.  Forward and back, forward and back.  Lots of minutes to think...

I am watching my older daughter do baby yoga in her bed, or maybe it's pilates, with leg lifts and sweeping arms.

I am scared of being consumed by three small children, of my own identity fading as I am wrapped up in theirs.

I am praying for this child that I hold close, for her present, for her future, for her to sleep peacefully on this particular night, for the scars she doesn't know she has yet.

I am singing, mostly hymns, trying to remember all the words, though the sleepyhead in my arms doesn't care.

I am wondering why this chair ends up 45 degrees turned and three feet back from where I start with it every night.

I am guessing and doubting, wondering and learning what this child needs.

I am regretting never sewing those padded covers to ease the edges of these chair arms against my own arms.

I am arranging big girl furniture in my head, because these little girls who share hours in this rocking chair with me will not always be so little...