Reflections from the Road | Vol. 48

Since last we met here at the virtual campfire, more has happened in my life than I ever could have imagined. The calendar on the fridge still says July 2021, because that’s the last time things were normal.

We’ve entered a whole new chapter around here, so settle in for Vol. 48 of Reflections from the Road.

It’s been a quiet time for content creation in my world, but I have been churning out as much as I can in the midst of navigating a whole new life. Check out our most recent creations and drop us a comment or thoughtful emoji:

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Highs

INSTA FAMILY

On July 20, Rick and I welcomed our first foster placement, a 17-year-old girl (K) who just needed a safe space to land for a few days. On the 24th, we said yes to a 14-year-old girl (J) in a similar situation. “Four days is nothing,” we mused. “Let’s get our feet wet with respite care.”

Famous last words. If you’ve been following along on Instagram, you know that four days isn’t really four days in foster care. (Oh, the lessons we’ve learned!) More about the journey in the rest of the post, but here we are – instant parents.

One thing I absolutely have to mention up here in the HIGHS section is the support I’ve felt from friends far and wide. The moment the girls arrived, my ride-or-dies, completely unprompted, were Venmo’ing me money to take the girls out for shenanigans. Others sent us meals and brought treats. My Internet family spoiled the girls with goodies from their Amazon wishlist, from scrunchies to LED lights to pajamas and more. I think our Amazon delivery guy hates us. But I was blown away by the kindness and generosity – so thank you!

THE JET SISTERS ARE BACK!

I’ve barely had a moment to myself since the girls arrived, so sneaking away to Tennessee for a few days to film the latest episode of The Jet Sisters felt like a luxury vacation. I never thought 18+ hour work days would be so glorious, but it was just what I needed. 

Rae & I initially were set to film the Franklin, Tennessee, episode in Spring 2020, but everyone knows how that turned out. It was absolutely incredible to be back out there again with my partner in crime – it’s just been too long since we got to work on our dream project. 

The good news is that despite being a bit rusty, we totally crushed it and can’t wait to share SO SOON. (I can’t say the same for our hair – we definitely need a stylist for the next episode.)

Franklin is the perfect destination for food, fun, music, the outdoors… it doesn’t really get better if you’re looking for Small Town America with all the bells and whistles you get being so close to Nashville. I can’t wait to go back with the husbands!

AIRBNB x 2

We’ve added another Airbnb to the family roster! Our family’s lake house is now up and available for bookings, so if you’re in the market for secluded, lakefront living with bass fishing, swimming and plenty of wildlife sightings, our cozy family fishing cabin might be for you. We’re expecting snowbirds to fill up the winter pretty quickly – so get in while you still can!

Lows

UNCERTAINTY IS THE NEW NORMAL

I know we signed up for this… impermanence…when we decided to become foster parents. But it doesn’t make it any easier when you do your best and it’s not enough. J decided to leave our home two weeks ago. I can’t really get into why (more on that below), but I am disappointed in her decision. I’m furious with the system for not providing the support they should have and for allowing what they’ve allowed. It’s frustrating and feels a bit like watching a house burn down while the residents refuse a fire hose. We tried, but sometimes it doesn’t work out.

IN THE RED

The week the girls arrived, our fridge/freezer decided to die on us, so we lost all the food inside and had to go buy a new one ASAP. Did not see that $$$ expense coming! Then our pool pump went. Plus… my word, have you seen how much teenagers eat? Our food bill has quadrupled while the residents in the house have only doubled. Make it make sense, y’all.

The last few months feel like a lifetime because we really jumped into the deep end and there’s a lot less support out there than I imagined. I signed us up for a local foster care group for parents so I hope that’s the start of finding community and maybe a guiding light in this mess of a system.

COVID

We’d been largely unscathed by the coronavirus in our little bubble up until this past quarter, when it seems like everyone I knew was either sick at home, fighting to breathe in the hospital or figuring out how to bury a loved one. 

More than half my family has come down with COVID at some point (some with the recent Delta variant we suspect, and others not), with some feeling almost no symptoms and others fighting pneumonia for weeks. We all know what a blessing it is that we’re still here. Too many of our friends have fared worse. I can’t even tell you how many friends of mine have lost parents and grandparents over the past few months. A dear family friend, just 34 years old, died last month, leaving 3 little kids. I still can’t believe she’s gone. 

It’s been quieter with hospitalizations and deaths the past few weeks, and I pray that trend continues. Because this is just not sustainable. I can’t believe life is like this now, can you?

OUCH

I was hoping that falling in the shower at the Grand Canyon was the last of this year’s clumsy foibles, but just a few days later, I sprained my ankle walking to my car. It made for a funny TikTok from our video doorbell, if nothing else. But it’s taking forever to heal, and has really slowed down my fitness progress.

READING ISN’T THAT COOL ANYWAY

Still no update on the book. If I’m being honest here with my closest pals at this little virtual campfire, I’m pretty dang frustrated. My life’s work has been on a shelf collecting virtual dust for over a year and every day that goes by, it feels less likely to come to fruition.

It’s been a long time since I felt this stuck in the career realm, but I know I want to write books forever so I’m staying the course and reminding myself that all good things are worth waiting for. I know God is working all things out for my good, so whether that’s a career as an author or something else, I’m praying “Thy will be done,” and really trying to mean it.

TERROR AT THE CARNIVAL

The girls wanted to go to the carnival one night, so we grabbed Grandma Kuku (my mom’s excellent new name) and met up at the Orange Park Mall.

It was not a family friendly situation, and I don’t think we were there an hour before people started fighting. Mom, Rick and I were standing by a food cart watching the kids ride the questionable parking lot rides when a ton of people started running toward the back of the carnival all at once. My first thought was that someone must be shooting at the entrance. It was as scary a moment as I’ve had in a long time.

