I posted on social media recently about dreams, goals and visions. It read something to the effect of “If a dream causes more stress and tension than joy, it might be a nightmare. You better reality check yourself.” It came after a personal reality check. My dream was too big. I needed to let it go, and I thought I did, but yet I still hope...
I am a self professed idealist. I dream BIG dreams. I know no other way. I’m not Pollyanna and assure you I have bad days, sometimes really bad days, but for the most part I want the best and hope for the biggest and best. This, surprisingly, doesn’t always lend itself to a super optimistic outlook. BIG dreams don’t often come true, but often come with pain and growth and wiggling out of comfort zones and hard work and explaining yourself and defending your silly BIG dreams to the people around you. They’re not easy to keep because they’re so unrealistic. And yet… I dream them still.
My biggest dream BIG dream is, of course, to make a healthy living off my writing. But I have another dream. It’s lived inside me for decades and as I have grown, so too has my silly little BIG dream… Want to know what it is?
Ok my BIG dream is to someday own a resort where people come to rest and retreat. Yeah. I want to offer a space of refuge, a place of peace, away from the stresses of life to all who are weary. It started simple and small, after a family tent camping vacation to Flathead Lake in Montana. My children were elementary school aged, so this was about twenty years ago. The campground hosts were a lovely retired couple and I remember thinking to myself that I would like to be them one day. I wanted to keep a campground clean and tidy for the guests. I wanted to listen to them share their lives. I wanted to watch them get in the boat with their family and catch fish. Yes, I wanted to cultivate a place of rest, retreat and refuge in nature and enjoy it with others.
It’s grown BIG over the years, this silly little dream of mine. As Jeremy and I grew our investment portfolio it occurred to me that I could do more than humbly host. I could own the campground and shape it into this thing I see in my mind’s eye, this place of peace. I upgraded my dream. It grew BIGGER to the point of impossibility. There’s no way I’ll ever get it… but then again, maybe, just maybe I will.
A place popped up. Most of the boxes in my dream resort were checked. I was enchanted. It was high priced. Practically out of our possible price range. Completely impossible. I know this. I know there is no way and yet I dared to dream. I had my handsome Realtor husband show me the grounds. I wanted it. I probably even prayed for it before the harsh “no way, no hows” of reality snatched the silly dream out of my hand and threw it to the ground. It shattered into a million little shards of sure not gonna happen. No way. Or maybe just “not yet” and herein lies my sliver of hope...
What’s more, therein all that fanciful BIG ridiculous dreaming a revelation rose from the ashes. My BIG dream is only possible because there’s enough possibility from where I stand now to make it a dream to even hope for. We ARE real estate investors. We DO operate an obscure Okay Oasis that welcomes guests to rest and retreat. We MIGHT have the capital to make a deal work, if not this deal then another deal. I HAVEN’T always been this way. There HAVE been times in my life where a dream like this would truly be unrealistic, not just impossible.
The same realities that smashed the dream stirred up a song in my soul that humbled me to my core… “Who am I?”…
Who am I that I dare to dream this dream? “Who am I that the eyes that see my sin would look on me with love and watch me rise again?” Who am I that I have the nerve to dream this dream? I am a methamphetamine addict with a less than 5% chance of ever staying clean. And here I stand 24 years later clean by the grace of God. Who am I that dreams this dream? I am the batty, bruised up lady talking, okay, okay screaming irrationally to herself as she stumbles down the side of the road. Now unmedicated save for the workouts to keep my endorphins and serotonin levels healthy for several decades. Who am I that dreams this dream? A college drop-out with nothing but a two-year community college degree that took five years to earn. Who am I to dream this dream? Who am I? I am her. And yet I am here. And yes I do dare to dream my BIG dreams!
I am a child of the most high God. I am redeemed from a pit of addiction, self-hatred, mental-illness and uneducatedness. I am lavishly loved by me, and God (and a bouquet of my favorite souls too!).
