Monday, February 12, 2018

Letter to Ellen (4.0)

Me and my two BFFs. It's a weird angle for me, but they look great, obviously.

Well, the past year has been preeeeetty slow for the old blog here. But you didn't think I'd miss the opportunity for my annual letter to Ellen, did you?? I'm three years into this tradition, and I wouldn't dream of missing year four.

If you're new here, let me give you a little background.

Every year I write a letter to Ellen with the same request: I want her to make her annual Mother's Day show a Foster Mother's Day show. (Year one) (Year two) (Year three)

There are two main reasons I believe so strongly in this idea.

1. Foster moms are amazing. Obviously I have some bias, but I'm pretty sure it's a widely-accepted, unarguable fact. Foster care is coming more into light these days thanks to some show on NBC...
You know I do, Randall. You know I do.
...but I think it'd be amazing to celebrate the actual moms who sign up for this gig- because it is tough. (Wonderful, but really tough.)

2. A Foster Mother's Day episode could inform people about the issue of foster care- and the ways they can help! Again, I'm pretty sure saying that would be great is an unarguable fact.

So here's my letter for 2018.

If you read it and agree (or don't read it but still agree with the concept), I'd really appreciate it if you'd consider sharing this thing. I don't know if it will ever reach Ellen, but it seems like the best shot at her seeing it is spreading it widely. So post it on her Facebook page, tweet the link to her, submit it as a show suggestion every day for the next 3 months (you can do that here if you're interested)- use any platform you see fit!

I know it's a long shot, but I genuinely believe in this idea. So thank you for taking the time to read (or at least skim through) this. And thank you for sharing it if you decide to do so!


Dear Ellen,

My name is Kaley, and I'm a 30 year old woman living in the heart of Texas. For the most part, I'm a pretty average 30 year old. I like spending time with friends and family, I enjoy a strong cup of coffee in the morning and good glass of wine in the evening, I spend what should probably be an embarrassing amount of time watching Netflix... by almost all counts, I'm pretty basic.

I'm definitely not as interesting as Kimmy.

If I there's one thing that makes me a it different than many people in my age/life stage group, it's that I'm also a foster mom.

I signed up to be a foster parent about three and a half years ago, when a student I worked with was at risk of being removed by CPS. Worried about him, I asked the investigator if he'd be able to stay at his school if he wound up being removed from his home. Her immediate response was: "Well, there are no open foster homes in the area, so... no, he'd probably need to move."

Naturally, I went straight back to my office and started researching foster care agencies. About six months later, I was licensed and waiting on a phone call! It came one day while I was finishing up a few things in the office. I still remember how my heart raced when I saw the number! It was the agency worker, who told me there was a baby about to be born who was in need of a home. I was told it would be short term placement- his biological mom chose to place him in care until she could gain more stability, so three or four months at the most.  I immediately said yes, hoping all the other pieces would come together. Thankfully, they did, and two days later I got a text- "It's a healthy baby boy!"

Fast forward two more days, when I made the trip with the caseworker to meet this little boy. I can vividly recall standing around awkwardly and anxiously while the caseworker filled out paperwork, looking at all of the babies in the room to see if I could figure out which one was the one. Eventually, a nurse motioned for me to follow her and led me to one of those clear cribs on wheels they use for newborns. (Do those things have a name?) I peered inside and finally met the tiny baby who, despite all his smallness, changed my entire life in that moment.

To this day I am amazed they let me walk out of the hospital with him. I mean, I had just a few days to prepare and basically no clue what I was doing. I'm not sure whether or not they realized that, but either way they handed me a flimsy booklet called "Your Newborn- an Instruction Manual," double checked to make sure I had a carseat, and sent us on our way.

Somehow, we made things work. Every day I learned more about being a mom, which he made pretty easy for me, and we got through the sleepless nights one by one. I didn't expect it at the time, but a year and a half after we met, that adorable little boy became my forever son. These days, he's a fun, goofy, Hamilton-loving three year old.
Seriously, he loves Hamilton. For months he told me he wanted his 3rd birthday party to be a "Hamilton Birthday."
He's basically the best ever.

