Poetry: A World Like This

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Winnie the Pooh
and Tigger too
couldn’t have dreamed
of a world like this.

A world where kids
stay doped up
on Ritalin and Prozac,
while drug dealers
work the swing sets
and slides
of a local playground.

A world where kids
with guns and the will to kill
run the streets
with cold, hard eyes –
their consciences seared
by the flames of abuse
and neglect.

A world where the innocent
pay for the crimes
of the guilty, and justice
has become a four letter word.
A world that I once loved
but now only seek
to escape.

No, Winnie the Pooh
and Tigger too
couldn’t have dreamed
of a world like this.

But the funny thing is,
I think our dreary friend
Eeyore
saw it coming
all along.

(Poet’s note: This poem was written back when I was a foster parent, inspired by much of what I saw in the lives of the kids I took in. This is not meant to be a strictly anti-psych-meds poem, but unfortunately, I saw many of these kids unnecessarily or overly drugged just to keep them quiet or avoid dealing with the effects of their trauma.)

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I Miss Having Kids Around

Today my husband and I went to go see one of his students dance in a special recital:

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Seeing all the cute little kids dressed up in their costumes and dancing made me really miss having kids around. I used to be almost constantly surrounded by kids between foster parenting, volunteering with the kids at our old church, and working in the school system as a teacher’s assistant/aide. My favorite age of kids to work with were always the younger ones, 3-4 years old to around 6 or 7, although I bonded well with kids of almost any age.

At this point, I don’t know if my physical/mental health will ever consistently improve to the point that I can do those things again, but I miss them. I am thankful for the experiences and memories though.

Mental Illness Labels : Alphabet Soup Poem

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Yesterday I commented on a post by blogger Myloudbipolarwhispers about mental illness labels. In the comment, I explained how one of my foster kids once had a therapist who talked about the dangers of “alphabet soup”, which is when people start collecting so many labels (ADHD, ADD, ASD, PTSD, SAD, OCD, DID, BPD, RAD, and so on and so on) that they lose sense of themselves as a person or even worse, those treating them lose sight of their humanity and just see them as a list of diagnoses.

I shared in the comment that I even wrote a short poem about “alphabet soup”, which ended up in my book about foster care (From Both Sides). Myloudbipolarwhispers mentioned that she would like to see the poem, so I figured I would just share it in a post here, since it definitely fits the themes of this blog:

Alphabet Soup
By: Maranda Russell

Some good old-fashioned RAD,
a touch of PTSD,
just a hint of OCD,
a generous helping of ADHD
and a pinch of ODD
to taste.

Add it all together
and what do you get?

Alphabet soup…

and a kid
made entirely
of labels.

Feeling Torn in Half…

Last night I had a really bad panic attack. The situation that triggered it is a complicated one that has me feeling rather torn in half. As I have probably mentioned before, my husband is a special education teacher. He is extremely devoted to his work and his students and loves what he does. This past Monday, he found out that one of his prior students, a girl who is now 19, needs a place to stay. My husband would like for us to take her in. I am really conflicted about it.

My husband and I used to do foster care, so I’m not unfamiliar with taking in strangers and looking after them, but the reason we had to quit foster care was my deteriorating health. That worries me about taking in a new, adult person who has both emotional and developmental issues. It also worries me because we recently downsized into a much, much smaller house and the autistic side of me is deeply worried about having no privacy or time alone which is essential to my well-being. Plus, I don’t know where we will move all the stuff that is now in the extra room.

On the other hand, I do feel deeply for this girl who has been through A LOT. My heart aches for anyone who already struggles with physical or mental disabilities and then has to add the weight of being abandoned or alone. She is living my worst nightmare in many ways and I can’t help but feel compassion for her. However, having never met her myself, I also worry about whether we would be a good fit or not. Often, that is something you just can’t tell until you live together, and if we do take her in, there is a good chance we would need to keep her at least a couple years until she graduates school and is moved into some form of independent living housing.

I feel so conflicted and anxious.

Are You a Nowhere Man? All About Biases

The Beatles "Nowhere Man"
The Beatles “Nowhere Man”

I’ve said before that I think some of the best poetry snippets can be found in song lyrics. Not every musician or group writes great or even above-average lyrics, but when they do, I like to dissect the songs and really think about them. One song I have always felt a strong kinship with is “Nowhere Man” by The Beatles. I’m not sure many people really stop to think about the song as far as philosophy goes, but I find it full of a kind of zen-like wisdom.

I think perhaps my favorite lines from the song are:

“He’s as blind as he can be
Just sees what he wants to see”

Do you know anyone like that? I know I sure do. I know people who are seemingly intelligent and caring, but are hopelessly blind to certain truths because they either don’t want to see them or because their minds are biased to a point where they can not see anything that doesn’t align with their personal beliefs. Even scientific studies have found this to be true…that our personal beliefs can affect our ability to see things clearly or even figure out simple problems.

When I used to be a foster parent, we had a class we had to take every so often that talked about how deeply bias affects us and the decisions we make, even when we are small children. A child who is biased to believe the world is cruel and unfair (from past neglect or abuse) will make their personal reality fit that view, even if their belief is not the current truth. They will see everything that they experience from that biased point of view and nothing will change their mind unless that bias changes.

I find that fascinating from a psychological point of view and have thought often of what that means when applied to human nature in general. Sometimes it rather discourages me because I understand that many people will choose to be blind or can’t help being blind to seemingly obvious truths no matter how much evidence they are given or how easily their beliefs could be disproven using logic and scientific reason. This makes me want to scream and shout in frustration sometimes. It also makes me worry about what biases I have in place that I don’t even notice. I guess the song was right when it asked, “Isn’t he a bit like you and me?”

