Why did you want to foster?

I asked on my socials for some ideas of blogs that people would like to me to write and one question asked was “Why did you want to foster? “

So here goes

“Why did you want to foster? “

I think I was 12 years old or maybe 13 as we have moved up into the bigger school and there was a boy in my year who was in my thoughts then a ‘nightmare.’ He was always arguing with the teachers, always late and often coming to school dirty. Then one day he just seemed to stop coming to school, just disappeared until a few weeks later he returned but you could barely recognise him, he was so different, in clothes that fit, clean and seemed so happy and his behaviour in school was really improved. He was trying hard in lessons and actually listening to the teachers. About a week after he had returned, we ended up being partnered up and being the inquisitive (nosey) person I was, I asked him what was different, why he was different? He then told me that he had been moved out of his family home into foster care and whilst he missed his family his life had changed a lot, his foster carers listened to him, cared for him and were worried about him. He told me “That he felt wanted for the first time ever”. This obviously shocked me, I had no idea what his life had been like but the difference in him stayed with me for a long time and as I go older the desire to foster was grown in my heart. I remember telling my husband when I met him, I wanted 6 children and to adopt and foster many more and bless him he stayed around and came along for the ride. 

Obviously 12-year-old me wasn’t going to become a foster carer but after we got married Alan and I enquired into the process and after discussions and Olivia’s diagnosis we decided that maybe when the girls were older, we could foster alongside caring for Livvy. As you all know life did not go as I had planned, in November 2008 we lost Olivia to a rare virus which she had contracted due to her diagnosis of Rett Syndrome. Our hearts were broken and in all honesty our minds were literally trying to make it to the next day. 

Olivia died on November 7th and for what seemed an ironic moment that was the year I had finally got myself organised for Christmas so there sitting in my wardrobe haunting me was the Christmas presents I had brought for my beautiful girl that I was never going to get to give. Practically I knew I could return the gifts for a refund, but I just couldn’t, I had brought these as a gift, so I needed to do that somehow, gift them. So, after an internet search we found our local children’s home and called for a visit to drop off the gifts. 

Turning up at the children’s home was strange, obviously we were still in the midst of grief, but I just felt so sad that homes like this had to exist. I was pleasantly surprised when we got inside and shocked that the home was actually for children with disabilities, I hadn’t realised that when we called. We chatted for a little time with the manager who explained all the fantastic things the children did and what they had achieved but I asked the question why these children weren’t in fostering placements etc. The reason was simply because they struggled to get people to foster children with disabilities, they are fearful which we understood completely it is far from an easy but yet reason this stayed with me, stayed with us. When we returned home, we spoke to our girls about how we had taken Livvy’s presents to the home and how lovely the children were. Our girls’ questions were like ours, “why are they there” “why doesn’t anyone foster them” and the question that came back to a few days later “why don’t we foster them?”  You see fostering had been a family discussion for many years, our girls always knew our hearts and here they were asking us to live our hearts. 

Well let’s be realistic here I was in pain, I was in pain like nothing I had every felt before. I missed Livvy with a desperation I did not know I had. I felt lost, I felt empty. My days stretched endlessly before me, caring for Livvy had been a 24-hour job now I was redundant and just did not know what to do with myself. Yet regardless of my desire to love on those children that needed it, my head wasn’t there. I had to make sure my decision, our decision was made for the right reasons not just to fill an emptiness which that let’s be honest could never be filled. But the desire didn’t fade in fact it began to burn brighter in my soul and my girls well they never let it drop, they came up with a campaign to get us at least enquire about it. So, enquire we did, enquiry led to interviews, interviews led to an application and application led to panel and panel led to approval. 

In September 2009 we were approved as foster carers and it was a fantastic day, the joy of knowing we were going to make a difference really blessed our hearts, yet it was not one which we could really focus on as the very next day we were on our way to meet a beautiful boy that captured our hearts, our very first placement. 

Over the last 12 years we have only had 4 placements as we foster long term and whilst I have to say fostering is a profession it has allowed me to hold hearts in mine. The joy we as a family get from watching a child lead a fulfilled happy life knows no boundaries.  It has not been an easy journey, we have faced pain, a lot of anguish and often felt that maybe it is all too much, but the children, the children whose lives we get to change are worth it. The children we get to love upon are so worth it. 

It is so worth it. 

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The joy of social media comments…

Sometimes social media can be a wonderful place to be, together we can celebrate and we can support one another. But at times it can feel like a place of oppression, ignorance and sometimes damn right hatefulness. Whilst I have to accept that everyone is entitled to an opinion I also have the right to disagree with it.

