Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Our Children

I usually blog about my kids here. 

But this post isn't about them.

At least not my biological children.  This is about my other ones...

Our other ones.

I say our because they are ours.  Our tax dollars pay for their care.  Our state workers make sure they're safe.  They live in our cities and towns.  Yet they're invisible, an after-thought.  Sitting somewhere, frightened and feeling as if no one wants them.

They are state foster children.  Innocent.  Alone.

I began this journey 6 years ago, when my news manager asked if I would pick up a feature on a child named Courtney who was up for adoption.  I did.  The child was adopted because of the story we told.  I grabbed on that day when I met her, and I promised never to stop telling their stories... never to stop shining light on this horrific darkness. 

Tonight, as we fall asleep, cozy in our beds, 4,984 foster children in Arkansas sit wondering where they'll end up.  Back home with biological parents, who are often broken themselves by poverty, drug abuse, or mental illness? To a shelter, where they know no one?  To a foster home?  

The latter is ideal, but the fact is, there aren't enough foster homes.  Only 3,384 available beds.  You do the math. 

What happens then?  The children might sleep in DHS offices with workers.  They might stay up late at Children's Hospital, in some cases, until someone says they'll take them for the night.  Can you imagine how that child must feel?

For six weeks, I've been producing and writing a 30-minute special to air Thursday on THV 11 called "Foster Care Crisis."  In it, Governor Asa Hutchinson tells me this is about more now than the state writing a check to take care of the problem.  People are needed.  Hearts must open to bring in these children, who are ours

In the special broadcast, I also share June Simpson's story.  She and her husband have fostered so many children that they "stopped counting at 125." I asked her why she does this.  She answered, "it's not about us.  It's about the children.  They need us.  Why else would you do it?"

And there's Kelly Wirtz, who adopted a teenage girl, something beyond what she ever thought she would do.  As she told me, "I'm a single mom.  I live paycheck to paycheck.  I don't have a lot, but I have a home, and we have each other."

These are the people who have my heart and all my respect.  Them.  And the children.  Our children, who are suffering unspeakable trauma right now.  Children, like the two little girls I met last week, who answered this when I asked how badly they want a family to adopt them: "from one to a hundred?  A hundred."

After we taped the show, my director told me, "man, Dawn, it's just almost too sad to even watch."  Yes it is.  Maybe it's a wake-up call.

This is a crisis.  And our children are hanging in the balance until we figure it out.  Don't they deserve better?

The girls who want a family to adopt them

June Simpson with her foster, biological, and adopted children

Kelly Wirtz and her adopted daughter Stephany

Governor Asa Hutchinson

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

30 Days

It may come as no big shock that the word I've heard most from my 'littles' these past thirty days is... "YUCK."

Yuck to the sticky plantain chips we tried to make that were one giant fail.  Yuck to Brussels sprouts.  Yuck to Paleo-approved waffles. 

Followed closely by...

"But why are you dieting, MOM?"

"Why don't you just eat it if you want it so bad?!  It's just cheese dip...(or insert here:  a pancake, popcorn, a cookie, butter)."

Even my sweet 9-year old son said (and I kid you not), "Mom, you're not fat.  I don't understand why you're doing this."

But I'm not doing it to lose weight.  Although I am a size smaller than I was 30 days ago (I can't share pounds, because I refuse to weigh.  I'm a tall girl -nearly 5'10"- and I always hate the number I see on that scale.  So I don't step on).

If you've followed along on Instagram (@dawnerscott), then you already know that exactly thirty days ago, I gave up dairy, wheat, grains/beans/rice, soy, processed foods, sugar (not including sugar that naturally exists in fresh fruits), beer, wine, and champagne.  I didn't include all alcohol.  I allowed myself Tito's vodka (which is distilled using corn), and Jameson whiskey (which is triple distilled using rye).  Not perfect, according to Paleo (which is the eating style I followed).  It calls for no alcohol, but I know myself pretty well  and decided that an occasional drink (with no sugary mixers added) would be my exception.  If I didn't allow at least that, I knew I would cheat and then feel bad about myself for doing so.  Therefore, I just allowed it from the start.

I missed cream in my coffee the most.  Cheese dip and chips, second.  Crackers and sharp cheddar cheese, third.  Now 'n Laters, fourth.  Macaroni and cheese and other cheesy casseroles, fifth.  Beer, sixth.  Champagne, seventh. 

Comfort foods.  Carbs.  Sugars.      

Which brings me back to that nagging question, "why do this?"

