How Love Gives Foster Children Hope for a Better Future

Over 400,000 children are living in foster homes in this country. I know two special people who have shared their home and hearts with fortunate foster children, my brother Jim and his wife Marty, two remarkable people from South Carolina who willingly gave shelter and hope to 32 foster children over 15 years. In addition to loving and guiding foster children; these special people raised five children of their own who, like their parents, are doing extraordinary things with their ordinary lives.

People become foster parents for many reasons. Jim and Marty’s started as an act of love. They love children, and theirs were almost grown. With only one daughter at home, they still had lots of love to give. They found recipients for all their love in the constant need for foster parents.

The strains of parenting can take a toll on foster parents, mandating an occasional break. At times the need to pause occurs after a painful ending, such as the return of a child to an abusive parent. Following a recharge of their emotions, they resume foster parenting because they believe that God creates every child for a special reason, their motivation to continue. The couple want their foster care babies to know how much they are loved. After a year of constant love, most children are better able to cope with their life circumstances.

Among the many rewards to foster parents when they give themselves to their children is the knowledge they are opening new doors for the children, providing a window to a new world, a gift perhaps greater those the children receive. Jim and Marty recall many special moments over the years. Their extended family shares in their love of each foster child, and foster kids go to the beach for a week with the extended family, where they are embraced by friends and family alike.

The sharing and the love continue in their church when babies are passed around. People like to hold them and love them. This sharing is especially heartwarming since some babies, not conceived in love, are smothered with love while being fostered. As a result of their participation in foster parenting, Jim and Marty have facilitated several successful adoptions and still get pictures of these kids as they are growing up. The couple say that it is wonderful to see them so happy.

Foster children often have been through bad experiences that stay with them for their lifetimes. A welcome in a safe and loving home starts them on a different path, reassuring them that times will get better, they are lovable and loved. They learn problems at home are not their fault.

Foster parents believe they have an obligation to care for children who cannot care for themselves. Every person is a child of God and deserves not only the basics of life like food, clothes and a home, but also the love and care of people who are willing to open their hearts to them.

(Storyteller Judy Kundert relates folk, fairy tales, and classics to                               elementary school children. Most of her time, she writes award-winning stories middle grade novels. Her first women’s fiction novel, Hanging Cloud, is due in December 2017. To learn more about Judy, visit http://judykundert.com/)

Judy’s forthcoming women’s novel

READERS AND WRITERS INTERESTED IN READING ABOUT CHILDREN’S EXPERIENCES IN FOSTER CARE CAN SAMPLE FIVE EXCELLENT BOOKS:

  • THE STORY OF TRACY BEAKER BY JACQUELINE WILSON. YOUNG TRACY HAS BEEN IN FOSTER CARE FOR AS LONG AS SHE CAN REMEMBER. MAYBE ONE DAY TRACY’S MOTHER WILL SHOW UP AND RECLAIM HER LONG-LOST DAUGHTER, BUT IN THE MEANTIME, TRACY’S DOING EVERYTHING SHE CAN TO TAKE CARE OF HERSELF. THEN A JOURNALIST WRITING A STORY ABOUT THEIR ORPHANAGE STRIKES UP A SPECIAL FRIENDSHIP WITH TRACY.

  • THE PINBALLS BY BETSY CROMER BYARS. CARLY, THOMAS J., AND HARVEY ARE UNWANTED KIDS WHO HAVE ALL HAD HARD KNOCKS UNTIL THEY FIND THEMSELVES IN THE SAME FOSTER HOME. ONE BATTERED, ONE RUN OVER BY A CAR, AND ONE EMOTIONALLY LOST, THEY ALL ARE DETERMINED TO FIND HOPE IN THEIR NEW HOME AND IN EACH OTHER.

  • MAYBE DAYS: A BOOK FOR CHILDREN IN FOSTER CARE BY JENNIFER WILGOCKI. FOR MANY CHILDREN IN FOSTER CARE, THE ANSWER TO QUESTIONS IS OFTEN ‘MAYBE.’ THIS PRIMER IS A STRAIGHTFORWARD LOOK AT THE ISSUES OF FOSTER CARE, THE QUESTIONS THAT CHILDREN ASK, AND THE FEELINGS THAT THEY CONFRONT. IT ALSO EXPLAINS IN CHILDREN’S TERMS THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF ALL ADULTS INVOLVED. AS FOR THE CHILDREN, THEIR JOB IS TO BE A KID.