So I decided to share some of the “wonderful” comments I have received and my responses, enjoy….

Why are you always moaning about something? 

This is a comment I have received regarding my advocacy for children with disabilities and the governments lack of consideration of them in the schools recovery plan. 

Well let me just start by saying I am not moaning, there is a difference between standing up for your rights and moaning. When my child and others like him are being ignored by a government that is supposed to represent them I will speak up. When a government tells you that “every child matters” yet treats mine like a second class citizen I will speak up. Believe me when I tell you I wish all I had to worry about was the football score (Come on England), but my sons physical and mental health matter.

“We deserve our freedom” 

Oh it’s freedom you want,  yet yesterday our government passed a bill that robs us of our right to protest, but its ok because you can go dance the night away in a nightclub. Honestly please work out what freedom actually means before you celebrate it. 

“It’s not our fault you have a disabled child”

First up my child is not a fault he is a gorgeous amazing young man that overcomes so much. It’s no ones fault he has these disabilities just as you wouldn’t blame someone who has cancer or other illnesses, fault is not the issue. 

What is the issue is the discrimination he has to face due to people who believe he is faulty. The ignorant, the misinformed and mostly the selfish who only care about themselves and a current government who sees no value in those not earning in the top 10%.

“The NHS has to cope it gets enough money” 

I cannot believe this comment, the NHS is one of the most underfunded organisations in our country yet one if not the most valuable. The fact that the NHS is struggling is not due to the dedication and hard work of those that work within it but the systemic underfunding and disrespect and desire to privatise by those in power. Our NHS is full of wonderful people our Drs and Nurses, NHS professionals should be held high in respect not treated like casualties of war. 

“Maybe you should just send him away like they used too”.

How to reply to this one without swearing is hard, personally I know where I would like to send the commenter. Yet I’ve decided that someone who comments like this deserves pity not anger. I am so sorry your life is so pitiful that you cannot see the joy in mine. I pity that you haven’t found a love like I have for my son, that you cannot know the joy your life can be filled with.

Daniel is a blessing in my life that I am so thankful for. I will continue to advocate, shout, scream for as long as I need to get him what he deserves. I will exhaust myself if needed to give him a life that is happy and content and I will love on him with every breath I have. 

Children, adults with disabilities are not a burden to society they are human beings just like everyone else but they face discrimination and ignorance daily. This is where the issue lies in those that don’t or who choose not to value all people. 

As for social media I will continue to use it, I refuse to let a few take away from the overall good that I take from the connections I make on line but if you do choose to comment like this on my posts I will challenge. No one and I mean no one has the right to disvalue my son and believe me if you try you will meet mama bear in all her ferociousness.

My Joy xxx

Dreams do come true.

Oh, my world, this is a post I have only ever dreamed of being able to post. A dream that my heart has held since I was a very young girl. From the orange exercise books my grandad used to buy me weekly from his pension visit to the post office to today. 

Today, when I get to tell you all that my first book is ready for pre-order. 

I still cannot believe I get to write this!

My book is ready for pre-order woo hoo. 

This is so amazing. 

Writing stories has been something I have always done. I actually cannot remember when I started, I just know I found my escapism in the lives I could create for myself in the stories I wrote.

I could be the Sara I wished I could be. 

When my children were born, the bedtimes stories were often ones made up on the spot, allowing my children to be whoever they wish to be. I wanted them to know that limitations were only those of their imaginations.

Dream it, be it. 

So here I am being my dream, being the Sara I wished I could be. 

A published author. 

Yes me, yes Sara you.

A published author.

Isn’t it beautiful

Available for order.

https://olympiapublishers.com/authors/sara-meredith

We all deserve to shine

How do you stop that feeling of inadequacy forming in your throat? When others words and actions feed into the negative narrative you already have for yourself.

Why do I allow them to make me feel so low?

Why does their opinions matter so much and why oh why do I allow them to speak their lies over me?

You see I am enough,

I am more than enough.

I am a kind, caring, emotional women who has the right to be. I don’t need to fit into the boxes of others and I definitely don’t need to allow others to feel better about themselves as they hurt me.

Enough is enough.

I’m learning to have boundaries, learning to ignore (or at least pretend to) and I’m trying not to allow others to tear me down.

It’s took me a long time to like who I am. A longer time to see the value in who I am. I need to stay in this place.

I deserve to be in this place.

For a time I actually wanted to do life alone, to not have opinions around me that fed my negative narrative. Loneliness felt like a antidote to self harm. Yet I don’t have to live life alone, I can do life with others as long as I have boundaries and I make sure respect is given as it should be.