The cops shut the whole carnival down and there was at least one shooting right after we left. Needless to say, we won’t be going back to the OP Mall carnival. Here’s the news story with details.

Lessons

KIDS SAY THE DARNDEST THINGS

As hard as foster care has been so far, the best and most surprising part for me has been how fun it is to be silly with teenagers. All the drama of the system aside, we loved them both to pieces almost instantly and it has been a blessing to get to know them and be even a small part in their stories. They’re so funny! Their text messages are indecipherable! What is the deal with the fake eyelashes? And how many sneakers does one person need? They get so embarrassed when I try to be cool in public. Who knew it would be so much fun to be so old and obnoxious and embarrassing?!

ALL THE LITTLE RAERAES

Nothing prepared me for having two teen girls like having a sister 12 years younger than me. It’s a lot like having her live with us again – there are hot Cheeto wrappers stuffed into the couch cushions, dirty forks in every room, shoes literally in front of every door and a never-ending stream of obnoxious music wafting from the kids’ wing, which is now lit up like the Las Vegas Strip due to their obsession with LED lights.

SHHHH IT’S A SECRET

I wish I could share everything about everything foster care-related here – honestly, it would make it a less lonely season of life if I could just blurt it all out to the world. But the kids and their families deserve their privacy and even though it’s completely counter to the human I am – one who lives online most of the time – it’s a challenging transition and an isolating experience. 

I share what I can on Instagram stories, with the girls’ faces blocked out, names abbreviated and key details omitted. It’s hard because I’ve always been such an open book, and with this, I can’t be.

Below: Rick’s super soft birthday cake with kids just outside the shot

SURPRISE I LIKE THE JONAS BROTHERS NOW

One of the wildest parts of our Franklin shoot: I surprised Rae with tickets to see The Jonas Brothers and Kelsea Ballerini at the brand new FirstBank Amphitheater AND it was also a surprise segment. And her BFF flew in from Texas to surprise her, too. I WIN BIRTHDAYS FOREVER!

Who even knew I knew the words to so many Jonas Brothers songs? Years ago in Belfast, I was way more jazzed to know Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark) was staying at my hotel than her boyfriend at the time, Joe Jonas. After the JoBro show, I couldn’t believe I missed the chance back then to stalk my sister’s childhood crush on her behalf. I’m a big fan now!

NO BIG PROJECTS DURING MAJOR LIFE CHANGE

Rick and I had one quiet Saturday in the past three months so we thought that would be a good time to tear up the older part of our deck that’s rotting. Only… we didn’t really have a plan for what to do with the dirt pit underneath. Oopsie. Anyone want to come landscape our backyard? The way things are going, it’s just going to be a dirt pit for the rest of my life.

Next Steps 

We can make our plans but God determines our steps. Proverbs 16:9

FOSTER CARE

I don’t dare make a plan because Rick and I knew exactly what we wanted (little siblings ages 5-10) and when we were going to start (in August) and how the system is supposed to work and literally, it’s all out the window. We’re taking a break from accepting new placements while we recover from J’s departure and get K situated and ready to turn 18 soon. She wants a little brother and a freaking Guinea pig. Lord help us.

Don’t tell anyone, but we really want to take her on an amazing Disney vacation for her birthday. She’s never been, and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the official end of her childhood years than at the Happiest Place on Earth. TBD.

NEW NORMAL INDEED

Remember in Reflections 47 how I said I couldn’t imagine how I would be able to balance work and being a mom? So yeah, that’s not a thing. I’ve worked so sporadically since the girls arrived, it’s like I don’t work at all. I mean, I’ve published ONE post since the last RftR- that has never happened since 2006 when I got started. I’m embarrassed. I’m frazzled. I completely missed my 15th blogaversary and pretty much only have time to post on social media if it’s work-related. It’s forced me to reevaluate how much work I can reasonably expect to do as one person. 

There are so many opportunities and I never want to turn anything down, but for now I can only say yes to a few things at a time. I have to guard my time more fiercely than ever, which means I am not even entertaining projects that I’m not 100% pumped about. 

Now that we’ve been in the thick of it for 2.5 months, it does feel like we’re settling in so I am hopeful we’ll turn a corner and I can get back on a schedule.

HOW LUCKY WE ARE TO BE ALIVE RIGHT NOW

I get to go see Hamilton, rescheduled from last year, in a few weeks and I just can’t even wait for it. I will probably sob through the whole thing, instead of just Act II like I normally do.

LORDY, LORDY LOOK WHO’S (ALMOST) 40

By the next RftR, I’ll have celebrated my 40th birthday – I know, I can’t even. Do y’all realize I’ve been blogging since I was 25?! 

I’ve been thinking about what to do all year and so far I’ve got nothing planned. For my 30th, I went cage diving with Great Whites in South Africa. Due to COVID and kids and everything else, I have a feeling 40 is going to be significantly less memorable. I’m kinda waiting until the last minute to plan anything – my travel m.o. these days – because I just don’t have it in me to coordinate something amazing and then have travel restrictions or whatever undo it all.

I’d really love your suggestions for different ways to celebrate 40. Should I go somewhere in search of more shark adventures? Or just hang around Florida’s beaches and see what happens? Should I throw myself an 80s prom birthday party? Or just wallow at home? 

While I navigate this bizarre new world where I’m 4 decades old and am parenting teenagers, stay tuned for the exciting launch of THE JET SISTERS | FRANKLIN, coming to a screen near you. We’re gonna need all hands on deck to help us get the word out on this one. Keep an eye on Instagram, TikTok and for subscribers, your inbox, for the release date.

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COME AWAY WITH ME!
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