  • FINDING THE RIGHT SPOT: WHEN KIDS CAN’T LIVE WITH THEIR PARENTS BY JANICE LEVY.  A SPIRITED YOUNG GIRL NARRATES HER STORY. SHE LIVES WITH AUNT DANE (NOT HER REAL AUNT) FOR A WHILE, UNTIL HER MOTHER IS ABLE TO CARE FOR HER AGAIN. SHE EXPERIENCES THE EMOTIONAL UPS AND DOWNS OF LIVING IN AN UNFAMILIAR HOME AND BEING SEPARATED FROM HER MOTHER.

  • GILLY HOPKINS BY KATHERINE PATERSON. THIS TIMELESS NEWBERY HONOR BOOK STARS ELEVEN-YEAR-OLD GILLY, WHO HAS BEEN STUCK IN MORE FOSTER FAMILIES THAN SHE CAN REMEMBER, AND SHE’S HATED THEM ALL. BRASH, BRILLIANT, AND COMPLETELY UNMANAGEABLE, WHEN SHE’S SENT TO LIVE WITH THE TROTTERS—BY FAR THE STRANGEST FAMILY YET—SHE KNOWS IT’S ONLY A TEMPORARY PROBLEM.

Why the internet may just be what saves humanity

There are many things I despise about the internet: the addiction to its use that seems to be spreading like a virus; the disregard of writing and editing standards in its content*, the lowest common denominator tenor of most messages, which cater to puerile, malevolent gossip; its reliance on mass popularity to evaluate worth and value; its emphasis on the herd perspective.

Yet the internet is the great leveler, which can be good. Accessible worldwide, even under despotic governments with enough planning, wriggling, and techie knowledge, people are figuring out how to connect with others.  Yes, a number of governments censor use and content, but they’re in roughly the same situation as the little Dutch boy trying to hold back the ocean at the dike. Smart phones leapfrog the purchase of expensive computers, plus they spread real-time images nearly instantaneously. News circulates in the same fashion, and the emotional temperature of a group be captured and distributed to observers around the globe.

Of course there’s the potential for hideous abuses, given the lynch mob mentality that can hold sway. The very rapidity of communications eliminates that period in which thought can amend activity. Arguments extend indefinitely with more strength than face-to-face encounters.

But there are benefits, too. Still since the 2016 national election, the internet has become a source of solace to me. I had real fears that our country had embarked on a period of political suppression and confusion, in which every belief I held dear was to be ignored, even violated. But as the weeks and months passed, people made their contradictory and outspoken voices heard. For every claim, there has been a counterclaim. The confusion remains, but if you’re determined, you can uncover facts, rational discussions, pros and cons on issues, topical developments in news and development.

This hasn’t happened before. Think of Armenian genocide in Turkey and Hitler’s Kristallnacht. If the internet had existed, perhaps more people would have responded to save Armenians or anticipated the Nazi horrors.

Or perhaps not. Starvation, internecine violence, persecution of ethnic groups, and other major issues still surface, indeed, appear to be proliferating. Still, they can’t be hidden any longer. People can reach out to inform one another,organize for improvement and change.

if we could just get people to use rational thought and good will to evaluate their actions before they take steps, we just might be on the path to improve human life as well as preserve the planet.

*People ignore the real need that rules of grammar fill to insure a reader’s comprehension. Yes, they’re arbitrary and nonsensical. But they also provide an agreement on the use of language, so you can tell what the speaker or writer means. Failure to comply not only leads to misunderstandings but also indicates a lack of education in the user. On an official website for a woman’s magazine, I recently read a person described as a “business magnet” rather than a “business magnate,” quite a difference. If a magazine written, edited and produced by professionals can’t maintain clear writing, why should I buy the publication?