By most standards I am an epic fail as far as love and life go. I know there have been laughs behind my back about who do I think I am to dream about a writing career or owning a beautiful place to let people retreat to. I know because there have been laughs right in my face too. But still… I think I’ll keep my dream! Yeah. I’ll dream BIG because if a bum loser like me can be saved from the impossible pit I came from, a safe place by placid waters might just be possible too! Ever and always, dream BIG little one ;)
Sherry Mott, wife and mother of 4 kids, is a true hero for hurting families in our valley! I met Sherry at an event hosted by my husband’s real estate office and knew from the moment she started sharing she was a change maker. Sherry is the director of Central Washington’s chapter of Safe Families. As an advocate for abused and neglected children myself, I was intrigued to learn more about her and see what the organization is all about. As is the story of our life and times, she is super busy and I’m full to the brim so, instead of coffee or tea, we settled on an email interview. Friends, after reading her responses to my curious questions... I am super inspired to find ways to support Safe Families now!
Learn about their upcoming fundraiser dinner & silent auction here!
What is Safe Families of Central Washington?
In its simplest terms, Safe Families is a network of support for struggling families. Largely volunteer driven, their intention is to pull families into support. Isolation and loneliness are dangerous, especially when a family is in crisis, or near it. Many people in our world and community do not have a network of healthy relationships to fall back on when life gets overwhelming. True, there is already a “system” in place for children and families, but all too often government intervention is a last ditch effort because a child’s life is in imminent danger. The scope of what any government program or system can effectively offer is limited. Safe Families model and vision is to fill in the gaps, with connection, with resources, with family friends, coaches and churches. The goal is to “wrap-around” a struggling family and give them assistance and tools to be well and whole in all areas of their lives and families. This preventative, first-line approach can effect change and provide resources and tools before its “too late” and CPS must get involved. Some families just don’t have the knowledge or network of support to keep their children safe. Safe Families connects families that lack healthy relationships with people who are willing to be their friends, engaging them, connecting with them and championing them. Sherry says she “fell in love with what a beautiful model Safe Families is. It's people helping people, not because they are getting paid, but because they truly care and want what is best for their "neighbors." Friends can be there for each other in a way that a "system" cannot.”
How Sherry got involved:
Sherry learned about Safe Families 7 years ago from a friend after having been through her own "crisis" with little kids. As difficult as it was for her with a network of people who stood up to fill in the gaps when she needed help, she realized others in crisis didn’t have that same support. That support system made all the difference for her. As she reflected on her own situation and the plight she knew others face, she honestly didn’t know how families could overcome or avoid crisis without support. She continued to see the need in our valley for several years but wasn't really sure how to help. She became a licensed foster parent then volunteered with the CASA program. Many of the services offered were reactive efforts provided only after a family was beyond crisis and at the mercy of the state. Sherry wanted to do something more proactive. That’s when she found the Safe Families organization and decided to start a chapter here in Central Washington.
What sorts of services does Safe Families offer?
There are a multitude of services Safe Families offers, all through real, meaningful connections with others. Safe Families offers a host family service that can take in children for a time. There are family friends who are genuine friends and champions for families in crisis. There are family coaching services to help parents get back on their feet. They offer real, tangible resources to families in need. There are churches and other organizations with special training in how to really wrap-around families in crisis. It is a service and connection oriented program.
A little something about the upcoming fundraising night
On Saturday, September 9th Safe Families will host a fundraising dinner and silent auction to raise funds for the local chapter. Funds go to support the volunteer work being done in our local valley. Safe Families hopes to raise $20,000 in financial support through the dinner. Get your tickets here!
What kind of time commitment does Safe Families expect? How much time does the average volunteer log?
Safe families works with a volunteer’s time constraints. Rest assured they find ways to get you connected and joined with circles of support whether you have an hour a day or an hour a week to volunteer. Training can be done online.
The Safe Families model is to make and be friends, to build community and relationship. Sherry says, “I don’t think any of us would meet someone new that we liked and think ‘I don’t have time for another friend.’ ‘Just think of SF as adding another friend to your life.”
What inspiration/encouragement do you have for others who may be interested in volunteering and how do they jump in?
“When people get involved with safe families not only do they feel good about helping others but often they experience the blessings of relationship and connection themselves. We would love to get you plugged in to safe families, you can start by reaching out at Centralwa@safefamilies.net or filling out a volunteer application https://sfcms.net/apply/ make sure to select "Central WA" so your application is directed to our chapter.”
