Hey there, friends.
I know this space has been eerily quiet recently and I'm sorry. It turns out when you are launching a book, it feels like you're yelling in a lot of different directions, and some (aka MANY) parts of your life get pushed aside. It seems weird to have pushed away a writing space when you're saying "Hey! Look what I have written!" but I don't think I had any words left after launching my first book, so it's probably for your benefit.
If you've been here a while, you may be wondering, what's happening with McKinley? Or if you're new here, you are like "What am I even doing here, I don't know who this person is?!" Either way, I need to let you in on a little secret that is about to infiltrate our entire little world with a whole lot of love - we are getting another foster babe! I have approximately one million things I want to tell you about this little fella, but I'm going to save that for a post next week. For now, I want to share an article I wrote for our local Foster Care Newsletter that answers one of the most common questions I get, "How difficult is it to serve as a Foster Family when you're in the military?"
I answer that question a lot, and wanted to offer up a little insight into why I believe that Military Families are incredibly well-suited to be amazing foster parents. So without further ado, here is the article I wrote...
It was a crisp, autumn afternoon in Virginia and my phone began to ring. I slid my finger across the screen and put the phone to my ear, “Are you sitting down?” my husband asked.
My heart dropped. What could it be? He had just gotten back from a six-month deployment two weeks earlier. Please tell me he isn’t going again. Has someone died? The questions kept brewing in my brain before I had the strength to find a chair. “Yes, I’m sitting. Is everything ok?”
“You’re never going to believe this,” he said, “but I just got orders and we are moving to Hawai’i!”
“Are you serious? That’s amazing!” I retorted, “But please, don’t ever scare me like that again.”
For the next several months, I dreamt about palm trees, beautiful beaches, learning the Hawaiian culture, and obtaining the golden tan I always longed for as a child. Little did I know that there was so much more for us to discover during our tour in Hawai’i.
Any military family knows that the moving process is all consuming. It took us at least a month before we began to surface above the boxes and packing paper and logistics that come with moving an entire household across an ocean. But, once the dust had settled, we were excited to face our Hawaiian adventure head-on.
That’s when we met Mary and Troy. They lived just a few doors down from us on base, with children the same ages as our own. But, in addition to their biological children, Mary and Troy were also serving as resource caregivers. I had never met a military resource family before, and was intrigued by the idea of it. I began bombarding them with questions about the licensing process and how foster care intersects with military life. I mean foster care is so unpredictable, so uncertain, so emotionally draining, right? Could my little military family handle it?
And then, as if the answer fell from the sky, I realized that these struggles weren’t so foreign to me after all. Aren’t we, as military families, experts at handling unpredictable situations— like when orders come through at the last minute? Are we not adept at wading through uncertain waters of pending deployments and imminent Temporary Duty Assignments? Don’t we guide our families through all of the emotions that are associated with moves and deployments, however draining it may be? In many ways, the struggles of resource families are the same ones military families face.
Maybe we could handle it, I thought, but is two to three years enough time to make a difference? It was about this time in our foster care exploration that I read this quote by Mother Teresa, “We know only too well that what we are doing is nothing more than a drop in the ocean. But if the drop were not there, the ocean would be missing something.” The words hit me like a ton of bricks. Serving doesn’t have to look like a twenty-year investment. It doesn’t take decades to love your neighbors well. Mother Teresa’s words pierced my heart and reassured me that while our transient lifestyle doesn’t allow us to invest long-term in communities, we must not forego the opportunities afforded to us in the short-term.
As much as the frequent moves seem to disrupt our lives as military families, I choose to see them as opportunities for new beginnings. Here in Hawai’i we have chosen to serve as resource caregivers, but when we move away from the island, our service to our new community might look different. The choice to foster while on military orders is a temporary commitment, which allows each family to fully invest in the system for a finite time period. For us, foster care looked like the right short-term opportunity.
In December of 2015 we received our first foster placement. During his time in our care, we dealt with bumps along the way and faced any uncertainty head-on while wondering how long he would remain in our home. But most importantly, through this experience, we have been able to not only enjoy the opportunities Hawaii has to offer, but also invest in its communities—giving back just a portion of the gifts Hawai’i has given us.
In May 2016, we said “good-bye” to our first foster child, as he went to live with family. I wondered how my boys, ages four and two, would respond. He was very much a part of our family, but I was surprised his departure didn’t rock the family boat more. My boys still ask about him, but they aren’t distraught. They still include him in family drawings, but aren’t grieving. I, on the other hand, have been a bit of a mess at times. Why are they so resilient? Sure, part of it comes from the innocence of youth, but I realized soon after our foster child’s departure, that the boys talk about him much like they talk about their friends from Virginia. Their experience as military kiddos has prepared them well for this transition. Their ability to love deeply while in the presence of friends, but also transition into a new normal without their friends is simply a byproduct of being a military brat. I clearly have a lot to learn from my boys.
While I never imagined that the military life would lead us to foster care, the connection isn’t too far off base. After all, in order to serve our nation well, we have to adequately care for our local community. And so, we are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to serve as resource caregivers and invest in the people of Hawai’i for as long as Uncle Sam allows.
***This article was original published in Hui Ho'omalu's Building Connections Newsletter
Having grown up in the military, it wasn't until college when I realized not everyone understood this strange life we live. As far as my friends were concerned, being in the military equated to moving a lot, and that is often where the conversation ended. In hopes of clarifying some misconceptions and also filling you in on some of our quirks and needs, I hope my civilian friends will gain a clearer glimpse into our lives! So here goes...10 Things I wish Civilians knew about our Military Life.
