I never imagined I would drive, I come from a family of HGV lorry drivers and after watching them manoeuvre those gigantic machines I simply thought“not me”. The responsibility, the awareness needed all seemed out of my grasp.
It’s easy isn’t it to tell yourself that you cannot do it. That it does not happen to people like you, it’s out of your reach, beyond you.
This is what I thought as I sat in the public library one day, no matter how many notebooks I filled with my stories, poems, songs holding a book I had written in my hand was beyond me. Seeing a book I had written on the bookstore shelf well that didn’t happen to people like me.
Well it did and it has, yesterday my first children’s book was released. I’ve got to hold my dream. I’ve overcome my fear of failure, my fear of not being good enough to hold my story in my hand. To allow the dream of my heart to be realised. My hope printed from my soul.
It’s strange as today feels like a game changer, just like the day I passed my driving test (not HGV’s) and the world became larger for me. Today the world feels a little clearer, my mind a little braver and my heart a little stronger.
No more telling myself what I cannot do or what shouldn’t happen to people like me. Im going to dream and dream big and drive forward with conviction, with belief.
Belief in me.
Joining in with five minute Friday
1. 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. Write, post then link up.
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.
If there is any other subject you want me to cover here on the blog please get in touch.
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.
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.
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.
Mother’s Day, a day where we come together to celebrate all things that are Mom in whatever form that comes, stepmoms, adopted moms, grandparents being mom and so many more.
Being a mom is one of the hardest jobs in the world. The exhaustion of pregnancy, the labour of delivery, feeding, sleepless nights and so much more but yet it’s often the most rewarding role we will ever get to hold.
It’s tough and this last year has been a real struggle , ‘wow’ is pretty much all I can say about the last 12 months. From home schooling to the deep pit of fear that has been in your stomach since the words Covid 19 were first spoken, it’s been a year.
Still if I wish to challenge all moms a little now in fact probably all parents regardless of gender. What do you think is the one thing that is the hardest to cope with when being a parent?
Exhaustion, worry, finances,
Shall I share what I have placed on my heart this week. What God has wanted me to share with you all.
The hardest thing about being a parent
These pesky little things that penetrate our minds and hearts.
I should be
I could be
All turn into
I’m letting them down.
Now I’m coming to you as a mom of a five so a little experience here and also as professional of therapeutic childcare and I just want to state something here and I really want you to hear me.
You are enough
You are enough.
Our children enter this world with only a few needs, to be fed, to be warm and to be loved. Speaking confidently right now I am sure that each of your children are having those needs met. They are either grown and off living lives that you have encouraged and nurtured. They also could be there in your arms snuggling tight or even kicking out in your precious womb. They could be causing complete mayhem running around the house but all done in the knowledge that ‘they are loved’.
You are enough.
Yet we only have to look back the last 12 months and the changes this virus has brought into our lives. Homeschooling, isolation, exhaustion, fear. How many of use have felt lost, that they are failing?
My hands are right up in the air, me me.
I have watched social media posts of moms with beautiful converted classrooms with their children willingly working away. Houses spotless, make up perfect and I’ve literally cried. I have cried as Daniels homeschooling paperwork fell off the printer for the 15th time, cried as he completely ignored me as I tried to encourage him to work, sobbed at the state of my house and as for being perfectly made up, well I’ve had a shower and I’m saying Amen to that.
You see I couldn’t reach the expectations I had put upon myself and that’s ok. Because Covid 19 or not, being a mom is hard.
We mess up, we lose our temper and we suck at patience some days. Because motherhood didn’t come with super hero powers just the responsibility.
Anyway where am I going with this, well I’m leading to something I have personally took a long time to learn.
You don’t have to do this life alone.
As friends and family we are there to walk alongside one another. Reach out to friends, not only those at your stage at life. We have a wide breathe of generational wisdom to tap into.
But most importantly
Reach up, reach out to Jesus and ask him to walk alongside you. Ask for wisdom, hope and a big one for me, for patience.
Ask him to free you from the lies of the enemy that you are not enough. Free you from the untruth binding of expectations. To be beside you as you raise the next generation and to guide you as you walk this pathway of parenthood.
I ask you to look now at your child or if they are not with you bring them into your mind. As your heart swells of the love you feel for them as the love you have warms you to your very core, I want you remember.