SHERRY’S BOOK STATS:
Last book read:
To loosely quote Sherry, “leaders are readers and like many of you [reading this article] I always have 3 or 4 books at hand at any given time.” Some of her most recent reads are:
Changes That Heal by Dr Henry Cloud
Faithful Presence by Bill Haslam
How people grow by John Townsend & Henry Cloud
Good Boundaries and Goodbyes by Lysa Terkeurst ~ Sherry says that this book has helped her define who she is and is not, and has challenged her to look at what things she is and isn’t willing to let go of for the sake of healthy relationships. “Oftentimes our responses are triggered by past hurt or experiences and it can be helpful to think about these outside the emotion of the moment and have a matrix of what are the few things that you're willing to hold tightly to and what can you let go of for the sake of unity.”
Her book rec:
The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns, the president of World Vision. Sherry recommends it because it positively changed her perspective on what ministry is. “As I read the Bible I felt a disconnect between what I was feeling called to and what was happening in life and the lives of those around me. My theology didn't match my reality. I went to church but I was only serving the people who were already in church. What was I doing to really love my neighbor as myself and to seek the welfare of the city where I live and am raising my kids?”
~ SPRING ~
Seasons of life, like seasons of the earth flow predictably, though not necessarily peacefully, one to the other. The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. There are seasons in life that souls, like the sun, must fatefully rise to meet whether they want to or not. There are circumstances that blow in on the wind and leave the landscape lastingly changed; sometimes for better, sometimes for worse, and sometimes like a sweet spring breeze, simply marked for the memory of it all. What has been will be again, what was done will be done again. Every season has its own notable nuances and yet there is nothing truly new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new.”? It was here already, long ago. No one remembers the former generations, and even those yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow them.
Maybe there is nothing new under the sun. Maybe all life, all story, all seasons are simply recycled from what once was. But within the cycle of same there is a season of new that always, inevitably comes. Like blossoms on orange trees after the visit of bumbling spring bees, something new always comes. There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. There is a time when one must say goodbye to the old, dead and lifeless things of the past and greet new life and new experiences.
The time is spring. The season is new. Leaves, small, weak and timid at first, slowly stretch, reach and eventually emerge on the branches of their host. The temperature warms and daylight dawns earlier and lingers longer. They know not of the leaves and seasons before them, only that this is their life, their flower, their season to be fruitful. The bees buzz, the flowers bud and the leaves grow and explode into a springtime eruption of of lush, lively color that beautify and nourish the world.
It is in the springtime seasons of life that souls shed what once was, that dreams melt away and make way for new life. It is a time to be born and a time to die, it is a time to weep and a time to laugh, it is a time to search and a time to give up. It is in this strange season of new life and letting go that a sum of certain souls find themselves inexplicably intertwining. It is in the springtimes of their lives that this story begins….
~ SUMMER ~
Summer waxes hot and long in Central Washington parts and in sullen or smitten hearts. So hot it dries sticks and logs and grass until everything is ready and waiting to burst forth in fury and fire and flame. So long that everyone wonders if the heat will let up before a ground fire ignites the forest. Summertime on The Big Y is also known as fire season. Arid and dry, the threat of forest fire weighs heavy on the minds of ranchers, orchardists and residents alike. After every thunder and lightening storm wary eyes watch the horizon for the slightest hint, the faintest sign of smoke. Ranch hands scour the acreage for sleepers, the kind of fires that smolder in the needles for days or weeks after a strike before popping up and wasting countless acres of land.
As much as man fears the flame, he knows it also serves a purpose. Sometimes some fire is good. A scorching purification of the land, clearing out that which can erupt into a raging firestorm if not burned off gradually. What’s more, some seeds actually need the heat to come alive, to sprout and grow. Still the imminent danger that any summer fire can develop into something too large and unmanageable and devastate and destroy the land keeps all on edge. One spark lit on the dry grass of desperation or ember felled onto a heart of hope deferred and a firestorm may ensue. Once lit, field, forest or the fiery spirit of man can rage until there’s nothing more to consume, until all that’s left are charred remains and devastation.
It starts so small. A sneaky, low-flying fragment fallen to the ground still hot. At first nothing more than a hint of smoke, the impression that something more immense might emerge. It smolders; simmering, lurking, laying, ready for the right wind to blow in and set ablaze the fury waiting to ignite. Then the light and the heat will rage, demanding and devouring all that there is, filling the air full of foul fumes and insufferable smoke. The same heat that makes the coldest of nights more manageable, the same light that illuminates the darkest path, can utterly destroy, land, life or a dream. Summer simmers all the things that can take the idea of danger and make it real with all the things that life needs to thrive. Sometimes the fire smolders, sparks and sets the hearts and souls of men ablaze, to purify and cleanse, to bring seed to life, or to rage and ravage anything in its path...