Since his adoption, we've had a few other kids become members of our family. There was 12 year old T, who was later joined by his 9 year old brother. They left early in 2017, and a few months after we were joined by 18 month old E, who is still with us as I write this.

In three years, I've had 4 kids, so I'm still relatively inexperienced in the world of foster parenting. There are some parents out there who have been doing this longer than I've been alive- a fact that genuinely amazes me.

Because this gig is really, really hard.

It's wonderful and beautiful and fun and life-giving, but it's also incredibly challenging. And, #realtalk, it takes some significant sacrifices.

In my limited experience, the decision to foster has required sacrifices of my time, sleep, social life, finances, paid time off work, physical/mental/emotional energy, and my general ability to do typical single-30-year-old-person things- like staying up all night to eat ice cream and watch Stranger Things 2 the night it came out. It took me weeks to get through it! Weeks!!

Ideally, this would have been me gearing up for a all-night Netflix marathon. Expect I'd be holding Ben and Jerry's.
But in spite of that, this road has been worth it. Because it matters. To the lives of these kids, and the lives of their families, and the lives they touch, and the lives they touch, and so on and so on. That's why so many parents do this wonderful, freaking hard work.

Because it changes the world. 

Now let me bring this back around to how this relates to you.

As basically everyone knows, you like to make people's dreams come true. I've seen it repeatedly on your show, but perhaps most notably when you fed all those starving actors pizza at the Oscars.
Look at how excited they were to get a slice! They were all about that pepperoni!
I sometimes joke with my friends about how you're essentially everyone's fairy godmother- you have a seemingly magical ability to transform wishes into reality. We talk about what wishes we'd make, and admittedly there are several on my list: a vacation, tickets to Hamilton, dinner with my dream celeb mom squad (Mindy Kaling, Kristen Bell, and Michelle Obama- I legitimately feel like we'd hit it off)... you know, the typical list.

But far and away the top wish I have is that you would use your annual Mother's Day Show to celebrate foster moms. (Sorry, Mom Squad- you all are a close-ish second.)

Listen, I've seen your Mother's Day shows, and they're fantastic. Watching those cute baby bumps dance through the aisles is incredible, and there is no doubt in my mind those women deserve that kind of party.

But there are so many other types of moms out there, and I think they deserve to be celebrated, too. Their stories are a bit different, but so worth being told.

These women may not bring their children into the world, but they invest so much into making sure they thrive when they get here- even with the knowledge that their title of "mom" might be temporary.

They are so eager to provide a loving home to other people's children that they willingly tolerate all the extra things that come with it- like having strangers come into their house and get up in their business at least once a month, or being unable to hire a babysitter who hasn't been fingerprinted for a criminal background check. Being a foster mom comes with a lot of responsibilities beyond keeping a small human alive.

Foster moms take all that on (and so much more) because they want to do exactly what you encourage people to do each day- spread kindness.

Now even though celebrating these women is already a solid reason to make this episode happen, there's another one that I think is even better.

Hosting a Foster Mother's Day episode could be a powerful way to educate people on ways they can make a difference in their communities- because this really is an issue that impacts us all.

Did you know that in the United States, more than 400,000 children are living without permanent families in the foster care system? And more children enter than leave every year.* Because of these growing numbers, in many states (like my own) there is such a shortage of foster families that some children wind up sleeping in hotels or CPS offices until they can find long-term options.**

Your viewers could do something about that.

There are countless things- big and small- people can do to make a difference, but they may not even be aware of them.  They could donate items to children in care, volunteer with an organization supporting biological families working toward reunification, register to provide babysitting or respite care for foster families, or even become foster parents themselves! (That is definitely not an exhaustive list.)

So many people don't know about the reality of fostering, which is why I am often told, “I could never do that!" If people don't have an accurate idea about what this journey is like, they may never realize they can walk alongside me or the kids in my care.  That's why I am passionate about sharing my own experience- both the ups and the downs. I want people to understand there's something they can do to support the children who need us.