I want you to remember
“We love because he first loved us.”
1 John 4:19
He loved us first,
He loved us first.
Remember that Jesus loves us as we love our children, that warmth you feel for your children he feels for you. He loves you to your very core.
Well hello March, what happened to January and February? Oh that’s right Sara you got lost. Lost in sadness, lost in anxiety and lost in defeat.
2021 started wrong, I’m sorry but I survived 2020 by patiently waiting for it to end. Pretending that it’s ok, hiding in a false facade of a comradery of equal suffering. “We are all in this together” “if everyone looks out for another” “we can do this”.
What bull that was, whilst some were hosting garden parties or indoor raves I was still locked behind my door scared to breathe deep.
So 2021 you need to behave, I have no more inspiration for homeschooling. I don’t want to talk to my husband any more and as much as I love Daniel I need sleep and I really really want to hug my daughters.
I cannot pretend anymore and that’s ok but unfortunately in my brain it wasn’t. So January and February I did my familiar act I locked down. I couldn’t disguise my sadness any more so I hid. I found my anger at the injustice of the forgotten vulnerable had started to warp my life view, jealous of others park walks none the less. Shopping trips envied to the point of stupidness I mean who cares that Asda has a new bedding range.
I did it 2020 I survived you but 2021 you need to play fair.
I’m not asking for a lot, I have no desire or money to travel (lockdown for foster carers didn’t fit the furlong scheme). Just to walk along a beach to feel the freezing cold of the British sea on my feet. To take Daniel to the local farm where he can indulge in his cow stalking behaviour to his hearts content. To eat in a restaurant where someone serves me and washes up.
I want to hold my daughters tight, to be there physically if they need me. To watch Daniel be held by those that love him as we repair his attachment bonds and remove his fear of rejection. To start his therapies again and to do all I can so he gets to live the fullest of lives.
I want so much to be there for my friends, to drink coffee, babysit whatever they need. To be able to hug them when they cry, to be able to listen without being out of reach behind a screen.
I want to people watch with joy again. To be able to see those around me without fear of infection.
Over the last few weeks on social media there has been a lot of conversation about the way we talk and represent our children with disabilities. Some I have agreed with and some I haven’t. Yet I have avoided entering into the conversation as its been rather fractious and in all honesty I’m been overwhelmed by just doing life. Yet another message I’ve received today has made me feel like I need to speak up. Because when a point of view or a fear of being wrong stops people from asking for support, stops people reaching out for help, well in my eyes that’s a failing. We cannot educate or make real change in an atmosphere of fear. When the anxiety of being judged stops you from asking questions you are actively stopping progress and development.
Firstly, I want to say that being any kind of parent is hard and I can guarantee that a perfect parent does not exist. Yet for the most of us our children are our world and we wake up each day trying our best to love them and raise them to be decent humans.
Being a parent of a child who has disabilities is all this and more. Beyond typical parenting we often have to become medical experts, voices and advocates for our children.
So secondly, please be kind to yourself, life is a journey of learning. How boring would it be if we all knew everything, though believe me I am beginning to believe that some seem to think that they do.
Thirdly I just want to share my opinion, my own thoughts, maybe not unique to me but honestly it is coming to a point that I do feel that my posts need to have this disclaimer.
Anyhow I’ve had the gift of parenting a child with disabilities in two different decades and I do feel this gives me a perception of change.
When Livvy was born in 1999 disability was still very much a hush hush pity situation. The number of times someone would apologise for my child to me was appalling. You see social media wasn’t a massive thing in my world and actually it was rare to come across an image of anyone with a disability. If it was it was often a portray of limitations for fundraising etc. This made my world small, there wasn’t anyone I could celebrate my child with, in fact I think many would have preferred if I hid her away. No one talked about what she could do always what she could not.
Limitations not achievements.
This simply sucked and this was the reason I actually first started on social media in hope of changing the narrative. My daughter was a beautiful, inspiring, intelligent, amazing girl and I wanted to share and celebrate all her achievements just like I did with her sisters. So that’s what I did and slowly and surely the conversations around Olivia began to change. I stopped the pity party being the narrative of her life. Unfortunately, Livvy passed away when she 9 and a half but when we share memories of who she was they are joy filled, adventure packed, flirting moments of a life that was such a gift, such a blessing.