I’m not your plaything, I’m not the one you can beat down on because you are not feeling good about yourself. I am a heart, a soul that deserves to be.

So if you are like me and have allowed others to tear you down please stop. You are who you are meant to me. I mean let’s put this into perspective, every blade of grass is unique so why shouldn’t you be?

Also if you are one of those that need to beat down on others to make yourself feel better then stop. Does this behaviour actually make you feel good? Do you like who you see in the mirror?

I’ve come to the conclusion that life is hard enough without us adding pain to ourselves. Maybe we aren’t where we wish to be, we want to be healthier, we want to get a promotion, a relationship, a family whatever those are goals and goals are great, but beating ourselves up on the way to achieving them does not help, belief me I’ve learned this the hard way.

Life is going to throw curve balls, dreams are going to be lost but that’s part of the journey. Knowing who we are in ourselves is the only way we will find peace.

Validation from others is only a short term placebo.

Know your heart, know your strengths and know your beauty.

Never allow anyone to dim your sunshine.

We all deserve to shine.

I would rather lift up than tear down.

I often wonder that when God was handing out empathy he gave me a double dose, you see I often find my heart overwhelmed by things in the world. The sadness, the fear, the loneliness and so much more. There are days where I have to avoid the news because my heart cannot handle it.

For a long time I saw this emotion as weak, I saw the pain that I felt for complete strangers as stupid. But now I know different, extra dose or not I am proud of my tender heart. I admire my willingness to love hard and I cherish my desire to lift up others rather than tear them down.

You see to lift someone up isn’t easy, it would probably be easier to not care, to not bother, to not reach out a hand to pull another to their feet. Yet I don’t think we were supposed to live life easy. It’s in the hard we realise who we are, it’s through the decision moments we decide who we wish to be.

I want to be one who lifts, I want to be one who encourages and I strive to be one who loves.

This world tells us often that we have to be ruthless, that everything is about competition that we have to be the best. Walk over others to reach the top, destroy others to reach your goal. But this narrative is wrong, the joy of celebrating a victory you achieved together will always feel better than a lone success.

Joy is amplified when shared.

In a world that is so torn let’s come together to change this, instead of turning our backs lets reach out and lift up one another. Because a separated society will only breed more sadness and hate. A society that works together can and will achieve great things. Let’s just give it a try.

Self care failure

I have a confession to make, if one more person tells me to take better care of myself I may scream. I mean when and how?

From March last year my husband and I have been literally managing my sons 24 hour care between us and even now we have support of 6 hours a week, 6 in a 168 hour week doesn’t go far I am exhausted beyond measure, emotionally shattered and in all honesty lost with the world.

Yet when I speak up or mention I am tired people often offer me ways to show myself some self care. In fact it’s become to a point where I am now feeling guilty for not being able to give myself some self care time. Disclaimer here, I know every suggestion is meant with kindness but please come on. Right now my whole hope is to find time to grab a shower and maybe go have a wee in peace.

You see whilst the pandemic stopped the carers coming in, stopped the services from supporting me it didn’t stop my sons needs. It didn’t miraculously take his 24 hour care plan away with it.

Believe me a day where I could curl up with my book without a background of monitors, medications and actually my gorgeous boy does sound bliss but with the again rising numbers this sounds further and further away.

I do really appreciate the kindness but before you offer someone a suggestion of self care please think twice . If you do really want to help someone like myself maybe offer to do some ironing, pop to shops, the pharmacy something, anything that lifts the load a little.

This pandemic has left me with so much guilt it’s awful, I feel like I am letting everyone down. My son am I home educating enough, have I done enough physiotherapy, did we play enough, did I moan a little too much out of exhaustion? My daughters am I keeping up with their lives, did I remember to call them back, am I being there enough? My husband, when was the last time I told him I appreciated him, am I snapping a little too often in exhaustion, where did my patience go? As for my friends, I am here I promise, I just well I just don’t have enough left.

So as you can see I have enough self hate at the moment as it is, if I can avoid not adding my failure to self care to this endless list I really would appreciate it. It’s not the concept of self care I have a problem with I just cannot make the time to make it happen and this right now just feels like the theme tune to my life.

So worth it all though xx

Is truth too much to ask ?

It’s beginning to feel in the world today that whatever you speak up about you will be criticised. A world where we are supposed to be more educated, more aware seems a lot more narrow minded than before. The live and let live attitude is lost under the intense noise of keyboard shouters and newsfeed want to be’s. Sectors of the media saying what it wants without fact checking, it seems asking forgiveness is better than permission.