~ FALL ~
With the coming of autumn to the Big Y Ranch comes also a grand and glorious battle between the living and that which will soon lay down to rest or to die. Some call it a miracle of transition, this shushing of the earth to sleep. Like a child resisting rest, the lively earth wages a futile war against its mother, Nature and father, Time. There is no hope and no way to stop that which must come to the animals and acres. The Big Y ranch spans eleven hundred acres of hearty and robust Cascade Mountain foothills, meadows and plateaus in Central Washington. A world unto itself. Nestled into the heart of the Pacific Northwest, the area is known for its sharp seasonal contrasts as much as it is for its orchards and apples, pears, cherries and wildlife. If spring is the season that takes the world from death to new life, and ushers in the warmth and vitality of summer, autumn is its inverse counterpart. The season comes to pull the world away from heat, light and life toward the dark, bone-chilling days of winter. The ranch knows well the turning of the seasons and of all of them, rages against the dimming of the light, the coming of the fall the most.
The splendor of summer shakes itself off, stripping away the layers of bounty and beauty, leaving the world with hardly a trace of what once was. Naked trees rob the animals of fall of their easy camouflaged covering. That which once fed on the summer’s nourishment become the hunter’s prey as a bounty of a different kind is stealthily sought. The calendar marks the days and the ranch fills with eager sportsmen, looking to fill their tags and claim their trophies. There is a time for everything, a time to live and a time to die. Dying comes to the ranch with raucous celebration of sought after rewards. Maybe there is nothing more to the melancholy season than one lost battle after another. Or maybe it’s simply nature’s reminder that all things change and all things die. Nothing, no matter how glorious or grotesque, will remain forever, save God. As the leaves fall to the earth, as the animals fall to the ground, as the fires finally take their rest and die out, so everything that has breath will come to an end. Not all change is fresh and new. Not all death is mourned.
And so their stories, like the land and the leaves, transition; each life losing and letting go of what once was whether they want to or not…
~ WINTER ~
Within the snow blown acres of the Big Y Ranch, winter’s wonder abounds. Furry ground squirrels that scurried to store their stashes all summer long, chirp, chirp a comical alarm if anyone or anything ventures too close to their secret stores. Little brown snowshoe hares slough off their earthen coats in exchange for white ones in time to blend in to their new white world. Still cautious and careful, they forage for the fruits and berries that refused to be taken to the ground at season’s change. Always at the ready, they flee with lightning quickness from hungry predators not prone to hibernation. Their scuttle, like the flutter of winter birds’ wings, is muted by the snow’s acoustical magic. Needing no camouflage from the hungry coyotes, the big, burly bison bundle up inside dark woolly undercoats that began to grow in timely response to the first of autumn’s winds. Neither the coyote, nor the cold will be their undoing.
Even more than the animals, the land itself sings a wonderful winter song. Snow falls in the night or from white day-light skies. A frigid frozen glitter shaken out onto everything that once was, covering it and making it clean. Its weight blankets the land shushing and settling the madness of autumn’s melee. Its covering puts the confusion and chaos of change to rest. The ragged, ravaged worn out land becomes a bare and blank canvas that, when painted by the sun, flashes its cold, quiet glory in a million pinpoints of splendid sparkling light. A landscape that ought to be dreary and dead bursts forth in beautiful brilliance.
In spite of autumn’s assault and despite the darkness of winter there is yet hope. Winter is unmistakably an end, but also a promise of a fresh start. Once the old has been cleansed, purified and washed with white snow, the days begin to stretch themselves awake earlier and earlier. The sleeping things rouse and rise up from their rest. The cycle begins again. All the hushed wonders of winter promise that though everything changes and every living thing eventually comes to an end, all ends are not necessarily bad, and life still finds a way even in the darkest, coldest of nights.