Do TWO Things a Day and Succeed

How many times have I read an article or seen a program online that inspires me to start marketing my book with fresh enthusiasm? And then, HOW MANY times do I see that enthusiasm drop off a few days or weeks later? Marketing and sales activities are exhausting and even marketing experts find themselves moving in waves… fits and starts… it is natural and human. Large amounts of energy can only be expended for limited amounts of time. How do we overcome our human natures and our natural instincts? How do we sell and market our books consistently over time when it is so hard and takes so much time and energy?

 

The secret is to DO TWO. Do two things a day to promote yourself and your book. No more, no less. It is far better to spend fifteen minutes a day every day on a task than to spend four hours a day once a week. Why? Consistency comes from daily activity. Staying on course is easier with small adjustments and activities each day than one big push each week. It is also easier to skip a week’s tasks when tired or busy. It is not as easy to convince yourself that you don’t have time to do something that only takes a few minutes.

Let’s look at my FORMER typical marketing and sales activity list:
  • Find all of the Top Amazon reviewers for my type of book
  • Send my book to prepublication and professional book reviewers
  • Pitch myself for interviews at book blogs
  • Send books to newspapers and magazines for inclusion in gift giving guides and new release columns
  • Send magazines and newspapers article ideas that I can write or for which I can be interviewed
  • Send bloggers information about my book
  • Contact bookstores and ask them to order my book
  • Contact libraries and ask them to order my book
  • Find buyer names and contact information for the major chains
  • Ask friends to write reviews on line
  • Contact famous people and ask them to give an endorsement or opinion on my book
I am exhausted just READING that list! Now, let’s look at my NEW to do list:
Monday: Find two top Amazon reviewers from https://www.amazon.com/reviews/top-reviewers and notify them about my book and ask if they would like a review copy.
Tuesday: Find two book review sites from http://www.midwestbookreview.com/links/othr_rev.htm, and send them a packet with a cover letter, copy of my book, one blurb sheet, and marketing sheet.
Wednesday: Find two websites, newspapers or magazines whose readers are the same as those who read my book. Reach out to them (JUST TWO) and suggest an article idea that I can write for them or about which I can be interviewed.
Thursday: Find two bookstores and get the name of who buys for them. Email them asking if I can send the information about my book so that they can consider stocking it.
Friday: Find two people (that I know or don’t) and ask them if they are interested in reading my book and giving me their opinion. (Oh, I must send them the book.)
Saturday: Follow up via email with all ten contacts I made in the previous week, just asking if they need any further information or if I can be of service.
Sunday: Rest. And rest again. After all, I need to DO TWO!

 

Honest to goodness…. This may SOUND like a little or a lot; and you are right. It is both. Spending your time, a little at a time, in these activities will yield a great deal of fruit over time. Small investments in time and energy will grow and build upon themselves until you have a huge wave of successes.

Amy Collins, publishing expert, Author of THE WRITE WAY.
amy@newshelves.com
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Why not to look a gift horse in the mouth

Birthdays and holidays when I was small were times for presents. One thing I learned quickly, however, was, like Animal Farm, some people were more equal than others when it came to the gifts they received. Kids got noisy, shiny, interesting things you could move, tinker, manipulate or fantasize with. Move up the age spectrum and the goodies got less impressive. Books, recordings and clothing constituted the bulk with occasional jewelry or kitchen appliances thrown in to relieve the tedium.

The worst, most pathetic offerings had to be to grandparents. They’d sit nearly immobile in overstuffed chairs, a small smile plastered across their lips, pathetically grateful for whatever disgusting trinket came their way. Their tiny pile of gifts contained smelly, boring items that deserved to be thrown in the trash as soon as they got home. I wondered how they could use ten bottles of scented lotion, four boxes of scented powder, and seven bottles of scent. Pity always filled me, and I dreaded the day I’d be a grandparent.

Well, here I am. And, yes, I’ve begun to receive those dreaded items, but now I think they’re not so bad. Why is that? Because I already have nearly everything I want, and virtually everything I need. Even art, which I love, or handmade crafts, which always impress me, I no longer am tempted by. Yet I know that formalized occasions include acknowledgement of close relationships of all types.