I truly love that marginalised communities are being heard, not finding their voices, they have always had them but actually being heard. Yet the anger and hate directed towards them is hard to watch ( I’m privileged I know). 

I know it’s wishful thinking that the core of who we are is what will be celebrated, that our differences are special, but our hearts, our souls are ultimately the same, one source, one love.

Yet with this wide reaching social media the world seems louder and crueller. The hate that was hidden in shadows is now out in the light, radicalism is greater than ever. Telling people who they should be, what they should believe and how they should look is now classified as freedom of speech, our right. Do we really have a right to be cruel to be destructive, to harm others?  Morally and it should be legally not. We don’t have the right to destroy another, to mock, to insult, too troll.

From princes to not princesses the world has an opinion yet under the noise their are people. People that hurt, people that cry, people that die due to the words shared openly and cruelly. 

I follow the criteria of “don’t write what you would not say to someone’s face” it’s simple but it’s true. Would I impact another with my words if they stood there in front of me, would I mock their child, would I slander their reputation? Would I openly insult their lives, be racist, be sexist, be cruel if their eyes could see mine?

Let’s be honest I hope I wouldn’t do any of these things anyway but you get the point.

Social media and the news seem to be full of opinions but no facts. It’s crazy that our newspaper articles have not fact checking their sources. Is this true, did this happen, was this the reason? When I studied journalism at college I was told “do not speculate” I wonder if today’s course’s state “write the most explosive story ever and fact check it later”. The amount of lives I’ve seen ruined by guilty by public persecution and the media only for the criminal trial to prove innocent. 

Lives ruined by headlines often not true.

Yet why is this still allowed, why do we still read the headlines, why do we still click the links?

What worries me is those being lost in the noise, those whose voices that should be heard . Those making a difference in the lives of others, those in need of help. Lost in the noise of ego, hate and more ego.

How do you change the overflowing tirade of misinformation and false opinion? Should we close ourselves off from the internet, stop writing, stop reading? 

I don’t think so,  I just feel a two strand approach is needed. Firstly the law does need to change, anyone causing harm, being abusive online should follow the same rules as in real life. If something abused you in real life they would be prosecuted so being behind a keyboard does not make you less destroying. 

Secondly I think as a society we need to be holding our media to account. Headlines should be truth not fiction, the law should be holding those in power accountable. I want to read my news and read an unbiased evidenced based truth not speculation.

I just really want change, social media especially has become such a big part of peoples lives, yet if we are going to allow the words of others to impact our perceptions please let those words be truth. 

Is this too much to ask? 

A trashy soap opera.

I was once told that my life was like a trashy soap opera that I was full of drama. I remember the conversation vividly, at the time my daughter’s diagnosis was official and I held the letter in my hand and on that same day I had also received a call to tell me my Nan had died. 

The literal definition of a day from hell. 

It was a defining moment for me as I realised at the that point that my pain was my own. That others could not or would not understand it.  I felt ashamed for being a burden for bringing others down and for basically existing. It was the reinforcement of what I had always believed of myself, I was broken, I was drama, I was too much. 

You see this was the narrative I had been taught, my emotions were my enemy, my empathy my foe and my heart well it was too emotional and too much. 

How I wish I knew then what I know now. How I wish I could have just put the phone down on that call or even challenged the uncaring, unthinking compassionless attitude of the caller. How could a so-called friend see a life -threatening diagnosis and the death of a grandparent as a soap opera? 

I mean how? 

I have worked hard over the last few years, I’ve had to challenge the nurtured narrative of my life that “I am too much” into a more truthful one of “I am”. 

I am a human being that deserves to exist, I am a woman who has faced heartbreak and loved hard enough to feel the pain. I am strong, I am powerful and I am a survivor. 

My life has faced tragedy, pain and loss but I am lucky that I got to experience a life of emotion. To grieve means I have loved, to have lost meant I have cared. 

Yet people are still so quick to judge others, only yesterday a conversation with a friend broke my heart. She is facing a tough time right now but feels she cannot be honest about how hard it is for fear of people thinking she cannot cope. As if feeling fear, exhaustion was a crime. I find it ironic that when someone has a physically demanding job their exhaustion is allowed, it’s ok, it’s understandable and often respected. Yet when people are emotionally weary they are judged “you need to pull it together, stop thinking about it, you need to be stronger”.  A world where those emotionally struggling are seen as weak.

We need to show compassion not judgement.

You see instead of calling my life a trashy soap opera my friend should have been a place where I could admit how my heart ached for my Nan and how the fear of the future for Livvy my daughter was often overwhelming and she should have told me how proud she was that I still showed up. That in the midst of this emotional tornado I was still fighting to give my girls the best life I could.