It was in the dark and dismal, yet hopeful winter of 2014 that the souls aforementioned in the preceding seasons finally collided. Their paths, already crossed, suddenly intertwined and fused together. On this night the time was right and the season was upon them to begin to understand the unanswered questions, to walk out of the past and to look into a future that could bring the hope and healing each of them craved. And the night went something like this…
Seriously... where has the summer gone?! I'm so busy, it's flown by!
There I said it. We’re busy. You’re busy. I’m busy. The whole world is busy. But is it good? What’s your busy all about? Have we as a society always been busy? Is this new, and has it come from the information age? Or is it “just life” and I’m now to the age where things are going faster than my slowing body and mind can keep up with? Maybe it’s a little bit of both. I don’t know, but I know we’re all so busy it consumes our descriptions of our lives to the point where whole conversations can be had about how busy we are.
Busy has been on my mind a lot lately, so has my newest book, another non-fiction. The two combined lend themselves to looking into busy facts. I’m not attempting to fix anything here, but I want to call it out. What are the facts of busyness? On second thought, are there any busy facts? Like, is there an Institute of Busy that gathers data on how busy society is and how it affects our lives, relationships and mental health. I can answer that. There is no Institute of Busy; I have Googled it. There are however a handful of insightful studies on busyness. You’re probably too busy, but if you have a sec, read on!
What even is busy anyway? According to an abstract I pulled off the National Library of Medicine, busyness is “the perception of the density of events and tasks to perform in one’s daily life.” So you get to quantify your busy and I get to quantify mine (but there is a questionnaire for it to make sure all busy is busy – I couldn’t find it but the abstract says it exists so it’s somewhere… maybe somewhere in HERE??).
There you have it, according to the super science-y experts busy is all about perception and, according to the abstract, not necessarily bad. The first sentence says busier people tended to perform better on thinking tasks than non busy counterparts. I find this especially interesting considering busy kinda makes me feel harried and out of sorts. A 2019 Harvard Business Review article by Brigid Schulte supports my “feelings” and warns that busyness can actually lead to burnout and lowered IQ!
For real! One article says busy can help you think better and another sites research stating too much to do dumbs you down.
Schulte’s article goes on to blame the corporate world for most of our busyness. She indictes the work culture of constant emails and 24/7 access to portals to do work for the feelings of busyness. Of course bosses and supervisors who do not take breaks perpetuate the busy cycle. Interestingly, this busyness doesn’t necessarily lead to better ideas or productivity for supervisor or worker bees. It leads to mental exhaustion, think hamster in the wheel. What’s worse, this busy, busy, busy mindset cultivates an affect known as tunneling. Tunneling occurs when one’s vision narrows. Too much work leads lends itself to a scarcity mindset... not enough time. When we think we’ll loose something, we’re absolutely right. We lose focus on the bigger picture and narrow down to saving what we might lose. As far as work goes, this doesn’t necessarily lead anyone to do the most important work, but just any work to try to get something done because everything always needs to be done right now and there’s never enough time! Schulte sites an article that reports tunneling is actually proven to lower IQ by up to 13 points. It’s interesting and while I agree busy tends to burn me out her arguments seemed very blame-y.
Personally, I can keep myself plenty busy outside of work as much as I’m ever busy at work. Which brings in the work-life balance and how do we ever achieve that?! Ohhhhh yeah! Retirement, unless you’re a retiree, because though they seem to be less busy than the younger generation, they’re still moving and shaking.
Ok so where are we at? Oh yeah, we’re all busy all the time. Ladies and those in their 30s and 40s tend to be the busiest but why? Why are we so stinkin’ busy all the time? I think my favorite answer for why came from, believe it or not, a wildlife management study on why their workers weren’t producing quality information. Evidently they were too busy to do good work! Yeah! Their study found four main reasons for lackluster output and all stemmed, somehow, from busyness. First, somewhere along the way busy had become a status symbol. Doing more, even if it was substandard, was better than less even with excellence. They found it could also be attributed to a lack of resources. Without proper tools, funding or staff one must do more to achieve the same result as could be achieved with proper resources. Interestingly, busy was also found to be a form of opposition. Busy might, just might, imply they don’t want to do what you want them to do because what they’re doing matters more to them. “Sorry, I’m so busy” might actually mean, “I don’t want to do your thing right right now. I’ll get to yours if there’s time, but gosh, I just don’t know if there will ever be time...” Finally they found busyness might be simply attributed to human nature itself. According to this wildlife study, we are pack animals. We need to fit in with our tribe. If everyone is busy, it’s prudent for oneself to be busy too. If one tends to be the alpha in the room, family or organization they must obviously be the busiest of them all, right?! So, we’re busy because everyone else is busy and if we’re not busy we may be perceived as a non-contributing part of the tribe and therefore at risk.
