As the 2017 Louisiana State Teacher of the Year, I was privileged to travel to Princeton, New Jersey last week to learn and grow with other State Teachers from around the U.S.
One of the sessions was focused around story telling and the power of our stories. I listened to Andy Goodman share his expert advice and tried to focus solely on my “teacher stories” and how they have shaped me and helped me to become the person that I am. However, the story that has been most critical in my life is the one that I share the least.
I pre-apologize…. but I need the world to hear this. (DISCLAIMER: I don’t open up about my feelings much so mark down the date.)
So here it goes………
There are two sides to every story:
SIDE ONE: Fostering is a beautiful thing!
The fact that there are so many children yearning for love, structure and some type of normalcy literally breaks my heart in half. I can’t even count how many times I wanted students to come stay with me so that I could protect and provide for them.
I always wanted to be a mother, but not just any mother. An incredible one! I was blessed to have one son. Actually, I was pregnant with twins but lost my second child in the first trimester and began bed rest to make sure that my son did fine in the womb considered the trauma at hand. Losing an unborn child is a type of pain that can’t be described. I rarely talk about it for exactly that reason. My gift was one amazing, gentle, healthy, kind, empathetic, little boy that brings so much joy to this mother’s heart. I’m not even quite sure how he turned out so amazing but I’m so glad that he did! However my soft heart for kids was still aching. Meanwhile, God was at work. I seemed to always have a student on my roll that was completely broken and I was able to speak life into and be that caring adult that they needed. Those students had no idea that I needed them just as much as they needed me if not more.
I wanted more kids! I had so much love to give. I wanted a kid that no one else wanted. At last in February of this year, I received a call about taking in a foster child. A little girl that was the same age as my son. I was so excited that I could barely breathe because you know what mends my heart? The fact that the daughter I never had will soon be mine once the adoption process is final of course. In just a short amount of time, she has grown into a child that feels safe and is surrounded by an abundance of love and structure. She is thriving and I can’t wait to see where her success story brings her. I’m just glad that God allowed me to help. Thank you Lord for giving me back my second child.
SIDE TWO: Fostering is an ugly thing!
When I was young, I was placed in foster care after losing my mother to the hands of a violent father at the crucial age of nine. I wanted to find a family that would take both myself and my little brother in. At the time, he was all that I felt I had left. Luckily for us, our social worker found us a placement. Things were looking good. Our foster parents seemed nice. They rushed us to call them “Mom and Dad” but I didn’t mind. I wanted parents. Initially, a few things were odd but I ignored it. Then things began to grow physical and neglectful. I’ll spare you the details but I still to this day can’t stand animal crackers because we were only allowed 10 animal crackers or pretzels as a snack per day. All the good snacks were in a refrigerator in the outside shop locked with a chain and padlock or locked in their bedroom closet. As much as I hated that they treated us like that, I wanted to be adopted more, so I remained silent. Unfortunately once we were adopted, things got worse. I found out about so many lies and things that were hidden from us (even our older half-siblings weren’t allowed to see us).
I was twelve when I was adopted but when I was seventeen, I began to recognize all of the terrible things that were happening in that home. Turning seventeen was a vivid turning point for me, I rebelled and began to grow cold and disrespectful toward my adoptive parents. I learned that we were a paycheck. They had spent all our state funds and SSI money on themselves (Lord knows we never played sports or had nice things), therefore I moved out without a penny to my name (honest to God). So I lived on credit card debt and made it through college thanks to academic scholarships. I struggled everyday. I worked three jobs through most of my college career and my adoptive parents had written me off. I only moved 30 minutes away but they never even came to check on me. Sure it hurt, but pain was something I was used to. They weren’t the parents that everyone thought they were and apparently I wasn’t the kid they wanted.
Today, I turned thirty-four. I could let sorrow fill my heart because I don’t receive messages/calls/ presents from parents. Instead, I receive so much love and joy from those that do care for me that it’s quite overwhelming. The countless Facebook, Snapchat and text messages of people that took time out of their day to feed into me; to share the joy that I have brought to them. It’s powerful really! Words are powerful.
But you see, seventeen years ago I altered the course of my life.
I broke the chains of my past and I chose to be victorious and not a victim.
I chose to be brave and not broken.
I chose to be impactful and not impacted.
I chose to be independent and not dependent.
I chose to be loved and not lost.
My past is not my crutch.
I chose to be the BEST version of me and write my own side to the story.
I invite you to think about your story, (the good and the bad) and I challenge you to write your own story. Pick up the pen, set your goals and take control of your own life. #MakeItLast
P.S. To all my incredible friends, I urge you to consider fostering. To my friends in education, teachers make wonderful foster/adoptive parents. Just my opinion 🙂 #Fosteryourheartout