Peace crystals and tough love: A foster care moment 

“Look I found a real live crystal!” His voice bubbling over with the elated joy one usually can only truly experience in childhood. He lifts the stone to the sky and the late afternoon sun fills the stone, exuding a warm pink glow. 

I am sitting on the back porch thumbing through paperwork and setting appointments in my calendar. Becoming a foster parent forced me to change my scattered artist ways and become at least a bit more organized and parent-like. 

He brings the crystal to me. I am surprised he found it. A small piece of rose quartz I had bought years ago from the Native American craft store, Spirit Wind. I am still unsure how the quartz wound up in the backyard. 

“And here’s another one!” He bounds up onto the back porch holding yet another piece of rose quartz laced with bits of topsoil trapped in the cracks and crevices. 
“You keep one and I’ll keep one,” he states decisively as he hands me the dirtier quartz. A late spring breeze blows and expands his oversized t-shirt he insisted on wearing today, and yesterday. 

I smile, as I carefully take the quartz from his hand. “Thank you so much. I will keep it in my room and whenever I see it, I will think of you.” 

“Yes! We both have our special crystals!” He exclaims reaching his stone for the sky in a Power Ranger pose. 

“Let me tell you something else about these crystals bud,” I say bending down at his eye level. “These are really special crystals they are called rose quartz and they are known as the crystals of peace and love.” I rub some of the soil off of the stone and turn in in ways to catch the light. 

“Yes! This is the greatest!” He squeals as he sprints into the house and starts washing the rock with dish soap. He wraps it in paper towels with the gentlest precision, as if he is wrapping an egg. 

I smile as I watch him bring the stone to his room. But as I turn to walk back outside, I hear him say in the softest voice, as if whispering it to the quartz, “Now that I have this, nothing bad will ever happen.” 

My stomach sinks and my soul shrivels. I step away to breathe and gather my words. If only there were a rock like that, I think. 

“Hey buddy,” I knock on his door and I see he’s holding and inspecting the rock under his bedside lamp. “I have to tell you something about this crystal,” I gently take the stone and hold it up eye level. 
“I already know it’s a special..” 

I interject, “No, it’s not a magic rock. It’s just a rock. Bad things will still happen sometimes. Life is full of good things and bad things too. Most of the time we can’t stop them from happening.” 

His smile fades and his chest deflates as his shoulders sink into a slump. He runs his fingers over the crevices and bumps of the pink crystal, the magic, gone. 

“But this rock. Well it is special though,” I say rising my voice on the hopes of age appropriate honesty. “See this rock, well it is a rock of peace and love. Every time you see it, it reminds you that you can make choices out of peace and love, no matter what happens, even when bad things happen.” 

Still slightly slumped, he sighs and says nothing, he is holding the quartz near his heart. “But still…put yours in your room,” he says gently as I close his door. 

I place mine on my windowsill, just like I said I would. The milky pink glow emanates from the stone as the setting sun sheds its last bit of light for the day. I think of him and journey we are on now together, a journey full of good and bad things. I keep looking at that crystal as the sun goes down. 

Who knows, maybe it will end up being a little more magical than I gave it credit for. 

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Lost Boys: A foster parenting moment


I rub my tempes and mumble the phrase, “We all do the best we can with what we’ve been given.” It’s a great thing to remind yourself of when you feel like punching someone in the face. It doesn’t always work though. I breathe deeply as the driver of the beat-up pick up truck who just cut me off in traffic tosses yet another piece of trash out his window onto the expressway. I can feel the initial prickle of my anger dissipating as I remember that if I had been dealt the same hand in life as this guy, I’d probably be cutting people off and littering the earth too. No one’s really any better than anyone else, we are all just doing the best we can most of the time. 

I turn the dial on my car radio and the song Lost Boys comes sweetly singing out of the speakers. Sitting there in a sea of red tail lights and preoccupations related to my work day, I change the station before the song is even over. 

The night after a particularly rough and rage filled night, our foster child asked me to color with him. It was the start of a new bedtime routine. All of my hopes of keeping his engagement and sense of calm hung on those coloring book pages and 38 different colors of freshly-sharpened pencils. 

While coloring together, he requested a song, Lost Boys. I fumbled through my phone and streamed the song through YouTube, praying the song wouldn’t freeze and thanking God for the start of a more peaceful night. 

And then he started singing along. 
It was like my very life force came to a screeching halt and all there was was his voice. My soul was struck by the resounding truth and validation of the lyrics with his circumstances. A song of being a lost boy, of following Peter Pan to Neverland and finding a place to fit in, despite the hand life has dealt you. My throat was tight and my eyes welled for a moment. We kept coloring. Coloring and singing of lost boys and Peter Pan. 