So there must exist a socially acceptable method to accomplish this. Hence gifts.

Also hence the prohibition against looking too closely at the offerings. If we examine a goody intently, we may decide we don’t care for it. Or it’s too big. Or the wrong color. Or not our style. Better to simply offer a gracious acknowledgement.

Logically if there’s a gift receiver, there’s also a gift giver. We don’t want to offend these friends, relatives, associates, so don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. When given a horse, it would be bad manners to inspect the horse’s mouth to see if it has bad teeth. This can be applied as an analogy to any gift: Don’t inspect it to make sure it matches some standard you have, just be grateful! Irrelevant what the gift is, as long as people give and receive appropriately.

After a party or holiday, kids always race toward their friends to ask, what did you get? They provide a list of their booty and compare the loot with their friends. As we approach adulthood, we discover it’s more fun, as well as blessed, to give as well as receive. Most of us stop keeping score. And as the years go by, the loot is less and less important.

So how do you know you’ve reached the age of awareness? You start getting consumables. If your parties feature candy, coffee, tea, flower (potted or bouquets), perfume, powder, lotion, cookies, popcorn, baking kits for bread, you’re pretty much past the excitement of surprise. Rest content. All of these can be used up or given to grateful friends or service organization raffles. You won’t have to find storage space, and you’ll provide joy to the givers.

 

Jury Duty – Lessons In Fact and Fiction

081223-N-8848T-530 GREAT LAKES, Ill. (Dec. 23, 2008) Legalman 1st Class Christie Richardson, a trial services legalman assigned to Region Legal Service Office Midwest makes an opening statement for the prosecution to a jury during a mock trial. Richardson was part of a legal team demonstrating the legal system for 22 Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (NJROTC) cadets from Chicago-area high schools. (Official U.S. Navy photo by Scott A. Thornbloom, Naval Service Training Command.)

The other night I settled down to watch a courtroom drama. In the story, defense attorneys in a gun violence case try to bribe a jury. As a writer of fiction, I know that authors get to construct a world of such extremes that few of us would want to live there. So it was with this movie. Both hero and heroine and the bad guy attorney set out to get what they could, double crossing each other to the tune of $15 million, which was the price for buying the jury’s verdict.

Let me tell you about my own experience of jury duty. While called several times, I’d never been selected before. So it was as a complete novice that I entered the jury room and met my fellow citizens who would rule on a drunk driving case.

The defendant aroused some compassion. She was a pharmacy student, and conviction could have ruined her career. But as the case unfolded, it became clear that she acted deliberately to try to deceive police. Taken to the police station for driving erratically after leaving a bar, she refused to take a breathalyzer test. She promised to take a (supposedly more accurate) blood test at a nearby hospital and submit the results. She knew that the level of alcohol in the bloodstream lessens after several hours and so she waited to go to the hospital. She did not realize that the hospital would note the exact time of the test, and report this to the police.

In the jury room, we jurors got acquainted. We worked in construction, the post office, and in real estate. We were young and old, homebodies and partygoers, and people who enjoyed a drink or two. We were not judgmental. But we had to be. We discussed the case carefully. We talked about our values. We talked about the importance of taking responsibility for one’s actions and for being honest. The young defendant had not injured or killed someone (though that was sheer luck) and so some of us struggled with the idea of hurting her future with a guilty verdict. In the end, we felt her lack of remorse and the fact that she’d tried to use her professional knowledge to escape the consequences of breaking the law must lead to a guilty verdict.

What I learned from my days as a juror was this: most people recognize what is right and what is wrong. Meet random strangers in a jury room and you’ll come out, as I did, full of hope for your fellow human beings. Still, criminal cases provide fodder for the writer. We have to create situations where characters do stupidmargaret-spence-5819_pp2-300x298 things. That’s because no one wants to read about perfect people. We
can all sympathize with a girl like our defendant, who was only as foolish as any of us. But we, her peers, found her guilty, because not to do so would make a mockery of the law.

Margaret Ann Spence

Margaret Ann Spence’s novel, Lipstick On The Strawberry, will be published by The Wild Rose Press in 2017. She blogs at http://www.margaretannspence.com.