She should have loved me through it. 

Loved me in it and through it. 

You see, the British stiff upper lip crap needs to end. People need to feel free to say that today is hard. People need to support others where they are rather than where they feel they should be. A end needs a beginning and a middle before it is reached. 

Emotions are messy, they are often uncomfortable and can be hard work, but they are what makes us human. We should never have to hide our hearts. What I know now is that I need to surround myself with people who love me for my heart.

So if like me you often find yourself apologing for your heart stop, find your people, find those that love you as you are, find your tribe. It’s not about  changing to fit in, you cannot live a lie. You don’t need to be anyone but you. 

Be you, be proud, cry, scream and love hard, because you are beautifully and wonderfully made. 

Gentle?

Oh my goodness when I read the word prompt for five minute Friday this week I just smiled at the irony, gentle on a day that was far from gentle for our saviour.

He was beaten

He was mocked

A crown of thorns placed on his head.

The nails hammered through his hands,

The spear pierced through his side.

Not gentle, not kind, not right.

Yet this man so gentle and kind bore this pain, bore this torture, died for us.

I struggle through Good Friday, I mean how can you find the words to honour this sacrifice. To breathe life into the holiness of the love Jesus had for me. I often find myself looking forward to Easter Sunday excited to celebrate the resurrection. Yet this time inbetween needs to be felt, this closed tomb needs to be understood.

How often in life do we focus on the good that’s coming. A journey is always about the destination, but is it? Shouldn’t we sometimes slow down and view the world that we pass As we start towards our end. Maybe we would see some wondrous sights or maybe not , yet to look is never a waste, to rush is to miss.

So as we sit in this in between time I often think of those that loved Jesus. How did they feel? Did they know without doubt that he would return? Did they trust? What would I have done, I mean I know I will be reunited with my daughter one day but I still grieve. This time in between feels hard. I know that come Sunday the tomb will be empty but this space is hard.

Yet I know without a doubt that I will hold my girl again.

Because of a gentle man who suffered a horrific death

because he loved me.

Jesus the gentle breath than fills my lungs with salvation. From nail pierced hands to my promise of eternity.

Not a gentle love, a saviours love.

Join in with five minute Friday. Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation. Just write.

It’s not ok that our children died.

Often when we face a loss in our community of special needs parenting, our hearts break alongside those facing the pain. We emphasise with the anger and missing we feel the disbelief and sadness. Myself personally I ache for the pain I know those left behind will feel. Each new loss reopening a wound that is far from healed.

Yet one of the things I still do not understand about loss in the disability community is that from those outside of it, is the feeling that somehow it’s acceptable. That in some way it is less. The concept that a life lived with a disability is not as full as one without.

There is no denying that being part of the special needs community we face loss maybe more than most, the wider our community the wider amount of pain. But that’s our life, we choose to walk alongside one another through the good and the bad. We celebrate the achievements and too often we have to grieve the loss.

Yet often those outside the community do not understand our journey and more often than I would like, do not understand our joy.

Statements like “oh well she had been poorly for a while” “sometimes it’s for the best” or my favourite (irony) “God knows best”.

When Livvy died she had a devastating neurological condition. Her body faced so many obstacles, seizures, abnormal breathing, sometimes uncontrollable movements. Yes, to list her conditions it may seem dire. Yet what the reality was that yes she had this list of issues but what she also had was a life filled with love and laughter. She had a family that adored her, she had parents she wrapped around her fingers. Sisters she teased and played with. Teachers she adored, friends she loved. Her life was full of joy and mischief. She was not her list of conditions. Yet still when I speak of my missing, people speak of her with pity. When I speak of her loss, people speak with acceptance, as if her disability makes her death more ok.

Whilst I know this attitude is meant with kindness I need to share that it’s not. When someone who has a disability dies it’s not ok, it’s not even a little ok. It’s a heartbreaking, soul destroying grief.

You see people are not their disabilities they are simply people. A child with disabilities is simply a child.

So I beg of people, I ask desperately that when dealing with a grieving mother, a broken father a missing family, that before you speak of freedom from pain, limited lives or God’s choices, STOP. Whilst the lives lost may have seemed hard to you, or the disabilities overwhelming those grieving see the little boy whose eyes twinkled as he looked at them. The little girl whose smile lit up the room, their son, daughter, sister, brother. We don’t grieve the disability, we grieve the one we loved and their disability wasn’t what defined them. Our pain is not less and their death is not and never will be acceptable.