But I know your voice can carry a lot further than mine. According to my (very formal Wikipedia) research, your show averages nearly 3 million viewers per episode, which is a pretty incredible sphere of influence. 

I also know you use your voice to make a positive impact on the world- it’s one of the many reasons I admire you.

I know you can’t support every cause people point you toward, but I at least wanted to ask you to support this one.

Also, just as a fun fact in case it helps, May--  the very month containing Mother's Day and, consequently, your Mother's Day show- also happens to be National Foster Care Awareness Month!!
Even Kate McKinnon's mind is blown!
What are the chances, right??  

I guess 1 out of 12, but still- it really makes this idea even more perfect, doesn't it??

Anyway, I don't know if you'll ever see this. In fact, I think the chances are much slimmer than the chances of Mother's Day and Foster Care Awareness Month lining up.

But I still I have to try. Because on the off chance that this dream becomes a reality, it could make a lot of other people's dreams come true, too.

Thank you for being you, Ellen!

And next time you see Michelle Obama, please tell her I love her.

All my best,


ps- I realize this request may seem a little self-serving, but I really wouldn't need to be in the audience if this show happens. I'd imagine you could find plenty of foster moms a bit closer, and I would be ecstatic to see them celebrated! I promise I'm not motivated by wanting to be there.

But that being said, I'm not opposed to being there. Obviously I'd be excited to be there in person, but I'd be just as thrilled to watch from Texas, too! I promise!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

New Beginnings. (Sort of.)

Hello, everyone!

I know I've started multiple posts this way in the past few years, but- I'm back!! It's been a year since I've posted in here. And a lot of things have happened.

A lot.

Some good. Some less good.

But all of them have added up to an interesting year.

Here's the Spark Notes version of what's been going on:

  • Not too long after my last post, T1 and T2 left. (If anyone new happens to read this, they are the 12 and 9 year old boys I fostered for a few months at the end of 2016 and start of 2017.) They went to a new foster home that could take them and their sister. That transition was surprisingly hard. I thought I'd be relieved to have a break from the chaos, but I was mostly sad. To be honest, I'm still working through a lot of those feelings, so I may have to come back to that in a future post.
  • J and I took a few weeks to recoup, and then we went back on the list of open homes.
  • Then we waited. And waited. And waited. For about 3 months.
  • On June 1st, I was at work when I received a call about an almost 18-month-old girl who might need a placement. I said I'd do it. Then I waited some more while the agency sorted through details. 
Actual footage of me waiting for their return call.
  • A few hours later, they called back to say she'd be arriving that evening.
  • A few hours after that, Miss E showed up. Having grown accustomed to a house full of boys, I prepared myself for an exciting new adventure. And that is exactly what I got entering into life with 2 toddlers.
One of my favorite pictures of 2017- showing J and E the ocean for the first time. Because, oh yeah, we traveled to Oregon 2 weeks after E arrived- just like J and I did after his arrival, oddly enough. (They were both previously planned trips.)

  • In November, we thought E was leaving. We were told a reunification plan was settled, and she'd be gone in a matter of days. I went to court thinking I'd learn about the transition details. Instead I learned some of the supports we thought were in place for E's mom fell through, so they had to start over at square one. Meaning E would stay with us for a while longer.

Fast forward to today. E is still with us. She turned 2 over the holidays. And boy... this girl is a firecracker. She is really cute, remarkably charming, frustratingly stubborn, and incredibly confident in what she wants. It's a roller coaster combination, as you might imagine.
Already my life, but even more so the past 8 months.
I think my favorite part of having E join our little family is watching the bond form between her and J. When T1 and T2 lived with us, J enjoyed playing with them. He thought they were hilarious, and looked up to them in a toddler-who-idolizes-older-siblings way.

But now he's a big brother, which is a role I think he's taken on well. Mostly.

Our first weekend together, we took E to the zoo, and J held her hand while we walked around, as if he was showing her one of his favorite places. (Which I suppose he was, in a way.) Now, he refers to her as "my sister"- I think because his day care teachers refer to her as such. He shares his toys with her, helps  her when she drops something, and then will push her over if she gets too close to his personal space.