We all do the best we can with what we’ve been given. And that night, I did the best I could with a coloring book and a song, and so did he. 

It occurred to me then that maybe that’s all I had to do. Be a temporary Neverland. Let a kid be a kid in the midst of the chaos and messiness of life. Chaos and messiness that can happen to any of us, the best of us. 

“Neverland is home to lost boys like me and lost boys like me are free,” we lifted our voices together and the music notes danced on sketches made from colored pencils and the two of us doing the best we could. 

Beyond Mountains: Our foster care journey begins 


“Beyond mountains there are mountains,” a Haitian proverb that has had a pulsating presence in my soul over the past several weeks. It makes me feel expansive, hopeful. The words take me back to Alaska. A place of endless mountains, of feeling small. Feeling so wonderfully small. 

Maybe I’ve clung to that proverb because that’s what I need most lately. To feel small again. But after our long awaited foster care certification, there naturally came a child. And naturally the child came with little possessions but big baggage, a big past and was in need of very big support. 

And suddenly with it all, I had to be big too. Big enough to remember all the paperwork, the appointments, the acronyms, the workers. Big enough to make big decisions for another human being I didn’t even know existed weeks ago. 

I have to be big enough to hold, big enough to give, big enough to set limits, and big enough to forgive. I have to be big enough to wipe faces and wipe tears. Big enough to pour out all I have and big enough to hold the pain and trauma as more comes spilling out every day. I have to be big enough to be safe. Big enough to be whatever I need to be. 

But being big makes you tired. Being big makes you dream of being small again. And being big makes me long for mountains. 
Even the thought of endless snow covered caps sends a chill of hope down my spine and a weight lifts from my chest. A place for my soul to stretch out. A place to feel small. 
Beyond mountains there are mountains, I whisper to myself during the screaming rage. Beyond mountains there are mountains I think to myself as I mend the scraped knee after an intense bout of basketball. Beyond mountains there are mountains, I say to myself as I rock and reassure during the thunder storm. Beyond mountains there are mountains, I remember with goodnight hugs and best attempts to answer tough questions, questions that no child should ever have to ask. 

And when I curl up in my own bed at the end of a long day, I make myself small. I make myself so small. I listen to my heart beat, a steady pulsating sound in the night. Tomorrow I will be big again. I will do all I need to do again, hopefully a little better than I did it today. 
And as I lie there I remember that beyond mountains there are mountains. 

Perceptions 

Perceptions are like plastic wrap. They give you a glimpse of what’s inside, of what you think is going on, but they never give you the whole truth. What you thought was your leftover grilled chicken could turn out to be some unidentifiable growing ground of green, and blue mold. Clinging condensation on the interior of the plastic wrap could be enough to confuse you between leftover tacos and beer cheese dip from a party one too many holidays ago. Perceptions give you an idea but perceptions, well, they aren’t everything. 

Sometimes I wear that “I donated blood” sticker as if some degree of true altruism was actually behind my motives. I wear it as if I actually did it for a wounded solider or for a recovering car crash victim in a local hospital room somewhere, when really, I do it for me. I do it because lying there draining bags of my warm, deep red life source is one of the only places I allow myself to lie down with my eyes open. I do it because there I can momentarily release my fierce over self-reliance and never-resting industrious drive. I do it because it feels so good for someone in white scrubs to smile and bring me an apple juice with a carefully bent straw. Perceptions aren’t everything. 
 

We skip stones along the still waters of comfort as if we actually want to know other people. Like when we ask how someone is doing, expecting nothing more than a one word response. As if skimming the surface actually does anything. But we always do that. We always skip stones. 

But really all we want, is to be swimming. Swimming to the bottom of the last margarita where we can let go of what ails us. Weights of the world lifted in waves of salty sweetness and warm tequila. How good it feels to feel safe enough to be a semblance of our authentic self, regardless of how many sips that takes.  

And as I leave the white washed walls of the blood donation center, the receptionist smiles wide, her lipstick is dark red. The right arm of my sweater is rolled up revealing a wad of cotton swabs in the crook of my elbow secured with a band of white tape. The receptionist thanks me and hands me that “I donated blood today” sticker. I smile back and press it against my grey sweater. Squinting, I step out into the late afternoon sunlight where I peel the sticker off and tuck it into my pocket. Shadows of the trees lining the parking lot create shapes that could be anything. Anything you want them to be. 

Perceptions are something but perceptions aren’t everything.