I Miss Having Kids Around

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

58460482_2266695480035863_5289813955206709248_n

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.

Advertisements

Mental Illness Labels : Alphabet Soup Poem

blank-2970215_960_720

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.

Admit that you can be prejudiced…

43c-prejudice

I know this is a sensitive subject, but I want to be honest about it. First off, I know that the last thing anyone wants to admit to is having a racist or prejudiced thought. For some reason, we think that if we have a wayward thought or idea about this subject even once in a while that it automatically puts us in the company of the KKK or other hate groups. However, I believe that if we live long enough, all of us will have at least occasional prejudiced/racist/stereotypical thoughts or ideas. It is unfortunately a part of living in the culture we exist in. By pretending that we never have these ideas, we are actually making the problem worse, not better. If we could identify our prejudiced or stereotypical thoughts and recognize them for what they are, then we could consciously decide to change those beliefs and ideas. That is the way we could really get rid of the damaging effects of prejudice.

For instance, most of us have at least some stereotypical beliefs. Even positive ones (like that Asians are all super smart or that African Americans are better athletes) are still stereotypes. I admit that I occasionally have stereotypical beliefs, so when I do, I have to consciously grab them and think them through to decide whether they are really true or not. For instance, watching the news makes it easy for me to think that all conservatives look down on the poor and are greedy. Of course, this is not always true, but it is a stereotype I see frequently. On the other side, I know many people stereotype liberals as being wimpy and lazy. The trouble is that most of the time these beliefs are not critically analyzed and we only look at one side of the story (the one we happen to agree with). We are all victims of bias and perception, but we refuse to see it.

As a child, I honestly do not remember prejudice or racism. I grew up in an urban Indiana neighborhood that was very much a melting pot. My elementary school was probably at least 50% minority, although back then I never even thought about that kind of stuff. My mom dated guys outside of her race and for a while one of those guys was like a second father to me and lived with us. My older sister’s first real boyfriend was from a minority as well. I think my first real look at prejudice came around the age of 11 when I moved to a small town in Georgia. In this small town minorities were rare and in my middle and high school, racism definitely existed. Most minorities stuck to their own kind. There wasn’t a lot of intermixing and the town was almost set up in a segregated fashion (clearly marked minority neighborhoods and even a separate cemetery for non-whites). This new culture was certainly a shock to me, as were some of the hateful comments I heard. Of course, these people would have denied being prejudiced if confronted, but behind the scenes they were definitely not shy about their beliefs.

As an adult, I definitely try to be open-minded and not stereotype people or groups, but I will admit that I am not perfect. For instance, one night I remember my husband and I going to a local White Castle and noticing that we were the only “white” people in the crowded restaurant. I hate to admit it, but I experienced some momentary discomfort and just felt kind of “out of place”. However, as I sat there, I thought about the fact that minorities probably often find themselves in this kind of situation. I’m used to looking around and seeing lots of other people who look like me, but many others don’t regularly have that experience. Thinking the issue through, truly gave me an entirely new perspective and made me sympathize with those who often find themselves surrounded by others who are different from them in some way.

I’ll also admit that the first time we took in a foster child from a minority that I was a little more anxious than I should have been. When we accepted that foster placement, we didn’t even know he was from a minority, so when I first saw him I was surprised a bit and also a little worried. My first thoughts were to question whether I could do a good job raising someone from a different culture, however, once the child moved in and we got to know him it was soon clear that underneath the exterior differences he was just like every other kid we had taken in. Soon I was going to bat for him against others who were stereotyping him or treating him like he didn’t exist.

In the end, my point is that when we do have thoughts or experiences that bring out the “prejudice” or “racism” hidden inside of us, it can be an opportunity to learn and grow if we face it head on and think things through. However, if we just sweep it under the rug and pretend it doesn’t exist, we only help to perpetuate the problem.

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.