 And she does the same to him. 

They act just like most siblings in that way.
Just like these penguins, they're so cute... until one gets pushed into the ice.
One of the hardest things about having E join our family is coping with double the amount of toddlers. This stage is no jokes, guys. It is no. Joke.

But for all of its frustrations, it is really fun. It seems like they both learn something (or somethings) new every day, and I love being a part of that! 

So we'll see where things go from here. The permanency plan is still reunification, so I'm assuming E's time with our family will be brief. But even so, it will certainly be memorable.

I hope we've made a positive impact on her life, but I know she's made a positive impact on mine.

So, that's where we are. 

I'm excited to get back to writing, because it's been way too long since I've made this a priority. I've thought about it a lot in the past year, but things always seemed to prevent me from jumping back in. At first it was feeling incapable of communicating thoughts and feelings around T1 and T2 leaving. Then it was feeling like I had nothing to write about. Then it was trying to re-balance after our family grew again. 

But now it feels like time. I think I'm a better parent and person when I make an effort to write. (Or type.) So here's hoping I can keep that up!

Besides, I have an annual tradition requiring me to post a letter to a certain someone coming up soon... 

Monday, January 30, 2017

My Letter to Ellen (3.0)

This was such a special day. Glad I could be there to celebrate you, E.
As many of you may or may not but probably may know, I have a deep and abiding belief that Ellen DeGeneres is an angel/miracle worker who can make anyone's dreams come true.

If you watch her show or follow her on any of her social media accounts, you likely believe this, as well. 
I mean, look at this list of ways Ellen has changed lives. She doesn't mess around.

Being the daydreamer I am, I often imagine what wish I would make if I were ever in Ellen's presence. I like to keep a small running list in the back of my mind- just in case. There are some practical things (like some help with odd jobs around the house or a car with more room for car seats) and some fun things (like a vacation or a night out with 
Michelle Obama). 
I'd gladly do any of these things with her any day.
But ultimately, I have one main wish that surpasses all the others.

And that is saying something- because one wish I've consistently had for years is to be set up on a date with Josh Groban, and word on the street is he's single this year, so that's a totally normal, realistic, and not at all creepy wish to have.

I agree.
If I could ask Ellen for just one thing, it would be this: 

I'd ask her to dedicate her annual Mother's Day show to foster moms.

If you haven't read my past two letters and don't want to read all of this one, there are two main reasons I want this to happen:

  1. It would be a great way to celebrate badass women who do some hard and amazing things.
  2. It would raise awareness about such an important issue in our country today. And during National Foster Care Awareness month, no less!
Obviously my personal experience makes me a little bit biased, but the concept of a Foster Mother's Day episode honestly seems perfect to me. Ellen loves making the world a better place! She ends every show by encouraging people to "be kind to one another," so it would fit perfectly with who Ellen is and the message she shares with the world. 
So do we, Ellen. So do we.
And did I mention the episode would fall during Foster Care Awareness month? Because it would.

I feel so strongly about this that I've committed to writing her a letter suggesting it every year until it becomes a reality. This is my third try, and I hope that it (like many third tries) is a charm. Because writing these letters and finding the perfect gifs for them is time consuming. 

If you happen to agree and think a Foster Mother's Day episode would be neat, I'd be honored if you read and shared this letter

Tweet out the link, post it on Instagram, share it 50 times on her Facebook page... whatever. (Here's an abbreviated version: if needed!)  Maybe if enough people share it enough times, she'll actually see it! (Or someone on her staff will, who would then maybe share it with her.) 

In an effort to be strategic, I think it'd be helpful to coordinate sharing and time them for Wednesdays- starting Feb 1st. But if you want to share it other days, I will not object. If you have other friends who would be up for sharing it, pass it along to them, too!