New YouTube Video – “Behind the Scenes of My Foster Care Book”

This week’s video is a “behind the scenes” look into my popular book about foster care entitled “From Both Sides”. In this vlog I discuss the inspiration behind the book and share a few short excerpts.

I hope you will check it out! Feel free to comment and let me know what you think. You can also suggest future topics if there is something you would like to see me talk about.

NEW paperback version of popular foster care book “From Both Sides”

From Both Sides Cover

I am proud to announce that I have just released a NEW paperback version of my free verse memoir ebook about foster care entitled “From Both Sides, A Look into the World of Foster Care From Those Who Know it Best”. I have gotten quite a bit of positive feedback about the ebook, mostly from current or former foster youth and foster parents. Some of them have requested that I release the title in traditional book form so I finally decided to do just that!

For a little bit of background, this book is actually written from two different perspectives. The first half of the book is written from the point of view of children in foster care. The latter half of the book is written from the point of view of foster parents. While writing this book, I used my own experiences as a foster parent, as well as the experiences of many current & former foster children and other foster parents. Many of these poems were inspired by things that were told to me while I did these confidential interviews. The result is a book that tries to be brutally honest and create further understanding of the many struggles, frustrations and occasional joys that go along with the foster care experience.

I wrote the book in free verse style because I think that makes the emotional impact of the messages it contains stronger. It is almost like reading a diary or journal in some ways because it is so deeply personal. Writing in free verse also made it a short, simple book which I figured may make it easier for teens in foster care to read. I know many times it can be hard to get a good education while being moved around in foster care, so foster kids may sometimes struggle with reading. The book does contain some more mature material, so it is recommended for ages 13 and up.

If you haven’t checked this book out already, I hope you will! It is currently available from Amazon for only $5.39! It is still available in Kindle version too for only $2.99.

PS…I am looking for ways to promote this new book, so if you happen to have a website/blog or some other public platform and would like to feature me or this book in any way, feel free to contact me (contact information can be found on the “About Me” page of this website).

Ebook Release, “From Both Sides, A Look into the World of Foster Care from Those Who Know It Best”

From Both Sides cover

I am very proud to announce the release of a book that has been in the works for quite awhile now. This project wasn’t just another story I wanted to share, this was a very personal, intense book for me to write in many ways. As a foster parent who has undergone much heartache and frustration navigating the foster care system, I wanted to share a bit of that experience with others. However, I also wanted to give a voice to all the many kids who seem to fly under the radar and get “lost in the system”.

To achieve both ends, I divided the book into two sections. The first half of the book is written from the point of view of kids in the system. I did use a few of my own experiences with my own foster kids in this section, but also interviewed many current and former foster youth which really helped to open my eyes to the way foster kids really feel. Of course, since some of the questions I asked were rather deep, I interviewed kids that were at least nine years old, which I’m sure influenced some of the content. My husband and I have always fostered preteens or teens as well, so you may want to keep that in mind when reading this book. My heart really does ache for the older kids in the system because they are the ones that usually fall through the cracks and sit in the system for years or until adulthood. Even if they do get put up for adoption, it can be very hard to find adoptive families for older kids.

The second section of the book is told from the point of view of foster parents. In this section I did use more of my own experiences, but also included stories and feelings from other foster parents I talked to. I openly tackled subjects such as mental diagnoses, attachment problems, prejudice, abusive foster parents, loss and the reason behind why I personally chose to be a foster parent. In many ways I laid my own soul bare for this project, but I felt that the subject matter deserved no less. The book itself is written in an autobiographical prose/free verse poetry form that is very easy to read and understand, but gets quickly to the heart of the matter and the deep emotions that the foster care system often evokes.

My hope for this book is that it will inspire, encourage and comfort foster kids and foster parents in some way. I hope that they will read this book and feel like saying “Yes! Someone finally gets it!”. I also hope that those not directly involved in the foster care system will read the book so that their eyes can be opened to the real challenges and injustices present. Only by bringing attention to the problems of the foster care system can we hope to make some positive changes. As I said in the dedication of the book, “Here’s to hoping that someday EVERY foster child can find a happy ending, no matter their age or circumstances.”

To read this ebook for yourself or find out more about it, please visit the book’s Amazon page. Right now “From Both Sides” can be purchased for the Kindle for only $2.99.

To spank or not to spank – what kind of discipline actually works?

ErziehungsmethodeIt’s been awhile since I have written a blog post related to foster parenting, but something has been weighing heavily on my mind and I would like to share it and allow others to share their own thoughts on the subject. As a foster parent, it is absolutely forbidden to give a child any physical punishments. No spanking, no standing in the corner, no hard physical labor or military-type exercise. In fact, sometimes it feels like as a foster parent the only type of discipline left to use is privilege removal and time out.

Unfortunately, I find that most of the discipline options we are allowed to use don’t seem to actually work. It leaves me wondering, what if anything would work? I have heard some foster parents swear that if they could just spank the kids or make them do physical drills like they are in boot camp, that they could “fix” these kids. However, I’m not so sure about that. I have known regular kids who were spanked or raised with military-type parents and some of those kids still didn’t turn out well.

So what is the real answer? Unacceptable actions do certainly have to have some kind of consequence, but what kind? Even our foster childrens’ therapists and counselors seem stumped sometimes as to what will help. They often have us trying one behavior management program after another just to see them all fail. This also leaves me wondering if it helps to constantly be changing your gameplan when it comes to discipline, even if a certified therapist recommends it. Sometimes I start to get confused about what we are supposed to be doing because it gets changed so much…so imagine how the kids must feel!

So now I am asking all parents, whether foster, biological or otherwise…what have you found that actually works as discipline? What seems to be totally ineffective? Are you for or against spanking?