I buy into those four reasons. So what do we do about it, this busyness that is plaguing us? I found a few things we can do to curb busyness (if we don’t like feeling so busy) and came up with a few of my own. First of all, remember according to the extensive Google research I did ;) busyness isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Take some time to simply notice if busyness is a bad thing for you.
Right now. Close your eyes and think about your schedule, your days, your weeks and the density of activity in them… Come back in a minute or two for the rest of this. Seriously, STOP READING!
Do you feel energized by your busyness or exhausted? When someone asks how you are doing is your answer something like, “sigh I am so busy. I can’t catch my breath.” or “I don’t even know if I’m coming or going anymore.” If there is a negative ring to your thoughts or answers about your personal busyness. It might be time to put some of the anti-busy hacks below into play. If, on the other hand, busy feels fine to you, as far as my unscientific research uncovered, you do you Boo! (I would caution you to check-in with your people. Work and busy can turn into an addiction of sorts. The #1 step for addicts is to admit that their life has become unmanageable and they are powerless over their addiction. If your busyness is causing significant relational problems, I would challenge you to go back and re-notice how busyness is affecting your life and relationships.)
A simple way to make space in life is to allow the space when it opens up. Don’t fill in schedule holes anymore. I have a habit of replacing a canceled event with another. If a friend can’t make a lunch date, I tend to find someone else to invite. I’m not going to do that anymore. I’m going to allow the space. Yes, there are a million other things I could do, but I can take the time alone where we intended lunch, or somewhere else and allow the space.
It goes without saying a calendar is a great schedule hack. Fill in your calendar with some free-time. Like canceled time, simply allow it. The challenge for me is I don’t know what to do with true free-time. I’m not much of a sitter. I’ll find something. What I like about this idea of free-time is I can make it whatever I want it to be. Need to clean out a cabinet? Great! I have the free-time to do it. Did a friend come into town unexpectedly? Great! I can invite her over for a cuppa something to sip on. The idea behind busyness is your perception of how full your day is. Even if you “fill” free-time with something, the idea that you had the time to spare can reduce the scarcity of time and calm your weary soul if busy is bothersome for you.
Take your breaks!! Do NOT work through your lunch break. Do NOT work through your 10 or 15 minute break. Take it. I suggest something other than mindlessly scrolling social media on work breaks too. Read a book. Call a friend or family member. Take your lunch to the park (or at least outside) and enjoy it there. Allowing this brief space at work will open the day to more than the density of the work you’ll never finish anyway.
This article on Simply & Fiercely has some more great hacks and tips. If you have a little more time you might want to read it. As for me I won’t take anymore of your time. May your busy be blessed not burdensome and life be lovely! <3 Lucy
As a long-time foster mother, adoptive mother and guardian to many children and volunteer teacher and helper to even more, Anna Kagley also deserves recognition.
Anna Kagley is single-handedly responsible for turning my thoughts about being a foster parent into action. I met Anna at a retreat for families of kids with a combined vision and hearing loss. That was nearly two decades ago. Meeting her seriously changed the trajectory of my life. She taught me that a full-time career and an already full house and life are not reasons to keep you from finding ways to help kids in need. Simply put, listening to a woman like Anna takes away all the excuses. She challenges you to really evaluate yourself if you’re not involved in some kind of child-safety advocacy.
Anna's involvement with children has run far longer than our relationship. She and her husband, Robert, have tried to help the children in his family since they first got together. Robert is Native American and sadly, as is the case for many Natives, addiction issues ran strong in his family. He had several siblings caught in addiction that couldn't take care of their kids safely. Even though they didn’t engage with any state or private services, they helped out on a casual basis with them for years. When Anna got pregnant with her first born son they got a call about their nephew Gage.