What did I miss? Military mamas, do you have nuggets of wisdom you want to share with the Civilian world? Or civilian friends, do you have things you've always wanted to know about our military life? Let's sit down over a pot of coffee and a respectful comment thread and chat it out.
“Cherish these moments,” she said, “they will be gone before you know it, and you will miss them.”
“Really?” I thought, as I scooped my son up off the commissary floor mid-tantrum. I’m going to miss waging war in the grocery store? I’m going to miss breaking up fights in the cart about who gets to hold the apples? I’m going to miss saying, “No, we aren’t getting ice cream today” 500 times before we reach the check out line? She can’t possibly mean that when my kids are grown I will have an eternal yearning to spend my days wiping tushies, cleaning up toys and enforcing boundaries, can she? If these are the most cherished days, I thought, then I need to turn in my resignation letter IMMEDIATELY.
Every mom of littles has been the recipient of that phrase so often that it runs on a scrolling ticker through our brains. Unfortunately for me, this gentle reminder most often causes this thought to emerge: “I must be a terrible mom because I just can’t cherish watching the toy dump truck unload a pile of dirt on my living room carpet.” I must've been born without the mom gene that causes me to say, “I just love it when my kids wake me up five times during the night, and when they put shaving cream in each others’ hair. These moments are precious and fleeting and I don’t know how I will live once they are over.”
Seriously, how can the majority of seasoned mothers look at me with a straight face and tell me that I will MISS THESE DAYS? I ask that question genuinely because for a while I thought I was doing something wrong. I thought I was missing some crazy joy in parenting, or that I was failing miserably because I didn’t see my kids through perpetual rainbow-filled glasses. And then, something made sense to me.
I played soccer growing up. From the time I could walk through my freshman year of college, I spent countless hours on a soccer field. It was, in many ways, my second home, and my source of consistency amidst countless childhood moves. A soccer field was not only my sanctuary, but also my battleground. I have extremely fond memories of playing soccer. I made forever friends in the process and learned innumerable life lessons from my coaches along the way. Just last month, a friend asked me “Do you play soccer?” and I instantly said “Yes!” but then realized I haven’t touched a ball in 7 years. I still dream about soccer, I see myself on the field making diving saves, and when I watch a women’s soccer game, my love for the sport is reignited—stirring up all of the positive memories I have from that time in my life. Soccer is an integral part of who I am, and it always will be.
While I have continuously loved the sport of soccer, I know deep down that I didn’t always love the game. Just hearing the words “Get on the line!” gives me PTSD. I was undoubtedly the slowest on the team and absolutely dreaded any kind of conditioning. It wasn’t just the running, I hated, but the two knee surgeries I had as a result of playing, and the countless disappointments. The disappointment of going from a starting varsity goalkeeper in one state to a JV player in another. The games where I let an easy goal in, or played my heart out and came up short. My soccer career was filled with many setbacks, and devastating losses, but the pain that accompanied the game, never muddied my enthusiasm for the sport. The heartache was always overshadowed by the victories—the games where I was unbeatable and composed and intuitive. I can vividly remember the last soccer game I ever played, it was hands-down the best game of my life. I remember my incredible teammates—the ones that supported me through surgeries and cheered me on during every conditioning session. Those great games and fond relational memories are what I hold most dear, as they eclipse the moments of disappointment associated with playing the game.
I think those veteran mamas feel the same way about parenting littles that I feel about soccer. They look back on it with fond memories, clinging to their successes and minimizing their failures. They remember mid-morning snuggles, a baby’s first steps, and hearing “I wuv you” out of a toddler’s mouth. They remember wiping away tears, hearing a baby giggle, and they miss being the MVP in their child’s life. They remember the mom friends who were monumental in that season—the ones who provided emergency childcare when their cup was filled to the brim, and who cheered them on when the race seemed too overwhelming. They simply love the sport of parenting, and it is the crux of their identity.
For so long when I would hear “Cherish these moments”, I thought it was an action statement—something I could tangibly do to make myself a more appreciative mom. I’ve come to realize that’s a big pile of baloney. Rather than being a demand for the present, I think that phrase is a charge for the future. The word “cherish” is used as both the present tense (cherish NOW) and the future tense (cherish LATER). To be honest, I think it is impossible to cherish parenting moments in the middle of the season. In the same way, I didn’t cherish my time on the soccer field when I was in the middle of the game. Cherishing only happens once we’re sitting on the sidelines, looking back at the past. For now, all I can do is simply play the game. Those seasoned mamas are up in the grandstands watching with adoration as I play the sport that they love. One day, I will join them and watch affectionately as young moms chase their kids around the grocery store. Watching them will bring back memories of my time on the field, but I won’t be sad my kids are out of diapers, I will simply miss playing the sport.
What sweet relief that realization has been to me. I no longer fall victim to mommy guilt that says I am not appreciating all of the moments adequately enough. Instead, I just get to enjoy being on the field right now. I get to have days when I win and moments when I lose, and when the season is over, I can sit at the End-of–Season banquet and watch the highlight reel. I won’t have to cherish ALL of the moments, but get to cling to the ones I love. I get to remember the good games, and minimize the defeats. I get to pass by young moms and smile because I, too, have so much love for the sport they are playing, not because I want to be back in the game but because the sport gave me some of my most cherished memories. I get to love the sport of parenting, but sometimes hate the game.
Now when I hear, “Cherish these moments” I no longer say begrudgingly, “Don’t worry, I am.” But rather I respond, "I most definitely will.” The cherishing will come in the post-season, but for now, there are many more games to be played.
I am a lover of people, a child of God, and a laugher at jokes. I write words, cry tears and smile at strangers.