Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Things that add up little by little, but make me sad all at once

Tonight, a wave of sadness swept unexpectedly up the banks of my emotional shore and pulled me in with its undertow.

And so, I asked myself: "What's beneath the waves?"

1. I'm sad that there isn't going to be a Casey "It's My Life" conference this year. Every year, this conference revitalizes the hearts and rekindles the energy of foster care youth, alumni and allies.

We need it more this year than ever: Young people are "aging out" of foster care in the midst of a recession.

Ohio folks have been planning for the 2009 IML conference ever since the 2008 one.

FCAA member Ryan Dollinger and I had hoped to co-present a "When Helping You Is Hurting Me" workshop about boundaries with bio-family members and/or when helping other foster care youth/alumni.

My logical mind knows that the only thing to do is:
- Figure out another way to compile and share this information by other means
- Channel my energies into Ohio conferences this year
- Google my little librarian heart out and find out some other national conferences to present at...

And I will DO these things.

But there is something about the Casey "It's My Life" conference that is incredibly special and incredibly unique, and the fact that it's not going to take place this year is just such a shame.

2. I'm sad that after all this time, we still have such a long way to go.

I gotta admit... I am flat-out baffled by the decisions and practices of some organizations:

- Why opt for token involvement of foster care youth/alumni rather than empowering them as current and future leaders?

- Why invite youth to go to DC, without providing a stipend that is sufficient to cover their meals?

- Why put young people in the spotlight to showcase a program, without taking the time to realize that:

a. They are homeless
b. They are in deep emotional pain over something that happened during the event
c. They are struggling (at school, at work, in some other area of their life)

3. I'm sad because I wonder: Is what I do ever going to be enough?

That's the real question beneath all of this.... isn't it?

As a leader, I sometimes feel like Sisyphus rolling an enormous rock up a mountain, only to see it roll back down on its own weight.

I volunteer in my position for the Ohio chapter of FCAA. I have a full-time job that I need to be faithful (and, in this economy, incredibly productive and proactive) in. I have a marriage to maintain and two stepdaughters whom I love, love, love because they hang the moon.

I need to juggle these things. How do I do this?

Well, so far I:
- Take/make phone calls in my car while I'm driving to/from work
- Schedule foster care events on my days off work (or work extra days to make up for them)
- Spend every lunch hour at work (no kidding) working on some aspect of foster care reform

So far it has worked out:
- I was rated "Distinguished" two years in a row at work (highest rating a person can receive)
- I'm still married, love the man, and we are currently refinancing our house
- My stepdaughters hung the moon at our house last weekend and shared songs and skits (Flight of the Conchords, not theirs) last weekend.

But it has to KEEP working because:
- I remember when I first "aged out" of foster care, and what it was like to have unmet needs, but didn't want to overburden people

- I remember making sure I alternated who I asked for help about things, because when you don't belong to anyone, you have to be careful who you ask for help because they will get tired of hearing from you.

- Which is why it breaks my heart that there are foster care youth and alumni all over my state today who are facing the world (in a recession) feeling this degree of being alone.

- Which means that TODAY I must maintain a healthy level of emotional reserves so that I can be there for them when I can, refer them when I can't, and still be there for the family I've built for myself today.

- Or else I WILL be pulled in by the undertow - and I can't allow that to happen, because then I won't be helpful to anybody.

When I wake up tomorrow morning, I will have bounced back from this. I know this about myself.

- Because the work is WORTH it
- Because everything that we are doing now can and WILL make a difference

But I share this internal struggle because... we all have them. Let's admit it. And just as our scars remind us that the past was real, our struggles remind us that the work we do is worth it.

Comic from my favorite online artist, Ozge, who captures the beauty and wisdom of Ordinary Things:

Amen! Lisa, I haven't yet been able to really browse your whole site. But could you point me in the direction of some good training/conference links - especially those from the POV/lead by former foster children? Thank you!
Absolutely yes, I would love to...

The top two are the:

It's My Life Casey conference, which as I mentioned is cancelled this year... (grr):

NILA conference, which will take place in Tennessee in September:
My experience has taught me that alternating your confidants is always a good thing, and I can certainly relate with the struggle of wondering when anything I do will be enough.

What we do is maintain hope, keep working, and keep pulling support from wherever you can get it, so those who come after you can do the same.
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