Be sure to tag Ellen when applicable- and use the hashtags #BeKindToOneAnother and #FosterMoms4Ellen if you can squeeze them in there. (I tried to think of a better- or at least shorter- hashtag, but apparently that's not my gift.)
Also be sure to make it public if you're using social media- that way it can be seen and shared!

And on the off chance that you/someone you know is an acquaintance or best friend of Ellen's,  I’ll give you a hand written version to pass along to her directly. If we’re all just 7 degrees from Kevin Bacon, we have to be only 5 or 6 from Ellen. She seems to know a lot of people, so if you're one of them... hit me up.


Hello there, Ellen!

You might not know this, but I’ve written to you quite a bit over the past few years. I think all of my letters and emails have gotten lost en route, though, because I haven’t heard back from you.


This is year three of my annual tradition- writing you a letter in an effort to share a really great show idea.

I think it’s really great, at least. And I have a feeling you’d agree if you saw it.

But first, let me introduce myself.

My name is Kaley. I’m a 29-year-old social worker living in Waco, TX. Like many people, I intend to spend my life living fully by doing things I love and care about.

Sometimes I strive toward that goal by spending time with friends and family, attempting crafts I find on Pinterest, or eating too much Ben and Jerry’s in one sitting. I’m a pretty average young adult in that way. 
(How long can I label myself as a young adult? Is there a cap on that? Probably neither here nor there right now, but I’m curious.)

I've also decided to live fully by becoming a foster parent, which I suppose makes me a little bit unique among my age group.

I’ve been a foster parent for about three years now, and I could likely write a short novel on the journey it’s been. In an effort to save us both time, though, I’ll stick with the Spark Notes version for now.

I’m going to skip over the years leading up to it and begin with September 2014- when my foster care journey officially began. That's the month I completed all the requirements and signed licensure paperwork, making my "foster parent" title official. On paper, at least. It became official in a more tangible sense two weeks later, when I got a call about my first placement. 

There was a mom scheduled to give birth in the next few days, and her baby needed a home immediately. I eagerly said yes and, like most moms-to-be (although at a slightly faster pace), I started preparing. A few days later, on September 26th, I went to the hospital to pick up my first foster son. Miraculously, the hospital staff let me leave with him (I had no clue what I was doing) and, even more miraculously, a judge let me leave a courthouse as his forever, legal mom 15 months later! It wasn’t even remotely what I expected to happen 2 ½ years ago, but every day I am remarkably grateful as I think about the magnitude of that gift and responsibility.

After my son’s adoption, we spent a few months enjoying time as a family of two and getting re-licensed to open our home up for more placements. We finalized that process in October of 2016, and one week later I got a call about a 12 year old boy. One hour after that, T1 arrived on my doorstep, and my world shifted again. Caring for a 12-year old has challenged and stretched me in some big ways, but just as I felt like I was maybe sort of starting to get the hang out it, things changed again. In December, I found out T1’s brother needed a new placement and, long story short, we became- and currently remain- a family of four.

I’ve had 3 placements in 3 years, but I still feel inexperienced in the world of foster parenting. I’ve definitely learned a lot, though, and I have gained a tremendous amount of respect for the people who sacrifice so much to take on this role.

As a foster mom, I've had to sacrifice my:
  • time, 
  • finances,
  • physical and emotional energy, 
  • mental health,
  • paid time off at work, 
  • and my ability to do things like spend time with friends and family, travel, sleep in past 6AM, stay out past midnight, make last-minute plans with anyone, Netflix-marathon Gilmore Girls: Year in the Life in one sitting, and generally live a “normal” 29-year-old-single-lady life. 
And that’s not even an exhaustive list. Being a foster mom is freaking hard, and some days the only thing saving me from careening over the brink of insanity is the knowledge that there’s a bottle of wine with my name on it waiting for me after the kids go to sleep. Real talk.
Thank you, wine.
The thing is, being a foster parent opens your heart up to so much love and joy- which simultaneously leaves it open to a lot of grief and pain. It really requires a unique sense of vulnerability, because you have to balance two very different truths and figure out a way to carry them both at the same time.