To tell you the truth, I had fallen into some pretty poor eating habits.  And long-story-short, it was affecting my moods, my energy levels, and my well-being.  I wasn't diagnosed with anything dire by a physician (thankfully), but I just didn't feel great.  My skin and hair were dry (to the point of cracking), I was often dehydrated (as I cycle, run, and practice hot yoga regularly), I never seemed to have energy to make it through the days without ultimately grabbing bags of chips and sugars to get me through.  And I used alcohol (and it's sugars) to replace meals, using the excuse that "it was just too late to eat now."  But then I would crave pretzels, cheese dip, nachos, etc, while drinking.  I grabbed foods and drinks that gave me comfort, regardless of whether they were good for me or not. 

I knew at my age (I am 44, FORTY FOUR, which I rarely reveal, but it's just time to be real) I could not sustain this.  I was irritable and tired around my children, and even worse, teaching them terrible eating patterns and habits. 

So now, thirty days later, I drink my coffee black.  I make my eggs with spinach and mushrooms and asparagus and some days kale, instead of with cheese and milk.  I eat salads and fish, instead of cheesy, creamy soups and sandwiches.  And I cook everything with olive, avocado, or coconut oils.  My taste buds have changed.  I can actually savor the sweetness in summer squash and enjoy zucchini noodles instead of flour pasta.  I have zero sinus issues, which I suffered nightly.  Dairy, I learned, is an inflammatory and without it,  things cleared up for me.

I've learned that almost everything you buy in a can or a box or a jar contains sugar or some version of soy, which naturally jumps you up.  Then later leaves you crashing and craving more sugar and carbs.  An addiction I'm happy to drop.

I now visit the grocery store often, since everything I eat is fresh.  My moods are even, more so than they've been my entire life.  And I have energy I previously lacked. 

But best of all?  My children have started eating some of the dishes I make.  The "YUCK" has been replaced (...wait for it) with my son cooking!  And my daughter begs for certain "clean" meals.  Last Saturday, in fact, we sprayed fresh kale with olive oil and added Himalayan pink sea salt, stuck it in the oven, and enjoyed crispy kale chips.  They were delicious, and we were fighting over them!

That's why I'm not stopping today.  Eventually, I'll sprinkle back in some cheeses here and there, along with other occasional "non-approved" foods and drinks.  But for me, what started as something to "do" for thirty days truly changed our lives.  I'm thankful for that. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Dream on...

I had to laugh off my dream.


(since when did life ever turn out like you dreamed it would anyway)?  But that's not really what I'm talking about here.

I was laying there, fading into the cold, dark, miserable, sleeting January night with warm, peaceful, delicious beach-y thoughts.  Dreaming about the waves crashing, the sun shining, and the powdery sand in between my toes.  Falling so sweetly into sleepy-land, when one of my little's faint voices came out of the shadows. "Momma, I can't really sleep.."  It was my boy-child.  My 9-year old.  He's never been much of a sleeper.  And I can't believe I just typed "9-year old."  Where did the last decade go?

"I need lay-time, I think." he whispered.  Lay-time is when I crawl in bed with them and tell a story or tickle their arm, remind them of how special they are.  But now that he's getting older, often he is the one who wants to talk.  In this case, it was about a few students in his class who've not been acting great, and, as such, the entire class is being punished. 

"It's really not fair, mom." he uttered.  (when did he start calling me just 'mom'?)  "I didn't do anything wrong," he said firmly.

I had to agree that life is not fair.  It's just not.  In about 20 seconds my mind went something like this:   people are born and then they die.  And in between, come thousands of instances that aren't fair:  terminally-ill children, abuse, heartbreak, war, hatred, divorce, death.  Not fair.  Even much simpler, the days you get all the red lights, or someone else gets the opportunity you don't.  On and on...

But I decided not to share such thoughts.  I just said I understood and said how 'bout I tickle his arm to help him fall asleep.  He said OK.  Then I said, "try to think happy thoughts as you fall asleep, sweet boy."

"YES!" he cried.  "Like that maybe tomorrow or Friday will be a SNOW day.  Momma, (back to momma now) think of it - the powdery white, soft snow.  It feels so cold and fresh outside!  Snow angels!  My sister and I get along for the day!  Hot chocolate!  No cars in the street and we can sled ALLLLL DAYYYYY!"

I just had to laugh!

Dreams of a snowy winter..

..dreams of a sunshin-y beach.

Whatever the trick.  Whatever works. 

Either way, I think to myself, the next day we'll wake up to whatever reality is presented.  The goodness, the beauty, the joy, right alongside the confusion, uncertainly, and anxiety over life and over things unfair.  Waking up fully alive.  Showing up for the day and the people we love. 

It's hard sometimes to wake up fully alive, to show up for the day and for the people we love and want in our lives.  And yet waking up is exactly the thing I'm thankful for, as I crawl back in and dream of warmer days.