Still it was hard and it was a struggle and I often felt extremely lonely. I did have to hide the pain, exhaustion to keep the true joy of Livvy. It was rather a one-dimension conversation, I couldn’t risk being open in case the pity party started again.
Fast forward a decade and a bit I am now parenting Daniel in a world where yes discrimination still very much exists but it is definitely not as lonely. I love that my social media is full of children being celebrated for their differences. That disabilities are not being hushed away in a corner hiding, shame filled world anymore. That I can share a photo of a Daniel and my comments received are full of joy and celebration and the ” oh isn’t it a shame” mentality is leaving the framework of acceptance.
Yet what I really love is the community of people who reach out to love and encourage one another. Parenting is hard but fellowship and having a squad of cheerleaders chanting in support makes it a lot easier and a lot less isolating.
So where am I going with all this?
The fact that the world is more inclusive is a fantastic thing, whilst there is a long way to go for full equality believe me, I’ve seen a lot of change in the last decade. Advocating for our children is definitely what we should be doing yes the conversations regarding disabilities should be changing. People are not their syndromes, conditions or abilities. They are their hearts and minds. Yet let’s not allow this desire for equality stop the support that we give one another. Let’s not strive so much for correct terminology that we lose hearts.
The reason I have written this is because over the last few weeks I have been contacted by parents of children with disabilities who are scared to share. One had shared a family photo with a caption that caused her backlash, there was no reason. It was another’s need to educate that distracted from the truth. The photo shared was a family filled with love and laughter. Their children were all together enjoying life, making memories. That one parent is now scared to post again. Her words to me were “it feels like whatever caption I write would be wrong. I need this space to share my life, I accept the comments from people who don’t get it, but now from those who should has made me feel really low”.
Another parent asked me how she should word a post asking for some advice as she had seen others face criticism for what one had said “degrading her child”. Yet the thing is who else can she ask? It wasn’t degrading it was sharing reality in hope of advice.
You see those that live in the disability community we do have a lot to learn but our mess ups are based in inexperience, lack of knowledge and in my case often life fatigue. But we are and always will be our children’s greatest cheerleaders. We love and cherish the very bones of our babies. So, as it all forms of parenting we will screw up, but for the most part it is done with love. If our children are cross or annoyed with us when they are older, we can remind them of this and that as human beings we live to learn and as they mature I hope they realise that parenting isn’t easy and cut us some slack.
Yet as a community we need to be careful, I’m all for progression and I strive for equality for all but let’s not lose what’s special about this world we live in. Let’s love one another, support one another and be a safe place for all those trying their best in a world they wasn’t expecting. My Grandad often said “be the friend you need”.
Let’s be the friend we all need in this wonderful totally unplanned life.
I’m not sure how I feel about change. I often find myself facing it begrudgingly. It’s as if I’m scared of rocking the boat, effecting the status quo. I’m so scared at times that I delay what needs to be done rather than put things outside of my control. Yet I’m usually the one telling others to reach for the adventure, push the boundaries, embrace the excitement.
Blooming hypocritical me.
November has been a month of major changes for me. My foster son has moved on after nearly eight years with us. I’m so excited for him and the move is so positive for all of us but it’s a change and I’m so lousy at change. It’s ironic saying this because as a foster carer your life can and does change over night. New placements join your family, some move on and it’s an every changing profession. I know this but it’s never easy. Even when the move is positive and families are reunited or forever families are found there is a semblance of loss that tears at your heart.
Yes you can see how you have impacted a child’s life. How you have been security in an insecure time. Your heart can be full and empty simultaneously. I worry if others will love upon them like I do, keep up to date with appointments, remember their favourite foods or the way they like to dress. It’s not that I believe others cannot love like me it’s just it’s hard to trust and hand over these special hearts.
Yet for us all there are seasons in life and as Autumn gives way to Winter I need to embrace the future and our new season. Excitement for the coming holiday and preparation for the next stage of our journey.
I know what is loved is never lost.
Who knows what the future holds for us as a family?
Who new may join our merry tribe?
What I do know is that whilst change is scary for me it is also exciting. A little flame is building in my heart for our next adventure, wherever, whoever that may be.