In one hand, you hold the truth that these children are your own. You open up space for them in your home and heart, and you care for them as though you gave them life and will walk them through it from start to finish. You love them completely and without condition, because that's what parents do.

But in the other hand, you hold the truth that there’s another family out there- one they could return to any day. You have to accept that, no matter how much love you pour into them, they might not remember your name- or you at all- years down the road.

And those are hard realities to reconcile.

But even so, foster parents stick with it because this work is important. 
And it is so desperately needed.

And I have to believe- especially on the hard days- that it makes an impact. Not just in the lives of the children in care, but on the lives they touch, and the lives they touch, and so on and so forth until it spreads throughout the world.

It may sound cheesy or cliché, but it astounds and humbles me just thinking about it. That impact is one of the things that makes this responsibility so beautiful and rewarding.

Which brings me to the purpose of this letter. Every May, you have a wonderful Mother’s Day show where you celebrate women doing an amazing thing- bringing life into the world. Your audience is filled with women proudly rocking their baby bumps, and it's one of the best shows of the year.

But over the past three years, my eyes have been opened to the many mothers out there whose stories aren’t often celebrated- or even shared. From women who are led to foster care because they are unable (or choose not) to have children biologically, to women who foster just so kids can experience safety and love before finding permanency with their biological or adoptive families- there are many mothers out there who don’t necessarily bring lives into the world, but they certainly work hard to make sure those lives thrive. Their stories are complex and challenging, but they are also beautiful and very much worth telling.

I think it would be amazing to host a Foster Mother’s Day show celebrating these women.  Not only because they deserve it for the love they selflessly give, but because it would inform millions of your viewers about a really important issue. 

Did you know that in the United States, more than 400,000 children are living without permanent families in the foster care system? And more children enter than leave each year.* In many states- like my own- there is such a shortage of foster families that children wind up sleeping in CPS offices for nights at a time.** 

There are so many things- big and small- your viewers can do about this, but they may not even be aware of them.  They could donate items to children in care, volunteer with an organization that supports biological families working toward reunification, register to provide respite care for foster families, or could even become foster parents themselves.

I’ve been amazed by how little most people seem to know about the reality of fostering. Many people tell me, “I could never do that!” without having an accurate understanding of what it’s like. Because of this, I'm passionate about changing people’s misconceptions by being honest about my experience- both the joys and the challenges- in my conversations and writing, but I know your voice can carry a lot further than mine. (According to my very formal Wikipedia research, your show averaged 3.9 million viewers per episode in 2011, which is a pretty incredible sphere of influence).  

I also know you use your voice to make a positive impact on the world- it’s one of the many reasons I admire you.

I know you can’t support every cause people point you toward, but I at least wanted to ask you to support this one. May is National Foster Care Awareness month, too, so it could be perfect!

I’m not sure if this will actually reach you, but, if it does, I’d be so grateful if you’d even consider this. Whether you think about making a change to the Mother’s Day show or share this information in some other way, I really believe it could make such a difference for the kids across the country in need of safe homes and loving families.

Regardless of whether or not this letter changes anything, I really am thankful for all you do to make the world a better place. You bring so much joy to so many people, which is why you always make my list when I answer the classic getting-to-know-you question: “What five people- dead or alive- would you invite to a dinner party?” There’d be so much good conversation and dancing.

Thank you for being kind.

All the best,


(p.s.- I realize it may seem a little self-serving to make this suggestion given the fact that I am a foster mom myself, but I would be totally fine if you did this and I wasn't there- I'd imagine there are plenty of other foster moms who could fill an audience.)

(I mean, I wouldn’t complain if I was there, but I’d be genuinely thrilled to watch from afar, too.)

(pps- I’ve had a few years to imagine what this show would look like, and I have some celebrity guest ideas if you need them. I've been told Sandra Bullock and Nia Vardalos were both foster moms! I don't know either of them personally, though, so I can't confirm the validity of that statement.)

*AFCARS report, 2015:


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My Letter to Ellen (3.0)

This was such a special day. Glad I could be there to celebrate you, E. As many of you may or may not but probably may know, I have a...