Anna and Robert had sheltered and helped Gage’s parents when they were younger, and now the state was involved. They were nervous to help because of how unstable the family was but later on, when they got a call about Ethan, Robert's nephew, they just couldn’t say no. Ethan’s mom was a severe drug addict and he was born addicted to drugs and dramatically delayed because of her use. Additionally his vision, hearing, motor control and cognition were all damaged. He needed care and Anna and Robert stepped in and loved and cared for Ethan until he passed away in February of 2021.
They took Ethan in, and like my interaction with Anna fired me up to child safety advocacy, their family interactions with him sparked the flame for them. Anna and Robert and their whole family have participated in countless advocacy opportunities. From Deaf-Blind sensory disability services, to fostering and lobbying, Anna’s done it all and then some. She helped to organize and operate a Foster Closet in Snohomish county to provide clothing, toys and supplies to foster families and parents living in poverty. Anna has lobbied congress at our state level for better services and rights for foster parents and people with special needs. She has helped with Walk Me Home events and public school co-op science classes. Their family has been a foster home to over 2 dozen children and they’ve adopted children as well.
It is a tireless, and often thankless endeavor. Though there have been regrets along the way Anna is still a huge advocate for helping kids. As she put it, “On the Pollyanna side of things, I think my kids are more appreciative of their own parents because they've heard and seen what abuse is. It has built compassion and empathy for others in them. They’re not just sympathetic, they really know and feel what these kids go through. I don't think many kids their age have that strong empathetic response the way they do.” Anna’s proud her kids can celebrate even the smallest successes in other people’s lives and links it, as well as their understanding how poverty influences poor choices, to seeing it first hand, reflected in the kids they’ve taken in over the years.
On the negative side she’s regretful that the exposure has taken away her own children’s innocence. She knows the choice to shelter and foster abused and neglected kids introduced them to a level of trauma they wouldn't have otherwise known. Anna believes strongly that home should be a safe place and worries that her desire to offer sanctuary to some kids actually took it away from her own.
The other challenge and strain on foster families is the lack of stable respite. She goes to far as to say it is crippling to the foster care system. Foster families of even normally functioning children get burned out, for those with special needs kiddos the attrition is even higher. Good stable respite would go a long way to helping keep up the number of foster parents. She postulates, and I concur, that making foster parenting a respected profession of its own would probably help too.
Even with all the emotional pain her service has caused her family she’s quick to point out that for all the bad examples there are so many good ones too. She uses the example of her adopted son Kian. He is a treasure to their whole family. Kian was born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, is developmentally delayed, and deals with a slew of symptoms. He is also an overcomer and amazes them every day. When he masters a simple task or goal it's a celebration for their whole family. He is not a bitter or angry adolescent, he embraces each day with joy. Anna says, “Kian is the reason I get out of bed every morning.” Even Ethan, who could give nothing back filled her up with no strings attached.
Anna encourages everyone to please, please somehow get involved. Do something to help stop the cycle of childhood abuse and neglect. She will be the first in line to tell anyone that fostering or adopting isn’t for everyone and shouldn’t be attempted without serious thought and family discussion but each of us can do something.
There is so much need and so many areas where one can advocate. The obvious is to “be” a safe person in the lives of abused and neglected children. Whether that’s fostering, adopting, or even just showing up at their school for a lunch visit regularly, being a safe person can positively impact a child for life. People can vote to support more mental health services, early intervention services, parenting skills services. You can volunteer time or offer financial support to organizations helping kids.
I personally appreciated Anna’s admonition to Pro-Lifers. She feels strongly, as I do, that if ease of abortion is taken away, child abuse and neglect will skyrocket into an even bigger social scourge than it already is. If we do not allow abortion as an option then society, and especially the pro-life sign holders and financial contributors, must also make the time and energy commitment to keep kids who would otherwise be aborted safe.
All in all, given the ups and downs, the sadness, tears and treasures in between, Anna continues to be a giant in the child advocacy arena. She has my respect and always inspires me to be a better, safer human!
Last book read:
Understanding Methods of Fish Biology – for work
Braiding Sweet Grass - leisure but she said she didn't love it. It was too touchy-feely for her.
Understanding Jane ~ Ruthie Rayburn
All Creatures Great and Small w/Kian ~ James Herriot
A Planet of Viruses ~ Carl Zimmer
Book recs for us:
Apple: (Skin to the core) ~ Eric Gansworth
Brainstorm: The power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain ~ Daniel J. Siegel
Parasite Rex ~ Carl Zimmer
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